Thursday, December 22, 2022

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


LAT 5:12 (Gareth) 


NYT 8:47 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:56 (Amy) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 12:13 (Emily) 


Fireball tk (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Joe DiPietro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Beats Me!”—Jim P’s review

Three Across entries have no clues and are therefore UTTERLY CLUELESS (57a, [Lost, like three answers in this puzzle, literally and figuratively]). It turns out those answers are synonyms for UTTERLY CLUELESS as well. As a bonus, we find SENSE at 64a [This puzzle might not make it at first].

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Beats Me!” · Joe DiPietro · Thu., 12.22.22

  • 17a [] SLOW ON THE UPTAKE.
  • 27a [] ADDLE-BRAINED.
  • 43a [] HAVING NO IDEA.

My first thought was that there was some error in puzzle production once again at the WSJ. Occasionally we get a grid that’s lacking Down clues after a certain number, so I thought something similar was going on today. I stopped mid-solve to go check the PDF from their website just to be sure, but everything there was the same as in the PUZ version, so I kept going hoping things would make SENSE in the end.

And they did. The meta revealer provided a nice AHA moment and made the earlier struggles worth it. Well done!

I enjoyed GRAB-AND-GO and LEAVE A TIP in the fill as well as “GO AHEAD,” “IN HERE,” and OCTOPI. And there’s nary a piece of clunky fill in the grid. Quite smooth all around.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Dope, datedly]. PHAT. I guess I dated myself by going with INFO at first.
  • 35a. [Group of subs]. B-TEAM. Nice. Was thinking sea-going vessels and sandwiches the whole way.
  • 51a. [“What’s stopping you?”]. “GO AHEAD.” I’d prefer it if a statement answer got a statement clue. I suppose the question is rhetorical, but still.
  • 61a. [Appropriate]. ANNEX. I have a hard time reading that clue as a verb without any context.
  • 10d. [Zoological plural frowned on by sticklers]. OCTOPI. Per this site, the word originated from the Greek októpus which means the correct plural really should be octopodes.

Nice puzzle that made you work for that AHA moment. Four stars.

David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Easy (8m47s)

David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword, 12/21/22, 1221

Today’s theme: ROUNDABOUT ROUTEs

You can take your CAR to one of three “exits” in each roundabout, to yield the following:


Very interesting puzzle, particularly the way perspective makes some of these answers look like gibberish at first (i.e., 26A as RAC, because the CAR is driving from east to west).  But once it clicks, the direction the theme entries take is quite intuitive.  The fill was otherwise clean and the puzzle didn’t take too long to get through.  On a personal note, the breeziness of the puzzle stands in stark contrast to some of the more mind-bending roundabouts I’ve had to traverse — there’s a particularly lawless traffic circle in Tangier that still haunts my dreams.

No photo description available.

How bad could it be?

Cracking: SANTA HAT — it’s the reason for the season!

Slacking: I WAS HAD  — really want this to be either I’VE BEEN HAD or I WAS DUPED, though Google tells me that I WAS HAD is the more idiomatic turn.  Whatever you say!

Sidetracking: NOIR — I’ll take any opportunity to be reminded of Edward G. Robinson’s monologue on actuarial tables from Double Indemnity:

Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 12/22/22 – Reid

Another breezy Thursday themeless. The New Yorker crew does a terrific job at calibrating the difficulty level for the easy Thursday crossword–my solving times are almost always under 3 minutes on these. And they’re almost never under 3 for a Tuesday NYT!

Fave fill: ORION’S BELT (the Wintermaker in Ojibwe lore! Learn about Ojibwe constellations here), the BIG DIPPER (Ojiig the Great Fisher to the Ojibwe), PINSTRIPE, “HOLY TOLEDO,” ATTICUS, JAY LENO (apparently doing quite well after his recent burns), MARIE ANTOINETTE, SLEEPS IN (it’s a lifestyle choice), RED DAWN, and Tom Cruise’s “CRYSTAL” reply to Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.

Four stars from me.


Wendy L. Brandes’s USA Today Crossword, “Above Board” — Emily’s write-up

A longer solve for me today but a fun one with an excellent theme!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday December 22, 2022

USA Today, December 22 2022, “Above Board” by Wendy L. Brandes

Theme: the word BOARD can be added to the end of the last word of each themer to make a new phrase


  • 4d. [Add to a huge lead], RUNUPTHESCORE
  • 14d. [Selection process that might involve a bag], RANDOMDRAWING
  • 18d. [Heartwarming news item], FEELGOODSTORY

While it’s a good clue, it took me a few crossings before filling RUNUPTHESCORE. A RANDOMDRAWING is usually typical this time of year for white elephant parties or for secret Santas. Puppies and kitties are a common topic for a FEELGOODSTORY on the news. With today’s themer, we get: SCORE BOARD, DRAWING BOARD, and STORY BOARD.


