Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Jonesin' 5:25 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (Jenni)  


NYT 3:09 (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal untimed (Matt F) 


USA Today tk (Sophia) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


WSJ 4:47 (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “I’m Not Lost” — we did it! – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 12/5/23

Jonesin’ solution 12/5/23

Hello lovelies! This week’s Jonesin’ is a victory celebration, in that the word WON spans the theme entries.

  • 20a. [Minced veggie for stews and casseroles] YELLOW ONION
  • 57a. [Tops that don’t require a bottle opener] SCREW ON CAPS
  • 11d. [Early score in a baseball or basketball game] TWO NOTHING
  • 28d. [Words of astonishment] HOW ON EARTH

Other things:

  • 6d. [Acronymic anxiety about exclusion] FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out.
  • 4d. [Rick often behind a slick click] ASTLEY. This refers to Rickrolling, or sneaking a link to Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” video somewhere unexpected.
  • 32d. [Spiked wheel on a boot spur] ROWEL. I learned a new word today! And a new name, former MLB pitcher Robb NEN.

Until next week!

Hal Moore’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Doing the Bookends”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose outer letters (as circled) spell out the word TAX. The revealer is TAX BRACKET (62a, [Earnings division, and what each trio of circled letters represents]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Doing the Bookends” · Hal Moore · Tue., 12.5.23

  • 16a. [“Take a breath”] TRY TO RELAX.
  • 24a. [Instrument for jazz legend Coleman Hawkins] TENOR SAX.
  • 36a. [Angler’s need] TACKLE BOX.
  • 51a. [Dr. Seuss title character of 1971] THE LORAX.

Pretty straightforward, but cleanly executed. Realizing the circled letters spell the same word in each answer takes away some of the challenge for the lower entries, but it’s only Tuesday, so the puzzle shouldn’t be too difficult. And it’s only three letters in each entry which isn’t that much real estate to give away.

I would’ve liked some longer snazzy fill, but maybe all the Xs (as well as the 9-letter central entry) put some extra constraints on the grid. I will say that the Xs were handled well with nothing too far outside the norm.

Clues of note:

  • 10a. [Moving pic]. VID. I stuck with GIF for much too long here.
  • 13a. [“___ mia” (Italian term of affection)]. CARA. The phrase translate to “my dear” or “my darling.”
  • 16a. [“Take a breath”]. TRY TO RELAX.

  • 47a. [Org.’s kin]. SOC. This confused me. I thought the clue was asking for one of the top-level internet domains. Not sure what this is going after. “Society”?
  • 5d. [“Building Stories” graphic novelist Chris]. WARE. New to me. Sounds like an intriguing work.
  • 45d. [Love in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame]. DARLENE. Timely, since you’re probably hearing her song “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” a lot right about now.

Solid puzzle. 3.5 stars.

Nate Cardin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12/5/23 – no. 1205

The theme revealer is 54a. [Irritable … or how you might describe all the words in the answers to the starred clues?], OUT OF SORTS, meaning those words are all of an “out of ___” sort. PRINT ORDER (I wanted PRINT RUN but it’s too short) evokes out of print and out of order. POCKET DOORS yield out of pocket, a newer phrase that younger generations use to mean “unavailable” or “away from my desk,” that sort of thing, but the rest of us know of out-of-pocket costs; and there’s out-of-doors. STOCK CHARACTERout of stock, out of character. And last, FASHION LINEout of fashion, out of line. Neat theme, though I had to reread the revealer clue to see what the theme was.

Five theme entries in a 14×15 grid, a tight squeeze. Smooth fill, though! Except for 10d.
[Like high-strung horses], SNORTY. This is in the dictionary and means “prone to snorting.” And high-strung horses snort a lot, do they? I’m no equestrian.

ROCK JOCK is clued as 13d. [Mountaineering enthusiast, in slang]. That usage is new to me. Pretty sure my college roommate, who majored in geology, used ROCK JOCK as her computer password. Wonder if the phrase has been applied to DJs on rock radio stations?

Four stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 653), “Greenbacks!”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 653: “Greenbacks!”

Hello there, everyone! Here is hoping you’re doing well on this first full week of December!

Today’s grid will definitely leave people green with envy. The five theme entries all contain circles, and when the letters are combined, they form a word that is also a shade of green. Of course, all of those words appear backwards inside of the entries.

