Sid Sivakumar’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
Fun with phonics in today’s puzzle!
I noticed the common letter strings in the theme answers but needed the revealer to understand why they mattered.
- 17a [Lines at the office?] are DESK PHONES. Kids, ask your parents.
- 21a [Willing to accept danger] is RISK PRONE. I don’t think that’s a thing. Is it a thing? Injury-prone or error-prone, sure. Risk-prone? Never heard it.
- 52a [Lowest acceptable offers, in stock market lingo] are ASK PRICES. Never heard that, either, but I don’t know stock market lingo, so I won’t question it.
- 61a [President between John Tyler and Zachary Taylor] is JAMES K. POLK. My husband and his AP American History buddies had a standing joke that the answer to everything was JAMES K. POLK. Guess they were right.
And the revealer: 39a [Fugitive who, phonetically, is “hiding” in certain letters in 17-, 21-, 52- and 61-Across]: ESCAPEE. S K P – get it? Very William Steig. My mother would have loved this puzzle; Steig’s C D B was one of her favorite books. I love the idea of the theme and aside from the raised eyebrow for RISK–PRONE, very much enjoyed it.
A few other things:
- 5d [“You wish!”] is a great clue for HAH! It needs the !
- I don’t think I’ve every stayed at an OMNI hotel. At this point I’d do it just for the crossword cred.
- I solved this puzzle on Father’s Day, and DAD BOD seemed particularly apt.
- Nice to see the reference to “The Hate U Give” for STARR rather than prosecutor and sexual-assault-ignoring college chancellor Ken.
- I also liked the long downs, DESERT ISLE and BUFFER ZONE.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: ASK PRICES.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword — Rachel’s writeup
This is a challenging puzzle! Some really excellent longer entries, and some equally excellent middle-length entries, and the delightfully specific cluing for entries that some solvers are not likely to know initially, make this puzzle a fun solve, with just a few fill entries I didn’t care for. And a cute grid design to boot! I suspect some solvers probably really struggled with a certain entry/combination of entries in the NE, so I’ll be interested to see how the ratings come in for this one. But for myself, I found this to be a fun challenge that taught me *several* new things while still being solvable, so I’m pretty into it.
Today’s long entries include LEANING INTO, AIR GUITARS, SHOWRUNNER, AGORAPHOBIA, DRUMSTICK, and JULIE DASH. With the exception of LEANING INTO, which has a kind of unsatisfying preposition at the end (I wanted LEANING IN, which I think is the more common form of this verb), these are all super strong. I was happy to learn JULIE DASH in particular, a director I didn’t know, and the not-so-fun fact that she was the [First black woman to direct a feature-length film distributed theatrically in the United States] *IN 1991* which was LESS THAN 30 YEARS AGO. Absolutely wild.
There were more than few tricky spots on this puzzle, as one might expect from a challenging puzzle, and the place where I struggled the most and expect most other solvers also struggled was the NE. The quadruple-whammy of EMEAT / PENNI / VSCOGIRL / CINEAST pretty much slammed me to a halt up there (as the clever clue on VAPE PEN [Puff pieces?]) did not help! I’ve seen VSCOGIRL or references to VSCO three times now in my solving-and-blogging career. The first time, I called my Zoomer brother, followed by my Millennial-Zoomer sister, and neither could explain VSCO to me, nor the concept of a VSCOGIRL, and the internet has been pretty much no help. And each subsequent encounter with the term, I completely blank on the combination of letters that is VSCO. Maybe now that I’ve written all this out I’ll remember it next time! I did not know “Let ‘EM EAT Cake!” but it strikes me as a somewhat inelegant partial, and PENNI crossing OONA and CINEAST was just rough for me.
The other tricky spot was the NW, where both UINTA and PASSIM were unfamiliar to me. The UI at the start of UINTA looked like it just couldn’t be right, so guessing at the preposition at the end of FOLDS UP were my last two squares. Also, I’d saying folding something up is a much neater action than crumpling, but maybe I’m just crumpling wrong? Regardless, even though these sections were tough, I really enjoyed finally cracking them!
