Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
Chanukah sameach! A seasonal puzzle from Tim. It’s slightly smaller than usual (14×15), as befits a minor holiday that has been blown out of proportion in the US by its proximity to Christmas
Each theme answer has circles.
- 15a [Pitcher between a starter and a closer] is a MIDDLE RELIEVER.
- 21a [Snow day activity] is a SLED RIDE. I suspect I’m not the only one who started with SLEDDING.
- 42a [Metalworker’s tool] is a HIGH SPEED DRILL.
- 47a [Popular apple variety] is the RED DELICIOUS.
And the revealer: 57a [Play a game during Hanukkah … with a hint to 15-, 21-, 42- and 47-Across], SPIN THE DREIDEL. The circle letters are the letters of DREIDEL all mixed up, or spun. A perfectly fine Monday theme.
A few other things:
- 9d [Ferocious dinos] are T REXES. Current scholarship suggests they were meeker than we’ve been led to believe.
- 25d [What’ll help you see the sites?] is WIFI.
- 38a [Bu$ine$$ execs] is a great clue for CFOS.
- 56d [Hawkeye’s player on “M*A*S*H”] is ALDA, which doesn’t seem parallel. Should be ALAN.
- I like the bottom row of SESTET and SIESTA. I don’t know why.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Madonna has 38 TOP TEN HITs, and that’s a record for all artists. Impressive. Different sites quote different songs as her biggest hit – either “Into the Groove” or “Like a Virgin.” I prefer the former, so here you go.
confidential to David: Happy 35th Anniversary!
Anne Marie Crinnion’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Chill Out”—Jim P’s review
Today’s puzzle has a simple synonym theme, but I still needed the revealer to figure out what was going on. It’s the brainchild of debut constructor Anne Marie Crinnion. Congrats on a fine grid!
61a is COLD OPENS clued as [Scenes before TV shows’ title sequences, and a hint to the starred answers]. The other theme answers start with words that can be used to describe cold weather.
- 18a [*”Wow, that sounds great!”] COOL BEANS. Someone texted this to me the other day in all seriousness. I don’t think I’ve encountered this phrase in the wild in a decade or more.
- 24a [*Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill, for two] SHARP SHOOTERS.
- 39a [*Figures for analysis] RAW DATA
- 51a [*Complete antithesis] POLAR OPPOSITES
I like the use of words you don’t immediately think of when considering cold weather, namely “sharp” and “raw”. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve had one cold snap (which I consider to be around freezing), but it’s been mild ever since. If you’re experiencing raw, polar weather, you have my sympathies.
Of course, no show is more famous for its COLD OPENS than SNL, which appropriately, does put in an appearance (at 9d).
Elsewhere in the grid, I loved the fill like A CAPPELLA, ACROSTIC, SLOW DAY, METAPHOR, RITE AID and DIPLOMA. I needed crossings for the lively and colorful WEAK SAUCE [Thing of disappointing quality, in slang], but I think I’ve heard that at some point.
- 5d [Franklin’s “A good conscience is a continual Christmas,” e.g.]. METAPHOR. I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t get Franklin from Charlie Brown out of my head for this clue, so I definitely needed the crossings.
- 52d [Response when nobody laughs at your joke]. “OR NOT.” I love this one. We’ve all been there when a joke is greeted with awkward silence.
An impressive debut that’s Monday-smooth but with plenty of sparkly fill. Four stars.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker *CARTOON* crossword
Well THAT was weird! Very cool and different and on-brand for the New Yorker itself, if not so typical of their crossword brand. In this puzzle, 8 of the entries were clued with New Yorker cartoons (7 acrosses, and, weirdly, just one down), and to figure out the entry, the solver had to figure out the caption.
I don’t really know how to review this? Many points for creativity and crossword innovation, but I can’t say I particularly enjoyed the solving experience. The most frustrating part was the way the cartoon clues automatically popped up any time you clicked through a square that was part of the caption, so you couldn’t solve the crossing entries without x’ing out of the cartoon every time.
I also didn’t totally get all of the captions. Specifically, FALL MAKES HIM SAD. The picture in the cartoon is of a man holding a rake like a guitar and wearing sunglasses… where is the sadness? Is it implied by his pose? I guess I do get the rest, but only a few made me laugh (ALL PARENTS FIGHT and MOO).
