Monday, March 30, 2020

BEQ N/A (Jim Q) 


LAT 4:33 (Nate) 


NYT 2:40 (Jenni) 


The New Yorker 10:13 (Rachel) 


Universal 4:38 (Jim P) 


WSJ ~5 + ~3 for the SE corner (Jim P) 


**BEQ is a variety puzzle today (Marching Bands) which can be found here**

Lee Taylor’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review

I like crosswords that have theme entries going both across and down. I don’t know why. It’s more satisfying, or something. This is one of those puzzles – very accessible and mostly Monday-appropriate, and also fun.

The theme answers all have names.

New York Times, March 30, 2020, #330, Lee Taylor, solution grid

  • 4d [Sandwich that might spill onto your hands] is a SLOPPY JOE. Our family favorite is Rachel Ray’s recipe. It’s easy to find subs for the “steak seasoning.” We use a Penzey’s spice mix – yummy and socially conscious!
  • 6d [Pirate flag] is a JOLLY ROGER.
  • 18a [Cocktail often served with a celery stick] is a BLOODY MARY. Not my fave.
  • 31d [Very cheap wine, in slang] is SNEAKY PETE. This is the least familiar of the theme entries and I suspect will be a stumper for a lot of Monday solvers. It’s the reason for the “mostly” qualifier in my first paragraph.
  • 37d [Revolving tray on a dinner table] is a LAZY SUSAN. These days I suspect more people see them in kitchen cabinets than on dinner tables. When I was a kid, they were standard at Chinese restaurants, and our favorite Chinese place in Allentown has them on the large round tables.
  • 60a [All settled up] is EVEN STEVEN.

I enjoyed this theme and it’s 90% Monday-perfect. It’s a lot of theme material for a daily-sized puzzle. I don’t think the fill suffers much, but I’m less sensitive to that than some of my colleagues.

A few other things:

  • 20a [Alternative to FaceTime or Google Hangouts] is SKYPE. I never use Skype. We’ve switched to Microsoft Teams at work, we use FaceTime or WhatsApp for telehealth visits, and my social interaction is entirely on Zoom these days.
  • Speaking of non-Monday-friendly content, there’s 22, [“Gil Blas” author Alain-René ___] LESAGE. I got it from crossings and have never heard of him.
  • 29a [Yellowstone attraction] is a GEYSER. We had the chance to visit Geysir in Iceland last year. Highly recommended.
  • I filled in APR from crossings and figured it was about loans. Nope. It’s the month.
  • [Sign of the Ram] is not a pub. It’s ARIES.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: LESAGE. I also did not know that ZURICH is the largest city in Switzerland.

Annemarie Brethauer’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up

LAT 3.30.20 Solution

LAT 3.30.20 Solution

17A: ECHO CHAMBER [Studio feature that produces reverb]
25A: HOT NUMBER [Very popular movie star, e.g.]
37A: PHANTOM THREAD [2017 Day-Lewis film with multiple Oscar nominations]
50A: AHOY MATEY [Talk like a Pirate Day greeting]
59A: HOME STRETCH [Last leg of a race … or a hint to the circled letters]

I really like how this puzzle’s theme was executed, especially in the theme entries the constructor was able to find. PHANTOM THREAD and AHOY MATEY (and its clue) felt current, and they are nice finds for phrases that only have the letters of HOME once each, in the right stretched out order. HOT NUMBER feels a bit more dated, but I’ll take it in an otherwise fun theme with a satisfying revealer.

Anything else I say about this puzzle won’t be as important as imploring you to stay in, stay healthy, and stay socially distanced from everyone so that we can flatten the curve and make sure our hospitals (and hospital workers) don’t get overwhelmed! I’m so glad to be in a crossword community with each of you, and I hope you stay safe so that we can keep solving together!

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker puzzle – Rachel’s writeup

In these uncertain times, it sure is nice to be able to depend on Patrick Berry to deliver an unfailingly clean, high-quality themeless puzzle every now and then. You see his byline and just know that you are in for a pristine, entertaining 10-or-so minutes of solving, free momentarily from your worldly troubles. Today’s puzzle delivers four, count ’em, FOUR quality long stacks (two 10s and two 10-10-9s).

