Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Jonesin' 8:20 (Erin) 


LAT untimed and late (Jenni)  


NYT untimed (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal 5:35 (Matt F) 


USA Today 3:07 (Sophia) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Set Me Free” — no theme, you know the drill. – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 1/16/24

Jonesin’ solution 1/16/24

Hello lovelies! We’re going to mix it up for this themeless review because my seven-year-old climbed into my lap while I was getting my post ready and started asking questions about grid entries. Let me start off by saying I love the variety of fill here, with lots of entries we never see in puzzles. The only really tricky part was the crossing of Lotte LENYA and Baryshnikov’s ABT (American Ballet Theatre). where I was expecting a consonant and just ran the keyboard until the puzzle was complete. Anyway, I am going to highlight the entries my son mentioned while looking over the grid. He was not able to see the clues at the time. Let’s goooooo…

  • 26a. [Scottish veto] NAE. “Is that the sound a horse makes?” “No, it’s the Scottish work for ‘no’ “.
  • 41a. [“Still ___” (1999 track ft. Snoop Dogg)] DRE. “What’s Dree? “”It’s Dr. Dre, the rapper.” In this song, it’s D.R.E.
  • 57a. [Waiting areas] ANTEROOMS. “What are anterooms?” “They’re little rooms that are right before big rooms.” “Oh.”
  • 15a. [“Somewhere Only We Know” performers (2004)] KEANE. “What’s Kee-an-ee?” “It’s pronounced KEEN. They’re a band. I play their songs in the car.” It looks like they’re doing a 20th anniversary world tour this year, too.
  • 37a. [Spots for scritches] UNDERBELLIES. “What’s that?” “You know, it’s underneath a pet where you give them tummy rubs.”
  • 18a. [Element #18] ARGON. “What number is argon?” “18.” “That’s sad, because it’s clue number 17 here and not 18.” He’s not wrong.

Until next week!

Yael Rusonik’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Making Movies”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases whose second words can be synonyms of “movie” and whose first words are topically related to the movies in the clues.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Making Movies” · Yael Rusonik · Tue., 1.16.24

  • 20a. [“The Mask,” e.g.?] FACIAL FEATURE.
  • 34a. [“The Wolf of Wall Street,” e.g.?] TRADE SHOW.
  • 40a. [“Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” e.g.?] MICRO FILM.
  • 52a. [“A Beautiful Mind,” e.g.?] MENTAL PICTURE.

Good, double-layered theme. Beyond the synonyms, I enjoyed trying to connect the films to the phrases.

I NEED A HUG,” “NO COMMENT,” SEA OTTERS, and “FAST CAR” top the fill. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention odd partials A LOON and A DIP. ECOLE is less odd, but may be tough on a Tuesday.

Clue of note: 59a. “Prove to me that you’re divine, change my water into wine” singer in “Jesus Christ Superstar”]. HEROD. I’m partial to the line, “Prove to me that you’re no fool, walk across my swimming pool.”

3.5 stars.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 659), “Book Smart”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 659: “Book Smart”

Hello there, everybody! Hope all of you are doing well as we already are in the middle of the first month of the new year. If you’re in the middle of a deep freeze weather-wise, hope you’re staying warm! 

If you are staying warm, there’s a chance you’re under a blanket and reading a book, and today’s puzzle is about books … in a way.  Each of the theme answers is a common phrase, but turned into puns when the clues make you reimagine one of the words in the answer as something book-related..

          • FULL METAL JACKET (17A: [Protective sleeve for a book about the Tin Man?])
          • LEAVES OF ABSENCE (26A: [Missing pages from a book on sabbaticals?])
          • RUNNING FOR COVER (40A: [What marathoners are doing to appear on the front of the book?])
          • BINDING CONTRACT (53A: [Enforceable agreement regarding the assembly of a book?])

