Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Jonesin' 4:45 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (Jenni)  


NYT 3:40 (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal 5:15 (Matt F) 


USA Today 3:05 (Sophia) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


WSJ 4:23 (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “A Charitable Puzzle” — that’s my impression. – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 12/12/23

Jonesin’ solution 12/12/23

Hello lovelies! It’s time for me to feel old, because this week’s Jonesin’ theme involves a bit of Gen Z slang.

  • 17a. [Lunar eclipse sight, sometimes] BLOOD MOON
  • 24a. [Remote feature that breaks?] PAUSE BUTTON
  • 40a. [Writer who gets asked a lot of judgment questions] ADVICE COLUMNIST
  • 53a. [Doubly polite acknowledgment?] THANKS AGAIN
  • 65a. [Phrase about vibes, or what precedes the first words of the long answers?] IT’S GIVING

The phrase “It’s giving” refers to the vibe that a certain thing is emitting. For example, if someone shows up wearing a leisure suit, an appropriate response to the outfit is “It’s giving 1977.” The first words in the theme entries are things that are given: giving blood, giving, pause, giving advice, and giving thanks.

Steve Buscemi in skating gear sayinh "How do you do, fellow kids?"As for me, a geriatric millennial with Gen Alpha children writing this explanation…it’s giving Steve Buscemi greeting high school students.

Other things:

  • 23a. [The ___-Bol man (classic TV ad character)] TYD. How did the Ty-D-Bol man sail around in chemical-filled toilets and not have any breathing issues? Pretty impressive.
  • 2d. [Notable name in pinball machines] BALLY. They expanded to include slot machines, casinos, and online gambling, and have since sold off much of their naming rights.
  • 58d. [On-call attachment, once] PAGER. Some hospitals still use pagers, whether it’s because they have areas cell phone service can’t reach or they just want folks to have nightmares about the beeping for the rest of their lives.

Until next week!

Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Street Cred”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar(ish) phrases whose first words are also the names of famous streets.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Street Cred” · Gary Larson · Tue., 12.12.23

  • 17a. [Shrinking violet] WALLFLOWER. Wall Street. Perhaps the impetus for this puzzle?
  • 26a. [Barrel-aged beverage] BOURBON WHISKEY. Bourbon Street.
  • 44a. [Taking a knee in the end zone, say] DOWNING THE BALL. Downing Street. This is a bit of an awkward phrase, and the clue confused me as well because a football player can down the ball wherever they’re at on the field. It might occur in the end zone when a kickoff or punt goes into the end zone and the receiving team elects to take a touchback by downing the ball there and not advancing it.
  • 57a. [Big Mac topper] SESAME SEED. Sesame Street.

This was pleasant, despite my difficulty with the one clue. I solved without pausing to look at the theme and enjoyed the little aha moment afterward. This constructor often employs pun-based themes which often don’t work for me, so I this was a nice change of pace.

Similar to yesterday, we don’t get much long sparkle in the fill, but COLD CUT, NAUSEA, and FAKERY were highlights for me. Biggest trouble spot for me was GO OUT [Ebb] since I didn’t know the crossing Sartre novel (NAUSEA) and had trouble trying to parse GOO_T.

Clues of note:

  • 65a. [Toastable torus]. BAGEL. Well, you wouldn’t toast it in its torus form, would you?
  • 24d. [Raised, as an anchor]. AWEIGH. “Raised” is an adjective here, not a verb.
  • 42d. [Some Windows systems]. NTS. Oof. Pretty sure they haven’t used that terminology in decades.

Good puzzle. With only four theme answers, I’d’ve liked a bit more sparkle in the fill. 3.25 stars.

Peter Gordon’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12/12/23 – no. 1212

What am I missing in the revealer? It doesn’t quite make sense to me. Each themer is made by adding -SCH to a familiar phrase, turning it goofy. The revealer clue is 61a.
[Where social graces were once taught … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme], FINISHING SCHOOL. What does the -OOL part have to do with anything?

The theme entries are:

  • 17a. [Crotchety geezer with a heart of gold?], GRUMPY OLD MENSCH. I do love me some Yiddish vocab.
  • 26a. [“Home Sweet Home” needlepoint pillow, e.g.?], SEWING KITSCH. Kitsch is from German.
  • 47a. [Coup d’état that’s been judicially suspended?], STAYED PUTSCH. Also a German word, Putsch.

The set could feel more cohesive. One movie title + two regular phrases. One from Yiddish + two from German.

