Wednesday, December 13, 2023

AVCX 7:17 (Amy) 


LAT 5:37 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 4:24 (Amy) 


NYT 3:45 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 10:07 (Emily) 


WSJ 5:46 (Jim) 


Dave Rus’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Burn Baby Burn”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are popular songs an arsonist might enjoy. The revealer is TORCH SONGS (64a, Tributes to unrequited love, and a possible description for 18-, 28- and 49-Across]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Burn Baby Burn” · Dave Rus · Wed., 12.13.23

  • 18a. [1963 hit for Johnny Cash] RING OF FIRE.
  • 28a. [1978 hit for the Trammps] DISCO INFERNO.
  • 49a. [1980 hit for David Bowie] ASHES TO ASHES.

That works. Of course, all these songs are older (like me) so maybe this played harder for the younger crowd.

If only The Doors’ “Light My Fire” could’ve been used for the first theme answer then we would have had a suitable progression.

Some good sparkly fill today: ZODIAC, MEXICO, PARODIES, GANJA, PSYCHED, PAPAYAS, “NO, I CAN’T,” and STOCKS UP. I find HOBO to be a troublesome word; I wouldn’t have minded if that little corner was re-done.

Clues of note:

  • 22a. [In apple-pie order]. TIDY. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phrase, yet I was still able to infer its meaning (although I went with NEAT first).
  • 6d. [2001 film in which LeVar Burton played Martin Luther King Jr.]. ALI. I think LeVar Burton has gained National Treasure status, hasn’t he? His latest effort is to get people to read banned books. You can get his T-shirt here.
  • 8d. [Pistons’ place]. ENGINE. I really thought this was a sports clue.
  • 27d. [It gets worn out]. COAT. As in, you wear it when you go out.
  • 53d. [Silent film star ZaSu]. PITTS. I only knew this because as I was growing up in the Bay Area in the 80s, the ZaSu PITTS Orchestra of San Francisco was putting out several albums. Apparently the musical group had/has no actual connection to the actress.
  • 55d. [Iberian city for which a wine is named]. PORTO. It’s also known as Oporto.

Solid puzzle. 3.5 stars.

Alex Eaton Salners’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12/13/23 – no. 1213

Terrific theme. The revealer is 55a. WATER CYCLE, [Natural process suggested by the starts of 17-, 24-, 26-, 45- and 47-Across]. Those themers are OCEAN SPRAY, VAPORWARE, CLOUD NINE, RAINMAKER, and RIVER CARD, and they’re a lively set of entries on their own. Water in the OCEAN evaporates into the VAPOR that forms CLOUDs from which RAIN falls, thereby filling the RIVERs that drain into the OCEAN to bring the cycle full circle. Elegant and nicely executed.

Let’s eyeball the fill and see if the inclusion of six thematic answers causes a crunch. Will GEER isn’t great fill in this century, but overall the grid’s smooth. Fave fill: OVERDO IT, break into a DEAD RUN (… which should be very slow indeed?), SAY-SO, timely ANTI-WAR, “SAD EYES,” and CRINGE.

For real?

  • 61a. [Online marketplace since 2005], ETSY. 2005?? Yes, Etsy has really been around for 18 years. I wonder when I first became aware of it.
  • 39d. [Barrel maker], BREWERY. Breweries are making their own barrels? Or does this mean they’re making the contents of barrels? Perhaps a hops-head can clarify this for us.

4.25 stars from me.

Jess Goldstein and Matthew Stock’s Universal crossword, “Open Doors” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/13/23 • Wed • “Open Doors” • Goldstein, Stock • solution • 20231213

Types of doors are seen as framing the theme answers.

  • 17a. [Nonexistent meal, it’s said] FREE LUNCH (French).
  • 59a. [Maker of infant carriers] BABY BJÖRN (barn).
  • 10d. [On which X marks the spot] TREASURE MAP (trap).
  • 23d. [Actress known for playing “final girls”] SCREAM QUEEN (screen).

