Hannah Slovut’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This theme takes us through the phases of life, if we are fortunate enough to get through the first five phases:
- 17a. [Holder of some precious memories], BABY ALBUM. I sucked at compiling printed-out photos of my kid.
- 22a. [Wunderkind], CHILD PRODIGY.
- 30a. [Fashion magazine spinoff], TEEN VOGUE. It’s online only, not print now, and it kicks ass. Yes, it has pop culture and fashion and makeup stories, but it also covers news/current events—today’s teens and young adults are not mindless, you know. Check it out: https://www.teenvogue.com/
- 41a. [Popular Cartoon Network programming block], ADULT SWIM.
- 47a. [Temporary mental lapse], SENIOR MOMENT.
- 59a. [Place where no one lives anymore], GHOST TOWN. *dead*
The theme entries progress from BABY through GHOST, using lively two-word phrases. Thumbs up.
Highlights in the fill: HOTFOOT IT, the ABBA/’N SYNC pop pairing, VERMONTER, PILE IT ON, and what I did today, SLEEPS IN.
There are some rough spots in the fill. In the top middle, there’s IPSO crossing two abbrevs, APB and LSU. (Anyone prefer PLED and partial “I AM A Rock” crossing LAB EMU DAM? I know a lot of folks are fervently anti-partials, but I say they have their place in easy puzzles.) BERM may or may not be hard for a Monday puzzle—I learned it as a kid, but from my mom rather than from school. NO TAX feels awkward to me. ULM is probably beyond Monday-easy. And while I had an AIWA boom box, brand names that vanished from the market can be hard fill.
Worst crosswordese: 21d. [Prince Valiant’s son], ARN. Tight spot in the grid, with theme entries in every other row and 6-letter answers separating them.
3.75 stars from me.
Edith Tremio’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sew What?” — Jim’s review
If you don’t recognize the byline that’s because it’s one of editor Mike Shenk’s rarely used pseudonyms. This one equates to “I’m the editor.” It also features the vowel pattern EIEIO which was thematic in a puzzle from sometime last year.
I was really enjoying this puzzle until I got to the last theme entry and then sussed out the theme. Each theme phrase ends with a word that has something to do with sewing.
- 16a [Old late-night broadcast] TEST PATTERN
- 27a [Targets in an alley] BOWLING PINS
- 42a [Seattle landmark] SPACE NEEDLE
- 57a [Message that includes the original message and all succeeding replies] EMAIL THREAD. This phrase doesn’t feel as in-the-language as the others, and the clue is cumbersome.
The theme is okay, but it didn’t really do it for me…but the fill did. There’s a lot of really good stuff here: “HAVE A HEART,” PANDEMIC, HERRINGS (red or otherwise), SUPINE, EATERIES, and SVELTE are all quite nice. LISTEN TO is fine but NO VISITORS [Inmate’s punishment, at times] is…odd and maybe a little depressing.
But even the short fill felt clean. I see an IT ON…oh, and a SCH, but really that’s it for crosswordese, so solving this as a themeless was silky smooth.
The only slowdown for me was in the dead center: PITTS [Byron of ABC’s “Nightline”]. I haven’t watched the show since the Ted Koppel days, and I had never heard of any of the new hosts. (Is it just me, or does he look like a black Martin Short?) Interesting to learn that he started life with a stutter but went on to major in Journalism and Speech Communication at Wesleyan then later became a television host. Very impressive. I have a friend who grew up with a debilitating stutter who wasn’t able to overcome it until adulthood but now he has a successful career and familial happiness.
Not much else to say on this one. I enjoyed the smooth fill more than the theme, but for newcomers to puzzling, this would be a good one to start with. 3.25 stars.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Ben’s write-up
Boy howdy, am I enjoying the New Yorker’s crossword in the short time it’s been around. There’s a nice high/low blend of fill (both things I’d expect to read in the New Yorker and plenty that feels more contemporary), which makes for a pleasantly chewy start to the week. Helping this is a constructor lineup to die for – this week’s puzzle from Elizabeth Gorski included.
The themeless nature of these means I get to jump around a lot as to what the puzzle made me think of as I was solving it, so, in the spirit of 1A, LET’S DO THIS!
