Thursday, December 29, 2022

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


LAT 5:58 (Gareth) 


NYT 10:45 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 3:34 (Amy) 


Universal 5:11 (Sophia) 


USA Today 8:03 (Emily) 


Fireball tk (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Claire Rimkus and Rachel Fabi’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Average (10m45s)

Claire Rimkus and Rachel Fabi’s New York Times crossword, 12/28/2022, 1228

Today’s theme: LATE SHIFT (Overnight work assignment … or a hint to understanding four rows of answers in this puzzle)

  • EMULATES lends LATE to TEMPS, yielding TEMPLATES

Fun puzzle from Claire and Rachel.  It became clear that the four LATE entries were clued as if LATE wasn’t there, and then I noticed that another four answers were missing LATE in order for their clues to make sense.  It was tricky in that the direction that LATE shifts is not uniform (down two rows for the first and third themers, up two rows for the second and fourth themers).  Also, I wouldn’t say the LATE “shifts” per se, as it doesn’t simply rise or fall, but rather, gets inserted at an arbitrary location.  But LATE INSERTION isn’t very idiomatic, and also, I don’t even want to speculate on what joke would be most appropriate at this juncture.  EDIT: Just realized they are supposed to be paired with consecutive across clues, rather than up/down two rows within the same section the way it first appeared.  Leaving my original misinterpretation for posterity, and to let the world continue to contemplate LATE INSERTION.

Cracking: GAL PALS — TIL this was a euphemism for a lesbian couple.  Is there a male equivalent?  BOY FRIENDS?

Slacking: ALA and ALLA appearing as vertical fill, and in relative proximity.  It was not ALLA dream.  I went back and checked.  They were both still there.

Sidetracking: TIVO — if you’re Of A Certain Age, you probably still think of TIVO as a relatively modern contraption.  Allow me to disabuse you of that notion with this TIVO commercial from 2000, which feels more like it’s from 1987.  Time is a flat circle.

Alan DerKazarian’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Poof!”—Jim P’s review

Theme: DISAPPEARING ACT (64a, [Part of a magic show, and the key to understanding this puzzle’s one-word clues]). The clues of the other theme answers don’t make sense until you add in the letters ACT.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Poof!” · Alan DerKazarian · Thu., 12.29.22

  • 17a. [Comp] SMALL MAKE-UP CASE. Compact.
  • 27a. [Red] BLOCK OUT. Redact.
  • 41a. [Trans] CONDUCT BUSINESS. Transact.
  • 49a. [Imp] SLAM INTO. Impact.

I finally figured out what was going on by the third entry but still needed the revealer to give me the full aha moment. I certainly enjoyed sussing it out and making sense of it all.

But I finished with an error due to 27a. I wanted BLACK OUT which seemed to make perfect sense, and I would never have considered BLOCK OUT as a better alternative. This made 29d [One with a title] look like A_NER. I knew it was a stretch, but one could argue ABNER’s title was Li’l. This meant 37a [Larry who played for and managed the Phillies] look like BOBA which seemed perfectly reasonable to me since I’ve never heard the name. And I would argue that BLACKOUT, ABNER, and BOBA make for better fill than BLOCK OUT, OWNER, and BOWA.

So that was frustrating, but otherwise I enjoyed the solve. There isn’t any fill longer than six letters, but KEURIG, PIROGI, GO STAG, Ben VEREEN and NET PAY are all good.

Clues of note:

  • We get a hat trick of geologic time periods with ERA [Eoarchean, e.g.], AGES [Aeronian and Aquitanian, e.g.], and EONS [Archean and Hadean, e.g.]. Most of these were all new to me, but once I recognized what was going on, I appreciated the continuity.
  • 25d. [Hilda and Zelda, to Sabrina]. AUNTS. I had to guess, but I was right that these names referred to Sabrina the Teenage Witch comics and TV show.

I enjoyed the theme, but I felt one answer needed some adjustments. 3.5 stars.

Brooke Husic’s USA Today Crossword, “Movie Endings” — Emily’s write-up

Grab some popcorn for this fantastic puzzle!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday December 29, 2022

USA Today, December 29 2022, “Movie Endings” by Brooke Husic

Theme: the last word of each themer combines with the word MOVIE to create new phrases


  • 19a. [Midwest newspaper that ran Melinda Hennberger’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work], KANSASCITYSTAR
  • 34a. [Race though Germany’s Capital], BERLINMARATHON
  • 51a. [“Exactly!”], THATSTHETICKET

With a quick process and of elimination, KANSASCITYSTAR filled in fairly quickly for me—I was primed with growing up with the Minneapolis Star Tribune too. BERLINMARATHON was also an easier fill. With the few crossings already in place when I got to THATSTHETICKET, it too dropped smoothly into place. Combined with the theme hint in the title, we get: MOVIE STAR, MOVIE MARATHON, and MOVIE TICKET.


Stumpers: DAHI (this was new to me, even though I enjoy ordering mango lassis), RIRI (needed crossings), and BIRTHCHART (needed crossings)

Smooth solve with fantastic cluing, fill, theme, and themer set! Loved it!

