Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Jonesin' 9:19 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (Jenni)  


NYT 3:44 (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal untimed (Matt F) 


USA Today tk (Sophia) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


WSJ 4:02 (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Best of 2023” — it’s quite the year. – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 1/2/24

Jonesin’ solution 1/2/24

Hello lovelies! I hope 2024 has started off well for you. It’s that time of the year where Matt highlights some bests from the previous year.

  • 16a. [Game whose sequel was Time’s #1 best video game of 2023] ALAN WAKE. The first game in the series was released in 2010.
  • 20a. [His Best Supporting Actor Oscar win was part of CBC’s best pop culture moments of 2023] KE HUY QUAN. Quan was born in Vietnam and fled with his family at the age of three. His acting career started as a child with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984, and after some other roles had trouble finding acting jobs as an adult. He then returned to the screen in Everything Everywhere All at Once and became the first Vietnam-born actor to win an Academy Award. Try to watch his acceptance speech and not cry.
  • 31a. [Diane Morgan-starring British mockumentary series that landed on many U.S. “Best of 2023” lists] CUNK ON EARTH. Morgan plays investigative reporter Philomena Cunk as she travels the world and interviews experts about world history.
  • 41a. [Highest-placing Taylor Swift song (at #19) on Rolling Stone’s “100 Best Songs of 2023”] IS IT OVER NOW? Her other song on the list is at #86, “You’re Losing Me (From The Vault)”.
  • 55/59a. [With 59-Across, Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, which made many 2023 top ten lists] THE BOY AND / THE HERON. There are claims that this is Miyazaki’s last film, but there are also reports that he continues to go to the office to work on his next project.

Other things:

  • 18a. [Early parlor game (and nothing to do with drawing first blood] CRAMBO. The rhyming game started as one team giving a word or line and the other team would give a line that rhymed, and so forth. Later versions involved someone thinking of a word and giving out words that rhymed, and people would have to guess the word by giving a definition.
  • 43d. [Former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Dave] NAVARRO. Before his five years and one album with the Chili Peppers, Navarro was the guitarist for Jane’s Addiction, and has reunited with them for tours and new music.

Until next week!

Marc Goldstein’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Strange Brew”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose second words could also refer to coffee.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Strange Brew” · Marc Goldstein · Tue., 1.2.24

  • 20a. [Coffee for the fashionable crowd?] COOL BEANS.
  • 25a. [Coffee for the rich and famous?] CELEBRITY ROAST.
  • 32a. [Coffee for noisy dancers?] STOMPING GROUNDS.
  • 42a. [Coffee for Magnolia Staters?] MISSISSIPPI MUD.
  • 51a. [Coffee for the careless?] SLOPPY JOE.

A good example of this type of change-of-meaning theme. Each entry is solidly in-the-language and the wacky clues work well enough.

Interesting choice to put the first and last theme entries in the 4th and 12th rows instead of the 3rd and 13th. Since they’re only nine letters long each, it would seem to make more sense to spread the theme answers apart, which would allow for smoother surrounding fill.

That said, there’s really nothing to complain about fill-wise (at least where those two entries are concerned). SEAL TEAM and UNICYCLE are strong assets to the grid, and there are plenty of interesting 5s, 6s, and 7s.

A three-R BRRR and WHOSO [Whatever person, archaically] are the only eyebrow-raisers, but the crossings made filling them in pretty straightforward.

Seeing BHUTAN reminds me of our neighborhood holiday party a week or so ago. Two neighbors who didn’t really know each other came to find out they were both Tibetan Buddhists. One, an octogenarian, desperately wants to visit BHUTAN. The other, a septuagenarian, used to arrange worldwide travel for REI, specializing in East Asia, and has been to BHUTAN three times. We’ll see if anything comes of their meeting.

Clues of note:

  • 2d. [Wheels of fortune?]. LIMO. I don’t know if this is a new clue or not, but it’s a nice one.
  • 4d. [Elite Navy squadron]. SEAL TEAM. I think of a “squadron” as only referring to an Air Force unit, but apparently it can be used for any generic military grouping. Still, I would’ve gone with “unit” here.

Nice grid. 3.75 stars. And it’s another debut. Congrats to the constructor!

Jeffrey Martinovic’s NewYork Times crossword–Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 1/2/24 – no. 1002

Love the theme. The revealer is DOUBLE NEGATIVES, 38a. [Some grammatical no-nos … or a description of four pairs of answers in this puzzle?]. Those eight entries have clues in italics with cross-references to their opposites. We have STAND DOWN and SITUP, HIT ME and MISS YOU, the terrific GO DARK (a newish phrase, yes?) and STOPLIGHT, TAKEOUT and GIVE IN. Both the first and second parts of each phrase or compound word are paired with their opposites. Feels a little head-whirly that the pairs have different letter counts (9/5, 5/7, 6/9, 5/6) so none appear in symmetrical spots.

