Thursday, December 28, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:34 (Gareth) 


NYT 8:44 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 3:21 (Kyle) 


Universal 6ish (Sophia) 


USA Today 13:41 (Emily) 


WSJ 7:56 (Jim) 


Jeff Stillman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Corporate Mergers”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are made-up two-word phrases where each word is a well-known company.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Corporate Mergers” · Jeff Stillman · Thu., 12.28.23

  • 17a. [Isaac Newton’s noggin, allegorically?] APPLE TARGET.
  • 25a. [The Grand Canyon, over millennia of erosion?] PROGRESSIVE GAP.
  • 41a. [Greece’s 158-stanza “Hymn to Liberty”?] MARATHON ANTHEM. Marathon, the town in Greece, and Marathon, the gas company.
  • 54a. [What visitors to Delphi were seeking?] ORACLE INTEL.

Nice, assuming the solver is familiar with most of these companies. The third one was a challenge for me since I’ve never been to a Marathon gas station, and I’m not familiar with Anthem. Apparently it was a health insurance provider that was renamed to Elevance Health in June of last year.

SASHA OBAMA and ART THERAPY make for great anchor points in the corners. Also good: MARS BARS, MONA LISA, and SICKO. I’ve seen TRUVIA in stores, but not in a puzzle before. It feels crossword-worthy though.

Clues of note:

  • 14a. [Syria’s Church of Saint ___] ELIAN. Truly a clue of note since this marks the very first time this name was not clued with respect to ELIAN Gonzalez who made headlines in 2000. But really, how many solvers would know the answer to this clue?  Maybe huda?
  • 15a. [Semiaquatic mammal]. HIPPO. I went with OTTER and got very messed up in that section.
  • 22a. [Wave setting, at times]. ARENA. Looks like it’s referring to the San Diego Wave, the professional women’s soccer team.
  • 40a. [___ One (vodka brand)]. KETEL. I went with STOLI and got very messed up in that section.
  • 29d. [Where you might try to brush away problems]. ART THERAPY. Excellent clue.

Good puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Kiran Pandey’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Easy (8m44s)

Kiran Pandey’s New York Times crossword, 12/28/23, 1228

Today’s theme: movie + slang for “good” = common phrase

  • UP is TIGHT
  • MOON is LIT

If it wasn’t for the NE corner, I might have finished this in the 6s, which is personal best territory for a Thursday.  But I couldn’t hit on I SAW, and tried “wait” and “stop” before settling on HALT.  Nothing was out of bounds — just hit a patch of crossword solver’s block.  Also a little distracted by the fact that MOON LIT is close to “Moonlight” (2016), and DRIVE CRAZY is very close to “Drive Me Crazy” (1999).  Is there another layer that I’m missing?  I ask myself this question on a daily basis.

Felt more like a Wednesday overall, but the universe whispers in my ear, You’re solving this on a Wednesday, and I slowly lose consciousness while Radiohead’s “Everything in its Right Place” starts to crescendo.  Scene.

Cracking: KWANZAA, because it’s a fun Scrabble combo and one of the few times you’ll see Z-K-W together outside of Patrick Swayze, Wayne Gretzky, and Steve Wozniak.  (Did they walk into a bar?  Did the bartender ask about dirty ice dancing?)

Slacking: paging the missing e from VIRTU, please report to today’s puzzle immediately

Sidetracking: speaking of MANGA, the best-selling series of all time (“One Piece) just wrapped up season one on Netflix, and though I’m not really an anime fan in general, Inaki Godoy is mesmerizing in the lead!

Nancy Stark and Will Nediger’s Universal crossword, “Due Up” — Sophia’s write-up

I’m still on vacation so today’s write up will be quick. The theme is that there are three answers on each side of the puzzle where the clued word requires one of the letters to be written above the grid. These outside the grid letters spell “IOU”, with the revealer DEBT CEILING. Plus, the remaining part of the word inside the grid is a legit word on its own.

Universal Crossword, 12 28 2023, “Due Up”

  • 1d [*Extremely famous] – [I]CONIC
  • 3d [*Celebs generally get longer ones] – [O]BITS
  • 5d [*Still on the plate] – [U]NEATEN
  • 6d [*Transfers, as a shirt design] – [I]RONSON (Mark Ronson is a music producer; this year he wrote “I’m Just Ken”)
  • 8d [*Autumnal color] – [O]CHER
  • 10d [*Dictionary listings] – [U]SAGES
  • 47a [Contentious political limitation … and a hint to what’s above the starred clues’ answers] – DEBT CEILING

A very creative theme overall! It does require a lot of thematic material at the top half of the puzzle, and a nearly themeless bottom, but that’s more of an observation than a complaint. Overall this puzzle played harder than usual for me; curious if that was true for others as well.

  • Fave fill: I GOT THIS, SPEED DATE, SO I HEAR, MUD BATH (count me among those saying “ick”)
  • Best clue/answer: [Feline with a special store of food?] for BODEGA CAT
  • New to me: TONE ROW, WAPITI

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker puzzle – Kyle’s write-up

The final New Yorker Thursday of the year comes from Elizabeth C. Gorski, whose byline I haven’t seen on a Thursday for some time. Thank you Elizabeth for today’s puzzle.

