Monday, January 28, 2019

BEQ 27:54 (Vic) 


LAT 4:18 (Nate) 


NYT 2:40 (Jenni) 


The New Yorker 4:57 (Jenni) 


WSJ 4:38 (Jim P) 


Thomas Van Geel’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

This is what I want from a Monday puzzle: a consistent, accessible theme and solid fill with a minimum of crosswordese.

This is a “find the common thread” theme.

NYT 1/28/19, solution grid

  • 7a [Giving away unwanted items rather than trashing them] is FREECYCLING. Today we freecycled a portable dance floor and barre and a free-standing storage shelf.
  • 30a [Extra job in the gig economy] is a SIDE HUSTLE.
  • 46a [Dramatically end a speech, in a way] is DROP THE MIC. This is more commonly heard as “mic drop,” but I’ll take it.

What ties them together? 62a [Crowdfunding site … or a hint to the beginnings of 17-, 30- and 46-Across]: KICKSTARTER. The START of each theme entry is a kind of KICKFREE KICK, SIDE KICK, and DROP KICKSIDE KICK doesn’t sound all that familiar to me, but the only sport I follow is baseball and there’s no kicking in baseball. I like the 21st century feel to the clues and revealer. There’s nothing musty about this puzzle.

A few other things:

  • ANKLE at 1a crosses KNEE BONE at 3d. I’ve only heard KNEE BONE in the song.
  • Paging Shirley Maclaine: 23d [Previous incarnation] is a PAST LIFE.
  • This puzzle is laughing at us like an old Beavis and Butthead episode. We have YUKS and HEH.
  • Speaking of old, we have OLIVETTI. I had a Smith Corona portable electric typewriter like everyone else I knew. The OLIVETTI was much cooler. Not for nothing is there one in the Museum of Modern Art.
  • 43d [Look smugly upon] is SMIRKS AT. We’ve had all too much exposure to smirking in the news lately.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle (or at least before I wrote this blog post): that the KNEE BONE song was written by James Weldon Johnson and is a spiritual based on a text from Ezekiel.

Gary Cee’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Power Play” — Jim P’s review

We have an anagram theme today with the revealer MASTER SWITCH (58a, [Main shut-off, and a literal hint to the ends of 20-, 31- and 47-Across]). Each theme answer’s last word is an anagram of MASTER.

WSJ – Mon, 1.28.19 – “Power Play” by Gary Cee

  • 20a [Long Island village near JFK International] VALLEY STREAM. New to me.
  • 31a [Harvard and Yale, for many Supreme Court justicesALMA MATERS. Is that how you pluralize the Latin phrase? Ah, the all-seeing Internet tells me that’s an acceptable English version. The actual Latin plural would be almae matres. The original phrase translates to “generous mother.”
  • 47a [Classic circus performersLION TAMERS. I don’t suppose there are any more current lion tamers in circuses. Actually, are there any non-Cirque du Soleil circuses around anymore since Ringling Bros/Barnum & Bailey closed up shop a couple years ago?

Solidly executed theme. MASTER SWITCH makes for a good revealer, and for once, plurals in the theme answers aren’t there out of symmetrical necessity, but anagrammatical necessity. I’d never heard of VALLEY STREAM, but the crossing were all easy enough.

I had a couple of mistakes during the solve: EPIC for SAGA (29a, [Heroic story]) and RAMP UP for STEP UP (36a, [Increase, as production]). Oh, and despite having ERIE at 49a, I got rid of the I to put in ARCHES at 51d [Foot parts]. Got me with that one. I quickly switched it back to INCHES.

Other than those missteps, which were entirely my own fault, this is a very clean grid. AUSTRALIA and ESCALATOR (with the lovely clue [Nonstop flight?]) are our long Downs along with APOSTLES and WARDROBE. MYOPE [Nearsighted person] and BANTU [Congo language] are the toughest bits of fill.

Nice grid. 3.8 stars.

