Luke Vaughn’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
If you think you’ve seen this before, you’re correct. Deb Amlen’s Wordplay column identifies the previous occurrence as a January puzzle by Evan Kalish. I only knew it was a bit familiar, and I had to stare at it for a while before I understood the theme.
Each theme answer has something to do with art.
- 20a [Popular dog crossbreed] is a GOLDENDOODLE.
- 27a [Have an invisible footprint] is LEAVE NO TRACE. I’d quibble that this really. means having no footprint, but whatever.
- 46a [One version of poker] is FIVE–CARD DRAW.
- 55a [“S.N.L.” offering] is a COMEDY SKETCH. Side note: is it Times style to use the periods in “S.N.L?” Looks weird to me.
DOODLE, TRACE, DRAW and SKETCH. There you go. A perfectly serviceable Monday theme that might or might not be evident to new solvers.
A few other things:
- I haven’t played hacky-SACK in at least 30 years. That’s a blast from the past. Are kids still playing it?
- It’s good to see that the Times understands that OGLE is a creepy way to look at someone.
- SCRUB and RUB aren’t really dupes, but the crossing, um, rubbed me the wrong way.
- The green-EYED monster is not in Fenway Park.
- A bit of Googling only left me more confused about whether CYCLONES and tornadoes are really synonymous. I can’t ask the resident earth scientist because he hasn’t done the puzzle yet. Opinions?
George Jasper’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
This is a pretty simple initialisms theme that I think doesn’t really need its revealer: 50D, YOU SEE, is clued as “‘It’s like this,’ and a phonetic hint to the five longest Across answers”. YOU SEE is a homophone for the letters U and C, and each of the themers is a two-word phrase whose initials are U.C.
- 18A [1980 Travolta/Winger film set in Texas] is URBAN COWBOY.
- 23A [Aristocracy] is UPPER CLASS.
- 39A [Previously owned auto] is USED CAR.
- 53A [Pandemonium] is UTTER CHAOS.
- 59A [Where a quarterback may line up] is UNDER CENTER.
IDK…I’n fine with the first three themers, which feel very much in the language. UTTER CHAOS starts to feel a little more contrived, if still A Thing. But UNDER CENTER? I realize I’m no sportsball fan, but this feels like less of a natural, in-the-language phrase than the others. How about URGENT CARE and UNITY CANDLE instead?
I did enjoy some of the fill in this one, like acknowledging TAIPEI as a capital city (20A) and Stephen HAWKING for a touch of STEM at 10D.
Barbara Lin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “In the Bag”—Jim P’s review
Well, that was fun. Today we’re making a PB&J sandwich with the ends of our theme answers. It’s held together—unusually—with the short revealer AND at 39a [Common conjunction (that can go in the middle of the last words of 17-, 26-, 48-, 61-Across)].
- 17a. [Packing piece] STYROFOAM PEANUT
- 26a. [Rich skin cream] BODY BUTTER
- 48a. [Queen bee’s nourishment] ROYAL JELLY
- 61a. [Punch in the face, in old slang] KNUCKLE SANDWICH
What a lively set of themers, and I love the two grid-spanners. Great choices all around.
We have equally lively long fill with OPEN SWIM, TERABYTE, POP TART, and COP OUT. ORVILLE is good, too, clued as [Wilbur Wright’s brother], but we would also have accepted [Fox sci-fi/comedy show, with “The”].
Also great is the timely I VOTED / BIDEN crossing. (Have you voted yet? If not, do you have a plan to do so?). For those of you of the Trump variety, you can look at this puzzle from 2015—one of mine, actually—with an appropriate theme. And if you’re going to bring the hate, let’s hear it.
Clues of note:
- 45a. [Use a flimsy excuse]. COP OUT. Sounds odd to me to clue this as a verb when I expect it’s more commonly used as a noun.
- 45d. [Vacuum or dust]. CLEAN. I stuck with CHORE for too long on this one, especially since the clue clearly wants a verb.
Quite a fun Monday grid to start the week. Four stars from me. Now get out there and vote!
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
WELL if I was hoping for a quick, no-drama writeup this morning to try to stay even keel going into tomorrow’s vote-for-your-lives madness, that particular hope was certainly frustrated by this (very good!) puzzle!
Natan has written what I think is the perfect puzzle to illustrate the difference between the New Yorker and the New York Times themelesses. Can you imagine, for even a moment, that Will Shortz would run a puzzle that say DEFUND THE POLICE down the middle? Or, even less likely, one that says ACAB in the top right? I, for one, cannot.
