Eric Bornstein’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
This is Eric’s debut puzzle. Nice start! I grokked the theme about halfway through and the revealer still made me smile.
Physicists probably liked this puzzle.
- 17a [Where to go for a fill-up] is a GAS STATION.
- 22a [Firm place to plant your feet] is SOLID GROUND.
- 36a [Viewing options popularized in the 1990s] are PLASMA SCREEN TVS.
- 45a [Cash or stock, e.g.] is a LIQUID ASSET.
What do these have in common? Check out 57a [The terrible twos, e.g. (one hopes!) … or the start of 17-, 22-, 36- or 45-Across?]: JUST A PHASE. This made me smile (and reminded me that I had a much harder time when my kid was three. Two happened to her. Three was on purpose). GAS, SOLID, PLASMA, and LIQUID are phases of matter. Fun! I look forward to seeing more from Eric.
A few other things:
- 7d [Donation to the Red Cross] is BLOOD. Much needed these days. Give if you can.
- I liked the juxtaposition of conversational clues at 9d and 10d: [“Leaving already?”] for SO SOON and [“That seemed right to me, too”] for I THOUGHT SO.
- I presume that the presence of PLASMA SCREEN TVS is the explanation for the tortured clue for LCD at 31d: [12, for 1/3, 1/4 and 1/6: Abbr.]. Took me a minute to parse “lowest common denominator.” Does anyone used the abbreviation? Anyone? Bueller?
- Let’s drop “So’s your mama!” from the list of acceptable phrases to put in a crossword. There are lots of non-racist, non-sexist ways to clue RETORT.
- While we’re at it, I hate the expression DRAMA QUEEN. It’s used to dismiss women who have strong reactions, including women who are angry or hurt at injustice and abuse. It plays into gender stereotypes about “hysterical women” and reinforces the narrow acceptable and gender-based range of emotional expression, a false binary that hurts everyone.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Timbuktu is in MALI. Anyone who has played me in Learned League knows that geography is a weak spot for me.
Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Stella’s write-up
It’s good to see that my former constructing partner, Bruce Venzke, is up to his old collaborative tricks, this time with Gail Grabowski. Don’t quote me on this, but if Bruce handles his other collaborations as he did with me, then Gail’s top billing means that she came up with the theme on this one.
Speaking of the theme, 40A, BUSINESS LETTERS, tells us that it’s “Company correspondence…and a hint to the abbreviation hidden in 17-, 24-, 52-, and 66-Across.” That abbreviation would be INC, or “incorporated,” which is found in:
- 17A, SPIN CLASS [“High-intensity indoor cycling group”]
- 24A, PUMPKIN COACH [“Cinderella’s ride”]
- 52A, DRAIN CLEANER [“Pipe unclogger”]
- 66A, THIN CRUST [“Feature of New York-style pizza”]
In a nice touch, INC is always split across the two theme words, rather than wholly contained in one word. I also enjoyed SPIN CLASS and THIN CRUST in particular, as they felt evocative and fun. (Even though I may get kicked out of Brooklyn for vastly preferring Chicago-style deep-dish to thin-crust.)
The fill is solid if unexciting. Exceptions: ATRA is feeling pretty stale these days, so pluralizing it at 64A is extra meh; on the positive side, I’m originally from Philadelphia, so I categorically have to enjoy any reference to Hall and OATES (60A). On the cluing side, how about we recognize HEDY Lamarr (69A) as an inventor and not just an actress? I did like seeing AARON (54D) clued as the composer Copland and not, say, baseball’s Aaron Judge or the Bible character. Nothing wrong with Aaron Judge, but I’ll never say no to more classical music in puzzles.
Gabrielle Friedman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Take the Side Streets”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Phrases that start or end with letters that spell out a word that’s a synonym of “street.”
- 16a. [1992 movie based on an “SNL” sketch] WAYNE’S WORLD.
- 26a. [Perk for an exec] PRIVATE PLANE.
- 46a. [It might entitle you to a discount] COURTESY CARD. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this phrase. Its similarity to “courtesy car” made me question the theme.
- 61a. [Spend a semester at the Sorbonne, say] STUDY ABROAD.
