Roger & Kathy Wienberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Wrapping Up” — Jim’s review
Theme: Words to follow “loose.”
- 17a [*Canadian symbol] MAPLE LEAF. Loose leaf.
- 38a [*”M*A*S*H” nickname] HOT LIPS. Loose lips.
- 11d [*Crowd disperser] WATER CANNON. Loose cannon.
- 24d [*Type of performance artist] QUICK CHANGE. Loose change.
- 59a [Fraying result, and what the second parts of the starred answers can be] LOOSE ENDS
Straightforward theme that works nicely. I wish WATER CANNON was clued with respect to a fireboat rather than riots and heavy-handed police action.
I would’ve thought this theme had been done many times before, but I only found one instance of it (Mon, Jan 2016, by Janice Luttrell). Both use MAPLE LEAF, but the rest of today’s entries are new, and in fact, we get four themers instead of just three.
And yet, the grid feels very clean and there’s still a lot of fun fill: EMIGRES, CULTURE, SCAMPER, O’CONNOR, EUROZONE, FOURSOME, AZALEAS, and RED-TAIL. Oh, and MASALA. Fun fact: Chicken tikka masala is one of the most popular dishes in the UK.
On the whole a great, clean start to the week.
Jennifer Nutt’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The name of the game is 59a. [Creature found “swimming” in 16-, 22-, 28-, 42- and 47-Across], KILLER WHALE, and each of those five answers contains a hidden ORCA. The themers are RADIATOR CAP; WINDSOR CASTLE; the [Quaint train amenity] I’m not familiar with, the PARLOR CAR; INDOOR CAT; and LIQUOR CABINET.
I find myself wishing that the 9-letter themers had been left out to give the grid more breathing room. There’s a fair amount of fill that I would not expect any beginning solver to know: AGUE, ILE-de-France, AGRA, OBI, SRO, maybe ERMINE, BIER, BLAT, and ALEE. Especially with AGRA and OBI in the 1-Across corner. These words are no impediment for seasoned solvers, but the typical non-crossworder wouldn’t necessarily have encountered these words much at all.
Fave fill: MOXIE, CODE WORDS.
3 stars from me, owing to the previously spotlighted fill issues.
Frank Virzi’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The revealer LONG GONE is clued as 58a. [Extinct since way back when … and, in a way, what each set of circles represents], and the word GONE is split in two different ways in four themers. GOLD MINE and “GOOD DAY SUNSHINE” split it GO/NE, while the quaintly ancient GRAMOPHONE and GRINDSTONE go G/ONE. I don’t think there are any decent GON/E options that don’t start with GONE (you can keep your GONADAL FAILURE to yourself).
–0.1 stars for the AMPS UP/RIP UP crossing with two UPs. +0.2 stars for GALAPAGOS, “RED RED WINE,” and FIRST LOVE. –1.5 stars for fill like LCDS, ALIT, SERA, SSTS, REMOW (!!), N.LAT. (!!!!), STEP A (!!!!!!), VIS., EDT, ON RIO, BYPATH, H-TEST. This is a 74-word grid, more challenging to fill than it needs to be. Rejigger the grid design to make it a 78-worder, and you might well find it easier to eliminate the more problematic fill.
Taking the theme and fill into account, I settle at an assessment of 2.9 stars.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword—Laura’s write-up
Is this the first time AVOCADO TOAST [53a: Chic brunch order] has appeared in a grid? If Millennials are ON A TEAR [17a: Killing it] with their avocados and the like, they can go ahead [26d: And then some] BY HALF, because AVOCADO TOAST is delicious, especially drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with cracked black pepper. I CAN CONFIRM [45a: “That is correct”], having made some myself when I was wondering what all the fuss was about. Too bad “.oast” isn’t a top-level domain (for, say, hop-kiln companies?) because then there could be a hipster brunch place called “avoca.oast.”
