Monday, May 28, 2018

BEQ  untimed (Laura) 


LAT 5:02 (Nate) 


NYT 3:45 (Amy)  


The New Yorker medium-hard (Amy) 


No WSJ puzzle due to the holiday.

Alex Eaton-Salners’ New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 28 18, no 0528

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).

Four things:

  • 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

LAT 5.28.18 Puzzle

LAT 5.28.18 Puzzle

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?

Yoko ONO

Yoko ONO

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

BEQ - 5.28.18 - Solution

BEQ – 5.28.18 – Solution

Five things:

  • [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.
  • [50a: “The End of Summer” graphic novelist Walden]: TILLIE. Her drawing is lovely; if you like comics that appear to all ages, check out her work. She was a student at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont, where I’ve done some consulting for their library.
  • [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

New Yorker crossword solution, 5 28 18

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.

Three things:

  • 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!

4.25 stars.

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37 Responses to Monday, May 28, 2018

  1. Bob says:

    I understand your [Big top?] AFRO comment, Amy, but I note, FWIW, that “top” has appeared in published AFRO clues at least 19 times in recent years. E.g., Peter Gordon has clued AFRO as [High top?] at least three times, and Will Shortz has used [Big top?] three times previously.

  2. Michael Tong says:

    I didn’t know the bye bye birdie song so the other themers were hard. I filled in both of them without really getting why I was typing why I was typing.

    Also add to the fill hard for a Monday (imo, but maybe they’re just dated I’m a newish solver): aileron, sulu, recto. And I think the clue for “recoup” is kind of awkward. Do people still say hip to?

  3. Matthew G. says:

    Not realizing the Monday post was up, I accidentally gave the Monday NYT puzzle the rating (2 stars) that I had intended for the Sunday puzzle. Can somebody up my rating for the Monday puzzle to 3.5 stars? Thanks.

  4. Gary Miller says:

    Amy, ever walk into a barbershop? Many still offer a flat top.

  5. Stephen E. Anderson says:

    Oh happy day ! Infected by the mirthful theme, I broke into a broad smile & chuckled delightedly as the puzzle fell into place.
    -SEA, Asolo

  6. Jenni says:

    I agree with Amy on all counts about the NYT.

    The New Yorker puzzle is another gem. They’re giving Brendan a run for his money on hard Monday puzzles. Of course, Brendan’s are free….

    • Matthew G. says:

      Loved the New Yorker puzzle, but that SW corner was beyond brutal. Couldn’t find an entry point, especially because I had KODAK YELLOW instead of BODAK YELLOW. I did think it was funny that a recent song would reference old photography, but never questioned it. I’m hopelessly unhip.

    • Penguins says:

      The New Yorker has too much trivia to be a gem, imo, especially in the center area where there’s trivia gridlock. It’s got a few clever, original and tough clues but its mild difficulty comes from its quiz-like nature.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        @Penguins: So you define “trivia,” I’m guessing, as “things I didn’t know”? I didn’t find the puzzle to be quiz-like—just fun!

        • Penguins says:

          I define it as stuff that isn’t common knowledge. But as I’ve said before, trivia itself is not a problem; it’s about location and concentration.

          The puzzle has a lot of good to it but the trivia brings it down, imo. And my huge penguin posse agrees!

          • Jenni says:

            There were references to comic books that go back decades, 90’s TV, current music, and Romantic poetry. I think that’s a broad knowledge base.

            • Penguins says:

              I agree the “trivia” is varied but there’s too much of it and in too high a concentration in the middle for me to rate the puzzle highly.

              Hey, different strokes for different folks.

            • Christopher Smith says:

              I felt the same until I discovered BODAK YELLOW was recorded literally 2 minutes from the house where I grew up in Elmont NY. So maybe I just need to raise my knowledge.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The New Yorker puzzle’s free, too. I didn’t hit the paywall when I accessed it by clicking the @crosswordbutler link on Twitter. You can also use a different browser or open an incognito browser window if you’ve already read your allotment of free New Yorker articles for the month.

      • Jenni says:

        OK. I went in directly via the New Yorker site, and I got the “you have read your free articles for the month” screen. I’m a subscriber, so I just signed in – that’s why I assumed they were behind the paywall.

      • Lise says:

        Thanks for the link!

