Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Jonesin' 5:32 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (Jenni)  


NYT 4:10 (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal 6:35 (Matt F) 


USA Today tk (Sophia) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


WSJ 5:02 (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “A Whole ‘Nother Level” — that’s the spirit. – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 12/26/23

Jonesin’ solution 12/26/23

Hello lovelies! Hope your winter holiday season is going well. This week’s Jonesin’ is a little tricky, with some seemingly random circled squares. Let’s see what we have…

  • 17a. [Drink that necessitates a sleeve] HOT COFFEE 
  • 21a. [Went astray] GOT OFF TRACK
  • 25a. [Judicious attribute] SENSE OF FAIRNESS
  • 43a. [Startles, maybe] CATCHES OFF GUARD
  • 48a. [Lacking cordiality] STANDOFFISH

Upon closer inspection, we see the circled squares are in the middle of each theme entry. Furthermore, each theme entry contains the consecutive letters OFF partially included in the circles. Strange, huh? Luckily for us the revealer ties it all together:

  • 58a. [What all the theme answers are…or aren’t? (Sorry/not sorry for the confusion!)] OFF CENTER. Each theme entry contains OFF near the center, but not in the center, so the OFF centers are actually off-center. Nice!

Other things:

  • 35a. [Actress Chabert of Hallmark’s “Crossword Mysteries” series] LACEY. Maybe I should take advantage of the next couple of days off an finally watch some of these movies…
  • 65a. [Fallon Sherrock’s pro sport] DARTS. In 2019 Sherrock became the first woman to win a match at the Professional Darts Corporation World Championship, and in 2023 became the first woman to hit a 9-dart finish at a PDC competition.
  • 11d. [___ Cynwyd, Penn.] BALA. I lived here for a few years during residency and a bit after. Bala is part of the Main Line, and the Belmont Hills section is right outside of the Manayunk section of Philadelphia. This entry was a gimme for me, but I’m wondering how difficult the answer was for people living elsewhere.

Until next week!

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Boxing Day”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are all words that can precede “ring” in various phrases and they’re all placed in around the sides of the grid. The revealer is RINGSIDE (61a, Choice seating at a boxing match, and a hint to making sense of the peripheral answers]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Boxing Day” · Mike Shenk · Tue., 12.26.23

Going around the “box” we have NAPKIN ring, TOE ring, BULL ring, LIFE ring, SMOKE ring, TREE ring, COFFEE ring, SPY ring, GOLD ring, DRUG ring, BRASS ring, and NOSE ring.

A good example of this type of theme. I especially like the multiple layers caused by the multiple meanings of both “boxing” and “ring.”

Fill highlights include BALINESE, PRIMROSE, RED DWARF, and END TIME. Themes of this type are often difficult to fill with all the theme entries around the grid, but this is filled rather nicely, though DWI crossing WINO is not so fun.

Clues of note:

  • 18a. [Smallest kind of star in astronomy]. RED DWARF. We also would have accepted [Cult favorite British sci-fi sitcom].
  • 42a. [Numbers for one]. SOLI. Note no comma in the clue.
  • 70a. [Tea cake’s round cousin]. COFFEE. Didn’t know this. I’m more familiar with a “coffee ring” as a stain left behind after a spill.

Good puzzle to get back in the swing of things. 3.75 stars.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 656), “New Year’s Relay”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 656: “New Year’s Relay”

Hello there, everyone! Here is hoping you all are having a good time on and around Christmas Day. Sending some extra special love to people who are dealing with and/or have experienced loss during this time, and know that I can absolutely relate with you this year. Hugs and love to you all.

Tough segue to make, but I have to do it. Today’s grid clearly has the Mamba Mentality, which is, of course, derived from the nickname of the late Kobe Bryant aka Black Mamba. One of the jersey numbers that he wore as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, 24, is used as the reveal for this grid, where each of the theme answers starts with the second word of the previous theme answer.

