Monday, January 18, 2021

BEQ 4:35 (Jenni) 


LAT 2:12 (Stella) 


NYT untimed (Jenni) 


The New Yorker 13:46 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


Note: Due to the holiday, there’s no WSJ puzzle today.

Jeff Stillman’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review

All the theme answers are American cities clued in reference to their European eponyms.

New York Times, January 18, 2021, #0121, Jeff Stillman, solution grid

  • 17a [City where you won’t find the Eiffel Tower] is PARIS, TEXAS.
  • 24a [City where you won’t find the Parthenon] is ATHENSGEORGIA.
  • 46a [City where you won’t find Virgil’s Tomb] is NAPLESFLORIDA.
  • 56a [City where you won’t find the El Greco Museum] is TOLEDOOHIO.

Fun! I don’t remember seeing this particular theme before. It was easy enough for a Monday, solid, smooth, and plenty enjoyable. Nothing objectionable jumped out at me from the fill. Nice.

A few other things:

  • 1a [Get ready to hem, say] is a much more pleasant clue for PIN UP than a reference to Betty Grable would have been.
  • 11d [Not upstanding, in either sense of the word] is a fun and still Monday-appropriate clue for LYING.
  • EMTs do lots of things besides CPR, and they are not the only healthcare folk who perform CPR. There must be some other way to clue that entry.
  • I will get ALL RILED UP if you force me to eat KALE.
  • 61a [Cousin of “Kapow!”] is WHAM. Holy interjection, Batman!
  • FREON is no longer produced or imported to the US.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Virgil’s Tomb is in NAPLES, Italy.

Bruce Venzke and Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

LAT 1/18/21

Los Angeles Times 1/18/21 by Bruce Venzke and Gail Grabowski

It’s good to know that Gail, whether by herself or with a collaborator, had some puzzles in the hopper when she passed away. I hope we have new grids from her for a while yet.

In this one, looking to the revealer at 63A [Shredded Southern barbecue dish that’s depicted in this puzzle’s circles] shows us that we’re dealing with PULLED PORK, which is very yummy, especially with pickles on a potato bun. Always nice to have an evocative entry like that. But what it means here is that the circled letters in the grid spell the word PORK each time — that is, PORK is being “pulled” across the theme entry. Although the O and the R are not consistently located within each theme entry, the P always starts the phrase and the K is always the last letter in the phrase, which is a nice extra touch of consistency from two constructors seasoned enough to deliver a little more care than strictly necessary.

Where, then, besides in between the two halves of a bun, might you find your PULLED PORK?

  • 17A [Energy-boosting munch] is a POWER SNACK. IDK, this felt a little green paint-y to me. Power lunch, yes. PowerBar, also yes. POWER SNACK, not so much, at least as an in-the-language phrase. (Google each with quotation marks around the phrase and look at the difference in the number of hits; I think that backs me up.)
  • 23A [Explosive container for muzzle-loading guns] is a POWDER FLASK. Huh, I guess that’s a thing. I feel like I’ve just increased my knowledge of firearms by 20% or something.
  • 40A [Period or comma] is a PUNCTUATION MARK. Aha, now we’re getting somewhere in terms of things that are broadly known enough to be good Monday fodder.
  • 50A [Escape from jail] is a PRISON BREAK. Perhaps on a later day of the week this phrase could be clued with reference to the TV show, but on Monday, straightforward and trivia-free is the way to go.

The fill in this puzzle wasn’t my favorite. DPS, BRUTE clued as a Shakespearean partial rather than the common noun, the partial DAZS next to RKOS, OLLA (although I wouldn’t mind it later in the week clued with a reference to café de olla, which is delicious), EKED, and ETAIL — with all that, this grid didn’t quite MAKE PAR for me.

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

The New Yorker crossword solution • Natan Last • Monday, January 18, 2021

I really wanted to love this puzzle, and I very nearly do, but one section that is overly-dense with not-entirely-inferable proper nouns (which forced me to google!) knock this puzzle down a bit in my estimation.

