Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
I smiled in anticipation when I saw Lynn’s name on this puzzle, and she did not disappoint. It’s a nearly perfect Monday by my lights: straightforward and accessible enough for early-week solvers and newbies and still amusing for experienced folks.
Each theme answer is a word or phrase clued as if it began with a name.
- 8a [Pianist Cliburn plays basketball defense?] is VANGUARDS.
- 24a [TV host Behar takes mass transit?] is JOY RIDES.
- 35a [Actress Rogers flips out?] is GINGER SNAPS.
- 51a [Singer Dylan has fun in the snow?] is BOB SLEDS. That image made me laugh. “Sleigh, lady, sleigh…”
- 57a [Businessman Gates gets out of the poker game?] is BILLFOLDS.
Consistent, smooth, solid, and fun.
A few other things:
- I am more familiar with LAYS BY than LAYS IN, and the Google Ngram view suggests I’m in the minority.
- 15a [Gem found in the Outback] is OPAL, referring to the countryside, not the restaurant. I assume.
- We get [Perfect world] for both UTOPIA and EDEN. Certainly not Terra circa 2020.
- This year July is the [Month of many unhappy returns?] rather than APRIL.
- 50d [“And ___ to go before I sleep”: Robert Frost] (MILES) reminded me of a story I heard from a friend who grew up in Fresno, CA. One of her middle-school English teacher was fresh from the East and taught them that poem, trying to get them to see the standard “winter=death” symbolism (which Frost said was not his intent, but never mind). The kids did not get it. Finally she said “What happens to all the plants in the winter?” and the California natives said “Um, they turn green?”
Jeff Stillman’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Stella’s write-up
Hello! It’s your friendly neighborhood themeless-loving chick joining the Fiend crew! Irony: my first review for this blog is of a puzzle with a whopping 49 squares across five entries of theme material. Nothing complicated here, as befits a Monday: these are catchphrases of various animated characters. Well, okay, “catchwords,” as noted in the puzzle’s clues, since one theme entry is a single word rather than a phrase.
- 18A: Catchwords from Bart Simpson–AY CARAMBA
- 20A: Catchwords from Ren–YOU EEDIOT
- 35A: Catchwords from Fred Flintstone–YABBA DABBA DOO
- 52A: Catchwords from Charlie Brown–GOOD GRIEF
- 54A: Catchword from a Ninja Turtle–COWABUNGA
Fun and evocative — just try to solve the puzzle and not hear Ren saying “You eediot!” in your head. My favorite was COWABUNGA, because I grew up at the right time to have watched a whole lot of TMNT back in the day. The Turtles debuted in 1984, so they are now old enough to run for President of the United States. Yup, I’m old.
As for the non-thematic fill, I had to check twice to see that I was truly solving the Monday, and not a mid-week puzzle at least. PELOTA and SIPE in the NW corner seemed a little extra for Monday, and there were some places where it would be easy to put in an answer that fits whatever crossing(s) one has already and also fits the clue, and still be wrong. (I had REBUTS for BELIES at 25A for a little bit, and EJECTS instead of EVICTS at 43D, for example.) I would’ve made this one a Wednesday.
I enjoyed the theme and found the non-theme fill a bit meh, which works out to 3.5 stars from me.
Emily Carroll’s Universal crossword, “Heap Praises On” — pannonica’s write-up
ODEs are introduced to wacky effect, with mixed success.
- 20a. [Nickname for a royal electronics whiz?] PRINCESS DIODE (Princess Di).
- 35a. [Homes with old laundry devices?] WASHBOARD ABODES (washboard abs).
- 54a. [Status for a road that’s on fire?] STREET CODE RED (street cred).
Can’t discern a reason, but the ODES move progressively one letter forward from the end as we go down the line. Positions: ultimate, penultimate, antepenultimate.
- 33d [Poet’s “previously”] ERE. Here’s an excerpt from a Wordsworth ODE containing this quintessential poesy vocab:
And unto this he frames his song:
Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
But it will not be long
Ere this be thrown aside
- 5d [Conflict] STRIFE.
- 37a [Like some fair fare] ON A STICK. Weird fill, but the clue saves it from seeming too random.
- 38d [Delivery notice?] DING DONG. Are Hostess® Ding Dongs regional?