          • FOUR LETTER (17A: [*___ word (bleeped term)])
          • LETTERBOX (25A: [*Format for a DVD])
          • BOX STEP (29A: [*Square dance?])
          • STEP TWO (41A: [*Second phase])
          • TWO TWENTY (46A: [*Length, in yards, of the dash for which Jesse Owens set a world record in 1935])
          • TWENTY FOUR (54A: [*Number worn by Kobe Bryant (spelled out) … or shorthand for the new year celebrated on 1/1/24])

I think I can speak for many of you here that a clue about a pencil brand is down my wheelhouse, so FABER was more of a cinch than it would be for all of the other non-pencil aficionados out there aka normal people/non nerds (22D: [Eberhard ___ (pencil brand)]). Initially put “steak” instead of TBONE, which was the only time I got hung up in the grid … though I might get hung up more now as I’m thinking more about eating than finishing up this grid (46D: [Chophouse order]). Both of non-themed 11s were exquisite, with WAXES POETIC being something that I do way too often, including with many of these blog posts (24D: [Speaks in a flowery, long-winded way]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LOPES (25D: [Runs like a deer]) – The Los Angeles Dodgers of the 1970s and early ’80s were the class of the National League, and that was mainly due to one of the great infields in Major League history. One quarter of that infield was second baseman Davey Lopes, who made four All-Stars Games and led the National League in stolen bases, in 1975 and 1976. In 1975, Lopes set a then-MLB record for most consecutive stolen bases without being caught at 35. (The record is now 50, by Vince Coleman). Lopes and the Dodgers won the World Series in 1981 against the Yankees after losing to he Bronx Bombers in the Fall Classic in both 1977 and 1978.

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

Take care!


Neil Shook’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12/26/23 – no. 1226

Is it just me or has the Times run an uncommonly high number of debuts in recent weeks? As if trying to break their record before the end of the year? And am I the only one who anagrammed constructor Neil Shook’s names into the line and hooks used in fishing?

I forgot to notice the theme while solving—not an uncommon occurrence in Mon-Tues NYTs. The revealer is TOYBOXES, and the shaded boxes spell out, in clockwise order, various 4-letter toys (KITE, BIKE, BALL, DRUM, YO-YO, DOLL). Mildly distracting to have a LEGO SET that’s a boxed toy but sits outside the theme. It was, however, among the best entries in the puzzle.

Fave fill: Tolkien’s GRANDKID, MT. DOOM (except for that awkward abbreviation), LIKE LIKE, EEYORE, PADMA Laskhmi (I’ve recently taken to binging Top Chef) and TL;DR. Could do without ERLE, and OPTIMUMS looks weird. Overall, the fill is pretty smooth considering the inclusion of 24 shaded squares that have to work Across, Down, and clockwise.

Four stars from me.

Rebecca Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

Physics class is now in session.

The theme answers:

Los Angeles Times, December 26, 2023, Rebecca Goldstein, solution grid

  • 18a [Make a real mess] is SCREW THINGS UP.
  • 33a [Gymnastics rings position held with the body parallel to the ground] is the LEVER HANG.
  • 39a [Feature of some espadrilles] is a WEDGE HEEL.

And the revealer at 53a [Force-multiplying devices that can be found at the beginning of 18-, 33-, and 39-Across]: SIMPLE MACHINES. And a simple, straightforward theme appropriate for a Tuesday when many people are recovering from all kinds of overload.

A few other things:

  • There was an ELKS Lodge down the street from my high school and I thought it was the funniest thing ever. I had the vague impression that they dressed up as elks. Or that they were Benevolent and Protective of actual elks.
  • There’s something about the juxtaposition of the ELKS and DEERE that strikes me as funny. Perhaps I’m just easily amused today.
  • I was also amusing by WHOPPING crossing SPEEDO. Heh.
  • I’ve never heard a ghost pepper referred to as a GHOST CHILI. Google Ngram viewer agrees with me.

But will it get you chopped?

