Kathy Wienberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Smooth Monday theme. The revealer is ADD TO CART (63a. [Message clicked on by an online buyer … or a hint for 17-, 24-, 39- and 51-Across]), and those four themers all begin with a word that can precede cart: TEA GARDEN, SHOPPING LIST, GOLF TOURNAMENT, APPLE STRUDEL. Small ding for shopping cart being exactly what the virtual cart is in ADD TO CART.
Another ding for a few entries that aren’t likely to be too familiar to newbie solvers: EBON, HEATH clued as [Tract of low-growing shrubs], GTOS, maybe UNAGI, maybe IBEX.
Louis PASTEUR, FINESSE, SOLAR PANEL, SEAPLANE, and CAPRI PANTS are all nice inclusions, though.
Four stars from me.
Aaron L. Peterson’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “KP Duty” — Jim’s review
- 17a [Makeup of many shopping bags] KRAFT PAPER. Did not know this. I had always assumed it was spelled with a C.
- 21a [Hearty pub fare] KIDNEY PIE. I usually hear “Steak and Kidney Pie,” but this is legit, too. I had assumed the kidneys in question were kidney beans, but nope.
- 39a [Setting of Pyongyang and Seoul] KOREAN PENINSULA
- 54a [Quaint schoolboy’s wear] KNEE PANTS. Also called knickerbockers or knickers. Interesting that American English uses two words for trousers (“knickers” and “pants”) that mean “underwear” in British English.
- 62a [Wood used for paneling] KNOTTY PINE. I think I knew this phrase, but it was buried way down deep.
I’m sure you figured out the theme, so I won’t go into it. It’s pretty Mondayish, but not bad for newcomers.
HOT PURSUIT makes for great long fill and BIRD FEEDER (with the nice clue [Seedy spot?]) is almost as good. STENO PAD and DEFINITE aren’t as shiny but solid, of course. “NICE TRY” is also worthy of a mention.
There are a couple of tough pairings for a Monday. Up top there’s LAPIN [Rabbit fur] next to AVEDA [Company that sells natural and organic skin and hair products]. I don’t think I know this latter entry; I know Aveeno, but not AVEDA. Almost exactly opposite in the grid is the pair DAKAR [Senegal’s capital] and ENNIO [Film composer Morricone]. These might be tough for a newcomer, though I had no problem with the latter as I have loved the soundtrack for Cinema Paradiso for years. Morricone is also known for The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, The Mission, and scores (haha) more. His most recent big win was his score for Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight in 2015 (he won the Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe, and ASCAP for that one).
The straightforward theme probably won’t excite too many old hands around here, but it makes a good starting point for newbies. Some trickier entries might confound, though.
Liz Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
Lovely quartet of triple-stacked 10s here: nary a plural -S or tacked-on affix (-ness, -ly, re-, etc.) to be found. Two great names, OLIVIA POPE and ROY ORBISON. The contemporary vibe of FACE TATTOO. Plus a good pair of 9s: HERMITAGE and DUMBS DOWN.
Nine more things:
- 1a. [Lamentations], SOBS. Odd to clue this as a noun in the plural. I think it’d work better as a verb here, but it would also be easier. Certainly I went for WOES first—so if the constructor’s looking to keep her themeless from being too easy, mission accomplished.
- 18a. [Steve Jobs defined it as “saying no to a thousand things”], INNOVATION. Interesting quote, and not one I knew.
- 38a. [“The High and the Mighty” novelist], GANN. Who? There was a 1985 Disney movie title character named Natty Gann, but I don’t know other Ganns. This one is Ernest K. Gann, who apparently was a pilot and wrote lots of aviation-related books from the 1940s through 1980s. Relatively obscure, no?
- 44a. [Supreme Court Justice who clerked for Thurgood Marshall], KAGAN. Jurist trivia!
- 4d. [___ Marzano Tomato], SAN. Yum.
- 5d. [Outbuilding], PRIVY. I think the clue’s too broad here, as an outbuilding might be a barn or shed or garage and not just an outhouse.
- 14d. [Pirates pitcher Romero, known for his four-seam fastball], ENNY. He’s a current player but I hadn’t heard of him. I’m not sure he’s good enough to enter the crossword baseball pantheon of players with convenient letters.
- 20d. [Caddy choice], TEA. I filled in TEE first … but now that I think about it, a golfer’s caddy probably isn’t doing much deliberation in selecting a tee.
- 25d. [One of seventy-two names engraved on the Eiffel Tower], AMPERE. Okay, I didn’t know there were names engraved on the Eiffel Tower. All scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.
4.2 stars from me.
