Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Jonesin' 3:32 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (Jenni)  


NYT 2:50 (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal 7:37 (Matt F) 


USA Today 3:05 (Sophia) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


WSJ 4:27 (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Welcome to ’24” — the year with things in common. – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 1/9/24

Jonesin’ solution 1/9/24

Hello lovelies! Last week’s puzzle reviewed some of the best of ’23, and this week’s Jonesin’ looks to the year ahead with theme entries revolving around the number 24.

  • 17a. [Lead character of “24”] JACK BAUER. I cannot believe this show premiered in 2001.
  • 21a. [Nursery rhyme pie fillers (“four and twenty”, they say] BLACKBIRDS. From the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence”.
  • 37a. [Ratio that’s often 24 for film cameras] FRAMES PER SECOND.
  • 56a. [Units where 24 = 100%] GOLD KARATS. Karats indicate how many parts of a gold alloy out of 24 are gold. 24k gold is 100 (or 99.9, given trace impurities) percent pure gold, while 14k gold is 58.33 percent gold.
  • 62a. [The NBA sets it at 24] SHOT CLOCK. In 1954 Syracuse Nationals owner Danny Biasone noted that in fast-paced NBA games, the teams took a total of 120 shots a game. He divided a 48 minute game by 120 and then recommended each team get 24 seconds to take a shot from the time they got possession of the ball. This change led to less stalling in games, higher scores, and more fan interest.

Other things:

  • 43a. [Stracciatella, e.g.] GELATO. Stracciatella flavor is made by drizzling chocolate into plain milk-based gelato as it is churning. The chocolate freezes and is broken up by the churning process.
  • 66a. [Burns downvote?] NAE, as in “no” according to Scottish poet Robert Burns. Nothing will beat Matt’s one-time clue for this answer, [Turn-down for Watt?], though.

Until next week!

Geoff Brown’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Identity Crisis”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar(ish) names and phrases whose first words are anagrams of “name.” The revealer is NAME CHANGE (61a, [Possible result of a marriage or gender transition, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Identity Crisis” · Geoff Brown · Tue., 1.9.24

  • 17a. [Propensity to be malicious] MEAN STREAK.
  • 26a. [“American Beauty” and “American Pie” co-star] MENA SUVARI. You’ve probably seen her name enough in crosswords to at least come close to spelling it correctly.
  • 37a. [Equine shampoo brand now also sold for humans] MANE ‘N TAIL. New to me. Next, be on the lookout for horse dewormer for humans.
  • 51a. [Church area for the most fervent parishioners] AMEN CORNER.

That works. I can’t say I was terribly excited by the theme, but it does the job and the theme answers are interesting and well chosen.

Fill highlights include WIND FARM, LEGAL AGE, PRE-CALC, TOE RING, TAKES TEA, and NO SOONER. I needed every crossing for BE ALL [Most important thing]. It was too odd-looking to parse correctly.

Clue of note: 52d. [Famous Roberto Durán appeal]. “NO MAS.” I never heard of this story. An interesting read.

3.5 stars.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 658), “The Me Generation!”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 658: “The Me Generation!”

Hello there, everyone! I know some of you got battered with snow over the week, so hope you’re digging out OK. Others on here may be like, “What the heck are you talking about? I’m  living nowhere near a place where a snowstorm may hit!” In that event, hope you’re doing good as well!

Our constructor is the furthest from being a selfish person, but there were definitely selfish motives in this grid. Phrases and names are reimagined when adding the letters “ME” inside of them to create some punny answers.

          • LAUNCH PADME (16A: [Send a “Star Wars” queen on a NASA mission?]) – Launch pad
          • PRODIGAL MESON (22A: [Extravagantly-wasteful subatomic particle?]) – Prodigal son
          • HOMELY GUACAMOLE (34A: [Zounds! … what a plain avocado dip!]) – Holy guacamole
          • GAMES GUZZLERS (45A: [Zealous consumers of a magazine for puzzlers?]) – Gas guzzlers
          • HARPER MELEE (56A: [Chaotic brawl at a publishing house?]) – Harper Lee

