Evan Kalish’s New York Times crossword—Jim Q’s write-up
Looks like a NYT debut puzzle from Evan Kalish! But given the theme, I may have just ruined a secret.
The concept here is nothing new, but it’s deftly executed and perfectly fine Monday fare. Embedded within each of the theme answers is a word that can follow “secret.”
- 16a. [Italian food item that can be stuffed and baked] PASTA SHELL . I just spent the entire weekend at an Italian/Irish wedding event. Can’t think about pasta or beer right now.
- 20a. [Militia of farmers, e.g.] PEASANT ARMY. Not a term I use often. Or ever. But I’m relatively sure I’ve heard it before.
- 24a. [“He’s so polite”] WHAT A GENTLEMAN. This one seems a bit of an outlier since the “secret” word doesn’t bridge the whole phrase.
- 44a. [It may allow a text document to be displayed on a web page] MARKUP LANGUAGE. I have no idea what this is, but both MARKUP and LANGUAGE were inferable enough.
- 49a. [3, 5, or 7, but not 9] PRIME NUMBER. This was a gimme. Plus, I love the idea of the “Secret Menu.” For those of you not worried about your waistline this summer, here’s a few of those secrets. Enjoy that Arby’s Meat Mountain.
- 59a. [“Keep this between us”… or hint to this puzzle’s circled letters] IT’S A SECRET. I think there’s a typo in the clue for the .puz file I solved… shouldn’t it be “or a hint…”? Or was “a” left out as to not dupe the “a” in the answer? Am I overthinking this?
Six theme answers is quite a bit to include in a 15×15 grid, but it didn’t seem the fill suffered all that much. I wonder how many grids Evan experimented with before settling on this design? Stacking themers on top of one another always seems like risky business to me, but the only piece of fill that seemed a bit hairy (for me anyway) was TELNET… and that’s me being picky. I am super impressed with how smooth the grid was given the constraints.
Another fun and ambitious puzzle of Evan’s recently appeared in the Puzzle Society Crossword. Check out the grid and his enlightening notes on it here.
- 29d. [Head honcho] MR. BIG. Umm… nope. If you Google “Mr. Big” without the word “definition” after it, you will have to click forever before you find a reference to that being a “head honcho.” If anyone ever calls my boss MR. BIG, I think I will just quit that job.
- 62a. [One probably not with the jocks at the lunch table] NERD. I don’t like this clue. While it’s not really offensive, it seems old-timey and inaccurate. From what I’m seeing, the kids are blending a helluva better than the adults are these days. And for what it’s worth, I hung out with a lot of “jocks” growing up even though my “nerd” label was more prominent. Having fun with inoffensive stereotypes is fine by me, but I don’t like the idea of portraying groups as the Sharks and the Jets, especially in the lunchroom.
- 54a. [Word to a dog that has just chewed the sofa] BAD. This strikes me as hilarious. I think it’s because the clue is so long in comparison with the answer. And I thought of all those dog-shaming posts that were popular a couple years ago.
Excellent debut, Evan! I like that the “secret” words were “secretly” embedded. I’m looking forward to future puzzles. 4.2 stars from me for the construction alone.
Alex Bajcz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sad to Say” — Jim’s review
Oh, happy day! We have a nice, fresh-feeling puzzle on our hands.
- 17a [Bummed-out barrier?] WAILING WALL. A wall that cries? Well, I could imagine such a thing on kids’ show or comic strip, so I’ll allow it.
- 24a [Tearful tree?] WEEPING WILLOW. Better than the above because at least a willow is alive.
- 50a [Bereaved birds?] MOURNING DOVES. I used to think these were “morning doves,” but learned the truth some years ago. Slight demerit because these doves are so named because they sound like they’re crying.
- 60a [Forlorn feeling?] CRYING SHAME. Shame about this one, because I can’t make sense of a shame that cries any which way. CRYING GAME would’ve been a good alternative, but it’s a letter shorter.
That last one aside, this is a nice, lively set, and I enjoyed the theme.
But that was just the beginning. There’s a lot of fun fill here and fresh clues to round it out. I’m liking LAID WASTE, COMES EASY, DINING CAR, BOW KNOT, GOT SICK, GEOLOGY, RIGGING, NOGGIN, and especially SOLDIER ON. Alex really crammed a lot of goodies in here!
