Martha Kimes’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
I liked this theme! I figured it out early on but there was enough variety to keep it interesting.
It would be understandable if this theme made you a bit hungry. The theme answers all contain different types of sandwiches.
- 18a [Cast celebration at the end of filming] is a WRAP PARTY.
- 26a [Souvenirs from Havana] are CUBAN CIGARS.
- 44a [Going from nightspot to nightspot] is CLUB-HOPPING.
- 59a [Certain online board for discussion of a topic] is SUBREDDIT.
And the revealer: 58a [Where you might find the starts of 18-, 26-, 44-. and 59-Across]: DELI. It’s a solid, consistent, and Monday-friendly theme. Fun!
A few other things:
- I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a MCRIB sandwich (not a theme entry because you can’t buy it at a DELI). Anyone? How is it?
- More food: mmm, POP TARTS. Mmm.
- 26d [Talk a blue streak?] is a fun clue for CUSS.
- I filled in GETAB from crossings and couldn’t figure out what the heck it was. Turns it it’s GET A B for [Do better than average, gradewise].
- I can’t see the word OEUF without thinking of this.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: embarrassingly enough, I didn’t know that PABA was Vitamin B-TEN.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
The theme of this puzzle is of the sort that seems to have fallen a little bit out of fashion: change a letter, get a new word, put the words together to make a phrase that can be clued in some amusing way. This is not a dig at Jeffrey’s puzzle; it’s nostalgia on my part, since Bruce Venzke and I made lots of such puzzles together back in the aughts. No revealer needed, just a theme that’s apparent to the eye pretty early on.
Each of the four theme entries is a two-word phrase in which the second word is identical to the first, except with the G at the end of the first word changed to an S in the second:
- 20A [Providing post-bath garb to red-breasted singers?] is ROBING ROBINS. Now picture a robin in a little bathrobe. Cute mental image, right?
- 31A [Doing poorly in baking class?] is MUFFING MUFFINS, or what I would do if I were on The Great British Bake-Off.
- 39A [Growing dried grapes?] is RAISING RAISINS, which would be a nice time-saver for Sun-Maid if they could do that instead of growing the grapes first, I suppose.
- 54A [Recording easy putts?] is TAPING TAP-INS. Since I consider golf the most boring sport to watch and the most frustrating one to play, this is my least favorite theme entry. But I realize that’s a me thing.
Was not crazy about the fill in this puzzle, which included the contrived-feeling ABOUT A MILE [5,000 feet, roughly], the Queen’s English spelling TYRE [Spare in a Brit’s boot], VITAE [Curriculum __ (resume)], which pretty much has to be clued as a fill-in-the-blank, and a plural first name to boot (ANNES at 26D). I think splitting those 10s ABOUT A MILE and NOT EXACTLY with another black square might have been a good idea.
Zachary David Levy’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Going to Pot”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Coffeemaking 101. Each theme answer ends with a word that’s part of the process of making coffee. We end up with ORDINARY JOE (61a, [Unremarkable sort, or what you’re left with after 17-, 25-, 39- and 48-Across]).
- 17a. [Something with negligible value] HILL OF BEANS
- 25a. [Scouting activity, quaintly] WEENIE ROAST
- 39a. [Is motivated by self-interest] HAS AN AXE TO GRIND
- 48a. [“Double, double toil and trouble” concoction] WITCHES BREW
It’s awkward to start off with a noun then move on to three verbs. It just doesn’t flow, but then I don’t have an alternative suggestion to make it work better.
Also, I’m curious if any of you roast your own coffee beans. At least we’ve gotten away from the K-cups in our household, but I’m too lazy to grind my own beans, let alone roast them. I’d be interested to hear from some of you coffee connoisseurs.
PICKLE JAR and CELLO CASE top the fill, but I have to give EVO [Sporty Mitsubishi] the side-eye, and I’m sure there aren’t many who are glad to see the return of crosswordese ODO [“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” character]. Hey, I’m as geeky as the next guy, and I know that ODO was played by René Auberjonois, but that doesn’t make him Monday-level fill.
Clues of note:
- 39a. [Is motivated by self-interest]. HAS AN AX TO GRIND. Is that what that phrase means? Because to me it means someone who is seeking retribution.
- 46d. [The Governator, facetiously]. AHNOLD. I was just watching his video response to the Capitol Hill riots. He speaks of growing up in Austria in the aftermath of WWII with broken and beaten Nazis all around him (including his father). Definitely worth a viewing. He speaks with a lot more honesty and integrity than just about any Republican currently holding office.