          • EDGAR DEGAS (17A: [“The Rehearsal” painter]) – Sage
          • A DEVIL OF A TIME (24A: [Difficulty]) – Olive
          • CATCHES SOME RAYS (38A: [Basks in the sun, say]) – Moss
          • A ROSE FOR EMILY (47A: [1930 short story by William Faulkner]) – Lime
          • NORA EPHRON (58A: [“You’ve Got Mail” director]) – Pea

I’m pretty certain that the last time I heard (and sang) the song mentioned in the clue for SPIRITUAL was at a recital in junior high school, so definitely brought up some good memories (10D: [“Go Tell It on the Mountain,” for one]). All of those non-themed nine-letter entries were fun fill. Definitely was tempted to highlight GIPP in the next paragraph, with Ronald Reagan’s portrayal of him in the movie Knute Rockne, All American being the inspiration of Reagan being nicknamed “The Gipper” (46D: [Notre Dame football legend George]). But went in a different direction, and it involves having a front row seat to see a bit of history.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HAIL MARYS (11D: [Do-or-die football passes]) – A couple of weeks ago, I got to see one of the rarest plays in the history of the sport of football. During the Miami Dolphins-New York Jets game on Black Friday, the Jets’ Tim Boyle threw a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the first half, an attempt that was intercepted by the Miami Dolphins’ Jevon Holland. Holland proceeded to not only make the pick, but run the ball back 99 yards for a touchdown! That play marked the fourth time in NFL history that a 99-yard touchdown was scored on the final play of a half. Only the Jets can be on the receiving end of this folly!

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!

Take care!


Universal Crossword Review by Matt F

Title: Select Songs
*Debut* Constructor: Neil Biehn
Editor: David Steinberg

Universal Solution 12.05.2023

Based on the Fiend tagging system I can only surmise that this is a debut puzzle. So, before we dig in, I just wanted to take a minute to say congratulations, Neil, and welcome to the club!

Theme Synopsis:

Neil brings us a slate of popular songs that have one thing in common, as illuminated by the reveal:

  • 59A – [8,675,309, for one … or a hint to each asterisked clue’s answer] = PRIME NUMBER

At this point I would advise you to please go listen to the 1981 hit, “Jenny,” by Tommy Tutone, to catch the inside joke in this reveal.

Got it?

Good. You’re welcome for the earworm!

Ah, the 80’s… are these classics officially considered “oldies” at this point? That was 40 years ago, my God! I have no idea how that works. Do kids these days even know about music from the 80’s? The stuff was already “old” when I was a kid, and yet I can’t escape the feeling that music from the 70’s and 80’s will always be considered “classic.”

Ok, moving on. The theme answers that compliment this reveal are all song titles that contain a… you guessed it… prime number! Two are 80’s-era hits and one is from the early aughts – the only one I was able to slot in without crosses.

  • 17A – [1980 Steely Dan hit] = HEY NINETEEN
  • 31A – [1982 Stevie Nicks hit] = EDGE OF SEVENTEEN
  • 40A – [2003 White Stripes hit] = SEVEN NATION ARMY

Overall Impressions:

Ok, so the theme is playing off a cute joke from a really old song, and 2 of 3 theme answers are also really old songs. But as far as song-related themes go, this one is solid! You can’t argue with the popularity of these artists. I don’t mind the one theme answer that helped modernize the set, but I do wonder if it would have been tighter overall for all three theme answers and the reveal to be from the same decade (don’t ask me to name another 80’s song that fits the bill – there might not even be another one).

There are some fun clues sprinkled throughout this puzzle – 3D, 12D, 22D, and the 14A/35D “gobble up / chow down” pair was a nice touch – and I enjoyed the supporting fill. RACONTEUR is a tricky word so I’m curious if that was a stumbling block for any downs-only solvers. All-in-all, this was a nice puzzle and I’m happy to see a new name among the ranks!

Thanks for the puzzle, Neil! I look forward to your next one!

Amanda Cook’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

Seems to me that we’re seeing more women (or female-sounding names) published in the LAT since Patti Varol took over as editor. I’m sure someone is keeping track, and that someone is not me. Amanda’s among the constructors who were new to me a year ago and are now familiar and welcome bylines. This one was fun! I recognized the pattern and did not predict where the revealer was going.

The theme entries:

Los Angeles Times, December 4, 2023, Amanda Cook, solution grid

  • 17a [Sherlock Holmes costume accessory] is a MAGNIFYING GLASS.
  • 22a [Means of sticking a shower caddy to a tile wall] is a SUCTION CUP. I have never successful used a suction cup to stick anything to a tile wall and have given up trying.
  • 35a [Support from the bullpen] is a RELIEF PITCHER.
  • 46a [Annual football game in Arizona] is the FIESTA BOWL.

Amanda ties them all together at 52a [Isn’t credible, or a literal description of 17-, 22-, 35-, or 46-Across?] is DOESNT HOLD WATER. Solid, consistent, with themers firmly in the language. Nice one! The theme was good enough that I forgave RESIT for [Convene again]. It helped that it was in the bottom third of the puzzle and I was already enjoying myself by the time I got there.

