Monday, April 13, 2020

BEQ tk (Jim Q) 


LAT 4:19 (Nate) 


NYT 3:00 (Jenni) 


The New Yorker 14:02 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


WSJ 3:45 (Jim P) 


Evan Kalish’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review

I liked most of the theme of the puzzle. Most of it.

The theme entries have progressively larger flows of water.

New York Times, April 13, 2020, #0413, Evan Kalish, solution grid

  • 21a [Kind of economics, disparagingly] is TRICKLEDOWN.
  • 26a [Make more aerodynamic] is STREAMLINE.
  • 44a [Theatrical show featuring traditional Irish music] is RIVERDANCE.
  • 50a [Ballpark illuminators] are FLOODLIGHTS.

It’s a smooth, consistent theme, and the increase in size as we go down the grid is a lovely touch. I liked it! And then I saw 62a [Sizable bodies of water], SEAS, and 66a [Massive body of water], OCEAN, and I looked back at 1a, [Minute bits of water] – DROPS. Those three answers also progress down the grid from tiny to enormous, and the four longer answers fit in between DROPS and SEAS, but the cluing is so different that they seem to have come from different puzzles. Two clues that directly reference bodies of water and another that has the word “water” take away the enjoyment of discovery I had from the longer entries. If we’d started with DROPPER and ended with OCEANIC, that would have been great. This is – not.

A few other things:

  • No one appreciates being told to RELAX. The clue is [“Don’t worry, everything will be fine!”] and that never works.
  • I enjoyed the long downs, HEDONISTIC and TERRA COTTA.
  • More water with BATH!
  • We use a LADLE for the matzah ball soup. Mmm. Matzah balls.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: it’s Monday. I got nothing.

Kurt Krauss’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up

LAT 4.13.20 Solution

LAT 4.13.20 Solution

To celebrate spring, we have quite the vibrant collection of song titles in today’s Monday LAT:

17A: YELLOW SUBMARINE [Colorful Top 10 Beatles hit]
21A: PURPLE RAIN [Colorful Top 10 Prince hit]
37A: GREEN TAMBOURINE [Colorful Top 10 Lemon Pipers hit]
46A: BROWN SUGAR [Colorful Top 10 Rolling Stones hit]
54A: BLACK MAGIC WOMAN [Colorful Top 10 Santana hit]

It was cool to see that there were a symmetrical set of colorful Top 10 hits, and it made me wonder what red, blue, or orange songs people might be able to come up with. Comment below! And, aside from the last theme entry, the only woman in the whole puzzle is “NYPD Blue” actress GAIL O’Grady, so here’s to her. May there be more women included in puzzles!

Joe Hansen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Bottoms Up!”—Jim P’s review

Our theme is tushes at the top. Each theme answer starts with a word that can also mean derrière.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Bottoms Up!” · Joe Hansen · Mon., 4.13.20

  • 3d [Clash] BUTT HEADS
  • 7d [Hidden from public view] BEHIND THE SCENES
  • 8d [Cuts of beef] RUMP ROASTS
  • 27d [Hitchcock classic] REAR WINDOW
  • 33d [Misleading pieces of advice] BUM STEERS. This sounds much better in the singular, but c’est la vie.

With a title like that, I half-expected some trickery like something flipped upside-down or something turning a corner. But it’s Monday, so this is more straightforward: synonyms for patootie are simply up at the top of each theme entry. Easy and accessible. A good grid for newbies, especially those with a sophomoric streak in them.

Is it coincidence that SEX APPEAL is in a grid about keisters? Throw in a [Lusty woodland god] (SATYR) and the clue [Prepare to peep through a keyhole] for KNEEL, and this is starting to get a little creepy. Maybe back off a bit there; there are plenty of other ways to clue this. In this light, PSST [“Hey! Look here!”] is starting to feel skeevy, too. Maybe I’ll take back my recommendation in the previous paragraph.

There are good entries though, such as SUMATRA, ART STUDIO, END USER, SLAYER (the band), and the mythical crossing of (i.e. the crossing of mythical creatures) SATYR and HYDRA. Could’ve done without ETRE on a Monday, and I’m giving SLATY [Dark blue-gray] the side-eye.

Cluing was straightforward, which is why I had a sub-four-minutes solve time.

Not a bad grid, but I wish more attention would’ve been paid to the vibe it’s giving off, especially with regards to that clue for KNEEL. 3.3 stars.

