Kathy Wienberg’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
I got the theme of this puzzle immediately. It made me smile more from nostalgia than anything else.
Everything refers to 61a.
- 17a [Identity of 61-Across] is DIANA PRINCE.
- 30a [Originator of 61-Across] is DC COMICS.
- 36a [Television portrayer of 61-Across] is LYNDA CARTER.
- 44a [Film portrayer of 61-Across] is GAL GADOT.
And 61a is, of course, [Co-founder of the Justice League]: WONDER WOMAN. My brother was an avid comics reader and collector when we were kids. I borrowed all the Fantastic Four and Wonder Woman comics. Ah, the good old days. I haven’t seen the current incarnation of WW movies; I hear not-so-g0od-things about the current release. I don’t mind the cross-references because the theme is accessible and the entries gettable from crossings if you don’t remember your WW facts. A good Monday theme.
The fill was also Monday-appropriate with the exception of ALIENEE, which is serious crosswordese, and 45d [Eagle constellation], AQUILA. That’s obscure for any day of the week. I had no trouble with it because I know LUMBAGO, but I suspect that’s also a bit obscure for non-medical types (or even younger medical types).
A few other things:
- I can’t be the only one who dropped in KEEPS for [Has a long shelf life] at 1a. Nope. It’s LASTS.
- 3d [Rising concern?] is SEA LEVEL. Don’t let the question mark fool you. It is rising, and it is a concern.
- I enjoyed seeing XENA in the grid. Seems appropriate in a puzzle devoted to the original female superhero.
- Oh, one more “not really Monday-ish” piece of fill: OCTAL.
- Does anyone actually say ROUTE MEN for [Some delivery people]? We tend to identify them by their employers – UPS, Post Office, FedEx, Amazon, whatever. And we’re very appreciative of all of them. We put out a box of gift cards last week since we couldn’t figure out a way to tip everyone.
Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Moment of silence for the late, great Gail Grabowski, who left us on Christmas Eve. To the solver, easy puzzles are, well, easy. But to the constructor, making a good Monday puzzle is, IMO, one of the hardest things to do. You have to come up with a theme that’s fun and not too complicated, and then your choice of fill words is much more limited than for other days of the week. And still you want to keep things fresh and fun. To be as prolific as Gail was, making puzzles that were consistently easy yet fun to solve, is an extraordinary feat. She will be missed.
Gail teamed with my former constructing partner, Bruce Venzke, for this puzzle, which like so many of hers is simple but well executed. Going first to the revealer at 67A [Grand Ole Opry genre, briefly, that’s also a hint to 21-, 33-, 44-, and 51-Across], we see CANDW. That is, “C and W,” or short for “Country and Western,” the “Grand Ole Opry genre” in question. And it’s a hint to the theme answers, because each of those is a two-word phrase with initials C.W.:
- 21A [Comfy clothing] is CASUAL WEAR, AKA what we’ve all been putting on since the pandemic started. If you’re even wearing anything below the waist at all, that is.
- 33A [Fowl fencing material] is CHICKEN WIRE.
- 41A [Forecast that calls for a scarf and gloves] is COLD WEATHER, which like 21A seems appropriate for the times, at least in my part of the world (Brooklyn).
- 51A [Circle with primary and secondary hues] is the COLOR WHEEL.
One tiny nit: Can we stop cluing SOHO as an artsy area? All the artists got priced out decades ago. Now Soho is where you shop if you’re too cool for the Fifth Avenue tourist trap shopping area and possibly where you work if your employer is a tech startup.
Kevin Christian & Brad Wilber’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Jocular Vein”—Jim P’s review
Today we have a solid grid by two puzzle veterans, and a Monday-straight synonym theme. The revealer is TEASE at 55d [Verb for which synonyms can be found at the beginnings of the starred answers].
- 17a. [*Craft by which quotations are put on pillows] NEEDLEPOINT
- 26a. [*Nick Jonas, to Joe Jonas] KID BROTHER
- 39a. [*Weather a period of chaos] RIDE OUT THE STORM
- 50a. [*He plays Thanos in “Avengers: Endgame”] JOSH BROLIN
- 62a. [*Marbled cut of beef] RIB-EYE STEAK
Based on the title, I was somewhat disappointed there weren’t any jokes in this puzzle. Once I finished the grid and realized there were none forthcoming and before I sought out the revealer, I thought “vein” was the keyword, and so I went looking for veined things. A RIB-EYE STEAK could be veined. JOSH BROLIN as Thanos? Sure, he was kinda veiny. I guess. Lightning in a storm, too. I have to say, I carried that idea pretty far.
Obviously that’s wrong, but I guess you can imagine a vein running through the grid consisting of the synonym words. I like that idea.
As for the theme entries themselves, they make a nice set. I especially like JOSH BROLIN and KID BROTHER.
Elsewhere, OCEANSIDE sounds so pleasant and “IT’S A TRAP” is fun, but only as spoken by Admiral Ackbar (see this profile of the voice actor who passed away in 2016; I recommend the remixes).
It’s quite impressive how clean the grid is. If I had to pick a nit, it would be the awkward SSNS.
Clues of note:
- 7a. [Crunch’s rank?]. CAP’N. Fun clue.
- 14a. [Sea ___ (spiny creature)]. URCHIN. Take it from me. If you see a sign on a dock warning of these spiny critters hiding under water, heed it. Stepping on one is no fun. At least it was at the end of our honeymoon. 😢
- 6d. [Tennis shoes, informally]. SNEAKS. You could clue this word as a verb, but this is much more fun.
A pleasant grid. Synonym themes aren’t all that exciting in and of themselves, but this one’s as solid as they come. 3.8 stars.
