Monday, September 14, 2020

BEQ tk (Jim Q) 


LAT 1:56 (Stella) 


NYT 3:00 (Erin) 


The New Yorker 7:40 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s review

New York Times, September 14, 2020, #0914, John Guzzetta, solution grid

Long time no see! It’s Erin Milligan-Milburn, breaking her years-long hiatus to fill in for Jenni today. Today’s theme is about someone you may ENVY, because this person HAS IT BOTH WAYS. The theme entries contain ITTI, the word IT forwards and backwards in succession:

  • 19a. [Major-league team from the Motor City] DETROIT TIGERS
  • 29a. [“Hold your horses!”] SIT TIGHT
  • 36a. [Ballot for candidates of more than one party] SPLIT TICKET
  • 44a. [Number of minutes on hold before getting a customer representative] WAIT TIME (also the time to get acquainted with the latest announcements from the doctor’s office every two minutes, or to expand your Muzak knowledge)
  • 55a. [Comes out ahead in either case … as exemplified by 19-, 29-, 36- and 44-Across?] HAS IT BOTH WAYS

The theme is interesting and easy enough for a Monday, and I like how the ITTI in each themer straddles the two words instead of being split between them in some phrases and being contained in one word in others. I feel like HAVE IT BOTH WAYS is more common, but then the constructor would be working with a 14-letter entry, which has its own problems.

Other things:

  • 50d. [Jeans brand popular in the 1980s] SASSON. I don’t remember this brand, but apparently Vidal Sassoon sued them in the late 1970s for appropriation of his name. Oops.
  • 12d. [Two-___ toilet paper] PLY. Reducing your plies might just save your plumbing, or even better, switching to the RV toilet paper that dissolves when it hits the water. I almost miss the clogged main line recurring every couple months…
  • 60a. [Sources of much spam] BOTS. There are plenty of other BOTS out there. The Transformers franchise has AutoBOTS, Rescue BOTS, and even BotBOTS, which are tiny roBOTS that fold up into food items and lots of other things. They are tiny and small children will lose them within a day, but they’re cute.

Thanks for letting me play today! Jenni should be back as scheduled next Monday.

Craig Stowe’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

LAT 9/14/20 by Craig Stowe

Los Angeles Times 9/14/20 by Craig Stowe

I think it took me longer to decipher the theme of this puzzle than it took me actually to solve the puzzle. The latter took me less than two minutes; the former definitely felt like more than that. Which is not to say that the theme was poorly executed in any way.

Let’s work backwards from the revealer at 63A [Streamlines, as a factory … or, when read as two words, what the beginnings of the answers to starred clues are], which is AUTOMATES. Split that into two words as the clue tells you to, and you get AUTO MATES. And when you go to the theme entries, the first word in each one forms a new word or phrase when the word AUTO is placed in front. So, those theme words are “auto mates”! Let’s see how that works for each theme entry:

  • 17A [*Smartphone download] is MOBILE APP. Pop the word AUTO before the first word and you get AUTOMOBILE. Vroom vroom!
  • 25A [*Sheet for plotting] is GRAPH PAPER. Adding AUTO gets you AUTOGRAPH. Do kids these days ask celebrities for autographs any more, or is a selfie what you do? I’m asking. I’m old.
  • 39A [*Mr. Lube service jobs] is TUNE-UPS. Pop AUTO in front and you get AUTOTUNE, the audio processor that makes Cher sound like she does on “Believe.” Also, “Mr. Lube service jobs.” Heh-heh, Beavis.
  • 50A [*Sample set of buyers used in market research] is a FOCUS GROUP. Add AUTO and you get AUTO-FOCUS, which used to be a nice extra on a camera and now something you don’t even think about with your smartphone camera.

The fill is fine; the only word I really couldn’t stand was DERAT. Could’ve done with at least one more word clued in a woman-friendly way. How about Linda who played Krystle Carrington on Dynasty, or Mary Ann aka George Eliot for EVANS instead of [Chris of “The Avengers” (2012)]?