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword — Rachel’s write-up

I definitely felt my own lack of caffeine going into this puzzle. So much so that I actually paused it and got my coffee and gave it a few minutes to kick in before finishing it, because I was realllly floundering. Looking back at it with newly caffeinated eyes, I can parse words that were breaking my brain fifteen minutes ago. For instance: I was parsing POVALLEY as POV ALLEY (the same as one parses DIAGON ALLEY) and could not figure out what POV was or why Natan had included such an obvious dupe. For the record, I now recognize PO VALLEY through the steam of my freshly brewed coffee mug.

The New Yorker crossword solution • Natan Last • Monday, April 13, 2020

My own brain fog aside, I really enjoyed the vast majority of this puzzle! Opening with GAY BARS is super strong (and nostalgic! Remember when we could go to BARS? I hope Stonewall and Cubbyhole are doing ok…!). I love the central staircase of SINGULAR THEY / DIAGON ALLEY / ONE DIRECTION, all of which contribute to situating this puzzle within its constructor’s voice (someone engaged with queer culture who grew up reading Harry Potter and laughing at the idea of ONE DIRECTION while also secretly enjoying their music). Or maybe I’m projecting? Either way, I think it’s great.

Also really liked the long downs of STEALING HOME and BLUE MAN GROUP, particularly as clued. The Blue Man Group running gag in Arrested Development is solid gold, and I’m overjoyed to have been reminded of it here. The pun on STEALING HOME (Pulling off the ultimate diamond theft?) is very clever.

A few more notes:

  • I believe this is my first encounter with ORMOLU, and I can’t say I’m hoping to see it again soon, but I’m glad to have learned it!
  • I’m on the record that one should avoid including IDIOT in one’s grid if possible, but if it’s absolutely unavoidable, this is a pretty solid clue because it puts the term in its historical (/literary) context.
  • I couldn’t parse HIFALUTIN either because I wanted it to be *HIgh* FALUTIN? But apparently as a single word you can drop the GH and the final G— cool!
  • I appreciated the double LOTR entries (ARWEN/ENT), but I imagine some solvers who are less familiar with the series may have found that frustrating
  • Names I didn’t know: MAURA Tierney, JODI Benson, Steve REICH, Carol Leigh (The Scarlet HARLOT), TIM Duncan (who I should have known because *fifteen-time all-star*!)

Overall: Excellent puzzle [and, while it was solidly in my cultural wheelhouse, I think it is well-made and well-clued and would be excellent even if not in my wheelhouse]. Tons of stars from me.

Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Country Codes”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Phrases that have a word that is also an abbreviation for a country.

Universal crossword solution · “Country Codes” · Paul Coulter · Mon., 4.13.20

  • 17a [Alternate name for the Olympic team from Sao Paulo’s nation?] SPORTS BRA. Brazil. This is the least problematic of all the entries.
  • 29a [Nickname for an ocean squad on the team from Helsinki’s nation?] SURFBOARD FIN. Finland. Meh. Green paint of an entry.
  • 39a [Check blood samples for the team from Dhaka’s nation?] TEST BAN. Bangladesh? Not sure without looking it up.
  • 49a [Grappling squad on the team from Yerevan’s nation?] ARM WRESTLING. I’m still looking at this one and can’t parse it. No idea what country it’s going for. Oh, Armenia? The country name comes first unlike the previous entries. Confusing.
  • 63a [Jumping member of the team from Bridgetown’s nation?] BARHOP PER. Peru, I assume? Awkward entry. Oh, it’s actually BAR HOPPER…for the country that’s abbreviated BAR which is…nope. I got nothin’. Barundi? Nope, that’s spelled “Burundi.” (Okay, I looked it up. It’s Barbados.)

I did not find this theme enjoyable. Between the unknown (to me) city names and the change-up of countries coming first in the entry, it was all a bit befuddling. I guess upon reflection, the entries aren’t as awkward as I was thinking they were because I was confused, but it was the puzzle that confused me in the first place, so I don’t feel I’m entirely at fault here.

More geography in CARDIFF. I like the city and the entry, but in such a geographically-centered puzzle, maybe it’s too much? Other highlights: AMAZONS, CATTAIL, PLAYPEN, GIZZARD, UPSTART, “REALLY?,” and BOOTEE. On the questionable side is BASSY [Heavy on low notes], and yet another proper name I didn’t know: SHERE [Sex researcher Hite]. Also tough: BORZOI [Russian wolfhound].