Stumpers: OLEG (needed crossings), LABRAT (needed crossings), and SOONER (needed crossings today)

The NW corner stumped me and was actually the final section that I filled in. Sometimes just enough isn’t clicking that a whole section is unfillable for a while, then there’s either a breakthrough and it trickles in or it’s a true stumper and becomes a did-not-finish—thankfully it got it today after all, though I had a sense of dread for a couple of minutes at the end. A great puzzle, and maybe you all had an easier time. Given that 2022 is wrapping up, and the holidays are upon us, it’s been extra busy and my brain sometimes only has so much to give. :D

Happy holidays!

4 stars


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1533, “Here’s the Kicker”—Darby’s review

Theme: The theme answers are all parts of a MITCH HEDBERG quote about THE ULTIMATE STOCKING STUFFER.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1533, “Here's the Kicker” solution for 12/22/2022

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1533, “Here’s the Kicker” solution for 12/22/2022

  • 19a [“Start of Christmas shopping advice by 51-Across”] A SEVERED FOOT
  • 26a [“More of the advice”] IS THE ULTIMATE
  • 43a [“End of the advice”] STOCKING STUFFER

Revealer: 51a [“Stand-up comic who’s the source of the quip”] MITCH HEDBERG

I’ve definitely never been told that A SEVERED FOOT IS THE ULTIMATE STOCKING STUFFER, but there’s a first time for everything. It’s definitely appropriate for the season, and the title, “Here’s the kicker,” conjured up quite a hilarious image. It was also a nice quip in that it was pretty easy to discern once I had a few of the crosses, particularly in filling in SEVERED, which was crossed by BENEDICTION, VISAS, ATTEST, BOHR, AMIE, and TEED, all of which were more than fair. It took me a bit longer with ULTIMATE off of TOM TOM (I was a Garmin user) and AT NINE (I had NINE AM initially), but we got there.

Lots of really fun stuff in this grid. My buddy Josh ALLEN appeared in 63a [“Bills QB Josh”] and we got a double Star Wars reference in 22a [“Lightsaber builders”] JEDIS and 30d [“Forest moon with a Death Star shield generator”] ENDOR. I lean more on JEDI as the plural, but some dictionaries do accept JEDIS plural. 36a [“Insurance company with a spokesgecko”] made me giggle over GEICO, as it always does.

That’s all from me for today, but I had a great time with this. Not sure I’ll be taking the advice though.

Freddie Cheng & Caroline Sommers’ LA TIMES crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA TIMES 221222

Freddie Cheng & Caroline Sommers’s theme concept is a little offbeat. PRUNINGSHEARS is the fourth long across answer, and it indicates that each of the previous three began with 4/6th of the letters of SHEARS: SHEA, HEAR, EARS. I think that’s it, right?
Deleted:   Added:

  • [*Strawberry’s field, once], SHEASTADIUM
  • [*”Listen, I can explain”], HEARMEOUT
  • [*Warning that could come with a “Shush!”], EARSAREFLAPPING

Fast five:

  • [2020 and 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja], WILSON. Alert! New AJA clue inbound!
  • [British lav], LOO. Isn’t LAV also strictly Commonwealth?
  • [Bravo’s “__ of Sunset”], SHAHS appears to be a reality show about Persian Americans…
  • [Flour for roti], ATTA. I forgot this crossword weejit.
  • [Shakshouka ingredient], EGG. Been seeing this on posh menus, but it seems far too rich for breakfast?


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26 Responses to Thursday, December 22, 2022

  1. John says:

    NYT: definitely one of those constructorly themes where the construction is impressive, but it doesn’t do much for the solver. I couldn’t really figure out what was going on, but I didn’t need to. I solved it as an easy themeless and then came here to find out the theme.

  2. Scott says:

    My solve was a hybrid of John and Grumpy. I really liked the new fresh theme and figured it out once the grid was complete.

