Friday, January 12, 2024

LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 4:48 (Kyle) 


The New Yorker 5:31 (norah) 


Universal 4:05 (Jim) 


USA Today 3:36 (Darby) 


Hemant Mehta’s New York Times crossword – Kyle’s write-up

Kyle here–I’ll be filling in for Amy on this weekend’s New York Times themeless puzzles while she recovers from a sinus operation. We all wish her a smooth recovery and no complications.

The Friday NYT is brought to us this week by Hemant Mehta, whose byline I recognized from past NYT themelesses, as well as being a constructor in one of the Boswords themeless leagues. Thanks Hemant for the puzzle, which I largely enjoyed and thought quite colorful.

New York Times solution grid – Friday 01/12/2024 – Hemant Mehta

  • Nice pair of 13-letter marquee entries in SPOILED ROTTEN and SHOOK THINGS UP. (I’ll acknowledge the duplication of “up” in UP TO NO GOOD. Though, I didn’t notice it until after I finished solving.)
  • Trivia alert! 6D [Merriam-Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary and “Where’s Waldo?,” once, surprisingly] were BANNED BOOKS. I think I knew this about “Where’s Waldo?” but really, the dictionary?! Incidentally, Google couldn’t tell me why that particular edition of M-W was banned–inquiring minds want to know!
  • I love going to the ADLER planetarium here in Chicago (or the Field Museum, or the Shedd Aquarium…). And I wasn’t fooled for a second by 8D [High ways?] – three letters, it’s got to be ELS (Chicagoans may disagree on whether that’s an allowable plural, vs el trains).
  • Iffy on the clue for 13A BOOTY CALLS [Butt-dials?], because it feels like the answer is a noun but the clue is a verb. Oh, hang on! Merriam-Webster, that heinous corrupter of linguistic innocence, says booty-call is a transitive verb. Carry on!
  • Lots of abbrs. in this puzzle. Top left corner has TBSP and ATF, lower right corner we’ve got PDF FDNY GTO, and then FBI INSP JPGS (??) just above that. Personally, I usually have a slightly higher tolerance for abbreviations in themelesses–goodness knows I’ve used my fair share in my own puzzles–but this does feel a bit much, esp. the pl. abbr. JPGS and two DOJ agcys.

Emma Oxford’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 1/12/24 • Fri • Oxford • solution • 20240112

In this 16×15 grid, phrases containing 2-letter words are reparsed as if those words were 2-letter initialisms.

  • 18a. [Big bash honoring detectives?] P.I. DAY CELEBRATION.
  • 27a. [Take steps to prevent patients leaving mid-appendectomy?] FIGHT O.R. FLIGHT.
  • 47a. [Certain facial recognition pro?] THE WIZARD OF I.D. My guess for the seed entry.
  • 63a. [Really annoy the computer help desk?] TAKE I.T. TO THE LIMIT. My guess for the entry that necessitated the extended grid dimension.

As I seem to say so often, these are okay and the theme—while not wowing me—certainly works.

  • 20d [Key spot] RING. My initial thought, but waited for crossings.
  • 40d [Getting some air] INHALING. Not where I thought the clue was directing me.
  • 45d [Wt. units] OZS. Interesting how this crosses THE WIZARD OF ID.
  • 49d [Is unacceptable] WON’T DO. Like Guadalajara?
  • 52d [Unlike heroines in operas, typically] ALTOS. Symmetrical to 14d [Hero in operas, typically] TENOR.
  • 64d [Mer contents] EAU, crossed by 68a [Neptune’s realm] OCEAN.
  • 15a [“Better in Time” singer Lewis] LEONA. Someone I know exclusively from crosswords.
  • 38a [Certain English collegian] ETONIAN. Collegian? Hmm, okay?
  • 41a [Oregon port named for a fur merchant] ASTORIA. I read about it in Annie Dillard’s illuminating historical novel The Living, which documented among other things the selection of the railroad terminus. And yes, it’s the same Astor family that’s the New York/Queens namesake.
  • 55a [Matter basics] ATOMS. Slightly awkward clue.
  • 68a [“Into the Woods” song sung by two princes] AGONY. Uhh, okay. But I resent the clue for making me think of the Spin Doctors.
  • 70a [Missouri River native] OTOE. Seems as if this entry is in phase lately, as far as my crossword experiences go.

Freddie Cheng’s Universal crossword, “Prime Location”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases featuring first words that are adjectives synonymous with “prime” and second words that can also be sporting event locations. The revealer is IDEAL MATCH (62a, [Perfect partner, or a sporting event at 17-, 28- or 47-Across?]).

Universal crossword solution · “Prime Location” · Freddie Cheng · Fri., 1.12.24

  • 17a. [One of five in a Christmas song] GOLDEN RING.
  • 28a. [Ability of note?] PERFECT PITCH.
  • 47a. [Highest legal body in America] SUPREME COURT.

