Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Jonesin' 4:37 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (Jenni)  


NYT 3:01 (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal untimed (Matt F) 


USA Today 2:49 (Sophia) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


WSJ 4:30 (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “How to Succeed” — you know what they say. – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 1/23/24

Jonesin’ solution 1/23/24

Hello lovelies! This week Matt gives us some advice on how to be successful. Let’s see what the starred entries show us:

  • 17a. [*Showroom sale item] FLOOR SAMPLE
  • 21a. [*”You’ll do great!”] LOTSA LUCK
  • 41a. [*”All we need,” per a 1988 Guns N’ Roses ballad] A LITTLE PATIENCE
  • 60a. [*Screen protector of sorts?] PHONE CASE
  • 66a. [Conclusion leading to perseverance, or a hint to the last words of the starred answers?] TRY TRY AGAIN

Per the revealer, the last word of the starred entries is something that can be tried: try a SAMPLE, try someone’s LUCK or PATIENCE, try a CASE. The theme refers to the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Of course, we could add to that the part often attributed to W.C. Fields, “Then quit. There’s no point being a fool about it.”

New Zealand flag

New Zealand flag

Other things:

  • 46a. [One of four on the New Zealand flag] STAR. My son (the one featured in last week’s writeup) is into flags at the moment, so I had to include this. New Zealand’s flag is pictured here, with the Union Jack in the upper left corner and four stars on the right on a blue background.
  • 5d. [Rapper/actor ___ Def, a.k.a. Yasiin Bey] MOS. He announced his legal name change to Yasiin Bey in 2011 to honor his conversion to Islam in his teens, and retired his Mos Def name at that time.
  • 24a. [Actress Taylor-Joy of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”] ANYA. Taylor voiced Princess Peach in the 2023 movie, which was sooo much better than the original 1993 “Super Mario Bros.” film.

Until next week!

Kareem Ayas’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Moveable Feast”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases that consist of a food word and a fight word. The revealer is FOOD FIGHT (38a, [What could cause a mess in a mess, and a hint to 18-, 24-, 57- and 63-Across]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Moveable Feast” · Kareem Ayas · Tue., 1.23.24

  • 18a. [Awkwardly tiny house, slangily] CRACKERBOX.
  • 24a. [Alternative to a BLT] TURKEY CLUB.
  • 57a. [Mix up in the kitchen?] CAKE BATTER.
  • 63a. [It might be spiked in a school gym] FRUIT PUNCH.

Nice theme. I especially like the consistency with the second words, assuming you interpret them all as verbs.

I never heard of it, but apparently Foodfight! was an animated film that came out (direct to video) in 2012 featuring the voices of Charlie Sheen, Eva Longoria, Christopher Lloyd, and others. It’s notable because it’s been described as the worst animated film ever made.

Of course, there’s always the classic Animal House scene:

Fill highlights don’t include anything longer than 7 letters, but GAZETTE, ASEXUAL, ANXIETY, and CAT TREE are nice. Most of the fill is trouble-free, but I did raise an eyebrow at 5d’s SFC [Army’s equivalent of Navy’s CPO] (Sergeant First-Class, I’m guessing?). This could’ve easily been something more universally-recognizable like TLC or BBC with a simple change to 6d.

Clues of note:

  • 22a. [“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” writer Anita]. LOOS. How many of us could get this without all the crossings? Tough clue for a Tuesday, especially when the entry is a regular English-language (if slangy) word.
  • 71a. [Blow up on X, say]. TREND. Stop trying to make X happen. It’s not going to happen.
  • 12d. [Designs on a leather book cover]. TOOLING. I also raised my eyebrow at this one, but I’m happy to learn something new. Here are instructions on how to bind a book with tooled leather.
  • 13d. [Breeder of butterflies, perhaps]. ANXIETY. Meh. A bit too cute of a clue, IMO.

Nice puzzle. 3.5 stars.

Patrick Maher’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 1/23/24 – no. 0123

I note that of these first 23 days in January, the NYT has had just three puzzles co-constructed by women and 22 puzzles (co-)constructed by men. Do better!