So all of these words can open a two-word phrase ending in doors. I think that’s how the title works here. ABSENT (9d) a revealer of any sort, the theme feels a bit unmoored.

  • 22a [Tigers, wolves and such] BEASTS. Quite an open-ended clue, and a similarly generic answer.
  • 64a [Singer Aguilera’s nickname] XTINA. 60d [“Hustlers” star, for short] J-LO.
  • 22d [Fastener in a folder] BRAD. Hadn’t known this. Thought they were used for  light construction only.
  • 32d [One piece] SOLO. 41d [Two piece] DUET.
  • 59d [Catchy song] BOP. Am unfamiliar with this usage.

(The beginning and end of the song are abrupt because the tracks on this album all flow into each other.)

Smooth fill; an easy midweek solve.

Brooke Husic’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 12/13/23 – Husic

This one was tougher than I was expecting for the New Yorker’s second-easiest level. A few new-to-me entries did slow me down, but their crossings were ironclad so I’m not complaining.

Fave fill: The interlocking 15s are all terrific. TESTED THE WATERS, WE SHALL OVERCOME, “MAKES TOTAL SENSE,” “DEATH TO AUTO-TUNE,” and the random-pronoun “I LOVE THAT FOR HIM.” Also liked REC LEAGUE, “OH, GOOD,” YVONNE Orji (I binged Insecure this fall and loved it; you may have also seen her on those Hertz commercials with Tom Brady), and SWIRL.

New to me:

  • 9d. [Workout style with high-intensity timed intervals], TABATA. Named after its Japanese popularizer, Izumi Tabata.
  • 55d. [“Turning Red” director Domee], SHI. Enjoyed the Pixar movie, should’ve known this one. Mental note made!
  • 56a. [N.B.A. All-Star Gilgeous-Alexander], SHAI. All-Star cred plus a set of really useful letters? Remember this name! He currently plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder and he’s just 25, so he could earn further plaudits and crossword suitability.

Four stars from me.

Erik Agard’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

The theme itself is not particularly unusual, although it is remarkably specific – four verb phrases end in THE + a noun meaning cut, used either in that sense or an unrelated one. What is unusual, and I can only assume it’s because there are not many (any?) other theme options, is that the puzzle has abnormal symmetry and is 16×16 to accommodate this theme. This is even though the theme is only four themers of lengths 10, 11, 11, 12. To have a ten and a twelve, Erik Agard used left-right symmetry, but that forced the puzzle to be an even width. Then to fit the elevens without cutting off the twelve, he also had to make it extra high!

  • [Get what’s really going on], KNOWTHESCORE
  • [Avoid elimination], MAKETHECUT
  • [Rhyming slogan opposing a Kansas City Chiefs fan gesture], STOPTHECHOP. I have no idea…
  • [Take a gamble], ROLLTHEDICE


  • [Lasagna ingredient], RICOTTA. Is that a sign of authenticity? The recipe I used on Monday used mozzarella and cheddar for cheese?
  • [Time for presents, for short], BDAY. The time of the year means I can’t be the only one who gummed things up by putting XMAS?
  • [Burnt __: barbecue delicacy], ENDS. That doesn’t sound very delicate?
  • [Midwestern people], KAW. New one for me. Wikipedia suggests that Kansas is named for them! An easter egg?
  • [Dressy accessory], TIEBAR. I thought that must be something to hang ties from in a dressing room?