Anytime I see UCLA or another frequent crossword answer, ASU (Arizona State University), I’m going to be sad thinking about the imminent doom of the Pac-12 Conference, with the great teams and late-night games that I’ve seen over the tears contributing to me being a borderline insomniac since I was a preteen (1D: [Bruins’ sch.]). Just in case you needed reminder that you should wash down your solve with a cold one, we have BEER (54D: [Tavern order]) and ALE to get you in the mood for Happy Hour (55A: [Hearty quaff]).  Extra points would have been given if TOGO was clued as the West African country (63A: [Like some pizza orders]). But I recently found a pizza place near the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn that’s bakes some of the best cheese pizzas I’ve ever had, so I’m glad I’m thinking of that right now. I’ll probably go there again in another day or two.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TAL (33A: [Chess champion Mikhail]) – This entry reminds me of a one-time popular answer in crosswords, the now-infamous, now-defunct energy company Enron, which was the original name of the current stadium that’s home to the Houston Astros. One of the quirks of the ballpark, which opened in 2000, was a man-made hill installed in deep centerfield named Tal’s Hill, named after the then-president of the team, Tal Smith. He wanted it installed as an homage to other quirks seen in old baseball stadiums of yesteryear. Thankfully, the hill was removed in 2016. Here are some of the “highlights” from the Tal’s Hill era, with centerfielders trying to navigate a 15-degree incline while running at full speed. What could go wrong?!?

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

Take care!


Adam Wagner’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 1/9/24 – no. 0109

No idea what the theme is because it was a quick solve that didn’t require any interaction with the theme to finish. Let’s take a look … Oh! Okay. The revealer is TUESDAY, [Part of a calendar septet, and a phonetic hint to this puzzle’s theme], and each of the three themers contains the abbreviations (circled/shaded) of two days, which sounds like “Tuesday” except for the misplaced S. FOLLOWED THE SUN gives Wednesday and Sunday, SOLOMON NORTHUP offers Monday and Thursday, and SAT IN THE FRIDGE, Saturday and Friday. Curious to know if any constructors had included FOLLOWED THE SUN or SAT IN THE FRIDGE in their word lists! They seem like unusual phrases to find in a crossword, but I like them both. With the themers being 14 letters long, this is a 14×15 grid.

Fave fill: FLIRTED, CHILI OIL, WENT KABOOM (weird that this, two themers, FLIRTED, and DID IN are all past tense), SHOT-PUTTER, and “HOUND DOG.PREOP feels like a shout-out since I’m scheduled for sinus surgery this Thursday.

3.75 stars from me.


Freddie Cheng’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

This was fun! Light, breezy, and amusing. Perfect for a Tuesday.

The theme answers don’t initially appear to be connected.

Los Angeles Times, January 9, 2023, Freddie Cheng, solution grid

  • 19a [Home of Cinderella Castle] is MAGIC KINGDOM.
  • 36a [Unpretentious business] is a HOLE IN THE WALL. The very best Asian restaurants, in my experience.
  • 54a [Pizza/arcade chain founded by Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell] is CHUCK E CHEESE. It’s been over 15 years since I set foot in one and the name still makes me shudder.

And the revealer, down at the bottom where all good revealers reside: 65a [With 67-Across, desktop accessories, and a description of 19-, 36-, and 54-Across?] is MOUSE PAD. Cute!

A few other things:

  • 1d [Acid or base indicator] is LITMUS. That looked odd to me without “test” or “strip.” Turns out that LITMUS is the dye itself, originally made from some kind of moss. Good to know.
  • I was amused by the juxtaposition of BEE and ASS. No wonder the ASS is braying.
  • 32d [Facial spots] is mildly misleading. It’s SPAS – spots to have a facial, not spots on a face.
  • I know ENRAPT is a word. Does it have some subtle difference of meaning from RAPT?
  • I recently had over $1000 worth of LSU athletic tickets charged to my MasterCard. You can imagine my surprise (yes, reported, card cancelled, credit issued).

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: didn’t know Bushnell had anything to do with CHUCK E CHEESE. Also have never heard of the game AMONG Us.

Universal Crossword Review by Matt F

Title: Cha-Ching!
Constructor: Sarah Butkovic
Editor: David Steinberg

Universal Solution 01.09.2024

Theme Synopsis:

You may be inclined to scrutinize your receipts and monthly bills after this one. As our revealer indicates, it’s not always easy to spot those pesky HIDDEN FEES (54A – [Unexpected charge … or a theme hint])! Each theme answer is completed by a string of hidden letters that make up types of fees. I added the missing detail to the grid image to highlight what’s going on. Here is the full theme set:

  • 20/22A – [Passive-aggressive quietness] = SILENT TRE(ATM)ENT (ATM fee)
  • 31/32A – [“That’s too nice!”] = YOU (FLAT)TER ME (flat fee)
  • 41A – [Hershey’s treat] = CHOCO(LATE) BAR (late fee)

Overall Impressions:

When I first saw this grid I thought, “Wow, this looks really closed off. I wonder if that plays into the theme.” Sure enough, the extra blocks were necessary for the theme gimmick. Sarah pulled it off smoothly, and while the theme doesn’t allow for very long bonus words, the fill is nice and clean with fun sprinkles throughout, like SURE DID and WARN ME. My favorite clue was 5D – [You can dig it!] = TRENCH.