The New Yorker crossword solution • Patrick Berry • Monday, March 30. 2020

In the NW, we have AIR QUALITY / GROUP RATES / SENATE SEAT. On their own, none of these jump out as particularly exciting long entries, but then Patrick Berry gives us some subtle political commentary with the clue on AIR QUALITY: “U.S. environmental measurement that’s been getting worse since 2016.” I wonder what happened in 2016 that resulted in worse air quality?? ?

Next up, the NE stack: HAND-IN-HAND / OLDEN TIMES / POSSESSES. Again, nothing earth-shattering in there, but some nice misdirection on the clues for OLDEN TIME [Not now] and the S-rich POSSESSES [Takes control of].

The SW stack was probably my favorite: SWITCH HIT / SHAKE LOOSE / KAREN ALLEN. I have seen “Raiders of the Lost Ark” but could never in a million years have told you who KAREN ALLEN was, but that’s definitely on me. I just read her Wikipedia article— she now owns a textile company! The clue on SWITCH HIT [Swings both ways?] is what we call “queer baiting,” where you think something queer is about to happen and then NOPE it’s a sports thing. I lol’d.

Final stack: CHESS MATCH / ART NOUVEAU / NO-NONSENSE. Loved the clue on CHESS MATCH [Board meeting?] and generally enjoyed that corner. It’s also where my funniest mistake happened. I read the clue [“My Best Girl” musical] and had _AME, and thought “What other musical could possibly end in _AME other than fAME?” and ended up with fAN CAVES instead of MAN CAVES and thought yeah, that could be a thing I guess. And moved on. And didn’t correct it until 2 minutes after I finished the puzzle and was hunting desperately for my error. I lol’d again.

A few other notes:

  • QUANTS [Wall Street number crunchers] – if you say so, Patrick Berry.
  • Would have been nice if we had leaned in to the comic theme in the top middle and went from NITE Owl to MYSTIQUE clued as the (best) X-Men character

Overall, this is a lovely themeless puzzle with a little something for everyone, and a reminder that even while things are terrible in the world, we can still take comfort in the consistency of Patrick Berry’s construction. Lots of stars from me!

Penelope Williams’s Universal crossword, “Taking Things Literally”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Idioms are presented in a literal, visual, fashion.

Universal crossword solution · “Taking Things Literally” · Penelope Williams · Mon., 3.30.20

  • 17a [Opinion I give, visually?] MY CENT CENT. My two cents.
  • 28a [What you are after a bad breakup, visually?] THE DOWN DUMPS. Down in the dumps.
  • 47a [Make an upsetting situation worse, visually?] INURY INSULT. Adding insult to injury.
  • 60a [Like a rookie, visually?] THE EARS WET. Wet behind the ears.

This was a lot of fun—just the perfect kind of playfulness I love in a puzzle. Perhaps some solvers aren’t familiar with all of these idioms, but I feel they should be common enough for the vast majority of English-speakers. I especially like that each one uses a slightly different mechanisms to get its message across. This kept the theme interesting and lively throughout the entire solve.

The long fill is fun as well and acts to SERVE UP TRAIL MAPS and features MUST-SEE GIN JOINTS. An IGUANA, a MENSCH, ISRAEL, and YERTLE add to the lively fill.

Clues of note:

  • 6a. [She can have an Irish voice in iOS 12]. SIRI. Did not know this. In addition, SIRI can present as Australian, British, Indian, South African, and/or male.
  • 35a. [Nickname hidden in “get in on”]. TINO. I keep reading the clue as “get it on.” I think I’ve been home-isolated too long.
  • 65a. [What the floor is, in an improv game]. LAVA. Fun clue—and a game that could be played while stuck at home.

Lovely puzzle from start to finish. Four stars.

Anne Grae Martin & Ross Trudeau’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Abstract Attacks”—Jim P’s review

Our theme is words and phrases with four A’s (and no other vowels), as revealed by 64a FORAYS [Sudden attacks, or a phonetic feature of 1-, 21-, 36- and 52-Across].

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Abstract Attacks” · Anne Grae Martin & Ross Trudeau · Mon., 3.30.20

  • 1a [Pre-GPS travel aidAAA MAP. How common was it really to refer to “AAA maps”? Wouldn’t people just have said “road maps”?
  • 21a [Sun protection brandPANAMA JACK
  • 36a [Fruity-sounding word tile gameBANANAGRAMS
  • 52a [Beach Boys title womanBARBARA ANN

That first entry is definitely not as fun as the others which are all solid and interesting. I didn’t even recognize it as part of the theme until the revealer spelled it out. I think the puzzle would have been fine without it.