Alex Rosen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Last Shall Be First”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Well-known two-word phrases whose second words start with the same three letters that end the first words.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “The Last Shall Be First” · Alex Rosen · Mon., 9.14.20

  • 17a. [Steakhouse patrons] MEAT EATERS
  • 25a. [Geeky side] INNER NERD
  • 38a. [Bubble baths and hot cocoa, say] SIMPLE PLEASURES
  • 49a. [It’s not long-distance] LOCAL CALL
  • 61a. [Turn up with the tide] WASH ASHORE

I didn’t catch on to the theme until after I finished, but that’s partly an indication of how smooth the grid is. I found the theme to be subtle yet elegant and perfectly accessible for a Monday.

In the fill, GRAVEYARD and SMOOCHING make for an interesting, but slightly disturbing pairing. OLD HAT is fun though we just saw it yesterday in the NYT. My INNER NERD is also partial to the TARDIS, SCI-FI, and EMPATH, which evokes the Star Trek character of Troi, who shows up in crosswords from time to time.

Red Four yelling “I’M HIT!”

Continuing the geeky fun, my fave clue has got to be [Last words of pilot Red Four in “Star Wars”] for “I’M HIT!”. Luke Skywalker was, of course, Red Five (“Red Five, standing by”), but I’m not enough of a Star Wars geek to know that Red Four was a character by the name of John D. Branon, not one of Luke’s friends, Biggs or Wedge. Let’s just say that Red Four didn’t last very long at the Battle of Yavin.

Needless to say, I enjoyed this grid. The theme is simple but still provided a nice, little aha moment, and the fill is colorful, especially if you’re a little on the geeky side. 3.7 stars.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword  – Rachel’s writeup

Hellooooo fienders. This morning we have the challenging Monday New Yorker puzzle from Elizabeth C. Gorski that was not particularly challenging for me, thought YMMV. I liked a lot of the long entries, although the fill in some places was not entirely up to the standard that I know this constructor is capable of! It did feel great to crush this puzzle, so I am willing to accept the tradeoff of fill-for-energetic-solving-experience, with the exception of one crossing that I had to run the alphabet on. Let’s dig in!

The New Yorker crossword solution • Elizabeth C. Gorski • Monday, September 14, 2020

The long entries were mostly in 10-letter stacks in the NW and SE. I looooved the clue/entry combo on 1A: [An honest, moral individual] for GOOD PEOPLE. The clue went out of its way to clarify that it’s talking about one person, so we can’t miss that that is the colloquial use of GOOD PEOPLE where you refer to a single upstanding individual (as in, “You can trust her, she’s GOOD PEOPLE“). A+ for effort and execution on that fun pairing. Other long stuff included: ADMIRATION / PEACE SIGNS / PARAGRAPHS / PROCREATED / YANKEE CAPS / SUSAN SARANDON / I DIDN’T SAY THAT / RUSSIAN BEAR / MEDICINE HAT. I DIDN’T SAY THAT [“You’re misquoting me …”]  is probably my other favorite of these long entries. Although I knew RUSSIAN BEAR from previously including MISHA in a puzzle myself,  the entry may feel arbitrary to some solvers. Wikipedia tells me that RUSSIAN BEAR is a thing in itself though, sort of like saying American eagle (not the clothing store).

My main gripe with this puzzle has to do with some of the short fill, which is a little patchy. SASE is my least-favorite piece of fill, maybe of all time, so I always wince a little when I see it. There were also some inelegant partials in here, including IN A / ES SU / TRA LA (is that really a thing?). Other Fill I Could Live Without includes HEP (which, in 2020, you really only see in crosswords) / ESTD / O LOST / IDEM. This last one was my personal crossing downfall; I had no idea what letter to put at the end at the crossing with -AILLOTS. Turns out it was an M!

A few more things:

  • I lol’d at TOOTER because I’m a child
  • Representation: Pretty good! I didn’t know MEDICINE HAT was a city and I think that’s a great entry and bit of Canadian geography trivia. I also appreciate when APU is clued in reference to the documentary about APU being problematic.
  • I appreciated the crossing of ITCH and WITCH
  • Favorite clue: Homecoming king? for ODYSSEUS. Nostos!

Overall, plenty of stars for me, with minor deductions for occasionally less-than-satisfying fill.

David Alfred Bywaters’ Universal crossword, “Glide-Rs” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/14/20 • Mon • Bywaters • “Glide-Rs” • solution • 20200914

Presumably due to technical limitations, this crossword’s theme needs to be explained in a cumbersome way, parenthetically in the first theme clue.

