Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
This felt a smidgen harder to me than Mondays usually do. That could be the cocktail I’m sipping. We all handle anxiety in our own way.
The theme quotes ABE Lincoln, as we’re told at 53a: [It “cannot stand” per 1-Down … or a hint to 20-, 25- and 47-Across]. That’s A HOUSE DIVIDED. Each theme answer starts with HO and ends with USE.
- 20a [What a last true believer might believe in] is a HOPELESS CAUSE.
- 25a [“Don’t clap yet”] is HOLD THE APPLAUSE.
- 47a [“There was no choice but for me to say yes!”] is HOW COULD I REFUSE?
It’s a nice, solid Monday theme. All the base phrases are in the language; I’m impressed with the two 15s. I noticed the HO beginnings but didn’t figure out the theme until I got to the revealer.
A few other things:
- 4d [Features of touch-tone phones and A.T.M.s] are KEYPADS. We were the first on our block – and possibly the first residential customers in town – to have touch-tone phones. My father loved gadgets, and he was on call 24/7, so phones were very important. We had two lines and a hold button. In the 1960s.
- 5a [Channel for renovators and remodelers] is HGTV, my stress-reducing drug of choice. Double sinks! Quartz countertops! Hand-scraped hardwood floors!
- 14a [Sleep-inducing pill?] is a BORE. Nice clue, but possibly a bit tricksy for a Monday.
- 26d [Lead-in to -dontist] is an awkward but amusing clue for ORTHO.
- Again with the TE–HEE. I prefer TEE–HEE. Google Ngram Viewer agrees with me.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Lake ERIE is the smallest Great Lake by volume. David: “Oh yeah. That’s easy.” He’s a weather geek who grew up in upstate NY, so I guess that makes sense.
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword Themeless Monday #561—Jim Q’s review
Ever so current, BEQ’s puzzle features a grid spanning PSA: STAY THE FUCK HOME [Meme encouraging social distancing]. If any industry is alive and well, it’s the meme industry. Well, I’m home. Haven’t gotten out of bed yet. And I’m watching snow fall outside. Weird.
I enjoyed this one, though I never mustered up a feeling of confidence. Lots of fingers-crossed moments. One thing I found very bizarre was the clue for 51D [Like one wasting plenty of time] IDLY. Doesn’t the clue ask for the answer IDLE? And I don’t think of TYPing ON a keyboard as “hitting” it, so I had trouble down there.
Some retro fill and clues today with GITANO, THE GAP (clued via LP’s and Levi’s), and TECHNICOLOR balanced by the slangy LIKE HUH? and SON OF A…
New for me: SETTLOR, and ODELAY. ZAPOTEC rings a faint bell.
Killer clue: 22A [Blocker for the Chargers?] SEATBELT. Charger as in the Dodge Charger, not the football team. Extra tricky since both types of Chargers are capitalized.
Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s write-up
It took me a while to break into this puzzle, only finding a toehold in the SE segment having to work out from there, but once it started coming together, it A LOT OF fun to complete! I have some gripes with the fill (see: A LOT OF) and the difficulty of some of these proper names, but the long stuff is mostly fab. My difficulties started at 1D, where I confidently threw in AREOLAE, only to move to 2D, and go “oh, s**t,” out loud, to my cat. This was some *excellent* wordplay and misdirection, and I am not mad about it. Which is kind of how I feel about the whole puzzle, actually: lots of misdirection, not mad about it.
Long entries of note: GREEN HORNET / BIONIC ARM / WHEY PROTEIN / MEND FENCES / TEN OF WANDS. These are all super solid except for TEN OF WANDS, which seems like a particularly arbitrary tarot card. The Major Arcana (e.g. WHEEL OF FORTUNE, THE HANGED MAN) are fair game, but I think the Minor Arcana (numbered, suited cards) should be avoided. It’d be like putting FOUR OF DIAMONDS in your grid, except I guess with an added layer of meaning. Still not great. As for the rest, I am particularly bad at non-Marvel comics, so GREEN HORNET‘s true identity was far outside my wheelhouse, but it’s a great entry. Loved the wordplay on WHEY PROTEIN, and MEND FENCES is also a high-quality entry.
A few more things:
- Names I didn’t know: PABLO Casals, ELENORE Abbot, Britt Reid (aka GREEN HORNET, see above), ALOIS Alzheimer (first name was a total mystery to me), George GIPP
- Name I’m guessing a lot of other people didn’t know: IMOGEN Heap, a name I only know because I grew up idolizing the Garden State soundtrack.
