Friday, December 30, 2022

LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker tk (Matt) 


NYT 7:11 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 5:06 (Darby) 


Brendan Quigley’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12 30 22, no. 1230

Seldom does a crossword truly amuse me, but 38a. [Secretly pass gas?] for SIPHON? *slow clap* Then there’s also the old ACPT callback of 43d. [Objects thrown out hotel windows, in a rock ‘n’ roll cliché], TV SETS. (If you know, you know.)

Fave fill: Marc CHAGALL (didn’t know “Spoonful of Milk”), LOOK THE OTHER WAY, “THAT’S FOR SURE,” SCROOGE, W.H. AUDEN, ELTON JOHN, KHARTOUM with its Arabic translation, “elephant trunk,” THE CLOSER, and “TO BE FAIR,” which is a fun phrase if you’ve watched the Canadian comedy Letterkenny. (Relevant clip here.)

Less keen on bits like ONE BASE, A OR B, and crosswordese AGA, TYES, MOUES.

3.8 stars from me. Thanks for the smiles, Brendan!

Susan Gelfand’s Universal crossword, “Double Play”—Jim P’s review

Theme answers consist of familiar two-word phrases where each word is also a Major League Baseball team name (in the singular).

Universal crossword solution · “Double Play” · Susan Gelfand · Fri., 12.30.22

  • 20a. [MLB athlete who’s played for Cincinnati and San Francisco?] RED GIANT.
  • 35a. [MLB athlete who’s played for Cleveland and Los Angeles?] GUARDIAN ANGEL.
  • 51a. [MLB athlete who’s played for Detroit and Chicago?] TIGER CUB.

Fun theme! I wanted more but I wonder if any more such phrases exist. Finding three to fit symmetrically seems remarkable enough.

I especially like the timely addition of the Cleveland Guardians who just changed their name this year. Aside: I’m not much of a baseball watcher, but that’s a terrible name, isn’t it? This from a franchise that seems to have a history of terrible names. Per Wikipedia, they’ve been the Rippers, the Lake Shores, the Bluebirds (or Blues) — this one’s not bad, the Bronchos, the Napoleons (or Naps), and lastly the Indians. They should’ve gone back to the Bluebirds.

Anyway, with a lighter-than-usual amount of theme material, we get some longer stacks in the corners with LINGERIE being the funnest of the lot. Everything else is solid though, and the solve was smooth and quick.

Clue of note: 24a. [Texters, at times]. SENDERS. Meh. However, I can’t think of a better option and the other examples in the Cruciverb database aren’t so hot, either.

Nice puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Rafael Musa’s USA Today Crossword, “Higher Power”—Darby’s write-up

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme answer is a Down answer starts with a word that can precede power, making them “higher powers.”

Theme Answers

Rafael Musa’s USA Today Crossword, “Higher Power” solution for 12/30/2022

Rafael Musa’s USA Today Crossword, “Higher Power” solution for 12/30/2022

  • 1d [“Romantic spa booking”] COUPLES MASSAGE / POWER COUPLE
  • 6d [“Category for remade meals”] GRAB AND GO / POWER GRAB
  • 12d [“Reveal some secrets”] LIFT THE CURTAIN / POWER LIFT
  • 22d [“Caretaker Gazette subscriber”] HOUSE SITTER / POWER HOUSE

I love that there were four themes in this grid, and each them of them felt like they were very evocative “higher powers.” COUPLES MASSAGE was the first answer that I filled in and then I cruised through the Down answers ironically, until I got to GRAB AND GO, switching back to Across for a bit. LIFT THE CURTAIN and HOUSE SITTER were two of the last entries to make it in for me, especially because I had trouble with the cross at SER and DURHAM (DUOHAM sat in my puzzle for longer than I would’ve liked). I was also thinking more geographically for 22d, and it wasn’t until I got most of the crosses that I put two and two together for HOUSE SITTER.

Interestingly, I was really excited to see 15a [“Cut short”] TRUNCATE in this puzzle. I just feel like it’s a word you don’t see often but a lot of folks know what it means. I also enjoyed that both 19d [“Game with a 108-card deck”] UNO and 36d [“___ vez (once, in Spanish)”] UNA made it in. SLEUTH, ICE SKATE, and SONIC were also some personal faves. Oh, and of course, I laughed out loud at 66a SIR [“___, this is a Wendy’s”].

