Eric Bornstein’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
I had no idea what the theme answers had in common until I got to the revealer, so this played more like an easy themeless for me. It’s a fine Monday puzzle.
The theme answers:
- 18a [One reading secret messages] is a CODEBREAKER.
- 28a [Professional joke teller] is a STAND–UP COMIC.
- 47a [Health professional who has your back?] is a CHIROPRACTOR.
What’s the missing link? We find out at 62a: [Apt command to an 18-, 28-, or 47-Across]: GET CRACKING. Cracking codes, cracking jokes, cracking your back. I like this theme! It’s fun and well-pitched for a Monday.
A few other things:
- 1d is a 2020 entry: [The “murder hornet” is one]. It’s a WASP. They murder other insects, by the way. That’s not a given, since it’s 2020. And all hornets are wasps, but not all wasps are hornets.
- I enjoyed the juxtaposition of I‘M COLD at 4d and I HOPE at 4a. Yeah, it’s a dupe, but it worked for me.
- Nice clue for MODEL at 15a: [A physicist or a fashion designer might work with one].
- I have fond memories of the SEARS catalog. We never bought anything from it, but I enjoyed looking through it.
- I remember the days when I RAN errands. Seems like a long time ago.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the Spinners recorded a song about SADIE.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Spirited Performances”—Jim P’s review
Looks like we’re in for a week’s worth of Halloween-themed puzzles at the WSJ. I can think of worse things. In today’s outing, we have a list of actors who have played ghosts on the big screen.
- 16a. [He played a ghost in “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”] REX HARRISON. I tried going with DON KNOTTS first, but I was thinking of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.
- 24a. [He played a ghost in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”] JOHN CLEESE
- 33a. [He played a ghost in “Ghost”] PATRICK SWAYZE
- 47a. [She played a ghost in “Beetlejuice”] GEENA DAVIS
- 55a. [He played a ghost in “The Sixth Sense”] BRUCE WILLIS. Aww! Way to spoil it!
I enjoyed this, even if it’s just a straightforward list. I wish it was a little more evenly balanced, gender-wise. Can you name some other well-known ghostly roles?
I’m not seeing any extra-sparkly long fill, no doubt because of the 13-letter central theme answer restricting the flow of the grid, but ARSENALS and CATAPULT are solid enough. I struggled with PALOMAR [Caltech’s ___ Observatory] because I tried to shoehorn GRIFFITH in there. I did like the extra Halloweeny touches such as DRAC, PIRATE, EERIE, witch’s BREW, SEANCE, and the spooky vibe in many of the clues.
A light theme to start the week, but it should be fun. 3.4 stars.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Well this puzzle just sent me into an emotional spiral about this never-ending pandemic and missing real life and my family (which will be explained later in the post), but that’s not Patrick Berry’s fault! Going to do my best to write this post without letting that color my take on the puzzle, which is very good.
The grid today features four chunky corners with some excellent longer stacks in each one. My favorite corner stack was the SW, with POP-UP BOOKS / PIECE OF ME / ON THE ROAD / STEELERS. I also really appreciate the crossing of JAMIE FOXX with TEX AVERY and SEXTANTS — hard to get that double-X in without sacrificing something, but Patrick Berry has pulled it off! This is also the kind of grid that makes me wonder where the constructor started. It doesn’t *really* seem to have any seeds (unless the JAMIE FOXX angle was the starting point), which makes me think maybe the grid design came first and then he filled it? If that’s the case, I’m just in awe of how every single long entry managed to be completely solid (except maybe PROPECIA? I don’t really like brand-name drugs in grids, but that’s a small price to pay). Also, only 6 three letter entries! Just great.
The part of this solve that wrecked me was the clue on STEELERS. I’m a lifelong STEELERS fan from Pittsburgh, so I went digging for my video of terrible towels from a STEELERS/Bills game I went to with my family last year. I then watched said video and straight-up burst into tears?? I can’t really explain it. Here’s the video I took of thousands of STEELERS fans waving their terrible towels to Renegade.