- Not totally sure how I feel about the Hannibal Lecter quote??
- Word I didn’t know: PILLION.
- Fill I could live without: TES, A LOT OF, SWM, UTNE (if you don’t speak fluent crosswordese, memorize this one), ANO (only good fill if it crosses something that would also have a tilde!)
Overall: pretty challenging and also very satisfying. TEN OF WANDS is not a thing and those were some *hard* proper names, but a fun puzzle nonetheless. Several stars from me, and here’s some IMOGEN Heap!
Kurt Krauss’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
17A: COLD COMFORT [Very limited consolation]
28A: COOL MILLION [Tidy Lotto prize]
45A: WARM REGARDS [Genuine greetings]
60A: HOT PROPERTY [In-demand real estate listing]
36A: GETTING CLOSER [Parlor game encouragement suggested by the starts of 17-, 28-, 45- and 60-Across]
I really liked this puzzle and it’s successive hints at getting closer to the end. Sussing the theme definitely helped me fill in a few of the theme entries quickly and I found myself looking forward to how the rest of the theme would play out. A nice way to wake up this morning!
Other random thoughts:
– I can never remember the spelling of EARL GR(E/A)Y tea, even though I drink it every day! Maybe it’s regional?
– Always pumped to see ARETHA Franklin at the top of a grid!
– For as much short fill as this puzzle contained, it was largely quite clean, which was a nice add to the solving experience.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Treasure Hunt”—Jim P’s review
There’s a PRIZE INSIDE each and every one of our theme answers today (part of this delicious breakfast!). I love this theme; it made me nostalgic for the days when we got honest-to-goodness physical prizes inside our sugar-delivery boxes.
The full clue for the revealer at 55a is [Cracker Jack extra, and what the answers with circles have]. Each theme answer contains the name of a well-known award.
- 18a [Finely chopped ingredient in some pasta sauces] DICED GARLIC. Edgar, literary award.
- 24a [Admission of fear] I’M SO SCARED. Oscar, film award.
- 35a [Classic German racing car] PORSCHE SPYDER. Espy, sports award.
- 48a [Crocheting need] COTTON YARN. Tony, theater award.
Good variety in the awards, strong theme entries. I almost wish, however, that the clue for I’M SO SCARED was more sarcastic. Given the state of fear in the world today, I know people who are saying this (my mom, for one). Something like [Sarcastic response to an overblown threat, perhaps] might’ve made for a more humorous clue.
What are your memories of prizes inside (candy/cereal) boxes? For my sister and me, our favorites were from the Botan Rice Candy boxes back when they had real, swallowable (though not edible) toys in them. Once they switched to stickers, it all went downhill. We loved the candy, too, because eating the rice paper made us feel like rebels.
Moving into the fill, we get highlights DEL MONTE, EVIL-DOER, OPTIMISM, and POOL AREA. I wanted POOLSIDE for this last one as it just sounds better.
Clues of note:
- 17a. [“Shop ___ You Drop”]. TIL. This phrase takes on a different meaning these days. Stay home. Keep your distance. Act like you have the virus.
- 29d. [Panettiere of TV’s “Nashville”]. HAYDEN. That’s not a show I would watch. But she was on another show I did watch back in the day. Heroes. She was the cheerleader.
Nice puzzle. 3.75 stars.
Mira Martin-Gray & Niamh Girling’s Universal crossword, “Chopping Block”—Jim P’s review
In crossword parlance, those little black squares in the grid are called “blocks.” Today, our constructors use four of those as “chopping” blocks to chop up the circled words, all of which are commonly-chopped edibles.
- 19a / 21a: TRAFALGAR ◼︎ LICKS
- 25a / 28a: KIMCHI ◼︎ VESTIGES
- 42a / 44a: SCHEDULE ◼︎ EKE OUT
- 49a / 52a: LEMON ◼︎ IONIC BOND
We’ve been doing a lot of Hello Fresh lately, and I can confirm, their recipes do call for a lot of chopping of these items, so that made for a nice personal connection for me, in addition to the clever gimmick. (By the way, having food delivered and reducing the number of grocery store runs? Thumbs up.)
