Monday, November 18, 2019

BEQ untimed (Jim Q) 


LAT 5:01 (Nate) 


NYT 2:29 (Jenni) 


The New Yorker 15:56 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (Rebecca) 


WSJ 5:46 (Jim P) 


Alan Arbesfeld’s’ New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review

I’ll take “things than end in Y” for a Monday, Alan!

New York Times, November 18, 2019, #1118, Alan Arbesfeld, solution grid

  • 17a [Containers for leftovers] are DOGGY BAGS.
  • 25a [Prominent position from which to pontificate] is a BULLY PULPIT. The BULLY PULPIT Teddy Roosevelt was talking about is now occupied by an actual BULLY.
  • 44a [In a diagonal position (to)] is CATTY CORNER. I’ve also seen it KITTY CORNER and Google Ngrams tells me KITTY is more common.
  • 58a [Savings repository for a kid] is a PIGGY BANK.

A simple, accessible theme for a Monday.

A few other things:

  • 1d [Internet hookup device] is a MODEM. Do computers still use those? I remember the days when you put the phone receiver in the cradle. Kids, ask your grandparents.
  • 18d [___ Linda, California birthplace of Richard Nixon] is YORBA. I saw a tweet today that said “It’s like Watergate, but with morons.” When Nixon looks good….
  • You don’t see ASPERSE every day of the week, and Monday is not the day I’d expect it.
  • Is [Ming or Qing, in Chinese history] a more relatable clue than the 80s TV show? It’s DYNASTY, of course.
  • YAP AT feels a bit roll-your-own.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that LUANDA is the capital of Angola. If you play me in Learned League, you already know that geography is not my strong suit.

Kurt Krauss’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up

LAT 11.18.19 Solution

LAT 11.18.19 Solution

17A: ERROL FLYNN [Swashbuckling leading man of Hollywood’s Golden Age]
27A: RIN TIN TIN [German shepherd of ’50s-’60s TV]
41A: HO CHI MINH [North Vietnamese leader with a trail named for him]
55A: HOLIDAY INN [Hotel chain since 1952]

To be honest, I’m not 100% sure these are the theme entries. They’re the longest and they all have an “-in”-rhyming ending, but I’m not sure if there’s supposed to be another connection between these entries, aside from the fact that they’re all from a bygone generation?

I also kept wanting to stop solving this puzzle because of how relatively ancient it felt. When all of your theme entries involve pop culture from 50-70 years ago, you have to wonder who the target audience is for this puzzle. Let’s also not overlook ye olde pop culture like BAIN EDNORTON STAN BUNCO READIN HASH. Entries like Backstreet BOYS and MADMEN, though more modern, stick out like sore thumbs and seem reverse engineered into this puzzle to give it any modernity at all. To the extent that the only requirement for your theme entries were different “-in” endings, the sky feels like it could have been the limit here, even with more modern entries. I wish I liked the puzzle more, but puzzles like these are the ones that turn away the younger solvers that we need to keep crosswords going for future generations.

Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker puzzle – Rachel’s writeup

This was pretty hard! I especially struggled in the SE stack, although there were a few crossings scattered throughout that I just had to guess on. I always enjoy the pop culture perspective of Kameron Austin Collins’s puzzles, although we are rarely simpatico on cultural references. Still a fun puzzle, and as always I learned a lot, which is my favorite thing about doing New Yorker puzzles. I do have a few minor issues, but they are pretttttty minor.

The New Yorker crossword solution • Kameron Austin Collins • Monday, November 18, 2019

My solve was definitely not smooth on this one. After confidently throwing down CHUPACABRA at 1A, I plunked around in the North for while and made some progress, but when I got into that bottom stack, I absolutely ground to a halt. I think, for me, the North was easier because it had fewer PROPER NAMEs (BESS TRUMAN notwithstanding). But between GRACE JONES (who was before my time but who I have now googled and whose music, including the video for “Pull Up to the Bumper,” I immensely enjoyed) and CARICE van Houten and Geoffrey BEENE, I had a hard time breaking into that stack at all. I also don’t know the Stones album (oops), so… yes, that stack was hard.