The theme doesn’t quite flow (though it puts me in the mood for a good cuppa). The fill is mostly good. 3.4 stars.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Today I learned that the line “I’m such a baby because the dolphins make me cry”in “Only Wanna Be With You,” which I have forever assumed I was mishearing (because why would dolphins make anyone cry?) is actually correct but is about the Miami Dolphins, which is why DAN MARINO is in the video. What a world! Whatever other feelings I was having about this puzzle (which were mostly all positive anyways!) have been blown out of the water by the power of this realization. This puzzle gets an automatic several-star bump up in my book for this astounding piece of trivia masterfully incorporated into the puzzle. Apparently I’m that easy! Anyways, the rest of the puzzle:
The long stuff (NOBLEWOMAN, ALAN MENKEN) is fine, nothing compared to the mind-blowing Hootie trivia, but the corner stacks today are pretty spectacular. We have RENT-A-COP / LIVE ALONE / USERNAMES / BIRDS NEST in the NE and IDIOMATIC / DAN MARINO / ETTA JAMES / NEONATES in the SW. Wide-open corners like these are a bear to fill cleanly, but most of the crosses and fill around them are pretty stellar. I have never heard of LUBBOCK, Texas, but that’s probably a me-problem. I was also unfamiliar with the name ONE SPOT, which google doesn’t totally bear out as being a standalone name for a particular domino, so maybe this is just an adjective (in which case I’m less convinced that this is good fill).
A few more things:
- The area with DUNST / DUNNE / MENKEN was tough for me
- Representation: lots of MALES in this puzzle. Also Beyoncé playing ETTA JAMES, SARAH Paulson, Kirsten DUNST, IRENE Castle, and a few fictional/non-proper-noun women, but I think on balance still a white-dude-heavy puzzle
- Favorite clues:
- I mean, [N.F.L. quarterback featured in the music video for Hootie & the Blowfish’s “Only Wanna Be with You”] for DAN MARINO made my day
- [Rootin’ tootin’ device?] for AIRHORN is hilarious
- Least favorite clue:
- [Drawers?] for COME-ONS doesn’t work for me *at all*. If anything I think most COME-ONS tend to REPEL the recipient.
Overall, I guess this was a mixed bag, but with those bonus Hootie stars, this puzzle still gets nearly full marks from me. Also, Darius Rucker, I know how you feel– last night the Steelers made me cry.
Roy Leban’s Universal crossword, “Opening Words” — pannonica’s write-up
- 54aR [What January 1 brings for many people, and a hint to the first letters of 20-, 28-, and 47-Across] NEW BEGINNINGS.
- 20a. [Feel hurt by] TAKE OFFENSE AT (take-off).
- 28a. [Like Dennis the Menace, chronically] IN TROUBLE AGAIN (intro).
- 47a. [2016 Enterprise film] STAR TREK BEYOND (start).
The inspiration and titling is very similar to the 21×21 Saturday Wall Street Journal crossword that I wrote about on 2 January.
The execution, however, is quite distinct, and it’s nicely done. My sole quibble regarding the theme is, why so late? Today is 48d [XI] ELEVEN January. Mysterious.
- 3d [Like bad coffee] WEAK. I almost thought this was going to be WARM.
>> BREAKING NEWS <<
I’ve just noticed the Notepad, whose message reads:
The next three weeks of Universal Crosswords originally ran as Puzzle Society Crosswords in 2018. Today’s puzzle would have been the first Puzzle Society Crossword if not for a last-minute change of plans!
So I guess that accounts for the curious deployment.
- 67a [Mystery writer?: Abbr.] ANONymous. Cute clue.
- 69a [An eagle’s can weigh two tons] NEST. What?! Really? … It appears to be true, but exceptional. A ground-level replica of another very large bald eagle nest—which weighed a measly 1.1 tons—stands in LaGrange, Ohio. The original was destroyed by a storm in 1925. I had no idea of the magnitude some eagle nests could achieve. Did some looking around, found several time lapse videos of bald eagles building nests, but none showed substantial start-to-finish construction. Glad to have learned these facts inspired by the clue.
- 11d [From Perth, perhaps] AUSTRALIAN. To distinguish from like-named places in Scotland (UK), Ontario (Canada), and in various US states.
- 33d [Light bender] PRISM. Not a moderate drinking spree.
Since I didn’t use this in the aforementioned WSJ write-up, here’s a 1988 Don Pullen TUNE (18a):
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1330), “Themeless Monday #603” — Jenni’s review
Better late than never….so this will be quick.
This played a bit easier than the usual Monday offering from Brendan. The top fell quickly. I stumbled around the middle for a short while and then worked my way back from the bottom. As always, a satisfying solve.
- PIZZA STONE. I don’t know why I find this pleasing, but I do.
- ADAR clued as [29-day month].
- [Writer of many different styles?] for PEN.
