Monday, December 18, 2023

BEQ untimed (Matthew) 


LAT 2:06 (Stella) 


NYT 3:31 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker N/A (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (tk) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Note: This week’s New Yorker is their annual Cartoons & Puzzles issue, so the regular slate of puzzles is on break this week. We can’t be sure which puzzle people have been rating, but it’s not a Monday themeless! We won’t be blogging the special issue’s puzzles.—Amy

Joe Marquez’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: QR CODE – Two word phrases where the first word begins with Q and the second begins with R

New York Times, 12 18 2023, By Joe Marquez

  • 17a [Preliminary tournament stage] – QUALIFYING ROUND
  • 30a [Snake oil salesman’s offering] – QUACK REMEDY
  • 45a [Woman temporarily serving as monarch] – QUEEN REGENT
  • 57a [Financial statement issued every three months] – QUARTERLY REPORT
  • 47d [Scannable black-and-white square … or a hint to 17-, 30-, 45- and 57-Across] – QR CODE

Cute if simple theme today. Does the “code” in QR CODE have any bearing on the theme answers? I don’t mind it, just curious if I’m missing something. QUALIFYING ROUND is my favorite of the theme answers; QUACK REMEDY is good too but it took me a long time to figure out what the second word was.

Some great long fill in the grid today, WRONG MOVE and BLUEBIRDS especially. Other highlights for me were Maurice SENDAK, DEFRAUDS, INTERNS, and “Honey I SHRUNK the kids”. I tried “nudge” before BUDGE  and “ice baths” before ICE BAGS for [Swelling reducers for sprains] – is this a common phrase?

Anthony QUINN was new to me, and I read B AND O Railroad as a single word every time I see it. There are a few other answers that could be tricky for newer solvers (ADEN, ALEE, ABA to name a few), but overall the fill is pretty clean – I refuse to say anything bad about IONE Skye being in this puzzle; “Say Anything” is one of my favorite movies.

Congrats to Joe on a great NYT debut!

Dave Rus’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Artificial Intelligence”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose first words can also be synonyms of “smart.” The revealer is SMART START (64a, [Kellogg’s antioxidants cereal, and a clue to 17-, 24-, 31-, 45- and 51-Across]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Artificial Intelligence” · Dave Rus · Mon., 12.18.23

  • 17a. [Prominent color in Barbie posters] BRIGHT PINK.
  • 24a. [Apple Store fixture] GENIUS BAR.
  • 31a. [Sinking hazard in an adventure movie] QUICKSAND.
  • 45a. [Hard left or right, on the road] SHARP TURN.
  • 51a. [Zinger from the peanut gallery] WISECRACK.

Solid theme making for a good Monday puzzle. The only nit I’d pick is that all of the “smart” words have their meanings sufficiently changed except for “genius.” Whether you consider the employees at an Apple Store to be geniuses or not, the word is used as a synonym of “smart,” unlike the other phrases in this grid.

I like DRIP DRIES and BLUE WHALE in the fill as highlights, though the other two 9-letter entries aren’t bad at all. Even though all four long fill entries intersect with two themers each, they cross at useful letters (vowels and S’s and T’s and the like), allowing the constructor some leeway to put in entries with a bit more sparkle. And that comes down to good grid design.

Clue of note: 9d. [Welcomes at the front door]. ASKS IN. These aren’t really the same though, are they? In my book, “welcome” is more a synonym of “greet” than “invite in.”

3.5 stars.

Jay Silverman’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 12/18/23 by Jay Silverman

Los Angeles Times 12/18/23 by Jay Silverman

I’m embarrassed to admit that when I opened the file to solve this puzzle, I thought I was opening a different puzzle — a Fireball themeless — and therefore it took me a decent amount of time to realize that the clues in the NW corner were actually straightforward, and not traps laid for the unwary. Oops.

