Evan Kalish’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Stella’s review
Here’s a theme that might be too on the nose for the Wall Street Journal, but does just fine in the Los Angeles Times. Each theme entry begins with a financial instrument — STOCK, BOND, or CD:
- 20A [Reused file film] STOCK FOOTAGE
- 31A [Audiophile’s multi-disc holder] CD CHANGER
- 44A [Flicks with 007] BOND FILMS
And at 49A you get a revealer, which is that the “Adviser concerned with the starts of 20-, 31-, and 44-Across” is an ASSET MANAGER.
The fill is fine; no extra-happy surprises nor extreme disappointments. I did like the inclusion of HIJABS at 28D, although I’d love to see HIJAB at some point clued in the more general sense of modest dressing, as I understand it can mean that and not just a head scarf specifically. And of course I’ll never be upset to see my future second husband Idris as a clue for ELBA (51D) instead of the tired old Napoleonic isle.
Steve Marron & Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Free Ride”—Jim P’s review
BAREBACK is the name of the game today (66a, [Riding without a saddle, and what the starred answers all have]). The other themers have the word BARE in them going backwards.
- 16a. [*Posh perch for a Puccini performance] OPERA BOX. Love the alliteration in the clue.
- 20a. [*Bakery-cafe chain offering “food as it should be”] PANERA BREAD. I enjoy their spinach and bacon soufflés.
- 37a. [*Muscle Beach six-pack] KILLER ABS
- 60a. [*At the mercy of another person] OVER A BARREL
That works well enough for a straightforward Monday theme. All the phrases are commonly known and the keyword spans multiple words each time. A good set.
The nine-letter central answer results in largish corners filled with stacks of sevens. No marquee fill entries today, but most of those sevens are strong, such as LEOPARD, EXPEDIA, NOUVEAU, and OFF BASE.
The only entry that registered on the scowlometer is EX-GI [Nov. 11 honoree]. I’m good with MRE [Field ration for a Pvt.], having enjoyed a few of those in my day, though I can imagine those are just random letters to a lot of people. MOAB [Biblical kingdom near the Dead Sea] isn’t really Monday fare, but the crossings made it simple enough.
Clues of note:
- 2d. [Priceline competitor]. EXPEDIA. Does anyone use Priceline anymore? I haven’t seen an ad of theirs since they had Shatner as their spokesperson.
- 10d. [Roller coaster sounds]. SCREAMS. Japan just banned screaming on roller coasters due to the pandemic. If you’re prone to screaming and plan on visiting a Japanese amusement park, consider sticking to the less thrilling rides.
- 11d. [London’s Globe, for one]. THEATRE. It’s too bad the original was destroyed by fire in 1613. The current construction dates all the way back to 1997.
Solid theme and grid, though not as sparkly as we’re accustomed to. 3.4 stars.
Alex Eaton Salners’s New York Times crossword—Jim P’s review
We’ve had some sort of snafu on this end (technical or otherwise), the upshot being that you get me instead of Jenni this Monday morning.
Our theme is phrases with a very specific structure. Each starts with a positional word followed by a preposition (a different one each time), then THE, and then a final word.
- 17a. [Exact] RIGHT ON THE MONEY
- 31a. [Abandoned and helpless] LEFT IN THE LURCH
- 37a. [Where someone who goes next is standing] FRONT OF THE LINE
- 57a. [Classic Michael J. Fox movie] BACK TO THE FUTURE
At first glance, I thought the theme was all in the first word of each theme entry, so it seemed rather light. Plus, I would expect the word RIGHT to be on the right side of the grid. Same with the word BACK. Lastly, three of the positional words change meaning; FRONT does not.
But once I realized each phrase is of consistent form, I liked the theme a lot better. Because of this, they all roll off the tongue, making for a fun set.
Same goes for the fill. Similar to today’s WSJ puzzle, there are no long marquee answers, but the grid is loaded up with sevens, and plenty of them sparkle: NARWHAL, SIGN-OFF, IN TRUTH, HAND-VAC, ACE-HIGH, FERRARI, FLU SHOT, ICE CUBE, and “I WAS HAD!” It would have been nice to have a couple of juicy long entries in the mix, but these are pleasant.
I could pick some more nits, but it’s late, so I will leave it at that. The theme grew on me as I looked at it more closely, so I’ll put this one at 3.7.
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Return to Play” — pannomica’s write-up
Slight but cohesive theme.
- 62aR [Remark after overcoming a setback, and a hint to two letters of each starred answer] I’M BACK IN THE GAME. So, to literally spell it out, we have the bigram M-I inside a few pastimes.
- 20a. [*Sport with birdies] BADMINTON. Not golf.
- 41a. [*Classic PC application whose name is also a warship] MINESWEEPER.
- 55a. [*Activity with dotted tiles, as some spell it] DOMINOS. Thr clue references the more common spelling DOMINOES.
