Peter Gordon’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
This is one of Peter’s easier puzzles. The theme is straightforward and revealed with two answers at the bottom of the puzzle.
- 18a [Lone Star State baseball player] is a TEXAS RANGER.
- 35a [What you might drape a dress or shirt on in a closet] is a CLOTHES HANGER.
- 56a [Sandwich chain whose name is French for “ready to eat”] is PRET A MANGER.
And the revealers: 59d [With 65-Across, what the last words of 18-, 35- and 56-Across are to each other] is EYE RHYMES. I’ve seen “sight rhymes” more often, but that’s a minor quibble. It’s a perfectly adequate Monday theme which didn’t add anything to my enjoyment of the puzzle. On the other hand, it didn’t subtract anything, either.
A few other things:
- 4d [Tushie] is PATOOT. This made me smile.
- I like 22a [“That was a close one!”] crossing 19d [“You’ve got to be kidding me!”]. They’re WHEW and AW, C’MON, respectively
- 33a [Take unfair advantage of] is TRADE ON. I never thought of that expression as implying “unfair.” Interesting.
- Juxtaposition of politicians from different eras: Ilhan OMAR and Evan BAYH right next to each other.
- Has anyone ever seen GAM used as a collective noun for whales anywhere outside of a crossword puzzle? I know it’s defined that way. I don’t think it’s in general use.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’d never heard the quote at 50d [“A blessing that is of no advantage to us excepting when we part with it,” according to Ambrose Bierce]. That’s a Patented Peter Gordon Very Long Clue for MONEY.
Ali Gascoigne’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “PG-13”—Jim P’s review
It’s always nice to see a new byline! Ali Gascoigne’s American debut ran in the NYT in February, but he makes his WSJ debut today. Congratulations! He’s a London-based crossword “setter” as they’re called across the pond, but it looks like he’s branching out to give us Yanks a bit of what for.
Judging by the title I was right to expect two-word phrases with the initials P.G., but I thought there might be 13 of them, which would probably be impossible to pull off. Instead, there are…four of them. I’m not getting what the 13 is referring to yet. Maybe it’ll come to me. But each is clued with a fun bit of wordplay.
- 20a [Study that lacks depth?] PLANE GEOMETRY.
- 25a [Corn mill?] PEPPER GRINDER. This one took some thinking, but I eventually settled on the idea of peppercorns.
- 42a [A lot of cars?] PARKING GARAGE
- 48a [Spot for a critical mass?] PEANUT GALLERY. Fave clue here.
It just dawned on me what the 13 is referring to here. Each of the above entries is 13 letters long. Thirteen-letter entries are typically not fun to deal with as a constructor, especially as your first and last entries in the grid. They can’t go in the 3rd/13th rows because the blocks on the end(s) would force two-letter words in the Down direction, and that’s a no-no. Instead, everything gets squished into the middle of the grid, causing extra constraints for the constructor.
But it’s handled well here. I especially like the layout of the four themers; the centered design makes it visually appealing. And the fill coming into and out of the center, as well as what’s in the center, is all strong stuff. CREAM PIE, KIDNAPS, SKIM MILK, WEASELED, STIMULUS, and TRA LA LA (in its entirety) are all solid.
Good on Ali for picking up American sayings like R-RATED and spelling things like MEAGER “correctly.” Plus there’s quite a bit of American pop culture in the clues as well.
Seeing ALECK [“Smart” guy] was an eye-opening way to start the grid, though. I think I’ve only ever seen it spelled ALEC. And sorting out whether 33a [“Sure thing”] was YES, YEP, or YUP took some doing. Aside from those little trouble spots, everything else felt smooth.
A nice debut. I look forward to seeing more from Mr. Gascoigne in the future. 3.7 stars.
Julian Kwan’s Universal Crossword, “Country Cooking”—Judge Vic’s write-up.
Clever title. Familiar theme. That the theme has been done before does not take away from its legitimacy. It does, however, make it familiar. We have here
- FRENCH TOAST,
- BELGIAN WAFFLE,
- ENGLISH MUFFIN, and
- GREEK YOGURT at a
- BREAKFAST BUFFET
It’s clever, and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s simply a theme that comes around a lot, sometimes with a new angle.
