Trent Evans’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
Thanks to Amy for posting this grid last night while I was hosting shiva for my mother-in-law.
This is a a cute Monday theme with a revealer I didn’t much like. The theme answers:
- 17a [Rock band with the 2001 #1 hit “How You Remind Me”] is NICKELBACK.
- 23a [Classic Christmas song with the lyric “City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, / Dressed in holiday style”] is SILVER BELLS. All the choral singers join me in shuddering in gloomy anticipation, except the basses, who are just relieved it’s not “Little Drummer Boy.”
- 38a [Million-selling albums] are PLATINUM RECORDS.
- 47a [Old New York song publishing locale] is TIN PAN ALLEY.
And the revealer: 59a [Genre for Slayer and Iron Maiden … or a hint to 17-, 23-, 38- and 47-Across]: METAL MUSIC. I have never heard or read this phrase as a descriptor. I was enjoying the puzzle until I filled that in.
A few other things:
- Please don’t have 1d be a cross-reference. [See 2-Down] is a flat way to start a puzzle. The answer is BANA; 2d is [With 1-Down, player of the Hulk in 2003’s “Hulk”].
- Sports! NBA TV, Bob COSTAS, golf TEES, TAMPA teams.
- 26d [Quaker’s ___ Crunch cereal]. I suspect if I actually ate CAP‘N Crunch these days, I’d find it horrifyingly sweet, but I have fond memories.
- Not sure why we have the British spelling in 65a [Hearty draughts]. American taverns also have ALES.
- They could have included another woman in the puzzle if TARA had been clued as [Actress Reid] instead of [“Gone With the Wind” plantation].
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that EAGLE SCOUTs must have at least 21 merit badges, and the the military doesn’t allow BEARDs.
Matt Skoczen’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
11D: QUIET PLEASE [“Shh!”]
17A: QUOTED PRICE [Market report detail]
25D: QUIZ PROGRAM [“The $64,000 Question,” e.g.]
58A: QUARTER PAST [2:15 p.m., e.g.]
48D: KEWPIE [Collectable doll, and a phonetic hint to four long puzzle answers]
When was this puzzle written, by whom, and (importantly!) for whom? I’ve never heard of a Kewpie doll and I’m guessing I’m not alone, since it a doll type that was “popular in the early 20th century.” For those keeping track, that’s at least 70 years ago if we’re being generous. The clue for the revealer ended up being hilarious in hindsight because I needed to look back at the theme answers to figure out how to pronounce KEWPIE instead of the revealer being any kind of hint itself.
When people talk about wanting to make sure that crosswords are more accessible for newer generations, this isn’t the puzzle they’d hand someone to get them into the craft. Not only is the revealer (the punchline = the most important to access part) outdated, many of the theme answers are SOSO, and a bunch of the fill is rough for a Monday puzzle: QID, UAR, YAQUI, ELUL, OSU, AUER, EDDA, ENCS. I mean, CMON. I’m curious to know whether other solvers had the same reaction that I did to this puzzle, or am I firmly out of the loop on something that’s otherwise common knowledge?
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fruit Turnovers”—Jim P’s review
The title serves as our revealer today indicating that we will find fruits going upward in the circled letters.
- 10d [Online pop-up, usually] INTERNET AD. Date.
- 17d [“Sleepless in Seattle” director] NORA EPHRON. Pear. Nice find.
- 21d [Applebee’s rival] TGI FRIDAYS. Fig. Interesting to note the apple in the rival’s name.
- 23d [Max or Buddy, e.g.] DOG NAME. Mango. Our dog looked like a “Penny” so that’s what we went with.
- 27d [“Sorry Not Sorry” singer] DEMI LOVATO. Lime. Another nice find.
With hidden-word themes like this you’ll usually have shorter words with crossword-friendly letters—like date, pear, and fig. That’s why I like the mango entry best, because it’s just that little bit more surprising. But all in all, this is a solid Monday theme with lively entries. ZB does it again!
