Monday, August 20, 2018

BEQ 6:09 (GRAB) 


LAT 4:26(Nate) 


NYT 2:36 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


The New Yorker 6:50 (Ben) 


Peter Gordon’s New York Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

This may have been my fastest time ever on a Monday puzzle. I suspect it would have been a smidgen faster on paper since I had a couple of typos I fixed while solving. It’s a Monday with a solid but not particularly interesting theme.

NYT 8/20, solution grid

  • 17a [Meat entree in Ukraine] is CHICKEN KIEV.
  • 28a [Meat entree in Austria] is VIENNA SAUSAGES.
  • 47a [Meat entree in New Zealand] is BEEF WELLINGTON.
  • 62a [Meat entree in the United Kingdom] is LONDON BROIL.

{deleted tangent about the question of why chicken is considered “meat” for the purpose of kashrut} Maybe it’s the aforementioned deleted tangent, but “chicken” seems out of place to me. VIENNA SAUSAGES are pork. I’d find it more appealing if each was a different kind of meat, or if they were all the same kind of meat. Leaving that aside, it’s still not a compelling theme.

A few other things:

  • 1a [Mattress cover] is SHEET. Unless you’ve been shopping for your departing college student, in which case it might be the foam mattress topper or the anti-bedbug cover or the quilt you had to find in Twin XL….
  • 8d [Thing attached to a sloop’s boom] is MAINSAIL. Am I the only one who thought of this?

  • 16a [Catch cold?] is a tricky little clue for a Monday. The answer is NAB.
  • 29d is the closest we can come to the Peter Gordon Trademark Very Long Clue in the NYT, especially on Monday.  [Pop-up that results in the batter being called out even if the ball isn’t caught] is the INFIELD FLY RULE.
  • 35a [Excellent, informally] is PHAT. Do people still say that?

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Peter Gordon created easy puzzles.

Brock Wilson’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up

Quick! Let’s get into this Monday LAT puzzle, which I loved!

LAT 8.20.18

LAT 8.20.18

17a: LEGAL ZOOM [Online site for making a will]
23a: NEWS FLASH [Ironic exclamation before an unsurprising announcement]
38a: BRING UP TO SPEED [Fills (someone) in about the latest developments]
47a: HUMAN RACE [All people, with “the”]
59a: OSCAR BUZZ [Hollywood pre-award speculation]

I am here for this Monday puzzle. The theme is straightforward – each themer ends with a word that can also be synonymous with the verb go quickly (by) – and the entries felt modern, in the language, and/or inclusive. What made the puzzle for me, though, were a few lovely moments of fill that show that being inclusive in crosswords is possible:

  • We have queer representation, with LGBT [Rainbow flag letters]. Also, ITS could have been referenced in a zillion different ways, but it was done here with respect to the super queer Pet Shop Boys. THAT is how you be inclusive, even with a simple word.
  • We have SISTER clued as [Anne Brontë, to Emily] and this, importantly, passes the crossword-equivalent of the Bechdel test. For those who don’t know, “The Bechdel test is a method for evaluating the portrayal of women in fiction. It asks whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added.” Anne and Emily aren’t talking to each other here, but they are named and certainly clued in reference to each other without a man or male love interest indicated. How often does this happen in crosswords?? Not enough. Awesome.
  • KIM could have been clued in many different ways, but she was clued with respect to Lil KIM, an accomplished person of color. Inclusive cluing that allows lots of solvers to see themselves reflected in ways big and lil matters!

I also enjoyed the clue of [Coop layer] for HEN and only slightly minded the bit of meh fill (CAROM LAN CPL UPI SABOT EZER). Overall, the puzzle was one I could ZOOM / FLASH / SPEED / RACE / BUZZ through and made me smile.

