Sunday, December 17, 2023

LAT untimed (Jack)  


NYT 14:54 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 13:39 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 5:01 (Matthew) 


Jeremy Newton’s New York Times crossword, “Get Over It” — Nate’s write-up

Happy Sunday! This week’s puzzle is quite the multi-tiered thoroughfare, and the puzzle’s flavor text gives us fair warning:

“For seven key squares in this puzzle, an appropriate rebus will be accepted, as will the single letters from 122-Across. If you’re still stuck, further explanation of today’s theme can be found on Wordplay.”

12.17.2023 Sunday New York Times Crossword

12.17.2023 Sunday New York Times Crossword

21A: CAM(BRIDGE) UNIVERSITY [Where Lords Byron and Tennyson studied]
whose (BRIDGE) crosses a highlighted (b)OG via
– 4D: SN(b)OG [Make out, in London]

– 12D: BURNED (BRIDGE)S [Left jobs on bad terms, say]
whose (BRIDGE) crosses a highlighted BA(y) via
– 44A: URBA(y)N ART [Murals or graffiti, e.g.], with

– 41D: A(BRIDGE)D TEXT [Long story short?]
whose (BRIDGE) crosses a highlighted (g)ULF via
– 46A: SO(g)ULFULLY [How one might sing an R&B ballad]

– 30D: BUILDS (BRIDGE)S [Practices diplomacy]
whose (BRIDGE) crosses a highlighted (o)CEAN via
– 66A: OF MI(o)CE AND MEN [1937 Steinbeck novella]

– 58D: LLOYD (BRIDGE)S [Co-star of “Airplane!” and “Hot Shots!”]
whose (BRIDGE) crosses a highlighted LAGOO(n) via
– 85A: HELLA GOO(n)D [2002 hit song for No Doubt]

– 83D: A (BRIDGE) TOO FAR [Over the line, so to speak]
whose (BRIDGE) crosses a highlighted LAK(e) via
– 87A: ALAK(e)AZAM [Cry for a spell?]

– 114A: WATER UNDER THE (BRIDGE) [Past disagreements that are no longer of concern … or each block of shaded squares in this puzzle?]
whose (BRIDGE) crosses a highlighted (s)EA via
– 105D: ID(s)EA [Brainstorm]

– 122A: BYGONES [Apt word spelled from this puzzle’s “covered” letters, top to bottom] – Check out the ( ) letters in the entries above that the bridges crossed over!

What a construction! My brain is spinning figuring out how one would even go about putting a puzzle like this together. The double revealer tells us that this puzzle is really about forgiveness and letting BYGONES be WATER UNDER THE (BRIDGE), quite literally as BYGONES is spelled by the letters crossed over by the (BRIDGE) rebus in seven entries and, amazingly, those crossed entries each contain a body of water right whee the (BRIDGE) rebus crosses! Each crossed entry has a missing letter in the bridge square, and its the bodies of water / BYGONES revealer that helps us put those seemingly unchecked letters in place. Wow!

I’m sure Wordplay describes what’s going on here better, but I hope my summary is doing even some justice to this tour de force concept. And to have the puzzle’s fill be largely clean with alllll the constraints this theme posed? Bravo! It’s no wonder that this is the constructor’s 26th Sunday crossword for the NYT – the experience definitely shows.

What did you think of the puzzle and it’s multi-layered theme? Let us know in the comments! For now, I’m off for a few weeks while some all-star guests join us to review the rest of the year’s Sunday NYT puzzles. I’ll see you in 2024!  Until then, be well.

LA Times crossword, “Creatures of Habit” by Rebecca Goldstein & Rachel Fabi — Jack’s write-up

Theme: Common animal phrases are reinterpreted to imagine those animals thinking they’re something/someone they’re not.

December 17th LA Times crossword solution –“Creatures of Habit” by Rebecca Goldstein & Rachel Fabi

  • 22A. [Canine that thinks it’s an old-timey news announcer?] = CRYING WOLF
  • 32A. [Bird that thinks it’s a television show host?] = TALKING TURKEY
  • 48A. [Marsupial that thinks it’s an actor?] = PLAYING POSSUM
  • 67A. [Tabbies that think they’re collies?] = HERDING CATS
  • 86A. [Insects that think they’re outfielders?] = CATCHING FLIES
  • 99A. [Lambs that think they’re census takers?] = COUNTING SHEEP
  • 115A. [Bird that thinks it’s a restaurant critic?] = EATING CROW


This would be a good introductory crossword to give to a beginner. The fill is impressively clean for a Sunday and the theme is quite straightforward. As someone who has been solving crosswords daily for over a decade, I’ve seen a lot of animal themes, so there’s a cap to how exciting I can find them at this point. I didn’t know the phrase CATCHING FLIES but it’s pretty funny (To have one’s mouth agape, as while asleep or when staring bemusedly). I also barely know TALKING TURKEY, so somehow I just wasn’t the target audience here. It’s slightly inelegant that bird is the only animal used twice in the clues (for turkey and crow). Also, using the word PLAYING to mean “doing what an actor does,” doesn’t quite click with me. I get that they play roles, but: television show hosts talk, outfielders catch, actors… play?

