Wednesday, December 20, 2023

AVCX 5:50 (Amy) 


LAT 4:47 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:02 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 7:05 (Emily) 


WSJ 5:43 (Jim) 


No New Yorker write-up today since they’re doing an issue of special puzzles (and cartoons!) in lieu of the regular line-up. See Andy Kravis’s comment on the Monday post for links to the various New Yorker puzzles available now.

Freddie Cheng’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “All Together Now!”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that feature single letters set apart from the main phrases. These letters are also the opening notes to JOY TO THE WORLD (38a, Popular carol, whose first phrase can be hummed using the circled pitches (from top to bottom)]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “All Together Now!” · Freddie Cheng · Wed., 12.20.23

  • 1a. [Symbol on viola sheet music] C CLEF.
  • 18a. [Hit’s pairing on a 45] B-SIDE.
  • 20a. [Elite groups] A-LISTS.
  • 31a. [Erogenous zone named for a German gynecologist] G-SPOT.
  • 43a. [Camera aperture number] F-STOP.
  • 57a. [Rechargeable rides ] E-BIKES.
  • 61a. [Decisive times] D-DAYS.
  • 69a. [Benjamin’s bill] C-NOTE.

I will take the puzzle’s word for it. I’m not one who can look at a note and duplicate its sound, so this theme is totally lost on me. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I suspect I’m not. The theme entries themselves are a mostly uninteresting lot.

On further study, I see that all the notes are natural (no sharps for flats) and descend one octave from one C to the next lower C. That’s…something, I guess. But I wouldn’t have known or noticed that without looking it up.

I did enjoy some of that nice long fill like FIRE OPAL, ROOT WORD, LOST ART, and JUST A TAD.

Clues of note:

  • 14a. [Debussy opus]. LA MER. Not “LAMER” in case you were wondering.
  • 7d. [Where a painting may come to life?]. EASEL. Haven’t sorted out why there’s a question mark here. I’m open to suggestions.

This one wasn’t for me. Hopefully the more musically literate solvers enjoyed it more. Three stars.

Brad Wiegmann’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12/20/23 – no. 1220

Today’s theme is a bit old-school, pitched to those of us who were reading newspapers (but probably not the NYT!) somewhere in the 1950s–2002 range, when twin sisters Esther “Eppie” Lederer and Pauline “PoPo” Phillips wrote competing syndicated advice columns. The revealer is 66a.
[With 67-Across, one of two pen names punnily hinted at by 20-, 37- and 52-Across (can you find the other one?)], DEAR / ABBY. That was PoPo. Eppie’s column was “Ask Ann Landers,” and 27a’s planetary LANDERS points to that. The two sisters were WOMEN OF LETTERS (answering readers’ letters) who wrote STEERING COLUMNS to “steer” people with their advice, some helpful POINTER SISTERS. What a fresh idea for a theme! The cleverness might be lost on the younger generations who never read “Ann” and “Abby.”

Fave fill: OCEAN SPRAY, “I HATE TO ASK,” NINJA. There’s some other fill that’s on the hard side for a midweek puzzle: TOILE, ROLF, AMON-RA with his variable spellings, IMARET, ARISTA clued as a plant part rather than a record label, and Norse mythology’s AESIR. I was doing crosswords in the newspaper when I was maybe 12, and reading the advice columns. Those puzzles from 40+ years ago are where I learned IMARET, ARISTA, TOILE, and AESIR!

Less familiar to me: 47d. [Elephant or warthog, e.g.], TUSKER. Can’t say I’ve ever used the word but sure, tusks.

3.5 stars from me.

Morgan and Daniel Bodily’s Universal crossword, “Funny Money” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/20/23 • Wed • “Funny Money” • Bodily • solution • 20231220

The theme phrases all end with homophones of terms for money.

  • 17a. [Brought up properly] WELL-BRED (bread).
  • 28a. [Novelist once employed by MI6] GRAHAM GREENE (green).
  • 39a. [Unidentified woman] JANE DOE (dough).
  • 47a. [Super Bowl LV winners, in headlines] TAMPA BAY BUCS (bucks).
  • 64a. [Modern-day treasure hunter’s quest] GEOCACHE (cash).

Since there are so many synonyms for money, it’s perennially a lucrative subject for crossword themes.

  • 3d [Archipelago between Italy and Libya] MALTA. Funny, I almost never hear it called an archipelago, rather than a nation. Just consulted a crude map: relatively, it’s one large island, one medium, one small, and seemingly four tiny coastal islands.
  • 11d [They’ll keep your toes warm at night] FOOTIE PJS. Probably uncomfortable to sleep in for anyone but infants, who probably are not solving crosswords. So I dispute the ‘your’ of the clue.
  • 59d [Long truck] SEMI. 1a [Long car] LIMO.
  • 46a [Colon, in an analogy] IS TO. 71a [Colon, in an emoticon] EYES.
  • 66a [Declaration from a pot grower?] I RAISE. None of the prominent question-mark clues fooled me with their misdirections. Others: 33d [Play group?] CAST, 4d [Boring places to work?] OIL RIGS. 70a [Like a fiddle?] FIT.

Breezy crossword.