C. C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
A quick write-up today, as I just stepped off a plane from London. C. C. Burnikel sure sensed that we were pressed for an enjoyable Monday puzzle:
- 16a: WHATS ON TAP [*Question to the bartender]
- 38a: LOST PET [*Subject of a neighborhood flier]
- 10d: GET DOWN PAT [*Master perfectly]
- 28d: BOLD STROKE [*Daring action]
- 63a: FINAL TOUCH [Last detail that makes thing perfect … and what each answer to a starred clue has?]
I’m a sucker for grids that feature theme entries along all four sides of the puzzle as well as in the center, and this one is certainly well-constructed with solid and in-the-language themers, a satisfying revealer, and very little crosswordese. It’s difficult to get super clean grids like these, much less ones with a bit of spice in the fill, but Burnikel makes it look easy. I really enjoyed TEAROSE, CORNROW, WNBA, ANTWERP, and MAFIOSO in the fill, and I can’t really think of many touch synonyms that were left out. My only pause is where we have DELL right over DEL in the grid.
#includemorewomen watch: Undeniably talented and wildly prolific female constructor? Check. Inclusion of an array of female-identified people in the fill and clues? Check! We’ve got Rooney and Kate MARA, the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, TERI Polo of “The Fosters”, and ESTEE Lauder. I could get used to this! #happypride
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s themeless Monday crossword — Adesina’s write-up
Good afternoon, everybody! Laura is currently down in the Crescent City hanging out with other hard-partying librarians and bibliophiles at a conference, so I’m (Ade) stepping in to review Brendan’s fun puzzle to start the week, one in which I got a foothold on solving early in the Northwest because of the sports-related clues that were contained it. I’m sure all of you are surprised, maybe even shocked, that those sports entries, like ALONSO (15A: [Formula One Racing star Fernando]) and LED OFF (17A: [Batted first]) were the first answers to go down as I solved. As I solved the Fernando Alonso entry, my mind drifted into thinking that the real dream job in sports is to be a Formula One driver; Not only is the fame and fortune part of the job, you get paid to drive a car for a team that, on average, spends about $300 million on the maintenance of said vehicle.
Here’s the keys to the half-a-billion-dollar Ferrari. Now don’t crash it, you hear?!
One clue threw me for a loop because I thought it was sports-related, but, clearly, HENRY IV does not have too much to do with English Premier League soccer (37D: [Hotspur’s rival]). I’m learning all about the characters from Frozen via crosswords, and today was the first time learning of SVEN‘s existence (49A: [He has a non-speaking role in “Frozen”]). There’s definitely a tinge of naughtiness and vulgarity in the grid, which I personally don’t mind too much. Specifically, I’m talking about NSFW, short for “not safe for work” (5D: [Email warning letters]), GOD DAMN (3D: [“Sheeeee-it!”]) and the clue to EXCRETE (38D: [Shit out]). I appreciated the trivia element to the clue to TITANIUM, which I did not know about until today (58A: [Element named after a Greek god]). My favorite entry in the grid, as I look it over once more, probably was the seldom-used SENSORIA (31A: [Things that touch, smell, and hear]). Unless you ask for it specifically, someone must not like you if you were given TEN ONES if you needed change for a $10 bill (42D: [Hamilton change]). Talk about having a serious bulge in your pants as a result!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SEVEN NATION ARMY (7D: [Jock jam by the White Stripes]) – For those who have been watching the ongoing 2018 FIFA World Cup – and/or are fans of Penn State football – you’ll know that the teams, no matter which stadium in Russia, initially walk out to the field from the tunnel before the start of the game to the tune of unmistakable beginning riff to the Grammy Award-winning song SEVEN NATION ARMY, the 2003 tune performed by the Detroit-based band The White Stripes. I won’t embed the song underneath this graph, as you’ll get an earworm of epic proportions once you press play. You’re welcome.
It’s been fun! I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your Monday!
I was going to make the same point about shopping cart. Maybe DESSERT WINES could have worked there?
I’m curious, after having read many of these posts for dinging clues in Monday puzzles for not being easy for puzzle beginners, but …
Would puzzle beginners just automatically know that Monday puzzles are the easiest ones? If they were savvy enough to know that, I feel like they wouldn’t get too tripped up by those clues–or at least, if the puzzle is done cleanly, that any of those harder-for-noobs answers should be covered by very gettable crosses.
What I’m getting at is … is it really a thing, or just a thing we crossword fiends / crossword blog readers notice or have a thing about, but it’s not really actually a thing?
My memory of when I started (at a pretty late stage of life, so I still recall) is that the whole experience felt bewildering. There is a whole new way of thinking — for example that an abbreviation in the clue means an abbreviation in the answer; the implication of a question mark, the misdirection of a word that’s typically a verb denoting a noun (or vice versa). So, of course you don’t know a priori whether a particular word in the fill is easy or crosswordese.