Kyle Dolan’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Light Bulbs”—Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, “Light Bulbs” – 12/13/23 – Dolan

Love this theme! The “Light Bulbs” in the title are onions, and the movie title revealer, GLASS ONION, points to the “___ onion” fill-ins being like glass—entirely transparent, such that the Down crossings as clued don’t use any of the letters in those onion types. Simone Biles’s HANDSPRING gets a clear SPRING onion, the PUTTING GREEN‘s GREEN onion vanishes, and “AIN’T SHE SWEET” finds its SWEET gone. So 8d’s clue suggests RECUR, with blanks in those onion words eventually filling in an S and an E to turn it into RESCUER. And so on and so forth. Cool mechanism, nicely executed, challenging but not beyond the pale. Tricky to figure out the Acrosses that were near the invisible onions (for the record: I prefer all onions to be undetectable, as well as all ANISES), since the Downs there were full of mayhem.

Fave fill: DEAL ME IN, MENSCH, STOP DEAD, LAND ART → LAWN DART. Could do without crosswordese stream RILL, which I hope didn’t snag any solvers who were battling with 38d.

4.5 stars from me.

Nate Cardin’s USA Today Crossword, “Speedy Resolution” — Emily’s write-up

I’m a bit pokey today, in spite of the title. How’d you all do?

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday December 13, 2023

USA Today, December 13 2023, “Speedy Resolution” by Nate Cardin

Theme: each themer ends in a synonym for “speedy”


  • 17a. [“invisible string” singer], TAYLORSWIFT
  • 36a. [Upset deeply], CUTTOTHEQUICK
  • 56a. [Like a strictly enforced rule], HARDANDFAST

Got to be fast with this themer set today! It starts with TAYLORSWIFT, followed by CUTTOTHEQUICK which for me had tricky cluing, and finished up with HARDANDFAST keeping everything in line and orderly. Other than the theme itself connecting these, it isn’t quite as cohesive of a set as some though I think the theme holds them together well.


Stumpers: LBOMB (new to me), GERI (also new to me), and LARK (“wren” was my first thought)

Lovely puzzle today though for me it was a bit of a stumper. Nothing really stuck out as a tough area but I found the cluing more difficult for me throughout the puzzle so it took me longer to fill everything in, since some had crossings that I also found tricky. Overall, it was still fun and filled with delightful entires and lengthy bonus fill—and cluing even if it was harder for me—plus a super delightful theme. And look at that grid—it’s a beaut!

4.0 stars


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32 Responses to Wednesday, December 13, 2023

  1. Dallas says:

    Breezy Wednesday! It seemed like there were a lot of “V”’s in the grid too.

    I don’t know if breweries typically have coopers; I would’ve think that would be outsourced. I would have to assume that the clue refers to the contents of the barrels…

    • David L says:

      I was struck by that BREWERY clue too. Seems wrong to me, although maybe there are a few old-timey breweries that have an in-house cooper.

      TVY is new to me, but easy to get. Nice puzzle.

    • Gary R says:

      In the brewing industry, it’s common to describe the output (or capacity) of a brewery in terms of barrels, whether that product actually winds up in barrels or bottles or cans. “That plant makes 3,000 barrels a day,” or “That plant has a capacity of a million barrels a year.”

      I think there’s some misdirection in the clue, but I think it’s legit.

    • El Gran Jugador says:

      There’s at least one brewery with staff coopers – Samuel Smith’s in Yorkshire

  2. Jenni Levy says:

    Liked the theme. Did not like 30a. VEINs carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart (except the pulmonary vein and the clue did not reference the pulmonary vein). Not crazy about 5d either because PTSD is certainly not limited to vets and not all vets have PTSD, but I can’t say it’s flat-out wrong.

    • Eric H. says:

      The 30A clue reads “Pathway for oxygenation.” The clue seems accurate to me in the sense that veins carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart, where it’s then pumped through the lungs and oxygenated.

      If the clue were “Pathway for oxygenated blood,” I’d agree that would be wrong.

      But I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.

    • huda says:

      I had a similar hesitation re PTSD. But it’s fitting in a way, as the syndrome became clearly recognized as an entity because of them, and then it became clear that it applies much more broadly.
      Good point re VEIN, it took me a while to think of it because it didn’t sound right!
      I had trouble getting going in the NW but the PLOD and PLOW combo is really fun. And the rest flowed very nicely.
      Overall, I agree with Amy that it was a lovely theme and very well executed.