The theme revealer is ELEMENTS OF STYLE, and the themers are all a chemical element + apparel item. You’re really chic with an OXYGEN MASK, LEAD APRON, GOLD GLOVE, and TINFOIL HAT. I see at Wordplay that the debut constructor originally had an ALUMINUM FOIL HAT, and I agree with him that “tinfoil” hasn’t been a thing in ages. (Pet PEEVE!) Slight inelegance in that TIN is the element, not TINFOIL.

Now, seeing APSE at 1-Across, even with the clever clue [A wing for a prayer], triggered my crosswordese Spidey-sense. Indeed, there were other entries that felt out of place in a Tuesday NYT, such as DAH, AMO, and AOKI.

40d. [Poe poem with the line “How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle”], THE BELLS. I blithely plunked in THE RAVEN despite the tinkling, and I realize I’ve never read “The Bells.” Good gravy, has it got a lot of exclamation points! Give it a read if you haven’t experienced it before. It’s a trip.

3.25 stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 659), “Pardon the Interruption”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 660: “Pardon the Interruption”

Good day, everybody! I hope all is well with you and that you had a great weekend last week. 

Today’s puzzle is not just a puzzle’ it’s the puzzle! In it, phrases and proper nouns are turned into puns when adding the word “the” in between the first and second word.  

    • PUNK THE ROCK (17A: [Play a devious joke on WWE star Dwayne Johnson?]) – Punk rock
    • PLAY THE DEAD (28A: [What a Jerry Garcia fan will do during a DJ-ing gig?]) – Play dead
    • TRASH THE CAN (46A: [Bad-mouth someone’s bathroom?]) – Trash can
    • TEST THE TUBE (62A: [Evaluate a London Underground commute?]) – Test tube

How cute was it to have a bird, SERIN (66A: [Canary’s kin]), perched right on top of NEST (69A: [Hatchling’s home])? I’ll admit that I’ve only come across “serin” in a prior crossword, which will make a couple of birders/crossword fans I know not too happy! I know GEENA has had had a number of famous roles, but I’ll always think of her as Dottie from A League of Their Own more than anything (15A: [“Commander in Chief” actress Davis]). Had no idea she and Jeff Goldblum, who both starred in The Fly, were married until now! The paralleling entries of EL DORADO (20A: [Legendary city of gold]) and ART MAJOR (56A: [Student who frequents the Met Museum, say]) were a highlight, and the latter was needed to figure out JURE (58A: [De ___ (by law]).  

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BAAS (53D: [Calls made to 53-Across]) – Former NFL offensive lineman David Baas played nine seasons in the league, from 2005 – 2013. After a standout college career at the University of Michigan, where he won the Rimington Award as the nation’s best center in 20224, Baas was selected in the second round by the San Francisco 49ers on the 2005 NFL Draft. Baas crowning achievement came in 2011, in his first year with the New York Giants, as he was the starting center on the Giants team that won Super Bowl XLVI against the New England Patriots.

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

Take care!


Noelle Grisky’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

Solid Tuesday-appropriate theme. The theme answers are embedded in other entries and I liked the set of “straight” answers as well. As always, the circles are played by orange letters.

Los Angeles Times, January 23, 2024, Noelle Griskey, solution grid

      • 18a [Wall Street fluctuation] is a MARKET SWING.
      • 23a [Unpaved side of the road] is a SOFT SHOULDER.
      • 49a [Boundary of a black hole] is the EVENT HORIZON.
      • 56a [Overly cute “So cute!”] is TOTES ADORBS which of course always makes me think of this.

The revealer is in the center of the grid. 37a [Take a different route, and a hint to the circled letters] is CHANGE DIRECTION. In order from the top we have WEST, SOUTH, NORTH, EAST. Nice!

A few other things:

      • Mike and IKE candy is made by JustBorn who also bring you Peeps. I drive by their plant fairly often and they have RECEIVING and MARSHMALLOW RECEIVING which never fails to make me giggle.
      • 3d [Post-divorce party] confused me until had enough crossings to see EXWIFE. Oh. Not a celebration, then.
      • I trace the decline of civilization to the moment when “hors d’ouvres” became APPS. Harumph.
      • We have INA Garten and IGA Swiatek in the same puzzle.
      • Crosswordese alert: RIA. Rially?