But I think Amy usually calls it very well, in that some words are so far removed from the typical lingo of a regular person that they would really cause trouble…. ANON? Who says that? And all these exotic creatures who roam the Alps or the Serengeti. You’re right that in a well constructed Monday, the crosses should help and you end up staring at the answers and thinking: IBEX… good to know…
Usually , someone who knows points you to the NYT and tells you to start with Mondays and promises that they’re very easy. Which means that you feel extremely inadequate when you try it… so yeah, it’s a process. .
Guess I’m not particularly sympathetic to the issue. Isn’t the NYT supposed to be the “top of the heap” in puzzledom? I’d posit that someone starting to do the NYT puzzle has at least developed proficiency in some of the more pedestrian puzzles that are found in newspaper or in “easy puzzle” books.
Since I post about crosswords on FB fairly often, I have heard that a number of my friends do puzzles far less obsessively than I do. They all seem to know the progression of difficulty in the NYT – they say “I only do Mondays” or “I can’t get past Wednesday.” Maybe they’re not rank beginners, but they’re definitely not members of the fiend/blog/ACPT community.
This may have been more of a mystery back in the pre-cyber-world. Deb’s written about it in her Wordplay solving guides, so maybe more people know about it than used to?
I found out the way Huda suggests, and the person in question was my mom.
When I was a bookseller, I would ask everyone who bought a New York Times whether they worked the puzzle, hoping to find another fiend, and the majority gave answers like “I can’t get past Wednesday”. So they did know that there was a progression of difficulty, but as you said, Jenni, definitely not fiends.
I found out about the difficulty in the late 1970s when I wanted to increase my vocabulary, and bought myself an NYT collection.
I am fortunate to have a ffriend who is a ffellow ffiend – we have great conversations.
I should also mention that I like today’s crosswords much better than the ones from the 1970s; however, those old ones definitely gave my vocabulary muscles a workout.
When I started doing crosswords I just assumed they hardness would be random, rather than a function of the day of the week. I finally figured it (I was doing random sampling at the time).
Now I think that all Mondays for daily puzzles are the easiest, but weekly crosswords will be relatively hard no matter what day of the week they come out on. The new New Yorker puzzle (a Monday) is difficult
One of the FAQ’s on the New York Times site has this to say about the difficulty:
“3. How can I tell how difficult a puzzle will be? …
The daily puzzles increase in difficulty from Monday to Saturday. The Sunday puzzle, while larger than the others, is approximately as difficult as the Wednesday or the Thursday puzzle.”
I”m leaving tomorrow for our summer cottage in Michigan, built in 1931 by grandparents and paneled in knotty pine… As an inquisitive child I remember pushing on one of the knots, and seeing it fall through the wall… What an enfant terrible I was!
At least I learned OXEYES is OX EYES not OXEY ES, lol. Sometimes I just totally space Mondays
Now KNOTTY CYPRESS? Just truly awesome stuff. I don’t care it wasn’t the answer, I love it.
TNY is too quizzy I think. The center block in today’s with TEMPE. TUTTI, LUMBAGO, AMPERE, LACE, UMBER was particularly knotty for me.
Have to say it again: The output of BEQ is amazing.
I had a little trouble in the NW. Like Amy, I had WOES instead of SOBS and TEE instead of TEA. I didn’t know OLIVIA POPE or SIDNEY, or the naval rank, and it took a while to get BLOOD DONOR and SALES PITCH, both of which had stellar clues. Just terrific.
It was doable with all the “stuff” which, to me, means good construction.
I think this is the right place to say Liz’s New Yorker puzzle was fantastic today. It is a delight to have these puzzles on a Monday.
I thought today’s New Yorker was pretty tough. There were a number of things in there that I had not run across before and a few tricky clues. Among the tricky ones:
53A. [Trainer in a gym] — ELLIPTICAL.
46D [Ma’s Stradivarius] — Cello (I was thinking of a special type of strad)
44D [Silent “Dark Knight” character — Key (oy)
And a bunch of things I had not seen before as they are clued in this grid: Evo, Rita, Enny, Padua, Gann, Irv, and most of the 72 names on the Eiffel Tower.
A challenging puzzle with a pinwheel of 10-letter three-stacks. Very nice.
“44D [Silent “Dark Knight” character — Key”
You mean Kay. Do enough puzzles and you can see through some misleading clues w/o much trouble.
Must be said, though, that having a Pacino reference nearby suggests a fairly obvious clue for KAY.
BEQ: 57D: “Enclosure from a collection agcy” (SAE) and 46A: “57-Down, e.g.: Abbr.” (ENCL) seems a little awkward…
The New Yorker way, way too filled with proper names for me.