Fave fill: GRUNT WORK.

Three stars from me, mainly because while the theme got off to a really promising start, I ended up not too keen on it. If I missed the fullness of the theme and its revealer, please enlighten me!

Universal Crossword Review by Matt F

Title: Do Not Eat
Constructor: Rebecca Goldstein
Editor: David Steinberg

Universal Solution 12.12.2023

Theme Synopsis:

Heed the warning in today’s title. DO NOT EAT! Yes, the theme contains food items, but they are all appended by a leading adjective that renders them inedible:

  • 12A – [Semiconductor slices] = SILICON WAFERS
  • 19A – [“Knives Out” sequel] = GLASS ONION
  • 32A – [Pieces of mulch, perhaps] = WOOD CHIPS
  • 48A – [Bit of detritus in an unboxing video, maybe] = FOAM PEANUT
  • 54A – [Yellow toy that squeaks when squeezed] = RUBBER CHICKEN

Adding to the cruelty of this faux-delicious theme is the grid shape which looks an awful lot like a cookie to me. What a tease!

Overall Impressions:

This was great. A simple yet elegant theme, made by an expert constructor. The CUZ/ZETA cross is certainly a choice to increase average letter score and overall “Scrabbliness” of the puzzle, as that corner easily could have been CUB/BETA. Hardly a ding on the construction, just an obvious “gotcha” for anyone solving downs-only that saw “Greek” and thought BETA before ZETA. READ UP, I WANNA, YIPPEE, STROBE, and all the mid-length fill is excellent throughout. This puzzle is so smooth I’m sure many solvers ignored the warning in the title and chewed right through it!

Thanks for the puzzle, Rebecca!

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 654), “Falling Leaves”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 654: “Falling Leaves”

Hello there, everybody! Hope all is well with you as Christmas Day is just a fortnight away!

We’re officially still in fall, and today’s puzzle is one last reminder of that before the winter solstice arrives. There are four long down answers, with each containing four circled boxes. When filled, the circles spell the word PAGE, creating the image of pages falling down to the bottom.

  • PAGE DOWN KEY (3D: [Computer user’s scoring aid])
  • ELLIOT PAGE (15D: [“Juno” actor who portrays a violinist on “The Umbrella Academy”])
  • PAGE-TURNER (25D: [Engrossing book])
  • SOCIETY PAGE (27D: [Newspaper section reporting on charity balls and cotillions]) – The “women’s pages,” huh?! A serious blast from the past here!

I can tell you that I definitely got hung up on my old French coins that end in “u,” as I plopped in “sou” immediately before doubling back and thinking about the possibility of ECU (43A: [Old French coin]). Guess that makes sou/ecu the stepchild of Mauna Loa/Kea in the crossword world. Seeing MOLE made me think of the mole chicken that a good friend of mine made for a house party I attended a few weeks ago, and now I’m adding that to the list of things I need to cook for the first time (64A: [Embedded spy]). Can’t have a puzzle in December without a little holiday spirit sprinkled in, and TINY TIM does the trick perfectly today (42D: [“God bless us, every one! speaker in “A Christmas Carol”]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SWANSEA (6D: [Dylan Thomas’s birthplace, in Wales]) – I had never heard of Swansea until their football (soccer) club, Swansea City, was promoted to the Premier League in 2011, becoming the first Welsh team to earn promotion to England’s top-flight soccer league since the Premier League’s formation in 1992. Not only did the Swans stay up in the league for seven seasons, they also won their major trophy during that time, defeating Bradford City 5-0 in the 2013 League Cup Final played at Wembley Stadium.

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

Take care!


Kelly Richardson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

Cute theme! Each theme answer is a two-word phrase with the first word clued – differently.

Los Angeles Times, December 12, 2023, Kelly Richardson, solution grid

    • 17a [Spa for out-of-shape shoe forms?] is a LAST RESORT.
    • 33a [Marking off the hours left to cram before the big exam?] is the FINAL COUNTDOWN. Makes me a little anxious just to think about it, even forty years later.
    • 41a [Homebuyer’s day-of-sale demand for a single window dressing?] is a CLOSING CURTAIN.
    • 60a [Effects of months of glute workouts?] are the END RESULTS. Feeling a sympathetic twinge…

Solid, consistent, and amusing theme that is totally appropriate for a Tuesday. Nice!