Highlights in the fill: MEAL TIMES, which seems theme-adjacent, FANFIC, and THE FORCE. A lot of people don’t want any POLITICS in their puzzles, but Mira and Niamh didn’t shy away; they slapped it right in there at 9d. Old bits of crosswordese—ELIHU, OSSO, and ISE—stuck out a little bit, but they didn’t get in the way. GOT TO looks weird in the grid compared to the more colloquial GOTTA.
Clues of note:
- 33a. [Kind of haircut that’s usually cheaper]. MENS. Ha! I’m sure this is true and I’m sorry. But it also looks like it’s maybe a little more complicated than that.
- 49a. [Zested fruit]. There is a lot of LEMON-zesting in Hello Fresh recipes.
- 58a. [Draft in a window?]. EMAIL. Very clever! Good clue.
- 3d. [Princess of Alderaan]. LEIA. Seems weird to have this and THE FORCE in the same grid and not have them cross-referenced. Sure, she never used it much, but she could use it.
- 33d. [8, 12 and 6, say]. I like this clue for MEAL TIMES, because it’s so deceptive. It looks like it’s definitely going to be something mathematical, and flashbacks of my daughter’s homework regarding least common multiples and prime factorizations zipped through my head. Thankfully, there was no math involved, but I will say that I don’t think there’s any commonly-accepted breakfast time.
Enjoyable puzzle. 3.6 stars.
NYT: I like the theme. It was unexpected. It’s nice when a Monday manages to give you an AHA moment.
.Lake Superior is by far the deepest of the Great Lakes. Ontario, Michigan and Huron are all very deep (750-900 feet) and Lake Erie is by far the shallowest. Its shallowness makes sailing tough. I have never gone swimming in Superior, but Ontario, Michigan and Huron are all very cold even in August and there are spots that are over 150 feet deep just off the shore. Erie is much warmer as is the Niagara River where there are spots at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island where you can walk 300 feet off the shore and still not be in water over your head.
Felt like a Wednesday today.
Jenni – I had no idea touch-tone phones were around that early. I grew up in a (very) small town in Wisconsin, and we didn’t even have a dial phone until I was 6 or 7 years old (1962 or so) – just pick up the receiver and tell the operator what number you wanted to call – I still remember Grandma was #68. We graduated to dial phones not much later, but by the time I left home for college, you still only had to dial five digits to reach someone in town.
My parents bought their house in 1964, when I was almost four, and I don’t remember having dial phones. I know we had touch-tone by 1966, when I was in first grade, because I remember one of my friends commenting on how weird the phone looked. I grew up in the NYC ‘burbs in what is now Rye Brook. My father was a doc and he insisted that people always needed to be able to reach him which meant there could never be a busy signal (remember busy signals? Kids, ask your grandparents). Hence the two lines – if the first one was busy, the call rolled over to the second line.
For a while, there were three lines – his office phone rang in our house and in my grandparents’ house (he practiced with my grandfather). My grandmother would call from their house line to the office line to let my grandfather know dinner was ready. Mom or Dad would pick up (the kids were not allowed to answer the office line) and so would the answering service, so we all knew what was for dinner over there.
Kahunas and Uhuru are not Monday -or even Tuesday – material and trou is questionable as well. Come on!
I found all of those gettable and amusing. One woman’s meat….
Be safe. Be careful. Sorry about my past insanity.
I was mean. I just wrote a huge post talking about my mental illness as though it was an excuse. It is not, so I erased it. I was mean to my fellow crossword people and I am sorry. I am very sorry.
Such apologies don’t count for much. I just don’t have anything else. I wish I did.
I remember Touch-Tone phones in the ’60s. In apartment-rich New York the phone company, which owned all the phones in those days, didn’t bother to pick them up when people moved so they were fairly easy to come by, by the later ’60s. But the trick was that you had to sign up for Touch-Tone service which involved an installation fee and a monthly extra on your bill.
Ma Bell convinced people that they had to change you to special equipment at the central office but the reality was that they sent a guy out to switch the red and green wires where the phone line came into your apartment. Until the polarity of the phone line was reversed, the buttons wouldn’t do anything. I spend hours switching wires at my friends’ apartments in college to enable bootleg Touch-Tone service.
Today, people own their phones and they all get plugged in for power and thus don’t rely on the phone line for its DC to work. So they don’t depend on phone line polarity. Only us old-timers remember phone lines having “ring” (negative) and “tip” (positive).
@Martin … great story! Thanks for bringing a smile to my face today!