    • Katie says:

      PTSD is challenging to attempt – as fill. I thought the clue was — actually pretty good.

      One can read this either as a war vet or an animal vet. See NIH-published info, below:

      “Seventy-six (21.1%) veterinary professionals reported exposure to a Criterion A work-related event, and 141 (39.3%) reported exposure under the expanded definition. Further, 13 (3.6%) to 50 (13.9%) veterinary professionals screened positive for PTSD, depending on how the traumatic stressor was defined and whether PTSD symptoms were linked to the same event or multiple events. Screening positive for PTSD was positively associated with suicidal ideation, psychological distress, and burnout.”,same%20event%20or%20multiple%20events.

      Again, PTSD is a lightening rod, as fill – and for very good reason. In the end, however, I thought the clue had care and consideration here, if it was to be included as fill at all.

      [Other thoughts on this, anyone??? Should this just NEVER be fill, in NYT?]

      (Secondarily – yeah, everyone knows veins are blue(r) b/c the return part of the full path has less oxygen. It’s part of the full “pathway”; I’m good with that clue.)

  3. Ben says:

    NYT – Anyone else find the NE corner difficult? I am not familiar with VAPORWARE or the term PSALTER…

    • Eric H. says:

      VAPORWARE is new to me, but when it became obvious that’s what fit there, I didn’t hesitate to fill it in.

    • JohnH says:

      PSALTER is a word I know, but VAPORWARE, no, and it did slow me down. I also found the whole SW hard, including the poker entry, the actor, the slang, and the bizarre clue for BREWERY. (TVY unfamiliar to me, too.)

    • Jim says:

      With several decades in the IT arena, dealing substantially with purchased software applications, I was all too painfully aware of what VAPORWARE is.

    • DougC says:

      VAPORWARE strikes me as one of the rare tech clues that’s actually more familiar to an older demographic. That includes me! I filled it right in, but thought “there’s a golden oldie.” Haven’t heard it in ages.

  4. Jim says:

    NYT: Ditto the issue about VEIN being a “pathway for oxygenation”. (It didn’t block me – I could certainly figure out the right words – but irritated my inner pedant.)

    41D had me stuck because I was fixated on YES and couldn’t come up with anything SA_E YES that made any sense; also, the cross at 49A had me stuck on AGE (suffix for BLOCK) which would have made 41D SAGEYES — is “sage yes” an informed consent?

  5. Eric H. says:

    AVXC: I found it much harder than most of their “Classic” puzzles, with a trick that reminds me of a challenging NYT Thursday puzzle.

    The hardest part was the NE corner, where Down answers that were pretty obvious, like 9D DARE for “Truth’s counterpart” crossed two glass onions, SPRING and GREEN. Not being a gymnastics fan, I didn’t have any idea what comprises a “Biles II,” though I know more or less what a HANDSPRING is, so I was slow to get the SPRING part.

    I caved and looked up the last word AIN’T SHE SWEET. I’ve probably heard the song, but the name doesn’t sound familiar. I should have gotten SWEET on my own, since I see Vidalia and Texas 1015 ONIONs in the grocery store all the time. And anyway, pop song titles and lyrics are predictable enough that you don’t need to know the song to fill in a blank.

  6. Katie says:

    Oh wait. Duh.

    [Online blog since 2005] = CROSSWORDFIEND

    I saw Amy’s comment on NYT, “2005?? Yes, Etsy has really been around for 18 years. I wonder when I first became aware of it.”

    Randomly, I looked up and saw the version of the banner on THIS webpage (with oranges on it) mentioning “Fine Blogging Since 2005”. Huh. Cool.

