Andrea Carla Michaels and Brian Thomas’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
How many ways are there to SPEAK OF THE DEVIL? Andrea and Brian give us quite a few. Each theme answer is clued as [Another name for [see circled squares] ]. The circled squares in 38a are THE DEVIL. The synonyms:
- MR SCRATCH. I read this as MRS CRATCH at first.
- OLD NICK.
This is a fun, Monday-appropriate theme. Nicely done.
A few other things:
- I suspect many of us can relate to 3d [Toss and turn, say]. Pandemic anxiety may make us LOSE SLEEP.
- I like clues like 9d [“If I may …”] for PERMIT ME.
- Onomatopeia at 19a: [Souped-up engine sound] is VROOM. Not sure why someone in our neighborhood is VROOMING their engine this evening but they’ve been at it a long time.
- 34a [“u r 2 funny!”] is LOL. I purely hate the u r part of textspeak. The rest of it doesn’t bother me much but ugh, that one grates.
- POOF! That’s another Monday.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Charlize Theron appeared in AEON FLUX.
Steven L. Zisser’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Keep Going!””—Jim P’s review
Straightforward synonym theme for your Monday morning. Each theme answer starts with a word meaning “non-stop.”
- 17a [Literary trope involving three lovers] ETERNAL TRIANGLE. I normally hear just “love triangle” but this sounds more poetic.
- 28a [Denomination-free postage] FOREVER STAMPS. Always good to have some on hand.
- 46a [1974 Beach Boys compilation album] ENDLESS SUMMER. My brother was heavily into The Beach Boys in the late ’70s and subsequently so was I, probably due to this album.
- 51a [Nonstop action?] PERPETUAL MOTION. Great clue on this one.
Like I said, pretty straightforward, but an excellent choice of themers making for an easy but still satisfying solve. This isn’t an original theme; others can easily be found in the cruciverb database, but I like this set.
Best bit of fill by far is the ANGRY MOB at 11d, but RELIEVER, SQUEAL ON, and MID-TERMS aren’t bad either.
- 33a. [Person propelling a punt]. POLER. Not great fill, but I love to be reminded of the phrase “punting on the Cam,” the collegiate pastime in Cambridge, England. I didn’t go to school there, but we visited many times. Never tried poling; I left it to the professionals.
- 68a. [Time to give up?]. LENT. Good clue. One more week to go.
Clean, accessible puzzle. Good start to the week. 3.6 stars.
Hmm. Which Beach Boys song to play us out with? “I Get Around” doesn’t seem too appropriate given the current circumstances. “In My Room” feels right for these times, as it’s about seeking refuge from the horrors outside our door (the Wilson brothers suffered an abusive father). So here you go.
Freddie Cheng’s Universal crossword, “Four Starters”—Jim P’s review
I didn’t pay attention to the title, so I missed the theme completely. I was thrown off by the connection between GOO GOO GA GA and PEEK-A-BOO as well as the nonsensical words in GOO GOO GA GA and FEE FI FO FUM.
Once I saw the title, it all clicked. These are phrase (not PEEK-A-BOO, mind you; it’s not part of the theme) whose four words all start with the same letter.
- 15a [Focus on imparting exam-related knowledge] TEACH TO THE TEST
- 23a [Baby babble sounds] GOO GOO GA GA. Although, I think I would argue that GAGA is one word.
- 33a [On a team with us] ONE OF OUR OWN. It seems unlikely that you could have four words together all started with O, but there you are. The clue sounds a bit awkward, but the entry itself feels “in the language.”
- 47a [Giant’s chant in “Jack and the Beanstalk”] FEE FI FO FUM.
- 55a [So-so, to Coco] COMME CI COMME ÇA. This was tough, because there was no way I was going to spell this correctly, and 48d [It may be fleeting] said “FAZE” to me (although in hindsight, FAME makes better sense). So I needed just about every cross.
The theme works. I was just really thrown off by the baby connections.
Strange looking grid with blocks in the upper left and bottom right, but this is a hard set of themers to work with: two 14s, two 10s, and an 11.
Given that, I suppose it’s not surprising to see a fair amount of crotchety fill: SETA, UMS, ETAL, ACAI, AGAR, ORA, SEEM TO, ITO. But I did like the aforementioned PEEK-A-BOO, K STREET, NAUTICAL, PLACARD, TREATISE, and even MUCOUS (breakfast test? what breakfast test?). FOMO took me a while to remember [Anxiety you may feel on a Friday night, slangily] which is Fear Of Missing Out. This is something for the young, which I am not subject to anymore.
Clues of note:
- 26a. [Person who may go pro?]. DEBATER. I like this one. They may also go con.
- 25d. [Ilhan in “The Squad”]. OMAR. The clue sounds like it’s referring to a TV show, but it’s aimed at the group of four women of color, under 50, elected to Congress in 2018: AOC, OMAR, Ayanna Pressley of Mass., and Rashida Tlaib of Mich. Nice clue.