August Miller’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

August Miller’s version of the common “circles between words spell out something” trope is based on HIDDENVALLEY, which is a Salad dressing brand in the US, so I assume is familiar to all y’all, if not to me. Crossing it and a themer with RANCHDIP appears to be a bonus answer of sorts? In any case, another three answers spell out synonyms for VALLEY – DALE, GLEN, WADI. Two of the three words are hidden in less well-known entries, which suggests a lack of theme options; although at least they’re made from more familiar components, so can be sussed out:

  • [High price to pay, metaphorically], ANARMANDALEG
  • [Star cluster that resembles a bird of prey], EAGLENEBULA
  • [Health regimen modeled on the cuisine of Japan’s Ryukyu Islands], OKINAWADIET

At least three words today fall under words it feels weird Spelling Bee refuses to accept (four if you include NORI, which was added fairly recently). WADI in the theme, plus neologisms CATIO and YEET. Here’s a video of my workplace’s catio and its denizens…  I also liked BABYFAT, albeit the clue was kind of awkward – [Pudge on an infant], as well as MEGALOMANIA and DOGGYBAG. The puzzle certainly had more grace notes in the fill than yesterday.


Will Eisenberg’s USA Today Crossword, “I’ve Got You Covered” — Emily’s write-up

Cozy up with this puzzle today!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday December 20, 2023

USA Today, December 20 2023, “I’ve Got You Covered” by Will Eisenberg

Theme: each themer begins with an item that keeps you warm (or “covered”)


  • 17a. [Musicians’ papers], SHEETMUSIC
  • 35a. [Sewing technique with interlocking loops], BLANKETSTITCH
  • 57a. [Design that might represent a family], COATOFARMS

A fantastic themer set, starting with SHEETMUSIC, next BLANKETSTITCH, and finishing with COATOFARMS. Though these three items as is won’t do much to keep you “covered”, with today’s theme, we get a nice SHEET, BLANKET, and COAT. Oh so cozy indeed!

Favorite fill: KEEPCOOL, FEEDME (my cat demands treats and early feeding all day!), MAMBOS, BOBA, and TAMALE

Stumpers: AGEGAP (needed all crossings, cluing too tricky for me today), BAE (“boo” always comes to mind first for me), and ASTUTE (need a few crossings)

Excellent puzzle with great fill, fun cluing, and a delightful grid for a smooth flow. Shout out to all the lengthy bonus fill to boot! Oh so good today—just the treat I needed midweek.

4.75 stars


Chandi Deitmer’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Synced Up”-Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, “Synced Up” – 12/20/23

Loved the theme and the pervading 1990s vibe. The revealer (78a) is the title of an *NSYNC song, “I WANT YOU BACK,” and the themers are made by adding a U to the back of familiar phrases, to terrific effect.

  • Add U to a dial-up modem and you get 17a. [Call a Twiggy-loving ratite?], DIAL UP A MOD EMU.
  • 23a. [Like a fastidious fan of Lima’s land?], PRIM AND PRO-PERU.
  • 45a. [Lament of a Brit who regrets Brexit?], “HOW DO I LOVE THE E.U.”
  • 66a. [“Connoisseur of rabbit residences, how could you betray me?”], “WARREN BUFF, ET TU?”

This theme was just the right amount of goofy and it entertained me.


Four stars from me. I often approach a larger-than-15×15 crossword with a degree of “ugh, must I?” but this 17×17 kept me engaged throughout the solve.

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18 Responses to Wednesday, December 20, 2023

  1. Scott says:

    NYT – Does anyone else object to DIGIT as the entry for 28D “You can count on it”?

  2. Eric H. says:

    NYT: Though I grew up reading Ann Landers’ column, I can’t help but think of John Prine’s classic song about her sister:

  3. Jeff says:

    [WSJ] 14a. [Debussy opus]. LA MER. FYI: As seen on CrossWordle site, The first edition of La mer, featured the painting “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” which apparently is “possibly the most reproduced image in the history of all art”. Do you agree?

    • Martin says:

      The Japanese woodblock prints (ukiyo-e), like Hokusai’s Great Wave, were an important influence on the budding Impressionists. Although they are revered today, they were mass market art in the 18th and 19th centuries, and many wound up as wrapping material for export wares. That’s how they found their way to Europe and helped catalyze the Japonisme and Impressionism movements.

      The art of Monet and Van Gogh was strongly influenced by ukiyo-e prints, and in turn influenced Debussy’s music. So it was almost inevitable that the first edition of La Mer used the Hokusai as cover art.

  4. JohnH says:

    In the WSJ, I could relate the descending notes ok to the song, weak as my sight-reading skills are, but one thing nagged at me. Maybe I’m imagining it, but I’d swear that some of the circled squares in pdf were red, some green, both of course lost in printing at home in B&W. Now I know that the holiday colors are red and green, but I still kept wanting this to factor into the order of the notes for singing, and I was doubly annoyed at seeing it gone in print. I assume this was all mere noise.

  5. David L says:

    NYT: This puzzle was brought to you by the year 1968.

  6. Dan says:

    I grew up reading Ann Landers’s column starting in 1959, and long thought that her replies to letters were head and shoulders above her sister’s in terms of their wisdom and helpfulness.

  7. DougC says:

    Re TUSKER: a well-known term to those of us of an age to have read “white hunter” adventure fiction from the African colonial era. Also (not coincidentally) the name of East Africa’s best-selling beer.

  8. Bryan says:

    NYT: I haven’t seen the word TUSKER until today. Glad to learn it. I wanted TUSKEd at 47d. But then, of course, “Dead Abby” would have been too grim. :-)

    • Papa John says:

      Grim, perhaps, but appropriate. The original Abby died in 2003.

      • Papa John says:

        Further reading tells us that “her identical twin Esther Pauline Friedman…was columnist Ann Landers…and Dear Abby was the most widely syndicated newspaper column in the world, syndicated in 1,400 newspapers with 110 million readers.”


  9. Kelly Clark says:

    WSJ: Possibly one of the most beautiful and enjoyable puzzles I’ve ever played. Pure genius, purely lovely. Amazing job!

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