Wednesday, December 21, 2022

LAT 3:30 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 7:41 (malaika) 


NYT 4:27 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 13:07 (Emily) 


AVCX tk (Rebecca) 


Jeremy Newton’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Choice Words”—Jim P’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases of the form X OR Y where both X and Y start with the same letter and can be clued (roughly) with the same phrase.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Choice Words” · Jeremy Newton · Wed., 12.21.22

  • 16a. [“S” term meaning “to take a dip”?] SINK OR SWIM. No one would call this an “‘S’ term,” but it didn’t take long to get the gist of what was going on, and for the purposes of the puzzle, providing the starting letters was helpful. To go down, or SINK, is to “take a dip.” Same with SWIM, though in a different sense.
  • 22a. [“F” term meaning “a way to rise up”?] FIGHT OR FLIGHT. This one’s a little awkward. FIGHTing is “a way to rise up” in a way, as is FLIGHT.
  • 35a. [“P” term meaning “to drop, so to speak”?] PUBLISH OR PERISH. To PUBLISH something is to “drop” it (slangily). You don’t often see “drop” as a synonym for PERISH, but I suppose I have encountered it at some point. Perhaps, “they were dropping like flies.”
  • 46a. [“R” term meaning “what a sane brain demonstrates”?] RHYME OR REASON. “Sane brain” demonstrates a RHYME, and having a “sane brain” demonstrates one’s ability to REASON.
  • 56a. [“B” term meaning “a setup with an out-of-sight microphone”?] BOOM OR BUST. A BOOM microphone is out of sight. A BUST (as in a law enforcement raid) might involve a wire, aka an “out-of-sight microphone.” Another stretch, but it does work.

There’s no requirement for these phrases to have words with the same starting letters; that appears to be a constraint the constructor employed to help us solvers and to make the theme tighter—and I for one appreciated it.

Some of these were a little iffy, but on the whole, I enjoyed the theme as something just a little bit different than the usual. It’s not easy to clue two completely different words with the same clue (a la Schrödinger puzzles), so getting just close enough might be the best we could ask for.

As an exercise, can you come up with a clue that works for both words in some “or” phrases (regardless of whether they start with same letter)? How about “hit or miss,” “heads or tails,” or “rain or shine”? How’s this for “trick or treat”: [Something people like to take?]?

Nice long fill with BRIEF WORD, NBA CHAMPS, PHOTOBOMB, and TOUGH SKIN [Ability to endure criticism]. Not sure about that last one in the singular (“thick skin” sounds better), but the plural Toughskins brings back memories of my childhood Sears-purchased clothes. Anyone else?

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Yes and no, e.g.]. RSVPS. Given the puzzle’s title and this clue leading off at 1a, I thought it was part of the theme.
  • 55a. [Vatican’s surroundings]. ROME. Nothing wrong with the clue, but I think [Vatican’s environs] sounds better.
  • 4d. [Fifth-most populous nat.]. PAK. I tried USA first. See the chart showing the top 10. I never realized how big a gap there is between the top 2 and the rest of us.
  • 28d. [Banking tool]. CUE. Tricky clue. I was thinking in financial and piloting terms before getting all the crossings.

Nice puzzle. Four stars from me.

Nancy Stark & Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12 21 22, no. 1221

Theme revealer: 63a. [“Why are you making such a fuss?” … or a hint to 17-, 36- and 43-Across], “WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?” The three themers are various sorts of “big deals.”

  • 17a. [Sign in a clearance section], FIFTY PERCENT OFF. Mind you, the sign would almost certainly use “50%” rather than spelling it out. 50% off, though, that’s a great deal.
  • 36a. [Large-scale corporate union], MEGA-MERGER. A really big business deal.
  • 43a. [Dream hand for a poker player], ROYAL FLUSH. If you received those five cards in your initial deal, you’d plotz, wouldn’t you? Inside. Where the other players couldn’t see it.

Interesting theme idea, and not one we’ve seen here and there before.

A friend up on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior took a solstice walk this evening in the woods, and saw Biboonkeonini through the trees. That’s what the Ojibwe/Chippewa peoples call the constellation you may know as ORION (2d. [Hunter visible at night]). Biboonkeonini is the Wintermaker. Keep your eyes peeled if the skies are clear.

Fave fill with a great clue: 53a. [“Fudge,” “fie” and “fiddlesticks” are some of the printable ones], F-WORDS. The Gray Lady may be afraid to use frickin’.

Never seen before: HUFFISH, clued as [Sulky]. Huffy, sure. Just me?

3.5 stars.

Prasanna Keshava’s Universal crossword, “Upstage” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/21/22 • Wed • “Upstage” • Keshava • solution • 20221221

Vertically oriented theme today.

  • 11dR [Athlete’s A game, and a hint to the first words of 3-, 5- and 9-Down] PEAK PERFORMANCE.
  • 3d. [Approved bill, in India] ACT OF PARLIAMENT. Nice that we didn’t default to the UK.
  • 5d. [Manufacturing expenses] PRODUCTION COSTS.
  • 9d. [“Don’t be so arrogant!”] SHOW SOME RESPECT.

Act, production, show. Each is a synonym for performance, and all are on the ‘tops’ of their respective entries. I wasn’t initially enamored of the theme, but it’s grown on me as I’ve written about it.