Bottom line: This is a tough theme with all the rarely-heard-of city names. Maybe it’s not possible, but consistency in the entries would have prevented confusion in at least one solver (me). Three stars.

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10 Responses to Monday, April 13, 2020

  1. Lois says:

    I loved the NYT. I did learn something, because I’m ignorant. I’ve seen the “heel” command so many times before, but I’ve never looked it up and didn’t know what it meant until now.

  2. David L says:

    NYer: out of curiosity, I searched around for the origin of ‘hifalutin’ or ‘highfalutin’ and the answer is that nobody knows, although there are all kinds of fanciful theories, as in the comments to this piece.

  3. JohnH says:

    When I saw Natan Last’s byline for TNY, I knew I was in for it, with another trivia quiz, and he did not, so to speak, disappoint. I’m not sure how, but I got past the long central answers (where I’m about to Google to make sense of the reference in the third, something about a stylist) crossing Carol Leigh, and the crossings were fair for JODI. But eventually the crossing of Netflix, Lord of the Rings, and a Web site new to me did me in.

    The occasional Berry and Gorski puzzles come as such a relief there.

    • SV says:

      Do hurry back from your Googling, and let us know if you’ve learnt anything of interest about, what was it, the most profitable boy band in history? Or here’s another — I’ve searched it for you, you can stop — the band whose first five albums debuted in the Billboard Top 10, breaking a record once held by, yes, The Beatles.

      If you’re going to be a curmudgeon, at least be good at it.

      • RunawayPancake says:

        Not that profitability has anything to do with merit, but Backstreet Boys is by far, and by any measure, the most successful boy band in history. Perhaps you should follow your own advice and google a tad more before bestowing your scary wisdom.

      • JohnH says:

        Bear in mind, if you can break out of your trivia bubble, that I wasn’t complaining about the central entries other than that I didn’t care about them, since I got them readily enough. (And so glad to hear that, however profitable or not, their fans know about their hairdresser. Can I name who came up with the Beatles’ mop top? I cannot, nor do I care.) I just wanted a fair shot at the whole puzzle.

        This still angers me. I’m in a forum where everyone endorses their favorite knowledge base and hates learning, and I’m accused of being narrow minded just because I want fewer proper names and fair crossings. Look to yourself before you get into boomer hating.

        • Christopher Smith says:

          For anyone who does care, Astrid Kirshherr, the photographer whose boyfriend Stu Sutcliffe was the original Beatles bassist, designed the moptop haircut.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    New Yorker was pretty current, bordering on painfully currrent as a good NYer ought to be, I suppose. I had to work my WSJ theme off on that one, although 1A was fill-in-the-blank for a former SF boy and I mistakenly thought I was going to have it easy today …

  5. Lester says:

    LA Times: I’m a geezer, so I knew all of these color songs, but surely there are some more recent ones that could have been used. Purple Rain was 1984, and it’s the youngster of the group. I don’t pay a lot of attention to lyrics, but even Jagger has said that the lyrics of Brown Sugar are too skeevy. Green Tambourine was released in 1967.

  6. David Steere says:

    New Yorker: I surprised myself by finishing this puzzle relatively easily. I usually have terrible trouble with Natan’s puzzles—so many of his references being way out of my wheelhouse(s)–and, therefore, don’t usually enjoy them. But, several things intervened, I guess. The recent showing on PBS of BEFORE STONEWALL made 1 Across a gimme. The combined effects of Liz Gorski’s blog post, the letter to NY Times’ Eric von Coelln from Anna, Natan, Claire and a host of others, and particularly Natan’s admirable, thought-provoking, and a bit troubling piece in the ATLANTIC have made me try to rethink why and when I don’t like a certain puzzle. So, JohnH, SV, and RunawayPancake can argue it out above. Something about this puzzle from Natan allowed me to finish everything–even never having heard of UPWORTHY and ONEDIRECTION, and knowing almost nothing of the Harry Potter and LOTR universes. I will try harder and be more patient with the next puzzles from Natan and Erik Agard and Ben Tausig. Meanwhile, can we have another wonderful run of women-constructed puzzles as we just finished in Steinberg’s Universal? More puzzles like those from Inkubator? A new publication—edited by Ben Tausig (just like his great THE PENGUIN CLASSICS CROSSWORDS)—except aimed at crossword lovers over 60 years of age? Continued terrific work from Patrick Berry and Evan Birnholz as cherries on top of the crossword sundae? I wish.

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