  • The fennec fox does indeed appear to be all ears.

Not Ross Perot


What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of SUPERHENGE.

Universal Crossword Review by Matt F

Title: Hair-Raising
Constructor: Hanh Huynh
Editor: David Steinberg

Universal Solution 12.26.2023

Theme Synopsis:

We have a vertically oriented theme today with a little extra something on top of (or at the beginning of) each theme answer. That little something is described by our central reveal:

  • 27D – [Hair growth product … or a phonetic hint to what’s been added to the tops of the longest Down answers] = ROGAINE

So, each answer “gains” the letters RO. Let’s see how that pans out:

  • 6D – [One who can’t get enough crew?] = (RO)WING NUT
  • 11D – [Flashier, richer cousin of Superman’s nemesis?] = (RO)LEX LUTHOR
  • 25D – [Survival show starring Julius Caesar?] = (RO)MAN VS. WILD
  • 35D – [Alternative to pigs in a blanket?] = (RO)BED HOGS

Overall Impressions:

Fair enough! Add-letter themes are fun because they create such goofy entries in the grid – you won’t find ROLEX LUTHOR in a themeless! The supporting fill here is nice and clean and there were some nice clues mixed in, such as ‘Timepiece that’s difficult to say after “Irish.”‘ Good stuff!

Thanks for the puzzle, Hanh!

Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up

New Yorker • 12/26/23 • Tue • Lucido • solution • 20231226

Did not feel ‘moderately challenging’ to this solver. Much easier!

There are some really great words in here, but the cluing for them is not tricky at all. But just look at BACCHANAL, JAMBALAYA, SKULLDUGGERY, ARPEGGIO, et al.

  • 4d [Getting stuff done, briefly] TCB, taking care of business.
  • 6d [Small bite] SNACK. Idiomatic.
  • 8d [More than just close] SLAM. Verb, not an adjective. This one fooled me.
  • 13d [Conjecture] HAZARD A GUESS. Verb again.
  • 51a [Letters seen in Times Square] TKTS. Also, I’ve noticed, the initials of a current celebrity couple.
  • 19a [Food-centric live-stream genre] MUKBANG. I had occasion to look this up recently, so it was almost a gimme. It’s a Korean term.
  • 39a [In a bustling way] BUSILY. The bus- in bustling practically telegraphs the answer.
  • 40a [One making grand improvements?] TUNER. Pianos. FAV (54d) clue of the puzzle.
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29 Responses to Tuesday, December 26, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Like Amy, I rated this highly and thought it was well done overall.
    My absolute favorite is STRADDLE– it’s a great word and not every language has a word that specific for this type of position. In Arabic, you’d have to use mount or stretch across or spread legs as alternatives depending on the specific condition, but straddle somehow captures it all.
    My hang up was in the NE with the clue for TLDR. I thought it meant: Too Long, Didnt Read. How is that clued by “Here’s a short summary,” in internet lingo? That clue would be a response to TLDR. I may well be missing something, so please set me straight.
    That aside, I thought the timing was great given the kids needing toy boxes after their haul yesterday. Nice debut!

    • JohnH says:

      Yes, it seems to stand for “can I have the short version?” and not “here’s the short version.” I had some trouble with the NORMA / PADMA / GRU cluster, and I solved the puzzle as essentially themeless since the shading didn’t come out well in printing, but overall Tuesday straightforward.

      In the WSJ, I didn’t recognize LIFE ring as well as COFFEE ring, but a nicely encompassing theme.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Argh … TL;DR almost always annoys the crap out of me when I encounter it on message boards and such. In this day and age, it seems that anything that requires more than 15 seconds to read and understand (you know … actual thought) is just too much for most people to handle. I blame Twitter and it’s one of the reasons I’ve never used it.

        Of course, I’m one to labor over the language in almost anything I post, so my personality type isn’t really cut out for the TL;DR world.