Margaret SANGER

Margaret SANGER

#includemorewomen: This grid features Anne MEARA along with the Brontë sisters and Lil KIM, but I want to focus on the woman I was most excited to see included: [Birth control activist] Margaret SANGER! According to her Wikipedia page, SANGER “popularized the term ‘birth control’, opened the first birth control clinic in the United States, and established organizations that evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.” I can easily see how a constructor or editor might avoid including her because of some fear of controversy, so I appreciated seeing her represented, and clearly clued with respect to her feminist claim to fame. She did a tremendous amount to advance the cause of women’s reproductive rights, though it’s important to note that she was “criticized for supporting negative eugenics” because she argued that the “unfit” shouldn’t reproduce. As always, historical figures can be quite complex and it’s important to evaluate the full legacy, but her impact on women’s choices in modern society is undeniable.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Mixed Economy” — Jim’s review

Anagram theme revealed by the answer at 37a: EXCHANGE RATES [Money-converting numbers, and a hint to the last words of the starred answers]. The final word of each theme answer is an anagram of RATES.

WSJ – Mon, 8.20.18 – “Mixed Economy” by Zhouqin Burnikel

  • 16a [*Annual known for its bright showy blooms] CHINA ASTER. I only know ASTERs from crosswords and I’d never heard of a CHINA ASTER.
  • 20a [*Unsettling hostile reaction] ICY STARE
  • 58a [*Mall cop’s weapon] AIR TASER. Never heard of this one either. Looking it up online I learned the original taser used gunpowder to shoot out its electrodes at the victim. This caused it to be classified as a firearm. I didn’t find an exact description of an AIR TASER, but I’m going to surmise it uses a blast of air to project the electrodes thus getting around the firearm classification.
  • 63a [*Have an unhappy outcome] END IN TEARS. I wasn’t sure I liked this one at first, but now I think it’s my favorite entry.


I wasn’t feeling this one, mainly because EXCHANGE means to swap things out, not mix them up. Add to that the unfamiliarity of the first and third entries, and my eyebrows were in the raised position for a good portion of the solve.

But put that aside and let’s look at the fill. Zhouqin is a master at smooth, fun fill, and she doesn’t disappoint in that department here. WHITE SOX, EARTH TONE, ESOPHAGI, and especially SALAD DAYS are the highlights here. I also like SITKA, “HI, Y’ALL,” THIN OUT, and TARTAN.

The usual crosswordesey suspects sneak in (OTT, ALOU, ACH, etc.) but nothing too oddball.

I enjoyed the fill more than the theme here which felt a little off to me. Three stars.

Kameron Austin Collins’ New Yorker crossword—Ben’s write-up

Happy Monday, everyone!  It was great to see people at last weekend’s Lollapuzzoola, and in (what was a shocking turn of events for me) I managed to place 9th in the Local division, my best placement at a tournament ever.  I wasn’t paying any attention to the scoreboard and was just going for a clean solve, and apparently did that.  I credit a lot of that to the New Yorker themelesses – the cluing on these bends my brain in the right way.

This week’s entry from KAC felt like it was missing some of his usual high-low that I look for, but it was right on my wavelength, since this is the fastest I think I’ve ever been on one of these – just under 7 minutes.  More notes after a music break:

Dear constructors: please put MITSKI in a grid. Her new album, Be the Cowboy, is fantastic.
  • The upper right corner of the grid was an easy fill-in today – ALPS, SOAP, KONA, and KFC were all pretty grok-able, and the corresponding downs ASK, “LOOK IT UP”, PANFLUTE, and SPACE PEN were also right on the tip of my brain.
  • ANTAEUS felt like a New Yorker bit of fill, and all those vowels in a row is deceptive looking when all you have is A__AEU_ in your grid.
  • It took me far longer than I would have liked for my brain to connect “Best Actress for Room” to “the person who’s playing Captain Marvel” to BRIE LARSON.  Speaking of superheroes, it was great to see a nod for COMIC-CON in the grid.
  • BRETT Favre is finally retired after playing for both the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.  Good for you, Brett Favre!
  • I very much liked OATES as answer to “Hall mate?”
  • Todd Haynes (director of “Far From Heaven”) directed “Superstar: the Karen Carpenter Story”, a biopic that uses Barbie dolls and which can’t get an official release (largely due to the fact that it uses Barbie dolls and also doesn’t have the permission of Richard Carpenter).  It’s great and you should totally watch it.