And as usual, she fills the rest of the grid with fun stuff as well. She starts us off in fine style with BRAIN CRAMP which I wanted to be BRAIN FART. Speaking of which, according to Google’s Ngram Viewer, that phrase started taking a nosedive in the late ’90s. What gives?
Other goodies in the grid: a flashy EAT HERE, the ROYAL WE, and END OF STORY. Fun stuff.
Nothing to complain about except maybe that MEARA and OLIN might make for tough proper names on a Monday. But other than that, it was smooth sailing.
A sweet theme to start your work week. Four stars.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s write-up
Holy crap that was hard! This Monday New Yorker from Natan Last just chewed me up and spit me out in front of a TRACTION ENGINE while a CLAUDIA RANKINE poem was quietly recited in the background. The south was all fine and good, but the top part of this puzzle! I considered not posting my time out of pure embarrassment, but the integrity of Fiend comes before my shame at being absolutely crushed between Susan CHOI and my confusion at what kind of suit a BESEEM suit is (which only resolved as I was typing this sentence).
All that to say, this puzzle was *very* New Yorker, for the following reasons:
- Names I didn’t know: Susan CHOI, CLAUDIA RANKINE, Maupassant (UNE VIE), Edward Said (ORIENTALISM), OTHO, Elia KAZAN, Stephanie Hannon, OTIS (?), Lil UZI Vert. I’m an uncultured brute, I guess!
- Other things I didn’t know: THE FAREWELL (although I did read about it over the summer, I completely forgot the title), The Great HACK, GSPOT (the book, not the… spot), GOA (site of the Pinto revolt against Portuguese rule), DUB
Also, so much respect for the following incredibly clever clues:
- Old-fashioned suit? for BESEEM (you see, you might say that a particularly flattering outfit suits you, or if you are old-fashioned, you might say it BESEEMs you. 20 minutes on this puzzle and I couldn’t crack that. So clever!
- Feeling that might be post-produced? for FOMO (because FOMO might be inspired by seeing the social media posts of your friends’ Halloween party you couldn’t attend. Or something. Don’t look at me like that.)
- They’re built on benches for PECS. Like with bench-presses.
Anyways, my epic struggle with this puzzle is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. I did! Natan, we are still ON GOOD TERMS. Several stars from me!
Post-Script. I just learned that the hotel coffee I drank before solving was @$%@# DECAF. So please kindly subtract ten minutes from my time in your estimation of how good I am at solving. Thank you for your understanding.
Constance and Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal crossword, “When Not in Rome”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: ITALIAN words end the theme answers
- 17A [*Very behind schedule, as a payment] LONG PAST DUE
- 11D [*”Fame” singer] IRENE CARA
- 35D [*Tangy fish dish] LEMON SOLE
- 64A [*Eowyn’s portrayer in “The Lord of the Rings” movies] MIRANDA OTTO
- 40A [Language that the starred answers’ ends are also words in] ITALIAN
I liked this puzzle a lot. The choice of entries did leave me wondering why these ITALIAN words and not others, but overall the theme works – and I’m never going to complain when it comes to giving more grid space to women – especially when it gives me an excuse to listen to IRENE CARA singing Fame.
Really clean puzzle, which came as no surprise given the byline. That northwest corner is so good – and the bonus fill we got here was beautiful – BIKINIS, MOONSET, DEVITO, LET ME, and BENTO were my favorites.
Clue of the day went to WOOED [Went to court?] which even with the question mark, had me baffled for longer than I care to admit.
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword Themeless Monday #541—Jim Q’s review
Got stuck in a couple spots, as is par for me tackling a BEQ, but a generally enjoyable solve.
Before I get to the stuff I really liked, there’s one entry I’m completely out-to-lunch on. That’d be 32A [It may help get rid of the fucking shit] TAPE DELAY. I don’t want to tell you the multiple ways my mind went in order to interpret this. I was glad to see it turn out to be an innocent answer, but I felt like I was mentally forced to go somewhere I didn’t belong. Also, as the “fucking shit” in this case refers to a verbal utterance that wouldn’t get past a censor, I think that phrase should be in quotations. Thoughts on this one?
