Monday, August 31, 2020

BEQ tk (Jim Q) 


LAT 2:19 (Stella) 


NYT 2:52 (Jenni) 


The New Yorker 16:24 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


WSJ 4:50 (Jim P) 


Anne Marie Crinnion’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review

I wonder how this puzzle will go over with true Monday solvers and newbies. The puzzle itself is smooth and straightforward, perfectly pitched for a Monday. The theme took me a little bit to figure out even with the revealer. Just me?

The theme answers don’t immediately appear to have anything in common.

New York Times, August 31, 2020, #0831, Anne Marie Crinnion, solution grid

  • 18a [Traveled in the front passenger seat] is RODE SHOTGUN.
  • 28a [Captain of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics teams] is ALY RAISMAN. Aly also spoke out about Larry Nassar and has been a powerful voice for change in the sport.
  • 50a [Main ingredient in a protein shake, maybe] is WHEY POWDER.

This collection seemed so random that I looked at the long downs, wondering if they were part of the theme. Nope. The revealer is down at 64a: [What you might do to pass on an Interstate … or a phonetic hint to the starts of 18-, 28- and 50-Across], CHANGE LANES. I started at that for a while until I realized that the first word of each theme answer is a homonym for something you drive on: ROAD, ALLEY, WAY. Aha! I enjoyed this, and I do wonder how it landed for less experienced solvers.

On our way out to dinner to celebrate David’s release from quarantine after his trip to CA, so I’ll skip to “what I didn’t know before I did this puzzle.” I had no idea that UCLA used to have a live bear on the field during football games.

Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

LA Times 8/31/20 by Jerome Gunderson

LA Times 8/31/20 by Jerome Gunderson

Two Mondays in a row for Jerome Gunderson. This time, the puzzle is full of…fillers! Speech fillers, that is.

The final theme entry at 66-Across, WHERE WAS I, is clued as “Lost-one’s-place words often preceded by the two-letter start of 17-, 29-, and 49-Across.” I think a lot of the awkwardness in the phrasing of that could have been avoided by putting circles in the thematic squares. At any rate, the theme is executed as follows:

  • 17A [Rental vehicles for self-moving] is U-HAUL VANS. The first two letters of that entry are the speech filler UH.
  • 29A [Designed for comfort and efficiency] is ERGONOMIC, the first two letters of which are another speech filler, ER.
  • And lest this not be enough speechifying hesitation for you, we’ve got UM as the first two letters of 49A, UMBRELLAS [Rainy day protectors].

I wish there were one more theme entry, given that the thematic portion of each theme entry is so short, but I’m not sure what that would be. The fill is mostly fine, although I’m not crazy about BOSCO (9A) and XKES (73A) — seems like one less-common brand name too many in a Monday puzzle.

Anthony Romeo’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ballpark Figures”—Jim P’s review

Good title today, which isn’t intended to mean “estimates” but to identify individuals involved in a baseball game.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Ballpark Figures” · Anthony Romeo · Mon., 8.31.20

  • 17a. [Baker’s bowlful] CAKE BATTER
  • 29a. [Waitstaff’s refilling aid] WATER PITCHER
  • 48a. [Willow hoop with beads and feathers] DREAM CATCHER. This is the Native American (originally Ojibwe) device which is hung above the cradle or bed of a child to catch all the bad things floating about (such as bad dreams) and protect the child.
  • 62a. [Long-distance bus] MOTOR COACH

Simple theme, but consistent and well-executed.

Four theme answers of 10-, 12-, 12-, and 10-letters in length means there’s plenty of room for the grid to breathe. Thus we’re treated to strong fill like TAKE STOCK, HAPHAZARD, “LET ME IN!”, ICE COLD, CREVICE, VASSALS, SAMURAI, and TAPIOCA. I also like the ANDEAN and NEPALI near one another.

Apparently this is a debut, and that’s a lot of good fill to be proud of. However, I could’ve done without crosswordese EERO at 25d, especially when it could easily have been HERO by changing SEE to SHE. I also wouldn’t have minded 52a PIE becoming PPE by changing AMI to AMP at 45d.

But those are little things. For the most part, this was an enjoyable grid with a simple but effective theme.

Clues of note:

  • 50a. [In the altogether]. BARE. I’m not familiar with this phrasing. Is it just me?
  • 32d. [Amazon Prime series based on a Saoirse Ronan movie]. HANNA. I don’t know the series or the movie, but I do like saying “Saoirse” which is pronounced “sur-sha.”

Good Monday grid. 3.6 stars.

Of course, we can’t have TAPIOCA in a grid without revisiting the classic Whose Line moment when Colin broke Ryan with that word.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal crossword, “I Rule” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 8/31/20 • Mon • Burnikel • “I Rule” • solution • 20200831

Smooth Monday from ZB. Theme is straightforward; the answers begin with a type of ruler.

