Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword — Ben’s review
It’s Sunday night! That means the Monday puzzle is out! Let’s crossword!
This Monday’s puzzle is from Jacob Stulberg. Let’s peek under the hood:
- [17a: Zero-tariff policy]: FREE TRADE
- [31a: Complete lack of wind, as at sea]: DEAD CALM
- [43a: “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” actor]: BURL IVES
- [58a: Device to remove water from a ship]: BILGE PUMP
- [28a: With 45a, savory topping found in tubs…and the circled squares?]: CHEESE/SPREAD
Cheesy though the theme may be (I’m speaking literally here – we’ve got FETA, EDAM, BRIE, and BLEU spanning the theme entries), this actually felt like a solid Monday puzzle. I associate BURL IVES with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” more than “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, but that could be a generational difference.
SWEETENER is Ariana Grande’s latest album.
Fill-wise, I don’t love ID TAG as “Sticker that says who you are” – it’s a little IFFY. ID BADGE or NAME TAG, sure, but somehow the combo of the two doesn’t quite work. I haven’t seen a SOBE in years, but it’s nice to know they’re still producing iced tea and other drinks at your local convenience store. AL ROKER has a Guinness World Record, as it turns out. I initially had “GET TO IT” instead of GET BUSY, and TRIP instead of TREK, which led to some grid-searching when I thought I had finished the puzzle.
Some fill-related gripes, but a pretty good start to the week nonetheless.
Matt McKinley’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
Today’s constructor won’t leave you strand-ed without a rope to safety … and neither will I! Let’s unravel this grid together:
17A: LINE OF WORK [Job]
29A: CORD CUTTING [Switching from cable TV to streaming, say]
47A: THREAD COUNT [Bedsheet buyer’s concern]
62A: STRING TRIO [Composition for violin, viola and cello … and what the starts of 17-, 29- and 47-Across comprise]
There’s a certain simple elegance that I enjoy about this theme and I think it fits well in a Monday puzzle. I like how the three theme entries and the revealer all play with different variations of STRING and all the themers are squarely in the language. Some of the fill in this puzzle felt tough for a Monday (ASCAP NTSB NITA APRESSKI BOOG XKES NOTTE), but my solve time was about average for LAT Monday puzzles, so the crosses must have been gettable. No Naticks in sight for me, at least.
#includemorewomen: Sadly, there are only two women represented in this week’s grid: NITA Strauss and Lady GAGA. I’m with my husband in Palm Springs for the weekend, so our homosexuality has naturally elevated to eleven. As such, I’d be remiss here if I didn’t lavish a bit of praise on the gay icon that is Lady GAGA. She’s back in the spotlight, playing one of the leads in the remake of A Star is Born. I can’t wait to see it and hear the raw power of her voice. Bradley Cooper who? And does she have the ever-elusive EGOT (or becoming a way to clue EGOT) in mind? Only time will tell. For now, I’ll echo Buzzfeed’s response to her at the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend (as seen in the picture above): yaaass!
Gabriel Stone’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Teams’ Schemes” — Jim’s review
The NFL season has started so we’ve got an aptly-themed grid today.
- 17a [Detectives tasked with tailing Wisconsin players?] PACKERS TRACKERS
- 24a [People using the services of New York players?] GIANTS CLIENTS
- 43a [People who get contracts with California players?] NINERS SIGNERS
- 56a [Participants in card games with Pennsylvania players?] STEELERS DEALERS
As straightforward a theme as they come: Made-up phrases whose second word rhymes with the team name in the first word.
I don’t see any other layer here, so that looks to be about it. As it is, I can’t get too excited about this theme. Maybe those who are new to crosswords will enjoy this one, but I felt the clues were lacking in zing and/or humor which could have drawn me in.
The rest of the grid is straightforward as well. I like MAKE WAY, “I REPEAT,” and EL NORTE. I didn’t know SHAKE IT [2008 Top Ten song by Metro Station], but it was easy enough to get with the crossings. Or maybe I was just thinking of The Cars’ Shake It Up or Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off. I wanted REGULATOR at 48a [Scuba mouthpiece attachment], but it turned out to be the less interesting AIR PIPE.
Not much else to mention here, so I’ll leave it at that. Three stars from me.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
I’m finding it fascinating to see the differences in puzzle content between the New Yorker constructors’ work here and in other venues. These New Yorker themelesses are edited collectively by the team of constructors, without a gatekeeper overseeing puzzle selection. So there’s no editor saying “COMBAHEE is no-go, you’ll need to rework that section.” The constructors are pushing the envelope of what’s considered canonical, expanding the body of vocabulary and names seen in crosswords. (Berry may hew more to the same vibe as his newspaper crosswords, but many of the other four, including Natan, seem more adventuresome in their fill.)