Speaking of WARDROBEs:

Susan Gelfand’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up

Is it hot in here? It certainly isn’t for these theme entries:

LAT 1.28.19

LAT 1.28.19

16A: ANDERSON COOPER [“360°” CNN anchor]
22A: ANTON CHEKHOV [“Uncle Vanya” playwright]
52A: AARON COPLAND [“Appalachian Spring” composer]
61A: ANDREW CARNEGIE [19th-century steel industry philanthropist who built an eponymous concert hall]
38A: COOL CAT [Hipster, and based on their initials, what each of 16-, 22-, 52-, and 61-Across is?]

I really dug this theme! Each of the theme entries has the initials AC and, with air conditioning, each of these men would certainly be a COOL CAT. I appreciated that the revealer didn’t just include AC, but asked the solver to take that one extra step of putting all the pieces together. Nice!

Bonus points to the constructor for having as much theme fill as she does without so much fill that makes me say ICK (aside from ENER OWAR SQMI RIC ENOL).

Minus points for every theme entry being a white dude. I mean, two of them are gay, so there’s that, but women and people of color can’t be COOL CATs, too? Audie Cornish, Agatha Christie, and others would like a word.

Bonus points for this puzzle being by a woman constructor and for women being included in the grid.

Minus points for those women in the grid being from a different era (ZSA) or problematic (LENA Dunham).

Overall, I enjoyed the theme and cruised through the puzzle at a rapid clip. A bit more diverse representation across the theme/puzzle and I’d be fully smitten!

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword—Jenni’s write-up

Ben’s having a busy day at work and I have a bit of a lunch break, so here I am with Natan’s lovely puzzle. This was not particularly difficult and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

We start off at 1a with [No animals were harmed in its making], which is not a film, TV show, or cruelty-free makeup product, but rather LAB GROWN MEAT. I realize that there’s no scientific reason for my “ick” reaction, and yet – ick.

New Yorker 1/28/19, solution grid

I really liked the rest of that top stack. I’m sure there are people who have ZERO TOLERANCE for JEAN-PAUL SARTRE. Great clue for the latter: [He said, “When the rich wage war, it’s the poor who die”].

Other things I enjoyed:

  • 3d [Conks on the head] for BOPS. I don’t know why I find that so pleasing, but I do.
  • I love it when being married to a geologist pays off. [Bauxite and cinnabar] at 17a are ORES.
  • 25a [Emulate Joan of Arc, in a way] is CROSS DRESS. It’s not new, folks.
  • My age-mates are all singing along with 42a [“Life is _____/The meaning of her name” (“Isn’t She Lovely” lyric naming Stevie Wonder’s daughter).] We’re old. AISHA Morris is 43.
  • [Leaves before bedtime, maybe?] are DECAF TEA.

Loved, loved, loved the bottom stack: EMOTIONAL LABOR/REBECCA SOLNIT/BREAKS A SWEAT. The clue for 49a references Solnit’s groundbreaking essay “Men Explain Things To Me.” If that’s new to you, read it now. {Rant about our comment section deleted}.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the DAP as a greeting originated among black soldiers in Vietnam.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword #501—Judge Vic’s review

BEQ’s Themeless Monday #501 solution 1-28-19

Totally jazzed by a 27:54 time! That’s breakneck speed for me on a super-challenging and enjoyable crossword. Why, I almost struck a NIXONESQUE pose when Mr. Happy Pencil appeared as I guessed that a K, to make SAKS 55d‘s [Bergdorf Goodman rival], was the likeliest suspect to make sense with MARIE _ONDO at 62a [Organization consultant with the Netflix series “Tidying Up”].

I liked the double-duty clue [Comestibles], a word I don’t see much of, but which I knew had something to do with eating. It yielded FOOD at 25a and  GRUB at 37a.