  • 17a. [“Happy Feet” subjects] EMPEROR PENGUINS.
  • 27a. [OWN series with an all-female director team] QUEEN SUGAR. (See below for Cibo Matto’s “Sugar Water” which I mentioned the other day when the subject of one-shot music videos came up.)
  • 50a. [Crusty sandwich bread] KAISER ROLL.
  • 62a. [Linens for a big mattress] KING SIZE BEDDING.

Here’s Bessie Smith—’The Empress of the Blues’—singing “Empty Bed Blues”:

  • For the longdowns we have 3d [Creates an email response fiasco, perhaps] for REPLIES ALL, augmented by the nearby 1d [Kept in the email loop] CCED, and 31d [Ownership disclaimer] IT’S NOT MINE. confirmed: Internet has plenty of hits for “snot mine” (none linked here, you’re welcome).
  • 34a [“I wish I could ___ that”] UNSEE.

Really not much that I’m finding notable among the ballast fill. It’s all just nondescript good fill with Monday-friendly cluing. It’s a very solid crossword.

Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

There’s a lot to like in this puzzle, and a few things I did not particularly like, but on balance, I’d say this was a good and definitely challenging start to the New Yorker week.

The New Yorker crossword solution • Anna Shechtman • Monday, August 31, 2020

The long entries in this puzzle were the definite highlights: SPINDERELLA / FAST FASHION / WIGSTOCK / FRITO PIE / LASER TAG / EMIRATES / DATA DUMP / SCHLUBBY. Excellent entries across the board, and a particularly strong WIGSTOCK, which is just super fun and fresh.

The solve itself played really hard for me today, and most of my trouble came in the NE corner. I can never remember how to spell SHERATON and had about five different iterations of SHERIDAN SHERADIN SHERADON before I landed it. TELO is not great, and OLAN was unfamiliar to me (but sounds delicious and is definitely going into my wordlist), and ESCROWEE is downright terrible, so I just couldn’t get a foothold in there. I also was disappointed to see DEAF TO in that corner; even as part of an MLK quote, there’s no denying that DEAF TO is ableist language that uses a term related to a disability as a negative. I’m working on removing terms like this from my own vocabulary, so I am probably particularly sensitive to them right now. Also, I’m not sure about including LORD NELSON in the puzzle, even with a clue that calls out his defense of the slave trade. At ten letters long, it takes up a lot of real estate, which kind of feels like putting a monument to LORD NELSON into the crossword puzzle!

That corner aside, there was a lot of other fun stuff in this puzzle. I loved BEER SNOB and its clue [One really into I.P.A.s, say], and the UMA / PALTROW stack and matching clues was super cute (although see below re: representation). I as also delighted to learn about the CIA‘s role in promoting modern art.

A few more things:

  • A LOT TO DO felt a little arbitrary as a phrase
  • Fill I could live without: EMB / WFL / TELO / STE 
  • Representation: Not the best we’ve seen recently! DEAF TO and LORD NELSON aside, we also have several more white men (ADOLF Loos / a few JESUITs, the actresses UMA and PALTROW clued in terms of their male beaus). I liked learning about ETHEL Waters from this grid, and Erykah BADU is awesome, but I think the New Yorker can do more.

Overall, this was a challenging puzzle to kick off the week that I mostly enjoyed, but it had a few features that turned me off a bit. Several stars for the fun long entries!

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31 Responses to Monday, August 31, 2020

  1. Bryan says:

    NYT: That S at the cross of YSER and ALYRAISMAN was the very last square to fall for me. A Natick. Two proper nouns crossing, and I didn’t know either. But I reached deep into my cruciverbal brain and thankfully pulled out the crosswordese YSER River, and now I can sleep soundly. Clever theme overall, and it took me a second to figure out the homonyms, but I enjoyed the “aha moment” when I did. I also like the way MERGE literally merged two of the theme answers together. Congrats on your debut, Anne.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Aly Raisman has five Olympic medals, including two golds. She was one of the best gymnasts in the world for eight years and retired six months ago. She also was in the mainstream news at the time of Larry Nassar’s conviction. I think “famous around thw world” is a reasonable standard for inclusion in a crossword.

      • Bryan says:

        I wasn’t saying that Aly Raisman shouldn’t have been included, just simply that her name wasn’t at the front of my brain. Those are two totally different things. Clearly, she’s quite worthy of being in the grid. I’m definitely *not* one of those solvers who thinks that because I don’t know something, it shouldn’t be in the grid. Quite the contrary actually. One of the many things I love about solving crosswords is learning things I don’t know, or being reminded of things I knew but forgot. :-)

      • David L says:

        Even so, I think that was a poor cross for a Monday crossword. Not everyone follows gymnastics, just as not everyone is a fan of Belgian rivers.

        • Gary R says:

          I understand that Monday puzzles are supposed to be accessible to “beginners,” but do we really suppose that beginners are so fragile they can’t cope with an occasional difficult crossing?

          As mentioned above, Aly Raisman is pretty well-known, for good reason. The Yser is crosswordese, but also significant in WWI history. Should a beginner who is stumped by this crossing stomp his/her feet, shout “this is so unfair!” and never attempt another crossword? Or maybe say “huh – maybe there are things I don’t know, but should.”