A few other things:

  • Lucille BALL was indeed a sitcom pioneer and a savvy businesswoman who was in charge of her financial affairs and her professional life. Quite the woman.
  • Glad to see UTES clued with reference to the natives of the Great Basin and not the vehicles.
  • TIN ceiling feels a little fusty to me, although I guess they’re back in style.
  • [Quarantine] is ISOLATION. Too soon, too soon.
  • I got ONE for the first [Binary digit] clue and then got to 64a with the second and pulled a blank because I wanted it to be TWO. Duh. It is, of course, ZERO.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ESAI Morales appeared in “Titans.”

Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up

New Yorker • 12/12/23 • Tue • Agard • solution • 20231212

This one played as at least “moderately challenging”, and perhaps just plain challenging.

  • 5a [Vision] DREAMBOAT. The combination of terseness and metaphor in the clue makes it difficult.
  • 18a [When many Oscar Micheaux films were released] SILENT ERA. He is generally regarded as the first major African-American feature filmmaker.
  • 28a [Pairs of aviators?] WINGS. The question mark tells us that it’s definitely not a clue about sunglasses.
  • 34a [Something you might wish you could take back?] TIME MACHINE. Ha-ha? 35a [Cover for someone who wants a brief break?] BOXER SHORTS. Another one that’s somewhat strained in its cleverness. Nevertheless, I applaud both clues for pushing the envelope.
  • 48a [Purple yam] UBE. From Japan.
  • 50a [Knock yourself out?] TAKE A DIVE. Acting!
  • 56a [Building character, maybe?] STREET ART. Not convinced this clue works.
  • 1d [Some historical royals] RAJAHS. 4d [Gandhi who was Prime Minister of India in the nineteen-eighties] RAJIV. I wonder if there’s an etymological relationship here.
  • 8d [It might be red or read] ALERT. Am supposing the read part is most likely on one’s phone.
  • 9d [Floor, briefly] MIN. Did not understand this during the solve, but now I see that it’s simply minimum.
  • 12d [Area for a farm] ACREAGE. Mild misdirection; worked on me.
  • 34d [Top producer, e.g.] TOYMAKERTop in the clue is a noun, not an adjective.
  • 36d [Edge-blown aerophones] FLUTES. Just one of those hyper-technical clues we sometimes see in crosswords. 49a [Good rhythm] GROOVE.

Nice workout.

Aidan Deshong’s USA Today Crossword, “The Spanish” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Jared Goudsmit
Theme: Each theme answer begins with a different word that means “the” in Spanish

USA Today, 12 12 2023, “The Spanish”

  • 20a [SoCal research site with preserved Ice Age fossils] – LA BREA TAR PITS
  • 40a [Hockey team with a crown in its logo] – LOS ANGELES KINGS
  • 60a [Stretch of road in Nevada known for gambling and resort hotels] – LAS VEGAS STRIP

Poor el, left out of this puzzle. I kid! This is a pretty simple theme but all the theme answers are solid. I’ve been to the LA BREA TAR PITS and would highly recommend them to anyone visiting L.A. I did mix up the LOS ANGELES KINGS with their northern neighbors the Sacramento Kings, even though the latter is a NBA team….


Clue highlights: [Rights org. where RBG once worked] for ACLU, [“A Spoonful of ___” (“Mary Poppins” song)] for SUGAR

New to me: The PHO Burger, apparently offered at McDonalds in Vietnam!

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31 Responses to Tuesday, December 12, 2023

  1. PJ says:

    NYT – I came to the site looking for what I missed between the theme and the revealer. So I’m not alone.

    I enjoyed the puzzle more than Amy. GRUMPY OLD MENSCH is great. SEWING KITSCH sounds like a real term. The clue for STAYED PUTSCH and the answer indicate a complete commitment to the theme by the constructor. So crazy yet delivered with a straight face. I like it.

  2. Jenni Levy says:

    I liked the theme. Did not like the crossing of the capital of Azerbaijan with a word that could be either SCAB or SCAR. Since I didn’t know the capital, I was effectively Natick’ed on a Tuesday. Which is ridiculous.

    • huda says:

      I did end up with an error and went looking for it. RAKU sounded slightly off to me, so I tried SCAB. But I agree it’s easy to breeze through this and not realize it’s an error.

    • PJ says:

      My casual observation is that “sign of healing” is used for SCAB, indicating that the healing is still in progress. I think SCAR is usually clued as after the fact, more of a reminder of a past injury.

      • JohnH says:

        I had the same feeling, that a SCAR is less a sign of healing than of something that can never fully heal. And while I could not have told you the capital, once having the choice of R or B, BAKU did sound familiar.