- 29d [Refuse and refuse, e.g.] are HETERONOYMS, words that are spelled the same way and pronounced differently. I know this because I listen to “Says You.”
- 42a [Group of Twins?] is ENNEAD. The Twins in question are the Minnesota baseball team; there are nine in an ENNEAD.
- 56a [“Deeeees-gust-ing!”] is EWWW.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Tuck’s twin on “Paw Patrol” is named ELLA. My kid is 20 and so Paw Patrol is a mystery to me.
NYT – DIWALI on a Monday?
Firmly believe everyone should know DIWALI. Loved seeing it on a Monday and would be thrilled to see it every day!
Diwali casts a wide cultural net, and to those unfamiliar with the festival of lights, the crossings were fair. I was happy to see it too.
Glad to see others have already chimed in. 1.2 billion Hindus in the world. At least 1% of the US population, only slightly fewer than the number of Muslims, and we see RAMADAN and SUNNI in the puzzles all the time. So yeah, DIWALI on a Monday is great.
I didn’t know DIWALI either. Nor IGA, which has no stores in NYC. So that block was hard for me. I also didn’t recognize SUBREDDIT. But I don’t usually worry about what’s appropriate for what day all that much, so fine.
I think a policy of having one Diwali-like entry each Monday would be a step in the right direction. The crossings were fair, so if a new solver were unfamiliar with the festival, they would get a leg up to more complex days.
Schwarzenegger’s message, linked in the WSJ review above, is really a must-see. Thanks for sharing that, Jim P.
MC RIB and POP-TARTS are considered food? UGH, not at our house.
Diwali is pretty cool, I was in San Antonio for a meeting about 10 years ago and went to the festival, it was really cool. If it’s too foreign to you for a Monday, find one and go, then you can have memories as well.
Bud Lite and its ilk – not beer. Most of the output of Central CA wineries for sweetish red wine – not wine. But in my house PopTarts are food. They may be utterly artificial and engineered to appeal to our basest instincts, but my basest instincts love them. I don’t eat them these days – I prefer to spend my carbs on something better than that (last night my daughter made pumpkin bread. Mmmm) but I remember them very fondly. Comfort food of my youth and young adulthood.
I eat what I want and I eat good quality food, thus those two don’t qualify as food, enjoy! I understand the psychological connection to comfort/food better than most. Beer isn’t worth my liver’s time and MEIOMI is to me the Anti-Christ, so we share a lot of common ground nonetheless on these points.
An anecdote you might find interesting – a German Brauhaus opened near me (COVID-19 killed the business off) did a half-decent job on a few dishes, not CO/UT mountain resort, Chicago or Milwaukee standards mind you, but decent and I’d eat there sometimes.
One time I thought I’d try their Apfelstreudel and I was served a glorified pop-tart with large crystals of sugar on it. I told my server “I ordered the strudel”, I was told that it was such. The chef wouldn’t come out on request.
I still chuckle even typing this
Hoping you’re chuckling out of mortification. People who take pride in being rude and condescending to service workers are despicable.
My wife and I were accused of abusing our children. The reason? They visit friends houses and they are appalled that our girls had never had a pop tart. Ever. We gave them choices, and included treats. Just not the engineered crap. We just never had that type of thing around the house.
Abuse. LOL. Guess we might think the same them! Im sure theyve tried them by now, but theyve never admitted to it!
UNIVERSAL RE: Eagles’ nests. Maybe they don’t build a 2-ton nest all at one time. Perhaps they come back to same nest every year and continue to add more to the nest every time.
Generations of Bald Eagles do use the same nest, I have three within 2 miles of my home, one is on the third gen. I’ve personally seen. Largest is maybe 2 square meters volume, might weigh a couple of hundred pounds. Impressive animals and so are the nests, but I’d like to see a photo of a 2 ton one, not at all commonplace, I’d guess.
Fun facts, it is a Federal Crime to use a drone to photograph an eagle’s nest, I am told.
Square meters is a measure of area, not volume. I would like to request an audience with your mathematician.
Yes, I figured it must be something like that, despite what I said about searching for videos. Kind of got my wires crossed there.
Nice Monday theme in the NYT, except I wasn’t familiar with a CUBAN sandwich and had to google to find out what it is.
Maybe it’s just me, but something doesn’t seem quite right about describing a MESA as a kind of hill. Hills are necessarily roundish, in my mind. I’d describe a mesa as a rock formation, I suppose.
Stella Does LA Times
What a waste of her brilliant brain.
This just wasn’t just a Monday-easy. It was a NoneDay why bother.
In the Universal crossword, 16-Across, INUIT is plural so the clue should be “Arctic natives” rather than “Arctic Native.”
The singular of INUIT is INUK.