A few other things:

  • I loved the BABAR books when I was a kid and my mother saved my copies. I happily brought them home to read to my daughter when she was a toddler…and got party through the first one, closed it, and never opened it again. In addition to being racist and colonialist because of course they are, there’s also the weirdness of Babar being found by The Old Lady, brought to her home, and given clothing and a sports car. I mean, what?
  • 16a [Inheritance from one’s parents?] is GENES. Why the ? for what seems to me like a completely straightforward answer. Is it because it’s a Tuesday so the mild misdirection needs a signal? You do inherit your GENES from your parents.
  • Ick, fungus gnats. One of my least favorite PESTs. Not that I really have a favorite, I guess.
  • If we have to have TSE in a puzzle (and sometimes we do) I’d rather have it clued as the poet’s monogram than half an African fly. I was mused that we also have TSA. Just missing the eponymous Chinese general.
  • 54d [Suffix with pay or Cray] is OLA. I suspect “payOLA” is mysterious to many younger solvers.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of Michael SCHUR and haven’t watched “The Good Place.”

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up

New Yorker • 12/5/23 • Tue • Last • solution • 20231205

Somewhat easier than what I believe the New Yorker aims for in its ‘moderately challenging’ Tuesday crosswords.

I started off with the pair of 8d [Athlete known as O Rei do Futebol] PELÉ and 8a [They might be checkered] PASTS. After that it was mostly just making steady, occasionally impeded progress through the grid.

  • 26a [Culinary product made from the grass Saccharum officinarum] CANE SUGAR. A gimme for anyone else? Should have been easy enough to fill in the SUGAR part anyway.
  • 29a [Worker who might be pulled in several directions at once] DOG WALKER. Nice, clever, evocative clue. Would have gotten it—and 30a [Difficult set of circumstances, metaphorically] TOUGH ROAD—sooner, had I not mistyped my answer to 26d [Violent overthrows] as CUOPS. These answers are part of a fivefold step-stack of nine-letter words that forms the heart of the grid. They are in turn transected by 7d [Author of the novel “Harlem Shuffle” and its 2023 sequel, “Crook Manifesto”] COLSON WHITHEAD.
  • 39a [Ball out] GO HAM. I believe the latter part is an acronym for ‘hard as a mother[fucker]’.
  • 48a [One might be watered with a spray bottle] AIR PLANT. A better approach is to occasionally submerge it completely for 15 minutes or so and then let it dry out.
  • 50a [David Hammons sculpture on Manhattan’s West Side that’s practically invisible at night] DAY’S END.
  • 30d [Storms] TEMPESTS.

    nb: The artist has since changed their name to KAE and now uses pronouns they/them and he/him.
  • 36a [Game with sixteen dice] BOGGLE. Simple yet tricky, because (I think) we don’t often think of those letter cubes as dice.
  • 37d [Insect in many Nabokov texts] MOTH. He was famously an amateur lepidopterist.

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22 Responses to Tuesday, December 5, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Pretty impressive to find 8 words that fit the theme, belonging to 4 expressions that are squarely in the language– plus a revealer. Well done!
    I love the word “FRECKLE”– Sounds like it’s a fun thing that frolics across your skin… So much better than the French equivalent– Tache de Rousseur– “Stain of Redheadedness”. And you don’t even have to be red-headed to have freckles! They run in our family, with nary a redhead.

  2. Nate says:

    NYT: My original clue for SNORTY referenced my French bulldog and the sounds he makes, which felt like a more modern usage, but alas the clue was changed in editing.

    • Dallas says:

      Fun! It was a great Tuesday; loved the theme, good entries, filled in pretty fast. Thanks for constructing a great puzzle!

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    I also think of my geologist when I hear ROCK JOCK.

    • Katie says:

      +1, Jenni!

      In HS, I worked at the USGS as a lab tech, and those guys (um – as I recall, the particular folks I was working with were all “guys” at the time) were definitely “rock jocks”. (Def. “Indiana Jones” vibes…) I heard so many crazy stories about summer adventures (e.g., given these are still nerds at heart, we’re talking about, trying to sneak extra rocks into another guys pack, w/out him noticing, and so on).

      I envisioned some “Aha!” moment, in picking the career. [Hmm: 9-month academic-type job solving interesting scientific puzzles — plus up to 3 months of paid, on-the-job travel/hiking/fun out in the wilderness somewhere… Hmm…]. ;-)

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        My favorite trimester at Carleton College was the fall when I was taking an intro to geology class and a natural history biology course. I was outside on field trips every week, plus collecting specimens in the arboretum. The highlight was a trip to a bog, walking on the thick mat floating on the bog’s water. Spongy, the ground gives, feet wet.