So, three themers of modest length, plus a grid-spanning revealer. The left-right symmetry shakes this up A TAD (5d) this Monday.
- 19a [No more than] UP TO, 23a [As yet] SO FAR.
- 34a [Winter hours in Waltham] EST. Waltham?! Waltham. This must be an inside joke or reference. Which is totally fine.
- 68a [Place to buy pastrami] DELI. Do I have to go through the clues and hunt for more M-I sequences? Nah.
- 4d [Deep-sea diver’s gear] SCUBA. I feel scuba gear is specifically for not-too-deep explorations. This table seems to bear that out.
- 11d [Music genre … or hit] RAP. But not a musical hit. Sneaky.
- Longdowns are the very-solid 25d [Locally sourced food movement] FARM TO TABLE (not PERISTALSIS] and 28d [Self-reflection?] MIRROR IMAGE, which is a bit meta, considering the grid.
- 43d [“Now, where __?”] WAS I. Why, you were in the center of the grid, my friend.
- 56d [Pronoun for Wonder Woman] SHE. Okay … … ?
- 35d [Big name in bathing suits] SPEEDO. It’s always SPEEDO in crosswords.
And that’s all I have this morning. Got to run!
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Note to self: stop trying to solve Monday New Yorkers before coffee. This puzzle from Natan Last has some really lovely entries in it, but my brain could not process them without caffeine. This may be my slowest New Yorker solve ever!
Down the middle we have THE HATEFUL EIGHT, which is a movie I tried to watch but could not get through on account of the over-the-top gratuitous gore and violence. It’s a nice 15 though, so it gets a spotlight in the central location. Other long stuff included OTHERWORLD / TEENA MARIE / OBJECT LESSON / RESCUE DIVERS / STANDING O’S / SCREENSHOT. I had little mistakes all over my grid (see above re: coffee), so some of these took foreverrrr to unravel. Most notably, I spent several minutes trying to parse STANDINGOS. I think I was primed by the Django reference in the clue for THE HATEFUL EIGHT to read this as STAN-DINGOS (rhymes with “mandingos,” a major plot point of Django Unchained). It didn’t help that I had ACLU v. USA instead of NSA, and a bunch of ??s from the very tricky cluing in that section.
A few more things:
- Representation: On the positive side, the NW corner had UZO ADUBA and JOY HARJO, which I *loved*. Less positive is featuring Quentin Tarantino in the middle, whose treatment of crosswordese queen UMA Thurman was definitely problematic.
- Was also not super jazzed to see STALIN in the puzzle, despite (because of?) the kind of funny clue: [He allegedly said, “Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the Soviet Union”]
- Was definitely slowed down at FUTZ by having PUTZ in there for a while
- Remember cocktail hours and CANAPEs?
- I will always confuse MUNCIE and Peoria.
- Fill I could live without: SOYS
Overall, solid (extremely challenging!) Monday puzz. Stars from me for an interesting and different grid design and some nice long entries.
NYT: Nice Monday.
I do have a nit with 58d, “Metric meas. of speed”, answer KPH. I live in a metric country and KPH is not a thing – it’s km/h, or very occasionally kmph. I know American cars say MPH in upper case in their speedometers, but metric cars, it’s km/h.
Agree, Anne. I have posted about this before. We live in the US and (before the pandemic) Canada, and I even sent in a photo of a road sign with km/h. Sigh.
The SI abbreviation is km/h, however kph has been used since 1889 and continues continues to be used. Even in metric contries.
The clue is fine, even though kph is not the preferred abbreviation.
Regardless of the quasi-legitimacy, the entry KPH is terrible. If we had a Monday grid that didn’t force stacked 7s in the corners, it would have been easier to avoid KPH. I wonder if a 14/15/15/14 layout would have worked and allowed for more standard-looking corners?
BEQ–MASKHOLE is great. NE corner was the toughest. It was hard to see NOLIMITS and I couldn’t remember PITMAN.
Loved it too, MinorThreat. Had the HOLE and then even got the K-MART and *still* couldn’t get 1A until I cam back to it. Duh on me! What I like — and sometimes get frustrated but in a good way — about Brendan’s puzzles is that he builds (with some exceptions, like 1A and — sheesh! — 49A ;-) — that, if clued traditionally (13 D, e.g.) would make it in any conventional publication…without offending anybody. Brendan raises the bar. He puts the fun back in crossword puzzles again, consistently, without pretending that the world we live in doesn’t exist.
WSJ: Lovely photo of your daughter, Jim P. What a backdrop! Thanks for sharing. You may not want to indulge too often in Panera’s spinach and bacon souffle. Definitely not “food as it should be.” See https://www.calorieking.com/us/en/foods/f/calories-in-breakfast-baked-spinach-bacon-egg-souffle/ShtlC1Q5QemcFmc3QivS8g.
Completely thrown by LEHI as the place where Samson defeated the Philistines. What happened to “Eyeless in Gaza…” (Milton)?