A few other things:

  • Although I know there is some debate over whether dupes are a thing or a mass-hallucinated so-called rule, having SOLO CAREER in the grid and Soloist in the clues seems pretty flagrantly a dupe. I also struggled with MILTIE as the entry for “Uncle ___, nickname for the comedian Milton Berle” because MILTIE and Milton share so many letters that it feels like a slant-dupe, or something.
  • The cross where I just pulled a letter out of a hat was RAMAYANA/MAME; was totally unfamiliar with RAMAYANA, so basically just ran the alphabet on MA_E until I found something that sounded like it could be a “Musical title character who ‘made us feel alive again.'”
  • I can no longer see the word LAMINATES without thinking of Mary Berry and croissants, so thanks for that, Kameron. Now I’m going to have to get a croissant.
  • PROPER NAMEs I didn’t know: ALAN Moore, Milton Berle, GRACE JONES, CARICE van Houten, Geoffrey BEENE,
  • The fill was great! The only 3-letter fill I could live without is RDS. For clean triple-stacks like this, that’s pretty impressive.

Overall, this was a tough-but-fair puzzle with fabulous triple stacks and pop culture entries. Plenty of stars from me!

Adam Vincent’s Universal crossword, “Party Crashers”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: COLLEGE REUNIONS are separated in each theme answer

Universal crossword solution · Adam Vincent · “Party Crashers” · Mon., 11.18.19


  • 17A [*Shared on a certain social media site] RETWEETED
  • 24A [*He “went to town/A-riding on a pony”] YANKEE DOODLE
  • 41A [Get-togethers that each starred answer’s middle letters “interrupt”] COLLEGE REUNIONS
  • 52A [*Symbol of U.K. rule] BRITISH CROWN
  • 66A [*Fellow musicians] BAND MATES

Quick write-up today – this was a good idea for a theme, and the puzzle overall solves very cleanly, but the randomness of the colleges here, along with the difference in how well known schools like YALE and BROWN are vs REED and BATES kind of put a damper on it overall.

Clues and fill here all felt fresh and made for a really smooth. Great clue for STAN [Overzealous fan, slangily] and the quartet of long downs RIPS OPEN, PREENING, ENLISTED, and UNFOLDED added to each area of the grid and made it fun to get through this puzzle.

3.25 stars

Jake Halperin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Middle Browse”—Jim P’s review

I can’t tell if the title is a play on words or not. If it’s not, it doesn’t parse well. But the theme is two-word names and phrases that hide the six most commonly used top-level internet domains.

This is revealed (superfluously) by DOT at 69a [Punctuation that can precede each set of circled letters].

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Middle Browse” · Jake Halperin · Mon., 11.18.19

  • 17a [Dimwitted police cyborg of cartoons] INSPECTOR GADGET
  • 24a [Singer who began her career on “Barney & Friends”] DEMI LOVATO
  • 29a [Wearing one’s best outfit, say] DRESSED UP
  • 44a [Eldest of a set of comedy brothers] CHICO MARX
  • 49a [Professional who spits] WINE TASTER
  • 61a [On the clock around the clock] WORKING OVERTIME. That’s a lot of overtime.

I like this theme. That’s a strong set of theme answers and fitting six longish answers in your grid is tough. Especially for a Monday puzzle.

Which is probably why we see more than the usual amount of kludgy fill: LENTO, OR SO, A SNAP, TORSI, plural ENDIVES, AT NO. And that’s just in the top third of the grid. It gets slightly better lower down, but that top third left a bad impression.

I did like MEERKAT, TRADEWIND, and MISS A BEAT, but that’s pretty much it for interesting fill here. Everything else is propping up the theme as best as possible.

I’ll put this at 3.1 stars. I enjoyed the theme, but it comes at a cost in the fill.

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword Themeless Monday #543—Jim Q’s review

Another one of those days that I figured I was going to flounder around the grid before giving up, but nope! Luckily those days are becoming rare for me, and it’s now more of a sinking feeling that I’m doing my best to ignore.

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword solution, Themeless No. 543

Starting off with MACLUNKEY in 1-Across was brutal. It feels like one of those things that you either know or you don’t, and I’m definitely in the latter camp (no idea who Greedo is…)

MORANIS was fun to see. He’s one of those actors I occasionally Google to see what he’s up to. His reasoning for leaving show business (and public life in general) at the height of his fame is quite interesting. Still, I miss that guy.

Other fun stuff included RAISIN BRAN (though it felt strange clued as a health food), ETOUFFEES (weird as a plural, but the word is already so strange to being with, and I find it delightful), EL PRADO, MEMORY HOLE, WAR GAME, IN A BAD SPOT, and BOOB JOB (which the juvenile in me figured out with no help from any crosses).

