Sally Hoelscher’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
I really enjoyed this crossword, which has the light touch needed for Monday and a theme that kept me interested. It’s also a missed opportunity. More on that later.
The theme answers are all memoirs by US First Ladies – a lovely twist on a President’s Day theme. It’s Sally Hoelscher’s debut and I hope to see more from her!
- 17a [Author of the memoir “Spoken From the Heart” (2010)] is LAURA BUSH.
- 23a [Author of the memoir “First Lady From Plains” (1984)] is ROSALYNN CARTER.
- 36a [Author of the memoir “Becoming” (2018)] is MICHELLE OBAMA.
- 47a [Author of the memoir “Living History” (2003)] is HILLARY CLINTON.
- 59a [Author of the memoir “The Times of My Life” (1978)] is BETTY FORD.
A distinguished roster of accomplished women, whatever you think of the books. The only one I’ve read is “Becoming.”
The missed opportunity: this puzzle more than passes the crossword Bechdel test. It smashes through the barrier. I went through looking for men’s names with mounting excitement: what if there weren’t any? Wouldn’t that be cool? Then I got to 66a, which I filled in with crossings. It’s DEE. That could be clued a woman’s name, or a letter, or a grade. Instead we get [Actor Billy ___ Williams]. Sigh.
A few other things:
- 10d [Alternative to shoelaces] is VELCRO. I was one of those annoying people who insisted that my child would NEVER have Velcro shoes but would learn to tie her shoelaces. My mother never let me hear the end of that, since of course I did buy her Velcro shoes because I needed to actually get out of the house in the morning.
- 15a [Second-largest city in Oklahoma] is TULSA, which was the site of one of the worst racially-motivated massacres in US history. Mobs were whipped into a frenzy by sensationalized reports that a Black man named Dick Rowland assaulted a white woman in an elevator. The events that followed destroyed the Greenwood district, known as the Black Wall Street, and killed between 100 and 300 people. We had the privilege of seeing a dance created about Greenwood performed by the Alvin Ailey Company. Did you learn about this in school? I sure didn’t – and I had a concentration in American Studies in college.
- 31a [“Shogun” or “The Lord of the Rings”] is EPIC.
- I’m not fond of plural names in grids. That said, I’d happily take multiple ERMAS if they were all as funny as Ms Bombeck
- 46d [Generous portions of pie] are SIXTHS. Um, how many portions should there be? Asking for a friend.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: the name of Laura Bush’s memoir.
John R. O’Brien’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
20A: VENISON STEAK [Deer hunter’s dinner, perhaps] – VENI
34A: DIVIDING BY TWO [Cutting in half, in math class] – VIDI
42A: IN THE VICINITY [Nearby] – VICI
56A: JULIUS CAESAR [Attributed speaker of the circled words]
So, kind of a quotation puzzle, but with VENI, VIDI, VICI hidden within the three theme entries. A cute idea, though I might have preferred if the V-words spanned two words in the themer, like VENI hidden in “graven image” or something like that. I did like the bonus in the VIDI (“I saw”) clue – the visual of sawing something in half was nice. Also, bonus points for FRENEMY and an otherwise decent solving experience.
HALT! Can we point out that there are more despots/dictators in this puzzle than there are women?!?! We have cruel despot Idi AMIN and Cuban dictators Fidel CASTRO and Batista vs. ISSA Rae. That’s it. If I want to be generous, we can also include Lola from her COPA, bridal NEE, and STE Marie. Okay, there are barely more women in this puzzle than autocratic leaders – that’s wild to me and I can’t not mention it. Actually, it’s a tie because the puzzle’s theme is hilariously and appropriately about JULIUS CAESAR seeing and then taking whatever he wants. Oof.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
What is there to say about a Patrick Berry themeless that hasn’t already been said? This puzzle is impeccable. It felt a tad easier than most New Yorker Mondays, but no complaints about that!
Here are some highlights:
- The two long Acrosses of CRIMSON TIDE and GOES TO WASTE are both strong, and go together so nicely in the clip that I posted at the bottom of this post for no particular reason (War Eagle!)
