Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
What’s America’s pastime again? Maybe it’s crosswords. Maybe it’s the subject of today’s puzzle.
All the theme clues are identified by asterisks:
- 3d [*In a daze] is SPACED OUT. B-b-b-ennie and the Jets…oh, but she’s weird and she’s wonderful…..
- 17a [*Annual event displaying agricultural products] is the STATE FAIR. We have our own fair right here – The Great Allentown Fair. That’s the name. Really. Rides! Funnel cake! Amish quilts! Canned goods! Cows!
- 25a [*Spilling a drink or eating all the guacamole, say] would be a PARTY FOUL.
- 39a [*Candy from a candy machine] is a GUMBALL.
- 51a [*Attack from the sky] is an AIR STRIKE.
- 35d [*Vacationer’s container for valuables] is a HOTEL SAFE.
What ties these all together? 63a [Narrow escape … or what the end of the answer to each starred clue is?] tells us it’s a CLOSE CALL. OUT, FAIR, FOUL, BALL, STRIKE, and SAFE are all CALLs on the baseball field. This is a nice, solid Monday theme. The density of theme material leaves us with some fill that is blah at best(ROS, OLLA, C’EST as a FITB, and good old ASTA). On balance, though, a good puzzle.
A few other things:
- 10d [Add some style to] is SPIFF UP. I like this. It has a retro feel that I find charming. Others may find it musty.
- Choir rehearsal starts in six weeks! Can’t wait! I’m an ALTO, my husband is a BASSO (well, really, a baritone), and we won’t be singing any OPERA.
- 29d is [Middle-aged women with eyes for younger men]. Oh, please. If the genders are reversed, we just call them “men” and it’s all normal. Why do we have to make an issue of it by calling women COUGARS? Just say no.
- 40d [Of the highest rank] sounded military to me. It kind of is, but not in the way I thought – it’s A ONE.
- 50d [Expanses of land] are TRACTS, and I can’t be the only one who thought of this scene when I filled it in.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the name ESAU is mentioned more than 70 times in the book of Genesis.
Matt McKinley’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
Welcome! Have a seat in the chair. ::puts apron around you:: Ok, what are you thinking? Bangs? Fade? A new color? Let’s go visit our Monday LAT constructor in the 60a to find out more:
17a: PIN NUMBER [ATM user’s code] – I got rightfully roasted for using this in a recent puzzle because the N in PIN stands for number.
38a: ROLLER DERBY [Contact sport on skates] – Let’s talk about how badass roller derby-ists are!
9d: BRUSH FIRE [Forest threat] – Too many of those happening these days. Scary!
35d: CLIP JOINT [Business known for overcharging, in slang] – I’d never heard this term before. It seems to primarily apply to strip clubs, night clubs, and bars.
60a: HAIR SALON [Permanent place … and where to find the starts of the answers to starred clues]
Many thoughts! So, the “things found in a hair salon” theme was decent and all the items were clued differently to their salon use, so that’s a plus for me. But, with respect to the revealer, perms are hardly a thing anymore and calling one a “permanent” seems even less current. That didn’t do much but try to make the revealer clue a bit winkier, so it’s not my favorite. Finally, the theme entries should be the only longest entries in the grid, but we have SOLAR WIND and PASSERS BY next to themers and of equal length.
The grid was fine, but there certainly was some tough stuff in here for a Monday: IRMA RAIMI SURREY IMPUTE ANNEE DSM ROCA and ERLE!
#includemorewomen: Which women do we have represented in the grid this week? We have IRMA la Douce, UMA Thurman, LADY Godiva, Lucy LIU, and heroINE.
But, the fantastic femme double feature of this grid is [Elizabeth Warren or Lisa Murkowski, e.g.] for SENATOR and WOMAN. Both descriptors are important! Did you know that there are currently only 23 self-identified women serving in the U.S. Senate (an all time high!), even though just under 51% of the U.S. population is female (at least based on sex assigned at birth)? That doesn’t feel like equal representation to me. Folks arguing that people of color shouldn’t be “over-represented” in positions of power or leadership in our country often have no problem with men making up the vast majority of, well, any of those positions … even though they aren’t the majority of our population. It’s almost like there’s a system in place to propagate the success and power of men at the expense of women! Hmm…. (And don’t @ me or comment below with misogynistic nonsense. We aren’t here for it.) Thank you, Senators Warren and Murkowski, for your service to our country!
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Squeeze Play” — Jim’s review
The theme eluded me until I neared the end and filled in the revealer, MIDDLE SEAT at 58a (clued as [Air traveler’s dread, and what each starred answer has]).
- 17a [*Finds comfort in food, perhaps] STRESS EATS. This sounds odd as a verb. I think it’s more common in gerund form (stress eating).