        On Amy’s “What does the -OOL part have to do with anything?” and Huda’s feeling it’s left unfinished: SCH is a totally legit abbreviation for “school,” if I’m not mistaken. I liked the theme.

        • huda says:

          I like this SCAB/SCAR distinction. Helpful! Thanks.

        • Jenni Levy says:

          Maybe it’s one of those I-know-too-much things. A SCAR is a sign that something has healed – unhealed wounds are open, not scarred closed.

          • JohnH says:

            Still, I think it matters that when, say, a child falls and gets a cut, it heals just as it was before. That healing may star with a thick scab covering the wound. Whereas people bear all their lives the scars of wartime. Before my heart operation, the surgeon warned me that it was going to leave a long, nasty scar, and I can see it as this unnatural color. So maybe it’s healed, but in another sense it hasn’t, and the surgeon was warning me about just that. And of course we also talk about an emotional scar that won’t heal.

            Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it depends on what we mean by healing? That could be context dependent, including contexts like social exchanges and doctor’s offices? Language is often slippery that way.

        • Gary R says:

          A (physical) scar is what’s left (sometimes) after a wound has healed. Phrased a little differently, it’s what’s left after healing has taken place – so I think it’s reasonable to describe it as a sign of healing.

          I thought both “scab” and “scar” fit. Didn’t know BAKU and guessed wrong. But it was easy to figure out where my mistake was.

      • Eric H. says:

        I agree as to the clueing of SCAB vs. SCAr. But I didn’t have a problem there because I remembered BAKU.

        But with 42A obviously being SCAB or SCAr, I don’t get calling it a Natick even if you don’t know the capital of Azerbaijan.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          Indeed … it seems that even esoteric neologisms evolve in meaning. As originally coined, a Natick referred to two proper nouns crossed at a letter that’s in no way inferable. A little history for the uninitiated: The original “Natick cross” appeared in the 6/8/2008 Sunday NYT puzzle that crossed NC WYETH and NATICK at the N. I’m slowly working my way back through the Maleska era puzzles and I’m here to tell you that Naticks were way, way more common in puzzles back then (not to mention uber-obscure Biblical and operatic references and abbreviations that no one ever used). To the editor’s credit, they’ve become a relative rarity in the Shortz era.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: I don’t usually like punny puzzles but I thought this was amusing. I liked the first 2 theme answers, didn’t know PUTSCH but happy to learn a new term!
    I agree the revealer is somewhat bewildering. I interpreted it to be a doubling down on the jokiness– SCH is the part that is being added, so you are finishing with that, but it leaves the word SCHOOL in need of finishing?
    Best I can do…

    • PJ says:

      I’m glad you weren’t familiar with PUTSCH. For me it’s associated with two things I’d rather not think about – Hitler’s first attempt at seizing leadership of Germany and the January 6 assault on the Capitol.

      • Eric H. says:

        I read a kid’s history of Nazi Germany at age 10 or 11. PUTSCH has been in my vocabulary for a long time.

        • PJ says:

          I can’t get the concept of a kid’s history of Nazi Germany out of my mind. It’s bizarre to me.

          I was in elementary school when I saw a documentary on the Holocaust. The image of bulldozers moving corpses has stayed with me.

    • Katie says:

      NYT: huda – hmm, not a bad guess. Something like that – but – um…

      With rather sweeping confusion over the reveal, it feels as if there might simply have been a different set of theme clues originally – that were vetoed as being too much of a stretch? or otherwise inappropriate, groan-worthy, or confusing?

      (Or, perhaps “OOL” just stands for something clever and hilarious in text slang – which went over my head.)

      Hmm, whatever the case is – how might one clue all this differently, so that the reveal is not as — deflating? The first 3 could all just be types of sch.’s, I guess? (i.e., maybe originally they were?)
      [Where Grandpa might learn new sarcastic one-liners?],
      [Where you might learn to do a Home-Sweet-Home needlepoint?],
      [Where Fido might learn to stop jumping on the delivery worker?] …and then, maybe,
      maybe kinda makes sense? {“Yo! Each sch. was just shorthand for school, so finish sch (with) ool!”} It would then also be clear (one sincerely hopes) that there is yet another interpretation of each of first 3, via noticing MENSCH, KITSCH, and PUTSCH. One would hope, anyway.

      I like to pretend something like that went on, anyway, behind the scenes. But, as the news anchor says near the end of Elf:

      “Well, I guess we’ll never know for sure what happened… ” (before this Hanukkah, in the editorial offices of the NYT.)