I loved (but did not know) the central spanner CHIWETEL EJIOFOR [He voiced Scar in 2019’s “The Lion King”], and the rest of the long entries in the puzzle are also all super solid: ALLUDES TO / METHODISM / RAGAMUFFIN / I CAN’T GO ON / PHONE CALL / POINSETTIA / NATIVE SON / ITINERARY / MADISON AVE / DOMINEERED. I particularly enjoyed RAGAMUFFIN and its clue [Tatterdemalion], another thing I did not know but am delighted to have learned means “a person dressed in ragged clothing” per Merriam-Webster.

In terms of the solve itself, I flew through the entire western half of this puzzle in record challenging Monday pace, but I slammed to a halt on the Eastern side on basically everything that touched LES ASPIN. I’ve never heard of this person, and the name doesn’t parse in a way that is particularly intuitive (I assumed this was a woman named LESA SPIN until I finally gave up and googled). This name, in conjunction with CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, the (unguessable, for me) JACOBINS and DEFOE, my mistaken/bioethicist assumption that the [Hot-button verb in the COVID-19 era] was RATION instead of REOPEN, and a complete inability to parse SOME TREES (partly because I had entered METHODIST instead of METHODISM) made this section downright impossible for me. All of these entries, with the exception, perhaps, of the 1993-1994 Secretary of Defense LES ASPIN, are totally valid and excellent, but the crossings/proximity of alllll those proper nouns was just too much for me. But it’s a challenging Monday, so I suppose this level of difficulty is to be expected!

A few more things:

  • Channing TATUM is fine in “Magic Mike”, but his true masterpiece is the sequel, “Magic Mike XXL”. If you have not seen it, you are seriously missing out.
  • That Natan was able to include a whole excerpt from NATIVE SON is a benefit of the New Yorker’s online-only nature. A clue this long would probably not survive a print edition!
  • Favorite clues:
    • [Thick smoke?] for CIGAR
    • [Spoil one-on-one time on “The Bachelorette,” say] for CUT IN

Overall, I like all the elements of this puzzle individually, but the combination of so many names/titles of things marred the solving experience a bit for me. Otherwise a lovely puzzle though!

Greg Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Before and After” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 1/18/21 • Mon • Johnson • “Before and After” • solution • 20210118

Places, everyone!

  • 17a. [“You first,” literally?] AGE BEAUTY. That is, age BEFORE beauty.
  • 25a. [“Don’t stay out too late,” literally?] BE HOME DARK. Or, be home BEFORE dark.
  • 37a. [Rule that “weird” violates, literally?] I E C EXCEPT. I BEFORE E {,} except AFTER C.
  • 51a. [“Your grades are slipping,” literally?] CLASS SEE ME. So, see me AFTER class.
  • 61a. [Commercial break lead-in, literally?] THIS RIGHT. And right AFTER this. No quotes at all in this clue, an exception.

This is a very tightly constructed and well presented theme. It starts with a pair of befores, transitions with a before + after, then ends with a pair of afters.

  • 5d [Muy Thai fighter’s weapon] KNEE. Tony JAA would make very handy crossword fill. ONG BAK too.
  • 10d [Singles who rotate to meet other singles] SPEED DATERS. Awkward clue, or is it just me?
  • 24d [Cold seafood dish with mayo] SHRIMP SALAD. Way to ruin some perfectly good shrimp.
  • 29d [Spy grp. until 1991] KGB. Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti. Its current heir is the FSB, federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti.
  • 31d [Sight on the back of a dollar bill] EYE. It’s the Eye of Providence, and it’s creepy.
  • 42d [In most cases] AS A RULE. Strong dupe with themer 37-across.
  • 50d [How origami paper is folded] NEATLY. Early mis-folds lead exponentially to significant inaccuracies. However, a lot of contemporary origami has a sculptural quality characterized by more loose and artistic finishing folds. But precision is still essential!
  • 22a [3 button letters] DEF. The three letters associated with the 3 button on phones.
  • 44a [Half a paper bundle] REAM. Per Wikipedia:
    25 sheets = 1 quire
    500 sheets = 20 quires = 1 ream
    1,000 sheets = 40 quires = 2 reams = 1 bundle
    5,000 sheets = 200 quires = 10 reams = 5 bundles = 1 bale

Nice Monday crossword.