- The long down stacks in the NE and SW are also great. I feel like I just saw NEURAL NET in a puzzle? I’m not sure where so maybe I’m imagining it. All six of these long down entries went in very smoothly for me: ISRAELITE / NEURAL NET / SLEEP AID in the NE and CB RADIOS / PHOENICIA / RIVENDELL (although I had to re-spell PHOENICIA twice).
- Clues I loved:
- 16A: Yuletide product that the company Brite Star has a near-monopoly on (TINSEL) – this is such a great clue because of course very few people will know that off the top of their head, but with some inference and a couple of crosses it creates a nice aha moment
- 17A: Modern bookkeepers? (EREADERS) – clever!
- 36D: Surname in an oft-repeated “The Princess Bride” speech (MONTOYA) – I just rewatched this favorite movie of my childhood a few weeks ago and it really holds up!!
Overall, the fill is flawless, the long entries are solid and interesting if not sparklingly new, so this puzzle gets almost all the stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword Themeless Monday #556—Jim Q’s review
Hard to gauge this one since I’m in a bit of a hurry, driving from Chicago back to New York and solving this in a travel plaza over a greasy breakfast sandwich. Set Across Lite to “Automatic Solution Checking” so you can see my many stumbles in this one while solving (about 1/3 of those were just careless typing, but still!).
- 1A [Director of the first foreign-language movie to win a Best Picture
Oscar] BONG JOON HO. I fell asleep while watching it in the theater (like while previews were still on), but I can’t wait to try again!
- 17A [You might get one just for kicks] KARATE BELT. Cute.
- 23D [Wand waver] TSA AGENT. Really wanted some kind of sorcerer, magician, conductor, etc. Nice surprise!
- 14D [Hipster beer from Chicago] OLD STYLE. I saw the signs on dive bars during my Chicago visit. Didn’t cross my mind to sample one!
- 36D [Frank and beans?] CHILI DOG. There’s probably some ground beef in there too…
- 21D [“How Will the Wolf Survive?” band] LOS LOBOS. Well clued! Inferable to non-fans.
- 63A [“So much this”] AMEN TO THAT. I’m not sure if I had a shot at a perfect solve (since automatic solution checking was on) with that SE corner being so difficult, but were it not for this entry, I’m positive I wouldn’t have had a perfect solve!
- 56A [Take stock?] EAT. I don’t really associate the consumption of, say, chicken stock as “eating,” but sure! I actually wanted EAT to be the answer for 27D [Take in] rather than SEE.
- 49D [Drum fill sound] RAT-TAT. Is that really the sound a drum makes? I’ve heard RAT-A-TAT before, but not RAT-TAT.
- 65A [Actress who plays Van on “Atlanta”] ZAZIE BEETZ. What a fantastic name! Entirely uninferable if you’re like me and never heard of it. H
ad trouble with the PAZ/ZAZIE crossing and ran the alphabet until Mr. Happy Pencil appeared.
- 59A [Italian dessert made with thickened cream] PANNA COTTA. Sounds yummy. Looks delicious. Never heard of it.
- 45D [Speeding speed] NINETY. Seems rather vague, no?
- 22A [Screenwriter Faxon] NAT crossing 3D [Japan Airlines hub] NARITA. Guessed at the T.
Lots of bite in this one!
Conrad Jones’s Universal crossword, “Conjunction Junction”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: Common conjunctions are hidden within theme answers
- 21A [Be in agreement] SEE EYE TO EYE
- 26A [2019 Raptors star]KAWHI LEONARD
- 43A [Chief helper] RIGHT HAND MAN
- 49A [Memphis road in a 2018 film title] BEALE STREET
Excellent theme answers in today’s puzzle – with a fun link of the conjunctions falling in the center of multiple words, linking them together. BEALE STREET was the easy one for me here – with it’s namesake movie one of my favorites of 2018 – while I needed almost every cross for KAWHI LEONARD – but every one was fair. I also enjoyed the triple E in SEE EYE TO EYE. With a title like this one, how could I not think of Schoolhouse Rock?
Really smooth fill as well throughout the puzzle. There were no sticking points and a nice flow to the answers throughout. Clue of the day for me goes to RIRI [Queen Bey : Beyonce :: ___ : Rihanna].
Great debut from Conrad Jones! Looking forward to future puzzles!