- 15-A: HE HAS A TELL
- 17-A: FALL MAKES HIM SAD
- 19-A: EYE DEW
- 38-A: HAPPY NOW YOU JERK
- 51-A: MOO
- 60-A: ALL PARENTS FIGHT
- 64-A: GO LIKE THIS
- 47-D: TO LIFE
I’d be curious to know about the accessibility of this puzzle as well. I assume some people with visual impairments solve crosswords with screen readers, and it would require detailed image captions to replicate the solving experience.
I don’t have much else to say about this puzzle. It was weird and creative and an interesting new approach to crosswords, but I admit that it’s an approach to crosswords I’d be perfectly happy not to have to solve again except on holidays! Stars for creativity.
1 star on the New Yorker (since it’s 6:30am and their usual post time is 4am, I’m guessing what I saw *is* today’s Monday puzzle and not anything special). The comics in the puzzle really didn’t work all that well as a solving experience, coupled with other factors. The worst part was that only the shoddy online interface is available for this puzzle. Online interfaces for crosswords are D- in quality at best in the first place, but this one popping up the cartoon pictures every few seconds, keeping you from working on the puzzle, and then needing to reposition the cursor to continue was a nightmare.
I felt the puzzle deprived me of the usual experience of solving that I’ve been used to. I solved this thing downs-only (mostly), thankfully it wasn’t that difficult to do that. Then, adding the experience of the online interface nagging me with pop-up pictures all the time, made it a rather horrific venture. It may be that the print edition version of this puzzle provided a much better experience overall, but I gather that most of us won’t know.
Oh, rats. I was just about to go print the puzzle. (I carry puzzles with me and work on, say, subway rides. I take notes on the back regarding other activities but not the puzzle itself when I need paper.)
Should anyone find it helpful, I created a pdf of the TNY puzzle:
I could have made it better, by creating an actual Web page for it, eliminating the highlight from where the cursor was, eliminating the graphic shortcut to the cartoons in relevant squares, integrating the cartoons more fully into the clues, and just plain making the numbers in the grid more legible. Indeed, I just so wish TNY would offer that last. I find the numbers too faint and small relative to other puzzles (and my eyesight). But alas, I put in more time than I planned as it is. (I could select the text of only a few clues at a time, say.)
John H, thank you so much for making that TNY puzzle available to us who need to print it, because I could not find how to before. And no New Yorker puzzle for today’s date, It seems, because I’ve tried every way I know. A lot of assumptions on the part of The New Yorker, suddenly hitting some of us who have been reading it for almost 70 years.
With a little help from the pdf, I did solve this, but it leaves me blank or maybe a bit puzzled. I’m a huge New Yorker fan, including the cartoons, but I honestly had trouble coming up with most of the captions or connecting them to the drawings.
Thankfully, I see they have a full article about Roz Chast, so I can get my bearings on cartoons once again!
TNY – I may be in the minority, but I thought this Berry puzzle was wonderful, as always. I love his grids – for me, Berry is the gold standard of themeless puzzles. I’m all for inventiveness, which this one certainly had. As for the humor, I’ve been enjoying New Yorker cartoons since I learned to read. My parents had a subscription and I always went straight to the cartoons. They remain very much on my wavelength – many of them give me a good chuckle. When my kids were old enough, we had a tradition of family-brainstorming the caption contest. Now, my oldest grand-daughter Addie is just starting to read. I look forward to continuing the tradition with Addie and her little sister Ava.
TNY – I very much enjoyed this puzzle as well. Then again, I’m a big fan of Patrick Berry and New Yorker cartoons (glad to hear I’m not the only one who immediately leafs through for the cartoons). That said, I was also annoyed by the constant pop-ups. If possible, the pop-ups should’ve been limited to just the first square of the theme entries.
The execution of this puzzle for online solving was atrocious. I might have liked the puzzle, but the solving experience was too annoying.
