Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
The theme of this crossword is basically “English is weird.” Each theme entry starts with the same sound, spelled five different ways.
- 18a [It may include a backpack, boots and a water bottle] is HIKING GEAR. We recently acquired small Camelbak packs and I love them. It feels like overkill for walking around the neighborhood, but it beats starting the day dehydrated (I like to walk in the morning).
- 24a [Japanese verse with 17 syllables] is a HAIKU POEM. While this is technically correct, it’s not a phrase anyone ever actually says.
- 39a [Expensive, as a product line] is HIGH END.
- 41a [Seven Dwarfs’ cry as off to work they go] is HEIGH–HO.
- 52a [Supermodel and longtime “Project Runway” host] is HEIDI KLUM.
- 61a [Toyota Prius and Honda Insight] are HYBRID CARS. We’ve owned three Ford hybrids and we love them.
That’s a lot of theme material for a 15×15, and it works. Nothing the fill jumped out at me as objectionable and all the entries are solid except for my quibble with HAIKU POEM.
Dinner just appeared on the table, so it’s a short one tonight. Stay safe.
Matt McKinley’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Stella’s write-up
Yikes, Mondays don’t usually take me this long. Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m crabbing about coming in at 2:37. But given that that’s a good 25% longer than Mondays usually take me, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this puzzle might have been better suited, as clued, to a Tuesday or Wednesday. Or, rather, given the uncomplicated nature of the theme, clued easier.
And the theme is indeed uncomplicated. We’ve got ordinal numbers, increasing by twos:
- 17A [Chicago-based improv group, with “The”] SECOND CITY
- 23A [Imagined barrier between actor and audience] FOURTH WALL
- 34A [Beethoven’s “Pastoral” or Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique”] SIXTH SYMPHONY
- 45A [Musical symbol also called a quaver] EIGHTH NOTE
- 56A [When Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson, in a classic 1990 bout] TENTH ROUND
Interesting. I say that it’s not a complicated theme, because it’s pretty easy to see once you have it that the first word in each two-word phrase is an ordinal number, and that the ordinals are all even, and they’re given in order from SECOND to TENTH. Yet the individual theme entries are pretty deep cuts for a Monday. There are two classical music references; I personally LOVE classical music, but also recognize that for most solvers, it’s not an area of more than casual knowledge. And so knowing what Beethoven and Tchaikovsky pieces are being referred to, much less that a quaver is what Brits call an EIGHTH NOTE, are I think deeper cuts than you’d expect from solvers on Monday. Never mind knowing which round it was that Buster Douglas knocked Mike Tyson out in, although if you’re working the puzzle from top to bottom it should be pretty clear by then!
The fill is fine, and I think perhaps to compensate for those knowledge-heavy theme entries ought to have been clued easier for a Monday. The one real clunker entry IMO is 42D, CHIPPY [“Marked by contentiousness, as a game”]. I’ve never heard the word before, and I think maybe it would have been easier clued in the UK sense of a fish-and-chip chop. “Brit shop where fried fish is sold” or something like that? At least then after the fact you’d get where it was going.
To me the theme concept is a Monday, and the theme entries are more like a Wednesday but imperfectly executed (I wish there weren’t two classical music questions and three dispersed through other subjects), so on the whole I wasn’t crazy about this one.
Queena Mewers & Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Selected Anthology”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Two-word phrases starting with S and A, as hinted at by ESSAY [Short article, and a hint to completing the titles in the theme answers]. In addition, each theme answer is clued FITB-style as if the answer + clue was the title of an ESSAY.
- 16a. [“___: Trevor Noah’s Homeland”] SOUTH AFRICA
- 23a. [“___: It’s California’s Fault”] SAN ANDREAS.
- 33a. [“___: How to Attract a Mate”] SEX APPEAL
- 49a. [“___: A Nighttime Disruption”] SLEEP APNEA
- 57a. [“___: The Bond Business”] SECRET AGENT
The quotation marks threw me off at first, because I was thinking these were real titles. Then the lack of question marks had me wondering as well when I decided they weren’t. Third, the play on words in some clues (“Fault” and “Bond”) was another point that made me unsure what the theme was. Finally, the revealer put it together for me and made me realize I was trying to overthink it. I decided to just go with the flow, and things were better from then on.
When I realized what the theme was, I began to hear the themers in the voice of my college roommate, José. I picked up a little Spanish from him, including the word ese (sounds like ESSAY) which means “dude” or “bro.” I’m hereby petitioning that constructors try to use this cluing angle when ESE comes up in the fill. [Bro in the barrio]? [Oaxaca homie]?