Most important question to come out of solving this puzzle: how do you pronounce BONA fide (32D: [___ fide (genuine)])? I remember listening to a British broadcast of a soccer match years ago when the commentator said bona fide, with fide pronounced FEE-day, and was like “What the hell did he just say?” Right after I made sure that he was pronouncing the same word that I thought, just differently, I immediately thought it was real cool! Of course, the delivery of words from a Brit is just cooler in general! Just like difference between how Americans and Brits pronounce “”jaguar,” and hearing it regularly over the past 30 years with the British car maker and the NFL football team that made its debut in 1995. 

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ONIONS (44D: [Rings on a veggie burger]) – In less than two months, a lot of us will be consumed by March Madness a.k.a. the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament, and one of the most recognizable TV voices calling those games is former Seton Hall head coach and CBS commentator Biff Raftery. While he’s known for bis basketball smarts and witty remarks, Raf is also known for his signature ONIONS!” call, said anytime a player hits a pivotal shot late in a close game — because we can’t say “balls” on national TV without the censors getting all uptight, right?! Here’s some of his most memorable (and ballsiest) calls!

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

Take care!


Marshal Hermann’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 1/16/24 – no. 0116

I gather the constructor has spent a lifetime clarifying, “Marshal with one L,” and so we have the genesis of today’s theme. The revealer is 62a. [First-year law student … or what every answer in this puzzle has exactly], ONE-L, and it’s a stunt grid in which every entry contains a single L. Which makes for a fairly uneventful solve, as there are no clever theme clues to unravel, no reliance on wordplay.

There are some highlights in the grid: SELF FIVE, music BOOTLEGS, “OH, LORD,” GOLF CART, FIELD DAY (which I loved as a kid despite being solidly unathletic), and RED FLAGS. I’m not entirely convinced that LAST HOPE is an idiomatic thing unto itself.

Crossword Fiend is an exception to the rule in 1a. [Publication that usually has only one contributor], BLOG. Group blogs are definitely a thing, though these days people are more apt to have split off to monetize their own Substack newsletters. (Substack: Now with several fewer Nazi newsletters!)

Besides ONEL itself, there’s other fill that I place in the crosswordese family: ELS as Chicago’s L’s, PLEB, LEO I, BALT, and LOGE. They do indeed all contain an L, but they haven’t got much else to commend them.

Two stars from me. The theme concept didn’t do anything for me, and I didn’t find enough joy in the venture to offset the feels-unthemed puzzle.

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

New Yorker · 1/16/24 • Tue • Shechtman • solution • font size=1>20240116

Pitched correctly as ‘moderately challenging’ as far as I’m concerned. Perhaps a slight bit on the easier side of that?

  • Final section for me was the lower left, where PR FIRM instead of PR TEAM held things up for several moments. 42d [Damage-control grp.]
  • Things started reasonably well for me at 1-across, where I was immediately able to fill in the first half of [School up the coast from L.A.] UCSB, and then infer 1d [Jumping skills, in basketball] UPS.
  • 17a [Supposed] SO-CALLED, as soi disant does not fit.
  • 19a [Loosely defined attachment] SITUATIONSHIP. Fortunately I was reminded of this portmanteau within the past week.
  • 21a [“The Bell of __” (Longfellow poem)] ATRI. New to me; seems like classic crosswordese.
  • 31a [Experimental filmmaker Brakhage] STAN.
  • 47a [Fall for someone] CATCH FEELINGS. Simpatico with the other long across entry? Loosely connected?
  • 52a [Heterogenous] ECLECTIC. Have you done Spelling Bee today?
  • 55a [Shirley with the campaign slogan “Unbought and Unbossed”] CHISHOLM. More politicians would do well to walk that walk. 8d [Novelist Roy who said, “Our strategy should not only be to confront empire but to lay siege to it”] ARUNDHATI. 3d [Something a free spirit might ignore] SOCIAL NORM. I’m sensing a minor theme here.
  • 11d [Race in H.G. Wells’s “The Time Machine”] ELOI. This and 24d [Ancient marketplace] AGORA are quintessential crossword clue/answer combos.
  • 26d [1960s thriller that, according to Martin Scorsese, showed how “the act of making movies can be perverse”] PEEPING TOM. An excellent and disturbing British film that has a fair amount in common with—and predates—Hitchcock’s Psycho.
  • 30d [Earned] BROUGHT IN. Getting this with but a few crossings was instrumental to my completion of the grid.
  • 48d [“__ virumque cano” (first words of the Aeneid)] ARMA. If my recollection is correct the (expanded) translation is something like ‘Sing, o muse, of arms and the man”—I may be gratuitously inserting that ‘o muse’ part based on Homer’s style?