- 23a [*Stealthy incursions] SURPRISE ATTACKS
- 36a [*”Wheel of Fortune” misfortune] LOSE A TURN. Nice that SEAT spans all three words.
- 50a [*Prosecutor’s opponent] DEFENSE ATTORNEY. Best for last. A nice grid-spanner.
A nice example of the hidden word type of theme. The purist might argue that SEAT is not exactly in the middle of each entry, but that’s not exactly possible with grid-spanners 15 letters long and a 4-letter long keyword.
I for one hate the MIDDLE SEAT, but what else can you do but tolerate it? My preference is the window seat so I at least have the possibility of using the wall as a headrest. But I may be in the minority. I think more people prefer the freedom of movement associated with the aisle seat. What say you?
Really nice stacks of 7s in the corners: WET SUIT, FIR TREE, LEXICON, STEPKID, “I BEG YOU,” TANGENT, AVERAGE, and PEYOTES (though it’s sadly pluralized). In fact, everything just seemed to be smooth as butter. There’s IST and the UNE / LES combo in the NW, but I think that’s as bad as it gets.
A very clean and flowing Monday grid to start your week. 3.8 stars from me.
Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Ben’s write-up
It’s Elizabeth Gorski’s turn in the New Yorker rotation, and today’s entry was a smooth solve along with my coffee this morning. A few nice crunchy moments that made me think, a few pieces of fill that were just okay, and a lot to like in between.
Tom Cochrane’s “Life IS A Highway”, best known as the end credits song from “Rocket Dog”. Houston, we have a dog!
- “Cab seeker’s aid, perhaps” made my brain immediately think of Uber, Lyft, or any of the other cab-hailing apps in the app store these days, but WINE LIST is another wonderful answer for that clue when you’re looking for a Cab and not a cab.
- KUMBAYA MOMENT was a really nice middle piece of fill – it wasn’t the first thing on my mind, but it definitely popped into place once I had enough crossings.
- I was a little underwhelmed by some of the smaller fill in the grid – DUN and SOL felt fine to me, but -ADE, -ERN, IS A (as in “Life IS A Highway”, and especially SSS (“Sound from a saute pan”) were disappointing.
- Lots of last names in this grid: Liam NEESON, Buffalo Bill CODY, Daniel TOTH, Tracy LETTS, and Nikola TESLA all pop up in the fill. Plenty of first names, too, with NORMA Rae (fictional, but still), ERICA Jong, and ELAYNE Boosler all making appearances.
- This week’s New Yorker-highlighted fill of the week: GILEAD, as in the fictional nation in The Handmaid’s Tale, and not as in the Marilynne Robinson novel.
A solid start to my day, even if this wasn’t my favorite New Yorker puzzle that’s run lately.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s themeless Monday crossword — Laura’s review
Boswords was yesterday, and I got to hang out with BEQ and the rest of the team. The tournament’s theme was “Saturday Night Live” (on Sunday afternoon), and Brendan’s band, the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, was our musical guest. They have a new album out — on cassette, of course — listen to a sample and order it here.
[1a: Block on social media, unknowingly to the user]: SHADOW BAN. The person who was “elected” president in 2016 complained about this on twitter recently. The effect of a SHADOW BAN is that an account can still post on a platform, but the algorithm is tweaked so that most users don’t see, and therefore don’t engage with, their posts. The idea is that problematic posters will be discouraged from future posting if no one takes their bait. Is it MEDIA BIAS? Maybe if you’re a SORE LOSER. Participation in many online communities is a PRIVILEGE. Behave yourself and don’t feed the trolls.
[24a: Fictional drug kingpin who used Vamonos Pest as a business front]: HEISENBERG, a.k.a. Walter White, chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-dealer on Breaking Bad. You can buy a Vamonos Pest (and a Los Pollos Hermanos) t-shirt on the internets.
[45a: “Killing Eve” channel]: BBC AMERICA. This show, starring Sandra Oh as an MI5 (or MI6, I always get those mixed up) officer investigating an assassin, has been recommended to me by no fewer then ten thousand of my closest internet friends.
[2d: Massachusetts town with the Volleyball Hall of Fame]: HOLYOKE. While BEQ is somewhat notorious for drawing solvers’ attention to relatively obscure towns in Massachusetts, this town and its local sports attraction are reasonably well-known, if overshadowed by the larger-and-more-visible-from-the-interstate Basketball Hall of Fame in neighboring Springfield.
[6d: “Hunh?”]: WHAT HAPPENED. That’s not how I usually spell it, but okay.
Regarding cougars, the thought behind the admittedly inappropriate term is that men are easily overpowered by women. A woman as predator and a man as easy prey is not positive for either one. I agree that it is very common for an older man to team up with a younger woman, but the terms used to describe men, particularly those over 5o who do so, are hardly flattering. The male counterpart can either be a silver fox, which is arguably flattering, a sugar daddy, which suggests that an older man’s only chance is to have money and my personal favorite: RHINO, coined to refer to an older man who is both horny and ugly. There are also manther, satyr, cradle robber and several others, but an older man with a younger woman is often referred to in some way other than just as a man.
