Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
I smiled when I saw Lynn’s name on the NYT website, and I smiled when I did the puzzle. Lynn’s Monday puzzles are always perfectly pitched – accessible, smooth, and fun. I couldn’t figure out what the theme was until I got to the revealer.
- 16a [Designation on many a driver’s license] is ORGAN DONOR.
- 24a [Bright, sunny area of a house] is a FLORIDA ROOM. My husband’s grandparents had one in their house in, yes, Florida. That was the first time I heard the term.
- 45a [Launch vehicle for many NASA missions] is an ATLAS ROCKET.
- 57a [Ringlet on a salon floor] is a LOCK OF HAIR.
And the revealer: 56d [Typically lost items that are “found” in the starts of 16-, 24-, 45- and 57-Across] is KEYS. One of the things I like is that they’re all different kinds of keys.
A few other things:
- I love clues like 2d, [“This doesn’t look good …”]. It’s UH–OH.
- Bjorn BORG will always have a place in my heart. I grew up watching Borg and Connors. Ah, Sundays in the den with my mother screaming at the television…
- TROIKAS is a fun word. I suppose it might be a tad recherché for Monday.
- Inclusion is cluing CYRUS with reference to Miley instead of Vance.
- I liked the long Downs: BABY BONNET and GREEK SALAD.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: it’s Monday, and Lynn doesn’t do obscurities, so I got nothing.
Rob Gonsalves and Jennifer Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Stella’s write-up
I always perk up when I see a byline from this husband-and-wife team — I expect to see some fun fill, and this puzzle didn’t disappoint. It’s a Monday, so there aren’t too many opportunities for the unusual, but they still managed to get in the divine Catherine DENEUVE at 27A (my husband and I recently watched The Umbrellas of Cherbourg for the first time and capital-L Loved it) and ‘SCUSI at 54D (fun memories of trips to Italy! oh, to be able to travel!). Plus, there are fun clues for old standbys, like LEE (33D) clued as the character from His Dark Materials and DYING (69A) as “Flopping at a comedy club” instead of far less pleasant associations for either.
On to the theme! The revealer at 62A, DOUBLE BOOK [“Reserve twice in error, as an airline seat…or a hint to the two-part answers to starred clues”], tells us that each theme entry consists of two words that can each, individually, precede the word BOOK to form a common phrase. The revealer clue is a bit clunky, but I suppose on Monday, greater clarity for beginning solvers might be worth having all those extra words. So, we’ve got:
- 17A: AUDIO GUIDE [“Often-digital commentary for a museum tour”] — An AUDIO BOOK is useful on road trips, and a GUIDE BOOK is useful when sightseeing, so there’s a little bit of an extra layer of travel going on here, whether intentional or not.
- 23A: PHONE RECORD [“List of incoming and outgoing calls”] — Yes, children, there used to be PHONE BOOKs that listed people’s numbers! On paper! Does that feel like something to note in the RECORD BOOKs or what?
- 40A: BLUE LAW [“Sunday liquor-buying ban, e.g.”] — You kids these days probably take tests on your laptops, but old people like me would write essay questions in a BLUE BOOK. LAW BOOK is the only base phrase that didn’t feel familiar to me from everyday parlance, but they have been a thing since a couple of millennia B.C.
- 51A: WORK HISTORY [“Experience section in a résumé”] — Boy, are these base phrases making me feel old. Do students still use WORKBOOKs nowadays? Perhaps I should be retired to the HISTORY BOOKs.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Huge Crowd”—Jim P’s review
And now for the BIG FINISH (34a, [Concert crescendo, and what 16-, 24-, 49- and 59-Across all have])! Actually, we’re just getting started here, but our theme answers are all phrases whose last word is a synonym of “big.”
- 16a. [Gibberish] MUMBO JUMBO
- 24a. [Generally] BY AND LARGE
- 49a. [“Fantastic!”] “THAT’S GREAT!”
- 59a. [Vegetable brand] GREEN GIANT
Probably not an original theme; I bet I could find similar puzzles if I went looking. But what matters is how well this one’s put together. Let’s take a look.
A nine-letter central entry isn’t the easiest thing to work with because it means your corners are either going to be big or chopped up into little pieces. ZB uses a “cheater square” to help alleviate matters and make her hefty corners fillable. She even manages to throw in a few goodies like RAUCOUS, ARMENIA, STOPGAP, “SO THERE!,” BEANBAG, and MARINES. TOADY is another fun entry you’d think you’d see more of, but I don’t recall doing so. I’m not so sure about LEG PADS, but I’m not a hockey fan. Do they use pads that cover the whole leg and not just the shins?
Clues of note:
- 58a. [Idris of “The Dark Tower”]. ELBA. I haven’t seen this and reading about it on Wikipedia I learned it had a tortured time in production and received mostly negative reviews, though my man Luther, I mean Idris, got high marks. Anyone see this one?
- 2d. [Like many frat parties]. RAUCOUS. Let’s hope not this coming fall. I’m still nervous about sending my Junior back to college even though he’ll be off-campus in an apartment with his own room (and not in a frat).
Clean and smooth Monday grid. A breezy start to the week. Four stars.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
HELLO GOOD MORNING did you have a good weekend welcome back to the real world where we have a triple stack from Elizabeth C. Gorski to kick off the week!!!!!!!
[Alternative opening line: A triple stack? In this economy!?!]