Anyway: The revealer at 61A [Welcome words from a bartender, and where to find the ends of 17-, 30-, and 46-Across?] is ON THE HOUSE, because the second word of each theme entry is something that can be found on the outside of a house:

  • 17A [Online customer service component] is a CHAT WINDOW.
  • 30A [Metaphorical feature of a poorly run company, perhaps] is a REVOLVING DOOR.
  • 46A [Does a celebratory dance by pushing up one’s palms] is RAISING THE ROOF.

It’s pretty hard with words like WINDOWDOOR, and ROOF to get away from the literal images of those things as they appear on a house. I think these theme entries are about as close as one can get to doing that, but I still found all of them evocative of the literal physical features. Nice smooth grid; highlights for me were the mid-length entries like OLD NAVYWIFE-TO-BE, and LAID BACK.

Lauren Bradley and Adrian Johnson’s Universal crossword, “In Good Times and Bad” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/18/23 • Mon • “In Good Times and Bad” • Bradley, Johnson • solution • 20231218

After two theme answers I realized I had a word ladder on my hands. Then after consulting the title, I knew where it would end up.

  • 16a. [*Sources of street tunes] BOOM BOXES.
  • 20a. [*Device used to launch an old video game, perhaps] BOOT DISK.
  • 25a. [*They’re not worth discussing] MOOT POINTS.
  • 47a. [*Like the people on a high-profile list] MOST WANTED.
  • 52a. [*Not to be missed novel] MUST-READ.
  • 60a. [*1989 Young MC hit, or what might do when listening to it] BUST A MOVE.

So it’s boom to bust.

  • Nice longdowns in VARIETY ACT and ONE-DAY SALE (10d & 27d)
  • 26d [Garfunkel and __ (folk duo)] OATES. Better than Lindhome and Micucci, right?
  • 56a [Futuristic Nintendo racing series] F-ZERO. If you’d asked me, I would have guessed this was the name of some sort of energy drink.
  • 64a [Food for an angel or devil?] CAKE. Almost an impressionistic clue, and it definitely needs the question mark.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — solution grid

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 12/18/2023

I found this pretty tough today but never really came to a full stop. Think it will play pretty tough for all, but let us know in the comments. ST MARK, EXTANT, and GO GONZO opened areas up for me, while of the intersecting stagger stacks, only NINETIES KID came to me easily as things like ??? LIST, ??? TILES, and ??? STICKS just waited for enough crossings to show up.

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21 Responses to Monday, December 18, 2023

  1. Eric H. says:

    NYT: The CODE to figuring out the theme answers is the Q and the R.

    • Katie says:

      Quite Right.
      (Wordplay agrees on this, btw.)

      Since “code” can mean “rules”, I’d also be OK with the idea the term “QR CODE” means QR-based “qualifying rules” – i.e., to be in today’s theme – b/c the pattern/”code” was pretty easy to notice on its own.

      Nice debut puzzle!! :^)

    • Dallas says:

      Fun Monday! I had the same wrong fill as Sophia, which slowed me slightly (what are N_U_BIRDS? And QUEEN RET__T?) but worked out great in the end.

  2. JohnH says:

    At TNY, I’m seeing not a Monday puzzle, but the cartoon and puzzles issue. Is that right? The magazine itself will reach me by mail later in the week.

  3. Zach says:

    WSJ: Certainly enjoyable for a Monday, but I wonder if some will scratch their head at the revealer. As much as I personally love it – probably because it has 18 grams of sugar per serving – I don’t think Smart Start is among even the top 30 cereal brands sold in the United States. I wonder how many solvers are familiar with it.

  4. huda says:

    NYT: I enjoyed it! And thought the non-theme related fill was lovely. Felt very smooth, and I know it’s not easy to pull off. Congratulations.

  5. dennis kelly says:

    Where is the solutions to he 12/18 puzzle?

  6. dennis kelly says:

    where are the answers to 12/18 puzzle, please?

Comments are closed.