Billy Ouska’s USA Today Crossword, “Ahead of the Curve” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Anna Gundlach
Theme: Phrases that end with a word that can precede “curve”

USA Today, 10 16 2024, “Ahead of the Curve”

  • 20a [Modern alternative to over-the-air television] – VIDEO ON DEMAND (demand curve)
  • 37a [“Can’t say I’ve heard of it . . .”] – DOESN’T RING A BELL (bell curve)
  • 51a [College-level education] – HIGHER LEARNING (learning curve)

It took me a minute to understand the theme after solving – I haven’t thought about a demand curve in a hot minute so that phrase took a while to come to mind. But I really like all the theme answers here, and the title is a very solid revealer/joke. “Modern” in the clue for VIDEO ON DEMAND threw me off – I don’t think I’ve watched something on demand since about 2010, I thought the answer would refer to streaming in some way. But yeah, overall a fun take on a classic theme type.

Fave fill: MIDDLE SEAT, SLEUTHS, BRAIN FOG, RHEA Seehorn (who lost an Emmy last night for “Better Call Saul” – fun fact, that show received 53 Emmy nominations over its run and lost every single one. That’s a record!)

Fave clues: [Fantasy football transaction] for TRADE, [“Swipe, insert or ___ to pay”] for TAP

New to me: Actress ELISE Neal

Universal Crossword Review by Matt F

Title: Second Grade
Constructor: Chris Gross
Editor: David Steinberg

Universal Solution 01.16.2024

Theme Synopsis:

Today’s theme is all about options… at the meat counter. We have three answers that end in a “grade” of beef, as spelled out by our reveal:

  • 55A – [“Why do we have a problem?” … and a hint to the ends of the starred clues’ answers] = WHAT’S YOUR BEEF

And the theme answers are:

  • 20A – [1982 film for which Meryl Streep won Best Actress] = SOPHIE’S CHOICE
  • 28A – [Award whose first winners included Scattergories and Taboo] = MENSA SELECT
  • 45A – [It includes free two-day shipping on eligible items] = AMAZON PRIME

Overall Impressions:

Solid theme set today! 13-letter revealers can be tough since they force you to start the theme in the 4th row, which squishes everything together. Fortunately, Chris made this work for our benefit and included some fun words in the surrounding fill. Great stuff all around.

Thanks for the puzzle, Chris!

Kevin Curry’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

I thought I knew what was going on and I was wrong. Let’s look at the theme answers:

Los Angeles Times, January 16, 2024, Kevin Curry, solution grid

  • 18a [South American home of many pink dolphins] is the AMAZON RIVER.
  • 24a [Scientific studies of pooled data] are METAANALYSES.
  • 40a [Diner dessert topped with a scoop] is PIE A LA MODE.
  • 52a [Bowlful of letter-shaped pasta] is ALPHABET SOUP.

When I got the second I thought it was some kind of letter progression – AM, AN, etc. then I had two AL words and that didn’t work. And then I found the revealer. 63a [New venture that may collaborate with Y Combinator, and what 18-, 24-, 40, and 52-Across each literally has?] is TECH STARTUP. This was more of a “duh” moment than an “aha!” and that’s my own fault. It’s a good solid Tuesday theme.

A few other things:

  • 3d [End a project due to lack of funding, say] is PULL THE PIN. I am of course more familiar with PULL THE PLUG (I’m a hospice doc, and we don’t say that. Ever. Other people do)
  • We have SHAHS and SIAM for an old-timey geography vibe.