Construction challenges seemed to lead to a heavy reliance on crosswordese. But the theme works. 3.4 stars.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Running a little late today because (I have no excuse, time is meaningless), so this writeup will be a quick one. This was a very enjoyable, fairly smooth, slightly-challenging puzzle packed with lovely long entries and reasonably good fill, except for a couple of small things that I will list below! Quick hits today:
- Grid layout: 4 vertical stacks of 7s, 2x 12s through the middle (also vertical!) and 2x 11s horizontally. Love me a vertically oriented puzzle.
- Excellent long stuff: OPENING MOVE / HEMS AND HAWS: both great. I don’t play chess, (which, just now, I typed out as “cheese,” if that tells you where my head’s at), but OPENING MOVE was pretty gettable with crosses.
- More excellent long stuff: OLIVIA COLMAN / NO OFFENSE BUT: also both great! OLIVIA COLMAN was incredible as Queen Ann in The Favourite and I had a really hard time parsing NOOFFENSEBUT. I saw NOOFFE… and was like… something must be wrong here?? Nope, just a great entry!
- Today in “things we can’t have anymore because pandemic”: CUDDLE CALL / FOOD COURTS. I assume a CUDDLE CALL is an adorable g-rated version of a booty call and I love it.
- Love the clue on I DON’T BITE (Pickup line that Dracula can’t use)
- Fill I could live without: ROBT??, ABAD, HTS, NOS
- Kind of unfair crossing: AVEDON/DODDS (neither of whom I knew but D was *probably* the only letter that could go there?)
Overall, excellent (if somewhat easier than the normal New Yorker Monday) puzzle! No more ROBTs plz. Lots of stars from me!
Norfleet Pruden’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
20A: OKLAHOMA [Where Will Rogers was born]
24A: CHICAGO [Where the Bulls and Bears are cheered]
36A: SUNSET BOULEVARD [Where the Beverly Hills Hotel is located]
46A: CAMELOT [Where Arthur ruled the court]
52A: BROADWAY [Where the answers to 20-, 24-, 36- and 46-Across have appeared in lights]
This puzzle felt very clean and accessible – and enjoyable and quick solve! I know quite little about BROADWAY or musicals, but I’ve heard of each of these theme entries and was able to plunk them in readily and recognize the theme before the revealer. The only odd moment was the dupe of COLOR at 5D and [Color variant] at 33A. New to me was LEGATEES as [Inheritors] – who knew?!
NYT: Fun theme! Did not know MR. SCRATCH and barely knew OLD NICK as names of the DEVIL, but it’s good to know. Yeah, the DEVIL is having plenty of fun these days.
I hope everyone is maintaining their balance, not losing too much sleep and finding something positive to do or think about during these dark times. Spring is coming to Michigan, and for that I’m very grateful.
My reaction was similar. I always have to stop and think when I hear OLD NICK, because Old St. Nick comes more readily to mind – and they’re pretty much at opposite ends of the good/evil spectrum.
The recent pleasant weather has been a blessing – an opportunity to get some exercise and fresh air while still social distancing! We’re fortunate to be in a suburban area where we can get out for a walk and say hello to neighbors while still keeping a safe distance.
Spring is definitely on the way. The only thing I’ve seen in bloom so far is a neighbor’s dwarf irises, but there are lots of tulips and daffodils that have broken ground.
and they are anagrams… SATAN SANTA!
I always thought it was Old Scratch for some reason. I’m vaguely familiar with Old Nick, but only the Nick part, and let me repeat, I’m only vaguely familiar. Still, I liked the theme. Pretty fitting right now.
It’s pretty rare for me not to have heard of two theme entries on a Monday, but MR. SCRATCH? OLD NICK? Is it because I’m not Christian?
There is the Christian connection, but I think these weird nicknames are more from various tales and allegories from the 1800s for some reason. Wikipedia lists examples of “Old Scratch” being used in Washington Irving, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain, among others.
Being an erudite lover of literature, I know them from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix…
I hadn’t heard of Mr Scratch until today. I know Old Scratch, but obviously that couldn’t go in the same puzzle as Old Nick.
According to Wikipedia, Old Nick is connected somehow with Christian tradition, although the precise origin of the term seems uncertain. Scratch, on the other hand, derives from a Norse word skratte, meaning demon or goblin, so probably has no connection to Christianity.
I’m Jewish. I’ve never heard MR SCRATCH; I did know OLD NICK, possibly from puzzles. To me, that doesn’t mean they’re off-limits for a Monday – I think some unusual entries are fine as long as the crossings are fair, and I didn’t have any issues with the crossings.
NYT: Speak of the Devil, this old (20 years ago!) clip of the Daily Show is one of the funniest ever–and relevant to that puzzle: http://www.cc.com/video-clips/6f5hz3/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-republican-national-convention—hell