A few Friday faves for me

  • 21a [“Barred ones sound like they’re saying ‘Who cooks for you?’”] – Like a lot of crossword folks (I imagine), I’ve been obsessed with Stonemaier Games’ Wingspan, and so it’s always a treat to learn another fun fact about any bird. I especially love OWLS. You can read more about Barred Owls on the Audubon Society’s page and listen to their “Who cooks for you” hoot!
  • 10d [“Actress Laura”] Laura DERN is one of my favourite actresses, and I’m so grateful that she often makes it into puzzles.
  • 31d [“Dance with ‘uli’uli”] – ‘Uli’uli are the Hawaiian rattles used in HULA dancing. Dancers grip the neck of the ‘uli’uli and then shake or hit them against their bodies while dancing.

Mark Valdez & Brooke Husic’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 12/30/22 • Fri • Valdez, Husic • solution • 20221230

Pretty basic but solid theme here. The word UP gets suffixed (with a hyphen) to various phrases to alter their meanings.

  • 71aR [Make sense, and a hint to the answers to the starred clues] ADD UP.
  • 20a. [*Separation after the vernal equinox] SPRING BREAK-UP (Spring break).
  • 31a. [*Nightmare for a wedding baker] CAKE MIX-UP (cake mix).
  • 45a. [*Arrangement of extras for a zombie movie?] DEAD SET-UP (dead set).
  • 58a. [*Halloween costume that’s a sheet on the bottom and a witch’s hat on top?] MONSTER MASH-UP (Monster Mash).

See? Fine.

  • 11d [Spirit of the cosmos?] VODKA. Nice misdirection from the cosmopolitan cocktail.
  • 32d [Focus of some special elections] EMPTY SEAT. Hesitated for the second part of this one because I thought it was plural. Nothing wrong with the clue, but it would have been much clearer for me if it had been something like [Focus of a special election, perhaps].
  • 44d [Right direction?] EAST. On a map.
  • 54d [Man on a mission?] FRIAR. This feels like a mismatch to me, but I fairly ignorant on such matters. Anyone care to chime in?
  • 55d [“The Death of Vivek Oji” author Akwaeke] EMEZI. Needed the crossings, alas. Are we being primed for future in-grid appearances of OJI?
  • 64d [Shiba __: dog breed] INU, which is Japanese for ‘dog’.
  • Hm. Nothing particularly notable among the acrosses. I’ll fall back on the aptly placed 1a [In the lead] FIRST, which I’d initially presumed was AHEAD.


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24 Responses to Friday, December 30, 2022

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I found it to be more like a Saturday difficulty. I enjoyed learning some new things (e.g. re MANOWAR and BAT). The clue for SIPHON cracked me up. And I was surprised at the intersection of RUNWAY with LOOK THE OTHER WAY.
    I always loved the name KHARTOUM- the meaning is immediately clear if you’re an Arabic speaker, and it was the easiest world capital for me to remember as a child. I found it evocative and it made me want to visit it. I think where the two Niles meet looks like an elephant trunk.
    Living for a year in Cairo, Egypt when I was a child made me realize the power of the Nile and how it transformed life and shaped civilizations along its path.

  2. David L says:

    NYT: SOFALEG at 1A was not very appealing, and DOGSHOWJUDGE doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. But the puzzle got better after that. I was unsure about SAUNA for the place where you get might a platza, since the latter is clearly not a Finnish word (Russian, sez google).

    I’ve never heard of JOED for Dimaggio — that was my last entry.

    • JohnH says:

      Those were all hard, slowing me up at the end of solving an often reasonably easy Friday, but none of them unreasonable. Other tough spots for me were TYES, which is not in RHUD (but is in Merriam-Webster online) and ANNATTO, which RHUD has as a dye but not a condiment, HODA, and ALY. So I learned something, which isn’t bad at all!

    • Nina says:

      I knew platza was the Russian bath treatment, and I know banya for the Russian baths, but those letters didn’t work. Sauna was so obvious! Duh.
      I too was not crazy about sofa leg and dog show judge.

  3. Eric H says:

    NYT: It seemed very much a Friday-level puzzle with colloquial answers like THAT’S FOR SURE and I SEE NOW.

    The Babe Ruth clue had me trying to come up with a boxer from that era; I needed a few crosses to get MAN O’ WAR. (That’s a nice little factoid that I may retain, though I’m not sure I’ll ever need it again.)

    BAT was a gimme for me. Austin claims to have the world’s largest urban colony of Mexican free-tailed bats. In the warmer months, they live under a bridge on the edge of downtown. It’s impressive to see the cloud of bats flying out around dusk to go feed.

    I had trouble parsing JOE D and was surprised when I filled in the last letter and got the congratulations.

  4. Maura says:

    LAT: pannonica, friars are active priests who travel in service to society: to preach, to pray, to educate people, to care for the sick. They are indeed men on a mission.

