Andrea Michaels’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme revealer is FIGHT CLUB, 62a. [1999 Brad Pitt movie hinted at by the beginnings of 17-, 21-, 39- and 52-Across], and those four phrases begin with words that double as things you might do in a physical fight:
- 17a. [End of a drinking hose], BITE VALVE. I have never heard of a BITE VALVE or a drinking hose. Is this a component of one of those Camelbak water carriers? (That’s what my husband suggested. He’s used a Camelbak; I never have.)
- 21a. [Get going, as an old motorcycle or a new company], KICK START.
- 39a. [Like some magazine perfume ads], SCRATCH AND SNIFF. Really? I thought all the scented magazine ads had those unfold-the-edge scent strips rather than scratch and sniff. Scratch and sniff would spew less stank on the rest of the magazine or mail.
- 52a. [Party vessel with a ladle], PUNCH BOWL. Aw, man. “Party vessel” has got me thinking of booze cruises.
So if you are fighting someone and you’re biting, kicking, scratching, and punching, this is not what’s considered a “clean” fight, but if you’re defending yourself against an attacker, you go right ahead and also gouge eyeballs, jam the throat, knee the groin, and slap as needed.
Really surprised to see some beginner-hostile fill in this Monday grid. Answers that might give a newbie pause include fragment OBLA; uncommon POULT; foreign ARTE, ANO-without-its-ñ, AMIE, FRAU, ET TU, and DIEM; Port St. LUCIE; wildly uncommon EOSIN (!!); AROAR; dated abbrevs PCB and BMOC; and wildly uncommon PLASM. If you were brand new to trying the NYT crossword and somebody told you “Start with the Monday puzzles, they’re really easy”—well, would you keep at it if you discovered the puzzle’s vocabulary included lots of stuff you don’t know?
Three more things:
- 10d. [Not just playing for fun], OUT TO WIN. The phrase isn’t striking my mind’s ear as super-familiar, but Googling it showed me that there’s a recent documentary by that name. Out to Win is about LGBT athletes, and that is a great title!
- 29d. [Uses a rotary phone], DIALS. I’m curious to know how many rotary phones are still in use. Certainly landline phones that are plugged into a jack, handset attached to the base via a spiral cord (vs. cordless, rechargeable phones), are no longer common, and nearly all of those are touchtone phones. I also wonder what the age cutoff is for using the word DIALS for entering a phone number in order to place a call. 45? 35? 30?
- 47a. [Tribal leaders], ELDERS. Probably also the moral leaders of a number of families, congregations, etc., not just “tribes.”
2.75 stars from me. BITE VALVE’s unfamiliarity and all the not-common-enough-for-Monday fill knocked this one down.
Celia Smith’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Share and Share Alike” — Jim’s review
Our theme is STOCKHOLDERS (52a, [Share owners, and, broadly, what the starred answers all are]). Each theme answer “holds stock” though in different senses of the word.
- 9a [*Card game with sets and sequences] RUMMY. I’ll admit I don’t know how “stock” relates to the card game. *Checking* Ah, I guess the stock is the pile of cards from which players draw. We normally call that the “deck.”
- 20a [*Place with a wide variety of goods for sale] GENERAL STORE. “Stock” as in products to be sold.
- 31a [*Cowhand’s workplace] CATTLE RANCH. “Stock” as in moo-cows.
- 44a [*Cold comfort?] CHICKEN SOUP. “Stock” as in soup base. Ever wonder what’s the difference between stock and broth? Wonder no longer.
- 65a [*Biathlon need] RIFLE. “Stock” as in the opposite end from the barrel.
That all works well enough. Simple, but effective enough for a Monday.
Not a lot of zing in the fill though, PEP TALKS notwithstanding. CATALAN is also good, but I always get held up when pluralizing Latin-based words like aurora because you never know if it will be modernized (AURORAS) or the original (AURORAE), as it is in this case.
NON-ACTOR is our last long Down, and I stared at _ONACTOR for tens of seconds at the very end of the solve trying to figure it out. The crossing (39a, [P.O. boxes have them]) wasn’t help me see NOS, so I had to run the alphabet. Finally finding the N wasn’t so much a-ha as meh.
One clue/entry combo made me raise an eyebrow: TORCHY (29d, [Like many Billie Holiday songs]). Is this a roll-your-own adjective or is it real? Online dictionaries are telling me it means “Of or relating to a torch song or torch singer.” Great. What’s a torch song or torch singer? “A sad or sentimental song, typically about unrequited love.” Okay, chalk that up to learning something new.
One of my favorite torch songs (even though I didn’t know it was a torch song) is “Stormy Weather.” Back when I was doing my field training (think boot camp but for officers, so…a little bit cushier than real boot camp), my two roommates and I, though we didn’t know each other beforehand, discovered that we all knew and liked this song. This was circa 1990, so it seemed an unlikely song for us to bond over. But many is the time we would belt out the chorus trying to de-stress after a day of getting yelled at. Good times.
Paul Coulter’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
I suspect that folks will either quite enjoy this puzzle or really dislike it. Each bit of theme fill joins with the next bit of theme fill to create a chain of compound words/phrases throughout the puzzle:
- 14a: FIRE [With 15-Across, station with a hook and ladder] – FIREHOUSE
- 15a: HOUSE [With 16-Across, indoor chores] – HOUSEWORK (I genuinely appreciated the non-gendered clue here.)