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1328), “Themeless Monday #602” — Jenni’s review
Before we dive into the puzzle, let’s take a moment to contemplate those numbers. Brendan has give us 1,328 puzzles, including 602 Themeless Mondays. That’s astonishing – and generous. See that picture of Brendan on the right side of his blog? Right over a line that says “Tip yr constructor?” Go put some money in his tip jar. I’ll wait right here.
Thank you. Now on to the puzzle, which was satisfyingly chewy. I thought I was on Brendan’s wavelength at 1d, because I know Millard Fillmore was a WHIG (and this showed up in another puzzle recently. Danged if I can remember which one). That did not help, because geography is my nemesis, so I had no idea that HOBART is the capital of Tasmania.
- The central sideways stack of RICE NOODLES, JUGULAR VEIN, and BATTLE CREEK.
- The other long downs: HONEY HONEY (which also showed up as a clue for ABBA recently), ABSTENTION, SHAKEDOWNS, and SIDE TO SIDE.
- Loved the clue for ABSTENTION: [Pass in Congress?]. Gotta pay attention to those ?’s.
- Speaking of which, can someone explain why [Hair weave?] is PIGTAIL?
- [Land of Mercury?] is a car LOT.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: pretty much every musical reference except HONEY HONEY. I also did not know that Sojourner Truth lived in BATTLE CREEK, Michigan. Great clue – a fun fact to learn, representation of one of the great Black women in American history, and much harder than any mention of Kellogg would have been because we know Tony the Tiger better than we know Sojourner Truth. Structural racism + capitalism.
Elizabeth C. Gorksi’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Welcome back to your regularly-scheduled New Yorker programming! We’ve got a challenging Monday puzzle from Elizabeth C. Gorski that didn’t totally work for me, Although the highlights were high, the low points (mostly fill) were pretty low.
First, the good stufF: I really enjoyed both marquee (15s). I had not heard of WASHINGTON BLACK, but it seems like a novel that The New Yorker’s audience would enjoy and I am glad to know about it now! HOW EMBARRASSING is also a lovely colloquial phrase with a perfect clue [“I’ll never live that one down!”]. Other things I loved include CHAIRWOMAN (I tried to fit CHAIRPERSON and failed) and HALVAH (yum!).
Next, the not-so-good stuff: The fill was not as smooth as we usually see from Liz Gorski, including some less than ideal prefixes (ENTO-, OENO-), some meh abbreviations (INTL, SENS), a Roman numeral (DVI), and some iffy partials (A NICE, WHEN I) , including a partial that is part of a name (REE). The E at the crossing of SNEE and NEILL was also a guess for me, although I suppose there’s not much else it could be, phonetically.
A few more things:
- At one point in my life I was a secondary math teacher, and by secondary math teacher definitions, all whole numbers are INTEGERs, but not all INTEGERs are whole numbers, so the clue [Whole thing?] didn’t work for me. Googling INTEGER *does* lead you to a definition that includes the word “whole,” though, so I think this may be a case of knowing too much?
- Never thrilled to see gratuitous Woody Allen references in crosswords, in this case cluing ELAINE’S as [Manhattan eatery featured in the opening scene of “Manhattan”] (not to mention that the plot of that movie is itself deeply problematic!)
- I think LACING to me is something you do with poison, not alcohol? I.e. isn’t [Adding punch to the punch] *spiking* it? I suppose the punch that is being added to the punch could be… arsenic?
Overall, several stars for crunchy spanners and some solid cluing, but the fill brings down the rating for me.
Sophia Maymudes’ Universal crossword, “Rise and Shine” — pannonica’s write-up
I perceived the theme mechanic right away but could neither make sense of the rationale or the puzzle’s title. Fortunately, there was an exceedingly apt revealer by the end that resolved both.
- 19a. [*Sprite flavor combo] LEMON-LIME, with the fill continuing upward in the reversal of 5d [Name hidden in “rice milk”] EMIL.
- 20a. [*Bright planet that’s visible early on some days] MORNING STAR / 12d [Pests in some alleys] RATS. *sigh* more pejorative framing. Many if not most of the hundreds of rat species are benign and all have valuable ecological roles.Between the time I filled in this theme answer and my arrival at the revealer, my mind was set in motion trying to figure out how this one related to the title “Rise and Shine” – it seemed so strongly connected. So, yes, the back burner of my brain was occupied during most of the solve.
- 37a. [*Person between second and third] SHORT STOP / 24d [Homes for houseplants] POTS.
- 40a. [*AirPod, e.g.] EARBUD / 32d [Translate the dialogue of, maybe] DUB.
- 48a. [*One lets you connect on the go] WIFI HOTSPOT / 39d [Beats out] TOPS.
- 56aR [Brighten, or a hint to each starred answer’s vertical continuation] LIGHT UP.
Sooo, each of those tails can precede the word “light”. Limelight, starlight, stoplight, Bud Light™, spotlight. That all works, but I kind of wish the two-word brand name had been dropped.
- 9d [Outdated notebook] STENO PAD. Outdated for their original purpose perhaps, but they are still available and useful. I usually have a small supply on hand.
- 16d [Give a big smile] GRIN AT.
- 23a [Exercises that use a platform] STEP UPS. Oblique reference to the theme?
- 28a [Blow out birthday candles, maybe] WISH. Seems much more sinister and dangerous in these covid times.
- 44a [Maple and chocolate liquids] SYRUPS. Mmm.
- 55a [Bessie who was the first Black and Native female pilot] COLEMAN. You can learn all about her at the official website.
- 58a [London’s land, for short] ENG, 6d [Common night sch. class] ESL. Indirect dupe there, but seems fine to me.
- 14d. [“The course of true love never di run ___” (Shakespeare)] SMOOTH. I believe I’ve mentioned previously how, as a child, I misremembered the quote as “love is a rocky road”. So, ice cream now.