That works. I wouldn’t call the theme terribly exciting, but if it helps a solver get un-stuck, it’s doing its job. I like the construction here in that the side words alternate left, right, left, right. Ah, and now I see our constructor has gone to this well before with a “side dishes” theme. Cheeky!
Look at those lovely long Down entries: TACO SALAD, STAGE NAME, BLOOD OATH, and BAGUETTES. What a great foursome! And in stacked pairs no less. And there’s nary a price to pay except maybe DHS at 66a and crosswordesey ADEN at 45a. Well done. REENTER is not a word you’d ever highlight in a grid, but it gets a great clue [Come again?] that there’s no way you can fault it. (Unlike RESCAN which doesn’t quite get the same boost from its clue [Checkout correction].)
Other clues of note:
- 19a. [1040 reviewer, briefly]. IRS. And 23d. [1040 reviewers, briefly]. CPAS. I asked this a couple weeks ago just after the filing deadline, but did everyone who was waiting for a tax refund get theirs yet? We filed on the 13th and I was surprised the refund came through last week, even though I’d heard of people waiting for months.
- 20a. [Binding part of some legal documents?]. STAPLE. Cute.
- 55a. [Bad thing to lose in a barn]. NEEDLE. Ha! Presumably, said barn is full of haystacks.
Nice puzzle. 3.75 stars.
Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Quick write-up today! I really enjoyed this puzzle from Kameron Austin Collins. I particularly liked the central staircase of LEATHER DADDY / SCIENTOLOGIST / DOESN’T PAN OUT. It’s just fascinating to me what different publications will let you say! I bet myself a LONDON FOG that LEATHER DADDY has never run in a mainstream puzzle before, and the crosswordtracker database confirmed that I owe myself a LONDON FOG. I loveeee the entry, and it reminds me how lucky we all are to have the New Yorker running themeless puzzles.
Some more things:
- Although I am on the record as finding unnecessary cross-references a little tedious, I enjoyed the cross-reference for LOST SOCK / cold TOES
- 25d: [Early-two-thousands drama with the theme song “California”] — obviously THE OC, and I want to publicly admit to having seen Phantom Planet in concert *four times* in my angsty youth. Can confirm: they really only had the one good song.
- Got tripped up at RESIDUA, since RESIDUE is an equally valid answer there
- I recently put RAE Armantrout in a puzzle when looking for a non-Issa/Carly __ Jepsen clue for RAE. Twinsies, Kam!
- Representation: A+! Loved seeing RAPANUI in the grid, even if I had no idea how to spell it. I got there, although I did not know the crossing with ENID.
- Favorite clue: [Product lines?] for BARCODES
- Fill I could live without: LDOPA (I just worry that this will make other abbreviated chemical compounds/drug names fair game, and that seems like it would be bad thing for crosswords).
Overall, lots of stars from me. Here’s some Phantom Planet to kick off your week!
Stu Ockman’s Universal crossword, “Heard it Before?” — pannonica’s write-up
How to explain the mechanics of the theme? The title hints at its echolalic premise, but doesn’t—can’t—describe it fully.
Each theme answer comprises two words, the first a possessive ending in -ER’S and the second jettisoning that final syllable and also lopping off the consonant sound at the beginning of the word. This core is spelled significantly differently than in the first word.
Once again, it’s the sort of thing that’s easier to see instinctively than write out in words:
- 21a. [Soreness for LeBron James?] LAKER’S ACHE (l ĀK er’s ĀK).
- 26a. [Caprice for Katie Ledecky?] SWIMMER’S WHIM (s WIM er’s WIM)
- 47a. [Ancient letter for Perry Como?] CROONER’S RUNE (c RÜN er’s RÜN).
- 54a. [Tropical getaway for Roger Bannister?] MILER’S ISLE (m ĪL er’s ĪL).
Feels suitable for a Monday because it’s engaging and relatively simple to grasp.
- 44a [Animal on a buffalo nickel] BISON. Seeing that near CROONER makes me think of the quasi-croony style of Roy OrBISON.
- 25a [Foiled villain’s cry] CURSES. I like the way the clue prompts the solver by subtly invoking the stereotypical “CURSES! Foiled again!” exclamation.
