Joe Deeney’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Oops, thought tonight’s puzzle was the Thursday and that I had the night off. Anyone else losing track of which day of the week it is? Everyone in the household staying home seven days a week?
For some reason, this themed puzzle was slotted for a Friday. At 72 words, it’s the max allowed for a themeless puzzle, but we’ve seen 72-worders on theme days, no? The theme is cute:
- 19a. [*Family name in Shakespeare]. MONTAGUE.
- 21a. [*Pill form], CAPLET. I filled in TABLET first, noted the asterisk and MONTAGUE, and changed it to CAPLET.
- 34a. [First Billboard #1 hit for U2 … and a hint to the answers to the four starred clues], WITH OR WITHOUT YOU. Romeo and Juliet’s surnames with or without the letter “u.”
- 42a. [*Family name in Shakespeare], CAPULET.
- 47a. [*Film technique sometimes used to show the passage of time], MONTAGE.
I’d never noticed that, nor come across it as a “hey, check this out” bit of wordplay trivia. I like this theme.
I don’t much like what happens to the fill when you reach for a 72-word grid with non-thematic 8s, 9s, and 11s. The writing was on the wall when I hit PLEB atop ALAI early on, and some other fill felt clunky: LETS DRY, GINGERED, SOLI, ERSE, ENE, ROPEWORK, TASTES OF, TRACES TO.
On the plus side, I have a soft spot for the 1979 hit “MY SHARONA” … except now when Googling to fetch a video for this post, I saw the lyrics (I am terrible at discerning song lyrics) and it’s a hard nope. Gross, inappropriate, creepy, reminiscent of tonight’s Law & Order: SVU episode. Eww.
Let’s restart. On the plus side, PIECE OF CAKE was a snap, and I dig the clue for CORNERSTONE, 15a. [Place to look for a date] (a date carved in stone, not a social companion).
Three more things:
- 24a. [One might be measured by the pound], MUTT. Good clue. We would also have accepted [Alexis’s love interest before Ted, on “Schitt’s Creek”].
- 18a. [Some phone notifications during March Madness], UPSET ALERTS. (a) I never heard of this. (b) What’s March Madness?
- 30d. [Lin ___, author of the best seller “The Importance of Living”], YUTANG. Apparently Lin Yutang was also a translator and an inventor.
Here’s U2 to play us out with the theme revealer.
3.25 stars from me. I wish the theme had been configured to work with a higher word-count grid allowing for smoother fill. The theme is nifty but the grid here didn’t give it adequate support.
David Van Houten’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up
At least I expect a theme for the LAT Friday puzzle, as opposed to today’s NYT. Yes, I have an opinion about that.
Back to this puzzle! David takes standard phrases and clues them as if they referred to movies. I enjoyed it although many of the movies were new to me.
- 20a [Never heard of a 1996 Robin Williams movie?] is DON‘T KNOW JACK. This is one of the ones I didn’t know. It has 5.8 stars on IMDB and also features Bill Cosby, so I won’t be watching it.
- 37a [“You grabbed the wrong Stephen King movie”?] is THAT‘S NOT IT. This is my favorite because 1) I’ve heard of the movie and 2) I love this song. Yeah, I know, it’s not precisely the same thing. My brain is weird.
- 43a [Essay about a 2015 Christina Applegate movie?] is ON VACATION. The only Christina Applegate movie I’ve seen is “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead,” which I remember enjoying more than I expected. I suppose the full title of the Chevy Chase movie is “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
- 58a [Start a 2001 Keanu Reeves movie?] is PLAY HARDBALL. Also new to me. Oddly enough, Diane Lane has second billing in this one and in “Jack” and neither of them were “Diane Lane movies.” I have an opinion about that, too.
The movie titles were easily inferable because all the phrases are solidly in the language. The clues are amusing and overall I enjoyed the theme.
A few other things:
- Raise your hand if you dropped in SHOO instead of SCAT for 1a.
- Our next-door neighbor is home from his third year at the USNA. He’s a year older than Emma and there is a fence. I wonder if quarantine and boredom will lead to a Pyramis-and-Thisbe thing.
- Does NUBILE apply to both men and women? I think of it as specific to women, which I realized because I first thought the answer was VIRILE and that got me thinking.