The down side of including nine theme entries taking up 69 squares is that the rest of the fill suffers. There’s quite a bit that feels hardish for a Tuesday newbie unacquainted with crosswordese and such: LEMON SODA (I guess it’s an Italian thing but it’s not much of an American pop option), AWL, plural UTERI, OVATE, Latin AMAS, “Beau GESTE,” plural UMS, AD WAR, AGHA, and SHOD.

Three more things:

  • 18a. [___ Timor (nation near Indonesia)], EAST, aka Timor-Leste. It’s among our newer nations, having taken its independence from Indonesia in 2002. A friend of mine who works for the Peace Corps recently spent a few weeks there and I loved seeing her photos on Facebook. (She’s the most widely traveled person I know! Do you know anyone who’s been to Turkmenistan, San Marino, North Macedonia, and East Timor?) And she’s the first person I ever did crossword races with! She’d photocopy the NYT puzzle back in the 1990s and we’d speed on through.
  • I did enjoy SELL-A-THON and RIGAMAROLE.
  • I don’t think I’m keen on 49d. [“You understand?”], “SEE IT?” Doesn’t feel too idiomatic to me. I’d like it better as a FITB like “Now you ___, now you don’t,” but not with TOO LATE NOW in the grid.

Four stars for the theme, 2.5 for the fill.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 657), “Newspaper Clippings”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 657: “Newspaper Clippings”

Happy New Year! Hope all of you are doing well and starting off the new year the way you want it to.

We’re officially in a presidential election year, and you’re going to see a lot of stories on that front appearing in newspapers. (Wait, newspapers still exist? At least ones in which writing staffs haven’t been gutted and turned into nothing but clickbait?) Anyways, speaking of newspapers, one of the preeminent newspapers in the country, the Washington Post, aka WAPO, acts as the reveal of today’s grid, with the first two letters in each of the first words of a theme answer starting with “WA” and the first two letters of the second word starting with “PO” (47D: [Shorthand for a famed D.C. newspaper … and a hint to the puzzle theme])

          • WALL POCKETS (17A: [Hanging file holders in a home office])
          • WALDEN POND (23A: [Famed site of Thoreau’s cabin])
          • WAXES POETIC (33A: [Uses lofty language])
          • WADING POOL (43A: [Place for getting one’s feet wet])

How many other people eat CEREAL out of the box, like I do at times (well, a lot of times) with my favorite cereal, Corn Chex (29A: [Breakfast bowlful]). And if you have a cup of milk next to you, you never have to worry about the cereal getting soggy inside of the bowl of milk. The non-themed 10s of WARRIOR POSE (52A: [“Fierce” yoga stance]) and DEPOSIT SLIP are nice, though I’m not liking the fact that my bank does not have deposit slips readily available at a table when walking into the bank and having to go up to the teller to get one (13A: [Aid for putting money in the bank]). I probably have the WORDIEST blog entries among all of the reviewers on here on Fiend, and if you’ve read a fair share of these entries over the almost 10 years of me doing this on this platform, I sincerely thank you … and question your sanity (33D: [Like the most convoluted, unnecessarily-verbose puzzle clue, say]). Now, here are more words for you!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ATWATER (35D: [1980s political strategist Lee]) – Former Denver Broncos defensive back Steve Atwater was known for being one of the most physical safeties in the National Football during his heyday in the early to mid 1990s. Atwater made the Pro Bowl eight times in his career and was on the NFL All-Decade Team of the 1990s. In 1997 and 1998, Atwater and the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls. He played one year for the New York Jets in 1999 before calling it a career, and he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.

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

Take care!


Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up

New Yorker • 1/2/24 • Tue • Shechtman • solution • 20240102

This is the first crossword I’ve solved in the new year (apologies for yesterday’s absent Universal write-up), and it was a relative pushover. It helped that several of the long entries were gimmes—looking at you, Picasso’s BLUE PERIOD and Velasquez’s LAS MENINAS.