There were only two short bits of fill that irked, and as I was able to fill them in at the very end, they didn’t really bother me so much: HET [Charged (up)] and EDD [China on the Discovery Channel]. I assume that last one is a person.
As I said, clues felt fresh all over, but I liked [Place to eat while training?] for DINING CAR best.
Despite a theme based on sadness, this was the funnest WSJ grid I’ve done in a while thanks to the evocative theme entries, loads of fun fill, and great cluing. 3.9 stars from me.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword—Ben’s write-up
Happy Monday! Hopefully your week is off to a good start, and if you’re in the US, we’ve got a weird bifurcated week due to the 4th of July anyways, so it can’t get too bad, right? The New Yorker puzzle continues to be great, so we’re off to a great start.
Natan’s latest entry in the rotation was a nice smooth solve, with lots of crunchy fill and a nice high-low blend of word sources that feels like a nice signature of the New Yorker puzzles so far.
An alternate clue for 41A: “___ the DJ, I’m the Vampire”. Rockula is currently available for your viewing pleasure on Amazon Prime and in addition to this VERY early 90s rap number, it has Toni Basil and Thomas Dolby, who are not actors, but act in this movie.
- Insecure‘s ISSA Rae getting clued by her previous show, the web series “Awkward Black Girl” was a nice step up in difficulty, though if you don’t have HBO, I can see this one being tricky without crossings
- “Fishing line for some snappers” is such a lovely clue for SAY CHEESE
- I was perfectly misdirected by “It may be offered on tap”, trying to figure out some manner of IPA or ALE, but that description is also true of a DANCE LESSON. Nicely done.
- WHITE SAVIOR is a lovely bit of modern fill. If you’re thinking about posting something about it in the comments, LET’S NOT.
- A brief EDITORIAL: HATSHEPSUT, which the New Yorker calls out as the “entry of the week” when you solve the puzzle, feels like the kind of cultural reference I’ve only really seen in the New Yorker long fill, and I love it. It stretches my brain in a good way.
- BASALT formations, the type which form “Namibia’s Organ Pipes formutation”, also pop up in Iceland, as I learned while traveling last fall. They’re very cool rocks.
- SEWING SHOP felt a little arbitrary as fill, but if that’s the worst I can say about this puzzle, it’s a pretty good one.
Another very solid New Yorker puzzle – these have become a highlight of the week for me. 4.25/5 stars.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s themeless Monday crossword — Laura’s review
The things, they are five:
[19a: Singer with the 2017 top 10 hit “New Rules”]: DUA LIPA. A hymn to remaining steadfast post-breakup, the song offers several wise tips, including: “Don’t pick up the phone; you know he’s only calling cause he’s drunk and alone.” The video has over a billion views on YouTube.
Could’ve also parsed 19a differently and clued it as [Laura’s typical order at the brewpub]: DUAL IPA); too much of that generally leads to be me being [21a: Blotto]: IN RARE FORM
- [32a: Rice field]: QUAD. Excellent misdirection here; Rice as in the university in Houston; field as in quadrangle, or QUAD for short, the central space of many campuses.
[45a: Sushi bar app]: EDAMAME. App as in the soybean appetizer, though if you’re an iOS developer, there’s your name for a sushi guide/rating app. (Update: There really is an app called EDAMAME and appears to be for reviewing restaurants in Seville.)
- [37d: Brown who wrote the “Good and Cheap” cookbook]: LEANNE. She may not be a household name, but I highly recommend Good and Cheap if you’re ready to graduate from the Moosewood Cookbook and Enchanted Broccoli Forest (the mostly-veggie cheap-eats staples of my generation even after we moved out of creaky old cooperative houses on the outskirts of campus) but still want to eat on a budget without depending on, say, pasta.
Roland Huget’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
Prayer service. Private practice. Pro-choice. Pride and Prejudice. What could these have in common? They could all serve as themers for today’s puzzle (if only they’d been the right lengths!):
- 11d: PUFFED RICE [Steamed breakfast cereal]
- 17a: PRESS OFFICE [Public relations arm]
- 28d: PRUNE JUICE [Nectar that’s high in fiber]
- 60a: PRICE BREAKS [Good retail deals … and what the other three longest answers literally exhibit]
The word PRICE is literally broken and, like many door busters, stuffed with savings! I mean, other letters to form longer theme entries! None of the themers are particularly vibrant, but they certainly do the trick. My one nitpick would be that all three themers should either break up PRICE the same way or each one should break PRICE differently. Instead, we have one P-RICE and two PR-ICE entries, which is a tad inelegant.
