Dan Bischoff and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is “supervocalic” phrases—ones that include all five vowels and, in this set, also Y. A, E, I, O, and U are circled in order in the top and bottom rows, and 68a is ANDY, or “and Y.” There’s a public Facebook group devoted to sharing supervocalic phrases (Y optional) and writing supervocalic comments on them. Here’s Dan and Jeff’s set:
- 20a. [Gershwin composition in United Airlines ads], RHAPSODY IN BLUE.
- 39a. [Person about town], SOCIAL BUTTERFLY.
- 53a. [Ascending in economic class], UPWARDLY MOBILE.
The grid’s longer fill really sparkles—that VIBRANT MOLE RAT adds life to the Acrosses, while the six Downs in the 8- to 10-letter range are terrific.
My solving time wasn’t out of whack for a Monday puzzle, but instead of zipping through the answers on autopilot, I found a surprising number of clues that gave me pause. Heck, 1-Across wasn’t an auto-fill. [Meows : cats :: ___ : dogs] wanted to be BARKS, but that wouldn’t fit; and YIPS and YAPS aren’t generic enough. Really not pleased that ARFS was the answer. ARFS and meows are not on a par with one another; meow is a noun and a verb, while ARF is an exclamation.
Tougher fill for newer Monday solvers includes ASEA, plural NEONS (who uses that outside of crosswords?), BOBO, ONE LB (do you ever see the number spelled out when the unit of measure is abbreviated? nope), ALOU, singular PSYOP (checked two dictionaries, both showing this exclusively as plural psyops), AW GEE, ULAN (hey! guess what? Ulan Bator is an “archaic” name for Ulaanbaatar, and yet we keep getting ULAN in puzzles). Some clues are also tricky for a Monday, such as 54d. [What may help break the ice], PICK. If you’re using it on ice, it’s an ice pick, not a generic pick, no?
63a. [Walked like an expectant father, say], PACED. Meh. How many dads-to-be (or nongestational moms-to-be) are literally pacing back and forth in a waiting room rather than sitting or standing at the side of the woman in labor or getting a C-section, providing active support? [Walked like an expectant father in the 1960s, say] is more like it.
3.9 stars. Dinged for non-Monday-friendly material and some clumsy fill, but elevated by a nicely executed theme and lively long fill.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Map Mixups”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! I hope all is well to begin your week. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, is more fun with puns and anagrams, as each of the first four theme answers are alterations of common phrases/proper nouns that involve directional words, with the last word an anagram of that directional word.
- THE WILD WILD STEW (16A: [Very bizarre meat and potatoes dish?]) – From “The Wild Wild West.”
- THE MIDDLE SEAT (19A: [Choice between a window and an aisle?]) – From “The Middle East.”
- DEEP SHOUT (35A: [Bellow from a basso?]) – From “Deep South.”
- MAGNETIC THORN (56A: [Sticker that sticks to metal?]) – From “Magnetic North.”
Had a much tougher time with this puzzle than expected, especially with filling in some wrong answers that I was confident in at the start. Case in point was EPSON, as I put in “canon” once I had the last two letters put in (25D: [Big name in printers]). That really cost me a few minutes. Also put “tron” instead of TROY, as, for some reason, I thought Brad was in that futuristic remake (28A: [2004 Brad Pitt film]). Probably most intriguing part of the grid was the fill of the long down answers in the Northeast corner, especially with a car that I have a driven before, INTEGRA (10D: [Former Acura model]). Can’t lie that I ATE A TON yesterday during the weekend off from traveling (11D: [Pigged out]). Guess I need to have some assignments on the weekend to make sure I don’t sit in my place and eat everything in the fridge. Can’t remember the last time I came across AITS, not just in crosswords but in any setting (63A: [River isles]). Fun grid overall.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MALONE (14A: [Moses or Molly]) – One of the great players in NBA history, Moses MALONE, passed away two weeks ago at the age of 60. Malone, who was drafted out of high school by the Utah Stars of the ABA in 1974, led the NBA in rebounding six teams, including leading the league in rebounding for five straight years in the 1980s. In 1983, he won his only NBA championship, with the Philadelphia 76ers, as his prediction of “Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” almost came true. That prediction called for the 76ers to sweep each of their playoff series in four games, and the Sixers won 12 of their 13 games in the playoffs, including sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals. Malone won the NBA Finals MVP for his efforts against the Lakers.