  • 5a [“La __ et la Bête”] BELLE. I  highly recommend Jean Cocteau’s film version from 1946.
  • 10a [Contraction with two apostrophes] I’D’VE.
  • 18a [It’s built up during a workout] LACTIC ACID. Partial gimme, needed only a crossing or two.
  • 20a [What might cause someone to snap?] SLAM POETRY. In lieu of clapping.
  • 40a [Queens’s __ Park] REGO. Not sure how non-NYCers would know this. The only ‘pop-culture’ reference I know of is that it’s where Art Spiegelman’s father resides, as recounted in the Maus books. Yet I have the vague sense that it’s probably been featured in a television sitcom. Aha.
  • 46a [Slides (over)] SCOOTS. 34d [Parks it] SITS.
  • 65a [Moola in Cholula] PESO. It rhymes!
  • 1d [Jobs] POSTS. Needed all the crossings for this devious little clue.
  • 5d [some cosmetic augmentations, for short] BBLS. Pleased that I don’t know what this stands for, but for the sake of our readers’ edification I’ll look it up: Brazilian butt lift.
  • 25d [“The only serious thing in the world,” according to Oscar Wilde] ART. Fitting, as there’s quite a lot of it referenced in this crossword.
  • 28d [Lo-fi genre that boomed during the COVID-19 lockdowns] BEDROOM POP. Inferable.
  • 53d [Encouraging start?] ATTA. As in attaboy, attagirl, and …uh… attachild.
  • 56d [“C’est __ que tu parles?” (De Niro-inspired line in “La Haine”] AMOI. Pleased that I was able to get this from context, despite my rudimentary French. This is on a long list of films I need to see.

Universal Crossword Review by Matt F

Title: Give Me a Break!
Constructor: David P. Williams
Editor: David Steinberg

Universal Solution 01.02.2024

Theme Synopsis:

The title is hinting at the fact that common words are “broken” (reparsed) into new phrases. We have 4 clues in the grid marked with an asterisk that are cluing the reparsed phrase:

  • 26A – [Caesar’s nervous twitch, say?] = A ROMAN TIC (aromantic)
  • 28D – [Pineapple perfume?] = A DOLE SCENT (adolescent)
  • 32D – [Twerking?] = A BUN DANCE (abundance)
  • 35D – [Artificially grown fall flower?] = A LAB ASTER (alabaster)

Overall Impressions:

Deciphering these clues in their redefined contexts was a nice exercise in lateral thinking. I like how the L/R symmetry makes a little humanoid figure in the grid (do you see the hat, arms, and legs like I do?) The whole section under the “hat” was fun to work through – not an easy construction to have 3 clean 10’s running though stacked 7’s. The NW corner came last for me, because I thought “One saddled up” would be HORSE before RIDER revealed itself, and “Bitter drink?” for HATERADE was tricky! Fun grid overall, enjoyable puzzle… can’t ask for much more on this fine Tuesday!

Thanks for the puzzle, David!

Robin Stears’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

This was a smooth and straightforward solve that played like a themeless for me because I had no idea what the theme was until I got to the revealer.

The theme entries:

Los Angeles Times, January 2, 2023, Robin Stears, solution grid

  • 17a [*Hurdles for would-be attorneys] are BAR EXAMINATIONS. I filled in the first four letters from crossings and could not for the life of me figure out what hurdle would start with BARE. Duh.
  • 25a [*Rural byway] is a COUNTRY ROAD.
  • 41a [*Clarinet, bassoon, et., in an orchestra] is the WIND SECTION.

And the revealer: 54a [Things to “see” in a dictionary, and what both parts of the answers to the starred clues are?] is CROSSREFERENCESCROSS BARCROSS EXAMINATIONCROSS COUNTRYCROSSROADCROSSWINDCROSS SECTION. Nice!

A few other things:

  • Did not care for 45d [BLT option], ON RYE. It’s clunky and to my ear the answer should be RYE. I’d rather have had a FITB [Corned beef ____ ] or [The correct way to serve pastrami] or something like that.
  • Do we have a mini-theme with that entry and 10d [Like cold cuts?]. The answer is SLICED. And we have [Break bread] for DINE. Now I want bread. Except we also have [Growth on an old loaf], MOLD, so maybe I don’t.
  • I know CHIA seeds are now a trendy foodstuff. I am old enough that I will only ever think of them as odd little “pets.”
  • Instead of all the bread, let’s have a [Light supper] and order some SALAD.
  • 49a [Spud, informally] is TATER. So there really is a food thing going on here. And is TATER really more informal than “spud?”

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the youngest daughter in “Despicable Me” is AGNES.

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21 Responses to Tuesday, January 2, 2024

  1. David L says:

    NYT: Nice idea but a lot of the fill was iffy. I’m surprised RIGAMAROLE wasn’t clued as a variant; I reluctantly put it in after RIGMAROLE didn’t fit.

    GODARK seems like a standard phrase to me, but I worked in the media for a long time. I think it originally derives from the theater, where ‘dark’ indicates that nothing is programmed for a certain time slot.

    • JohnH says:

      I grew up hearing the A while not seeing it in print, so the variant didn’t bother me in the least. The rest of the fill felt fine.

      One can see why the ratings for the puzzle divide sharply, with little middle ground. It depends after all on cross-references, which can turn people off, me included. I’m the type that double checks his work, which no doubt made me a natural for an editor, but there I’m getting paid (and my comments here are filled with typos). Still, I found this one clever and smile worthy, a nice find for a theme and well executed. I liked, too, that I needed the pairs to make sense of the revealer rather than vice versa.