  7. Papa John says:

    “Will GEER isn’t great fill in this century…”
    I’m not sure I comprehend this statement. It may not be “great”, but it seems okay to me. HIs record seems impressive enough that his name is still notable in this century and worthy of a NYT puzzle inclusion. “The Waltons” was a big hit (Emmy?) and his political activism did not go unnoticed.

    • Papa John says:

      Perhaps it was his association with communism that Amy finds unsuitable for “this century”. I’m baffled by her statement, no doubt.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        He’s been gone for 35 years, he was never a huge star, he had one Emmy for Supporting Actor and nary an Oscar, “The Waltons” has not been available for viewing in recent decades. Why would a solver under 40 have any idea who he is? With each passing year, solvers born post-“Waltons” make up an increasingly large segment of the solving population. If his name didn’t have two E’s and an R, he’d never show up in puzzles.

        • Bob says:

          “The Waltons” is still shown on a few cable channels (yes, I haven’t cut the cord yet), plus if WSJ can have an even older celebrity reference in Zazu Pitts, I think Will Geer in NYT is fair game. (Yeah, younger people might not get it, but so are so many clues in puzzles that pre-date our lives….said this 62 year old….)

        • Lois says:

          Though I found it to be a rough corner, the crossings were fair for GEER. I’m certainly old enough to know the name, but I didn’t watch TV when he was popular–I was at the movies. This page has a bias towards items that young people, or, specifically, young enthusiasts about a subject, might know over similar items that older people, or buffs about a subject, might know. Let everyone have their day if the crosses are good enough. I’m still smarting over your disdain for Sam LEVENE, though by today I know that young ‘uns barely know Cary Grant.

        • Ben says:

          As a younger solver (31), I have to agree with Amy. I’ve never heard of GEER. Sorry. I didn’t much like that corner at all. I think CMERE is a weird spelling that’s not nearly as colloquial as CMON, and that whole corner feels like there must be a better fill.

          In any case, I think the policy should be less “Have most people heard of this decades-old actor?” and more “Has this person been vaguely relevant in the last 5-10 years?”

  8. dh says:

    NYT 26D: In academia and other professions, there is a distinct difference between a CV and a resume; they are only interchangeable in the loosest definitions. A CV is much longer, much more inclusive, and much more involved with research and achievement, less so about a chronology of appointments. A resume is a short (1-2 page) document that lists highlights only.

    I’m sure many disagree, others can make the case that “technically” they are the same, but I disagree. Bring it on!

    • Gary R says:

      35+ year career in academe, emeritus now. If someone called my CV a resume, it would not have raised my eyebrow. You are correct, but not a nit worth picking in my view.

      • huda says:

        I agree that they are not interchangeable and the names actually indicate that very explicitly: in Latin “the course of one’s life” for CV vs. a French word meaning summary for resume. It could have been clued with some sort of qualifier to indicate greater depth.

    • JohnH says:

      In all these years, I’ve never once heard of such a distinction, and I’m not finding dictionary support for it. Say, RHUD has only one definition for CV, as “a brief resume” of ones skills and experience for applying to a job. And what I call my resume has gotten way out of hand in length and detail.

      So I’ll take it that some do use the words differently, but I wouldn’t even count it as a nit.

      • JohnH says:

        And in MW, similarly there’s only one definition apiece for resume and CV, strongly suggesting that there isn’t a distinction that some observe and some don’t, requiring separate entries. What’s more, the definitions for the two terms are all but word for word the same, beginning very specifically with “a short account.” The main difference is that the definition for “resume” ends with a cross-ref to CV!

      • Jenni Levy says:

        Also true in medicine. When I applied for a non-clinical job I created a resume that was two pages long. My CV is currently 12 pages and includes every publication I’ve ever written going back to the 1980s. I’ll see your M-W and raise you Indeed where they actually know resumes:

        “Since a resume includes your skills and qualifications for a specific role, it should typically be just one or two pages. A CV won’t have a length limit and is much longer than most resumes because it includes more information and more detailed descriptions of coursework, research, publications or presentations.”

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