Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword — Jim’s review
I’m not a speed solver by any stretch of the imagination, so I don’t bother to time myself for most of my posts here. But since I’m filling in for Amy on the NYT puzzle, I figured I’d see what I can do. I must say I impressed myself (although I can’t say that’s very hard to do). Probably my time is mostly due to the smoothness of the fill and cluing in this impressive grid.
Zhouqin is back with a clever little theme which I mostly ignored during the solve. 62a is clued as [Hilton hotel chain…or what 18-, 29- and 49-Across each have]. The answer is DOUBLETREE. Each entry has two distinct types of trees in them if you look hard enough. Did you see the trees for the forest (of letters)?
- 18a [“Nonsense!”] BALDERDASH. Great find, especially with the five-letter ALDER. I love this entry because BALDERDASH is one of my favorite board games, especially the original version which just had weird words.
- 29a [Boneless cut named for a New York restaurant] DELMONICO STEAK.
- 49a [Jet that evades radar detection] STEALTH FIGHTER.
I for one like the fact the trees are not identified by shading or circles. Finding them feels like a post-solve bonus. That said, I’m having trouble with the third entry. FIG is great, but I’m thinking the other one is TEA. “Tea tree” feels like a bit of a cheat since TEA is contained within TEAK in the entry above. Also, it’s not as recognizable a tree as the others. I’ve heard of “tea tree oil” more than a “tea tree,” but apparently it’s not from around these parts, being native to Australasia.
But aside from that, what a nice, fresh Monday-level theme!
Having only four theme answers lets our constructor show off her trademark command of colorful English phrases. I love “DON’T BLOW IT!” (3d, [Snarky comment after “This is your big chance”]), and AMEN TO THAT (32d, [“So true!”]) is equally fun. DR. DOOM, SARA LEE, and BARISTA round out the shiny long fill goodness.
Oh hey, there’s more in the way of botany: ARBORS, ACAI, IRIS, and GLADS (40a, [Some showy blossoms, informally]). We planted GLADS once. They start out nice, but once they’re done, they just droop over like they’re drunk.
I’m not finding anything to complain about in this grid; it’s super smooth and fresh. So I will close it here. Hopefully, the rest of the week will be just as lovely.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Clothes-Minded” — Jim’s review
Hey, guess what?! I’m back and so is Zhouqin. (I reviewed her NYT grid above.) As many times as I’ve reviewed one of her puzzles, I need to get my spell-checker to recognize her name.
This one isn’t quite as smooth as her NYT puzzle, but it’s still cute. No revealer is necessary, so let’s jump into the themers.
- 18a [Favorite outfits for fans of singer Janis?] JOPLIN RAGS. Scott Joplin was known as the “King of Ragtime” in the early 20th century. Click here, press play to start the “Maple Leaf Rag,” then come back here to read on. I’ll wait…
- 28a [Favorite outfits for spam lovers?] EMAIL THREADS. Not loving the clue. There’s more to email than spam. And I don’t know that anyone really ever says “EMAIL THREADS.”
- 48a [Favorite outfits for Godzilla?] COLOSSAL DUDS. Now this is more like it. I’d’ve gone with Paul Bunyan myself as he is actually known to wear clothing. Godzilla is usually one to go starkers.
- 61a [Favorite outfits for duel attendants?] SECOND GEAR. I didn’t know this use of the word “second.” It was also in a clue for DUEL in Friday’s contest puzzle (the clue was [Activity that takes seconds]), but I didn’t understand it there either. Apparently, the “second” was a trusted associate of the dueler who would engage in negotiations in order to avoid bloodshed. If I knew this, I certainly would have liked this entry better.
As I said, it’s cute even though the first two don’t sound like common verbal phrases to my ear.
The long Downs get better and better as you proceed left to right in the grid. They start with TAKES A SIP (fine), then STALLION (nice). In the SE we get “I ADMIT IT” (strong), and finally “EXCUSE YOU” (wonderful). Also good: DOODLE, “HOW SO?,” and “OH, RATS!”
In the negative column, there’s ADEN [Port city of Yemen], which might be tough for a new solver on a Monday (but they might as well learn it now, amirite?) and plural AVAS. Otherwise, it’s pretty smooth sailing.
Fave clue: [Bad thing in a croosword clue] for TYPO. I got a chuckle out of that. But who knows? Maybe that’s not a TYPO in Holland.
Whaddya think? A nice 1-2 from Zhouqin to start our puzzling week (and for all I know at this point, maybe she did the LAT, too). Here’s to more puzzles like these in the days to come.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s themeless Monday crossword — Laura’s Review
- [36a: “___ howdy”]: BOY was the motto of the late, great rock magazine Creem, founded in Detroit in 1971 by some rejects from that other rock magazine, including the late, great Lester Bangs. The beer bottle dude in the logo was designed by great underground comix artist Robert Crumb. Perhaps the term punk rock sounds familiar? Originated in Creem. Here’s a story on [1a: Band whose original name was Mookie Blaylock]: PEARL JAM that ran in Creem in 1992. Here’s an article by Lester Bangs about [15a: “Crazy Train” singer]: Ozzy OSBOURNE touring with Black Sabbath; it’s from 1972 but it could’ve been written yesterday. You can have your Pitchfork, your Fader, your Vibe, even your Maximum Rocknroll; I’ll stick with Creem.
