Max Lauring & Benjamin Lauring’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme revealer is 48a. [Like a centaur or faun … or a hint to the answer to each of this puzzle’s starred clues], PART ANIMAL. The starred answers are RAT-TAIL, PIGEON TOES, PIGGYBACK, SNAKE EYES, DOG-EARS, HAREBRAIN, and BEE’S KNEES. The animal names are always at the beginning of the term, but there’s some variation in closed-up single word, two-word term, or possessive. The dictionary I’m checking also has only harebrainED and pigeon-toeD, and not the forms in the grid.
Four more things:
- 23a. [Like a G.I. cleaning up after a meal, maybe], ON KP. Didn’t we already establish that the military generally has civilians doing mess work rather than assigning kitchen patrol to GIs?
- 30a. [Nobel laureate Wiesel], ELIE. In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein tales, Wiesel has also been reported to have behaved horribly towards a young woman. In this instance, the first report was not swiftly followed by a barrage of others, but I do indeed tend to believe a woman who reports an assault or harassment.
- 42d. [Layered Austrian pastry], STRUDEL. Okay, that does it. I’m going to have some almond M&Ms now.
- 12a. [Polite plea to a parent], “COULD I?” I feel like “May I?” is more polite. “Could I” can sound like whining rather than requesting.
If I might extend some professional advice to the young Lauring brothers, it would be this: Consider a theme with maybe four entries rather than eight of them (and with lots of interlock), and strive for the cleanest possible fill. A number of entries here are on the tough side for a newbie Monday solver: TSE (scowling at that [When doubled, an African fly] clue, too—since when do we put just half of a word in the grid?), UTE, -INE and -EAN, ELOI, OLIO, and ERG.
3.25 stars from me.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “In the Dumps” — Jim’s review
Theme: Things that are BLUE [Navy, e.g., or what the starred answers can be, in various ways].
- 18a [*Wrangler product] DENIM JEANS. Color.
- 27a [*Part of a racy routine] DIRTY JOKE. Synonym for risqué.
- 47a [*Morose fellow] GLOOMY GUS. Synonym for sad.
- 60a [*State with the largest economy in America] CALIFORNIA. I…have never heard this.
Fine entries, but I have no idea how CALIFORNIA is BLUE. *checks internet* Ah, apparently it’s a Roy Orbison song of 1989…which I have never heard, nor heard of, despite spending most of my life in that great state. *listens to song* Now I know why. It’s not one of his better ones despite having been co-written by himself, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty — that’s three of the four Traveling Wilburys! The song made it to #51 on the Billboard Country Music Charts, but hey, look! It made it to #24 in the Flemish region of Belgium!
So…that’s a really odd choice for a theme entry. Not only is it an obscure song, but it doesn’t use BLUE in a way that’s different from the other theme entries. Actually, I don’t know how it uses BLUE, but the video has lots shots of BLUE skies and water, although poor Roy himself seems pretty BLUE throughout.
If I’m missing something and this entry is not referring to the song, please let me know. But I can see no other way that CALIFORNIA is BLUE, especially since it’s the “golden” state.
Edited to add: I missed the political dimension to this. CALIFORNIA is considered a democratically BLUE state. Although this definition originated with respect to color, it has taken on its own meaning. This erases my doubts about this entry and improves the theme mightily. I’m sorry to have missed it.
Moving on. I’m loving the fill in this one: DATA BREACH, GARAGE SALE, AREA CODE, EXORCISM, ETERNAL, AUCTION, NEUTRON, UKULELE. Fantastic stuff! Having only four shortish theme entries (and a four-letter revealer) allows Zhouqin to really let loose with the fun fill. What a pleasure it was to find all these.
A few minuses in IS TO, ME DO, and ARNO, but these are minor.
There are, however, some mighty fine clues to go along with the sparkly fill, which is somewhat unusual on a straight-over-the-plate Monday:
- 52a [It’s always free of charge]. NEUTRON. Favorite clue in the grid, right there.
- 6d [It might follow 1]. AREA CODE.
- 27d [Letter opener?]. DEAR.
- 39d [It deals with personal demons]. EXORCISM.
- 42d [Event with lots to offer]. AUCTION.
- And lastly, 11d [First queen of Great Britain]. ANNE. I always like a good bit of history. Queen ANNE became Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1702. In 1707, England and Scotland were united to become Great Britain. She then became known as Queen of Great Britain and Ireland until her death in 1714.
Despite one quizzical theme entry, this was a really fun grid from one of our most reliable constructors.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — Laura’s write-up
Solve and blog with my morning coffee? Why, I SURE CAN [12d: “Allow me”]! Went through this one in kind of an ERRATIC [20a: All over the place] reverse-Z-formation — started with MANTIS [8a: Prayer in the woods], got the NE downs for the end of RED WHITE AND BLUE [17a: 100% American], which sent me back over to the NW, then slid on down to the SE via READ ‘EM AND WEEP [15d: Phrase said when revealing one’s hand], which might upset one’s interlocutor, leading to the response NO YOU CALM DOWN [34a: “I’m not the one freaking out here!”]. This worked well, and I decided to TRUST THE PROCESS [54a: Have unbending faith in a system], and finished up fairly quickly, despite not quite parsing DO UP [48a: Prepare for, as an event] — I kept seeing DOUP, pronounced doop. No WORSER [57a: More bad, jocularly] for wear. Three proper names:
- Although when I want to ask Jeeves something these days, I think of Stephen Fry, [14a: Arthur who played Jeeves in movies]: TREACHER was famous back in the 1930s through 1950s. You may also remember him from such fast-food ventures as Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips.
- [2d: Grammy-winning R &B album of 1987]: ARETHA. It may have won a Grammy in 1987, but the album, notable for her duet with the late lamented George Michael, was released in 1986.
- TARAN [47d: “SNL” alum Killam] played George III in Hamilton for a few months earlier this year. Don’t know if he’ll be back.
Brian Thomas’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
While working the puzzle, I thought the theme was just “phrases with the initials G.P.” Turns out to be “phrases whose first word starts with GR and second word starts with PA, as justified by GRANDPA/GR AND PA, 39a. [Pop’s pop … or, divided into three parts, what the answers to starred clues have in common]. Themers are GRADUATION PARTY, GRAPH PAPER, GRASS PATCH (which feels rather arbitrary to me), and GREENER PASTURES.
Four more things:
- Regarding GRAPH PAPER, did you know that they sell graph paper 4″x6″ index cards? I use them for reworking corners of crossword grids by hand.
- 46d. [Time-release med], CAPSULE. This is wrong three ways over. First of all, a capsule isn’t a medication, it’s a format in which a medication can be delivered. Second, a great many capsules are not time-release—I’ve even got some acetaminophen capsules that promise quick release. Third, there are many extended-release medications in tablet form.
- LOOSE END and ZOOT SUIT are my favorite entries here. I know that ZOOT SUITS are approximately 75 years old, but I wish they’d come back into style.
- 57a. [Many a freshman], TEEN. Hey! This applies to most first-year students in both high school and college.
3.4 stars from me.