    • rob says:

      NYT: Ditto what Scott said. David Steinberg is one of my favorite constructors, and he certainly did not disappoint this time. I actually started writing down the answers (carpets, carets, carding, etc.) until the lightbulb went on! Talk about an aha moment! Absolutely brilliant puzzle! Don’t be a stranger, David. I know you are busy with other things, but don’t forget about your loyal fans solving over here at the NYT

    • JohnH says:

      I too worked it out only at the end but still found it enjoyable, novel, and impressive. I rated it only 3 but only by mechanical error.

  3. Noah says:

    NYT: Didn’t know CHERI OTERI so put in OBERI because I thought the crossing was SNOB (which seemed much more fitting for “Obnoxious sort”). Other than that, easy and fun puzzle.

    • Eric H says:

      Cheri OTERI shows up in the NYT puzzle a few times each year, so it’s worth trying to remember her name. I haven’t watched SNL in decades, so I know the name mostly from crossword puzzles.

      • anon says:

        Cheri Oteri hasn’t been *on* SNL in decades.

        • Eric H says:

          Thanks. I knew that; my SNL-watching ended a few years before Cheri Oteri joined the cast.

          Should crossword constructors and editors ditch OTERI because it’s been over 20 years since she was famous? Maybe so. My impression is that once a name gets into constructors’ word lists, it’s going to stay for a long while.

  4. Eric H says:

    NYT: The exit clues made no sense to me, so I skipped over them and filled in the grid in about ⅔ of my usual Thursday time. Then I spent another five or so minutes figuring out how the exits worked.

    I appreciate the novelty of the theme and as usual am impressed by David Steinberg’s construction chops. I’m not sure I call this one of his best puzzles, but that’s only because he sets such a high bar for himself.

    It’s interesting to think about how different the puzzle would have been if the CAR-ends (e.g. 19A, 20A, and 23D hadn’t been independently clued. (According to David’s constructor’s notes, that was his original plan.) That would have made understanding the theme necessary for solving the puzzle.

  5. Papa John says:

    It may be the strain of having house guests for the last week, because I’m not able to make any sense of today’s NYT, even after reading the explanations in the blog. I get the idea of the round-about, although I think it’s a great stretch to see the visual representation of a round-about in the grid. The grid pattern is not conducive to depicting circles.

    The solve was relatively easy but the theme was just the opposite for me. I still don’t get it.

    • Mr. [Not At All] Grumpy says:

      Go counterclockwise from the R in any CAR [or RAC for the ones on the right margin and the bottom]. The next side of the black square center of the roundabout is exit 1. So 5D, for example, matches up with 19A STEPS, but you’re heading left so it makes CARPETS, Exit 2 is the opposite side the black square for CARETS, and exit 3 goes right for CARDING.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni … Tough crowd? I’m surprised that the few ratings we’ve got so far for this puzzle are so low (one 2.5 stars, two 1.5 stars and one 1 star? … ah .. I see that someone’s given it a 5-star now to bring the average up some), yet there’s no commentary about why people didn’t like it. Why so much hate folks? I certainly didn’t think it was the best or most interesting puzzle I’ve ever done, but it seems perfectly acceptable and has some fun (ish) and creative wordplay in the theme.

    I don’t usually bother with a star rating, but decided to give an average rating to this one, if for no other reason than to provide a little balance.

    • Mr. [just a little bit] Grumpy says:

      Try Googling “is Spanglish offensive” [or controversial or problematic]. I suspect people’s personal answers to that question might explain some of the ratings.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Huh … okay … I didn’t realize that Spanglish is so controversial. I guess I can understand that. Maybe that’s the explanation. Thanks for enlightening me.

      • Flinty Steve says:

        . . . and on top of that, 32D (contempt) should either have been made thematic or replaced.

      • e.a. says:

        so many 1-star ratings across the board today i’m starting to wonder if english is offensive

    • Seattle Derek says:

      I just gave this puzzle a “5” because I think it’s one of the most creative themes that I’ve seen in a long time. (BTW, I speak Spanglish from time to time in a respectful way and don’t see any controversy about it.)

  7. reid says:

    I would have loved to see this as a Fireball crossword with all the exits unclued and force you to find the theme. I think that would have probably made it too hard for the NYT, but perfect for something like Fireball.

    As it was, I had the same experience as others where I didn’t get the theme until I was pretty much done, so it was more like a themeless for me, but with the potential to be so much more!

    • Timothy Rueger says:

      Arriving late here, the BEQ was some morbid fun. Did anyone else catch the (very slight) grid asymmetry he used?

  8. Tom Cassutt says:

    LAT: The “pruning shears” first clip two letters from the end of “SHEARS”, then one letter from each of the front and the back of the word, and finally two letters from the beginning.

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