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ETNA is one of four active volcanoes in Italy. The other three are Vesuvius, Vulcano, and Stromboli, which tends to spew hot cheese and tomato sauce.

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up

New Yorker • 1/23/24 • Tue • Berry • solution • 20240123

No way is this a ‘moderately challenging’ crossword. This was a very smooth, quite easy crossword. I oozed through the grid in practically one goo go. Seriously, it practically filled itself in.

      • 18a [Regrettably] ALAS. As in, “ALAS, this puzzle was too easy.”
      • 20a [Croupier’s tool] RAKE. Just the way I swept through the grid here.
      • 24a [Distraction from unpleasant realities] ESCAPE. As in, “this crossword failed to provide adequate escape from the hell that is current politics.”
      • 41a [City destroyed in the book of Joshua] JERICHO. Didn’t the walls come tumbling down? Much as the this grid practically collapsed during my solve.
      • 43a [On the double] ASAP. Yup.
      • 3d [Up to the task] ABLE. I don’t for a moment believe my very quick handling of this crossword says anything about me being uniquely ABLE.
      • 5d [Gradual slide into disorder] ENTROPY. None of that going on in this well-constructed and flowing grid.
      • 12d [Something mashed in a jam?] BRAKE PEDAL. Solving this puzzle was like zooming down an incline without a functioning one.
      • 25d [Bit of raw hide in “Rawhide,” maybe] SADDLE SORE, which comes from sitting too long in one place, unlike what happened here. Have I mentioned that the solve was brief?
      • 33d [Wet bar?] BATH SOAP. Sometimes slippery-smooth, just like—well, I’m sure you know.
      • 41d [Soured by disappointment, perhaps] JADED. Too late.

Emma Lawson’s USA Today Crossword, “Chess Openings” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Jared Goudsmit
Theme: Each theme phrase begins with the name of a chess piece

USA Today, 01 23 2024, “Chess Openings”

      • 19a [The world’s longest venomous snake] – KING COBRA
      • 36a [Whitney Houston hit featured in “The Bodyguard”] – QUEEN OF THE NIGHT
      • 55a [Places to trade jewelry for fast cash] – PAWN SHOPS

Cute theme, and one that’s easy enough to figure out from the title. Even knowing what was going on, I spent a long time trying to figure out both how to fit “I will always love you” into the Whitney Houston answer, as well as what on earth it had to do with chess. Whoops! Maybe I should actually watch The Bodyguard someday, since QUEEN OF THE NIGHT was new to me.

Fave fill: LUPITA Nyong’o, CHILI DOG, RED EYES

Fave clues: [Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, e.g] for TWINS, [Savai’i’s country] for SAMOA (yes, I only know this from Survivor)

New to me: [“___ Wolf and Cub” (manga series)] for LONE, tennis player IGA Swiatek.

Universal Crossword Review by Matt F

Title: Two for Two
Constructor: Hoang-Kim Vu
Editor: David Steinberg

Universal Solution 01.23.2024

Theme Synopsis:

Today’s theme was silly and a bit tricky by Tuesday Universal standards (in my estimation), but when the revealer hit I was left with a nice “aha” moment. Let’s try to make sense of this wackiness, starting with the revealer:

  • 550A – [What a bilingual speaker may do in different situations … or a three-part theme hint] = CODE SWITCH

Code switching is the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation. So how does that help us with today’s theme? Notice this is a three-part hint. If you reparse the revealer into three pieces, and think about why the title says “two for two,” you can break it down like this:


The two-letter strings, CO and DE, are trading places in subsequent theme answers, to yield wacky results:

  • 15A – [Acting, producing and activism, for a certain Laura?] = DERN FIELDS (CORN FIELDS)
  • 20A – [Some spouses making a big purchase?] = COSIGNING WOMEN (DESIGNING WOMEN)
  • 31A – [Spot with extra wall space for diplomas, pictures and a flat screen?] = LONG DE(LONG CON)
  • 43A – [Produce one lump for the mine cart?] = HAMMER OUT A COAL (HAMMER OUT A DEAL)

Overall Impressions:

This was one of those puzzles where theme answers weren’t making much sense until I finally uncovered the revealer. This provided a nice “aha” moment for me, and I enjoyed looking back to see how the mechanism played out. Plenty of delectable fill in here, too, with words like KABOOM and OH SORRY. Very clean overall, and I’d expect nothing less from this seasoned constructor.

