Ellis Hay’s New York Times crossword—Ade’s take
Good day, everyone! Ade here filling in for Jenni today, who currently is on a wonderful European vacation! (Jealousy level rising as I speak!!) Here is hoping that those of you who were in the path of the latest snowstorm to pound the the US this weekend are doing OK.
As for today’s puzzle, brought to us by Ellis Hay (a debut?), all I have to say to this is, “Well, I’ll be!” Not only do we have fun with homophones with the theme entries, with all of the themes starting with a “B” sound, every single clue in the grid begins with the letter “B.” Also, from a quick scan, it looks as if the only occurrences of a “B” in the grid are to the starts of the theme entries. Does March 4 denote some sort of special day? Is it “Be nice to bees in honor Bea Day?” Well, this does remind me that, during my freshman year of college, I lived in Brewster/Boland Hall, and the nickname for those dorms were “B.B.” So there’s that!
Oh, and don’t think we didn’t notice “Will Shortz” becoming “Bill Shortz” in the byline. Open challenge to all attending the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament: Walk up to Will during your time there and ask him, “May I call you Bill, just this once?” while showing him this grid.
- B MINOR MASS (20A: [Bach masterpiece, informally)]) – Anyone want to possibly raise a stink about this entry, given that I (and many, many others) know this as “Mass in B Minor” and it’s possible that you’ve never heard it called the former informally? I’ll defer to you classical music heads out there.
- BEA ARTHUR (32A: [Betty White co-star on “The Golden Girls”])
- BEE STINGS (40A: [Benadryl might treat them]) – I was going to mention that it’s been forever and a day since I’ve been stung by a bee, but since I’ve put it in the air now, I’ll probably get one this spring/summer.
- BE YOURSELF (52A: [Bit of advice to the insecure])
My only real hang-up in the grid was when, before filling in “B Minor Mass,” I put in “whoop” instead of WHOMP, and I’m still a little irked at seeing that pretty dated fill (6D: [Beat badly]). But any bad feelings about any fill in the grid definitely is canceled out by the presence of The Notorious RBG herself, Ms. GINSBURG, who definitely has done my home borough proud with her illustrious career (38D: [Brooklyn-born Supreme Court justice]). There might have been a time in the late 1990s where I could name a couple of members of the Backstreet Boys by heart, but I definitely needed all of the crossings to get HOWIE today (29A: [Backstreet Boys member _____ Dorough]). Loved the dichotomy of having GO DRY (38A: [Ban alcoholic beverages]) and TIPSY in the grid, something I had to make sure I was not when I was using a bottle of red wine last night to make some red wine sauce for my once-a-month garlic chicken breasts and mashed potatoes meal (47D: [Boozed up]). If in the event you want a red wine sauce recipe, I’ll definitely share on here! Just say the word, B! (Look up “B” on Urban Dictionary if you’re thrown off by that last sentence.)
We mentioned one Brooklynite earlier in this review and now I’d like to talk about another person who was raised in Brooklyn and turned out to be an outstanding college and pro athlete…and also went down as a player with one of the most interesting names in the history of sports.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: FREE (57D: [Bingo card’s middle square]) – One of the best guards in the National Basketball Association during the 1970s and 1980s was a player named World B. FREE. (I’m serious, that’s his name!) Born Lloyd Bernard Free, World B. played in the league from 1975-1988, most known for his time with the Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers, and averaged 20.3 points per game during his career while ending his time in the NBA scoring almost 18,000 points. In 1981, Free legally changed his first name to “World,” an homage to his friends in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn who had nicknamed him “All-World” because, according to Free, “…’all-city’ and ‘all-county’ and things like that weren’t good enough.” Honestly, who couldn’t root for a player with the name World B. Free?!?!
Thank you so much for the time and attention, everyone! Have a wonderful rest of your Monday!
Kurt Mengel & Jan-Michele Gianette’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
Call the cops! Our constructors are possessing cars in this week’s Monday LAT:
17A: OGDEN’S NASH [Poet’s Rambler?]
23A: GARY’S COOPER [“High Noon” actor’s Mini?]
36A: ABRAHAM’S LINCOLN [President’s Continental?]
47A: ROCK’S HUDSON [“Pillow Talk” actor’s Hornet?]
56A: BETTY’S FORD [First lady’s Mustang?]
Each themer reimagines a famous person’s name as the first name (shared with another famous person) possessing a car (whose name is shared with the original famous person). I really liked how much theme density this grid featured and how consistent the themers were. The major drawback to this puzzle for me, though, was how old all the themer and puzzle references felt. Amongst the themers, I appreciate the inclusion of a woman at 56A and a queer icon at 47A, but they otherwise skewed very white, very male, and very non-current. Add in references like AGNES [Moorehead of “Bewitched”], SCAD, 1958 musical GIGI, and SONNY as [Cher’s singing partner] in the northern section of the puzzle alone, and it made the puzzle feel like it might have been written when Betty Ford was first lady. Not great for a puzzle debuting in 2019.