A very impressive tight stack in the middle gives us US MARSHAL, TAPE DELAY, FIRE TOWER, LITTLE BOY, and JOB HOLDER with very little dreck holding it together. WENT AWOL, CANTILEVER, MANO A MANO (which I incorrectly entered as MANO (y) MANO) were nice to uncover in the NW.
Had a rough go of it in the SE- had no clue about the nicknames of STRADs [“Ole Bull” or “Sleeping Beauty,” in the music world], but I really like that clue. I wasn’t confident enough on ADDIS ABABA and LIGATES as entries, so I kinda gave up after experimenting with some letters.
Coulda done without TAL (unless it were clued as This American Life!), AIN’T HAY (new for me), Y LEVEL (another tool named after a letter?!), but for the most part, this was a solid puzzle.
Kewpie doll in the vernacular.
I’m 42 and have heard to term plenty. Definitely in the vernacular. That said, it’s a musty choice to hang a 2019 theme on.
AMs and, especially, RNAs? Really??
I agree that Kewpie doll is in the current vernacular. According to Google Ngram, usage of the phrase “Kewpie doll” peaked about 1990 (see here).
Daresay it’s got more currency as the popular (in some circles) Japanese mayonnaise.
Based on this picture (taken from inside my refrigerator this morning), the mayonnaise is named after the doll.
I thought the WSJ theme was tired and not at all smile inducing, but I ended up grateful to it. It was all that kept me from being stumped by the intersection of a singer and GMA, which I didn’t like one bit. I didn’t know the football name either, but in my case MEARA was a gimme and OLIN close to one.
I prefer Brain Fart
I absolutely had the same experience solving the LAT. Very rough fill, beyond very rough for a Monday
Ditto here … This is long-time LAT constructor Matt Skoczen’s first puzzle since early last year and his first Monday or Tuesday since September 2014. I have a feeling this was sitting in Rich’s slush pile for a while. I wonder if he’s running low on early-week puzzles? I’m no constructor and am truly appreciative of the work others do to feed my crossword addiction, but I thought this puzzle was pretty awful.
Wow, tough northeast corner in Natan’s New Yorker puzzle. I didn’t know the poet’s name (nor her book), SKA is usually the reggae offshoot seen in crosswords (there are other ways to clue DUB), I’d never heard of the Maupassant novel (nor ever seen that word/name in any other context), and the archaic word at 11d is also a reach. I was absolutely guessing on those crossings.
That was the toughest part for me too. I hadn’t heard of the Maupassant novel but at some point I got enough letters to guess UNE VIE. I thought about SKA but it was a predecessor of reggae, not an offshoot, and I assumed the NYer people would know that. I don’t really know CLAUDIARANKINE but I’ve seen the name. But yes, a good deal of guessing and hoping went into that corner.
Oh, and although I’ve heard of the movie GOONIES I had no idea what the name referred to, so that was another guess.
That’s a bit much, even for the New Yorker.
I thought somewhat lowly about the New Yorker puzzle I finally accessed and “enjoyed”.
‘Very New Yorker’ – could not have said that any better.
NYT: why is the “revealer” not HEAVY_METAL? I think NICKEL (density 8.9) and SILVER (10.5), and TIN (7.31) all qualify, and PLATINUM (21.45) seems clear. [EDIT according to today’s xwordinfo, the original revealer was HEAVY_METAL_MUSIC, but that was rejected because tin was deemed too lightweight . . .]
Surprised to see “expected” in the clue for 60D:ETA, but The Google reminds me that the E stands for Estimated, not Expected.
Is 48D:IFILL really Monday fill? (Seen only once before, on a Saturday in 2006.) Is any female 65A:TARA, or 54D:JUNE for that matter? Better to get rid of 2D/1D:ERIC/BANA, reclue 33D:EMO (is that name Monday-worthy? I see that Shortz did clue it that way on several past Mondays), and do without 24D:EBERT, rather than stuff the grid with yet more names.