It’s no secret that I have pretty low tolerance for bad fill, but those sorts of qualms go RIGHT out the window for a triple stack. I unapologetically love this sort of puzzle, and what we have here is just a perfect example of why. Constructing a beast of a puzzle like this requires the world’s tightest, most 15-flush wordlist known to humankind. A full 2/3 of the 15s in this puzzle are new to crossworld, at least according to crossword tracker: JAMES GANDOLFINI, I’M A PEOPLE PERSON, LIEUTENANT UHURA, OLIVE KITTERIDGE (presumably the seed entry), HOME RESTORATION, and THIS IS FANTASTIC are all debuts. MACHINE READABLE, DOMESTIC AIRLINE, and SPECTATOR SPORTS have been in puzzles before, but MY GOD. What a feat! And look at that grid! It’s so friggin cool!
Like I said, I’m not going to spend too much time concerned about fill here. Is there some stuff I wouldn’t want to see in a normal themeless? Absolutely. Does it bother me in the slightest in the context of this masterpiece? No the EPH it does not. And of course, if *every* themeless puzzle were a triple stack with rougher-than-average fill, this might get old fast. But this is the first of its kind that I’ve seen in the New Yorker, and I am a sucker for the novelty and construction.
A few more things:
- I’M A PEOPLE PERSON is so so good. Cannot get over it
- I had ISBY instead of ISBN until the end…because I thought maybe you could search for a book that IS BY someone??? Idk it does not make sense now that I write it out.
- Representation: I love that the central entry (OLIVE KITTERIDGE) is a Pulitzer-winning novel by a female author, right under the role played by one of the first black women ever featured in a major TV series (LIEUTENANT UHURA)
- Favorite clue: [Soprano of note?] for JAMES GANDOLFINI
- Can’t see a reference to “Snap out OF IT” without thinking of Drag Race ?♀️
I mean, what else is there to say? I’m so happy that this challenging puzzle opened the week, and I have so many stars for it.
P.S., I wrote today’s USA Today crossword, if you feel like solving a significantly less challenging puzzle: https://puzzles.usatoday.com/crossword/
Blake Slonecker’s Universal crossword, “Spill the T” — pannonica’s write-up
- 64aR [Start driving? … and a hint to the starred entries] TEE OFF. The letter T is dropped from a paired set in the original phrase to yield a wackified result.
(Spacing adjusted as necessary. Terms and conditions apply. Not valid in HI, VT, and overseas territories. Serving suggestion only. Objects appear closer in mirror. Ask your doctor.)
- 14a. [*Bed for a certain camper?] BOY COT (boycott).
- 21a. [*Kelly Macdonald or David Hume?] GREAT SCOT (great Scott). “It originates as a minced oath, historically associated with two specific ‘Scotts’, notably Scottish author Sir Walter Scott and somewhat later in the United States, US general Winfield Scott.” –Wikipedia
- 34a. [*Diss track creator?] MAD HATER (Mad Hatter). See also 32d [Diss] RIP ON.
- 42a. [*Certain cheap wine container?] LITER BOX (litter box).
- 52a. [*Young cow whose identity is predetermined?] FATED CALF (fatted calf).
Cute but nothing spectacular. Pretty much what’s expected of a Monday crossword.
So it turns out the phrase “spill the t[ea]” derives from (Black) drag culture, as discussed over at m-w.com.
- 44a [“All the Light We Cannot See” author (ORDER anagram)] Anthony DOERR. Read and enjoyed his short story collections The Shell Collector and Memory Wall, meant to read this big (and acclaimed) novel in 2014 when it came out, but never got around to it.
- Not part of the theme: 40d [Black gold] TEXAS TEA. Crosses the revealer too.
- 20a [Nodded responses] YESES, 21d [Noble ones are inert] GASES.
- 41a [Baker or Fitzgerald] ELLA. We don’t see reference to the former all that much.
- Looks as if the constructor (and/or editor) is aiming for increased representational diversity with such cluing as 46a [Sprinter Allyson] FELIX and 56a [“The Hate U Give” heroine] STARR. That’s a welcome and refreshing development.
NYT: I always love Lynn Lempel Mondays. And this was very smooth. But I’m feeling dense.. If we take the revealer literally, we can find keys in locks, in organs and in Florida, but are there keys in an Atlas? Is that like the legend in the corner? I actually googled Atlas Keys, Keys in Atlas and got nowhere…
I think it’s referring to the legend type of key you might see on a map (atlas)
I liked TNY a lot, too. The three triple-stacks were impressive indeed.
Their three-day difficulty sequence doesn’t hold at all for me, and I wonder if it’s just me or rather the editor should think about difficulty a bit differently. For me, any Natan Last puzzle, like one only midweek last week, is going to be impossible or close to it, while one from Elizabeth Gorski is going to be smooth, even on a Monday. They just achieve difficulty differently, he with a trivia contest. I circle clue numbers for names and factoids I don’t recognize, and this one didn’t have many, even though I hadn’t heard of the long novel title at the very center. With his, I typically circle around 20.
I realize it’s a matter of taste. Lots of people play trivia games and contest for fun. Rachel almost always flags clues for her favorite TV shows and the like as her favorites (although she tends to find literature a bit obscure). At my mother’s elderly home, they had a game like that in the common room every week, so it’s not just age. (No, I don’t want more Beatles clues and other pop culture from the past.) It’s just about the pleasure of a crossword, in language and ingenuity.
This is totally fair; crossword difficulty is extremely subjective. And as you may or may not have seen in my Fiend bio, I have a bit of a thing for trivia (and associated gameshows…!). I think learning new things is my favorite part of solving crosswords, followed closely by feeling like my culture and interests are represented in them. I do also love wordplay, though, which why I always highlight my favorite clues, most of which are ? clues!
NEW YORKER: Rachel: very late in the day to say this…but your review of Elizabeth’s fine puzzle was almost as much fun as your puzzle in USA TODAY today. Congrats! Daydreaming about a haircut, eh? :-)