Favorite fill/clues here: SEX WORK clued as [Subject of the anthology “A Vindication of the Rights of Whores”] (not sure “Whores” is gonna make it into a newspaper crossword). “YOU’RE SO BUSTED. GENDER PRONOUN. BERNIE SANDERS as an entry, let us not get into the rest of it. Writer ELENA/FERRANTE, deemed a big enough name that the two cross at a vowel. UNION REP, tricky clue of [One calling strikes, in short]. YERBA MATE. [Paying for a lift, maybe] to clue SORE, as in “I overdid at the gym lifting weights, now I’m really paying for it because my quads are killing me.” STEP clued as [Group dance with stomps and claps]; it’s a black thing. Interesting trivia in the Robinson CANO clue, [M.L.B. star named for Jackie Robinson].
Did not know: GEOFENCE, [Digital demarcation]. COMBAHEE, [__ River Collective, seventies black feminist group]. The COMBAHEE/RENEE crossing was one I gambled on, as [“Who Killed Vincent Chin?” documentarian Tajima-Peña] isn’t a name I knew, but I’m certainly not going to argue that we shouldn’t be expected to know her name. I’ve also recently shifted my stance on which short entries I’ll call out as hard/obscure other crosswords—if it’s a word, usage, or name that’s not super-familiar to white Americans, but is common among other demographics, I’m not going to suggest the answer shouldn’t be in mainstream puzzles. We can all expand our horizons and vocabularies.
Four stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s themeless Monday crossword — Laura’s review
L’Shanah tovah to those who celebrate, and if this isn’t the new year for you, how about I just say hi? Hi!
- Literary! [7d: Protagonist of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”]: ANNE ELLIOT (my favorite Austen novel; the best film adaptation is the 1995 version with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds); [28a: Romance novelist Herron]: RITA; [3a: “The Bone Collector” author Jeffery]: DEAVER; [32d: Laputa visitor]: GULLIVER. Ok maybe [54d: Carthaginian leader]: DIDO too since she’s kind of a big deal in the Aeneid.
- [38a: The Angels’ liaison to Charlie]: BOSLEY. Played by David Doyle in the original series, and Bill Murray and Bernie Mac in the movie reboots.
- [6d: Slow Sri Lankan lemur]: LORIS. The saddest eyes of any animal. Although kind of a smile too. There I go anthropomorphosizing again.
[59a: Site of a class struggle]: ACADEMIA. So, I thought there was a question mark at the end of this clue, you know, to indicate a pun or a joke? As one often sees. But no. Academia is no joke, lemme tell ya.
[52a: “Don’t Pass Me By” singer]: RINGO Starr, of the Beatles. They were kind of a big deal in the 1960s. Here’s a cover from the 1980s:
NYT: I’m of two minds about this puzzle- I love cheese so seeing a cheesy theme is fun. But I found the revealer clue rather confusing:
“Savory topping found in tubs…and the circled squares?: CHEESE/SPREAD”
FETA, BLEU, BRIE, EDAM don’t usually come in a tubs of SPREAD, right?
Maybe the circled letters are meant to only refer to the CHEESE part, but then the clue should be: “Savory topping found in tubs…and IN the circled squares?: CHEESE/SPREAD”.
But then, they’re not just a topping and the ? mark in the clue makes no sense.
Sorry, I found this got in the way. I think something else should have been in place of SPREAD and the clue changed accordingly…
The various CHEESEs are SPREAD across the theme entries.
Oh, is that the intent?! Wow… totally flew by me…
We had a potluck yesterday and 60 people showed up. I may have lost a few brain cells.
I can’t guarantee that was the intent, as I am not Jacob Stulberg, but that’s my guess.
I’m curious about the pretty negative reaction to the New Yorker puzzle. I thought it had some interesting fill and clues. Was there a particular clue that people reacted negatively to? Or too many obscure references?
For me, I liked a lot of it, but there were also too many clues that go beyond crosswordese and into the realm of What Even Is This. Examples include BOOTERY and DATA HEIST.
BOOTERY and DATA HEIST aren’t in today’s TNY puzzle! That’s a different week’s.