There’s a check-letter triangle (a right triangle, even, with a [13d: Triangle part]: LEG) at the 21a/5d crossing, because I [44a: Took a header] FELL flat on my face trying to force ILIAC where [5d: Of an intestinal part]: ILEAL was meant to go. I hereby [52d: Seek forgiveness] ATONE for my error in presenting the grid as I solved it. What else? Not much made me say [6d: “Like I’m supposed to know that?”]: SEARCH ME, but I tend not to get [16a: Fit to be tied]: ENRAGED when I don’t know something. Wasn’t super-familiar with proper names BELTRE [8d: Adrián who is the all-time hits leader among Dominican-born players], LEANNE [29d: Fashion designer Marshall], or MANCUSO [64a: Bonanno family crime boss]. Liked the personal-finance-themed crossing of [30a: Loan type]: HOME EQUITY and [20d: Nest egg choice]: SIMPLE IRA — maybe with an ironic intersection with WELFARE STATE [19a: System that looks after its citizens]?. IRON BAR [62a: Cage component] reminded me of Richard Lovelace’s 1642 ODE [14d: Pablo Neruda’s “___ to a Large Tuna in the Market] “To Althea, from Prison” (“Stone walls do not a prison make,/ Nor iron bars a cage”). Overall, plenty of good stuff to please crossword ZEALOTS [37a: Intense ones].
I think you’re a little harsh on the NYT fill — I agree a lot of those words are frequently found in crosswords. And ALEE, OBI, SRO, all 100% are crosswordese. And BLAT is just, what?
But ERMINE? That’s not some super-obscure term. The Taj Mahal is a Wonder of the World; sure its location in AGRA shows up all the damn time in puzzles, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fact a NYT reader should know. Ditto BIER? Really, Amy? I mean, again not in everyday use but that’s not crossword obscurity. I put AGUE in the same category.
So I think for a Monday (for which you, I, and most of the readers of this blog aren’t the intended audience) the puzzle was fine. Simple little theme (all entries except for PARLOR CAR being solid and straightforward), OK fill.
What do you guys have against PARLOR_CAR? Again, I get the strong feeling that if you don’t know the answer, it shouldn’t be in the puzzle. You guys can deny that, but it sure looks that way.
I think Monday puzzles should be filled with crosswordese, so the novice will begin to get an idea of what to expect. Think of it as a cruciverbalist’s vocabulary list. It’s in the more difficult puzzles that crosswordese should be shunned, because some of us have gotten beyond that.
I suppose this all depends on what one thinks a Monday puzzle should strive for. To me, it has to be honest and straight forward about what the game is all about and, like it or not, that means learning crosswordese. It must be playful enough to attract new adherents, perhaps with word play or easy-to-spot, entertaining themes. Overall, it must present a bit of a challenge, for fear it fall into the TV Guide category of puzzles.
Could it be a general disdain for easy puzzles that creates this continual negative criticism? It is what it is. Why bother looking for every nit, obscurity and perceived offensive entry? It distracts from the overall entertainment value that is in every NYT puzzle, which is the main reason it’s held in such high regard and why we on this blog solve them with regularity.
Say what you will, they still remain a cut above the rest. That’s not to claim they’re beyond criticism, for they do make some blunders, but they deserve more praise than I see within this blog.
AMY: How you could you NOT be familiar with INDOOR_CAT or LIQUOR_CABINET? And (from yesterday) PANTIES, for gosh sake! Now you proclaim that men should not be allowed to use that word. How the devil do you make PANTIES out to be “creepy”, except in your own mind? To me it sounds more silly than creepy. Unless you mean creepy in the sense that they tend to creep up. Nah, that can’t be right…can it?
I believe that you may be parsing this sentence erroneously:
“The themers are RADIATOR CAP; WINDSOR CASTLE; the [Quaint train amenity] I’m not familiar with, the PARLOR CAR; INDOOR CAT; and LIQUOR CABINET.”
The phrase “the [Quaint train amenity] I’m not familiar with” modifies only PARLOR CAR, as indicated by the semicolons separating the sentence’s items. The careful reader may assume both that Amy is familiar with INDOOR CATs and LIQUOR CABINETs, and that they are not “quaint train amenities,” delightful as that may be to imagine.
For your LAT challenge: Venice trip highlight? GONDOLA RIDE…. I was lucky enough to experience this by moonlight and the early morning aromas from the bakeries added to the pleasure! (Not to mention a charming escort…)
I can’t my get head around “and then some” = BYHALF in the BEQ. I always think of that phrase in a negative sense — he doesn’t do things by half — so I can’t imagine how I might use in a positive way. She aced her assignment, and then some; she aced her assignment, by half???
It’s certainly used in the sense of “and then some to excess” — i.e. “too ___ by half”:
These brunch chefs with their avocado toast are too clever by half.
Thanks, that’s closer — although personally I wouldn’t say “too clever, and then some” — the ‘too’ seems out of place. But maybe that’s just me.