David Alfred Bywater’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
The theme answers all have the prefix “ex” and are defined literally. Sort of.
- 17a [Stress between you and your former lover?] is EXTENSION.
- 26a [Thing your former lover said about you?] is EXCLAIM.
- 41a [Former lover’s text, e.g.?] is EXCOMMUNICATION
- Thanks to Anne for pointing out that I missed 51a [Former lovers’ stances in photos?]: EXPOSES.
- 66a [Current lover who seems suspiciously preoccupied?] is EXPENDING. I guess this means your current lover is about to be your ex – as in PENDING EX?
That last one seems a bit opaque, although it was easy enough to get the answer. I enjoyed the theme – don’t remember seeing anything like it recently and it’s accessible for a Monday (mostly).
A few other things:
- I put TO IT for 6d, [Hop ___ (get to work)]. The answer is ON IT. Google Ngram viewer agrees with me.
- 11d [Like “Yeah, that’ll ever happen”] is SARCASTIC. Emma’s first year in college at San Diego State, she said “My friends don’t understand me. They think I’m SO sarcastic. I’m like, ‘You should meet my MOTHER.’ “
- 13d [End of a lunch hour, maybe] is ONE PM. How quaint. A lunch hour. I remember lunch. I mean, I still eat lunch most days, but I don’t have an hour and I don’t go anywhere so it just kind of blends in to the rest of the day.
- 34d is our daily “English is weird” clue. [It can chop a tree down … and then chop a tree up] is an AXE.
- I don’t think you need to be a chef to use an apple CORER. I figure real chefs use sharp knives for that; it’s amateurs like me who use CORERs.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: this probably is more of “I forgot” than “I didn’t know,” because I’ve read “The Tempest” so at some point I’m sure I was aware that ANTONIO was the villain.
Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
This theme is for the birds! No, really. The central answer, 38A, AVIAN, is clued as “Bird-related…four of them have landed at the ends of the answers to starred clues”. Said starred clues are:
- 17A LEAD BALLOON [A total failure goes over like” one], which has LOON at its end.
- 57A BEST WESTERN [Hotel chain with a geographical name], which features a TERN.
- 3D HOLY GRAIL [Last Supper cup]; the bird is a RAIL.
- 34D MONK’S COWL [Monastic hood], with an OWL.
Sorry…not my favorite. First of all, I think the theme would have been improved mightily with circles in the squares that contain birds’ names, especially since in the Down theme entries the birds don’t hit at syllabic breaks. Don’t make us work that hard on Monday, y’all. I also had to look up what a RAIL was in its bird context; I think HMS BEAGLE, with EAGLE as the bird, would have been a better pairing…
…for MONK’S COWL, which frankly feels contrived. (Google it as a phrase and you get 35,500 hits, which is not a huge number.) Any number of more natural-sounding BOWL phrases spring to mind instead (PEACH BOWL, PUNCH BOWL, BREAD BOWL).
The fill is pretty decent, although I could do without HHH sitting on top of OOO at 1A/13A. I did enjoy the Hitch reference at 45D.
Mark Danna’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Relax!”—Jim P’s review
It’s been 4.5 years since I last saw a puzzle from Mark Danna, Mike Shenk’s assistant at the WSJ. He puts together a clean puzzle, so let’s see what he’s got in store for us this time.
The revealer at 57a is TAKE A SEAT [Relax, and what the starts of the starred answers can do]. Each of the first words in the other theme entries can precede the word “seat.” I actually smiled when I caught on because I thought it was a great use of this phrase.
- 15a. [*Marriage of mutual affection] LOVE MATCH. Loveseat.
- 28a. [*Browse but not buy] WINDOW SHOP. Window seat.
- 40a. [*Mattress supports] BOX SPRINGS. Box seat.
- 14d. [*Abandon a sinking enterprise] JUMP SHIP. Jump seat.
- 31d. [*Donna Summer #1 hit] HOT STUFF. Hot seat.
Nice and breezy, eh? Clean entries and a theme that gave me a pleasant little aha moment. I’ll take it.
In the fill, I like the looks of ASININE, TIRADE, and AESTHETE. But I really liked “I CAN’T WIN” [Complaint from a sad sack] because that was me today. It began when my car wouldn’t start. When I finally got it jumped, I drove it around for half an hour, and then it decided to conk out on a busy freeway. Got towed and a new battery, but it looks like I’ll need a new alternator too. Sigh. Then other not fun stuff happened today, but I won’t go into that.
I also like the look of DIONNE and MARISA taking center stage in the grid. My oldest daughter shares a name with one of these ladies. Which one? Let’s just say that I enjoyed the heck out of My Cousin Vinny.