A few more things:
- Favorite clues:
- [Stories that unfold dramatically?] for POP-UP BOOKS
- [Pick it up and run with it!] for LIVE BALL (speaking of football…)
- [Court without a goal?] for FLIRT
- I love the word ACADEMESE
- Representation: Decent! JAMIE FOXX, Britney, the founder of PHNOM PENH, MILDRED Pierce
- Had never hear of CORREGIDOR but happy to learn it! (Military history is my worst jeopardy category).
Overall, I liked the puzzle a lot. I also cried a lot. What a way to start the day! Lots of stars from me.
Sally Hoelscher’s Universal crossword, “But Is It Art?” — pannonica’s write-up
Revealer over in the southwest at 45-down: [Sly, or an alternate title for this puzzle?] CRAFTY.
- 17a. [Acts as storyteller] SPINS A YARN.
- 31a. [Droplet from exercising] BEAD OF SWEAT.
- 45a. [Former name of Muhammad Ali] CASSIUS CLAY.
- 58a. [Pinto] PAINT HORSE.
These all contain items used in various crafts (and arts): yarn, bead, clay, paint.
It’s definitely a theme. Little bit of a bonus at 5d [Website selling custom Halloween costumes] ETSY, a crossword regular which is often clued by invoking “craft”.
- 31a [Colorful glacial feature] BLUE ICE. Definitely a thing.
- 34d [Lending them doesn’t require giving anything away] EARS. Except one’s time.
- 41d [Odds’ partner] ENDS. Had the apostrophe been between the D and S, the non-fitting EVENS would be the answer.
- 43d [Dark solar patch] is pretty much the most literal clue for SUN SPOT. Such phenomena have a direct effect on the AURORA borealis (46d). “The [northern] lights are known to be brighter and more active for up to two days after sunspot activity is at its highest. Several agencies, such as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also monitor solar activity and issue aurora alerts when they are expected to put on a particularly impressive show.” –space.com
- 52d [Apple on Apple Music] is FIONA, not something like IMAGE or the non-fitting LOGO. I suppose that would’ve required an e.g. qualifier anyway. 65a [Shrek, for example] OGRE.
- 19a [Watch, as a campfire] TEND. You know, earlier I decided against including a track from the Band’s album Northern Lights – Southern Cross, but with this entry I now feel compelled to.
Jeff Stillman’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I had a little trouble getting started on this puzzle, to the point where I thought, “Should this have been a Tuesday or even a Wednesday?” But in the end my 2:01 time was pretty Monday-normal, so I mostly blame 1-Across. When I see the clue “June honorees,” my mind goes instantly to GRADS or DADS, neither of which has three letters; it’s the less-common plural PAS that was wanted. I think I might have clued this as “Dads by another name” or something like that to rule out that line of thinking. (Or how about some ballet with “___ de deux”?)
Now onto the thematic material: As per the uzh on Monday, we’ve got a revealer near the bottom of the grid, at 61-Across: TRAIL MIX [Backpacker’s snack, and a hint to the circled letters]. Like last Monday, we have anagramming happening, in this case the letters in the word TRAIL, which are MIXed to provide three new combinations. Unlike last Monday, these combinations are not themselves words, so the circled letters are there to help you identify the anagram in each theme phrase. (I’ve bolded the letters below to call them out more.)
- 17A [Astral-shaped wildflower of the American West] is a STAR LILY.
- 30A [Business sector involving merchandise] is RETAIL TRADE.
- 44A [Lionel products] is MODEL TRAINS.
In each case, the letters in TRAIL spread out across both words of the theme phrase, which is nice. I could’ve done with one more theme entry given that there are only three of them not counting the revealer and they’re quite short, but I also recognize that brainstorming a theme set that fits the pattern AND has the TRAIL letters split across both words every time was probably not the easiest.
I found some of the fill to be more fun and evocative than the theme entries themselves — some unusual, but totally fair for a Monday, stuff included RHUBARB, JINXED, JIGSAW, and MIRACLE.