- 16a: WORK [With 28-Across, tireless sort] – WORKHORSE
- 28a: HORSE [With 31-Across, big biting insect] – HORSEFLY
- 31a: FLY [With 32-Across, sticky strip] – FLYPAPER
- 32a: PAPER [With 40-Across, bills to pay with] – PAPER MONEY (Is this a phrase that currently-living people regularly use?)
- 40a: MONEY [With 42-Across, financier] – MONEY MAN (Did you know that non-male folks can be financiers, too?)
- 42a: MAN [With 43-Across, strength needed for a team job] – MANPOWER (Similar snarky comment as above.)
- 43a: POWER [With 61-Across, turn off, as a computer] – POWER DOWN
- 61a: DOWN [With 62-Across, Australia] – DOWN UNDER
- 62a: UNDER [With 63-Across, attempt] – UNDERTAKE
- 63a: TAKE [With 14-Across, become ignited] – TAKE FIRE (I think this would have been better clued in terms of taking enemy fire – perhaps that was the constructor’s original bent here.)
This puzzle used 52 total squares for its theme entries, which is a bit higher than average for a 15×15 puzzle…and felt like way more than that while solving it. I would have had a much easier time with this puzzle if I’d solved all downs first to avoid the interdependent theme for as long as possible. I got the first few themers quickly, but then got to the odd cluing of [With 40-Across, bills to pay with] and decided to deal with the theme later.
I certainly award bonus points for having all the theme entries in symmetrical locations and for having relatively clean fill, given the constraints of all the theme entries, but it wasn’t a joyous solve and there was certainly some tough fill for a Monday puzzle: THRUM (I’ve heard of strum, but not thrum), ARAN, POESY, EROSE, DOYEN, RUHR and RUR, YSER. I did enjoy #RESISTER, DEAD SET, and MULAN, though!
In retrospect, I think a puzzle like this would have had more sparkle if the bits of theme fill changed meaning from one compound word/phrase to the next. For example, you could string together bits like WATER WELL BEING or WADING POOL TABLE, etc. A more dynamic theme set would make up for the grid being so immensely interconnected.
One more thing: Following up on my post from last week, Will Shortz recently alleged low submission rates by women as a (the?) cause for low rates of female NYT puzzle bylines. Even if we take him at his word (a big ask for me, but let’s go with it just for a moment), it still remains incumbent on all of us in CrossWorld to support and advocate for newer female/non-male constructors however we can. Let’s help get more non-male submissions into Will Shortz’s mailbox so that he has no choice but to publish many, many more non-male voices!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s themeless Monday crossword — Laura’s Review
- [29a: Event with a lot of flukes?]: SHORE DINNER. A shore dinner is to New England as a fish boil is to Wisconsin. It’s like a clambake with lobster, and sometimes the fluke referenced in the clue, which is a kind of flounder. They’re tasty, but best to wait until later in the summer when lobsters go down to less than $5/lb unless you want to [18a: Spend profligately]: SPLURGE.
[32a: Preparation location]: STAGING AREA, which is also a kind of [19d: Place for a transfer of goods]: LOADING DOCK
- [39a: Like a man’s man?]: GAY. If you haven’t gotten your copy of Queer Qrosswords yet, what are you waiting for? And why not donate to a woman-centered charity for Women of Letters, while you’re at it?
- [43d: Real jerk]: AHOLE. Generally someone with an enormous [30d: When it’s big, it could be a problem]: EGO.
- [52a: “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” singer]: Neil SEDAKA. It’s tough to overemphasize how influential he was on pop music during the Brill Building era of the late 1950s and early 1960s. He went out of style later in the 1960s, but had a resurgence in the 1970s when artists like Elton John and ABBA recorded his songs. [33d: Salty hello]: AHOY MATE to the Captain and Tennille.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Jenni’s write-up
I am really enjoying The New Yorker’s new puzzle feature. Who doesn’t want a good and chewy themeless on a Monday? It’s a great way to start the week! It doesn’t hurt that they’ve chosen some of my favorite constructors, including (of course) Patrick Berry. I found this one a bit easier than the first two. The west half fell very quickly, and then I found myself groping around in the center and east for a while.
Some things I noticed:
- I love the juxtaposition of 14a [Intermittent McDonald’s promo], DOLLAR MENU, right over 17a [How rare goods may be sold], AT A PREMIUM.
- When I saw 20a [Vendedor ambulante offering] I missed “vendedor” and thought “ambulante” would have something to do with “ambulance” (no, I don’t speak Spanish). Wrong. The answer is TAMALE. I looked again, extrapolated from French, and thought “walking seller?” Close. Wikipedia says it’s a hawker, and elaborates: “A hawker is a vendor of merchandise that can be easily transported; the term is roughly synonymous with peddler or costermonger. In most places where the term is used, a hawker sells inexpensive items, handicrafts or food items.” “Costermonger” is a word you don’t see every day.
- 24d [Joint proposal?] is an ESCAPE PLAN, the “joint” in question being the pokey, hoosegow, pen, clink, or cooler.
- 41d [Earthenware in country kitchens] is DELFT. I never really associated it with “country kitchens,” unless the country in question is Holland. My grandparents had Delft pieces and there was nothing country about their kitchen.
- 53a [Old-timey cry of disgust] is NERTS, which I always think of as frustration more than anything else. Or maybe anger – “NERTS to you.”
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that OKEFENOKEE means “trembling earth,” and that the GUILLOTINE started out as the “loiusette.” Wikipedia tells me that OKEFENOKEE is a “Native American word,” which is sort of like saying that “louisette” is a European word.
I leave you with the version of PAPER ROSES I remember. The version referenced in 26d was recorded by Anita Bryant, who is better known for orange juice and homophobia.