Alan Massengill and Andrea Carla Michael’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
This may be my fastest Monday time ever – I don’t keep track. It was quick and smooth and well-pitched for a Monday, with a seasonally appropriate theme.
I didn’t pick up on the theme until I got to the revealer.
- 18a [Greets from across the way, say] is WAVES HELLO.
- 23a [Casually browse online] is SURFS THE NET. I started with WEB instead.
- 36. [Spends moolah] is SHELLS OUT CASH. I’m more accustomed to hearing this without CASH on the end.
- 47a [Demonstrates some sleight of hand] is PALMS CARDS.
And the revealer: 54a [Property along the ocean … or a hint to the starts of 18-, 23-, 36- and 47-Across] is BEACHFRONT. Nice!
A few other things:
- 2d [“Most definitely, monsieur!”] is OUI OUI.
- 3d [Feature of a Las Vegas “bandit”] is ONE ARM. A slot machine is a one-armed bandit.
- 33d [“Stupid” segments on old David Letterman shows] is PET TRICKS. He also had Stupid Human Tricks. Not my favorite. I don’t like humiliation as entertainment.
- 41a [Fruit-filled pastries] are TARTS. Monday is my husband’s birthday, and he loves a birthday berry pie. I don’t eat pie these days and our daughter prefers cake. He does not want to eat an entire pie. My mission: to make two small blackberry tarts, one to serve and one to freeze. We’ll see how this goes, since I have never baked a berry pie.
- 47d [File shareable on a PC or Mac] is a PDF. I’m sure there are others.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I got nothin’, which means there was no gamer, movie, or TV arcana. A good Monday.
Amy Johnson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I wasn’t familiar with Amy Johnson’s name; she was last seen on Fiend on Mother’s Day 2018. Hey lady! If you can make a 21x, how ’bout some more puzzles of all sizes? We all know the world could use more women constructing!
This Monday grid is a fine, smooth solve. The fill isn’t super exciting, but it’s also pretty low on clunkers. (Can we please, however, agree always to clue ANO as a partial? Like “That’s ___-brainer” or “It’s ___ from me”? Because reasons.)
I’m only about 80% on-board with the theme, though. As 68A and 60D, which together are “on one’s game…and [a] hint to the start of this puzzle’s longest answers,” tell us, we are IN A/ZONE — and each of the theme entries contains a word that commonly precedes ZONE:
- 18A [Baked mac and cheese, for many] COMFORT FOOD. So far, so good. Evocative of something very yummy, and COMFORT ZONE is fine.
- 28A [Hit pay dirt] STRIKE IT RICH. Also fine; while one may argue with an ump about where the STRIKE ZONE is, one wouldn’t argue that it’s a valid concept.
- 47A [“Aladdin” song whose title lyric follows “You ain’t never had a”] FRIEND LIKE ME. This one, not so much. The song is fun. But the base phrase FRIEND ZONE isn’t my favorite, given the misogynistic connotations.
- 62A [Buried record for future generations] TIME CAPSULE. Ah, now we’re back in business with a good theme phrase that also gives us TIME ZONE, which is fine.
I also don’t love IN A/ZONE as the revealer, as IN THE ZONE feels more natural. So: The theme is consistently executed; make IN THE ZONE the revealer and swap out FRIEND LIKE ME for something like SAFETY ORANGE or HOT COMMODITY and I’d be 100% behind it.
Also, I know this’ll never happen on a Monday, but I would have loved to see a reference to the Paula Abdul song in 9D (ATTRACT, clued as “What opposites do, it’s said”). Because Paula Abdul.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
I am on “vacation” this week, in that I turned off email notifications but am otherwise doing nothing exciting, so in the spirit of “vacation” my posts this week will likely be pretty brief (although who knows!).
In today’s puzzle from Patrick Berry, we have some crunchy stacks of 4 9’s in the NW and SE and a few nice long downs. The stacks are ROAD ATLAS / I’M NOT HERE / GINGER ALE / STATIONED and STEADY JOB / HEARTSORE / MARS ROVER / EMPTY NEST. These are all pretty solid, and I thoroughly tripped myself up by putting IT’S FOR YOU instead of I’M NOT HERE in the NW for [Obviously false announcement upon hearing the phone ring], mostly because I think my parents used to say that to each other when the house phone would ring. Remember when there was no caller id? Yeah me neither. The long downs are ONION RINGS / DON’T RUSH ME / SEED PACKET / THE SHINING, all of which I love a lot. The clue on ONION RINGS is a real beauty: [Side that gets battered?].