  2. Lise says:

    WSJ: My mother, the Queen of Euphemisms, used “In the altogether” because she could not bring herself to say anything like “naked”. Or “bare”. I haven’t heard the expression from anyone else.

    It’s just so amusing that I may start a resurgence.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: The theme is clever but the puzzle is misplaced. I don’t think this is a Monday puzzle. Somewhat tougher cluing in a few places would easily move it to Tuesday or even Wednesday.
    I never know how to rate when this happens. A misplaced puzzle clearly affects my experience, but if the decision was made by the NYT, it feels unfair to the constructor…I hope the constructor sees the ratings as a way of giving feedback to the whole system.

  4. Anne says:

    NYT: What is a “true Monday solver”? I ask this earnestly.

    I’ve been doing these puzzles for nearly four years. Today was faster than my usual Monday, even though RODE SHOTGUN is not said here although I have read it, and I didn’t know ALY RAISMAN but the crossings were good to me.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      To me, a “true Monday solver” is someone who consistently solves Mondays and Tuesdays and finds the rest of the week very challenging. Some of those folks are new to crosswords and end up solving Saturdays. A lot stick with the Mondays and Tuesdays. I’m thinking specifically of my father-in-law and his partner, who would probably have finished the puzzle (they’d know YSER even if they forgot how to spell ALY) and would not have sussed the theme. In fact, I can tell you with certainty that they didn’t do this puzzle (yet) because I haven’t had an Email asking me to explain the theme.

      • Zulema says:

        Me, old experienced solver of end of the week puzzles, had no problem with today’s NYT but did NOT suss out the theme. Came here for that.

      • Anne says:

        Thanks Jenni and Zulema. Sometimes I come here to discover the theme, but I got it today. When I saw ALY RAISMAN appear from the crossings (I did know YSER) I realized that I had indeed heard of her.

  5. Billy Boy says:

    I inadvertently gave NYT too high a rating, I’ll just going to live with it.

  6. Karen says:

    BEQ: Great puzzle as always from Brendan. One nit: 37D – the plural of MADAME is MESDAMES. It would be nice to see the Monday BEQ blogged and no, I am not qualified to volunteer to do it!

  7. Seven says:

    BEQ: 16A “Worthy of a slap” RUDE

    No, just no.

    Does it even need to be explained why this is not good?

  8. Mutman says:

    NYT: I have no idea why ‘change lanes’ is synonymous with homophones.

    • Rob S says:

      I was also baffled. First time in a long while (maybe ever) that I completed a Monday puzzle without having the foggiest notion of the nature of the theme.

      • Huda says:

        I think it just literally says to take the meaning of “lane” as a type of path, and change it to another way of saying path– road, alley, way… (and do it phonetically, don’t worry about spelling).

      • John says:

        You’re CHANGING way to WHEY, road to RODE, and alley to ALY. That’s all it is.

  9. Alan D. says:

    Anyone else having trouble with the Tuesday WSJ? Is it a glitch or has it finally gone subscription service only?

    • Kent says:

      I had the same experience. Apparently they now want you to subscribe to WSJ just to have the puzzle. Maddening! Looks like that’s another I will have to do without. This trend is most annoying. Try to contact them about the problem and they will still demand that you subscribe. Hell, I am retired!

      • Alan D. says:

        I always had heard that they were planning to go with a subscription but I assumed there would be some kind of warning. I wonder if this is catching Crossword Fiend off-guard?

    • Gary R says:

      No problem accessing today’s WSJ in AcrossLite format. Is tomorrow’s puzzle supposed to be available already?

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Earlier this afternoon I wasn’t able to get to the Tuesday puzzle on the WSJ site, but now I can, although they changed the format and you can only see one clue at a time. I would advise just sticking with the AcrossLite link on the Today’s Puzzles page here on Fiend.

  10. Kent says:

    Printing problem SOLVED. When the puzzle itself ccame up I clicked on the SETTINGS icon that looks like a cogged wheel on the extreme right. I found a nice word: PRINT. I hit is and up came the printable puzzle like it was before all this nonsense. I suspect someone at the WSJ might have contracted COVID-19.

    This worked for me, but I still don’t uncerstand why we have to go through so many hoops.

  11. Billy Boy says:

    So little comment on NYer (nil) I can’t say I was much of a fan, but it kilt some time

    BEER SNOB? I am a beer snob, I won’t touch an IPA, they are too hoppy and make one thirsty rather than refresh. Japanese Beers are about all I truly like. I am a wine snob. A beer snob drinking IPA is akin to drinking wine fruit-bombs or tannin-bombs (Christmas trees [ouch] instead of real wine, more a beginner’s out of balance palate rather than an experienced one.

    But as I developed for novices, while helping a wine distributor friend of mine pour soooo many times, there are only three categories of wines
    1-I will drink that
    2-I will NOT drink that
    3-I will drink that, but someone else must pay for it

    and on the northern front ….


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