A few more things:
- CUFFING season is a term I know, but I am guessing that it may be unfamiliar to some solvers. I for one was thrilled to see it in the puzzle with such a delightfully specific clue [“Season” in which single people couple up to stave off the loneliness and cold of winter]. This is constructor voice at its finest!
- Middle-length fill I loved: SASHAYS, ITS FINE, LETDOWN, THE IDEA!
- Fill I Could Live Without: SGS, STS, TCI, INIS
- Names I didn’t know: Edward Ruscha (see thumbnail), JULIE DASH, Cynthia ROWLEY
Overall, this is a challenging puzzle that had all the elements I look for in a themeless puzzle. Was it hard? Yes, for sure. Was it a worthy struggle? Absolutely. Tons of stars from me. I’m gonna go see about becoming a VSCOGIRL, see you all on Wednesday.
Pam Klawitter’s Universal crossword, “Corporate Division” — pannonica’s write-up
- 67aR [Share-increasing option, or a hint to the word that bookends the starred answers] STOCK SPLIT.
- 17a. [*Eye movement?] STORM TRACK.
- 23a. [*Car shopper’s surprise] STICKER SHOCK.
- 41a. [*Paused a game] STOPPED THE CLOCK.
- 54a. [*Car’s anti-theft device] STEERING LOCK. Seems to me the device is called a steering wheel lock, and the feature that’s built in to the steering column is a STEERING LOCK, but it’s entirely possible this is a mistaken idea.
I appreciate how the answers alternate between STO*CK and ST*OCK. Nice touch.
- 1a [“Missouri borders on eight states,” e.g.] FACT. Can you name them without any help?
- 20a [Chimney swooper?] SANTA. >groan<
- 34a [Niihau neckwear] LEI. Wow, we just saw Niʻihau in-grid last week, to many solvers’ consternation.
- 36a [Space flare-ups[ NOVAS. Close up, they’re a bit more intense than ‘flare-ups’. Exploding stars, y’all.
- I can count on one hand all the times I’ve used the above contraction. Make a note of it, y’— er, folks.
- 66a [Jordanian or Syrian] ARAB. Usually a clue like this includes an ‘often’ or ‘usually’ qualifier.
- 5d [Mouse relative] RAT. Fun fact: there is no clear taxonomic difference between rats and mice.
- 37d [Word before “times” or “news”] OLD, 27a [Lead-in to “historic”] PRE-
- 57a [Insert, as a video] EMBED. Like so:
Barbara Lin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Handy”—Jim P’s review
Our theme answers today are well-known phrases that end in a word that could also be a kind of woodworking tool.
- 17a [Walking formation in grade school] SINGLE FILE
- 23a [In a completely honest manner] FAIR AND SQUARE
- 36a [“Same procedure as last time”] YOU KNOW THE DRILL. What a fun grid-spanner!
- 46a [Computer-Web connector] NETWORK ROUTER
- 58a [Home with staggered floors] SPLIT LEVEL
Straight-forward, consistent, and accessible, making it just right for a start-the-week puzzle.
Elsewhere, SON OF A GUN had me worried at first, but it all turned out okay. ZIP DRIVES is pretty dated though (okay, maybe not as dated as SON OF A GUN), and I expect they’ve lost their crossword currency. Not a problem for me though, since I used to own a couple of them. MANHUG was the other bit of fun fill—a [Sometimes-awkward embrace] no doubt accompanied by plenty of back-slapping.
A lot of proper names might have tripped people up. Let us count the names: NERO, novelist ANN Patchett, playwright Clifford ODETS, OPIE, AUDRA McDonald, soprano NELLIE Melba, ENYA, KURT Cobain, NADIA Comaneci, and ERROL Flynn.