Thanks for the puzzle, Kim!

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32 Responses to Tuesday, January 23, 2024

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I really like the concept of this puzzle- the combination of a chemical element and an item of clothing. My main issue in the execution is that the idea of style in clothing implies elegance- so GLOVE and HAT fit quite nicely, MASK is a bit of a stretch unless one is thining opera mask, but APRON is not usually considered stylish. I understand the choices are limited, but for me, it took away from the overall vibe. And I agree with Amy re the TINFOIL issue.
    Still, this went rather fast for me, more like a Monday.

  2. PJ says:

    NYT – TIN FOIL HAT has been around has been around a long time and is still used in my world as a derisive term for conspiracy theorists. I don’t recall ever hearing ALUMINUM FOIL HAT.

    • Gary R says:

      Googling “aluminum foil hat” basically just generates a bunch of hits for tinfoil hat.

    • JohnH says:

      I agree with PJ. Say, I’d swear it’s appeared in the recurring characters for Tom Tomorrow (This Modern World). As for “The Bells,” it was set to music by Phil Ochs, and his voice in singing it is terrific.

      For the WSJ, CAT TREE and NARCS ON were new to me, although I’ve been a cat person now and then, so their crossing with a name (ANA) bothered me, but it came down to “what else could it be?” I also hadn’t heard CRACKER BOX in the sense of housing. (And no, I didn’t know FOOT FIGHT as a lousy animation either, but it didn’t get in the way of the fill.)

    • DougC says:

      Another hand up for TIN FOIL HAT, which is a phrase deeply embedded in our linguistic culture, despite the fact that kitchen foil has been made of aluminum for many decades now (but is still sometimes called “tin foil”, especially by those of us of a certain age).

      The puzzle got off on the wrong foot for me, with a clue for APSE at 1A that struck me less as clever than as just plain wrong – an apse is a recess (from the inside) or a rounded protrusion (from the outside) and is in no way a “wing” of a building. In this case, “close enough for crosswords” did not work for me.

      But in spite of that initial misstep, Mr. Maher went on to win me over with his clever theme, which made me smile. And of that quartet of stylish pieces of apparel, TIN FOIL HAT was definitely the crowning glory (so to speak).

      Other than the unfortunate 1A, the clues were refreshingly clever. While the puzzle was on the easy side, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Gotta agree with you and the others who responded to you, PJ. TIN FOIL HAT is what’s in my lexicon and I’d most definitely look askance at ALUMINUM FOIL HAT. The NYT clearly hasn’t gotten the memo that expressions and culture that’s more than ten years old are frowned upon in CrossWorld.

      They also don’t seem to know that you don’t need two X chromosomes to construct a crossword puzzle. Have female constructors completely abandoned the Old Gray Lady? (Can I use “female” in this context without offending anyone? That’s a sincere question. This old lefty truly tries to tread lightly with gender-identifying language these days.)

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Oops … I just reread my post … I blew it with the “two X chromosomes” comment. Women/females/whatever word I’m supposed to use here have two X chromosomes. That should have read “you don’t need a Y chromosome to construct a crossword puzzle”. Duh!

  3. Me says:

    NYT: Just a few seconds off my Personal Best for Tuesday. This is the first NYT puzzle I remember where I knew all 5 theme answers immediately and wrote them in on the first pass. Usually I need crosses for most of them, even on Monday.

    TIL that the award’s official name is GOLD GLOVE. I always thought it was Golden Glove (which is listed on Wikipedia as another way people refer to the award, so “Golden” must be something I’ve heard and not something I made up). Can you tell I don’t follow baseball? ;)

    • Gary R says:

      There is an amateur boxing organization called “Golden Gloves,” so you may have heard references to that and conflated the two.

    • Dallas says:

      Same here; fast Tuesday, got the theme on the second answer, and also would’ve sworn it was the GOLDEN GLOVE award, but here we are :-) And TIN FOIL HAT reminds me of how we still “dial” a phone, despite no phone having any sort of dial for years…

  4. teevoz says:

    There’s a problem with the mobile version this morning – links are going to a 404 dead page unless you go in through Erin’s name( I think it was as the poster. Now I can’t find that place but links still not working normally.)

