No WSJ puzzle today due to the Presidential holiday. Celebrate by telling us your favorite fictional president (either a fictional character or an actor portraying an actual president) and why.
Leslie Rogers & Andrea Carla Michael’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
Leslie Rogers makes her NYT debut in collaboration with Andrea Carla Michaels, who is a superb constructor and mentor. Check out their comments on Wordplay for details on their work together. Deb points out that creating a good Monday puzzle is in some ways more difficult than creating a good, say, Friday or Saturday, and she’s right. She’s also right that Andrea is one of the best practitioners of that art. I liked this puzzle a lot. It played a bit harder than a typical Monday for me, but I don’t think it’s out of the general Monday range of difficulty.
I had no idea what was going on with the theme until I got the revealer, which makes it more fun for me. Let’s look at the theme entries:
- 17a [“Sleep well!”] is NIGHT NIGHT. I thought maybe we were going for duplicative phrases.
- 28a [Billy Idol hit that starts “Hey little sister, what have you done?”] proved me wrong. It’s WHITE WEDDING.
- 44a [Vegetarian spaghetti topper] is a MUSHROOM BALL. This was new to me. The first Google hit is a Phys Ed game I am glad I never had to .play. Below that we have Super Mario – and then recipes for MUSHROOM BALLs replacing meatballs on spaghetti. Good to know.
So what’s the connection? 59a asks for [Graduation garb … or what the compound answers to 17-, 28- and 44-Across represent?]. That’s CAP AND GOWN. Aha! NIGHT CAP and NIGHTGOWN (this one is brilliant), WHITECAP and WEDDING GOWN, and MUSHROOM CAP and BALL GOWN. Very nice! The constructor’s notes tell us that the theme was Leslie’s idea. I’m looking forward to more of her puzzles!
A few other things:
- 3d [Assemble, as equipment] is RIG UP, which makes sense but wasn’t immediately evident to me – one of the reasons it played harder than a typical Monday.
- A nod to Leslie’s day job in Silicon Valley at 9d [Collection of figures for a statistical analysis], which is a DATA SET.
- 23d is [’60s hallucinogenic]. LSD is still around. Just ask Michael Pollan.
- 37a [Sidestep] also slowed me down a smidgen. It could be either EVADE or ELUDE.
- 39a [Secret ___ (metaphoric key to success)] may be my favorite clue in the puzzle. It’s SAUCE.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: MUSHROOM BALL, which now sounds like a vegetable gala.
And, of course, I leave you with this.
Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword, “Name Game”–Judge Vic’s write-up
This very clever, clue-dependent theme is executed with four long horizontal entries:
- 17a [Celebrations attended by Behar and Reid?] JOYFUL OCCASIONS–Joy Behar. Joy Reid. Get it?
- 25a [Inattention perpetrated by Rogers and Smith–A pair of Wills.
- 43a [Magazine issue with no mention of Ginsburg and Westheimer?] RUTHLESS PEOPLE
- 55a [Movie that bombed after Lange and Davis backed out?] HOPELESS FAILURE
- I liked this puzzle for reasons other than that I broke six minutes, though that’s an indicator of something!
- With four long Acrosses, there won’t typically be any other noteworthy horizontal ILSA’s, but there’ll be at least two verticals, sometimes four or more. Paul offers up BELT OUT, TEA BAGS, LONG U, OLD NEWS, and SPOT ADS.
- Non-ILSA Down answers FOIBLES, SLEDGES, and TEMPEST also merit note.
An outstanding clunkerless effort! 4 stars.
Yolande Hardison’s AV Club bonus crossword, “Total Bust”—Amy’s recap
This bonus puzzle is Yolande Hardison’s debut, and the constructor has a close relationship to her theme.
- 19a. [African-American sculptor of 31-, 45-, and 60-Across, notably], INGE HARDISON. Yolande is the sculptor’s daughter. I’d never heard of the artist, but that’s on me since she was notable enough to merit an NYT obituary on her passing in 2016. Hardison specialized in sculpting great African Americans. Do a Google image search for Inge Hardison to see her many busts (the inspiration for the puzzle title, “Total Bust”).
- 31a. [Abolitionist who later became a suffragist], FREDERICK DOUGLASS.
- 45a. [Abolitionist who later became a suffragist], HARRIET TUBMAN.
- 60a. [Educator, civil rights leader, and businesswoman who served in FDR’s cabinet], MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE. Born too late to be an abolitionist.
- 74a. [Shining example, or what 31-, 45-, and 60-Across each literally were for 19-Across], MODEL CITIZEN.