I agree fully about the revealer. The Wordplay article states that the author was told to change the revealer because Tin was not seen as being “heavy enough,” and they make a little snide remark about Wikipedia being wrong since that’s what he used as research for his metal information.
However, as you’ve stated, Tin does indeed qualify as a heavy metal by density and is generally accepted to be a heavy metal by most definitions. The remarks about Wikipedia and the editing team not looking into the definition are both a little annoying to me. I’d expect them to actually look into it, not just jump to a conclusion that heavy must be defined by weight seeing as they work in the business of information.
“Metal music” just sounds like a thing someone would say if they had no idea the genre was called heavy metal.
NDE, Gwen IFILL was memorialized a couple weeks ago with the release of a postage stamp (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/newshours-gwen-ifill-memorialized-with-usps-forever-stamp), she was a PBS Newshour regular for 17 years, and she moderated some presidential debates.
One could argue that cluing TARA as a person would be friendlier than treading the usual ground of “Gone With the Wind” and its portrayal of slavery. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/08/yes-gone-with-the-wind-is-another-neo-confederate-monument.html
Agree with Jenni that x-refs at 1d/2d aren’t welcome.
I appreciate everyone’s comments. They are always helpful to me even when not positive. One extra piece of background is that in my original submission, June was clued as June Carter Cash, and Tara was clued as Tara Lipinski. I have started doing my best to apply the Bechdel test once I learned of it. Hopefully you will see that filtering through in future puzzles.
Trent — maybe call it something like the Amy test; I think “Bechdel test” is a specific (and very low) minimum standard for movies, books, etc., which doesn’t make sense for crossword grids. Again, if you seek to reduce or eliminate gender disparity then I urge you to do so by removing from the grid as many men’s names as you can, rather than by putting in yet more names that aren’t men’s. If you can complete the grid without any names whatsoever then you’ll automatically achieve gender parity. :-)
Trent, don’t listen to NDE re: names. He is anti pop culture, so … I’m delighted to hear that you had Carter Cash and Lipinski in your original clue set, and that you’re making an effort to be more inclusive/representative in your puzzles.
NDE: A constructor told the Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory (a Facebook group) he was using a sort of Bechdel test on his puzzles, seeking to never have more white men than women and/or POC in the puzzle. I’ve just picked up his wording.
Why should Trent “not listen to” me? Yes, I have little patience for names of yet more baseball players or rock bands or whatever, but I’m surely not alone in this, and I gave a reason that applies equally to “high culture” names like Max REGER, Frederick SODDY, and SOFYA Kovalevskaia. (If you need REGER, at least mention the palindrome so the solver has some confirmation; if SODDY, use the adjective rather than the name.)
Which TARA, then? Plantation name or person’s name, it’s still Yet Another Wretched Name, and that segment of the grid can be filled easily enough without going to the brackish YAWN well yet again. Same with ERIC/BANA (the xref per se doesn’t grate on me because I solve on paper). Any name that’s not universally recognized (i.e. neither A+ list famous nor a crossword cliché) is inherently “unfriendly” because if you don’t happen to know it then the clue amounts to a generic “some name goes here”. :-( On a NYT Monday, the last non-GWTW Tara was skater Lipinski, and that was in 2005.
LAT: I had an absolutely typical Monday time, and I found this puzzle much more clever and entertaining than most Monday puzzles, so I really don’t understand the complaints I’m seeing above. Well done, Mr. Skoczen!
LAT: I find that often younger solvers complain about old clues and older solvers (like me) complain about newer clues. We’re all in this together though. I like Monday puzzles I can finish!
I think sometimes there’s an overemphasis on trying to attract new, young solvers to crosswords, perhaps because publishers and editors are pushing constructors to tap into a younger demographic. I don’t mind “newer” clues when they’re done well, but too often they just look like a forced, transparent attempt to be hip.