No WSJ puzzle due to the holiday.
Alex Eaton-Salners’ New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is borne out by the grid design, which, if you squint just right, shows a creepy clown smile. (Or a creepy jack-o’-lantern smile. Or a vapid smiley-face.) “PUT ON A HAPPY FACE” is clued as 16a. [“Bye Bye Birdie” song]. 37a. [What you might do if you sing 16-Across] is BREAK INTO A SMILE. And FULL OF GOOD CHEER is 54a. [How you might feel if you sing 16-Across]. It seemed a bit hard for a Monday puzzle to me—the second and third themers aren’t the only phrases that might work for those clues, right?
Also on the tough side for a Monday, we’ve got such fill as NOT IT, DACHA, LAO, DEB, EAR CLIP, the awkward HAD A MEAL, unfamiliar-to-those-who-don’t-eat-Indian-food PALAK ([___ paneer ([Indian dish made with spinach)]), dated PDAS, RECTO, ESS, and ALY ([Prince ___ Khan], markedly less familiar than gymnast Raisman).
- 52d. [Big top?], AFRO. Ugh. I don’t like this clue at all. Who the hell uses “top” to refer to hairstyles? Just … no.
- I do like SCHOOL DANCE, CAPITOL DOME, BIG MOUTH (right next to YAWNS!), and “SO CLOSE!” a lot.
- 42d. [Part of the head hidden on the jack of spades], LEFT EYE. The late R&B star Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes (of TLC) wants to know if RIGHT EYE, LEFT EAR, RIGHT EAR, LEFT NOSTRIL, and RIGHT NOSTRIL are all also kosher fill to be clued with reference to the jack of spades.
- 1d. [Slangy “Amen!”], “TRUE DAT!” I’m not sure people are saying this anymore. Maybe just some of us “olds”?
3.25 stars from me.
Roger & Kathy Weinberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
As a chemist, I was Pretty Happy with this cute Monday puzzle from this Presumably Hitched pair of constructors:
- 17a: PUBLISHING HOUSE [Simon & Schuster, for example]
- 23a: PURPLE HAZE [Jim Hendrix classic]
- 39a: PH SCALE [Acidity measurement range … and where you’ll find 17-, 23-, 50-, and 60-Across?]
- 50a: PIGEONHOLE [Sort in compartments]
- 60a: PERSONAL HYGIENE [One’s cleanliness habits]
Four solidly in-the-language terms or phrases with a nice revealer and solid theme presence across a grid that’s quite clean (except for ATTU and EMBAR)? Give me more puzzles like this Post Haste! There is a slight deduction because the scale aspect of the revealer doesn’t quite translate here, though PURPLE HAZE would almost certainly be found in the acid region of such a scale! Also, how amazing would it be to include POTASSIUM HYDROXIDE (a ubiquitous and quite basic chemical) as a themer in the 21×21 version of this theme?
I was excited, as always, to see a female (co-)constructor, but there was sadly only woman included in the grid or clues: Yoko ONO. 44a (WASP) could have been clued with respect to the female superhero in a movie dropping this year and 64a (ANI) could have been clued with respect to any female with that name ever, but sadly neither were. We didn’t even get a female example for POET, but we did get a mascara SMEAR, so … there’s that? #includemorewomen #representationmatters
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s themeless Monday crossword — Laura’s Review
[15a: IT whiz who specializes in servers, say]: UNIX GURU. UNIX is an open-source platform-agnostic operating system.
[24a: Alice’s restaurant]: MEL’S Diner, on the 1970s situation comedy Alice, which was based on the 1974 Scorsese film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, which wasn’t exactly a comedy, neither of which to be confused with grid regular ARLO Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant,” a 19-minute version of which I saw him sing in concert earlier this month.
[58a: Disputes over contents on a wiki, e.g.]: EDIT WARS. There are some Wikipedia articles where the editing has gotten so contentious that the site administrators have shut down editing. Wikipedia has a series of policies governing edit warring.
[33a: Clip of someone hearing things for the first time]: REACTION VIDEO. In the spirit of infinite regression — mise en abyme, the YouTube equivalent of Velásquez’s Las Meninas, if you will — here is a reaction video of someone reacting to reaction videos:
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s belated write-up
So with the holiday disruption, we didn’t realize that nobody had blogged Natan’s puzzle. I had solved it and tweeted my praise for it, but figured someone else was blogging it—and then certainly there was discussion in the comments. *bloop*
Did not know: 24d. [Dramatic principle similar to foreshadowing], CHEKHOV’S GUN. Pieced it together through the crossings, which were all plausible (CEREBRO) or things I knew. Also did not know 54a. [Emulate Marni Kotak, say, in her 2011 performance art piece], GIVE BIRTH.
Most contemporary fill: BODAK YELLOW, FAKE NEWS, REKT, gone-but-not-forgotten THE TOAST, FAN ART, HOME-BREW, EGAN clued via author Jennifer, who won a Pulitzer for her previous novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad.
Crustiest bits: AGORA, NTH, ULAN Bator (it’s mostly referred to as Ulaanbaatar in English now), FENS. I briefly considered signing up for a “Rare Habitats Tour: Fens of Illinois” event, just to demystify the FEN.
- 4d. [Sometime shakshuka ingredient], PESTO. Shakshuka is a big breakfast dish from Israel and environs. Eggs are involved, and tomatoes and maybe peppers, and a bunch of other savory things? PESTO fits the general Mediterranean savory vibe.
- 18d. [“The ___ Moon, with one bright star”: omen in Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”], HORNED. Didn’t know this, probably should’ve!
- 8d. [Instructions for a chest examination?], TREASURE MAP. Hard for me to turn off my medically oriented mind here!