        • PJ says:

          I place the blame farther back – PowerPoint. I did not lie a lot of how it was used. I was often in meetings where the “material” was a PP presentation which a presenter. After the meetings the participants would leave thinking they were in agreement when in fact they weren’t.

          My partner could write wonderfully but abandoned it for PP. Frustrated the hell out of me

          • JohnH says:

            Of course, slides or a standing board for which you’d flip pages over the top for main points behind a presenter go back a heck of a long way. I’ve often taken pride in using them to help present effectively, and I switched to PowerPoint as making them easier to assemble even when I was printing them out for my easel rather than projecting them. I do, though, agree that the short attention span of some today is appalling (although I suspect that TLDR is even more common in puzzles than life).

    • Eric H. says:

      Some writers cater to their attention-span limited audiences by writing a summary of their longer pieces and labeling it TLDR. I think it usually precedes the full version.

      • Eric H. says:

        Previous NYT clues for TLDR include these:

        Mon Apr 3, 2023
        “Here’s a quick summary,” in internet-speak
        David Distenfeld

        Mon Nov 14, 2022
        “Here’s a brief summary,” in internet-speak
        Taylor Johnson

        • huda says:

          Interesting! Good to know how TLDR has evolved.

          • Me says:

            I’ve seen it used both ways: by the long-winded writer, who provides a “TL, DR:” summary of a sentence or two; and by a different commenter, who basically dismisses the lengthy essay by responding with “TL, DR” and nothing else.

            I thought this was a great Tuesday puzzle intro into complex puzzling. This must have been a pretty hard puzzle to construct for a Tuesday, and particularly impressive for a debut.

          • JohnH says:

            Yeah, thanks all, good to know, although it’s sure counter-intuitive.

  2. dh says:

    “Like-Like” is an example of a phenomenon called “Contrastive Focus Reduplication”; there was a paper written on this topic several years ago with the subtitle “The Salad-Salad Paper” (“Let’s go on a picnic. You bring the macaroni salad, and I’ll bring the salad-salad”), with the reduplication providing a prototypic definition of the word. It’s one of my faves.

  3. anon says:

    NYT: 4a – Digits carried in long division = ONES

    Carrying in long division? Huh? I know “carry the one” in addition; no idea what is being reference here.

    This clue seems unnecessarily complicated (if not flat-out wrong) for the answer on a Tuesday

    • dh says:

      didn’t even notice that! I think that when I was learning long-division that was called “borrowing”

    • Martin says:


      5/4 is 1. Carry the remainder 1 next to the 2. 12/4 is 3. I think that’s how I learned it.

    • R says:

      Agreed. I’ve taught long division for many years, and I can’t think of a time when I’ve talked about “carrying ones.” It’s fundamental to addition, and comes up in multiplication as well, but not in long division. A quick google search doesn’t turn up any hits either. Very curious.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      It’s been a long, long time since I was in a grade school math class, but I didn’t understand this clue at all. I don’t understand Martin’s explanation.

  4. JohnH says:

    In TNY, PHAT / HAAS / TCB defeated me, as did MAKBANG and some of its crossings. Indeed, I came here for an explanation of TCB. Otherwise, there have been worse Tuesday TNY puzzles.

    • Eric H. says:

      TCB is “Taking care of business.” For some reason, I associate it with Elvis.

      I thought the puzzle was on the easy side for “moderately challenging.” It took me about 20 seconds longer than the NYT, but felt easier.

      MUKBANG is new to me. I originally had a C in SKULLDUGGERY, but that was an easy fix. I loved seeing HELMET HAIR right after I got home from a three-hour bike ride.

  5. David L says:

    I had no idea about MUKBANG, which seemed absurd. But the crosses left no alternative, and it turned out to be correct.

    I agree that NW corner was unfriendly, for oldsters anyway. Luckily I remembered Lukas HAAS, and then I guessed the T in PHAT/TCB (which means ‘taking care of business,’ per Google). PHAT is outdated now, I believe, but it was a thing for a while.

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