4.75 stars


Gary Larson and Amy Ensz’s Universal crossword, “From Beginning to End” — Sophia’s write-up

Quick one today because I’m leaving to catch a flight after finishing this write up!

Theme: Each theme answer should be reparsed by moving the word “out” to the end of the clue.

Universal Crossword, 12 29 2022, “From Beginning to End”

  • 22a [*Outlet] – RELEASE (so you see, it’s the answer for the clue “Let out”)
  • 24a [*Outlook] – WATCHTOWER
  • 35a [*Outlay] – BLUEPRINT
  • 47a [*Output] – EXTINGUISH
  • 50a [Survive longer than, and a hint to reading the starred clues] – OUTLAST

I liked this theme a lot! I was surprised how many phrases there were that work with “out” both at the start and end of the word, especially when the meaning changes. The title is also great, plus the theme as a whole reminded me of “Survivor”, one of my favorite shows.

This played harder for me than most Universal puzzles, I think because of a mixture of proper nouns I didn’t know (SERGIO Aragones, LA BAMBA being a film title), and words that didn’t immediately come to mind (COPSE, STAID, ENCAMP, MILIEU all took a while). I also really wanted “tie rack” and not TIE TACK for 38d [Neckwear holder]. Favorite answers in the puzzle included WHIPPET and the clue [High rollers in Chicago?] for ELS.

Damon Gulczynski’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Each of Damon Gulczynski’s long across answers has a “in-the-language” [___ Question] clue with the answer being a question that is taken quite literally. The best thing about this is the clever and fun choices of theme answers used:

  • [Trick question?], WASTHISYOURCARD
  • [Quick question?], DONEALREADY
  • [Burning question?], WHERESTHEFIRE
  • [Leading question?], WHOSWINNING
  • [Probing question?], FINDANYTHINGYET

Fast five:

  • [“__ Meenie”: Kingston/Bieber hit], EENIE. Given the amount it was promoted, it was barely a hit…
  • [Currency of Laos], KIP. Or in South African English, a nap.
  • [Screenwriter Cody who won an Oscar for “Juno”], DIABLO. Not a name I knew, and I wasn’t even sure which was the first name… It’s DIABLO Cody.
  • [Like more expensive art, often], RARER. Huh? Surely art is almost always one-of-a-kind?
  • [“No objection here”], OKBYME created an interesting letter pattern in the grid, even if it caused KIP.


Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 12/29/22 – Gorski

Bit harder for me than the usual Thursday New Yorker puzzle. And you?

Fave fill: BIG FAT LIAR (fun clue: [Super duper?]), BEAR TRACKS, TIME-SAVER, PERSEVERES.

40d. [Divided in three], TRIPART. I feel like tripartite is a good bit more common, yeah?

Too hot: I like this clue for LIES LOW, [Keeps out of trouble until the heat dies down], but would prefer if the entry didn’t cross OIL HEATER.

3.25 stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1535, “By the Numbers” — Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each of the theme answers are clued with number referents to other answers. Together, these answers sound like the name referred to in the theme answer.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1535, "By the Numbers" solution for 12/29/2022

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1535, “By the Numbers” solution for 12/29/2022


As BEQ notes in his comment, this puzzle was Puzzle #5 in this year’s ACPT. It was really clever and well done. Each of the theme answers were easy to sound out, even if it took me awhile to get the mechanism.

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30 Responses to Thursday, December 29, 2022

  1. Eric H says:

    Thanks, sanfranman59, for your reply to Amy late Tuesday regarding the New Yorker puzzle. I too didn’t see a lot of whining about a hard puzzle. I saw comments from people who didn’t know a couple of answers that took up a fairly large number of squares.

    • JohnH says:

      And crossing. For me, that will always be the key, in the interest of fairness.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Amen to that, but I definitely sympathize with constructors and editors because they need to walk an invisible line between fair and foul. It’s obviously a very subjective judgment call. After all, one person’s gimme is another’s WTF. In this case, I think they ventured just a little bit across the line into foul territory. Nonetheless, I mostly very much enjoyed solving that puzzle, as I do the vast majority of the other puzzles published by The New Yorker.

        I much prefer that constructors challenge me with clever cluing and word play in contrast to you-know-it-or-you-don’t trivia. Unfortunately, it seems like the puzzles I have in my daily rotation are moving more and more in the opposite direction. I’ve been making my way backwards through NYT puzzles from the Maleska era and it seems to me that they have the opposite problem. Much of the cluing is pretty obtuse and, don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of obscure names (to me, of course). There are also an awful lot completely ridiculous abbreviations and words that I’ve never heard of, but those are different issues. Another problem has been reorienting my brain to think about pop culture and language with the early 1990s as the context, but at least I was the primary target audience and more plugged in to that type of thing back then. As a 63-year-old, that’s no longer true today.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Fun puzzle. It took me a while to tumble to what was going on in the top half and the revealer was very helpful.
    Like ZDL, I originally thought LATE was shifting between rows in various directions. But I think now that the shifts occur LATERALLY within rows. So CIRCUS and EMULATE are the pair, for example.
    Mostly because the clue says “a hint to understanding four rows of answers in this puzzle”. And it seems more elegant as a theme to shift side to side?