Thanks for the puzzle, Sarah!

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up

New Yorker • 1/9/24 • Tue • Last • solution • 20240109

This one landed squarely in the advertised ‘moderately challenging’ spot for me. Instrumental was getting the long vertical entry based only on its first letter: 12d [Author of “Men Explain Things to Me”] REBECCA SOLNIT.

  • 1a [Entrance] CHARM. Good misdirection, especially as it’s the entry entry to the crossword.
  • 17a [Journalist’s basic questions] FIVE WS. Tried WHERE first, even though the agreement wasn’t there.
  • 18a [They’re very close, briefly] BFFS. I’ve recently dubbed my cat as BFF (‘bonito flake fiend’).
  • 21a [Tristia poet] OVID. 37d [Some of Pindar’s writings] ODES. Thinking of the scholar who was a minor character in La Grande Illusion.
  • 23a [BTS member who released the solo album “D-Day” under the alias Agust D] SUGA. I detect that it contains his name reversed.
  • 27a [Keen practical judgment] ACUMEN, for which I first tried ACUITY.
  • The three stacked long entries are all very good, with excellent clues. COMIC STRIPS, LADY MACBETH, LAST RESORTS.
  • 33a [Persian diversion?] CAT TOY. Did not fool me for a moment (my cat is not of that breed).
  • 42a [Writer played by Harry Melling in the mystery film “The Pale Blue Eye”] POE.
  • 44a [Gesture made with one’s thumb and pinkie extended] CALL ME. SHAKA did not fit.
  • 4d [Certain photoreceptor cells] RODS. My first filled entry.
  • 19d [Alpha male, perhaps?] FRAT BRO. Ha.
  • 31d [Something featured in a mug shot?] LATTE ART. Does this clue work?
  • 11d [Green] NAIVE. 49d [Inexperienced reporter] CUB.

Solid outing.

Sally Hoelscher & Wendy L. Brandes’s USA Today Crossword, “Rising Rates” — Sophia’s recap

USA Today, 01 09 2024, “Rising Rates”

Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: There are three themed down answers, each including the string “RATE”. The letters are at the end (bottom) of the first answer, middle of the second, and early on in the third, so they are literally “rising” through the grid.

  • 3d [“Kindly tell me more . . .”] – PLEASE ELABORATE
  • 7d [Highest level of academic achievement] – DOCTORATE  DEGREE
  • 10d [Centerpiece of Oregon’s only national park] – CRATER LAKE

Solid puzzle today with a classic USA Today theme type. My only question was, why not have the final answer start with RATE rather than just have it near the beginning? On the other hand, as a PNW girl, I’m always going to be hyped to see CRATER LAKE.


Fave clues: [Novelist Dessen] for SARAH (her books were *huge* for folks reading YA in 2007), [Libby and TikTok] for APPS – Libby is a library app, I’m obsessed with it.

New to me: HER‘s song “Back of My Mind”

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28 Responses to Tuesday, January 9, 2024

  1. Dan says:

    NYT: Yikes, do I ever dislike finding the plural OCTOPI as a crossword answer.

    This bespeaks a willful ignorance of the English language and of the amazing sea creatures (octopuses) that I have come to be fascinated by.

    • Martin says:

      This comes up a lot. It’s really not about the crossword answer, it’s about the dictionary entry that justifies it. I’ll accept that the fractured Greco/Roman coinage annoys you, but once a word is in the dictionary, “willful ignorance of the English language” is off the table. By definition.

      • RCook says:

        Just once, I want to see OCTOPODES in a puzzle, it even has a nice mix of vowels and common letters.

      • Dan says:

        Some crossword editors believe that whatever is in the dictionary is fair game.

        I don’t. Dictionaries have become descriptive of how language is used. If a usage arises out of a flat-out mistake, that will be enshrined in dictionaries these days. Spelling errors, semantic errors, it doesn’t matter. (With one exception: Dictionaries will not define “it’s” as the possessive pronoun no matter how many people use that spelling on a daily basis.)

    • Sally says:

      I’m with you. It’s not a word. Okay, so maybe it DOES appear in dictionaries, but the wrong definition of “literal” also appears in dictionaries and that doesn’t mean we should all start using it. I blame the millennials.