If you could get past all the names, this grid shouldn’t have been any trouble for you. Cluing was Monday-straight and the theme easy to grasp. 3.5 stars from me.
The hardest part is trying to decide which Weird Al video to embed—the song actually titled “Handy” from his latest album or his earlier “Hardware Store” which I love a lot. Well, it turns out Mr. Yankovic made no “Hardware Store” video, but I just discovered a pretty fun fan-made offering. What really gets me is that these guys are Brits (evidenced by their visit to a B&Q store) yet are fan enough of Weird Al to make their own impressive video. If you want to watch “Handy” (a parody of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”), you can see it here.
I googled RISK-PRONE and learned that the first definition given, the financial one, was new me: willing to accept financial risk from others.
I am familiar with the term in three other contexts: gambling, personal behavior, and climate. Gamblers who routinely gamble for stakes greater than they should are risk-prone as are thrill-seekers and people who put themselves in harm’s way (think COVID) . Low-lying geographic areas and other areas that are subject to extreme weather changes are risk-prone.
RISK PRONE went into the grid easily, but the more I thought about it, the less certain I am that I’ve heard the term in the wild.
I’m reasonably conversant in financial/investment terminology, and I don’t think I’ve heard it used there. “Risk averse,” “risk tolerant,” “risk seeking” are all familiar terms that describe different levels of willingness to accept the possibility of financial loss in exchange for the possibility of financial gain. That first definition Google turns up seems like it’s getting at “risk seeking,” but it strikes me as woefully incomplete/simplistic, in that it doesn’t say anything about the attitude toward loss/gain.
I’m not much of a gambler, so I don’t know the terminology there. But in that last context, tied to climate/environment – I’ve heard the “prone” terminology used, but generally related to a specific type of threat. An area might be “flood prone” or “drought prone,” but I’m not sure I’ve heard the more generic “risk prone.”
In the NYer, I correctly guessed CUFFING season, but it was a guess, since I didn’t know TCI either. Cuffing season sounds like some mild S&M fooling around.
I knew VSCOGIRL because I read about it in one of those newspaper trend pieces on the latest weird thing millenials are up to. I can’t remember what it was all about, though, except it didn’t make much sense to me because I am an oldster.
Very good Monday NYT.
VSCO GIRL is definitely not the millennials!!! We are (mostly) in our 30s now. This is firmly a Zoomer phenomenon!
Well, see, from my ancient perspective millenials and zoomers all look the same. Sorry!
beq had some good cluing today
cuffing/tci got me; i call natick!!
As usual, my reaction to TNY is the opposite of Rachel’s. To me it felt like a breeze for a Monday, without Natan’s endless teen culture. True, there were things I didn’t know, including ROWLEY, JULIA DASH, and VSCO GIRL, as well as Shonda Rhimes and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but not too densely placed. (FWIW, I had no trouble just now finding VSCO GIRL in Google. I had typed in just three or four letters when Firefox’s auto-complete suggested it. An explanation that headed the search results is here:
I’m embarrassed that I’ve now read everything by Ferrante and still took forever to dredge up, more from crossings than memory, the book’s second lead. And I must have seen Ruscha’s OOF several times by now as it’s in MOMA, but I can’t remember it at all. He himself is a major artist of the days of Pop Art, although he stands apart with his text paintings and an often exhibited panoramic series of photos of every building on the Sunset Strip.
My only objection: TCI / CUFFING was a do not finish for me, and I didn’t appreciate that at all.
I did google and read that piece, but that doesn’t mean I understand it! :)
NYT: When did TSK become a verb? I have always had a personal issue with TSK the utterance appearing in crosswords. Now, I have to deal with TSK the verb as well? Oh, so painful.
NYY — Alternative clue to 11D: “What an online vegetarian eschews”
The clue for CUFFING should really be something like “__ season (part of the year when single people …” right? As written, it doesn’t pass the “substitution test.”
Amy, I hope you aren’t sick! Take care of yourself!