    • Papa John says:

      I think you should try again with the suction cups. I have three of them in my shower — one of them holding up two back brushes — and I don’t believe they’ve ever fallen off. I also have three birdfeeders on my window held up with suction cups and they’re just as reliable.

  4. Mutman says:

    NYT: I get seven of them. But OUT OF DOORS??

    What’s that?? An alternate to OUTDOORS?? Or is it a disappointing trip to Home Depot?
    Monty Hall having no options left for contestants??

    Or maybe it’s regional??

    • pannonica says:

      It’s kind of old-fashioned, but definitely legit, and is the original phrase from which the more streamlined outdoors derives. Check out the Ngram.

    • JohnH says:

      It’s definitely in my vocabulary, although I can’t swear I’ve ever used it. (Well, I started a song that I was going to call “Out of Sight, Out of Doors,” but it didn’t go all that well.) After all, books from before the date when “outdoors,” in the chart pannonica finds for us, topped it in frequency are still in print.

      I hesitated at SNORTY. It’s not, unfortunately, in either MW11C or RHUD, but it’s in the fuller MW online, and it has an obvious meaning, so fine.

  5. Eric H says:

    NYT: It took me a minute or two to realize how the revealer worked. I thought the idea was synonyms for SORT: FASHION, CHARACTER and ORDER kind of work, but DOOR? POCKET? The real way it works is so much better.

    OUT OF DOORS strikes me as less colloquial than the others, but I expect it’s just a bit dated.

    Nice puzzle for a Tuesday.

  6. David L says:

    NYT: Didn’t understand the theme. OUTOF was shaded in the grid, but that didn’t help me.

    TNY: Finished with an error, and thought it must be something to do with the inexplicable GOHAM in the SE. But no, I had Dee SNYDER crossing LILKYM. Which seemed altogether plausible. I’m sure there’s some other semi-famous Snyder, but I can’t think who it is off the top of my head.

    • Katie says:

      Cute! (I think?) Is this a reference to the (relatively rarely-used) SNYDER (vs SNIDER) entry from NYT on Sunday?

      40 Pulitzer-winning poet Gary : SNYDER

    • steve says:

      i guess i am too old to get “GO HAM”

      so that corner was tough for me

    • Eric H says:

      Same mistake here, maybe because I had seen the incorrect SNiDER in your comment and hadn’t realized it was wrong. (But I’m not blaming you — really!)

      I will have to look up GOHAM. Never heard of it, and it certainly doesn’t look right.

      A semi-famous SNyDER is Tom Snyder, who had a news/talk show in the 1970s.

      As I got the first few letters of COLSON WHITEHEAD, his first name popped into my mind — but I wasn’t sure of it, and I needed a few more crosses before I remembered WHITEHEAD. Having that answer sooner would have saved me some time.

      • Eric H says:

        That’s what I get for not reading pannonica’s write-up before commenting. I never would have figured out “hard as a motherfucker” on my own. (The word doesn’t bother me, but I rarely use it.)

    • JohnH says:

      Silly but I couldn’t remember the Y/I crossing with either name, although I went with the more common one. And of course that corner also had ALI crossing ELAINE.

      I can’t agree that it was an easy Tuesday. Or rather it’s Natan Last and TNY, so easy and solving are just about what you know, no skill required. Ditto in the GOHAM corner, where I also didn’t know AIR PLANT, wasn’t sure that clue worked for BOGGLE, and couldn’t remember how to spell MUGABI, among other things.

      Fortunately I’m really into Hammons and have written about the pier project, although I’m sure for others that’s just another factoid, and looking forward to reading the new title from COLSON WHITEREAD. But doesn’t make a good puzzle.

  7. Sam Rangel says:

    NYT Never knew out of pocket to mean “unavailable.” I’ve only heard it in reference to an individual behaving wildly or unpredictably. Example: “Sir, put your clothes back on. You’re acting out of pocket.” But I’m in my 30s so it might just be generational. *shrug* Great puzzle and a great write up, Amy!

    • David L says:

      When I was working in the DC area, ‘out of pocket’ began to appear in bureaucratic circles to mean temporary unavailable. I don’t know when and how it began, or who to blame.

  8. Christopher says:

    For the Universal Crossword – I liked that “Raconteur” crossed “Seven Nation Army,” because Jack White was in both the White Stripes and The Raconteurs. I thought that was clever.

  9. Zev Farkas says:

    Universal –
    Congratulations to the debut puzzlemaker, and thanks for a theme a nerd can appreciate.

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