      • PJ says:

        Yeah, there aren’t many people who are looser with rules and standards than lexicographers.

      • David L says:

        Gimme a break. Your so-called ‘wrong’ use of literal has been around for a long time.

        • Dan says:

          Plenty of mistakes tend to stick around for a long time.

          • David L says:

            And once they have stuck around long enough, in wide use, they are no longer mistakes.* Lexicographers are not the grammar police. Their job is to report how language is used.

            *I’m avoiding the essential question of whether a metaphoric use of a word should be called a mistake in the first place.

        • Sally says:

          Yes, David, it’s been misused for a long time, but the alternate definition didn’t appear in Merriam-Webster until 2013, approx 200 years after it first appeared. With that it mind, it’s safe to say I’m not the only one who considered it “wrong.” I understand language is ever evolving. What makes me sad is that this particular evolution has meant that this simple, lovely, and very useful word has lost all meaning.

        • placematfan says:

          I think the misuse of “literally” is an outlier, here, though. To hear people literally saying the word “literally” to mean “analogously” is just an affront to all that is linguistically and grammatically good in the world.

      • PJ says:

        The History of English podcast provides a nice account of English beginning around 4500 BCE on the steppes of Eastern Europe/Central Asia. It opened my eyes to the flexibility of the language. I think that’s a key to not only its survival, but to its widespread usage.

        Listening to the podcast has made me a better solver.

    • Martin says:

      Crosswords are full of words (“GUAC”) that people use but are still working their way into the language. Most don’t raise eyebrows. But OCTOPI, used since at least 1834, causes (if I may mix a molluscan metaphor) such pearl-clutching. I find it fascinating.

      • Martin says:

        A citation from 1818.

      • Martin says:

        Final, interesting citation. This one is not English, but New Latin, and demonstrates the etymology of the plural form as borrowed by English. It is a description of ambergris from 1811. Thus, it was scholars writing in New Latin who get the blame. English has absorbed many New Latin technical terms.

        By the way:
        A solid, opaque, subtending substance, soft when handled with the fingers, floats in the waters of the ocean, and is thrown ashore in various countries of the East, especially Madagascar and Sumatra. The excretion was probably Physeteris macrocephalus, filled with the remains of marine animals, especially the Octopus cuttlefish. It is gray, with spots. and colored streaks, of a very agreeable odor, very light, so that it floats on water, flows with the heat of boiling water, like oil it is easily ignited and ignited, leaving scarcely any ashes. It is especially soluble in sulfuric ether; also with alcohol and oils, with ethereals, and ointments.

    • Katie says:

      OK, well:
      “octopi” been used lots of times. Unless there is a big movement (similar to the recent anti-NRA vibes in this country), it’s going to keep coming at us, too. (Not a huge deal, either way, to me.)

      I also agree: it IS amazing how much more common it is than “octopuses”, but I think that’s just the combo of having more possible words (with 9 vs 7 letters) and having fewer instances of a given length in a given xword (with 9 vs 7 letters, again).

      However, I had slight issues with:
      a) the not-quite-working reveal (2s day, vs 2 days?), as Amy notes.

      [Also, Amy: warm wishes for surgery, on Thursday!]

      b) What-in-the-actual-heck is “triple the neural wiring of humans” supposed to mean??! Are we, uh, just counting the number of synapses here? (Has anyone DONE that, for an octopus?!! Er, to my knowledge, I don’t think so??!) I think I found the specific link/source they may have snarfed this clue-origin-story from (about protocadherins, actually, I think — which rolled around to somehow become the clue — maybe?) https://www.tor.com/2015/12/04/octopi-giant-brains-alien-genome/#:~:text=While%20humans%20have%20about%2060,%2C%20except%20in%20our%20nightmares)

      Anyway, synapses (wiring connections) are different from neurons, of course, and I too have no way of knowing how many your average octopus might have… but really? Please, somebody, if YOU have info on this, I’m very curious now!

      Don’t get me wrong – I think octopuses are intelligent and VERY intriguing. We have a brain (plus spinal cord, also containing lots of neurons), while octopuses basically have a “big brain” plus 8 smaller “mini-brains” – one per arm – plus all the requisite interconnections. That’s incredible – and very cool! But, while mileage will vary human-to-human and among differing kinds of octopuses, an adult human has on the order of 100,000 million (i.e., 100 BILLION) neurons, versus 500 million for an octopus. Roughly speaking. So, like 200:1. And just as an intuitive hunch from geometry, I’d guess the genetics is coding for greater flexibility in how to wire things – but not overall for great number of neural connections.