Y’all know I have to point this out: 39a: MAS as the answer to [Pas’ partners]. Not always! Did you know that two people of the same gender can co-parent? What?! Crazy! It’s amazing what “, sometimes” would do to make that clue more inclusive. Or, even better, what about [Mas’ partners, sometimes]?
#includemorewomen watch: Relative to other puzzles, we have a nice collection of women featured today: MOIRA Shearer, MARTHA Washington, ESTEE Lauder, ZORA Neale Hurston, and, of course, MAS. Let’s learn more about ZORA! According to her Wikipedia page, “Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891– January 28, 1960) was an influential author of African-American literature and anthropologist, who portrayed racial struggles in the early 20th century American South, and published research on Haitian voodoo. Of Hurston’s four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, her most popular is the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Talented women of color represent!
I had no idea until this morning that secret menus existed. And within PRIME NUMBER – nice touch. Whoa. That’s a fascinating, if somewhat artery-frightening, collection of food.
I enjoyed this debut from Evan Kalish. The answers seemed fresh and perky. I look forward to more!
McDonalds here likes to not put milkshakes on their menu!? That’s about the only reason I go to McDonalds… And yes, that is “all of the calories”.
It will be a cold day in hell before I ever accept PANINI as a singular noun. Yes, I’m aware I’m being pedantic. Some people have ano-año as their hill to die on, I have Italian plural morphology.
I always make a point of asking for a single paninum. Causes no end of trouble, though.
Are you also mad when people use the singular “tamale”?
Heh, I get it. Certain things grate a bit.
My pet peeve is chai tea. It’s like saying agua water. :-)
BEQ: TAPE MAN?
new yorker 27a clue is hall of fame material (and the rest of the puzzle is great too)
I think 42-A needs a shoutout as well!
WSJ, 17a, surprised you are not familiar with the Wailing Wall–I am not Jewish, but I am aware of it.
I certainly know about the WAILING WALL, but the entry was not clued with respect to the Jerusalem structure. It was a more literal “joke” about a random wall that was “bummed out.” The other entries are similar. I guess I could’ve explained the theme better.
NYT was one of the best Monday puzzles that I have solved lately. A great execution of a not-so-fresh theme concept. Cool themers, and the “secret” words all do work and are consistent. But what’s more impressive is the construction: It’s really hard to do a Monday puzzle that feels fresh, is airy and also smooth to solve. The dense theme concept demanded some sacrifices with the shorter fill but hey, I won’t complain. 3.6 stars.
The really curious thing here, to my mind, is the Weight of “not-so-fresh”. To wit, how many solvers did today’s NYT and thought, “this is not so fresh”; and how many never entertained that thought.–And then, how many of the former group were influenced, led, biased, whatever, by crossword bloggers; and then the same of the latter group.
Because, I wonder… how much empathy can a supersolver have for a novice? Ya know? I mean, I keep reading you crossword bloggers’ posts re Monday puzzles, and your standards keep going up. I offer this thought: maybe Monday should be immune to Your “I’ve seen it before”, “done a thousand times”, whatever criticisms; perhaps your yen of solving a crossword–and take a step back, remember–is SO different from that of someone solving their tenth crossword ever is so enormous that you, as a too-seasoned solver, can never again have true, purely diplomatic criticism for a truly green crossword doer. Think about it: here’s a thought: Every theme type declared “dead” by Fiend, Rex, Jeff, or Deb could be an exciting wonderworld for a solver doing his or her tenth puzzle ever. Y’all’s distance from the novice solver grows year by year; but for that solver, all these theme types y’all are labelling as “dead” and ultimately “unworthy” or wtf can be for the Monday solver great or beautiful or New!, New!, even, I dare say it, paradigm-shifting.
Quit ragging on the theme types for Monday. Their old to you, but f— you; they weren’t constructed for you.
I mean, it seems to me like editors know this. Catch up. … Or go back and catch up. Your Monday attire, crossword bloggers, should differ greatly from the rest-of-the-week’s wardrobe.