There were a lot of long entries here that were used to good effect. RAINY DAY, DOG SLED, PE CLASS, GAY ANTHEM, DEEP FRIES, LASER-CUT, NETI POTS – that’s a lot of fun stuff! My favorite entry is the nicely colloquial NO NOTES 92D. [“I love everything you’ve done here”].

One other thought: 1A. [Squirrel’s cheekful] = ACORN. Did anyone else expect this entry to be plural? “The squirrel had a cheekful of acorn.” Maybe I just noticed it more than usual because it was the opening entry.

Neville Fogarty’s Washington Post crossword, “Top Gear” — Matthew’s write-up

Neville Fogarty’s Washington Post crossword solution, “Top Gear,” 12/17/2023

A goodie this week from Neville Fogarty, Evan’s latest stand in. Six theme entries have a string of circled letters, and a seventh tells us what to do with them:

  • 23a [Net-working opportunity?] TENNIS PRACTICE
  • 36a [Historical romance novel] BODICE RIPPER
  • 42a [Green Day’s “American Idiot,” e.g.] ROCK OPERA
  • 71a [Vice president under Richard M. Nixon] SPIRO T AGNEW
  • 97a [Phase of pregnancy] TRIMESTER
  • 105a [Actress who voiced Jane Porter in Disney’s “Tarzan”] MINNIE DRIVER

I needed the revealer to make any sense of a common thread: 121a [Furniture for new parents … and a literal description of the circled squares (look on top of them to find this puzzle’s six-letter meta answer)] CHANGING TABLES

So each string of circled letters is a jumbled up table. That makes for a neat enough theme set — “periodic” in BODICE RIPPER and “operating” in SPIRO T AGNEW are pretty cool finds.. But Neville has taken it two steps further: above SPRAC — a “craps” table — we have DICE, which go on a craps table at 20 across. The full set of pairs:

TIMES – EIGHT (this one is a little different, I suppose)

Following the instructions from 121-Across, the final, Birnholz-ian piece of this theme is to see that the first letter of those entries sitting atop the “tables” spell DIAPER, an apt finishing point for a puzzle during Evan’s parental leave. All this in a grid that really doesn’t seem to strain under the weight of a multifaceted theme. Bravo to Neville!

Amie Walker’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Gilt Trip”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar(ish) phrases with an added AU (the chemical symbol for gold). The revealer is GOLD MINE (126a, [Big money-making opportunity … and a hint to the starred clues’ answers]).

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Gilt Trip” · Amie Walker · 12.17.23

  • 1a. [*Puff-in piece?] AUK DRAMA. K-Drama. Whoa. This was tough to put right at the beginning. I’ve never heard the base phrase, so it was difficult to parse this. The K was my last letter in the grid after I slowed down to grok the clue. Now it makes sense and I learned something new, but it was still a tough start.
  • 23a. [*”FYI, I’m a redhead now,” e.g.] AUBURN NOTICE. Burn notice. Love the clue. I caught on to the theme here.
  • 38a. [*Say “I’m not listening on principle, and here’s why …,” perhaps?] PROTEST AURALLY. Protest rally. But I don’t love this clue. What is the point of the protester speaking and explaining themselves? [Refuse to listen on principle] seems to suffice.
  • 55a. [*Fingerpainted masterpiece?] KIDS’ TABLEAU. Kids’ table. Nice one.
  • 82a. [*Pastry chef’s representative?] GATEAU AGENT. Gate agent. Wouldn’t a GATEAU AGENT represent the cake, not the chef?
  • 97a. [*Halloween omen?] PUMPKIN AUSPICE. Pumpkin spice. I honestly didn’t know that “auspice” means “omen.” I’ve only ever heard “auspices.”
  • 115a. [*Same old, same old Passover?] SEDER PLATEAU. Seder plate. Is “seder plate” an in-the-language phrase? It was easy enough to infer, though.

Despite my nits above, I enjoyed this quite a bit. Even though I grokked the theme early on, there was still enough chewy wordplay to keep me interested. Well done!