  5. David L says:

    TNY: I completely agree with pannonica’s assessment, which was more entertaining than the puzzle itself. Not remotely challenging, and a huge contrast to yesterday’s. I think I have said before that their challenge-o-meter is in dire need of calibration.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I’m more confused than ever by what TNY is doing with its daily puzzle difficulty. For me, it almost entirely comes down to the constructor name in the byline. I do generally really enjoy their puzzles, though a few of the constructors really frustrate me with what I see as an over-reliance on relatively recent pop-culture references and modern day lingo (I think you can probably guess who those constructors are). But I realize that that’s mostly just about my own personal wheelhouse.

      • JohnH says:

        Absolutely the constructor’s name, not the day. I’ve been saying that for a long time, even saying that it’s hardly edited, if at all, although the name of the puzzles editor appeared recently, so that person is real. So I guess just not very good.

        Maybe this once the name wasn’t enough either. Tuesday should be challenging but fair, and we can count on Patrick Berry for just that, just not this time. While it should have been harder, at least it was reasonably entertaining.

      • David L says:

        They should describe their puzzles as new-fangled or old-fangled, depending on the constructor. Perhaps SUPERTRAMP (today) is as unfamiliar to young solvers as NEONTREES (yesterday) was to me. Even so, new-fangled doesn’t cover Natan Last’s fondness for unfamiliar names from all corners of the globe.

    • Lois says:

      Luckily, the user ratings rewarded this highly enjoyable (for several of us) puzzle.

  6. Mike H says:

    TNY – I also found this easy. My advanced age means I’m familiar with older TV shows and movies, so that helped for a change.

    LAT – I considered EX-LIFE as being the name of a party that I wasn’t familiar with. :-)

  7. Susan says:

    FYI, Sam Corbin of the NYT Wordplay column is a woman, not a man, as referenced in Amy’s recap of the N. Y. Times puzzle: “I see at Wordplay that the debut constructor originally had an ALUMINUM FOIL HAT, and I agree with him that “tinfoil” hasn’t been a thing in ages.” Interesting, given that Amy’s first comments were about how few crosswords had been c0-constructed by women compared to men in January.

    • Gary R says:

      The constructor of today’s puzzle is Patrick Maher. I haven’t bothered to google it, but it seems likely Patrick is a he/him. Sam Corbin is, indeed, a woman, but I don’t think she showed up in today’s Wordplay column (maybe I missed it).

    • teevoz says:

      Susan, if you were addressing Amy, the “him” in her write up was referencing the constructor notes in Wordplay, written by Patrick Maher, so indeed him. The Wordplay column today was written by Caitlin Lovinger not Sam Corbin, both of whom are women.

    • Susan says:

      Thanks! I stand corrected!

  8. Jim Peredo says:

    TIN FOIL HAT is in the vernacular, where “aluminum foil hat” isn’t. That said, Weird Al’s hat was definitely aluminum in “Foil.”

  9. pannonica says:

    re: malleable metallic headgear

    I made an ngram.

  10. Papa John says:

    This conversation has been a running theme on this blog. Has anyone taken count of the number of submissions that are female and compare that to the number of male entrants? I believe there are many more from men than women. Maybe women just don’t want to create crossword puzzles.

  11. Sophomoric Old Guy says:

    The editors of the NYT shouldn’t care whether the puzzles are constructed or co-constructed by males or females. They should be selecting what they think and judge are the best puzzles submitted to represent the NYT at that time. Not including Will, I believe there are two men and two women on the editorial team.

    Idea for the NYT editors to eliminate anyone accusing them of bias. Employ a system of blind submissions. Just a thought. Let’s see if Amy lets this comment stay.

    • Papa John says:

      I recall some mention of Shortz editing and selecting puzzles without knowing the constructor’s name.

      • Sophomoric Old Guy says:

        No idea. But I don’t think so. There was time no more than 5 years ago when the editorial team rules changed and they were pushing for co-construction especially to get new constructors published. Also, pushing for constructors of underrepresented demographics (not males) to be published. The only way they could have done that was to know names.

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