I like the theme fine, but that SE corner killed me, leading off with UNCAS [“The Last of the Mohicans” character], which I didn’t know, and ending with the clue for FORAYS, which seems incomplete to me. The full definition I’m seeing is “a sudden attack or incursion into enemy territory, especially to obtain something; a raid.” In my mind, that part about obtaining something is key and is not part of the clue as given. I think of a foray as an attempt to go get something, as in, “I’m going out on a foray to get some toilet paper.” Simply using “sudden attacks” as the definition makes it sound like “ambushes.”

Lastly, the ambiguous cluing in that corner got to me. I wanted TEA for ALE [Brewed beverage] (I must’ve filled in TEAS at 15d by its crosses because it didn’t even register), INVITE for INVOKE [Appeal to], and “FEEL ME?” for FEELER [Tentative inquiry]. Not knowing UNCAS meant I wasn’t going to get CANOLA or ALT KEY. And even though I got ON TV [Being broadcast, in a way] relatively quickly, it still felt highly suspect. In sum, that corner put a damper on my whole solve.

But the long fill is very nice with JAZZMAN, BEAR CUB, BAND ROOM, and PIRANHA. I also appreciate the call-out in the clue for SALARIES [Women’s are still statistically lower]. The short fill, however, feels somewhat strained with plenty of crosswordese: ETRE, ASA, LYS, ADZES, URALS, ITO, ONO, ABU, ARI. These are overly-common entries in crosswords, and when they start to pile up, it’s noticeable.

So I have mixed feelings on this one. The theme is solid and the long fill is sparkly, but some of the surrounding short fill and especially the cluing in that SE corner make it tough for a Monday. 3.25 stars.

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26 Responses to Monday, March 30, 2020

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I’m with you re the LESAGE entry. I knew Gil Blas but could not conjure up LESAGE and I went to French school from kindergarten through 12th grade. But the theme was fun!

    • JohnH says:

      I studied French, but never encountered LESAGE. Still, I got this one . . . from previous crosswords. (I didn’t know of ZURICH’s size either, but it wasn’t hard to pull up a Swiss city that fit.)

  2. Diandian Xiao says:

    I thought HADJ was pretty lame, given that HAJJ is way more common.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      That’s one of those words where I fill in part and wait, because transliteration is so variable. I’ve seen HADJ more often than HAJJ. And “lame” is an ableist slur.

      • Gale G Davis says:

        one accepted definition of lame is UNSOPHISTICATED
        As it was meant here. Snowflakes beware of seeking out too much political correctness. You end up looking lame.

        • Reid says:

          the fact that you would rather go out of your way to offend someone instead of just not using a word says way more about you being overly sensitive than her

        • Jenni Levy says:

          It’s always so interesting to me that the people most convinced of their right to say hurtful things are also the ones most offended when someone points out that they’re saying hurtful things. I can’t tell. Who’s the one with delicate, easily-wounded sensibilities?

          And unless you’re the same person posting under two different names, you don’t know how it was meant, and your definition strains credulity and indicates really poor reading comprehension. “Unsophisticated?” Oh, please.

  3. cyberdiva says:

    NYT: I knew the term Sneaky Pete, but had no idea it referred to cheap wine. For me, cheap wine was usually called Two-Buck Chuck. When I then looked up “sneaky pete,” the hits were to concealed carry holsters and to an American crime drama series.

  4. David L says:

    Does EDGIER really mean ‘more jittery’? To be on edge is to be jittery, but edgy usually means avant garde or daring or something like that.

    • JohnH says:

      I’d agree with you, since that’s how I use EDGY, but both MW11C and RHUD have the puzzle’s sense as one of two definitions.

  5. Lise says:

    WSJ: That SE corner was a bear, and I’m happy I managed to finish it. Got FORAYS pretty quickly, but somehow ONTV didn’t occur to me because I was stuck on the clearly not going to work ON AIR. And UNCAS was not at all in my wheelhouse, but I’ll keep an eye out for a repeat performance.