But on top of that, there’s some stellar long fill in the grid. ALL-STAR GAME and PACKS A WALLOP make for outstanding side pillars in the grid. And hey, if you have GOBSMACK in your puzzle, you’ve won me over with that alone. Elsewhere, there’s “LOOK HERE,” “I SWEAR IT,” PHONE TAP, BOBA FETT, and EPIC HERO.  SKI PASSES and WHALE SONG are wonderful, too, but I wish they weren’t given question-marked clues: [Just the tickets for people needing a lift?] and [Musical pod-cast?], respectively. They’re good clues, but the question marks make them look like theme answers, especially where they’re placed in the grid. Very distracting. Also, new to me is ON TILT [Betting in a rage, in poker lingo], and I didn’t remember SNICK [Cable programming block that featured “Clarissa Explains It All” and “All That”], which is a portmanteau of Saturday and Nickelodeon.

Clue of note: 65a. [Like Frosty at the end of “Frosty the Snowman”]. MELTED. See below for some good advice from the Most Interesting Snowman in the World.

Lovely puzzle! Four stars.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Sunday, December 17, 2023

  1. Dan says:

    NYT: I liked the *idea* of the theme. But I do not enjoy hyper-gimmicky executions of themes such as this one seemed to require. Or maybe it didn’t need the gimmicks but someone thought it would be cool. Oh, well.

    Clue 33 Across is “Previously, in poetry” for ERE. I cannot think of any example where “previously” can be used in place of ERE.

  2. Scott says:

    NYT: A little clunky to fill out, so my 37 minute time was a win for me.

    • Papa John says:

      “Clunky” is the perfect word to describe this unwieldy concoction. This was not an enjoyable solve for me.

      I’ve forgotten how to insert a circle in Across Lite, like the revealer in this puzzle. I wanted to highlight the Bs I used in lieu of “BRIDGE”. Any help?

  3. Clayton says:

    I finished the puzzle on line but it didn’t turn up
    as solved. All of my answers were correct. I can’t figure out why it doesn’t show as solved.

    • Scott says:

      Did you enter letters where the 7 bridges are?

      • Andrew Zelenetz says:

        I also could not get the puzzle to complete. In the bridge squares I tried many things. For example on 21 across is tried bridge/b; b/bridge; b; bbridge bridgeb and none of these worked. Very frustrating.

        • Dan says:

          In the bridge squares I entered the first letters of the bodies of water (which form that final word at the bottom), and that worked.

      • Ed says:

        It wouldn’t allow me to enter any letters except the first and last.

    • Eric H. says:

      Even if you’re sure that all your answers are correct, you probably have a mistake somewhere that you just haven’t seen.

  4. huda says:

    NYT: I agree that the construction is amazing. All the phrases with BRIDGE in them were familiar and some were spot on — BRIDGE TOO FAR, BUILDS BRIDGES, BURNED BRIDGES, WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE… It makes one realize that there are so many familiar sayings with bridges. Missing was “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it”, although my mentor used to say: “We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it…”

    I zipped through the puzzle without worrying about the letters under each bridge. Just filled each highlighted square with the word “bridge” as a rebus and that was that. So, in a way, the additional layer of having a bog, a sea, an ocean, etc.. under the various bridges did not contribute to my solving experience. This is not a criticism of the puzzle, which is most certainly creative. It’s a comment on the fact that one could ignore a layer and do just fine with the solve, and then admire it after the fact.

  5. Eric H. says:

    NYT: Impressive construction, but overly busy visually. The ripples in the bodies of water didn’t read as ripples until I enlarged the grid, and it was difficult to see where the cursor was when it was in the water. The BRIDGE trick is pretty simple to grasp.

    After filling in the grid in about 15 minutes, I spent another five minutes re-entering my rebuses. I found at least three typos I had made along the way, but they were hard to spot in that grid. (It’s difficult enough to find typos in a normal 21x 21 grid.)

    • Dallas says:

      I accidentally put in BRIDGES instead of BRIDGE for the BURNED BRIDGES clue, which I had to find to get the final fill; a little tricky to spot when they’re covered over :-)

  6. Ben Kennedy says:

    NYT is great – fun theme, light on crossword-ese, fun entries like DUDEBRO and DOTBOMB, almost no proper names. All this contributed to a new fastest solve time

  7. RCook says:

    NYT: I enjoyed the puzzle, but I’m lost on one clue. How is SIXTY a “Count on one hand”?