– I appreciated the inclusion of another gay icon in the puzzle – the more modern Ronan Farrow – to clue his mother MIA, but I wasn’t excited about MIA Farrow only being clued with respect to her role as a mother. She is quite accomplished outside her reproductive contributions to society! Ditto with Eve and CAIN at 39D.
– FAUN TINCT TEC UNSER SERA CELLS (especially to refer to phones) and [Rattlebrained] also made this puzzle feel quite dated and crosswordese-y.
– It doesn’t feel like a coincidence that CREEPO and the demanding LISTEN TO ME were side by side in this puzzle – mini theme!
– Yay for a women of color being referenced in Jada Pinkett SMITH!
– Boo for the quote at 37D emphasizing that men shouldn’t display emotions. Men should be allowed to display a wide range of emotions, just like folks of other genders are.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Who Am I?” — Jim P’s review
Common phrases of the form, “I’m ___” are interpreted literally.
- 20a [I’m bored] RAILROAD TUNNEL
- 26a [I’m spent] BRITISH POUND
- 44a [I’m stuck] FOREVER STAMP
- 52a [I’m stuffed] JALAPENO POPPER
Works well enough I think. But there are quite a few more phrases that could work here: I’m easy, I’m beat, I’m good, I’m trying, etc. But with four long (12-letters or more) themers, trying to put another one in would probably compromise the fill dramatically.
As it is, there aren’t any marquee verbal phrases in the fill contrary to what I’ve become accustomed to seeing from Zhouqin. Instead we have the more serviceable LAKE HURON and HAIR SALON as well as a handful of 7s. I do like “HORRORS!” as an exclamation [“Heaven forbid!”].
Clues of note:
- I like [“That’s odd…”] for HMM followed immediately by [“That’s it!”] for AHA. Reminiscent of the theme.
- Did not know [Improvise musically] as a definition for VAMP. Those of you in the know, how have you heard this used?
- It’s nice to see [Flip-flops] as the clue for THONGS. Growing up, we never knew the term “flip-flop.” Those things on your feet were either THONGS or zoris.
That’s all I have. A fine start to the week. 3.5 stars.
Andy Kravis, Natan Last and JASA’s Universal Crossword, “Hear Our Voices”–Judge Vic’s write-up
11:02 felt like forever, considering I zipped through most of this puzzle in under 7:00. My embarrassing takeaways are that I apparently cannot spell COLISEUM vertically, especially when it crosses ASCII ART and I have very little knowledge of Vietnamese sandwiches. And, since I did not ken the theme during the solve …
- 17a [Vietnamese sandwich-cooking flame?] BANHMI FIRE–Hmm. I got this totally from crossers. I sense a bonfire pun here, but can’t tie it to the authors’ “voices.” Plus, I have an extra syllable that I don’t know what to do with.
- 58a [Villas for villains?] MEANIE PADS–Well into the review, I still don’t get the theme. I assume mini-pads are something I should know and that a tie to “voices” will become apparent soon.
- 10d [Crash test phase?] DUMMIES TIME–Other than the answer, I got nothing. And I mean nothing!
- 24d [Conductor’s baton during a dirge?] GLOOMY STICK–Aha! Quickly writing down “glue stick pun” before it gets away from me. Glue Me Stick–check. Bon Me Fire–check. Me Knee Pads–check (so much for the mini-pads hypothesis). Dumb Me’s Time???? Dumb me!
Oh, well. As one might expect with two guys like Andy and Natan leading a class of envelope-pushing cruciverbalist-wannbes (JASA is Jewish Association Serving the Aging), there is some really good schtuff elsewhere in this puzzle. E.g.,
- 25a [Japan’s region] EAST ASIA–I confidently inserted NEAR EAST, then had to change each and every letter as I solved for the crossers!
- 43a [“Howdy, partners!”] HEY Y’ALL–This entry connects to “voices.” Sorta. Having taught a class like the JASA class, I have this visual: Mature New Yorkers in a John Jay College classroom in NYC shout “Hey, y’all!” to mature Arkansans in a LifeQuest of Arkansas classroom in Little Rock. The problem with the clue is that most southerners who say “Hey, y’all” would never say howdy! And would seldom, if ever, address a group of friends as partners, unless it was a business meeting with, uh, partners. (I am available for Southern linguistic consults–having lived in Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, and Arkansas.) Actually, the clue I might use is [“‘Sup, guys?!”]
- 46a [Computer character drawings] ASCII ART–Who knew? (WHO KNEW was an answer in yesterday’s puzzle, no?)
- 65a [Silence breakers’ hashtag, or this puzzle’s theme] ME TOO–Aha! They slipped in a reveal at the final Across position. I totally missed it! It’d be unethical to copy-paste it into the theme area now. I guess this entry’s tie to the #MeToo Movement clears up my “voices” issue. Leaving me in the lurch only as to 10d–surely it’s not a pun on sometime, is it? Or summertime? (HASHTAG was an answer in yesterday’s puzzle, too.)