  5. Eric H says:

    Universal: Despite having no idea what Cleveland’s baseball team calls itself these days, I sailed through the grid as fast (and with as little resistance) as a NYT Monday. The clueing seems Monday NYT direct; I didn’t see much wordplay. Reasonably fun, though.

    Jim P. writes “Clue of note: 24a. [Texters, at times]. SENDERS. Meh. However, I can’t think of a better option and the other examples in the Cruciverb database aren’t so hot, either.” Meh, indeed. But it’s more that type of entry — random verb plus -er — that strikes me as convenient fill. Who uses words like that? (I’m OK with -er words that are common, like “painter.” But crossword puzzles have too many words like that that no one ever says.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      +1 … random -ER and RE- are among my crossword pet peeves … I’ve seen these in spades as I’ve worked my way through NYT puzzles from the Maleska era.

      • Eric H says:

        Thanks for giving me another reason to avoid the Maleska era puzzles. (There’s enough junk in the old Shortz era puzzles.)

    • Gary R says:

      Re: SENDER “Who uses words like that?”

      FedEx, UPS, USPS, Elvis? ;-)

      I get your point about random verb plus-er, but I’m not sure SENDER is an especially good example of the offense.

      • Eric H says:

        Point taken, though I expect “shipper” is more common than “sender” in the UPS/FedEx context.

        So maybe it really was the clue that I didn’t care for.

        And now you’ve cursed me with an Elvis earworm. (Not the worst thing to happen.)

    • JohnH says:

      Not that I do Universal puzzles, but SENDERS seems like a legit word to me. Think of “return to sender.”

      • sanfranman59 says:

        For me, the ugh-iness came from the way it was clued … “Texters, at times”. This one didn’t really bother me too much. It was just a small “ugh”.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    OT … in case anyone out here is interested, the discussion in follow-up to Tuesday’s post by JohnH about that day’s TNY puzzle continues … fair warning that what I just posted there might induce a few TL;DRs

    • David L says:

      You piqued my curiosity so I read your comment (yes, the whole thing!) Generally speaking, I agree with you. Amy has a way of interpreting comments by the lights of her particular hobbyhorses (he said, mixing metaphors crazily).

      • sanfranman59 says:

        re “Amy has a way of interpreting comments by the lights of her particular hobbyhorses” … I think many of us are guilty of the same thing. I appreciate it when someone makes me realize it (often begrudgingly, I’m afraid)

    • Eric H says:


      If Amy Reynaldo thinks the people commenting on the Tuesday New Yorker puzzle are whiny xenophobes, she should see some of the comments in Wordplay.

    • Lester says:

      Amy would do better to claim that the Alous are not crossworthy. Mel Ott’s career Wins Above Replacement (per Baseball Reference) score is more than the total of Felipe, Matty, Jesus, and Moises Alou’s scores. Ott really was an extraordinary talent.

      • JohnH says:

        That’s new to me, so thanks. Interesting, and I don’t even follow sports. Puts a little flesh on crosswordese.

        In criticizing these things, it’s also always worth bearing in mind that some things turn up a lot because they fit. ONO didn’t became crosswordese because it’s overtime to give women their due, especially as there are better women in music and as she’s not half as often clued as the long overlooked woman artist she can fairly claim to be. So to me it’s no big deal if ALOU, ENO, ELO turn up a lot, boring as heck as it is. They don’t get a free ride because they’re male, but because they have those precious letters.

        • JohnH says:

          If I can add something off topic and personal, I realize that I’m a sexist pig more often than not because it’s important to recognize that men basically are. But as an arts writer I do devote a lot of my time to the current interest of galleries and museum curators in recovering and otherwise giving attention to women artists (and also people of color). It’s a theme I return to as often as I can, not just because it’s newsworthy and because I’m consciously making it an agenda, true as those are. It’s also because women have earned more and more attention right now just by making gender identity a part of their work.

          OTOH, while I’ve praised Ono to the skies and written something connecting her to Duchamp, I get as annoyed as anyone about her platitudinous text art. But there she suffers in part from her deep love and respect for John Lennon, with his assurance that world peace is at hand. Oh, and he was male.

    • JohnH says:

      I better not look! (But again, crossings, crossings, crossings.)

  7. Becky Moody says:

    Note on the USA Today puzzle: The first word of each theme answer follows “power”, not precedes it.

  8. Seattle Derek says:

    LAT: 11d [Spirit of the cosmos?] VODKA. I took “cosmos” as a reference to the Russian cosmonauts, lol!

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