Joe Hansen’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
This took me a lot longer than an average NYT. Not sure if that’s me or the puzzle. It’s been a busy weekend and I feel a bit fuzzier than usual.
There are four sets of circles, all of which look like the kind of doodles I drew when I was bored in school. There’s a circle of letters around a black square with a stem below: VIOLET, DAHLIA, AZALEA, and ORCHID.
There are two revealer answers: 5d [With 50-Down, place that this puzzle grid represents]: FLOWER GARDEN. It’s a charming theme with so many constraints that the fill suffers a bit. I could have done without ENV, ETD, ACIDY, and AGRI. Is LIA Fáil obscure? I’ve never heard of it.
A few other things:
- I did like the long downs: SERVE TIME, NOSE RINGS, BALD EAGLE, and CRITICISM.
- I also enjoyed the juxtaposition of TOLD YA and TONGA. I’m weird.,
- 29a [Like movies with considerable sex or violence] is RATED R. Seems to me that it takes way more violence than sex to earn an R, which is precisely backwards. I was much more comfortable with my kid being exposed to sexual situations than to any kind of violence. But then, as I said, I’m weird.
- I have never heard anyone call an AMINO acid just AMINO. Never.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that NIVEA was first sold in 1911.
Bruce Venzke & Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Those of you who pay attention to my times will notice that this puzzle took me 25 seconds longer than last week’s Monday. Which doesn’t seem like very much time, but in fact it’s close to 25% longer than the 1:45 I took last week, and I’m wondering whether non-speed solvers noticed a similar uptick in how difficult this puzzle felt relative to other Mondays.
This felt like more moderate-to-hard fill than one expects on Monday, and most especially in that northwest corner, which is where people often like to get started (certainly I rarely have trouble making my way systematically down from the top on a Monday). But here, in that area, we have the brand name AZERA at 1A, crossing ZERO G (not with the easiest clue, I’d argue) at 2D and EDUCE at 3D. And right below AZERA is MEDOC at 14A, which although clued with a hint (“French red wine with a physician in its spelling”) is, I would argue, too hard for Monday unless surrounded by unequivocally easy fill, which it isn’t.
So, when you work your way through this harder-than-a-normal-Monday puzzle, what theme do you get as your reward? Some handyperson stuff for your TOOLBOX at 39A [“Carpenter’s accessory that might hold the ends of the answers to starred clues”]: The final word in each theme entry is a repair tool.
- 17A [*Party drink in a bowl] is FRUIT PUNCH
- 62A [*Software help text] is a READ ME FILE
- 11D [*School evacuation exercise] is a FIRE DRILL
- 32D [*Pre-WWII aircraft used for postal deliveries] is a MAIL PLANE
On the plus side, it’s cool that the tool in each theme entry appears in a completely different sense of the word. On the minus side, the entries feel a bit musty to me, especially a prewar airplane and fruit punch, which seems to have been replaced by trendier stuff like hard seltzer and kombucha. I would’ve loved to see MC HAMMER enter the mix (yeah, yeah, I know, “U Can’t Touch This” also came out 30 years ago).
Kameron Austin Collins’ New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Gooood morning! Today we have a challenging offering from Kameron Austin Collins that I very much enjoyed! The grid design is cool, the long entries are solid, and the cluing is A+. Let’s take a look:
First of all, this grid! It’s cool and different, orienting the staircase vertically and segmenting the corners and center apart from each other, leading to a nice 5-mini-puzzles-in-one feel. The staircase entries are FEMINIST PORN / WE ARE NOT ALONE / CHESTNUT TREE, 2/3 of which are super fun and fresh, and 1/3 of which (CHESTNUT TREE), while not exactly groundbreakingly exciting, holds the other two together and is completely passable on its own. That all three are crossing TIG NOTARO, one of my favorite comedians, makes this section of the grid my absolute favorite. Second up for me is the NW corner, with fabulous clue/entry pairs on KISS CAM [It displays a public display] and SETTLE [Get meh-rried?]. I’ve never heard “meh-rried” before, and when I got the entry I laughed out loud.
A few more things:
- Other clues worthy of highlighting:
- [Left out words?] for “WHY NOT ME?”
- [“___ is not a caravan of despair”: Rumi] for OURS
- Representation: TIG NOTARO, INUIT, FEMINIST PORN, Bob Marley, Confederate and otherwise racist STATUES being taken down, several more women… yeah, I’d say this crushes it on the representation front.
- Odd clue on ASL, IMO [Brief request for demographic info, in old chat-room lingo]
Overall, I really enjoyed solving this puzzle! Lots of stars from me. Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day, everyone.
Lynn Lempel’s Universal crossword, “Where It’s At” — pannonica’s write-up
Gentle theme for a Monday, one that we’ve probably seen multiple times before (or it least it feels that way).
- 38dR [City center, and a hint to what can follow the ends of the starred answers] DOWNTOWN. Accordingly, those theme answers are among the down entries.
- 3d. [*Succotash legume] LIMA BEAN (Beantown). Of course, Lima is also a town – but that isn’t our focus here.
- 32d. [*It’s beyond criticism] SACRED COW (cow town).
- 14d. [*Casper, in classic comics] FRIENDLY GHOST.
- 8d. [*Fine white porcelain] BONE CHINA (Chinatown).
Well-constructed and -executed theme.
Also, so many possibilities for associated musical selections. Something from the Hot Club of Cowtown? A version of “Chinatown, My Chinatown“? One of the many, many great ‘downtown’ songs?? None of those, because as you probably know I tend toward the obscure.
Let’s a have a spin around the rest of the grid.
- 9a [Oval-leafed tree] ELM. Roughly speaking, yes.