- 8d [Likely site of audience participation] FIRST ROW–I love the clue. I love the answer. I love the concept. I love the visual. Otherwise, it’s a so-so entry.
- 34d [“American Idol” and congressional runner-up] CLAY AIKEN–Good old Clay. He’s from North Carolina. I bet he grew up saying “Hey, y’all.”
Fun puzzle! I just wish that I’d been able to figure out 10d. BTW, the last crossword class I taught at Lifequest made a puzzle that was published in the Chronicle of Higher Education last year.
Natan Last’s The New Yorker crossword –Judge Vic’s write-up
Up before dawn to blog this one, could not do the timer thing. Guesstimate: 20 minutes. The difficulty level was medium for me.
What impressed me:
- 18a [Classic song that begins “When my baby / When my baby smiles at me] I GO TO RIO–Space before and after the slash mark. Good to start the week with a smile reference.
- 23a [Work program championed by Coretta Scott King] JOB GUARANTEE–On a cold Monday, it’s good to know one has a job.
- 32a [He won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for fiction] COLSON WHITEHEAD–I almost tried to put in Kazuo Ishiguro, who received the Nobel Prize in 2017 (I seldom spell his name right on the first try and figured there might have been 15 letters in it). I’ve read Ishiguro’s books; now, I suppose I will have to read Whitehead’s. I think I’ll start with the first, The Intuitionist (1999), and work my way through The Underground Railroad (2016).
- 39d [Certain surfers] BODYBOARDERS–Bodyboard, one word, is in the dictionary. Only a suffix away from a New Yorker crossword entry.
- 54a [Orienting plot device with a name popularized by Hitchcock] MACGUFFIN–According to Wikipedia, Hitchcock said of this term: “It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men on a train. One man says, ‘What’s that package up there in the baggage rack?’ And the other answers, ‘Oh, that’s a MacGuffin’. The first one asks, ‘What’s a MacGuffin?’ ‘Well,’ the other man says, ‘it’s an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.’ The first man says, ‘But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,’ and the other one answers, ‘Well then, that’s no MacGuffin!’ So you see that a MacGuffin is actually nothing at all.”
It may not be a dupe, but CHEWIE ([Co-pilot aboard the Falcon] jumped out at me as being in conflict with CHEW ON THIS. Both are clearly great entries and they’re well apart from one another in the grid. Other good stuff, with equally excellent clues are IRON GATES, LAILA ALI, JESMYN WARD, CHEW ON THIS, and PRO BONO. The weakest link was PAPI, a [Spanish paternal term of endearment].
Fun puzzle! I just wish that I’d been able to wait until noon and solve it casually over lunch. Back to bed now for a little more shut-eye before really starting the week.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword #507—Jim Q’s review
HOLY FUCKING SHIT that was probably the fastest solve I’ve ever had for a BEQ themeless. I’m usually solidly north of 10 minutes. Had this one done in 6:40. The six grid-spanning entries certainly helped, and the rest of the fill was rather short (36 4-letter entries by my count!). Lots of fun, for sure- but isn’t it always when themeless answers are right in your wheelhouse?
3D [TV series that featured many arguments] THE PEOPLE’S COURT. Past tense? Isn’t this show still running? Got it off of the T in ASTRO.
- 7D [Chances are] IN ALL LIKELIHOOD. “Likelihood” is a funky looking word, made funkier in the puzzle with LLL.
- 11D [Help something move smoothly] GREASE THE WHEELS. The hardest of the grid spanners for me to uncover. Guess my wheels need greasing.
- 54A [“I’m not doing this story justice”] YOU HAD TO BE THERE. Only needed the U from THE PEOPLE’S COURT.
- 35A [“Oh! My! God!”] HOLY FUCKING SHIT. Gasp! The language in puzzles these days! When I was a kid…
- 17A [Big loss in November] ELECTORAL DEFEAT. I wanted ELECTORAL COLLEGE, which kinda works with the clue (as we know, it’s a big loss to lose the ELECTORAL COLLEGE vote…). Luckily, COLLEGE is one letter too long.
OTHER FILL/CLUES OF NOTE:
- 40A [Class where you might learn the alphabet and how to eat paste] PRE-K. It’s a steep learning curve. I’m still honing my paste eating skills.
- 41A [“___ Time” (’70s musical)] ONE MO’. I’m a theater junkie, so I was surprised when I didn’t recognize this title. Appears it had a short-lived Broadway run in 2002. Still, ONE MO is pretty ugly lookin’ in the grid.
- 14A [Trump associate played by Stiller on “S.N.L.”] COHEN. And you knew SNL would send up his testimony in their latest cold open, right? The voiceover at the beginning of this sketch is probably the funniest part- I’ve been saying “You’re watching C-SPAN?” for two days straight.
Looking over the grid now, there are a few dingers. FAHD, CEIL, STLO, RIMA, UPUP, and ELOI lead the list for me. Easy to look past that stuff when you’re having fun zipping around the grid.