  7. Tim in NYC says:

    I’m old enough to remember reading Archie comics, where the red-headed hero was called a “carrot top.” And hearing the Beatles referred to as “mop tops.”

  8. AV says:

    Apart from some of the Monday-hard entries already mentioned, I really liked this puzzle with an ambitious grid. FACE, SMILE, MOUTH, EAR, EYE, YAWN … and then the grid smile to top it all. Very smooth, given the content. I wonder how one would rate this puzzle if it were a Tuesday .. probably higher?

  9. Matt Gaffney says:

    Irate at myself for missing CHEKHOV’S GUN in Natan’s New Yorker puzzle. It’s one of my favorite phrases and someone puts it in a puzzle and I whiff. I had something like CH???OVSGU? and was looking to dust off some long-forgotten Greek word I learned in high school. I couldn’t get the others up top there so DNF, but if I had gotten that key entry it would’ve broken things wide open. That Russian possessive hides so well in there.

    • David says:

      If Matt DNF, I feel better about my lame performance on this New Yorker puzzle. Quite impossible for me–never having heard of Samantha Bee, Park Jae-sang, “Bodak Yellow” or Cardi B, Cho as Sulu, The Imp (and other Game of Throne stuff), The Toast, Marni Kodak, shakshuka, Ali Wong or “Baby Cobra,” “Rated E,” Myrtle (and most Harry Potter factoids), etc. Seems a let-down to rely on all this specific pop knowledge after the fine New Yorker puzzles by Patrick Berry and Liz Gorski. I do admire the New Yorker-like inclusion of the Chekhov’s Gun reference–although I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never heard of this literary concept.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Well I didn’t know CEREBRO or BODAK YELLOW, but I could have pieced them together letter-by-letter if I’d gotten CHEKHOV’S GUN.

      • Jenni says:

        I have never seen a single episode of either “The Simpsons” or “Game of Thrones.” I manage to finish the crosswords with references to both since they appear frequently. Perhaps the entries in Natan’s puzzle need to be used more often, not less.

        I’ve never heard CHEKHOV’S GUN as an expression but I’m familiar with the quote. Love the entry.

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          Chekhov’s Gun is also how you can solve every “Law & Order” episode around minute 18. There’s always some odd item visible or referenced that just has to be relevant.

  10. Burak says:


    OK, here’s my coulrophobia-free review: The shorter fill was really rough, but the longer fill was so delightful I’m willing to give that a pass. Some of the clues were rough, but some were so delightful for a Monday that I’m also willing to give that a pass.

    But damn, before today I never thought I would be repelled by a crossword grid. It’s impossible to overlook the weak theme (this on a Monday?) and the creepy clown smile. 2.95 stars.

  11. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Seems BEQ’s 15A is not UNIX_WHIZ (which is a good guess from the first few Downs) but UNIX_GURU — which is not nearly as Scrabbly/pangram-friendly, but still quite unusual-looking (start and end with U, with a 3rd U and the -XG- sequence in the middle).


    • LauraB says:

      Whatever. I corrected it. It’s a holiday and I completely forgot I had to blog it this morning. Brendan’ll forgive me.

  12. David says:

    That was a pretty lousy (and tough) Monday NYT puzzle. I gave it just 1.5 stars. I managed it in under 7 mins but kept finding groaners and unknown-ers, like TRUE DAT and PALAK.

  13. Mark McClain says:

    NYT – Somehow this didn’t feel right for a Memorial Day puzzle. Solemn day. If you can’t do a Memorial Day theme, just do something neutral. Happy face? No.

    • jj says:

      I guess the constructor can turn the smile upside down and do a “sad things” puzzle.


      Seriously, a moratorium on happiness (particularly when considering that the crossword is supposed to be fun) is about as 2018 as it can get.

    • Penguins says:

      TRUE DAT

  14. scrivener says:

    Wow. First Monday NYT DNF in years. PALAK/DACHA (and I love Indian food!), ALY/AILERON, and GOA/RECTO/SOANDSO destroyed me! That last one my own fault for misreading a clue, but still. New words I’ll have at the ready some other time! :)

  15. Alex says:

    A bit late but wanted to say Natan’s New Yorker puzzle was awesome. For me the New Yorker has the best themeless crossword going. Wonder how long they’ll keep it up…

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