- 35a [Noted sleigh rider] SANTA, 21a [North Pole workers] ELVES.
- 54a [Word heard within “name”] NÉE. I can’t be the only one who went with the seemingly more obvious AIM, right?
- 60a [Giant who hit 511 home runs] full name MEL OTT, 66a [Giant achievements, for short?] TDS.
- 68a [Saxophonist Rollins] SONNY. Famous (among other things) for taking a recording/concert hiatus where he practiced on the Williamsburg Bridge in downtown NYC. I believe he’s now retired from performing at the venerable age of 90.
- Favorite clue: 5d [Enjoyed a boring lecture?] SLEPT. Possibly the best clue of all time.
- It also seems to inform 27d [Settles in for a show] SITS and 25d [ __ standstill] AT A.
- Let’s conclude with a mini basic geography duo: 1a [Book of maps] ATLAS, 61d [Number of Canadian provinces] TEN.
Jake Halperin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Well Argued”—Jim P’s review
Each theme answer is a phrase clued [You’ve got a point there] where “point” takes on a different meaning in each case.
- 50a. SHARPENED PENCIL. Pencil point.
- 23a. FREE THROW LINE. Point in a game—assuming you put the ball through the hoop, that is. You get one point from the line, as opposed to two or three points during active gameplay.
- 38a. CAPE COD. Geographical point. I’ve never been, but I assumed there was an actual locale named “Point” Something-or-Other on the cape, but I’m not finding one. I guess the cape comes to a point, but how is this meaning different than the pencil point above?
- 50a. COMPASS NEEDLE. Directional point.
- 60a. DECIMAL FRACTION. Decimal point.
I kept having issues with this theme. First, I had a hard time distinguishing between some of the different “point” meanings, specifically the first, third, and fourth ones since a pencil, a cape, and a needle all come to a point. Second, there isn’t really a point at the FREE THROW LINE; you have to make the basket. Third, I don’t have a point at CAPE COD; one exists there, but it’s not mine as the clue implies. Last, I don’t recall ever hearing the term DECIMAL FRACTION, despite my engineering background. Either something was written “in decimal” or “as a fraction.” Apparently it’s an actual phrase though, so I guess that’s just a gap in my knowledge.
I do like the fill though, especially those long Downs: SCARF DOWN, TURN RED, APPLETINI, and PILATES. I did not know the name of director ALAIN Resnais, but a few crossings made it clear what it should be.
Despite my issues with the theme—and I’ll grant that I’m probably overthinking it—this is a well-made grid. Three stars.
NYT is by Joe Hansen…
Yes, I see that. No idea what I was thinking. Or reading. Fixed. Thanks.
WSJ – easy Monday, but why cross ‘French film director Resnais’ and ‘First Hebrew letter’ on a Monday?
There are many better ‘Alain’s than a dead director who was semi-notable 50 years ago (de Botton, Prost, Delon, Ducasse, etc).
Aleph is pure crosswordese from Hebrew, an obscure language spoken by only 0.11% of people, and ‘matzo’ is already 6a.
I suppose I’m biased, but aleph is used extensively in set theory, in the theory of infinite cardinal numbers and in the statement of the Continuum Hypothesis.
Agreed. And for world literature/magical realism fans, there’s the famous Jorge Borges short story, “The Aleph.”
Your list of alternatives is a little strange… If you think Delon is a viable option, or better yet Ducasse, then it’s strange that you wouldn’t find Resnais as viable.
Resnais was one of the essential figures of the French New Wave — Hiroshima Mon Amour, Last Year at Marienbad, and Night and Fog (a groundbreaking Holocaust documentary) are all canonical films, still taught, written about, given retrospectives etc. today, still appearing on “best of all time” lists, still very much talked about in the same circles someone like Delon is talked about, but also people like Godard, Varda, et al.
Wonderful BEQ tribute puzzle today. RIP.
What happened to BEQ? I haven’t seen that news yet.
The RIP is for Van Halen, I’d guess, since HOTFORTEACHER is in the grid. Right?
Also JUMP, ERUPTION, and UNCHAINED.
And PANAMA. Five songs in all.
It was, but I think the KONBU/KOMBU ENT/EMT is ambiguous. I guess the idea is that an EMT is more of an “assistant” than an ENT, but they’re both assisting the patient. Both Japanese spellings are accepted, as they just indicate a nasal “O.”
Ah. Makes sense. I misunderstood and thought something tragic happened to BEQ. For an awesome Van Halen tribute, I highly recommend Jack White’s second song on SNL this past weekend, performed with a guitar designed by Eddie Van Halen.
NYT puzzle was OK, but not a Monday puzzle, IMO.
Agreed, it took me one second longer than my recorded average; I usually take that as a bad thing since that is skewed towards the long end from my early days solving. Felt more like a Tuesday.
An ALIBI is not a “defendant’s excuse” (16 across). An ALIBI is evidence that the defendant couldn’t have committed the crime, whereas an excuse would more correctly be called his DEFENSE.
NYT – Jenni, I totally agree on the RATED R topic. I’ve always thought of the backward violence/sex consideration in ratings in terms of what I want for my kids in the future. I definitely want my kids to grow up to have happy, healthy, consensual sex lives, and I definitely don’t want them to be involved in violence, whether causing or suffering.
NYT: 51d EKE BY – this splices two similar phrases
Eke out – yes
Squeak by – yes
Eke by – no
Re EKE BY, that was my thought too.
I don’t know, I just skimmed the top several hits for “eked by” in Google News, and they all seem pretty natural: https://news.google.com/search?q=%22eked%20by%22&hl=en-US&gl=US&ceid=US%3Aen . YMMV