Erik Agard and Yacob Yonas’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
What a great way to start the puzzle week! Erik and Yonas give us rhyming phrases for a solid, enjoyable theme that is totally Monday-friendly. The next time someone asks me where to start with the Times crossword, I’ll give them this puzzle.
- 17a [Beach outing, say] is FUN IN THE SUN.
- 31a [On easy street] is MADE IN THE SHADE.
- 39a [Financially afloat again] is BACK IN THE BLACK.
- 57a [Traffic helicopter, e.g.] is EYE IN THE SKY.
A few other things:
- 8d [Aladdin’s monkey sidekick] is ABU. I’m so accustomed to Simpsons clues that I dropped APU in without thinking, and LOPE is a word – but not the correct word for 15a [Part of a brain or a 59-Down]. That would be LOBE. D’oh.
- [Calendar units: Abbr.] shows up twice, once with MOS and once with WKS.
- [Cry at a fireworks show] also shows up twice: OOHS and AAHS.
- 26a [High point of winter?] is an ICICLE.
- 62a [Partner of “signed” and “delivered” in a Stevie Wonder hit] is a fun clue for SEALED.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that BENGALI is the most widely-spoken language of India after Hindi, and that BANSHEES wail to foretell a death in the family.
I leave you with Stevie, because of course I do.
Evan Kalish’s Universal Crossword, “Switchbacks”—Judge Vic’s write-up
Theme. I will let the reveal … reveal:
54a [Start performing much better, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme] TURN IT AROUND–Yeah, we’ve seen a few of these lately. Where a phrase like cut that out, applied literally, results in t, h, a, and t being excised from some word or phrase. Etc.
Thus, have we POLLING STIES, rather than SITES; MARTIAL, rather than MARITAL, STATUS; UNTIED, rather than UNITED, KINGDOM.
Then, elsewhere, we have
- 5d [Change-cashing machine brand] COINSTAR–Per Ginsberg, this item has appeared only twice before, both times in 2017 Saturday NYT’s;
- 28d [Giants (and crossword) legend] MEL OTT;
- 40d [Entrenches] INGRAINS;
along with 18 three-letter answers, including BCE, INS, MOI, IRA, and not including ETAS and TKOS.
Joe Hansen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Colorful Characters”—Jim P’s review
We sure have been seeing a lot of debuts lately, and here is another one. Congratulations, Joe!
He takes well-known two-word phrases where the first word is a color but can also be a descriptive adjective for a person. Furthermore, the second words can also be re-cast as certain individuals.
- 17a [Cowardly errand runners?] YELLOW PAGES. Do young solvers these days know what YELLOW PAGES are?
- 30a [Novice funny folks?] GREEN CARDS. “Cards” feels like such an old-fashioned term, but I can get past it.
- 47a [Melancholy rapscallions?] BLUE DEVILS, as in the Duke University team.
- 60a [Maoist photographers?] RED SNAPPERS. I liked this one best.
Those work, and the theme is thoroughly consistent. “Snappers” for “photographers” is a little bit stretchy, but I think it’s within reason. The others were fairly on the nose, but this one was unexpected, and it added a dash of humor that I enjoyed.
Looking at the fill, DEAD HORSE is a pretty garish piece of fill, eh? It’s clued as part of the well-known phrase [Thing that’s pointless to beat] and thus feels like a long partial. But I like it for its…uh…liveliness.
Other goodies: SCOOPED UP, MYSTICISM, JAGUAR, ALL-STAR, OPEN PIT, BRAHMS, and LASSOS next to UNKNOT.
Really, it feels like a wonderfully clean grid. Except for SST [Jet last flown in 2003]. I will never not complain about SST being the crutchiest of crutch fill. Constructors, don’t give in to the dark side.
Despite that minor nit, this is a strong grid with a solid theme and good fill. 3.8 stars.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Ben’s review
This Monday’s New Yorker puzzle is from Patrick Berry. It’s a solid entry from him, though it lacks a bit of the flavor I like from some of the other New Yorker constructors.
- This has some lovely 3-stacks, including I TOLD YOU SO, SCHOOL TRIP, and SHRUG IT OFF in the upper left corner
- I also dug the longer down fill in this grid — ETHAN ALLEN, TOILET SEAT, NOTRE DAME, MARY ASTOR, CRIES HAVOC, and PINA COLADA
- Today I learned that the Frisbee’s namesake is the PIE company whose tins formed the first discs that Yale students started tossing around in the 1930s. WHAM-O toys changed the spelling and started calling their “Pluto Platter” toy a frisbee in the 1950s.
That’s all for today. TAKE IT AWAY, ARCADE FIRE!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword #522—Jim Q’s review
Had a love/hate relationship with this puzzle today. Loved nearly all of the longer answers (and especially those composing the triple stack in the center). Hated the proper noun fill.