NYT a nice, easy-ish puzzle and introductory theme. Fine Monday.
WSJ on the other hand was rather toothy for Monday.
Probably just me …
I cruised through the top half of the NYer pretty quickly but slowed down a lot after that. The SW section with PILLION over EGESTED over DODDERS was rough.
I don’t get the wordplay on WHEYPROTEIN — what’s the connection to beef?
I’m guessing that the connection is that whey comes from milk, which (typically) comes from cows.
d’oh — thank you!!
edited later to say “d’oh” again and to thank rachel and kac for the intended meaning. also to say thx for the tough but fair solve! ;-)
had much the same experience. well — didn’t “cruise” thru the puzz, but definitely found the sw to be the thorniest part of the solve; it was the last to fall.
and yes — also hope someone will, um, WHEY in on WHEY PROTEIN…
My read was like, beefcake…like muscles..?
That’s the way I took it. I think whey protein is a popular supplement with body builders.
Oh, that makes sense, I guess. I’d never heard of whey protein and had no idea what it might be good for.
That’s it! Beef = muscles.
I found the Monday New Yorker to be quite difficult (a different cluing ethos than the Times), but ultimately solvable and enjoyable.
Am I crazy or are there two WSJ reviews? I did the first one but haven’t seen the second. Maybe it’s tomorrow’s?
Fixed. Sorry about that. I must have copied and pasted the title without making the correction.
You’re not crazy…the “Chopping Block” puzzle was Universal’s. :-)
Hi friends — Just a note on PABLO Casals, who though unfamiliar to many in 2020 was one of the most important musicians of the first half of the twentieth century, worth remembering and honoring for at least one reason:
Casals was the first cellist to record (and is largely responsible for revitalizing the reputation of) Bach’s by-now ubiquitous and canonical Cello Suites, of which, I’d guess, you’ve at least heard this movement from the first: https://youtu.be/PCicM6i59_I
Casals’ recordings, on EMI, are available everywhere you stream music, and I’d hunt them down — still some of the best!
As for AÑO — I know there’s debate about this, but I tend to disagree for a few reasons. The first is that I’ve noticed that people mostly make this complaint about Spanish-language words. Has anyone ever been asked to make sure that GARÇON is crossed, at the Ç, with another Ç? Same question to words we see all the time, like ÎLE, or PÂTÉ. I’m wary of the inconsistency there — and I’m wary of a separate but relevant trend in complaining about Spanish language in the puzzle, broadly speaking, even as I understand that ANO — no Ñ — has a very different meaning. (Personally… I think it puts the word in the much in the same category as PEE and STD — which is to say, it’s okay to giggle.)
It is true that AÑO et. al. have diacritical marks in real life. It is also true that in real life, we put spaces between words rather than cramming them together to fit the confines of a 15 x 15 grid. In that latter case, we seem to have no problem remembering that crosswords aren’t quite real life: they place unique demands on language that, for our purposes, are fair game. They simply have to be.
Thank you. I agree about Casals and about diacriticals.
My beef (hah!) with Spanish in crosswords is that there seems to be an assumption that solvers know some (to me) obscure words and expressions. My knowledge of Spanish derives almost entirely from restaurant menus and crosswords themselves. There was a puzzle recently where the answer was (I probably haven’t got this right) QUIERO or maybe somethingQUIERO. I got it from crosses and from thinking about what vowels were plausible, but I don’t know what it means.
French and German on the other hand — knock yourselves out, constructors!
Totally agreed on both counts. (Pablo Casals was a gimme for me and a welcome one, and I read French.)
A comment on content: When I first got addicted to crosswords in the ’80’s my friends said “wow, you’re smart.” No. All you needed then was a memory like Sheldon Cooper for crosswordese, a few classes in Italian, Latin, German French & Spanish and of course a love of puns. Now we need knowledge of computerese, comic book heroes/rap star names plus a crap load of science/math & be woke about slang. It makes me chortle to read young reviewers rail on “old” stuff that they never heard of. Well I wouldn’t exactly call Shakespeare current & he is as ubiquitous as the Oreo. BEQ often includes currency in his grids. I thank him for “cluing” me in & learning while I fill in boxes outside of my box.
NYer: I’m surprised that UTNE is listed as crosswordese to be memorized. Every liberal I knew in the 90s subscribed to UTNE Reader, and some of the ones I knew who still get paper magazines today do too.