Kevin Christian and Andrea Carla Michaels’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
I enjoyed this puzzle. I didn’t grok the theme until I got to the revealer and I didn’t take the time to go back and look at the theme entries until after I finished, and it made me smile. The puzzle is smooth and Monday-appropriate. The only thing that got in my way was my own typo.
The revealer at 62a [Dreaded cry from a boss…or a hint to the ends of 18-, 23-, 40, and 53-Across] is YOU‘RE FIRED. I won’t gloat about someone who made that phrase famous and was recently fired himself. OK, maybe just a little.
- 18a [Oscar the Grouch’s home] is GARBAGE CAN.
- 23a [Old weapon in hand-to-hand combat] is BATTLEAXE.
- 40a [Result of a football blitz, maybe] is a QUARTERBACK SACK. Is there another kind of sack in football?
- 53a [Bit of fashionable footwear] is ANKLE BOOT.
CAN, AXE, SACK, and BOOT are all synonyms for FIRE. Nice, solid, Monday theme. All the entries are clearly in the language and the revealer ties it all together.
A few other things:
- 2d [Give a makeover, informally] is REHAB. I think of “makeover” as being about people and REHAB as being about houses (except in the addiction sense), so that foxed me for a minute.
- I haven’t heard NO CUTS in a long time. Took me back to middle school.
- I enjoyed the interjections. We have [“Goodness gracious!”] for MERCY and [“Holy moly!”] for EGAD.
- 52a [English channel, informally] is the BEEB, or BBC. The lower-case c in “channel” is a clue that we’re not talking about the body of water.
- I knew that SPIRO AGNEW resigned as Vice President. I didn’t know he was the second to do so. The first one was John C. Calhoun in 1832.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Calhoun (although that’s peripheral) and I also didn’t know that Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida” was based on the Iliad. Seems like I should have known that, but I didn’t remember it.
Craig Stowe’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
This puzzle is full of beans! No, I’m not saying it’s nonsense (and today I learned that to be “full of beans” can also mean to be energetic and lively). I just mean that it’s a theme o’beans. Go to the revealer at 59A [Tumbling seed, and a hint to each row of circled letters] and you get JUMPING BEAN. And if you have a look at the circled letters in each theme entry, they spell out a type of bean. The beans are “jumping” because the letters aren’t in adjacent squares.
- 18A [Entirety of a manufacturer’s goods] is PRODUCT LINE. The circled letters spell out POLE; a POLE BEAN appears to refer not to a single varietal of bean, but rather to a growing method (growing the bean plant along a trellis or pole).
- 23A [U.S. Forest Service mascot since 1944] is SMOKEY BEAR. Add to the list of things I learned after solving: there’s no “the” in the middle of his name, at least not officially. The circled letters spell SOYA, which…I guess so, but when was the last time you called it a SOYA BEAN rather than a SOYBEAN? Brits call it SOYA, which is why I say “I guess so.”
- 39A [Indoor tanning aid] is a SUN LAMP. But please don’t tan indoors! It’s not good for your skin! Anyway, the circled letters spell out SNAP. Looks like SNAP BEANS can also be POLE BEANS!
- 53A [Out-of-office investigator] is a FIELD AGENT. The circled letters spell FLAT. I skeptically thought, “I’ve never heard of FLAT BEANS,” but Dr. Google tells me I have most certainly eaten them.
Anyway, this theme didn’t quite do it for me. I wonder whether it would have been executable with different varietals of bean, and using only common American English ones. FAVA, LIMA, MUNG, PINTO come to mind as possibilities.
The fill is pretty good — MS. PAC-MAN and YULE LOG were favorites for me — although I do wish the NW corner were a little easier. You don’t always have to start a puzzle at 1-Across, but lots of people do, and I think on Monday it’s kind to solvers to let people get a foothold right away. Instead, you have 1A [Hesitant sounds], which could just as easily be UHS or ERS as the correct UMS, a knowledge-based clue right below with NIA Long, and not necessarily Monday-easy 6s crossing with UNWISE, MIASMA, and SAY-SOS. All legit fill, but it adds up to a slightly slower start than I expect on a Monday, and in my case definitely led to a longer overall time than usual at 2:22.
Benjamin McAvoy-Bickford’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Cabinet Members”—Jim P’s review
It’s a timely debut today, as the new president is trying to get his cabinet members sorted out. As for us, our cabinet members are phrases where the last word is a piece of dinnerware.
- 20a. [What a truck driver might use to eat?] LICENSE PLATE
- 36a. [What a scientist might use to eat?] PETRI DISH
- 43a. [What a quarterback might use to eat?] SUPER BOWL
- 58a. [What an alien might use to eat?] FLYING SAUCER
Cute. Nothing groundbreaking, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. It’s a clean, straightforward, fun theme just right for getting the week off to a good start.
The fill is good, but to be honest, it seems like it should be sparklier with only four theme answers. Part of the issue seems to be that the 13-letter themers are in the fourth and twelfth rows, pushing all the themers toward the center. An alternative would be to put the 9-letter themers in the third and thirteenth rows and put the bigger ones closer to the middle. That might free up some space and allow for some fun long Downs.