      • Katie says:

        (Ooops – it was “STAYED PUTSCH” and not “STAYING PUTSCH”. I’d forgotten the exact theme entry there. Maybe “Staying put school” is fine – but I don’t think “Stayed put school” works. Nope: doesn’t work. Hmm. OK, I give up, too, in figuring out the full logic here, on hypotheses about what happened, to leave us confused about the OOL.)

  4. Greg says:

    Erik Agard’s New Yorker struck me as typically excellent. Challenging, but smooth fill. Lots of cross-pollination between the various geographic areas of the puzzle, to give useful hints to cracking some clever, misdirecting clues. Bravo!

    • JohnH says:

      I’m finding it all proper names all the time. Typical of Asgard, thought maybe with a few sops to the English language that Natan Last wouldn’t have bothered with. Either way, near impossible for anyone who hasn’t joined the right club.

    • Mr. [often but not today] Grumpy says:

      The Monday & Tuesday puzzles from Erik, Natan, and Kameron do tend to pile on the proper names. This one struck me as fair, since there were only a couple of places where the names crossed each other, and that is something I detest. Of course, for this old fart, HOOTIE was close to a gimme, which was fortunate since I do not give a rat’s a** who is what soap opera character, and the only debatable cross for me was JORJA [never heard of her] and RAJIV [but the Gandhi family is famous enough that the J finally came through. So … this one worked for me, and “moderately challenging” was about right.

      • JohnH says:

        For me with JORJA, the harder cross was with RAJAHS. It could have been RANAS. Both JORJA and NORJA seemed equally improbable. Glad I eventually remembered IBIZA, because UBE didn’t look at all right either. Some other things, as pannonica says, did very much push the envelope. I hated them all, but that’s a matter of taste, I know.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          I’m not sure what a RANA is, but wow could RAJAHS have been RANAS? They’re different lengths.

          Though I found the cluing in this puzzle very tough and I wasn’t able to complete it, it didn’t seem very proper noun-heavy to me at all. I count only 8 names among the answers (JORJA, UAE, UTAH, ERICA, RAJIV, IBIZA, ELLEN, HOOTIE) and only two of those cross.

      • JohnH says:

        Of course, UBE is also not in MW11C (the standard desk dictionary), RHUD (unabridged), or the longer ME online. So it would seem only right that its crossings should be more familiar.

    • Eric H. says:

      I enjoyed it, too, for the same reasons.

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni … Today’s Boomer revelation: RUBBER CHICKENs now make noise. Back in my day (did I mention that I’m a Boomer), they were just limp rubber toys that were primarily used for slapstick comedic effect. All I could think of from the clue “Yellow toy that squeaks when squeezed” was ‘RUBBER duck’ (or duckie).

  6. Scott says:

    Agree with many about the NYT. It did not click for me. Definitely not C(OOL).

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    While there is a Japanese place called Ube, the ube is a purple yam native to Southeast Asia, in particular the Philippines. I’ve had ube ice cream, ube cupcakes, ube pandesal, and probably ube hopia. A Facebook friend makes ube pie (like a sweet potato pie, but purple!) at Thanksgiving. Heck, one of the cakes at my kid’s high school graduation party was an ube cake … mainly to see how many of my European-descent relatives were too scared to try a gorgeous purple cake solely because they’d never had yams flavoring a dessert. Ube lends a sort of mellow, vanilla-ish flavor to desserts.

  8. Art Shapiro says:

    WSJ: I was somewhat startled to see NTs as the answer for the Windows clue 42D. Its last release was in 1996 and the extended retirement date was in 2004. That isn’t too far removed from a hypothetical clue of “part of a car” being “crank starter”.

  9. Brenda Rose says:

    I agree with Amy on the NYT. The revealer should had been “starting” school, as in the month of September? Very disappointed with the editor’s choice.

  10. JT says:

    NYT – I thought this theme worked adequately, phrases GRUMPY OLD MEN, SEWING KIT, and STAYED PUT are all followed by the abbreviation for school, SCH, turning them into entirely different phrases when run together.

    It wasn’t my favorite theme ever, but I wasn’t vexed by it, and the fill was largely fresh and varied enough that even if I didn’t know a clue, its cross would be something that would help out rather than complicate.

  11. Brian McLaughlin says:

    NYT – Rex Parker points out that “sch.” is an abbeviation for school, which kind of makes the revealer more sensible.

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