  • 17a. [*Light-haired person who acts hastily? (note how the starred answers’ added letters progress in the grid)] RASH BLONDE (ash blonde).

§ I’ve taken the liberty of circling the appropriate squares §

  • 23a. [*Cloth used while chopping onions?] TEAR TOWEL (tea towel).
  • 33a. [*Brewery queue?] BEER LINE (beeline).
  • 43a. [*Golfer’s club-wrecking fury?] IRON RAGE (Iron Age).
  • 55a. [*Gutter accumulation?] ROOF DRECK (roof deck).
  • 62a. [*Modest dockside platform?] HUMBLE PIER (humble pie).

The inserted Rs ‘glide’ three squares across (and two down) between each pair of themers. It’s a quirky little theme, yet still suitable for a Monday.

    • Appreciated the symmetrically-and-thematically paired 13d [Places for scrubs, briefly] ORS and 61d [Place for a scrub] SPA.
    • 4a [Entree measured by how many eggs it has] OMELET. Haven’t seen this clue before, and it works well.
    • To finish, I was reluctant to fill in RETIED for 50d [Tightened, as a knot] because I got my wires crossed and thought tied was in the clue—which it is, if you discount the GHTEN of tightened. Anyway, I was marvelling and the twists and tricks that our minds can play on us at the time. But now as I survey the crossword, I realize it was probably a different trick that my mind was playing on me: 58a is [Tie tightly] TRUSS, and no doubt the two words in that clue remained in my consciousness long enough to be evoked when I encountered 50-down. Also, “tut-tut”.
    • 60a [Nancy’s aunt in the comics] FRITZI. Turns out that the strip was originally named after her, but as her niece grew in popularity the focus shifted. Back in the Ern ie Bushmiller days FRITZI Ritz was depicted with your standard pinup features. The character was eventually phased out in the 1980s but reintroduced in 1995 when the Gilchrist brothers took over the strip. Currently, as drawn by the wonderful Olivia Jaimes, FRITZI is Nancy’s full-time caregiver and is rendered in an overall more realistic (read: down-to-earth) fashion.
    • I thought the 2×8 vertical stacks of MONA LISA | MANDARIN and PRETTIER | REPARTEE were quite good, and I like how each pair echoes a lot of the same letters. (11d, 12d, 38d, 39d)
    • 1a [“Exit full screen” key] ESC. And now it’s time for me to make my own escape.
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11 Responses to Monday, September 14, 2020

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Wow, I had no idea.
    I admit to doing this in a hurry after a long day. I solved it, saw PISTONS and SPLIT TICKETS and thought they go both directions… And didn’t bother to think about the rest…
    Oh, well. I’ll try to turn my brain on tomorrow. Now that I see it, it’s a cute Monday theme.

  2. pseudonym says:

    Can someone ask Stan about his Hard Crossword? Pretty clear now that low level themers have replaced the hard themelesses. Thanks.

    • Crotchety Doug says:

      They used to be equally as hard as the Stumpers. Maybe a tad easier now (I’m only up to August 13th, as I’ve busy with seasonal chores lately, which demand to be done.) But I’m still glad to have them to add to my weekly x-word rounds. They’re all high-quality puzzles, 4-star or better, IMO. I hope as I get my next set of them I’m not disappointed.

      • marciem says:

        Starting at least at Sept. 1 (as far back as I can go on the on-line site) there was more ease, and there is a theme to that one, and most of the ones since (sometimes I don’t catch the theme or look for it, I’m used to those being themeless).
        The dialog there says in part “Each of Stan’s Hard Crosswords have a tricky theme, few easy clues, lots of subtle wordplay and misdirection, and require a broad range of general knowledge. So don’t say we didn’t warn you — these are some seriously hard free online crosswords! Good luck!”

        I’ve found them easier since that date noted above.

  3. axl says:

    There’s a whole list of the last words spoken by Star Wars characters.

  4. Alan D. says:

    BEQ is super-smooth for a 62-worder. Even an X away from being a pangram.

  5. M483 says:

    Universal: The r in theme answer 33a “beerline” to the r in 43a “ironrage” appears to be only 2 across and 2 down instead of 3 across.

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