Understand now Jenni? That the nudge-nudge wink wink of cougar is matched, at about 1% of the time, by manther? You get the equivalency? I can explain further if you need.
None of those terms (at least, those that I’ve heard before, I’ll ignore the ones so uncommon that I’ve never heard them) is general to “older man into younger women,” but some more specific value judgement about that man, while COUGAR is general. The reality is that, older men into younger women has been absolutely standard for millennia such that it hasn’t needed a term, where COUGAR needed to be coined as it is a situation different enough from the norm to need a term.
Oh, come on. Richard, are you new? I don’t think I’ve been mansplained by you before. Welcome to the group. It’s a large one.
Steve, there are so many things wrong with your paragraph that I lost count. Let’s stick with this one: relationships and sex are not “predator/prey” relationships. “A woman as predator and a man as easy prey is not positive for either one” is about the most odious sentence I’ve read in a while. Women are supposed to be “easy prey?” Really? That’s what you think my daughter should aspire to in life? Not to mention me.
As far as your false equivalence goes, the clue specifically referenced “middle-aged” women – generally, that means under 65. A man in his 50s or early 60s with a woman in her 20s or 30s would be completely unremarkable in my circle. It would take at least 40-year age difference for anyone to raise an eyebrow. Don’t believe me? Look at the ages of Harrison Ford’s costars (aside from Carrie Fisher) over the last ten years. Hell, look at the age of his *wife.* There are a lot of articles commenting the age gap (22 years, for those who don’t know) but not a one of them calls him any kind of name.
Come on, seriously? A “mansplaining” accusation, again? It’s a male, he posted an opinion or a fact … but at some point … I mean, come on. [bites tongue]
I thought mansplaining was talking to a woman about something she already knew about. I was explaining to Steve (presumably a man like me) about why Amy was right that the equivalent of COUGAR would be “Man” as But if that makes me a mansplainer and another person that makes your life worse, I’m very sorry and will never comment on this site again.
Aw Richard don’t give up so fast, some here don’t take offense that easily. I didn’t see that one has to meet a political correctness requirement before being allowed to post here, though it may seem so at times. Enjoying crossword puzzles should be, at least for a little while, a unifying activity. IMO.
Richard, sorry to pile on, but it wasn’t Amy.
And thanks, Phil. Seriously. I appreciate it.
Steve, you missed one — dirty old man.
“Dirty old man” doesn’t connote “older man romantically involved with a much younger woman” to me. “Dirty old man” is far, far creepier. A lecher, molester, flasher; wildly inappropriate and/or illegal.
That’s exactly why I threw it in the mix.
Re: LAT – Perhaps Matt uses his PIN number at the ATM machine.
How about Lucky bugger.
re LAT: “… the theme entries should be the only longest entries in the grid. ” Sort of. I think the “rule” is more precisely Don’t Let Non-thematic Entry Lengths Distract From Theme Entries. Most commonly, all your theme entries are acrosses, and you’ll want to spiff up your puzzle by having some cool long Downs. In this case, this is an example of an exception to the cited “rule”: If You Must Have Nonthemers as Long or Longer Than Themers, Distinguish Them in Some Way. Here, the long nonthemers are buttressed right smack up against theme entries; and when the rule is broken perhaps this the most common way of doing so, especially when your puzzle has both Across and Down themers. Of course, the fact that the theme entries are asterisked in the clues adds to the distinguishment, but I think it’s becoming more and more acceptable to have long non-theme entries presented this way.
Really? Oooh, then this makes at least two puzzles I’m currently writing on so much easier to grid!
Tough lower half BEQ, especially the east side.
Liked the TNY though the /TOTH/TERRINES/PENULT/PETITES crossings was not good imo.
Agreed. I loved Space Ghost Coast to Coast, but if not for that parody the Alex TOTH creation would be just another 50 year old Hanna-Barbera series. Really hard to get a foothold in that area.
Hard to get a foothold anywhere with all the trivia and proper names. Ugh.
I think this is the first time I’ve seen the noun form, PENULT, of PENULTIMATE. Seems like a bit of a stretch, since I’m pretty sure ULT is not a word. A quick google suggests that PENULT can mean the next-to-last syllable of a word, but it is less clear that it has been fully accepted as a word meaning (as clued here) the next-to-last of any series.
Your Google searching must be pretty poor then. I found 2 mentions of it being the second last of anything in the first 3 sites I checked.
I didn’t say I didn’t find them; I said that it was less clear that it was an accepted meaning. The hits I found cast some doubt on the legitimacy of the “second-to-last-of-anything” usage.