Partials aren’t great, but if you have to have them, clue them in fun ways if possible, like [“___ a stinker?” (Bugs Bunny catchphrase)] for AINT I and [“Not ___ out of you!” (“Keep quiet!”)] for A PEEP.
Other clues were Monday straight which allowed me to finish in a speedy time (for me). All in all, this was a quick, but pleasant theme and grid. 3.8 stars.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
This is so pretty! Just a lovely grid design propping up this puzzle from Natan Last, which is full of the interesting, trivia-heavy entries and clues that have definitely come to represent Natan’s themeless brand. I always enjoy this style of puzzle, which earns its difficulty stripes more from the deep cultural knowledge-base it requires than from particularly challenging wordplay, although I had a favorite wordplay clue that I will flag.
Some of the long entries required cultural trivia knowledge (or taught it to you via fair crosses), like JOHN ASHBERY, SARAH CONNOR, and THE CHOSEN. Other long entries, like URSA MINOR / GREEN SCREEN, were more general knowledge, while I was completely thrown for a loop by the sports-trivia of FOUR SEAMERS (see what I did there?). Other sports entries included perpetual crossword golfer LORENA Ochoa, more commonly clued for her last name, and LUIS Aparicio. Other proper names that may have upped the difficulty for some solvers include HARI NEF, Pio BAROJA, NED Stark, GERI Halliwell, and GIL Gunderson.
A few more things:
- I enjoyed the pairing of OLD MAN / AVON LADY
- Favorite clue: [Onscreen pointer, maybe] for STUNT DOG
- I’ve never seen LATINE, and put in LATINX because I didn’t read the clue very closely
- The very idea of NORMCORE cracks me up. What even is “regular-looking clothing”??
- Representation: Good! Looking back up at that list of proper nouns, we’ve got a wide range of identities represented, balanced against BUSH ERA/MCCAIN (which were kind of weird to see in a Natan Last puzzle, although BUSH was clued for his unjust war)
- I stumbled at HARI NEF, despite knowing full well who she is, because the clue said “actor” instead of “actress” — I’m assuming this is a “not using gendered words when a gender-neutral word exists” thing, but for a trans actress, I feel like using the gendered term might be preferable? Happy to be corrected about this if Hari has expressed a preference for being called an actor, but I couldn’t find that with a cursory google search, but did find a New Yorker article that used “actress” and a couple of interviews in which she referred to herself as such
- Lol’d at [“That’s hurtful!”] for RUDE. (Which of course has a period after it, even if there’s no way to enter that into the grid)
Overall, this was a fun solve! Good fill all the way through, unique and aesthetically pleasing grid design, and fun trivia. Lots of stars from me!
Evan Kalish’s Universal crossword, “Say Cheese!” — pannonica’s write-up
This is a neat theme. Existing phrases are reimagined as cheese-related, each exemplified by a variety and its associated shape (format?). Or at least a shape that’s often associated with that cheese type.
- 17a. [Place to store brie?] WHEELHOUSE.
- 29a. [Gathering with lots of cheddar?] BLOCK PARTY.
- 44a. [Gouda concern?] WEDGE ISSUE.
- 61a. [Incredibly spicy mozzarella purchase?] BALL OF FIRE. Of course mozzarella is characterized by a mellow and subtle flavor, but we’re not exactly dealing with reality here anyway.
So yes, this theme gave me a little smile.
Just to give you a peek behind the curtain, for musical accompaniment I figured I’d choose a track by the String Cheese Incident, and found an appropriate title in “Wake Up” (32d [Awaken] ROUSE) from what is considered their best studio album. Alas, I didn’t care for it and found “Just Passin’ Through” to be much more interesting though still not great.
Good news is that—to me, at least—it’s reminiscent of a much better song:
- Atmospherics! 6a [Slightly wet] DAMP, 51a [Light rain] SPRINKLE, 52d [More than rain] POUR.
- 23a [Inner planet that’s farthest from the sun] MARS. The inner planets being the ones residing inside the asteroid belt and the gas giants beyond.
- 66d [Predator’s quarry] PREY. >sigh< They did this, really?
- 4d [They think big] DREAMERS. But it’s ok to have modest dreams too.
- 39d [Smelly, shield-shaped pest] STINK BUG. Indeed, it’s a type of shield bug. Happy to say that the STINK BUG levels have been low the past few years, at least in my 16a [Region] AREA.
- You mightn’t immediately think HISSY FIT and DREAMERS have the same number of letters but they do, as seen by their symmetrical pairing here. Good longdowns. (4d, 40d)
Nice, solid Monday offering. Also semi-soft and soft. But not hard. Except for the cheddar. You know, I deeply regret going down this route. Ay.