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1332), “Themeless Monday #604” — Jenni’s review

I was surprised when I finished and looked at the timer – I thought it took much longer. I stumbled around the top of the grid far longer than I should have, given that 15a was a gimme. There’s only one Sandman – the great MARIANO Rivera. This is a BEQ themeless so of course there were plenty of things I did not know. This whole post could be “What I Didn’t Know Before I Did This Puzzle” entry. I’ll restrain myself, though, and start with a list of some of the things I liked.

Brendan Emmett Quigley, Crossword # 1332, “Themeless Monday #604,” solution grid

  • “Put” is one of those words that lends itself to misdirection. 3d [Put in the mouth] is some sort of participle? clause? someone else who knows more grammar can explain. In any case, it took me a while to see that the the answer is ORAL.
  • 9d [Secretly change one’s name, maybe] is ELOPE, acknowledging that not everyone who marries changes their name. I’ve mellowed over the years and will now answer to Mrs. Smith (yes, that’s his last name, which is one reason I didn’t change it). Dr. Smith remains a no-go.
  • I got TRIX from crossings at 27a and knew the clue would be entertaining and would most likely not mention a rabbit. I was not disappointed by [Cereal with orangey orange and grapity purple flavors].
  • We see COEN in grids all the time, but rarely get THE COEN BROTHERS.
  • I’m not CRAZY about the CAT LADY stereotype. If we have to have it in the grid, at least there’s an interesting clue: [Recluse whose house is an allergic reaction waiting to happen].

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle, an abbreviated list: never heard of Peyton Elizabeth LEE or “Andi Mack.” Did not know that AL UNSER was the oldest driver the win the Indy 500. I’ve never met an EEL-backed flounder, which is OK with me. And I’ve never heard of DON Albarn.

I leave you with The Staples Singers, since it’s MLK Day and we all need some Mavis in our lives.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Monday, January 18, 2021

  1. Martin says:

    No WSJ today because of the holiday.

  2. Martin says:


    Freon is a generic term for fluorocarbon compounds. Many Freon versions are still made and used in the US. The chlorinated fluorocarbons (CFCs) such as Freon-12 were banned for causing damage to the ozone layer, but in many cases were replaced with different Freon.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    The New Yorker kicked my butt today. Wow. I liked it, eventually!

    • STEVEN says:

      funny, when i got les aspin i thought i was on my way to a great solve
      boy was i fooled

      very tough but enjoyable puzzle

    • David Steere says:

      Probably the only time I had better luck than Jenni and Rachel finishing one of Natan’s hard Monday puzzles. I won’t tell you how long it took me. On and off…all day long and totally determined not to look up anything until I finished or gave up. I finished with no mistakes. Amazing since I didn’t know 33D, 22A, 9A, the wonderful clue word at 11A, 23D, 34D, or the names in the 53D clue and those in the 1D clue. I knew the gentleman actor at 33A but with only a vague idea of the correct spelling. Just in a “keep plugging at it” mood, I guess. Interesting inclusion of Defoe’s novel considering the pandemic. Thanks, Natan.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    I’ve lately been really put off by many NYT puzzles as Will edits them weirdly, today there is a truly bad clue at 51A for TAR. ___ and feather would be great especially with current events, but if your driveway were actually TAR, you would TAR and feather your builder/driveway man. I always want to answer MACADAM when roadway/driveways/blacktop is clued.


    I think this was as close as you can get to a perfect NYT Monday.

    Great theme, fill, fun and relevant clues all with Monday in mind. OHO always meh (OK, Jenni, agree with PINUP, I thought BASTE for which the clue is 100%, but Monday?, I like your clue suggestion)


    • Jenni Levy says:

      Did you think I was suggesting Betty Grable? I wasn’t. I was stating my preference for a sewing clue. And yes, the answer could have been BASTE, but that’s what makes it fun.

    • Will says:

      I think that Macadam is a South Eastern/South Central PA regionalism. I don’t know where you’re from, so maybe I’m completely wrong, but I’m curious if others would know that term.