  8. JohnH says:

    I wasn’t counting on finding hidden letters “under the bridge.” I discovered it only near the end, and it was a terrific bonus. (Before that, I wasn’t sure if the circled squares at bottom center should simply be, say, BRIDGES.) Quite generally a fun puzzle.

  9. David L says:

    WaPo was ingenious, as expected, although I couldn’t figure out the correct anagram of PIROTAGNE. And it wasn’t altogether clear which words were ‘above’ the circled letters, since there were two possibilities in some cases. So that took a bit more figuring out.

    68D: “Either vowel in ‘humdrum'”: SCHWA. Nope. A schwa is by definition an unstressed vowel. Those are short Us. Not the same thing. M-W inexplicably says otherwise, but they’re wrong.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      From my puzzle notes: “I guess either I don’t know what a SCHWA is or I’ve been mispronouncing humdrum all of my life.” Every online dictionary I’ve checked shows both vowels as SCHWAs. Huh. Now I’m wondering if I know what a short-U vowel sounds like. Full disclosure: In spite of my love of words and language, I always struggled with English class when I attended school back in the Dark Ages of the ’60s and ’70s.

    • Pilgrim says:

      I interpreted M-W to be saying that the schwa symbol is sometimes used to show an articulated short-u sound. But regardless of what symbol is used to show the sounds in “humdrum,” I would agree that the vowels themselves are not schwas.

  10. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni: The person who’s the seeker in “hide-and-seek” is called “it”? Wikipedia says “yes”. Huh. I don’t recall that from my childhood. I only know “it” from tag. Am I alone here? Just wondering …

  11. Ed says:

    I can enter the first and last letters of 122A in the appropriate places, but not the other letters.

  12. Mr. [definitely] Grumpy says:

    NYT was clever construction but a pain in the ass to solve and not entertaining. I enjoy crossWORD puzzles — not silly pictures.

  13. respectyourelders says:

    Unlike many of the other commenters here, I loved the NYT today. I always do the Sunday NYT on paper – I like to savor the experience, not try to set any time records. Maybe that explains the lack of frustration with filling squares. Anyways, IMO: a very clever and fun puzzle, art included!

  14. armagh says:

    These are the type of Sunday puzzles that drove me away from the NYT when I was working from home with COVid. Overly finicky, obtuse and most of all, self-indulgent. Shortz has lost the thread of what it means to entertain the paying customers.

    • With all due respect... says:

      Finicky describes a type of behavior..
      and crosswords don’t exhibit behavior.
      Self-indulgent is also behavioral, but also describes an attitude…
      and crosswords dont have any attitude.

      This points to your persistence in projecting your personal picture of what a puzzle should be like, onto the crossword.

      Which of course any solver is free to do.

  15. Bryan says:

    NYT: I figured this puzzle would be polarizing, and sure enough. Count me among those who really enjoyed it. I loved the multiple layers of it. Literally, it was kind of 3-dimensional with the bridges over the water. Over at XWord Info, Jim Horne gave it a “POW.” I would agree! Amazingly constructed and fun to solve.

    • sorry ever after says:

      Hear, hear. Multilayered in a Birnholzian way and commensurately fun to parse, at least for this print solver. Kind of a grown-up and streamlined snakes & ladders. More of these, please.

    • FIVE STARS from me says:

      1+++++ ☆☆☆☆☆

      I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle…and applaud Will Shortz and his team for recognizing creativity, and constantly pushing the envelope on what a crossword can be.

      And I feel sorry for the solvers who get upset and crucify crosswords that don’t match up to their image of what a crossword should be.

  16. Gary R says:

    NYT: I was suckered into solving this because of the high ratings it received here.

    I was a little skeptical when I saw the note attempting to explain what I would need to know in order to solve it (or maybe in order to appreciate it), and sending me to Wordplay if it was still beyond me. A crossword that requires that much explanation is a bit like a joke you have to explain to the listener – it just falls flat.

    25 minutes of my life I won’t get back.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      To me, this seems like one of those puzzles that was constructed for crossword editors and other constructors to admire. Solvability seems like it was an afterthought. I’m not surprised that some folks enjoyed it, but as a non-editor/non-constructor, I found it to be a chore. The coup de grâce for me was how much reading it took me to understand how BYGONES fit into the whole enterprise (I’m still not sure that I get it).

  17. Eric H. says:

    WaPo: Circles in grids make it hard for me to read the letters I’ve entered. And while long anagrams are impressive, they’re usually more work to figure out than they’re worth.

    But it’s completely on me that I too quickly read the 121A clue and missed the bit about the meta.

  18. Linda says:

    LAT one question. What’s a ouidad? 42a. The curl experts hair care. Never heard of it.

Comments are closed.