- After solving the NYT, I was amused to see [When Juliet says, “Go ask his name”] at 60d. It’s ACT I, of course.
- We have [Words on a spine] for TITLE, which made me think 70a [Backbone or spine] referred to something anatomical. It’s GRIT. Nice misdirection.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: in addition to all the movies, I didn’t know that Shannon was in County CLARE. Regular readers will know geography is not my thing. So will anyone who has ever played me in Learned League.
Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s write-up
What a fun puzzle! I’m grateful to the New Yorker for keeping me on track with the days of the week right now, as everywhere else in the world time and days have lost all meaning (looking at you, semi-themed NYT Friday…). This puzzle honored the New Yorker pattern of easier Fridays (relative to Mondays), and I felt like I ripped through it, with just a couple of sticky spots that slowed me down.
I loved (most of) the long entries in this puzzle. INCUBATOR (which I 100% spelled with a K instead of a C at first because I spend a lot more timing thinking about the Inkubator than I do INCUBATORs) and YOU’RE GOOD (a lovely colloquialism) in the NW were probably my favorite pair, but I also liked BOURGEOISIE and A DEAL’S A DEAL down the East. ITINERARY and DEBT LIMIT aren’t quite as crunchy, although the clue on DEBT LIMIT was great [Red ceiling?]. In the West, the joy that is OPPOSITE DAY and its clue [Children’s observance that only happens when it doesn’t] were definitely not matched by the yuck of PREDICATIVE, but on balance I’d say that tradeoff was definitely worth it. Similarly, with SIDE TO SIDE and ORDER FORMS (in parallel positions), one is super fun and the other is meh.
Other stuff I loved: STAGE MOM [One mouthing words behind a curtain, perhaps], FUR CHILD (although I think this is more commonly seen as FUR BABY?), the inclusion of the full song title of perpetual crosswordese Anka song ESO BESO, the clue on GLUES [Goes “Krazy”?] and FAWKES [Guy with a mask?].
A few nits:
- The grammatical construction of UPRISES feels weird, but it’s probably technically accurate.
- Having PETE and DAVID in such close proximity when one of the clue PETEs is PETE DAVIDson was a little dupey
- Fill I could live without: ESSE, ACU, AWS, SDI
Overall, I really enjoyed this puzzle. And it brought me to the music video for SIDE TO SIDE which is VERY fun. Many stars from me!
Beverly Seinberg’s Universal crossword, “Ms. Jones”—Jim P’s review
Another debut today! Congratulations, Beverly!
I finished the puzzle without realizing what the theme was. It was then that I glanced at the title and all fell into place. Each theme entry is a phrase whose first word is also the first name of a well-known “Ms. Jones.”
- 17a [Michelin measure of quality] STAR RATING. Star Jones was one of the original hosts on The View.
- 26a [When the Rose Parade airs] JANUARY FIRST. I wouldn’t have been able to ID her, but I recognize the name. January Jones played Betty Draper, spouse to Don Draper, on Mad Men.
- 43a [Due-date extensions] GRACE PERIOD. Grace Jones, Jamaican model and singer…is aged 71 now!
- 58a [Washington chopped one down, in a myth] CHERRY TREE. The name Cherry Jones seemed vaguely familiar to me. But it wasn’t because she’s a five-time TONY nominee or a two-time Best Actress in a Play winner. It was because she played the U.S. President on a season of 24, for which she won an Emmy.
What I like best about this theme is that the first names are all common words, but not common names. This made for a nicely opaque theme until the title provided that satisfying aha moment. Well done!
The fill is not so shiny with only “SO TO SPEAK” providing sparkle, but there are plenty of strong 6s: EUREKA, TUNE IN, BRAWNY, and ADRIAN.
Clues of note:
- 36a. [Boo-Boo Bear’s buddy]. YOGI. I just read that the voice of Cindy Bear (YOGI‘s erstwhile girlfriend), voice actress Julie Bennett, died of complications due to coronavirus. She was 88.
- 47a. [Partner of gown or trade]. CAP. Ugh. This clue makes me sad because my daughter’s college graduation has been cancelled.
- 45d. [It has the same consonants as “purest”]. PRIEST. Is this trying to draw some sort of connection between those two words, because I’m skeptical one exists.
I quite enjoyed this theme once I realized what was going on. 3.6 stars.