- 63d [Gobbled down] ATE UP. Down, up.
- 18a [Dorothy’s basketful] TOTO. 66a [The Wizard of __ Park (Thomas Edison)] MENLO.
- 67a [Custom birdhouse website] ETSY. That’s … kind of random. Nevertheless, there are indeed tens of thousands for sale there.
- Best clue: 48d [Bone up?] OSSIFY.
- 59d [Influence] PULL, 57d [Fellas] LADS.
I guess I just don’t do enough crosswords, but I thought LANAI crossing ALEE in the NYT was a bit much for a Monday.
Better tuck away LANAI and ALEE in a near piece of your memory. Words of 5 or less letters with three vowels are crossword constructor staples and as you solve more crosswords, you’ll find these two often enough for you to begin reacting with a harumph each time they appear.
Their appearances in NY Times crosswords are 180 times for LANAI and 913 times for ALEE; hardly strangers to frequent solvers.
I will agree with you, Bryant, that it’s not a great crossing in a Monday puzzle, which purports to be easy. There’s a reason that ALEE isn’t permitted in the puzzles I co-edit for Crosswords With Friends—our puzzles are meant to be easy and accessible, and while ALEE is common crosswordese (as Arthur118 explains), it’s really not a word that is in most Americans’ daily vocabulary. (My reviews of Mon/Tues NYT puzzles generally call out the entries I think are too hard for a puzzle that claims to be easy.)
I didn’t notice ALEE – must have filled it in from crossings. LANAI is a gimme for anyone who’s spent time in Hawaii and even in parts of California – that’s where I first heard it. The hospital where I did my residency had a LANAI outside each patient room and many of the offices. Didn’t occur to me that it might be obscure. I agree that ALEE is crosswordese (although as an old sailor, I’ve definitely heard it in the wild) but to me it’s a fair crossing with an accessible word. Maybe LANAI is more regional than I think.
Pannonica — I want to thank you for the musical selections that grace your reviews. That June Tabor song brings a tear to my eye. Her voice and intonation are uncanny. I don’t love everything you mention (of course not!) but your choices are always fascinating.
I appreciate your appreciation, and your willingness to explore!
Incidentally, I recommend that entire album, and pretty much all of her œuvre. This record also contains what is probably the definitive version of Eric Bogle’s “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”.
I have a ton of respect for Rich Norris, but I can’t help but feel he gets a lot of free passes for stuff that would cause a lot of comments in the Times. For instance, today we have “NBC skit show” (SNL) and “Variety show bit” (SKIT). Also “Five-bor. city” for NYC (city in clue and answer.) “Part of GE” (ELEC) seems fine for a Monday, but the NYC clue seems sloppy.
Speaking of which, I just realized that the NYT has AGUA at 42A and AQUAS at 47D.
My wife and I use Your Mom jokes all the time, but they’re almost exclusively non-sequitur. Especially if we’re watching Great British Baking Show.
“Your Mom’s a bit stodgy.”
“Your Mom is set to 250.”
“Your Mom probably needed to prove a bit longer.”
“Your Mom is a legendary Hollywood Handshake.”
Get it? No? Ehh, I don’t really care.
“Your mom has a soggy bottom. Shame, that.”
NYT: I don’t think ‘DRAMA QUEEN’ is all Jenni makes it out to be. I know many men (who don’t even gender identify) who fit the bill. I think a better clue was probably in order. Not everything has to be a slur. Relax. If DRAMA QUEEN is your biggest worry today, you’re having a good day!
Hmm, first you’re discounting a woman’s experience with gendered dismissals of her feelings, and then telling her to relax, further dismissing her feelings. You’re just one “hysterical” short of a misogynist trifecta!
In my circles it has long been established through usage that ‘Drama Queen’ connotes neither gender nor species. It’s available to all.
In our household, the term is sometimes applied to our male greyhound, who, if his tail is stepped on by a bare human foot, on a carpeted floor, will let out what is known in some circles as the “greyhound scream of death.” After about 10 seconds of pathetic limping (no, he doesn’t walk on his tail), he’s back to sleep. Drama queen.