I don’t know what our WEB-FOOTED (51A) friends have to do with the metaphor in this song, but “You got me pelican fly-fly-flyin'” is too good a lyrical line to pass up in a Eurovision song.
- “Mobile home owners” makes excellent use of start-of-clue capitalization to misdirect from the answer of ALABAMANS.
- Love to see GUCCI in reference to rapper Gucci Mane rather than the luxury brand he derived his name from – it gives this puzzle a freshness.
- “Bum wrap?” is a lovely clue for CLOTH DIAPER
- CHERI without some sort of clue pointing to SNL’s Oteri feels weird, but I’ll take “Darling of the Sorbonne?” too.
- A surface “Good for sledding” needs to be SNOWY, but it also needs to be HILLY (the correct answer here)
- Former SeaWorld headliner: SHAMU (heads up: it looks like SeaWorld has discontinued its breeding program post-Blackfish, but they still have their current ORCAs in captivity, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )
- I wasn’t in love with either “Lance on the bench” for ITO (even with American Crime Story a few years ago, I’d much prefer a reference to figure skating champion Midori) or “One-third of DCVI” for CCII (roman numeral math has no place except for a math worksheet, and even then)
- I’ve lived in New England for almost a decade and have never been to a CLAMBAKE. Someone please fix this.
- Another bit-o-fill I didn’t love was TAM-O, as in “Tam-O-Shanter”, the Robert Burns poem. Other New Yorker puzzles have managed to evade this sort of fill for the most part, and it’s a trend I’d love to see continue.
Solid throughout, with a few less-than-great pieces of fill. 3.75/5 stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s themeless Monday crossword — Laura’s Review
[63a: Name heard in a hearing test]: YANNY. YMMV.
- [26a: Leave a game melodramatically]: RAGE QUIT. Is Brendan reading my mind? This is something else I almost just did, on a project that’s been frustrating me. Take it from me, friends, wait 24-48 hours before sending that email.
[28a: Luxury watch brand from Detroit]: SHINOLA. These are lovely watches, and the brand name really does come from that classic idiom, to tell shit from Shinola — Shinola being a brand of shoe polish popular in the last century.
- [43a: Like some wonders]: ONE-HIT. Herewith, and don’t @ me, the greatest ONE-HIT wonder of all time (and yeah, I know it was their second number-one in the UK; I admit to being Billboardocentric):
Jake Braun’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
Jake Braun treats us to a relatively smooth Monday puzzle with a cute theme:
- 17a: TOP RANKING [Like #1 hits]
- 29a: MUSIC RACKS [Stands for sheets with notes]
- 44a: DRIVING AGE [For a full license, it’s 17 or 18 in most states]
- 61a: INSIDE JOKE [Humor shared by a select few … and by this puzzle’s circles]
40 theme-related squares feels a bit low for a 15×15, but the constructor makes up for it with relatively clean fill (except for tiny bits like E MIN, ENID, and ONE LB, though it’s nothing you can’t get from the crossings.) I appreciate that each joke synonym span two words per themer (with the first letter at the end of the first word and the remaining letters in the second word – that degree of parallelism goes far with me!) and that the themers themselves are all in-the-language phrases. Add in the clean, satisfying revealer, and I’m sold (except for one thing – see below).
- How was 56a (IN ON IT) not clued with respect to the theme?
- How were 9d (YOGI) and 28d (PICNIC AREA) not clued with respect to each other, especially when both 31d (ID TAGS) and 34d (SEATS) were more tenuously clued with respect to 4d (CARRY-ONS)?
- I get a tiny bit of an icky feeling when religious stories are treated as literal fact, especially since it’s frequently Christianity that gets to be the Gospel truth (zing!) in CrossWorld. I’d like to see the medical results of the LEPER [Sufferer healed by Jesus], or I’d at least prefer that the cluing include something like, “according to the Bible” to indicate that the event derives from a story and not plain-as-day fact.
Finally, as always, #publishmorewomen … and certainly #includemorewomen. I usually like to include a picture in my write-ups that has to do with a woman who was clued in the puzzle … but not a single woman features anywhere in the clues or fill. YIPE! MEN’S, indeed! I guess PAN (a male character usually played on stage by a woman) is going to be the closest I’ll get. Maybe that’s the real INSIDE JOKE?