      Anyway, I’m — not 100% convinced, on the clue there. (When in doubt, don’t “push your luck”, in clueing…)


      c) Also, just in general, the biggest issue – and only REAL issue, besides the goofiness earlier mentioned (just for fun) – was just the overall fill. NOLITA, SAIDAH, MIKA, ELIDED, STPETE, LEW, ROTO, AMO, …. a couple were fine, but it just started to be a bit annoying – especially for/on a TUESDAY – maybe? Still very doable just – a bit less fun. (Or am I overly picky?) :-)

      The rest was solid, and I liked the creative 15-longs and the general idea a lot! :-D

  2. Zach says:

    WSJ: I am almost always on the same wavelength as Jim on his reviews, but 3.5 stars on this one? Yeesh, that’s high. There’s some pretty crummy fill here and a ton of crosswordese, especially on the copious number of three-word answers. For example, as a graduate of the University of Tennessee, I have never heard of the school referred to as UTenn. Perhaps the constructor was thinking about UConn or UMass, but UTenn is a completely made up answer. Also clueing “The other guys” for “ENEMY” doesn’t jive with me. I know the constructor is trying to be clever, but IMO this kind of plural clue requires a plural answer. The only thing that was decent was the theme; though I, and probably many others, have never heard of “MANENTAIL.” At least I learned something today!

  3. David L says:

    TNY: Today’s ‘moderately challenging’ puzzle by Last took me a tad longer than yesterday’s ‘challenging’ one from Gorski. Ain’t that a shocker.

    • Gary R says:

      Well, yesterday’s wasn’t particularly challenging – didn’t seem like a typical Monday TNY. When I saw NL’s name on today’s puzzle, I was expecting they were going to make up for the relatively easy Monday, but I solved this one a couple of minutes faster than yesterday’s. The NW was the last part to go in. The rest seemed to flow pretty smoothly – only a few missteps that had to be corrected.

      • JohnH says:

        I could have done, though, without the cluster of MEG, PEACH, and SUGA. Not sure I’ve ever seen a battering ram as just RAM either or am quite comfortable calling THE MAN metaphorical. It may not be literal either, but that’s neither here nor there. So the whole NE was a disaster area for me.

        Sure helped that REBECCA SOLNIT was a huge gimme for me.

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT … NOSE clued as “”___ goes” (“Not it”)”? What the …?

    • sanfranman59 says:

      WSJ … MANE N TAIL clued as “Equine shampoo brand now also sold for humans” … did I wake up in some alternate crossword universe today?

      • sanfranman59 says:

        LAT … AMONG clued as “”__ Us”: multiplayer logic and deduction game”? … today seems to be my day for WTF clue/answer combinations in otherwise relatively easy and straight-forward puzzles

  5. Katie says:

    NYT: Um, shouldn’t the bigger octopus-related issue be about the claim that octopuses have “nearly triple the neural wiring of humans”?

    What. Did. That. Mean. [?]

    In terms of neurons, humans win by a lot (i.e., by about 200 to 1), roughly 100,000 million neurons for a human (i.e., 100 Billion), vs 500 million for “an octopus” – though there are lots of different octopus types, of course, and humans vary, too, so specific “mileage” varies.

    So – does “wiring” just mean, er, “number of synapses”? When you google the “wiring” quotation, protocadherins come up (specifically, here: https://www.tor.com/2015/12/04/octopi-giant-brains-alien-genome/) – but genetic aspects like that are not a direct mapping to “wiring capacity” – right??

    Until today, I’m not sure anybody had claimed to have estimated the number of synapses, for an octopus. Here’s some (believable) data to date, on neurons and synapses:

    [Somebody, please forward a link on this! I’m genuinely curious! It’s an impressive statement!]

    Really though, besides the goofiness earlier mentioned (just for fun) – I liked it all, except for being just slightly disappointed in the fill. NOLITA, SAIDAH, MIKA, ELIDED, STPETE, OFYORE, LEW, ROTO, AMO, DAO, …. a couple were fine, but it just started to be – a bit annoying? – especially for/on a TUESDAY – maybe? Still very doable, as an early-week puzzle, just – a teensy bit less fun? (Or am I overly picky?) :-)

    The rest was solid, and I especially liked the creative 15-longs and the general idea (except for it not quite working, with “2s day”, vs “2 days”)! :-D

    (Also, best wishes to Amy, for the surgery on Thursday!)

  6. Katie says:

    Ooops, my bad: the creative 14 (not 15) long theme phrases. (Puzzle is 14-wide.)

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