The New Yorker, though! It seems clear that the editorial staff have granted constructors full artistic license to express their views through their puzzles, and I for one am HERE FOR IT. I *love* learning and recognizing constructors’ voices, and Natan has one of the strongest voices in the game. Is he going to get some angry emails and tweets for this puzzle? Probably. But he didn’t let that stop him from channeling anger at our broken justice and policing system into his puzzle, and I think that’s badass. Crosswords are changing, and the once-staid, bland, clue-and-answer exercise has evolved into a true art form that enables self-expression and a reflection of social movements. What a time to be in this space, and with artists like the constructors on the New Yorker roster!
Setting aside the message of this puzzle and viewing it from a purely technical standpoint, this puzzle is still super solid. The grid design is cool, taking advantage of corner cheater squares to emulate the staircase pattern in the middle into a sort of MC Escher multiple-staircases-in-multiple-directions grid setup. The central staircase of COURT JESTER / TALLAHASSEE / DARDANELLES is lovely (and the TALLAHASSEE clue [State capital where the band Creed was formed] made me laugh– just thinking about Creed in 2020 is such a funny proposition). Other long entries included NAILED IT (surprisingly not clued for the Netflix cooking fails show), I’M IN HEAVEN, ED SHEERAN, and JALAEPEÑOS, among others.
A few more things:
- I’m not familiar with JOHN / STOSSEL, but it does seem odd that a libertarian pundit would share his full name with a puzzle featuring DEFUND THE POLICE and ACAB. Or am I missing a link here?
- Favorite clues:
- [Passed out on the table?] for DEALT
- [Surname mispronounced as “Bumpersticker” and “Bellpepper,” among others, on an eighties sitcom] for BELVEDERE — I didn’t know this and still don’t know what sitcom featured BELVEDEREs, but the clue is funny!
- I misread [Common ingredient in Indian cooking] as *Italian* cooking and was very confused about why I had never encountered TAMARIND in my family’s recipes
- EYESPOTS are cool!
Overall, loads of stars for this statement puzzle. I’ll see you all on the other side of tomorrow. VOTE!
Pravan Chakravarthy and Matthew Stock’s Universal crossword, “Double Down” — pannonica’s write-up
Quick write-up for a quick solve. Someone has a veterinarian appointment this morning.
Why was this a quick solve? Not only was it a Monday-level offering, but the theme hinges on long answers that are simply repeated words. Easy to fill in lots of squares!
- 4d. [Piano part that’s less dry?] DAMPER DAMPER.
- 14d. [Fire starter that’s easier to lift?] LIGHTER LIGHTER.
- 8d. [Janitor who uses less profanity?] CLEANER CLEANER.
- 22d. [Beer container that’s more hip?] COOLER COOLER.
During the solve I was wondering why the constructor opted to have the theme entries going down, but that’s because I hadn’t seen the title. (Nor had I looked at the byline to see that it was a collaboration (with an apparently new author)).
- The third row, beginning with IMAM and IMAGED, has a little of the thematic reduplication vibe to it. (16a, 17a)
- 23a [It keeps coming back at you] ECHO. Persistent, that. 45a [“One more song!”] ENCORE.
- 28a [A Boogie wit da __ (rapper)] HOODIE. Né Julius Dubose.
- 46a [Some slalom races, casually] SUPER-GS. I just like this entry, so I’m saying so.
- 49a [Org. with a phonetic alphabet] NATO. And what’s the word for the letter E? ECHO, just like the symmetrical partner at 23-across.
- 51a [Get cuddly] CANOODLE. m-w muses: “The origins of canoodle are obscure. Our best guess is that it may come from an English dialect noun of the same spelling meaning “donkey,” “fool,” or “foolish lover,” which itself may be an alteration of the word noodle, meaning “a foolish person.” That noodle, in turn, may come from noddle, a word for the head. The guess seems reasonable given that, since its appearance in the language around the mid-19th century, canoodle has been most often used jocularly for playful public displays of affection by couples who are head over heels in love.”
- 28d [Secures in place, or dashes away] BOLTS. Nifty.
- 44d [Place to play Pop-A-Shot] ARCADE. Had to look it up: it’s that basketball free-throw-type challenge.
- 60a [More profound] DEEPER.
Fun little crossword.