The New Yorker solution grid – Thursday 12/28/2023 – Elizabeth C. Gorski

Assorted thoughts:

  • Nice Thursday-level tricky clue for 36A HEART MONITORS: [Beat reporters?]
  • Scattered pop culture: De Niro/Hathaway comedy “THE INTERN”, Taylor Swift’s “CARDIGAN”, TRENT Reznor and IGGY Pop, classic TV’s “The MUNSTERS”.
  • 20A [“Accept ___ move on!” (“Stop obsessing!”] for IT AND is a very awkward partial. Nearby we have -ISE [British verb suffix]. You know you are likely to get 1-2 of entries like these in a Gorski puzzle, and there’s not much more to say about that.

Not a whole lot more to say here. Looking forward to seeing what 2024 brings in the New Yorker crossword. Thanks again to all the constructors for their work this year (and of course the editors behind the scenes). Happy New Year!

Adam Vincent’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

Adam Vincent’s LA Times puzzle has a similar shtick to yesterday’s. Instead of forms of transport, today’s theme answers end in places to dance, and the clues link them creatively to apt dances. It’s worth noting the puzzle is extra-wide and has left-right symmetry as well. Also, many regular answers are longer than the theme entries today, so the repetitive clue style helps them to stand out, at least a bit:

[Apt spot to do the running man?], POLITICALPARTY
[Apt spot to breakdance?], WRECKINGBALL
[Apt spot to swing dance?], GOLFCLUB
[Apt spot to do the moonwalk?], SPACEBAR

Other interesting spots included:

  • [Howard who has two Oscars for Best Original Song], ASHMAN. The dude from late 80’s Disney? Yes.
  • [“¿Quién __?”: Spanish “Who knows], SABE. A form of the verb saber.
  • [Easy for ewe to say?], BAA. An eyeroller of note.


Adam Aaronson’s USA Today Crossword, “Four on the Floor” — Emily’s write-up

Tricker for me today—how did you all do?

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday December 28, 2023

USA Today, December 28 2023, “Four on the Floor” by Adam Aaronson

Theme: the word FOUR can prepend each themer in the downs (touching the “floor” of the puzzle) to create a new phrase


  • 28d. [Save time by skipping important steps], CUTCORNERS
  • 21d. [“Was that clear?”], ANYQUESTIONS
  • 23d. [Pop of color in a suit jacket], POCKETSQUARE
  • 31d. [Times of year when tourists aren’t visiting], OFFSEASONS

A bit of a mixed bag with the themer set but they come together with the fun theme. Be sure not to CUTCORNERS with this puzzle. Hopefully you don’t have ANY QUESTIONS. I don’t see enough wearing of a POCKETSQUARE, I suppose not that I ever really did. OFFSEASONS stuck out the most for me and I needed crossings for that one. With the theme, we then get: FOUR CORNERS, FOUR QUESTIONS, FOUR SQUARE, and FOUR SEASONS. h/t to Sally for pointing out the theme for today!


Stumpers: NADIR (new to me, needed crossings), PISA (just didn’t come to mind—only “Roma” or “Rome”), and TSERIES (new to me, clearly one to check out!)

Despite the amazing grid design and smooth overall flow, I got tripped up in just a few keys spots in the NW, E, and S sections that took me extra time to slowly break into those areas and get enough crossings to complete the puzzle. There was just enough that I didn’t know that hindered me today, so I found it more challenging than most, though given a different knowledge base, perhaps some of you had an easier time. Lovely puzzle though with great entries and cluing!

4.0 stars


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13 Responses to Thursday, December 28, 2023

  1. Eric H. says:

    NYT: Borrowing from a comment on Wordplay regarding VIRTU:

    The term that best captures Machiavelli’s vision of skill that must be learned in order to engage successfully in power politics is virtù. While the Italian word would normally be translated into English as “virtue”, and would ordinarily convey the conventional connotation of moral goodness, Machiavelli obviously means something very different when he refers to the virtù of the prince. In particular, Machiavelli employs the concept of virtù to refer to the range of personal qualities that the prince will find it necessary to acquire in order to “maintain his state” and to “achieve great things”, the two standard markers of power for him. This makes it brutally clear there can be no equivalence between the conventional virtues and Machiavellian virtù.

    Fun puzzle, if lacking the trickery we’ve come to expect from a Thursday puzzle.

    • huda says:

      Thank you for the post and the link, which is a very interesting summary of the various views of Michiavelli.
      I see him as thinking mostly about how we gain some sense of control over an unpredictable world–something I think about as a neuroscientist studying stress biology.
      re the puzzle: VIRTU was such an original entry and worth the price of admission.
      And thanks to ZDL for an entertaining review.

  2. anon says:


    Is this a partial so bad that it comes back to good?

    • JohnH says:

      Funny! It did mar a very easy puzzle.

      So NYT felt like a Wednesday? Sorry, I failed that quiz. I eventually completed the puzzle recognizing way too little of it. I’m not even sure how I got there, other than that it took a long time.

  3. John+F.+Ervin says:

    I thought the “wave setting” clue referred to a pop concert audience movement or at a baseball game.

  4. Dallas says:

    I had the same issues in the NE corner; I had I SEE and STOP instead of I SAW and HALT… all came together in the end.

  5. dh says:

    BEQ – this always appears on the “reviewed” list, but I don’t ever see a review – is it me?
    I’m confused by 10-d; the clue is “Complete”, and I had “All” until it didn’t fit with any of the crossings. Can someone point out to me how “AWE” means “COMPLETE”?

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