- 31A [Juneau’s spot] ALASKAN PANHANDLE. Dropped ALASKA in no problem, which
gave me SMACK TALK. The rest filled itself in rather quickly.
- 37A [Allowed for a future possibility] KEPT THE DOOR OPEN. Nice!
- 38A [Verbal pat on the back] AT LEAST YOU TRIED. Aww. That sounds so sad! Totally works with the clue, but I was expecting a more congratulatory phrase. The twist was much appreciated.
- 23D [Become more attractive] SMARTEN UP. Much better than my original SMARTENED.
- 20D [Its relative key is G major] E MINOR. I imagine these are the types of clues that non-musicians must grimace at. I wouldn’t expect people to know their relative major/minor keys if they didn’t play an instrument. But hopefully the MINOR part of the answer was a gimme for all!
- 41A [Straight face?] ESS. As in the letter S, which is the “face” (start of) the word “Straight.”
- 14D [Unmotivated feeling] THE BLAHS. Got THE BLAHS right now, every time I look at the stack of essays to my right that need grading.
- 56D [Bee’s home, briefly] TBS. Samantha Bee, that is.
Proper Nouns: WILLKIE (especially crossing IMBED, which I thought deserved a var. in the clue for that I), WANDA, KAKA, NADYA, EARLE, KIM, and LOTT. The southwest especially turned into a slog. Also made me less appreciative of other, more familiar and splashier names like PARIS HILTON, HOULIHAN, and BOLTON (as well as MALTHUSIAN in a sense).
AT ME, A PET, IRAE, D-E-F, I LET, STETS, and STN didn’t make my favorite list either.
Jacob Stulberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
17A: NEW ORLEANS [Home of the NFL’s Saints]
24A: NITROUS OXIDE [Dentist’s “laughing gas”]
49A: NAVAL OFFICER [Admiral, e.g.]
62A: NODDING OFF [Slipping into slumberland]
39A: NO ENTRY [“Keep out!” sign … or, in three parts, each answer to a starred clue]
Each themer is an N___ O___ ENTRY and in the language. Cute! Almost bonus points for NITROUS OXIDE, which has the chemical formula N2O. (Nitric oxide, in fact, has NO as its chemical formula!) Otherwise, this puzzle was fairly straightforward for me. Enjoyed GOING VIRAL, didn’t enjoy RAO or DPS.
#includemorewomen: As always, let’s dive into the puzzle to see if any women were included in the fill or cluing. We have some decent (though not quite modern) representation from NADIA Comaneci, Sandra Day OCONNOR, ENDA Ferber, and cartoon mermaid ARIEL. We also have the generic ELLA and BELLE (but only clued by her looks). If I stretch, I can include the queen from the ANTNEST clue. Each of ANI and ANA (and even LEE) could have been clued with respect to a woman, but they weren’t.
I understand that it can often be hard to find women’s names that fit into grid given other constraints, but there are two easy solutions to this: (a) expand word lists to include more women who might fit into a future grid and (b) at least look for ways to clue things in the grid with respect to women. Furthermore, cluing fill via modern women and with respect to their accomplishments (and not their looks or relationships) goes a long way!
To re-up an awesome, recent Twitter thread by Rebecca Falcon on the sexism and exclusion of women that is so prevalent in crosswords, read this: her thread of tweets yourself. Here’s just one to capture your interest:
I would guess that English is the second most commonly used language after Hindi, but for most, it is a second language. I have tutored a lot of students whose parents were born in India. My most unusual experience involved a young lady who was very bright in math, but who had a knack for picking the most obviously wrong verbal answer. I did not know her ethnicity and it was not obvious from her appearance. It turned out that she spoke Gujarati exclusively in her home. She spoke English very well and without an obvious accent, but clearly had difficulty with the idiomatic elements of English. I have never tutored a Tamil, the ethnicity of many of the spelling champions.
I guessed wrong on the KIM/KAKA krossing in the BEQ. TAKA seemed perfectly reasonable. JAKA less so.
The MINOR part of EMINOR was not a gimme for me (I don’t know what a ‘relative key’ is). But at least I could fill in _M__OR, and the rest was easy enough.
Nate, thanks for the Rebecca Falcon link. The under-representation of women (in fill, as constructors) needs to be highlighted until it isn’t an issue.
Am I the only one who thought Berry’s New Yorker puzzle played like a Tuesday themeless? The clues weren’t hard enough. Save the easier clues for Fridays, New Yorker constructors!
Is it possible that they’re making Monday clues easier now that they’ve added Friday puzzles? (I mean, if they want to follow the convention of “easier at the start of the week.”)
Some of us very old timers (or just plain old people) love the puzzles like Berry’s that use fewer so-called cutting edge clues or entries known mainly to 20-somethings. Just saying…
I did the New Yorker puzzle a bit late today, and I thoroughly agree. I almost always love a Berry puzzle, and this one did not disappoint. Each section was wonderful. Lots of meaty stuff throughout.