All of the above is horizontal. And, at 11-13-15-13-11, you know what that bodes for the balance. This grid has 28 three-letter answers, not counting the TON in A TON, among them quite a few abbreviations and initialisms. Two 8-letter ILSAs* squeeze into the Down answers–ET CETERA and SCARE OFF. They are joined by JOJOBA, EX-FBI, AIR OUT, and ON SPEC, all of which are kinda nice.
* ILSA = in-the-language, stand-alone
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Ben’s review
Today’s New Yorker was a comparatively breezy solve for me – just over six and a half minutes. Let’s dig in:
- Our highlighted clue, per the pop-up that appears when you finish the grid, is the grid-spanning VANILLA FROSTING. I’m partial to chocolate myself.
- I really dug the banks of 9-letter answers in the upper left and lower right corners in this grid — OIL FIELDS, ONION TART, PLASTERER, ONE-REELER, BINGE READ (not SPEED READ as I initially thought), and STAY LOOSE
- Today I learned that WIZ KHALIFA‘s moniker means “successor” in Arabic and that GECKOS chirp.
This felt a bit more slight than some other recent Monday New Yorkers, but was enjoyable nevertheless.
Brock Wilson’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
Today’s LAT puzzle is brought to you by the Wheel of Fortune bonus round: P_LL
17A: PALL BEARER [Coffin carrier]
31A: PELL GRANT [College student’s federal subsidy]
38A: PILL ORGANIZER [Prescription meds scheduling aid]
43A: POLL TAKER [One sampling opinions]
60A: PULL HITTER [One whose batted balls rarely go to the opposite field, in baseball lingo]
Strong, consistent early week theme. My only slight ding is that all but one have the format of P_LL ____ER, where the second word indicates an action. PELL GRANT breaks this trend, but I can’t think of anything else that could have been used for PELL. Maybe one of the other ones could have been changed so that the rest didn’t adhere to such a consistent pattern? Either way, a fun solve that I was able to pick up on quickly. I also enjoyed that there were some scrabbly (but gettable!) words in this grid, which is only a Q and an X away from being a pangram.
Other random thoughts:
– The clue for INDIA – [Where to find Delhi sandwiches] – feels too cute by half, since sandwiches aren’t an Indian dish. I understand wanting a good pun, but it should at least make sense, given the context.
– There’s a slight dupe between TYPE and [Blood-typing letters] for ABO.
– The shade of having LOHAN next to DUI, though!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword #516—Jim Q’s review
A snazzy pangram from BEQ today! Difficult, though. I was legitimately surprised when Mr. Happy Pencil appeared telling me I didn’t screw up.
- 13D [Uber Eats rival] DOORDASH. Despite hearing of this service in the news
many, many times, I totally blanked here. I know… it was a total gimme. But I live in a very rural area where I doubt many people are going to turn a profit making the 30-minute drive from the nearest eateries to my house.
- 38A [2018 Ariana Grande #1 hit] THANK U NEXT. I feel like I’ve seen this entry a few times as of late. So much so that I finally filled it in with no problems!
- 21D [“Well, duh!”] OBVS. Short for “obviously,” obvs.
Lots of new/barely familiar terms, yet (strangely?) inferable.
- 9D [China’s largest administrative division] XINJIANG. Read about it here. Then send me the Cliff’s Notes.
- 45A [Riviera beaches] PLAGES. I had PLAYAS. But sure enough, PLAGES is a better answer.
- 38D [Part of the face that is made up of the forehead, nose, and chin] T-ZONE. I had OZONE, figuring that there was some sort of metaphorical reference I was missing.
- 44D [Mtge. insurer] FHA. Wanted FDIC. And when that didn’t fit, inexplicably wanted FDA. Duh. Federal Housing Administration.
32D [Czech martyr of the Reformation] JAN HUS. If you say so! Thanks for the fair crossings!
- 40A [Atomic org.] NRC. Inferable if you determined JAH?US in JAHNUS. One of those acronyms (like FHA) that’s not readily on the tip of my tongue. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
- 2D [“The Bridge at Narni” and “Venise, La Piazetta”] COROTS and 4D [“Peer Gynt” dancer] ANITRA were very tough. Once again, without confidence in the crossings, I don’t think I would’ve been able to infer those.
Lots of bite today! I liked it.