      • Jenni Levy says:

        I’m in eastern PA. I know the term but I think of it as British or British-adjacent. Mostly we call it “asphalt,” but tar is certainly in colloquial use and sounds perfectly fine to my ear.

        • Billy Boy says:

          Mac Adam – Scottish

          @Jenni – baste IS the better answer. Surely pin-up in 2021 is offensive, maybe the constructor could have re-worked that corner by using PEN UP; just remember I’m one who supports the mission of equality on this site

      • Martin says:

        “Tar” is historical. Tar is synthetic (made from burning organic material like wood or coal). The natural “tarry” substance is bitumen. A certain kind of thick bitumen is called asphalt, and is used in modern paving.

        The earliest paving was the macadam road, short for “tarmacadam.” It used tar (coal tar mainly). The name lives on in another abbreviated form, “tarmac.” But when petroleum processing increased in the automotive age, naturally occurring asphalt (or other forms of bitumen) replaced the coal tar.

        So while paving is purely asphalt-based today, “tar” is often still used in informal speech. The confusion between tar and bitumen goes back to the Spanish in California who discovered what we still call the La Brea tar pits (“the the tar tar pits”). They’d never seen bitumen and called it “brea” (tar) because it was so similar. Technically, there’s no tar in the Tar Pits, but for non-technical speech it’s still tar.

        • Steve Manion says:

          I always enjoy your explanations. TARMACADAM was in the Spelling Bee a month of two ago. It was not a pangram, but how many 10-letter words ever fit? I knew TARMAC and MACADAM and took a conflated guess. I was generally familiar with both words, but had never seen them joined.


        • sanfranman59 says:

          Thanks for the exaplanation and the education, Martin.

  5. marciem says:

    Universal: Thanks for explaining the “half a bundle” being a ream. That didn’t fall easily for me as I thought of a ream as a bundle of paper.

    42d. I had the AS and U, so of course it had to be “as usual” which fit in there and sorta fit the clue, but did not work well for the rest of the puzzling :D .

    Enjoyed the theme!

    • Reddogg says:

      Count me in on thanks for the ‘ream’ explanation. I’d wager that most of us think of ream as not being half of anything.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    Thanks for the explanation and the education, Martin.

  7. pseudonym says:

    Natan Last is truly a terrific c̶r̶o̶s̶s̶w̶o̶r̶d̶ ̶p̶u̶z̶z̶l̶e̶ trivia-in-a-box maker. Can’t thank the TNY enough for employing him.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      If you’re doing trivia, maybe get the year “Space Oddity” or “Ashes to Ashes” was released correct? I mean, there are two different options, but 1973 isn’t either of them.

      • Flinty Steve says:

        The clue doesn’t say “released,” it says “hit”. Space Oddity peaked on Billboard in April of 1973. If you’re doing trivia . . .

        It’s a shame Nathan Last and KAC come in for so much grief in these comments. I love their puzzles.

        • pseudonym says:

          It’s a sham ̶e̶ ̶N̶a̶t̶h̶a̶n̶ ̶L̶a̶s̶t̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶K̶A̶C̶ ̶c̶o̶m̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶s̶o̶ ̶m̶u̶c̶h̶ ̶g̶r̶i̶e̶f̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶s̶e̶ ̶c̶o̶m̶m̶e̶n̶t̶s̶.̶ ̶I̶ ̶l̶o̶v̶e̶ their puzzles. Fixed it for ya. :)

          • Flinty Steve says:

            ha ha – you broke it for me and “fixed” it for yourself.

          • STEVEN says:

            some of the “newer” constructers just seem to be trying to outdo each other with some completely obscure word or clue

            they are successful in doing so, but i think it is rather juvenile and hope they get over it

            it makes otherwise enjoyable puzzles not enjoyable

            • Kameron says:

              I’m not sure that 6+ years counts as ‘new,’ given the number of constructors to emerge since I started and the number of puzzles I’ve published in that time, and I’m even less sure of why you guys consistently bring me up in discussions of other people’s puzzles. Not that I don’t enjoy the male attention and all, especially in these quarantined times, but it’s getting a little old.

        • Christopher Smith says:

          Hilarious. I never knew that. Was a little before my time. Fair enough.

Comments are closed.