Other highlights for me were

11a [Flea instrument] BASS–I didn’t know the artist Flea until today.
17a [The Silk Road, famously] TRADE ROUTE

21a [Longtime Rivera catcher] POSADA–This was a bit of a giveaway for some, I’m sure, but it allowed me to reflect on Yankee catchers that I was able to remember. Yogi Berra was it when my memory kicked in, followed by Elston Howard. And then there was Jake Gibbs. Growing up in Mississippi, I watched Gibbs, a triple-threat quarterback, lead Ole Miss to an undefeated season and a share of the National Championship his senior season (1960?). I think Gibbs started one year for the Yanks, but was mostly a back-up for Howard and then also for Thurman Munson. Jorge Posada is the only other Yankee catcher I remember knowing about while he played. The best known Yankee catcher in my home area, of course, is Bill Dickey, who played from 1928-46 and is said to have mentored Berra.
58a [Generous] OPENHANDED–One word, this. No hyphen.
61a [Quattuordecillion, say?] A LOT–Two words, this. It was the clue that I liked. That number, btw, looks like this: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
64a[ Alert] ON ONE’S TOES–An early guess, AT THE READY, primed me for a 3-word answer.
7d [Woodlouse or pill bug, e.g.] ISOPOD–I’m really proud of a correct guess here, after the O’s popped up in crossers.
8d[___ solution AQUEOUS–Another guess, facilitated only by the Q.
11d First rap group to have the #1 album on the Billboard chart] BEASTIE BOYS
24d [Scolding harshly] TEARING INTO–I confidently guessed INTO early and, obviously, that bore fruit.
40d [Los Angeles-based ISP] NETZERO–This company spells its name with the N and the Z as capital letters.
42d [“Forget about it!”] I SAID NO
44d [They’re barely seen on the beach] SPEEDOS–None of my early guesses, centered on the word nude, would fit in the space.

Checking the clues one final time for a nit or two … I got nothing! Can’t believe it took me so long. Should have been as smooth as a silk road! 4.5 stars.

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15 Responses to Monday, January 28, 2019

  1. Lise says:

    NYT: I liked the theme answers particularly; also, OLIVETTI (I learned on a Royal, not quite as cool), and NUCLEI.

    Nice puzzle, Mr. van Geel! I hope to see more from you.

  2. Evad says:

    Perhaps the “side kick” is related to swimming? There’s an “onside kick” in football, but that has that “on-” prefix.

  3. Jim Peredo says:

    I balked at DROP THE MIC. The other two are such great in-the-language phrases, but this isn’t. DROP ANCHOR would’ve been a better fit, IMO.

    • Joe Pancake says:

      Disagree about DROP THE MIC — sounds completely natural to me. I wouldn’t even have given it a second thought if I didn’t read this blog. It’s the name of a TV show on TNT, and it was in-the-language before that.

      Nice, lively entry, I think.

    • Martin says:

      How did you avoid this commercial?

    • Ben says:

      Really? I’ve heard “drop the mic” used in hip-hop/comedy contexts for years. Think of Chris Rock at the end of a set. These days it’s more of a figurative meaning of punctuating a point in a particularly visceral way.

    • Nina says:

      I continue to be peeved that the spelling mic has been adopted universally.
      Why did this happen?

  4. Ethan Friedman says:

    Concur, that was a nice Monday.

  5. pannonica says:

    WSJ: 47a [Classic circus performers] LION TAMERS. I don’t suppose there are any more current lion tamers in circuses. Actually, are there any non-Cirque du Soleil circuses around anymore since Ringling Bros/Barnum & Bailey closed up shop a couple years ago?

    I’d rather the clue read ‘obsolete’ or at least ‘obsolescent’, as ‘classic’ implies some sort of imprimatur for a cruel practice.

  6. Evad says:

    How ’bout a bit of the Dropkick Murphys to start one’s day?

  7. Mark P says:

    BEQ was a toughy but lots of fun and really satisfying to complete (except for my lucky guesses on the crosses between TRILLIN, RONWOOD, and SKELTON)

Comments are closed.