I’m loving the theme! It’s tightly defined with in-the-language phrases and good wordplay. Can’t ask for much more. This is one of those themes that was just lying there waiting to be found, so kudos to our constructor for fleshing it out and putting it together.

Apart from the theme, the long fill is quite nice, too, especially, “DEAL WITH IT!,” “BE GENTLE,” “OH, RATS!,” and PET PROJECT.

Clues of note:

  • 71a. [Inside look?]. DECOR. Needed most of the crossings. I thought this was going for some sort of medical scan.
  • 10d. [“Handle the situation!”]. “DEAL WITH IT!” Tough to clue this one without the word “it.” The given clue is a little awkward, but it works. Maybe I’d go for something like [“Your problem, not mine!”]

Very nice puzzle with a tight theme and strong fill. Four stars.

Catherine Cetta’s USA Today crossword, “Long Division” – Darby’s write-up

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: Each theme answer is bookended (or divided) by letters spelling out LONG.

Theme Answers

Catherine Cetta's USA Today crossword, "Long Division" solution for 1/12/2024

Catherine Cetta’s USA Today crossword, “Long Division” solution for 1/12/2024

  • 16a [Jazz legend nicknamed “Satchmo”] LOUIS ARMSTRONG
  • 38a [“YOU’RE saying that to ME?!”] LOOK WHO’S TALKING
  • 63a [The Bardigang, for Cardi B] LOYAL FOLLOWING

I thought that this was a clever title. I thought math was going to be involved for some reason, and I’m glad that it wasn’t. We still ended up with a great set of themers that provided a nice mix of a person and two phrases. I totally forgot about LOUIS ARMSTRONG’s nickname (which is a shame since I literally read a book about Jazz artists during the Cold War called Satchmo Blows up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War). LOOK WHO’S TALKING took me a minute, but the crosses made it very easy to parse out this particular phrase. The Y of LOYAL FOLLOWING was also the last bit of the puzzle to fall into place for me, as I was unfamiliar with 52d [“___ and Majnun” (Nizami Ganjavi story)] LAYLA.

At 3:36, this puzzle came in pretty speedily for me. There were a bunch of fun clues like 27d [Card game with a sequel named “Dos”] UNO and 47d [“Honestly, I don’t think that’s correct”] WELL NO. Plus, as always, I loved the longer bonus answers like 28d [Dish like pho or hoto] NOODLE SOUP and 11d [Almost-perfect test score] NINETY-NINE (which felt apt near 12d [MBA or Ph.D.] DEGREE).

Overall, a great puzzle and fun one to work through on a Friday! Have a great weekend!

“‘Tis the season” by Brooke Husic, norah’s review; 5:31 paper

THEME: Cultural holidays appear at the beginning (or “high” point) of each theme entry running down through the grid:



Themed entries:

  • 3D TETRISEFFECT [Phenomenon in which a frequent activity, such as gaming, patterns unrelated thoughts]
  • 20D EASTERNEUROPE [Region that abuts the Urals]
  • 7D HOLISTICMEDICINE [Comprehensive approach to health care]
  • 9D EIDETICMEMORY [Ability to vividly recall an image seen only once]
  • 25D HIGHHOLIDAYS [Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur . . . and a feature of 3-, 7-, 9-, and 20-Down?]

This is a lovely, easy breezy themed puzzle from Brooke, a delight to solve and write about today. Filled and clued in her trademark cross-cultural style, this puzzle is packed with food and drink from around the world: idlis drizzled with GHEE, mild SALSA, CONGEE [Rice porridge], COLA [Cuba libre ingredient], and some TEA and OATS. We get clues using Spanish, French, and German. People and places: ADITYA [Bollywood star ___ Roy Kapur], TOI [Derricotte who wrote the poetry collection “Tender”], MEER [Anti-apartheid activist and author Fatima], DIRAC [Quantum-mechanics pioneer Paul], CARRERA [Model and activist Carmen], EVA [Chen who wrote the children’s book “I Am Golden”]. And all of this in a smooth easy grid that is friendly to solvers of all skill levels.

The theme entries are so well-chosen, representing a diverse set of holidays, and even gave us two bonus holidays in the clue for the revealer. This might be my favorite themed puzzle of the year so far!

Thanks Brooke and The New Yorker team!

A new weekly feature over at Daily Crossword Links also chose this puzzle as one of our recommendations of the week. If you’re looking for more puzzles to solve, try something from that list.

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28 Responses to Friday, January 12, 2024

  1. Martin says:

    M-W 9 was banned for its four-letter words.

    “Where’s Waldo” was banned because of a topless sunbather.

  2. Eric H. says:

    NYT: Wow. That is some of the best clueing in months — the kind that has you completely stymied until you get a few crosses and then the answer suddenly makes sense. My favorite is probably 17A, “It doesn’t run below the bridge”. STUFFY NOSE.” (Thanks to Flonase, I have much fewer sinus problems than I did before. I take more meds than I would like, but Flonase is the only one that I miss if I forget to take it.)