[6d: Cavaliers shooting guard who famously could have won the game at the end of regulation of Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals, instead dribbled out the clock]: JR SMITH. He made LeBron sad. Perhaps you’ve seen the meme?
[16a: Like deciduous trees]: LEAVED. I’m glad we have this word as the counterpart of leafs, in the category of “words derived from the word for vegetative plant organ that do not look correct but actually are.”
[12a: Bettor’s reference number]: OVER-UNDER. Today in Laura Learns a Thing: This is the number that the gambling place will establish as the total combination score (or total of a set of stats generated by the game) in a match between two parties, so you can place a bet that the total will be either over or under that number.
— Neville Fogarty (@flyingelevator) May 31, 2018
Roland Huget’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
Instead of the student becoming the master, the master becomes the stream, the amster, and the estmar. ?!
- 17a: JET STREAM [Wind current that affects weather patterns]
- 27a: HAMSTER WHEEL [Pet rodent’s exercise gadget]
- 45a: STREET SMARTS [Good survival skills]
- 60a: MIX MASTER [Sunbeam brand … and a literal hint to the circled letters]
I … have never heard of a MIX MASTER. It seems to be the lesser known step cousin of the KitchenAid stand mixer that my husband and I got as a wedding present a few years ago. A quick Google search comes up with as many (if not more) references to an anime series as that appliance – it’s never good when your revealer is the least well-known bit of the theme set and it didn’t do much for me when I finally filled it in from the crossings. I think a stronger application of this theme (though much more challenge to execute, clearly) would have been to take phrases containing the word master, anagram that word to make a new standalone word in the phrase, and then reclue the newly-wacky phrases. [Show featuring Aziz Ansari and others as out-of-work lion wranglers?] for TAMERS OF NONE could work nicely!
The fill was mostly accessible for a Monday puzzle, though there certainly were many outdated references and bits of crosswordese, including LELANNE, EOE, ALAI, ESSE, OLAV, REESE, EMAG, and ILA. Also, one quibble about the clue for 43d: it’s not the NEON GAS itself that illuminates a neon sign, but the electrification of that gas and subsequent emission of light that causes the glow. Otherwise, pretty standard fill/cluing.
#includemorewomen watch: CLARA Barton founded the Red Cross, people! She was a Civil War nurse, suffragette, and absolute pioneer for her time. Did you know (via her Wikipedia page)?: “In 1855, she moved to Washington D.C. and began work as a clerk in the US Patent Office; this was the first time a woman had received a substantial clerkship in the federal government and at a salary equal to a man’s salary. ” Hard core! <3
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword—Laura’s review
We’re rotating coverage of the new New Yorker puzzles; I’m up this week. And what a theme: women writers on each other! Anna herself has spoken out about gender disparities among crossword constructors, so it’s an honor to review her work.
I’ll just share my favorite quotation from a woman writer about another, Mary McCarthy on The Dick Cavett Show in 1979, about Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.'” Dick Cavett wrote about it in — where else? — The New Yorker. Oh wait, no — my favorite is when Dorothy Parker and Claire Booth Luce both approached the door of a nightclub at the same time. Luce demurred, “Age before beauty.” Parker strode through the entrance and said, “Pearls before swine.”
- [4a: Her “mind is analytical and her style ebullient,” per Muriel Spark]: RENATA ADLER. Novelist, essayist, former film critic for the New Yorker and the New York Times. Muriel Spark is a Scottish novelist and playwright most famous for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; the quotation is from a 1983 review of Adler’s novel Pitch Dark.
- [54a: She “mistakes lack of civility for vitality,” according to 4-Across]: PAULINE KAEL. Legendary film critic for the New Yorker; considered by some, including Adler, to be an iconoclast and somewhat vulgar, which is why I liked her. Here’s the source of the quotation, from ADLER’s review of KAEL’s memoir in the New York Review of Books (not every publication is from New York, if you’re wondering).
- [2a: She teaches the “sweet if dangerous fun of self-love,” per Alice Walker]: AUDRE LORDE. One of the greatest of all American poets, Lorde’s work challenged feminists (particularly white middle-class women) and championed social justice. The quotation is from Walker’s essay “Audre’s Voice,” in the 1997 collection Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer’s Activism.
- [28d: She writes with “computer lyricism,” according to Elizabeth Hardwick]: JOAN DIDION. Literary journalist and novelist; in 2005 she published The Year of Magical Thinking, a memoir about her husband and daughter both dying in the span of a few months. Hardwick is also a novelist and reviewer; the quotation is from her 1996 review of Didion’s The Last Thing He Wanted, in the New York Review of Books.