I’d be remiss if I didn’t gripe about the Absolutely Awful dupe in the SE corner. I thought for sure I had something wrong, but SPOT crossing SPOT? That put me in an awkward SPOT as a solver. The grid seemed lighter on obscure proper names than usual… maybe an apology for the dupe!

3 stars from me.


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44 Responses to Monday, November 18, 2019

  1. RSP64 says:

    Jenni – yes, modems are still used. In our house, we get our internet service from our cable company, so it is referred to as a cable modem. Thankfully, they don’t make that gawdawful screeching sound they made when most of us used dial-up service over the phone line.

  2. Mark Abe says:

    I agree with RSP64 that cable modems, which split a computer network signal off of a TV cable, are commonplace. The generation back from that, phone modems, which split a computer network signal off of a telephone line, are far less common. The “gawdawful screeching sound” occurred when two computer modems whistled at each other until they found a speed and methodology they both understood. The device Jenni refers to is an acoustic coupler, which coverts the sound on a phone line to a computer network signal, and is pretty much obsolete. I remember them from the 1970’s.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Beyond “things that end in Y”, I thought the theme was cute because it required an animal name with a doubled letter. So, horsey or ducky would not work, but DOGGY, CATTY, PIGGY, BULLY do. I make this point because the ratings seem surprisingly low to me, for such a consistent and accessible Monday theme…

  4. Joe says:

    Isn’t 40-Across in TNY an incorrect clue? It’s Jason Segel, not Jason Segal

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    The MILTIE/MILTON thing in TNY drove me nuts. That’s just ridiculous, especially for what’s supposed to be a challenging puzzle.

    I knew BEENE, which helped a lot in the SE. Couldn’t wrap my mind around PREEN for a bit though.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      There’s also “pops” in the SODAS clue and APOP in the grid. Less flagrant than Milton/MILTIE giving away the answer.

    • Zulema says:

      This “Uncle” MILTiE conundrum I assume was thrown in as an easy entry, but for people my age, it was a very happy reminder of simpler times. Sorry that most solvers had no recollection of him and therefore thought the clue and entry silly.

      • Zulema says:

        Sorry, wasn’t thinking straight. The objection was to the MILTON repetition, which one could have done without, not to the whole clue.

  6. Dr Fancypants says:

    I didn’t love the NYT today. But then when I learned the theme duplicated that of a Liz Gorski puzzle from way back, my estimation of it plummeted. Isn’t this something an editor should catch?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      It’s been 20 years! I’m guessing GlennG searched Xword Info for the theme entries rather than actually remembering “ah, yes, the Gorski theme from before the turn of the century.” I’m generally anti-duplication, but for a simple Monday theme a gap of 7+ years feels reasonable. And it’s not as if Arbesfeld would have plumbed the depths of XWI looking for a theme.

      (I’d look up my themers before submitting the puzzle, though, and wouldn’t submit it to the same venue unless I were confident my version improved on the original.)

      • GlennG says:

        >I’m guessing GlennG searched Xword Info for the theme entries

        Actually, I just read of it on a few other crossword venues. That said, after all the stink constructors put up over Timothy Parker a few years ago (it’s only ONE letter away from a complete copy of the theme), there has to be some question of how this one saw the light of day.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Parker was taking themes and often just changing a little bit of the fill! He was clearly plagiarizing.

          Alan Arbesfeld, on the other hand, has been a constructor for many years. You know how many Monday/Tuesday themes are variations on a few basic concept? Possibly most of them! It’s entirely unsurprising that constructors come up with the same ideas for basic themes. There’s a ton more overlap if you look at NYT, LAT, former CrosSynergy, and Newsday crosswords. Even when two constructors land on very similar themes around the same time, it’s not a problem when different venues publish the two puzzles. The percentage of solvers of, say, the LAT who are also solving the NYT every day is small. The obsessives in the crossword blogosphere who devour tons of puzzles every day are a minority.

          If Will and his team saw that there was a 1999 NYT puzzle with a nearly identical theme, I suspect they’d still be open to running this puzzle in 2019. When 1,000 Monday puzzles have run between the two, who on earth really gives a damn?

          (If I were constructing it, mind you, I’d look up my themers in Cruciverb and see if someone else had done it before. I might still submit to a different venue if I were confident that my fill or my theme clues were better than what came before. If submitting to the same venue, would acknowledge the overlap in a cover letter.)