I’m pretty sure I gave this puzzle an extremely favorable review… Perhaps you didn’t see that I rated it 4.2 stars “for the construction alone”? Or maybe you missed the “excellent debut” comment? I believe I used the phrases “deftly executed” and “perfectly fine”? I think I called the constructor “fun” and “ambitious” and included a link to another puzzle he wrote? I may have been complimentary on the fact that he included six themers on a Monday and the fill didn’t suffer at all… but maybe I’m forgetting?
I don’t blog often, but I must say I rarely have unfavorable views of puzzles and I certainly appreciate constructors… I am one myself and I’ve taken plenty of criticism on the chin in order to help me be better…
Perhaps your “F– You” to me was misguided. I hope so.
I believe I even said I was looking forward to more puzzles from Evan.
I can’t say the same about hearing from you.
It’s bonkers to respond to a commenter’s note of “not so fresh” by hollering at bloggers. Do you know the difference between blog readers and blog writers?
BEQ: “Sets in some shoes” = DECKS? I can’t even make sense of the clue. Thanks.
I believe it’s a Blackjack reference. A shoe is a device for holding multiple decks of cards. It dosen’t have to be Blackjack but that’s where I’ve seen them.
The explanation about sets in some shoes=DECKS as a reference to blackjack is about the best I can think of, but it still does not make sense. The logic for this response is that a set is a synonym for a deck. Since set is a word with many definitions, it is plausible. However, a set in cards is three of a kind. You would never use a word with one and only one (noun) definition in cards to mean something else in cards.
Hi, everybody! Goodness, having a crossword published, putting your name out there, is like being a candidate on election night. First the polls close and Jeff Chen makes his pronouncement from New England. Soon it’s Crossword Fiend’s turn (I’ll call that one North Carolina)… Then, of course, Rex at midnight is California, though you never know which part of the state to expect there. Commenters are the… absentee ballots? Heh. Cute analogy, but rather apt. You’re dealing with so many audiences with different baseline experiences… how do you appeal to them all?? (Or at least to enough of them such that the majority finds the experience positive.) I’m still new to this, but I hope you enjoyed my first crack at the question.
Jim Q, thank you for the wonderfully supportive write-up. It means a lot to me, and yes, I am the type of person who will try X-ty different iterations of something before settling on certain trade-offs. (You miss 100% of the puzzles a constructor self-rejects!) I (at least like to) think I have very high standards for my fill. If I wouldn’t enjoy solving it, it just doesn’t go in. When I do have reservations about something, I’ll probably say more in the constructor’s notes.
Jim, feel free to email me. I was curious if you’d actually done that PSC crossword or just found the constructor’s notes upon developing your post. (I really have fun with those, can you tell?) I’ve submitted a fair number of grids by this point, but that puzzle is still my favorite idea.
Again, thanks for the warm welcome, and I hope you enjoy the puzzles to come!
P.S. Are you folks gonna review the PSC crossword here at some point??
Thanks for stopping by, Evan. Very impressive debut. Mondays are hard to construct even with a reasonable (4 or 5) number of themers. You put in six and still made it look easy. Nice! Puzzle Society Crosswords might get reviewed here in the future if there’s demand for it and if there’s enough womanpower and/or manpower to blog another daily.
Thanks, Jim P.! I just went where the words took me, and interestingly enough my second early-week Times acceptance also features six themers. Of course, NYT puzzles are like light from distant stars — you’re essentially seeing into the past — and I’m beginning to think JC at XWI is onto something when he says this is generally something experienced constructors don’t do!
Crossword analogies are fun.
For what it’s worth my vote is pro-PSC — David has been doing a wonderful job editing and attracting great cruciverbal talent, from neophyte to experienced constructors alike.
You have a crossword-writing philosophy that should serve you well; agonising over every answer and every cross is always worth it.
Thanks, Gareth; I hope so too! We all have our blind spots and it’s tough to think of everything — e.g. I didn’t realize that MSRP crossing ISP could be a stumper. (Man, that corner and it’s counterpart were brutal to work with, and that was WITH the cheater squares!)
its*. Ugh, I thought I revised that. I just couldn’t let that stand.
I definitely agree with Amy on the NERD/jock thing. As a pretty nerdy guy, I was trained by pop culture to be terrified of high school and the inevitable bullying I would suffer at the hands of jocks. Real high school was a lot bigger and more complicated but luckily it looked nothing like those 80s movies.
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