I assume the New Yorker puzzle is intended for people who read the New Yorker and therefore know who George Saunders and Elena Ferrante are, that Brahms composed the Hungarian Dances, and so on. I also had never heard of COMBAHEE or GEOFENCE but I thought the crossings were reasonable (only RENEE seems plausible at 6D). I thought it was a good puzzle, considering the magazine it comes from, although heavier on proper names than I would have liked.
The negative reaction is probably for the overdose of trivia.
I don’t do a lot of Monday puzzles, but I did do today’s and liked it!
Re: Al Roker and the GBofWR — is this book relevant to anyone other than the people in it?
Does anyone care anymore? I think it should go the way of Miss America pageant, animal circuses etc.
Did anyone else find BEQ’s puzzle to essentially be three very easy mini-themelesses (NE, SW, and SE) and one really hard one (NW)? I just couldn’t get a foothold. Throw in writing AIRBORNE for SEABORNE and it was a hot mess for me. Perhaps it’s my fault for quickly hitting the skip-track button whenever one of my daughters tries to put “God’s Plan” on.
I thought WSJ was about as good as it gets for a Monday. Very clean.
“The constructors are pushing the envelope of what’s considered canonical, expanding the body of v̶o̶c̶a̶b̶u̶l̶a̶r̶y̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ names seen in crosswords.” Fixed it for you, Amy.
Waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much trivia in the TNY. Doable. but not very fun.
I wouldn’t even dignify the fill by calling it trivia. It’s the constructor’s ego trip to put in as much obscure, elitist crap as he can come up with. Oh yeah … I’m one of those who very definitely did not like this puzzle.
The New Yorker tends to go for a more “highbrow” audience (I’m going to use that term, but one could also, depending on their opinion of that audience, deem it “elitist”), as far as the knowledge/reference points it assumes of its readership.
It follows that its crossword puzzle would make that same assumption and its constructors would work with that intent in mind.
If you’re not liking the puzzles from that venue, have you considered not solving the puzzle from that venue?
Good idea, Ben. Or, focus on the other contributors to the New Yorker venue? Patrick Berry has had some expectedly lovely work here. Liz Gorski and Kameron Austin Collins have constructed puzzles for The New Yorker that are more accessible, perhaps, than Natan’s. I needed a tonic after attempting Natan’s puzzle. I found it in the beautiful grid by Jenna LaFleur today at David Steinberg’s Puzzle Society Crossword.
Great idea, David! Personally, I find I really like Natan and Anna’s headier grid selections since they stretch my knowledge base, though I totally get why they’re not everyone’s cup of tea.
I’m now officially out on TNY. Too variable from week to week, the interface is terrible. Mondays are annoying enough.
I enjoy a challenge. It should be a fair one, however. Geez, I guess reading the damn magazine doesn’t make me cultured enough. Pretty sure I’ll survive.
Berry and Gorski have been fantastic. Maybe almost too easy at times. KAC is hard & modern but fair. Natan and I are plainly not on anything close to the same wavelength. That does mean not I don’t think the puzzle is, overall, a great addition to the crossword landscape.
The weird thing with me and Natan is that I am so on his wavelength when it comes to wordplay clues, and so not on his wavelength when it comes to proper names. It makes for a schizophrenic solve—I’m zippit along grinning at his turns of phrase, and then suddenly it’s ELENA who? And though I know who Chaka Khan is, I still have no clue what RUFUS is in relation to her.
BEQ: 6d [Slow Sri Lankan lemur]
Lorises are not lemurs, though both are prosimians. As sister taxa, they’re more closely related to each other than to the rest of the prosimians, but lorises are not lemurs. If you want to get more technical you could say that they’re lemuriforms, but who’s going to do that in a crossword?
Further, Nycticebus species—the so-called slow loris—are endemic to Southeast Asia. Both species of the so-called slender loris (Loris spp.) are found in Sri Lanka.
If you want to get into the taxonomic weeds a little further, the specific epithet ‘tardigradus’ (“slow-moving”) is applied to one of the ‘slender’ lorises and is also an invalid genus within the lorisidae.
I always love it when pannonica busts out the mammal talk.
To make it even more confusing, Loris tardigradus (the red slender loris) was originally described as belonging to the once-expansive genus Lemur, which currently contains just one species, the familiar ring-tailed lemur (L. catta).
*Also, that is not a cat
Strepsirrhine woulda been cool.
One of our favorite books from Emma’s childhood. We still sometimes say she’s being a slow loris when she dawdles, and she’s now 18.