A few more things:
- I dig this grid design. The black square distribution in the middle is pretty and 4-stacks are cool!
- Representation: ok! DON HO, SISSY Spacek, Greta/Vivien/Keira. I don’t think there’s exactly parity here, but it’s not terrible.
- THONGS – sure, yes, *shoes* that are hard to run in…!
- Favorite clue: [Rhapsodies rapidly] for GUSHES. Love me some alliterative clues (as you may have noticed in my Lollapuzzoola puzzle, if you competed!)
- I had O SIGN for [Hollywood figure?] thinking it was a figure… in the Hollywood sign… In retrospect it was not a good guess.
Overall, numerous stars from me for a clean if not overly exciting grid. Ok, well, that does it for me — back to doing nothing on my couch!
Joanne Sullivan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “From the Ground Up”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Each theme answer ends with a word describing a land feature that progressively gets bigger as we complete the puzzle.
- 17a. [Scoops of chocolate and vanilla, perhaps] DOUBLE DIP
- 23a. [Shoe popularized by Audrey Hepburn] BALLET FLAT
- 32a. [Rap on the knuckles?] FIST BUMP
- 40a. [Many a Manhattan building] HIGH RISE
- 49a. [“Doo Wop (That Thing)” singer] LAURYN HILL
- 57a. [Television bracket] WALL MOUNT
Note also the hint at 1a: GROW [Get bigger]. Starting from a dip seems odd like an odd choice, because if a dip were to GROW it would become a hole or a ravine or a valley. But if we look at it from the perspective of adding earth to make our land mass get bigger, then it works fine.
I liked the slow-burning aha moment as the theme dawned on me and as I discovered more and more theme answers (six is a lot considering they’re all in the Across direction).
And they don’t degrade the fill noticeably. In fact, considering each of the long fill answers (RIVAL GANG, WESTERNERS, ST BERNARDS, and UNFEIGNED) as well as many shorter ones, cross not one but two themers, the fill is impressive. On the shorter side, I liked seeing BONES (clued as Dr. McCoy’s nickname), LET FLY, FRITOS (right next to LAYS), GUAVA, and GERMY (my niece once had a kindergartner friend name Jeremy whom she called GERMY).
Only one clue I’ll note: 48d. [First name in comedy, talk and game shows]. ELLEN. She’s been under heavy fire lately for behaving terribly to the people working for her. So while the clue is technically right, it feels a little out of the loop.
Lastly, let me say how nice it is to see another woman’s byline (in addition to recent grids by Burnikel and Ellerin) in this venue. It’s still nowhere near parity, but it’s a start.
Solid theme, impressive fill. 3.7 stars.
MaryEllen Uthlaut’s Universal crossword, “Instrumental Roles” — pannonica’s write-up
Musical instruments as the basis for present participles.
- 17a. [Talking about constantly] HARPING ON.
- 25a. [Adjusting] FIDDLING WITH.
- 41a. [Making learn] DRUMMING INTO.
- 55a. [Piping up] CHIMING IN.
Last one feels weakest, as a singular chime is not nearly as common an instrument as the others, and also because the clue contains what could be seen as another present-participled instrument—the pipe. As such, it really looks like a fifth theme answer.
Aside from that one fault, it’s a nice Monday-easy theme to get a handle on.
- 6d [Kind of sleeve] RAGLAN. Speaking of (the) pipe(s):
- 31d [Rounded part of a hammer] PEEN. Wouldn’t that specifically be a ball peen?
- 35d [Beat excitedly] POUND. Not sure if this is a good or bad thing that it crosses DRUMMING in one of the theme answers. Actually, I’m bringing the hammer down on ‘bad thing’.
7d [Popular succulent] ALOE, 59a [Soothing agent] SALVE, 22d [Like Guy Fieri’s hair] SPIKY.
- 33d [Impala or Mustang] AUTO. Befitting a Monday, not a very tricky misdirection (if it is, in fact, an attempt at one), as the capitalization is easily spotted, and antelopes are not especially closely related to horses (though they are both ungulate mammals).
- 56d [Day break?] NAP. Cute. Remember! The first nap of the day is the most important nap of the day! 40a [Take it easy] REST.
- 21a [Cynthia Erivo had the lead one in “Harriet”] ROLE. Where did that clue come from? Feels forced. I mean, diversity and representation are good (as we advocate on the site), but this just seems heavy-handed.
- 22a [Wading birds with long bills] SNIPES. Fooled me, I put in STORKS.
- 24a [They keep their distance] SPACERS. What, like six feet?
- 41d [Get cloudier, perhaps] DARKEN.