    It seemed tough for a Monday, but, bring it on!

  6. Dr Fancypants says:

    I would also add AWNS to the list of non-Monday fill. Even with about 25 years of solving under my belt I had a hard time calling that one up.

  7. Billy Boy says:

    Patrick’s New Yorker today was basically fill-in-the-blank for me, counter said 12-something and I don’t even try to speed fill. I know the Mondays are supposed to be easier, but wow! and I enjoyed it on several levels

    Quants are Math geniuses used by Hedge Funds and Mutual Funds to choose investments. If you’ve ever seen SHO’s satirical ‘Billions’ they are peculiar folk just like the characters.

    NYT was uneventful but I was appalled by LAZY SUSAN, just like the nice lady on Curb a few weeks ago.

    Lotsa meat on that WSJ bone for a Monday!

    • pannonica says:

      I believe the Monday NYers are supposed to be tougher than their Friday counterparts.

      • Billy Boy says:

        Maybe this was my humble brag in disguise?

        Actually I was surprised just how smoothly it went today, that’s all, not complaining. The stars aligned!!

  8. M483 says:

    Today’s Universal puzzle has a unguessable crossing for me (62d and 65a). I’ve never heard of either of those clues. I’m disappointed that this occurs in a Universal puzzle. But, not for myself. I’ve been doing the NYT puzzle and many others for 20 years. Doing puzzles on line, it’s easy to find out the answer. I live in a retirement community and I’ve been sharing links to crossword puzzles such as USA Today and Universal because all activities in our area have been halted. These people don’t like puzzles that include pop culture, but I assured them that these things were very fairly crossed. I’m afraid they will give up now. Most of these people don’t want to do crosswords on computer so they print them out. It makes me very sad because they don’t want super easy puzzles – they need quality puzzles that will hold their interest. Please, constructors and editors, let’s appeal equally to the vast number of people who are retired and now have time to do puzzles and who need the brain stimulation and to the younger generations. Thank you.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      As a frequent contributor to the Universal, I can assure you the editor David Steinberg is a stickler when it comes to accessible themes, entries, crossings, and clues. I can’t speak for other constructors, but for each of my accepted themes, we go back and forth repeatedly until the grid is very solver-friendly. The Universal is designed so that exactly the audience you describe will enjoy them. As for the particular crossing you mention, in my opinion the clue for LAVA can be easily inferred. The one for EVE refers to a current, popular TV show. Some solvers may not know it, but this is hardly an unfair crossing.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      That cross was a total guess for me also, but I don’t think that there’s another letter besides V that could make any sense there.

  9. David L says:

    BEQ’s Marching Bands puzzle defeated me in a couple of places — a combination of names I didn’t know and some highly dubious (to my mind) words. I like the puzzle format but this one relied altogether too much on proper names, IMO. I was able to guess some as the only reasonable options, but couldn’t figure out all of them.

  10. JohnH says:

    In the WSJ, I wasn’t at all bothered by AAA MAP. It’s not alternative usage to “road map,” but just road maps from AAA. I don’t actually know what the benefits were, but for a while my father was a member because it seemed terrific to him, so I’ll take his word for it!

    The themers that I didn’t know were rather PANAMA JACK and BANAGRAMS (hmm, two of four, so you can imagine it felt obscure to me for a Monday), which I ought to look up now. Indeed, the confluence of the first with ISSA RAE and LEA was a killer. I wish they’d been spread out more. I had “Lee” for a while because of Michele Lee and, when I finally connected the vampire killer to stakes, I spent a while staring and wondering what I’d done wrong.

    • Gary R says:

      AAA used to offer (perhaps still does) a product called a “Trip-Tik.” If you gave them a starting point and destination, they would generate a recommended route for you, along with a spiral bound, full color booklet in sort of a “hand-size” format (4″x 7″ maybe?) where each page was a segment of your route. It included maps and turn-by-turn instructions that you could follow, much like Mapquest or Google Maps. Before GPS, they were pretty handy.

      As far as I know, AAA’s regular road maps were no different than anyone else’s (I can remember when gas stations used to give them away).

  11. David Roll says:

    Tough–afraid to admit that I didn’t know “adze,” but I see it is a miniature pulaski, with which I have had considerable interactions.

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