    • Gary R says:

      There is also consistency in where each LATE has been shifted “from” – each one has been moved from the spot just before the final “S” in the entry where it belongs. I thought that was a nice touch.

      Funny, I parsed 17-A as LATE RALLY, a sports term. I guess it could be either one since clue doesn’t fit either way.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        I did the same thing with LATERALLY. Great minds …

        I also entered ‘Slider’ off the S where SCYTHE {45D: Cutter with a curve} belonged. I must be anxious for Spring Training to start (I always am).

    • JohnH says:

      Really nice puzzle, nice theme.

  3. rob says:

    NYT: Thanks Rachel and Claire for a perfect Thursday puzzle. The aha moment came “late” for me. I look forward to more puzzles from you two.

  4. steve says:

    new yorker:

    super duper? = bigfatliar

    excellent, bravo

    beq took a while even though i figured out what was going on, nice puzzle

    • Mister [Not At All] Grumpy` says:

      I also liked Celtic winds for bagpipes. Wish there had been a few more ? clues like those, but this was very very nice beginner-level puzzle.

    • David R says:

      BEQ was ugly as sin in order to make the theme work, ruined my day until I did the nice breezy New Yorker then the sun came back out again.

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT … 27 three-letter answers, 30 four-letter answers and 50 blocks? Yikes!

    • e.a. says:

      could you share more about how those affected your solving experience?

      • sanfranman59 says:

        All puzzles have a good number three- and four-letter answers. In this one though, I found the number of short answers to be really noticeable as I solved and when I checked the count afterwards using XwordInfo’s tool for analyzing grids, I wasn’t all that surprised to learn that there’s such a crazy high count of short fill answers. IMO, these clue/answer combinations tend to be less interesting. The high number of short answers and blocks made the grid much more choppy and less interesting than most easy-ish 15x puzzles.

        Just one solver’s opinion.

        • e.a. says:

          gotcha, appreciate the explanation! will consider that in the future (with no promises anything will change; personally i think this grid is super interesting and would run it again)

          • sanfranman59 says:

            FWIW, my overarching feeling about the puzzle was positive and that’s true of the vast majority of puzzles I do in my daily rotation. One of the reasons I incorporated the USAT into my routine after you became an editor there was that I wanted to broaden my crossword horizons with cluing styles and answers that I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to as much in the NYT, LAT and WSJ (though the LAT has changed a bit since Patti Varol took the helm there). I added the Universal to my routine after David Steinberg became editor for the same reason.

            I generally enjoy the challenges that your work gives me, though I have to admit that you kick my butt sometimes with your early-week New Yorker puzzles. My competitive nature and ego don’t care much for DNFs, and unfortunately, I sometimes come out here and vent my frustrations while the solves (and butt-hurtedness) are fresh in my mind. I’m sure that I don’t always come off as very fair or sensitive to the feelings of the constructors and editors in my comments. If that’s been the case with any of the puzzles in which you’ve been involved, please know that I am truly grateful to you and all of the people out there who make it possible for me to have a virtually infinite supply of fodder for this hobby/obsession of mine. Thank you and all the other constructors and editors out there. Keep up the good work.

      • Eric H says:

        I agree with what sanfranman59 said about three- and four-letter answers generally. If I don’t generally care for a puzzle, a high number of short answers bugs me.

        But I liked today’s puzzle and didn’t notice how many short answers there were.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          And neither of you noticed that the diagram wasn’t symmetrical?

          • sanfranman59 says:

            I didn’t, but I don’t really notice (or care about) grid designs unless they’re integral to solving the puzzle. I don’t really care if the design is symmetric or not. In any case, what’s that got to do with this puzzle having an over-abundance of three-/four-letter answers and blocks?

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              Grid symmetry is among the crossword conventions that Erik Agard is content to dispense with as an editor, along with word count and black-square count limitations. I found it interesting that you critiqued the grid on two points but not the third!

  6. Mr. [Not At All] Grumpy says:

    I usually don’t care for puzzles where the theme wordplay is in the clues rather than the grid [a matter of personal taste], but I really really liked the Universal and WSJ puzzles today.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    NYT: I didn’t realize that the term GAL PALS {40D: Euphemism for a lesbian couple} refers specifically to a lesbian couple either. I’ve been known to use it and hope I haven’t confused or offended anyone in the past by using it in reference to two women who are very close friends but not romantically involved! I’m glad that the puzzle has enlightened me and will try to remember this the next time I’m tempted to use it.

  8. Karen says:

    BEQ: Did anyone manage to figure out his puzzle today? “By the Numbers.” No write up as of 6pm MST, so asking for help! Have it solved but don’t get the numbers.

  9. Michael Hooning says:

    New Yorker: I really wanted TRIFOLD, and only got TRIPART from crosses.

Comments are closed.