Adding this a day late and a dollar short. What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there are pink dolphins.

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11 Responses to Tuesday, January 16, 2024

  1. Katie says:

    NYT: Oh dear! I thought this was great. Nice change-up, for me.

    Somehow, I got the classic crosswordese “ONE-L” (reveal) very quickly. (Somehow. Was that pure luck? Or by design?) Then, cleaned up an early mistake, and there was a tiny bit of “Sudoku” in the rest, knowing things had to have exactly one L. Which, btw, seems very impressive to be, too, as a constructing challenge.

    But I’m only judging on fun. That was fun, for me! (Oh dear! First puzzle for this constructor, too, apparently?)

    That said, I also loved Amy’s comment: “Marshal with one L”. (Yes – confirmed on Wordplay, I see…)

    • JohnH says:

      I had no idea how to rate this puzzle. Stars here are all over the map, split evenly between positives and negatives, and on balance just slightly negative. Comments are rare and wildly positive. Amy gave it her rare 2 stars, darn near a record low. I can sympathize with all of these.

      It’s hard not to admire the sheer construction, with fewer forced entries than I expected in light of the theme. But I wouldn’t swear I enjoyed it, even with the mild draw of seeing how the setter would pull it off. There was certainly no surprise in discovery. The revealer popped out at me at a glance, itself both a gimme and crosswordese. A number of others are standard fill, too. Not a whole lot of fun. Oh, well. I like Amy’s “uneventful,” but in the end I found the admiration hard to deny and rated it 4 stars.

    • Lois says:

      I loved the NYT puzzle also. It was filled with clues that felt fresh to me (I was slow to understand the best one, BOOTLEGS), and it was nice and easy for Tuesday. Cute story about the spelling of “Marshal,” also–although I had to find out that story from Amy. (I haven’t looked at Wordplay yet.) Perhaps there is a 2-N puzzle in store from Mr. Hermann. Unlike someone else here, I loved Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword. I didn’t have to look anything up (maybe an unfair criterion for a positive response from me), with the help of the crosses. I rarely can tackle a Tuesday New Yorker crossword. Maybe the breeziness is a ding for others.

  2. Pamela+Kelly says:

    I loved it! Well done!

  3. pannonica says:

    NYT: I circled all the Ls to see if they might have formed an interesting pattern based on the constraints. Answer: not really.

    • JohnH says:

      Well, brought out your inner artist. (I wasn’t expecting a pattern.) But funny!

      Now I can get back to hating TNY, although I enjoyed seeing Lydia Davis and Stan Brakhage. (I peeked at the first paragraph of her translation of Proust in a bookstore, and it brought tears to my eyes. In collage, I used to call him Stan Brackish.) The avant-garde at last amid meme, TV, and lousy music trivia.

  4. Matt J. says:

    Loved your son’s questions, btw.

  5. David L says:

    NYT: My only hold-up was BOOKINGS for BOOTLEGS, but I figured that out when the crosses didn’t work. The revealer was an “oh yeah, okay, how ’bout that” moment, but it didn’t cause me to like the puzzle any better.

    TNY: I struggled with this one. I can never remember TAMARI, a word I know only from crosswords and which never sticks in my head for some reason. Plus AGNESB and ATRI. I remembered STAN Brahkage from somewhere. About the same as yesterday’s for me.

    • DougC says:

      Hand up for BOOKINGS before BOOTLEGS. After fixing that, I thought it was the best clue of the puzzle!

      I’m not really a fan these construction feats that add nothing to the solver’s experience, but I still thought this was a better-than-average Tuesday puzzle, and an auspicious debut. Nice work, Mr. Hermann!

    • Martin says:

      I always have a bottle of tamari on hand in case a guest has celiac disease. Soy sauce is made from a mixture of soy and wheat, but tamari is made solely with soybeans. It’s a snap to prepare gluten-free Asian dishes with it, and practically impossible without.

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