      • Dallas says:

        I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen in it print, and I’ve always heard it with the “A” so it never occurred to me to spell it RIGMAROLE instead. Overall went smoothly, but I agree with Amy—that’s having crosswordese in my brain now to fill the grid… dunno how I would’ve felt two years ago.

      • DougC says:

        @JohnH, I’m with you on this. I thought the puzzle was both clever and delightful. None of the fill bothered me in the least; in fact, I found the puzzle quite easy, even for a Tuesday.

        It has long puzzled me that RIGAMAROLE is so often spelled without the “A”. I just assumed that was a British-ism, or some such.

        • David L says:

          I’m from England, and I’ve always said rigmarole as spelled, with three syllables. But M-W (which I linked to above) is an American dictionary, and it cites rigamarole with the a as a less common variant (and indeed it gets the squiggly red underline here).

    • Eric H. says:

      I enjoyed the NYT theme, even if the revealer is a little off. Are the pairings really NEGATIVES or merely opposites? On the other hand, as someone pointed out in the Wordplay comments, a photographic negative is the opposite of a positive print. The fill was fine, except I spent a minute looking for a mistake that turned out to be 67A SaLeATHON (it made sense at the time).

    • CapCut says:

      Agreed, the puzzle did have its quirks. The term ‘RIGAMAROLE’ often stirs debate, and it’s intriguing how it varies from ‘RIGMAROLE.’ As for ‘GODARK,’ it’s indeed a standard phrase in media circles, much like how tools like Capcutapk, a video editor, are essential in modern media production. The theatrical origin adds a fascinating layer to its meaning.

  2. Susan Hoffman says:

    The links to A/L puzzles today aren’t working (and yes, I rebooted), and the link to the Jonesin website takes me to last year’s puzzles, not today’s. What am I missing?

    • Norris Smith says:

      Same here.

    • GlennG says:

      The usual server that has the Across Lite puzzles on it is down. Unfortunately for today, that server is the only reliable one for Jonesin’ puzzles, at least until the crosswordnexus page gets updated with the new one.

      There’s other sites for the other puzzles. I suggest Crossword Scraper if anyone wants PUZ from some of the other sites, where it works.

      • GlennG says:

        And it seems to be back just now (hopefully not temporarily?). Thanks to Martin for offering this service!

    • Martin says:

      I just walked my wonderful neighbor through restarting the “computer room” after a power issue. Hopefully it will hold together until I get home tomorrow. Most puzzles should be available. The exception is the Universal. The script that posts it didn’t run last night and I can’t duplicate it from outside the network for security reasons. So it will be until tomorrow until that one can be made available.

      Between this and my getting covid 3 days before the New Years feast I was preparing (after a week of shopping, prepping and cooking), it’s been quite a start to 2024. Canceling a party for 60 people is no fun.

      • WhiskyBill says:

        Thank you, Martin, for all you, Nancy Shack, and Will Johnston do to keep the puzzles coming for crossword obsessives! Thanks also to Amy and all the reviewers who keep the Fiend and its community going, too!

        Hoping your new year improves vastly from its rocky start, Martin!!

      • pannonica says:

        Oof, condolences!

      • Eric H. says:

        Thanks for all you do to put those puzzles out there for us.

        Sorry to hear that you got sick and had to cancel your New Year’s bash. I hope you feel better soon.

  3. JT says:

    NYT – I liked this puzzle, most of the lesser fill was at least eased by decent crossings. I did have OVOID over OVATE though, and that made 40D a problem, luckily 38A was an early solve to correct that.

    One that left me rankled, the clue for 6D had the repetition of words feel like that mattered to the answer when it didn’t, so it just looked awkward, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was an editing decision.

    • Eric H. says:

      I expect the “at this point” in the 6D was to get around using “now” in the clue, as it’s part of the answer.

      Just “No point in trying” doesn’t really convey that whatever it is one might have done might have worked if one had done it sooner. That is, “No point in trying” would seem to lead to an answer like “It’s hopeless” or “It’s useless.”

  4. Greg says:

    The New Yorker puzzle today was as nice and smooth as yesterday’s was gnarly and hard.

    I know Monday is supposed to be “challenging “and Tuesday only “somewhat challenging.” But the delta between today and yesterday was more like a yawning gulf.

    • David L says:

      I completely agree. Yesterday’s defeated me — the NE corner, although that section didn’t seem to trip up other solvers — but today’s was a gentle ride.

    • Eric H. says:

      I know today’s New Yorker puzzle was supposed to be easier than Monday’s, but as you said, the gap between the two was vast. Yesterday’s took me a little over 40 minutes and some confirmatory lookups to get through. Today’s took a breezy 10 minutes, with no real sticking points. The things I didn’t know were all easily inferable with a few crosses.

Comments are closed.