I loved it, too, perhaps more because I don’t solve online. A few minutes is all it took this morning to copy/paste/print the grid, the Across and Down clues, and the full-sized cartoons. This was before JohnH nicely created the PDF of the grid. With several printed sheets and my pen, I sat down and really enjoyed another beautiful Berry puzzle–all the more impressive since he had to find clues/answers to cooperate with the cartoon captions. Extremely creative and lots of fun. “Moo!”
A lot of crossword solving is the experience behind it. A lot of that is the puzzle, but a lot of it is how it’s presented too. Outside of the way it was presented, I probably would have given this puzzle 3.5 snowflakes as I was a little disappointed by the difficulty and coming up with the captions.
Consider crossword books. You’re not going to just evaluate whether you like a book by the puzzles alone but how the editor typesets it. How big is the grid on the page and do you have to worry about being legible in a small space given? Where is it on the page? Can you read all the clues easily or do you have to work to see the text or even find a magnifying glass? Are the clues in so tight to the grid that you always have to move your arm away from the page to read the next clue? I could cite examples of all these things being a negative experience for me and more.
It may be unfair to fit what an editor/type setter does onto the crossword constructor, but ultimately a number of things factor into the experience of doing a crossword puzzle and most people are going to fit their experience with the crossword into any rating. For this puzzle, I was upset and cussing at it every time the pop-ups happened by the end of the 18 minutes (9 of that probably cancelling windows and rehoming the cursor). Inevitably while the puzzle itself may be a lot better, the online interface turned it into that * puzzle.
Is APE insensitive and ready to be banned from puzzles? One of my #Chelsea center backs was racist hazed in London yesterday. Ugly.
Sorry, no one has had more nor better COLD OPENS than Craig Ferguson. If you missed even one, your life is poorer for it. He would never pass the #metoo test today, but no one really cared as the female guests were as instigative of the innuendos and worse than he was.
Late Late Night TV is far more unappealing without him. (Too many one-note players is my beef)
I also enjoyed today’s New Yorker puzzle. The cartoons popping up so often were a bit annoying, but I thought it was an ingenious concept for a puzzle, and a break from the typical Monday TNY offering. I just wish a reference to a Roz Chast cartoon had been worked into the mix, or perhaps (in a blast from the past) one from Charles Addams.
Roz Chast, subject of a current on-line NY magazine article. The one regular who has never made me laugh … Comedy can be so personal
That NYer puzzle was really fun!
I was also happy to see that among the cartoons included was one by Gahan Wilson, a long-time New Yorker contributor who passed away last month:
There was no certainly no confusing his style with any other cartoonist. The NPR show “Fresh Air” rebroadcast a portion of an interview with him a few weeks ago in remembrance.
Agreed, Gahan Wilson was to me sooo funny as well
tny — fear not, hard-copy subscribers: this’ll appear in print in the 12/30 issue. the annual cartoon issue, appropriately enuf — where there’s even a look at roz chast’s work, by adam gopnik. lighter, refreshing way to go into the new year — all-around!
The guy playing the rake is a blues singer.
Isn’t banning otherwise perfectly acceptable words just caving to the haters?
(aargh. meant to be a reply to Billy Boy’s WSJ comment. sorry.)
Also, I wholeheartedly agree with Billy Boy’s paean to Craig Ferguson.
Thanks, there was a tinge of sarcasm in my APE ban. Banning the racism of mocking an ape-boy to a black footballer is one thing, the word is not at all the problem. There’s a line.
Just how sensitive should we be? I just scrolled through a number of horribly insensitive print ads by today’s standards, but by eliminating them from our availability, how do we have comparisons of eras to each other.
Drawing the line is always tough, I can tell you Chemists and Orthopedic Doctors really need the word ‘retard’.
Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it, may we all get a smack of kindness and understanding.
I don’t know if I’ve ever agreed more with a crossword review than today’s New Yorker review, even down to which cartoons I enjoyed!
TNY: Where are people finding this to solve? Not seeing anything on newyorker.com
Here’s a direct link to TNY puzzle: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/12/30/cartoon-crossword?verso=true
That TNY solve was painful, I don’t want to replicate that process anytime in the near future.
Well, since Nate didn’t make it for the LAT, I will say I found it a very easy Monday puzzle with several female references, and a theme of “whistle blowers” that was easy to connect.