Thank you so much for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “What, Me Worry?”
In this rerun from 12/5/06 (Onion A.V. Club), the theme answers are HIDDEN CAMERAS, BLACK HELICOPTER, TAPPED TELEPHONE, and NEW WORLD ORDER—things conspiracy theorists of the day fretted about. And today? There are unhidden surveillance cameras all over (some using facial recognition software to identify people captured on camera), and the NSA has collected cellphone metadata for years. Eek!
Here’s what I said about the puzzle in ’06: Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club puzzle is “What? Me Worry?” It pays homage to paranoid conspiracy theorists and the things they fret about. Major props for including FLUMMOX in the fill—a word I ought to use more often. (How do you flummox a lummox?) Never heard of [“Chunklet” or “Skyscraper”], which crossed a basketball player (is the repeating MVP Steve NASH or a different NASH?) and [Invader ___ (former Nickelodeon alien)]. I guessed at ZINE and Invader ZIM, and they panned out. In the opposite corner, I was temporarily flummoxed by a couple other crossings, having first opted to spell it PUH-LEEZE rather than PUH-LEASE. All right, how many people know Bob Marley’s wife’s name off the top of their head? At least I was semi-familiar with the STAX record label, so that corner came together, too. (Is this what it’s like to not own a TV and try to solve the NYT crossword every day?)
I Googled the ZINEs Chunklet and Skyscraper, and they both still have a presence, at least online. Whodathunk? The LIANE clue is outdated, though, as Ms. Hansen retired from NPR in 2011. Haven’t checked anything else.
No star rating since I haven’t solved it in the last nine years.
Lila Cherry (aka Rich Norris)’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme entries are phrases that end with THEATER-related words:
- 17a. [*Last leg of a journey], FINAL STAGE.
- 57a. [*Matching breakfast nook furniture], DINETTE SET.
- 11d. [*Thanksgiving night snacks], TURKEY WINGS. My Thanksgiving night has never, ever involved turkey wings. More often, pie. And sometimes more pie.
- 25d. [*Cold War barrier], IRON CURTAIN.
Toughest crossing for new solvers: 33a. [Great Plains natives], OTOES crossing 30d. [Legal thing], RES. Latin legalese and tribes that aren’t as well known as, say, Apache, Chippewa, and Cherokee? Not so Monday-easy. Honorable mention: MIRA Sorvino, who hasn’t had any high-profile roles in years, crossing Taylor DAYNE, who hasn’t had a top 40 song in over 20 years.
Three more things:
- 44a. [Stereotypically wealthy city area], UPTOWN. Uptown in a lot of cities is not wealthy. Uptown songs are rich, though. I like Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” and Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” Catchy!
- 12d. [Bay window], ORIEL. Ugh! Crosswordese! This word and OSIER (a willow of some sort) dwell in the same part of my mind, the one reserved for O*IE* crosswordese.
- 39d. [Decelerated], SLOWED UP. I had one parent who used “slow up” and one who used “slow down.” I am firmly in the “down” camp, at least until such time as people also “speed down.”
3.33 stars from me.
Theresa Schmidt’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Alternative Music”
As pannonica noted a few months ago when this byline appeared on a WSJ puzzle, this could be another Mike Shenk alias, or it’s a constructor who prefers to submit puzzles to the WSJ. I didn’t time myself on this one, but the solve proceeded smoothly and briskly, and the fill is as smooth as glass. The closest thing to crosswordese here is [Printer’s measures], EMS (which could have been clued as an ambulance crew were it not for ERS also being in this grid). EMS crosses three ordinary, familiar words, so no problem.
The “Alternative Music” theme contains four song titles with “Or” in the middle. I’d only heard of one of the four, but no matter—the song titles are all familiar phrases in their own right, so it was easy to assemble them. [1979 Blondie song] is the one I like, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. [1971 Grass Roots song] clues SOONER OR LATER, [1960 Elvis Presley song] is IT’S NOW OR NEVER, and [1929 Ruth Etting song] is LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME. Lovely Monday theme.
I gambled that I could work this puzzle in ink without having write-overs. I carelessly jotted COPILIT instead of COPILOT and that I-to-O was the only glitch.
4.5 stars from me. This is what an early-week puzzle should look like. Familiar vocab, clean clues, light theme that’s a bit more fun than dull.