    I started solving the puzzle after getting in bed, but a day of skiing meant that I got sleepy quickly. So I put the puzzle down with only a third of it completed.

    When I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, I finished the puzzle in about 10 minutes. Everything made sense, and there was just a cascade of answers. That’s my favorite type of solving experience.

    I am glad that I couldn’t remember which auto maker used to sell a Futura. FOrd and FONT are so close that it would have been easy to be stuck with the incorrect answer for too long. (My husband was a graphic designer, so the Futura typeface has been in my vocabulary for decades.)

    • Gary R says:

      I thought the clue for STUFFY NOSE was pretty good. For some reason (maybe just because it’s Friday), I was thinking “nose,” but couldn’t come up with what _doesn’t_ run below the bridge.

      And I fell into the FONT/FOrd trap briefly. Seems like there are/were a number of Ford models that started with “F” – Falcon, Fairlane, Focus, Fiesta … So Futura seemed plausible.

      I agree with Kyle that there seemed to be a lot of abbreviations/initialisms, and I didn’t think much of OH, IT’S ON NOW (pretty sure I’ve never heard that phrase spoken) – but, overall, a fun puzzle.

    • Dallas says:

      Nice Friday; did most of it during lunch, finished the rest with my afternoon coffee. I liked the cluing for STUFFY NOSE and BOOTY CALLS, though I did find myself wondering if ATF actually investigates arson or not, but that’s not really an objection. Quite a nice themeless.

  3. placematfan says:

    I don’t get how you get BOOTY CALLS from [Butt-dials?]. Isn’t there an equivalency problem here? To my ear, the clue wants “butt” to be a euphemism for “sex”, like “booty” is. But it’s not. There IS equivalency in that “butt” and “booty” are synonyms for “ass”, but appealing to that synonymic relationship doesn’t work because in the compound word “butt-dial” “butt” ONLY means “ass” and NEVER “sex”. So for the clue and answer to be Parallel would require that “butt” COULD stand in for “sex’, and it doesn’t.

    • Oliver says:

      Yep, bit of an equivalency problem…it sort of just takes BOOTY CALLS in a more literal meaning, matching BUTT DIALS word for word…BOOTY replacing BUTT and CALLS replacing DIALS. It came to me pretty quickly but if you really parse it, you’re right, it’s not 100% correct to use that clue. Then again, isn’t that what the “?” does at the end of the clue? It buys the constructor leeway here.

    • Gary R says:

      “Dials with the butt,” “Calls with the booty.” Pretty straightforward, IMO.

      • huda says:

        I thought of it exactly as @Gary R did and found it amusing.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        I don’t get the objections either. I thought it was a pretty clever clue/answer combo.

      • Dan says:

        I agree — I find no problem with this cleverly deceptive clue.

        (It’s enough to find just *one* meaning of the words in the clue and answer that connects the two. So it doesn’t matter that “booty” has a second meaning unrelated to “butt”.)

    • Martin says:

      I haven’t seen anyone point out that both “butt-dial” and “booty call” can be used as nouns. A butt-dial is your booty calling. Seems completely parallel.

      • JohnH says:

        That, the NW, and indeed almost the whole puzzle defeated me for I can’t say how long. I didn’t think of STUFFY NOSE, although the clue is clever, and I didn’t know the meaning of either the clue OR the answer to the disputed long one, much less how they could be equivalent. But put it down to my ignorance. (I didn’t get GET for hot hotel guest either, and hadn’t heard OH IT’S ON NOW either, although eventually I filled them in.) So I didn’t love the puzzle, but no real complaints, and if others loved it, all the better.

  4. damefox says:

    Thanks for the write-up, pannonica! You’re half right: TAKEITTOTHELIMIT was both the entry that necessitated the 16×15 grid and the seed entry. :)


  5. dh says:

    Is there a reason that reviews of BEQ puzzles aren’t printed here? I understand that they come out later than the others, but I also see that they are listed as reviewed and timed. I find his puzzles to be very contemporary and challenging, and would love to read the reviews.

  6. Gloria Elizabeth says:

    I really enjoyed today’s LAT! Elegant parallels. Clues that required reflection but were ultimately solvable and a fun theme.

  7. MMA says:

    What is “rawr”?

  8. Bryan says:

    NYT: I breezed right through this one in one of my fastest Friday solve times, even though I’m not a speed solver. The whole puzzle was just right on my wavelength. Love when that happens! I really wanted 27d to be “it’s on like Donkey Kong,” but sadly that didn’t fit. :-)

  9. Craig N. Owens says:

    As to BANNED BOOKS in NYT, the M-W Elementary Dictionary and its Dictionary and Thesaurus for Students were banned just in the past few days by a Florida school district in Escambia County, as reported by

    Can I include a link? I’ll try:

  10. Seattle DB says:

    LAT: @pannonica slipped in a sly reference to a lyric from Steely Dan’s “My Old School”.
    “Guadalajara won’t do”. (Good one!)

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