The Gift That Keeps Giving

American- or British-style, crosswords serve up lessons

Published December 3, 2023

Ho ho ho! Happy December everyone! The weather is cool, but the puzzles are hot off the presses. Let’s jump right in and look at a week of wordplay. 

Clues You Can Use

Monday, Nov. 27 (, constructed by Brendan Emmett Quigley)

“A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays'” rap group = DE LA

De La Soul (or De La for short) is a hip-hop trio from Long Island, made up of high school friends Posdnuos, Trugoy the Dove, and Maseo (those weren’t the names in their yearbooks). The group’s 1989 debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, included their only R&B #1 hit, “Me Myself and I,” as well as “The Magic Number,” by far the greatest song to ever sample Schoolhouse Rock. Named the 103rd greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone in 2022, it was added to the National Recording Registry in 2011. This clue’s roller-skating jam comes from De La’s 1991 sophomore album, De La Soul Is Dead… which didn’t stop them from putting out seven more studio albums, and winning a Grammy with Gorillaz for “Feel Good Inc.” David “Trugoy” Jolicoeur died this February, but De La Soul’s cultural impact still reverberates.

Tuesday, Nov. 28 (New York Times, constructed by Gia Bosko)

Matthew ___ of “The Americans” = RHYS

Born in Cardiff in 1974, Matthew Rhys has done an incredible job playing American characters despite having a very heavy Welsh accent. His first big break was in 2006, playing Kevin Walker on the ABC drama series Brothers & Sisters. Starting in 2013, Rhys landed his most famous role, playing KGB officer-turned-spy Philip Jennings in FX’s The Americans. His marriage to Keri Russell on the show was fake, but in real life they wedded in 2021. Rhys also played a reporter in the 2019 Mr. Rogers biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and has recently played Perry Mason in HBO’s reboot. A very charismatic guy, it would not shock me to know he is one of your parents’ favorite actors.

Tuesday, Nov. 28 (Vox, constructed by Juliana Tringali Golden)

Something to do on Giving Tuesday = (multiple answers) DONATE, FUNDRAISE, VOLUNTEER, SHARE

It’s always nice to see a puzzle about a worthy cause. Held the Tuesday after Thanksgiving – i.e., the day after Cyber Monday – Giving Tuesday encourages people to help out charities and organizations. The event was first organized by Henry Timms at the 92nd Street Y in New York, and has seen billions in donations to various causes. Vox recently covered the history of Giving Tuesday – and ran the puzzle, likely unrelatedly. Read that if you like, and donate a dollar somewhere to make an impact in your neighborhood.

Tales from the Cryptic

While the American crossword keeps me entertained every day, there’s a bit of cryptic crossword news around the world. Some highlights:

Adya Singh won the Extra C Cryptic Crossword Contest held in New Delhi. The student contest features cryptic clues you might see in any cryptic crossword. Don’t know where school-age crossword contests were when I was kid, but congrats to her! Also shout-out to constructor extraordinaire and friend Erik Agard, who is described as “A probable Champion” on the website for the contest.

As the holidays begin, we remember Shane MacGowan, frontman of the Irish band The Pogues, who died this week at age 65. It’ll be a somber time when you hear “Fairytale of New York” this December. His widow Victoria Clarke revealed this week that he loved solving The Telegraph’s cryptic puzzle, often thinking “there’s people out there who would be horrified if they could see you doing the Telegraph crossword.” (We still think it’s punk.)

Official video for Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl

And finally, an opinion article from The Spectator bore the incredible headline, “Cryptic crosswords are hard – but so is life.” Hard to beat that as a crossword truth.

Hope your December is rocking – around the Christmas tree or otherwise – and hope to see you next week after another great slate of puzzles. Cheers!

Chris King is a longtime crossword commentator, and the author of five published puzzle books. His column appears on Questionist every Sunday.