- 15a [Pacific predator] ORCA. Their range is circumglobal, so this clue is woefully inadequate. However, I suppose to a North American audience, the most well-known populations are in the Pacific Northwest, so I can see where the clue is coming from.
- 17a [Ravi Shankar’s instrument] SITAR. Hey, why don’t we start cluing this—at least some of the time—with someone more contemporary? Can keep it familiar with Anoushka Shankar.
- Longdowns are SOCCER DADS and ANDROID APP, both solid. (6d, 29d)
Overall, a solid puzzle with good grid-flow and some challenging fill for an early-week offering. (I forget whether Universals are supposed to increase in difficulty through the week.)
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Whoa! *FIVE* 15s!!! This puzzle is a feat of construction, with L/R symmetry backing up the five incredibly solid grid-spanners. The strain on the grid shows in the fill at times, with the whole bottom really taking a beating, but honestly, I’m just impressed that it looks as good as it does!
The grid-spanning entries are: EINSTEIN’S DREAMS, BETTER MOUSE TRAP, I MEANT TO TELL YOU, TEMPORARY TATTOO, and WOMAN TIMES SEVEN. I had never heard of the first or last of these, although EINSTEIN’S DREAMS was fully inferable from the clue (WOMAN TIMES SEVEN was less so). I loved the clue on I MEANT TO TELL YOU [“Oh, and another thing…”], and thought [Disappearing ink?] was super clever for TEMPORARY TATTOOS. All around, this is a solid set of 15s to anchor the puzzle.
Other entries I loved include MOONCHILD (I am one!), SMAZE (like smize for the skies!), and STAGE NAME (and the multiple Lizzo references that came along with it).
A few more things:
- Do you think Liz Gorski is trolling us with NEWTON? Same number of letters as Natick, and they both start with an N! And it’s not like there are no other ways to clue NEWTON…! If that’s what this is, I love it.
- I definitely thought the term was Primordial SOUP, which slowed me down in the NE.
- Fill I could live without: EOM, MME, SSS, NIM, ITE, OOO, AMER, DADO, SLATY — the price paid for 5x15s! Worth it, I think.
- Representation tally:
- White men: EINSTEIN, Alan Lightman, Reagan, Nietzsche, Peter Sellers, Prince Harry, KAROL Szymanowski, Oscar WILDE, Roger Federer, Keats, Dr. SEUSS, Roy Cohn (12)
- Everyone else: Lizzo, Lizzo again, Lizzo a third time as her real name (Melissa Viviane Jefferson), Sam Cooke, Shirley MacLaine, Princess Charlotte, Miles Davis, Gail Godwin, ERMA Franklin, ONO (10)
Overall, this was a hefty, challenging puzzle full of solid long entries and not-so-solid short ones, but on balance I enjoyed solving for those long entries more than I struggled with the short ones. Tons of stars from me!
John Dunn’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Buddy System”—Jim P’s review
You’ll find FRIENDS TO THE END [Lifelong companions, and a feature of 17-, 27-, 37- and 45-Across], or more accurately, friends at the end of today’s main theme answers.
- 17a. [Teachers’ supervisor] SCHOOL PRINCIPAL. I’ve always remembered the spelling of “principal” because said principal always wants to be your “pal.”
- 27a. [Gregory Peck’s co-star in 1962’s “Cape Fear”] ROBERT MITCHUM. I don’t think he was very chummy in that role.
- 37a. [One way to be obligated]. MORALLY.
- 45a. [Approximation] ROUGH ESTIMATE
That works. Nothing too fancy, just a straight and clean Monday-level theme. At first though, I completely missed MORALLY as being part of the theme because it’s just a single, shorter, less-interesting word. It would have been nice if something on a par with the others could have been found. But of course, a longer answer in the center would have been exponentially harder to fill around.
Some theme-adjacent (i.e. “friendly”) fill can be found in STOOD BY, “SAID HI,” and “LET’S DO IT.” If you want to take it a step further, you can enjoy romantic SUNSETS.
What would we do without ORONO and NOME? And LAIC, AFTA, ETTA, TSE, ALPO, AFL, and Burt LAHR? Quite a lot of crosswordese in this grid, but 63 theme squares add a lot of constraints.
All in all, this is a straightforward, synonym theme, but I liked finding the “friends” embedded at the ends of each themer. 3.6 stars.