          • GlennG says:

            Since it went there, I ought to clarify. I’m not accusing anyone of plagiarism. Lack of due diligence sure. Lack of originality, definitely. If I were Gorski, would I be bothered by this 2019 puzzle? Definitely. I’m a writer (at times), so if my stuff was copied without attribution, even if it just appeared to be, I’d be bothered. Wouldn’t you be?

            I actually would think like you as a constructor (and writer). If I saw someone else did something I’m going to do to the letter, I’d try to make it at least somewhat mine and abandon it if I couldn’t.

  7. marcel says:

    Nate, Don’t we older solvers deserve a puzzle once in a while?

    • R says:

      With the exception of the New Yorker and AVCX, practically all puzzles are for older solvers.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        And generally, anything that can be considered crosswordese at all is pitched to older solvers and unlikely to draw in younger/newer solvers. Crosswords contain an awful lot of that!

      • RichardZ says:

        I would include BEQ’s puzzles in the list of those not targeted to older solvers as well.

        • R says:

          That’s fair. I guess I tend to think of BEQ’s puzzles as self-published and not the same category of those edited and published by institutions, but they’re big enough in the crossword scene that you’re totally right.

  8. Norm says:

    TNY was a complete waste of time. Trivia dreck galore.

    • JohnH says:

      Yes indeed. I don’t see myself as having a shot in hell at finishing it. (FWIW, I assumed that the inclusion of “Milton” in the clue was just a mistake, so I couldn’t get worked up over it. It did make me hesitate to enter the obvious, though.)

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        This is the damn New Yorker, which supposedly has a hardcore editing and fact-checking department. They’re not supposed to make dumb mistakes. I could see not getting worked up over a careless mistake in a puzzle a constructor posts on their own website, a puzzle that hasn’t been edited by someone getting paid to edit. But the NYT and New Yorker, with all their editorial resources—those should be nigh perfect.

  9. David L says:

    Didn’t the New Yorker announce recently that they’d hired a new puzzle editor? If so, this week’s puzzle is not a good sign — error on SEGAL, repetition on the clue for MILTIE, and I don’t think anyone has ever said they were about to PREEN their beard. Birds preen their feathers and people preen themselves.

    LENS = ‘worldview’? That’s really a stretch.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      “She views the situation through the lens of a dedicated crossword editor.” It works for me.

      • David L says:

        Your sentence reads fine to me but I wouldn’t substitute ‘worldview’ for ‘lens.’ To me, a metaphorical lens connotes a specific and circumscribed perspective, whereas worldview is grander and more comprehensive. A matter of taste, though.

  10. Billy Boy says:

    NYT anyone else bothered by LYRICS as a song snippet? Snippet v. rather integral. I think of a snippet the same as a sample in DJ terms.

  11. RichardZ says:

    I only deduced 55D in today’s New Yorker puzzle from the crossings. I ran the alphabet to come up with the “J” in Grace Jones, and then recalled her name as one of the Bond girls (in “A View to a Kill”). I’m not familiar with the wholesale warehouse club referenced in the clue since they have no presence on the West Coast, but I suppose that’s the only way it could be clued in a non-vulgar way.

  12. Pseudonym says:

    “Do computers still use those?”

    What else would they use to receive WiFi?

    The constructor video interviews at the The New Yorker are great.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’ll bet a lot of people think of routers more than modems these days, unless there’s a technically minded person in the house or they’re continually having outages and being advised to restart their modem (looking at you, Comcast Xfinity).

  13. Brenda Rose says:

    You want new & younger construction? Quit doing the NYT, LAT, WSJ. There are many other constructors like Croce, Nicolle, Adams, Pasco who focus on just this. And as far as rating a Monday puzzle *too* Wednesday, give me a break. When I started out solving I knew my limits & did dumb home town paper grids until I felt sure I could tackle a NYT. All this griping sounds like helicopter parents afraid the kids will fall. They will. Let them get back on the bike themselves.

  14. cyberdiva says:

    Amy, I came to crosswords after I retired, so I guess I can be considered an “older solver.” All the crosswordese (ALOE, etc.) was new to me. Gradually, I learned it, and it has proved very useful. My point is that just as I learned crosswordese, so too can/should a younger solver. There’s no reason that a younger solver should be more turned off than a newbie older solver.

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