Plenty of good, strong fill to like today: NEUTRON, STEEPLE, BOOMLET, LASAGNA, DAYTONA, TEA SHOP, UPSCALE, EN FUEGO, RAY-BANS, and CALDERA. Conversely, I don’t think I knew ALOP [Leaning over on one side] which feels pretty out of place on a Monday. Not keen on RE-ADDS either. But those are pretty far outweighed by the good stuff.
This boils down to a pretty simple theme, but it’s gussied up with a playful cluing angle which was admittedly confusing at first, but I grew to like it. Lots of sparkly fill, bumps the score up to 3.8 stars.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Hello and welcome back to another week of “Rachel should really drink her coffee before solving on Mondays.” This was super hard for me, and not just because I tripped out of the gate and 100% blanked on BONG JOON HO [I am always, without fail, intimidated by Oscars trivia. When I went on Jeopardy, I knew the one thing I really needed to study was the Oscars, and I didn’t, and then I got a whole category of Oscars and couldn’t answer *a single one*].
So. BONG JOON HO at the first Across, which I really should have known, and then a bunch of stuff that kind of embodied STODGINESS, the final across. There was some lively long stuff (enjoyed HEAR ME ROAR and BEAST MODE), but for the most part, I can’t say I had a lot of fun solving this one. Other long entries included SHARED ROOM / ESTATE SALE / ENTITLED TO / NATIVE SON / GUYLINER / OMEGA MALE, and I take some issue with these last two. I’ve always found the term GUYLINER kind of irksome. It’s just *eyeliner* on *guys*; feels like when they sell the same yogurt to men in a black container to make it man yogurt. OMEGA MALE has a similar vibe, for me; sounds like something a guy who thinks he is the alpha male would call someone he thinks he’s better than? Idk, it felt off.
A few more things:
- Didn’t know RICOH and I don’t really think AXEMAN is a thing? Like you wouldn’t call a lumberjack a SAWMAN or a carpenter a HAMMERMAN (not to mention that plenty of [Woodchopper]s are *not* men.
- It was funny to see the INGA/ILSA crossing, as I always confuse these two
- I am HERE for NENE Leakes in puzzles
- NO AMEX feels arbitrary/green paint-y
- BSED – I had USED here, which did not help with my BONG JOON HO brainfart
- Fill I could live without: SROS, MTG, LIMN
- Representation: solid! Love seeing Nikki Giovanni references, even if the partial A POEM is a little inelegant. Also JET magazine, NATIVE SON, H.D. (bisexual poet)
- YIKES when writing the above bullet point I googled LORENA Bobbitt and, uh, why???
Overall, I didn’t really connect with this puzzle, but it’s mostly pretty clean and packed with New Yorker-y references and a few standout fun entries. For these reasons, I can totally appreciate that there are people who WILL connect with this puzzle. Worth a good number of stars despite not being the puzzle for me in this moment!
P.S. Huge congrats to John Lieb, Andrew Kingsley, and the incredible slate of constructors who pulled off a fabulous online Boswords tournament yesterday. Such a strong set of puzzles and a fantastic opportunity to hang out (online) with the crossword community we love so much. Look for Lollapuzzoola on August 15 for your next chance to compete and hang out!
Jason Creighton’s Universal crossword, “In Pairs” — pannonica’s write-up
Putting paired letters into existing phrases yields wacky results.
- 17a. [Gymnast?] FREQUENT FLIPPER (frequent flier). Small ding for 60d [Take a plane] FLY.
- 36a. [Youth running a survey?] POLLSTER CHILD (poster child).
- 56a. [Heir to the Eggo fortune?] PRINCE OF WAFFLES (Prince of Wales). Definitely a case of saving the best for last.
Going to keep this short because I accidentally wrote up the Los Angeles Times crossword instead of this one. Big oops on my part, but I have other obligations today and can’t devote enough time to this one. Apologies to (possible first-time constructor?) Jason Creighton.
- 1a [Org. for Rafael Nadal] ATP. Association of Tennis Professionals.
- 9a [Thisclue is missing one] SPACE. The puzzle definitely seems to have an authorial voice.
- Continuing on the FLY duplication, neighboring that entry is 59d [Broadcast] AIR, but 7d INT’L is clued as [Like some airports]. Tighter editing should correct these slips, unless duplications are not an editorial concern. (This is an ongoing debate.)
- Longdowns are 6d [Irrecoverable expenses] SUNK COSTS, 10d [Like poorly built walls] PAPER THIN, 33d [Take some time with a decision] SLEEP ON IT, and 34d [Horse battle?] TROJAN WAR. The last is a bit reductive, but the question mark helps ameliorate.