But what we get is still nice, especially WRANGLE, EARFLAP, ASIAGO, and CROUTON (all of those being in the bottom half, curiously).
Only one clue of note: 40d. [Magazine named for a “fine black wood”]. EBONY. I assumed the quoted words are from somewhere, but I can’t find the source. Anyone?
A nice debut puzzle. 3.5 stars.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Quick write-up today! This was the easiest challenging New Yorker I think I’ve done to date, coming in just over what I imagine is my Friday average. This puzzle is fun and clean and has some lovely clues that made it fly by for me.
The long entries today include THE LAST POETS / NO NEW FRIENDS / INDOLENT / MAN-EATER / ICE CORES / STAR TREK. I didn’t know THE LAST POETS [Black Nationalist spoken-word collective whose work was a precursor to hip-hop], so I did some googling and wow, how did I not know THE LAST POETS?? This is an excellent entry that is New Yorker-worthy in its cultural cachet. NO NEW FRIENDS is also great (although, for the record, I am personally available for new [internet] friends after spending a year in my house with no [IRL] friends at all!)
A few more things:
- Favorite clue is [Retiring workers?] for PIT CREW, although I can’t even think the words PIT CREW without hearing them in RuPaul’s voice
- New non-Simpsons clue on APU alert!! [The ___ Trilogy, Satyajit Ray’s cinematic bildungsroman]
- Here’s a picture of my dog HAZEl (whose name frequently gets shortened to HAZE) writing this blog post for Fiend. She is [dog writing blog] not [Fog or smog]
Overall, tons of stars for a smooth solve to start the week. See you Wednesday!
Nate Cardin’s Universal crossword, “Drive Safely” — pannonica’s write-up
I’m torn on this one. It’s a theme concept I haven’t seen before, but the impetus for it is based on outdated information. The TWIN (45d) revealers are located unusually, but there’s a very good reason for that.
- 22aR [Left hand’s traditional steering position, or a hint to the starred answers’ starts] TEN.
27aR [Left hand’s traditional steering position, or a hint to the starred answers’ ends] TWO.
Note that these entries appear in their appropriate positions, were the grid a clock face.
As for the theme answers themselves, it’s nothing more elaborate than being 12-letter phrases in which the first word is ten letters long and the second is but two letters.
- 20a. [*Take advantage of] CAPITALIZE ON. Geez, now I’m going to have a Yes earworm.
- 28a. [*Newspaper listing] CLASSIFIED AD. Significantly displaced by Craigslist and other online sites.
- 44a. [*Do some tidying] STRAIGHTEN UP.
- 53a. [*Home to Black Lives Matter Plaza] WASHINGTON DC.
Problem is, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration quite some time ago (1a) REVAMPed their guidelines for proper hand placement on steering wheels. No longer is ten-two advised. Perhaps Nate has made a weak concession to this by using the adjective ‘traditional’, but combined with the title—”Drive Safely”—it promotes an incorrect and potentially deleterious message in a public forum, which strikes me as less than ideal. As a result, it’s difficult to recommend this crossword, despite its cleverness.
- 1d [Twitter shares, informally] RTS, for retweets.
- 37d [Crunchy cookies] SNAPS. 2d [Devour] EAT. Recently I devoured nearly a full bag of lemon snaps. Oops.
- 39d [Fizzy citrus drink] ORANGINA. Wasn’t expecting a brand name here, but ORANGEADE didn’t fit.
- 42d [Prepare, as coffee beans] GRIND UP. >squints, waggles head<
- 55d [Committed a Halloween prank, informally] TPED. Is there anything less imaginative?
- 15a/40a [Either half of some couples] GUY / WOMAN.
- 17a [“Fifty Shades Freed” protagonist Anastasia] STEELE. Alan Freed fanfic?
- 58a [Golf pencil’s lack] ERASER. Is that a size consideration? Economy? To dissuade cheating? Some other reason? Some or all of these?
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1334), “Themeless #605” — Jenni’s review
Very quickly before my 12:30 meeting, here’s the grid and a few things I noticed.
- I like conversational clues. Brendan gives us [“Having said all that…”] for AT ANY RATE.
- This isn’t really conversational in the same way, but it feels related to me. [Phrase said when the speaker is snapping] is SO THAT‘S IT. “Snapping” her fingers, no doubt.
- It’s a good thing that DORIC and IONIC share three letters so I was able to get a foothold in the NE while I waited to see which classical order of architecture we were looking for.
- It took me a very long time to get WORM OUT for [Push away (from), as with undermining techniques]. I had it in my head that “push” was transitive. I also always think of the phrase as WORM OUT from under and the two words alone feel like a bit of a stretch.
- Sometimes BEQ connects the first and last entries, but if there’s a relationship between FINAL BOSS and SEED CASES, I don’t see it.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Oliver Sacks was ABBA EBAN‘s cousin. I also didn’t know that EZRA wrote the book of Chronicles. There was also a tennis player, an airport, and a director that were new to me – no time to hunt them down.