Highlights in the fill include TOSCANINI, SCRIMPS, and A SINGLE MAN. 42d. [Black Maria] clues PADDY WAGON, which is a term that may or may not be a slur on Irish Americans. I didn’t know the Black Maria term, about which the Oxford dictionary folks say “said to be named after a black woman, Maria Lee, who kept a boarding house in Boston and helped police in escorting drunk and disorderly customers to jail.”
This 17×17 grid’s got a lot of 3-letter entries, which means lots of clunky little abbreviations and fragments. There’s also a dupe, with IS IT OK and OKS. Could’ve been ART/OTS or ARC/OCS, or ARE/OED/LED.
Four stars from me. I especially appreciated the articles included in a PDF sent out with the puzzle.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword #505—Jim Q’s review
Boy, did I mangle this one. I found it much harder than a typical BEQ themeless- never firmly getting a foothold anywhere besides the SW. Lots of unfamiliar names and some vague cluing left me stymied.
- 1A [Words said with a comic head shake] WHAT THE WHAT.
I’ve heard it before, but not often, and it wasn’t on my radar.
- 17A [Words said after a 60-Across] I’M TERRIBLY SORRY. Though I got 60A first, it seems like there’s a lot one can say after a CARELESS MISTAKE.
- 66A [Worthless contributors on social media] SHITPOSTERS. Unfamiliar with the term, though it was inferable. Googles well enough without a space (with a space will bring up actual posters available for purchase!)
- 4D [Drink with pain aux raisins] THE. What the what? Never heard of “THE” as a drink. I’m finding it very difficult to Google. Seems unnecessary to clue it this way with the North being already tough. Would’ve liked a gimme here.
More missteps included EVEN PAY for MORE PAY, GRILLS for GRYLLS, RESOUND for RESPOND, ORATOR for EDITOR, AOL APPS (?) for WEB APPS, LDL for HDL, LIMESTONE for SOAPSTONE, POM for THE, and probably a host more. I lost track.
Names ALYN, WHIPPLE (though inferable), LE COQ, SIPE, EMMA (as clued), GRYLLS (spelling), EDD, and LEVI were all areas of stumbling for me.
- 61D [Engage in bombing wrapped in binding] SKI. Puzzle was worth it just for that clue.
- 28D [Wax collector] Q TIP. Gross. But I liked it.
2.5 stars from me. Found this one difficult to enjoy in comparison with most of BEQ’s themeless puzzles.
Kurt Krauss’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
Let’s see what trouble we’ll be in (or, rather, B_N) with Monday’s LAT puzzle:
17A: TRAVEL BAN [Extreme-weather restriction, perhaps]
25A: GENTLE BEN [Title bear of ’60s TV]
37A: DUST BIN [Brit’s trash can]
51A: CEST SI BON [Classic French song whose title means “It’s so good”]
61A: HOT DOG BUN [Frank holder]
It’s unconscionable to me that TRAVEL BAN is included as a theme entry, given how xenophobic, racist, harmful, unnecessary, and misguided the current administration’s multiple attempts at travel bans have been. Also, [Extreme-weather restriction, perhaps] makes no sense as an alternate attempt at cluing. When major storms occur, certainly travel (and especially air / road travel) is halted, but there is certainly not a ban on it. There’s no getting around that there is a singular connotation for this phrase in 2019 and its inclusion in a grid has put me off … so much so that none of the rest of the puzzle merits discussing.
This grid should have been an immediate rejection. That it wasn’t and that it got through the editorial process to be published is bananas to me.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword — Laura’s review
- [14a: Dirt-cake ingredient]: OREO COOKIE. There’s regular grid inhabitant OREO with its last name, COOKIE, appended. Dirt cake is very delicious, especially made with Cool Whip™.
- [17a: Chicago district named for the intersection of three streets]: SIX CORNERS. Chicago is chock-full of these insane intersections where a diagonal avenue splits the north-south grid of streets, sometimes to make more than six corners. This SIX CORNERS is at the intersection of Irving Park (east-west), Cicero (north-south) and Milwaukee (northwest-southeast). As the Supreme High Commander of Fienddom, herself a Chicago native, can attest, these intersections are insane. Cars go in … but where do they come out?
- [57a: Fox’s television partner]: DANA Scully, who was the partner (professional, and much later, romantic) of Fox Mulder on The X-Files.
- [6d: One beaten to make salsa]: BONGO DRUM. The salsa that is music, not the salsa that is sauce, although the musical term is derived from the sauce.
- [43d: Boston’s only No. 1 single]: AMANDA. This surprised me, since I totally would’ve said “More Than a Feeling” — but that only reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. If I tell you today will you turn me away and let me go?