  • 4a [Oranges’ equivalents?] APPLES. The idiom is comparing apples to oranges, which implies a significant difference. However, both are fruits, so how different are they? Nevertheless, the clue seems weird, even with that question mark.
  • 30a [Provide comfort to] SOOTHE. One of two clues that I erred with confidence on. Here I went with SOLACE. The other was 68a [Calm and collected] SEDATE, where I tried SERENE.
  • Theme-adjacent: 67a [Film studio structures] SETS.
  • 4d [Verb indicated by +] ADD. Mildly confusing clue, as I initially thought it was something about syntax and parsing notation.
  • 10d [End of a one-way communication] OVER. Huh?
  • 36d [Yoga accessory] MAT. The yoga-mat nexus seems very prevalent in crosswords these days.
  • 45d [Teslas and others: Abbr.] EVS. There are many others, and many with better reviews; all with less baggage.

Susan Gelfand’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

Susan Gelfand’s LA Times puzzle uses a well-trodden theme concept of phrases -two-part – ending in big 4 US men’s sports teams. The wrinkle this time is that all the originals are noun phrases, but they’re reinterpreted to be VERB+OBJECT.

  • [Lend San Jose NHL players?], LOANSHARKS
  • [Ring up Los Angeles NFL players?], PHONECHARGERS
  • [Improve Los Angeles MLB players?], PERFECTANGELS
  • [Videotape Miami NBA players?], RECORDHEAT

Fast five:

  • [Cut covered by a SpongeBob bandage, e.g.], OWIE is quite an Olaf clue…
  • [Gingerbread person?], BAKER. Called a stray cat Baker today, although it ended up being expanded to Bakersfield. He was baking biscuits when we were trying to name him and he was found in a field. When 2,000 odd dogs and cats come in in a year naming becomes onerous
  • [Minnesota mining range], MESABI. New to me. The crossers were easy enough, so I just went with it…
  • [Detroit ballplayer], TIGER. Bonus or distraction? You decide.
  • [“Rebel Without a Cause” star], JAMESDEAN. It’s always so satisfying to work a full name like that into a grid as a non-themer.


Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up

new yorker– 12/21

Good morning, besties! I love a center-stack layout, and here, Paolo gave us BOSTON GLOBE, GO CORPORATE, and MONO NO AWARE. That last one is a completely new term for me, so I needed every crossing. The clue ([Sell out]) for GO CORPORATE was delightfully subtle.

Other long answers I enjoyed– AMY SEDARIS, GOTTA RUN, and MALL SANTAS with that ingenious clue [Sitters hired for the holidays?]. PRAISE BE unfortunately will only remind me of “Handmaid’s Tale”– I kinda wish it had been clued with a reference to that show. Although I know some people don’t like to bring up Moss since she’s a scientologist.

Thanks Paolo, and Happy Hanukkah everyone!

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Can You Give Me Directions?” — Emily’s write-up

Another tricky one for me but I found my way in the end. How did you all fair?

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday December 21, 2022

USA Today, December 21 2022, “Can You Give Me Directions?

Theme: each themer starts with a directional word


  • 3d. [Removed all evidence], LEFTNOTRACE
  • 15d. [Supporters (but not members) of the LGBTQ+ community], STRAIGHTALLIES
  • 26d. [“Correct!”], RIGHTANSWER

A great set of themers that were also in the downs today, with LEFTNOTRACE on the left side, STRAIGHTALLIES in the middle, and RIGHTANSWER on the right side.


Stumpers: KAL (needed crossings), PLACEMAT (kept thinking “table cloth”), and CAPRI (only “smarty” and “party” came to mind)

The western branch with PLACEMAT took me the most time to fill, since nothing in that area was easily filling for me. It just so happened that the cluing for the crossings didn’t click immediately so I slowly broke into that area, though I did finish.

4 stars


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8 Responses to Wednesday, December 21, 2022

  1. They must be emotionally and physically strong, and able to be unaffected by what they see, whether in the past or in the future.

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: The “frickin’” bridge has already been crossed:

    HUFFISH was new to me, too.

    Thanks, Amy, for Biboonkeonini. When I used to go running in the early morning, I always enjoyed seeing the Hunter over our garage as I returned home. It reminded me that the Texas summer was finally over.

    I wonder how early in the year it’s visible in Utqiagvik?

  3. Cynthia says:

    Pannonica, re: Universal: “OVER” is what a person says when they’re done talking on a walkie-talkie, which is a one-way communication device. (Or at least one way at a time.)

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I was very confused by this clue also. A walkie-talkie is a “one-way communication device”? How so? There has to be someone on the other end, right? I get that only one person can talk at a time, but it’s still a two-way communication device, isn’t it? As may be readily apparent by now, I’m no electronic engineer, but doesn’t a one-way communication device only communicate in one direction whereas a two-way device communicates in both directions (like a walkie-talkie)?

      • Cynthia says:

        I thought about this point after I posted my comment, when I remembered my father referring to walkie-talkies as “two-way radios.” My guess is that the constructor was alluding to the fact that only one person can be heard at a time.

    • PJ says:

      I thought it was an Airplane reference.

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    TNY … To my well-trained baseball ear, the clue for BASE HIT (“Single, double, triple, or home run”) is off the mark. When a baseball person says “BASE HIT”, they are almost always referring to a single. A double might be called a two-base hit and a triple, a three-base hit. However, I’ve never heard of a home run being called a four-base hit. So, maybe you could lawyer it into a proper way to characterize a single, double or triple, but no one refers to a home run as a BASE HIT. Yes, I know, it’s counted as a HIT statistically, but this is not how the phrase BASE HIT is used in baseball lingo (at least not in my experience … which is pretty vast).

    • JohnH says:

      I had the same reservations. A three-base hit doesn’t make a triple into a base hit. Same with two-base hit and double. I could see the intent, from the legit terms, and I figured I’ll excuse the puzzle given that, but still iffy. I’d love learning the Jaapanese term more, too, if I’d actually learned it from the puzzle without having to look it up. As it was, I assumed the first two words were a single word.

      It’s really a likable puzzle to my mind, so a pity they couldn’t have addressed the nits to make it still better.

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