This felt just okay for a KAC puzzle, and I expect a little more pizzazz from both him and the New Yorker when it comes to themelesses.

3.75/5 stars.

THEMELESS MONDAY #478 by Brendan Emmett Quigley – Gareth’s brief summary


Excellent seeds: timely SPACEFORCE to open with PETCARRIER below, plus a central 15 of WHOWOREITBETTER, which is fresh as daisies and a perfect 15. It does have a feel of SHOVELITIN in places with medium answers like DRONISH and STANDEE making my overall experience a tad AMBIVALENT.


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18 Responses to Monday, August 20, 2018

  1. GLR says:

    Chicken (and turkey and duck and goose, among others) has been “meat” where I come from, forever – I’m good with CHICKEN KIEV.

    Pretty good Monday – theme was kind of cute, and I like both INFIELD FLY and UNSUNG HERO.

  2. cyberdiva says:

    I agree with GLR. I thought this was a very good Monday offering. Easy enough for inexperienced solvers, with moderately interesting theme answers, some neat longer entries (esp. the ones GLR already cited), and relatively little garbage fill.

  3. Lise says:

    NYT: I liked that the dishes were all capital cities.

    I grew up thinking that meat came from any animal, including fish and seafood, although I know that fish is excluded from the category by some religions. We have a family friend who says he doesn’t eat meat, but he will eat shrimp and scallops.

    The word “meat” formerly referred to all food, so it has had a bit of a semantic change over the years.

    • placematfan says:

      re: “I liked that the dishes were all capital cities.”

      Great observation. I wonder what Peter Gordon’s original clues were.

      • David L says:

        Except in the case of Beef Wellington, the dish is named for the Duke of Wellington, as is (according to Wikipedia) the capital of NZ. So the connection is indirect in that case.

        • Lise says:

          I thought of that, and I know that it didn’t originate in NZ; does anyone know whether those other dishes originated in their theme cities?

          • David L says:

            That’s a good point. A Vienna sausage is a direct translation of Wiener (Viennese) and is apparently named for a certain style of smoked sausage. Chicken Kiev seems to have been invented by a French chef working for a Russian nobleman, with no particular connection to Kiev. And London Broil is a North American invention (wikipedia provides no explanation of the origin of the name).

            So Vienna sausage is in fact the only one that has an unequivocal connection to the city.

  4. seahedges says:

    A minor nit with Peter Gordon’s pleasantly smooth, easy puzzle. Carne asada holder (20-A) is a tortilla, not a TACO. The taco is the edible confection, not one of its components.

    • arthur118 says:

      “Carne asada tacos” gets 15,800,00 hits on Wikipedia, most of which seem to be recipes for the tasty treat.

    • arthur118 says:

      seahedges- in my neighborhood it seems that “taco” also stands for the hard taco shell sold in grocery stores. Clearly, though, your comment seems more appropriate.

    • Ben Smith says:

      I’d argue that this is just fine – “taco” is one of those things that can refer to either the final comestible or the general holder/vessel for the filling (even if it is a tortilla).

      • Lise says:

        James Thurber would have called it “a container for the thing contained”. He was forever looking for those.

      • Joe Pancake says:

        I agree. In fact, I would call the hard shell a taco before I would call it a tortilla, because tortillas to me are soft. (Although I far prefer “taco shell” over either.)

        A somewhat similar phrase is ice cream cone. It can be just the cone or the entire cone/ice cream combo, depending on context.

  5. Joe Pancake says:

    NYT: Hand up for thinking of “Sloop John B” upon getting MAINSAIL.

    I wish the clue for INFIELD FLY had a “might” in it or some other conditional qualifier, as not all infield flies invoke the infield fly rule.

  6. Phil says:

    I like the New Yorker puzzle but find the Web interface kind of clunky. Any chance they’ll ever offer a .puz version?

  7. Christopher Smith says:

    New Yorker: “Brett Favre is finally retired…” This happened 8 years ago. Not sure what you’re on about.

    A big thank-you to the constructor for putting in SCTV & cluing it so cleverly (along with the editor for letting it stand). May have tripped up some of the younger solvers but it made my day.

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