Soleil Saint-Cyr’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
This is Soleil’s NYT debut. She’s a senior at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and a welcome addition to constructing! Her puzzle kicks off a week of puzzles by Black constructors. Everdeen Mason, the new (as of a month ago) editorial director of of the New York Times Games team, wrote about this project. On the one hand, I find it infuriating that we have to make a Thing about Black constructors. On the other hand, yay! for more diversity in Crossworld. It matters until it doesn’t, and it still matters.
This is a terrific Monday puzzle. The theme is smooth and consistent, the fill is solid, and it’s perfectly pitched for early-week solvers.
All the theme answers are 15-letter entries. I didn’t know what was going on until I got to the revealer.
- 19a [One on the front lines during a crisis] is an ESSENTIAL WORKER.
- 35a [Crown wearer at a fall football game] is a HOMECOMING QUEEN.
- 52a [Unmanned Dept. of Defense aircraft] is a US MILITARY DRONE. I made that more difficult by reading as “unnamed.” Duh.
What do all these have in common? Here’s the buzz: 57a [With 58-Across, collective consciousness…or a hint to the ends of 19-, 35-, and 52-Across]. HIVE MIND. Bees! WORKER bees, QUEEN bees, and DRONEs. Nice!
A few other things:
- My APPT for the second COVID vaccine was moved from Tuesday to Thursday because of the storm here in eastern PA. Fingers crossed I’ll be OK for my weekend on call. Even if I’m not….still better than COVID.
- It’s a nice change to see YALIES instead of ELIS.
- 40a [Since, informally] is CUZ for “because.”
- Wow, do I miss BEAR HUGs from friends.
- I find it amusing to have Oreos in the clues and Double-STUF in the grid.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that NSYNC recorded a song called “Bye Bye Bye.”
Rebecca Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Let’s go to the revealer at 61A to find out what’s going on, although IMO this puzzle didn’t need one. [With “The,” 2010 Annette Bening/Julianne Moore film … and a hint to the ends of 17-, 30- and 45-Across] gets you KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT. (The title of the film is The Kids Are All Right, as the clunky “With ‘The,'” indicates.) What that means is that a word that means a young human of some kind — a KID — is on the RIGHT in each theme answer.
- 17A [Ponce de León’s pursuit] is the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH. YOUTH, besides the abstract concept of young age and the vigor assumed to go with it in those who are looking for a fountain thereof, is also a young person. (As an aside, this morning I went to CrossFit class and worked out — eight feet apart and masked, natch — next to an 81-year-old man who was cleaning and jerking the barbell like a boss. If anyone has found the fountain of youth, it is he.)
- 30A [2009 title chef played by Meryl Streep] is JULIA CHILD, from the film Julie & Julia. IMO the movie was long enough ago that I’d have just clued this with reference to Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And of course CHILD in its non-proper-noun sense is synonymous with KID.
- 45A [Collectible ’90s-’00s stuffed toy] is a BEANIE BABY. Fortunately I’m just old enough to have missed out on wasting money on these.
As mentioned above, I think this puzzle could have done without a revealer. I’d instead have put in one more theme entry. “The Kids Are All Right” would be a fine title for the hypothetical no-revealer version of this puzzle, but even though LAT puzzles don’t have titles, I think a solver could figure out what was going on with no troubles if the last answer were a phrase that ended in TOT or MINOR or something like that. I wouldn’t mind this revealer if a) the movie were either more recent or more evergreen and b) it didn’t need the dreaded “With ‘The,'” in the clue.
The fill, like the kids, is all right. After the fact I was amused to go back and look at the clue for 12D, NO TV — I thought “Imp’s punishment” seemed oddly phrased, but now it’s clear that the constructor was avoiding repeating a word that was in a theme entry or the revealer.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Commercial Interruptions”—Jim P’s review
STATION BREAKS (34a, [Commercials, and a hint to the circled letters]) is the central revealer. The theme answers are in the circled letters, split between two different words, and each theme answer is a word that can precede “station.”
- TRAIN station from 16a EXTRA and 17a INCOGNITO.
- SERVICE station from 28a RINSER and 30a VICE COPS.
- RADIO station from 42a OBAMA ERA and 45a DIONNE.
- SPACE station from 55a HEALTH SPA and 58a CELLO.
Got it? That works, yeah? Sadly, no wordplay in this kind of theme, but the choices for theme entries are mostly good. RINSER isn’t great, but INCOGNITO, HEALTH SPA, VICE COPS, and OBAMA ERA all get a thumbs up from me.
KEN DOLLS and SAND FLEA top the non-theme fill.
But, heck, this sure didn’t seem like a Monday puzzle with those big corners and fill like PUNIC and SATRAP and opaque clues like [Toppers] and [Early astronaut Ham, for one]. Plus, some names were fine for us olds (PETERS, NAMATH, CHARO), but the younger set might’ve struggled with them. Maybe it was the weird grid design (sort of an S-shape) that messed with my rhythm. I don’t know. I’m surprised I got in under 5 minutes (just), only because the lower half flowed much more smoothly.
This felt like a tale of two puzzles. The top half felt crunchy and disjointed, the bottom half flowed with nicer fill and more straightforward clues. At least, that was my experience. Maybe yours was the opposite? 3.3 stars from me.
Kameron Austin Collins’ New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Hey it’s Monday! Congratulations to everyone who competed in/constructed for/organized and ran the Boswords Winter Wondersolve yesterday. Although I really miss seeing crossword people IRL, these online tournaments are as close as we’re getting for now, and it’s just so nice to “see” all of your nerds digitally. Let’s do it again in a few weeks, yeah?
Today’s challenging puzzle from Kameron Austin Collins wasn’t so very challenging, but I enjoyed it quite a bit! I especially loved the long entries in the N and S: HEEBIE JEEBIES / ITHACA IS GORGES / SOCIOPOLITICAL / MINNESOTA NICE are all excellent, and as an upstate New Yorker, the ITHACA clue was a gimme. Do people outside of this region also know this slogan?? I’m not crazy about the central spanner BUSINESS INSIDER, which is a little humdrum, but it holds those other four in place, so I’m not mad about it. I also think this grid design is pretty sharp— I’m a fan of staircase blocks in unexpected places, like the corners we see here, and the pattern through the middle is pretty unique.
A few more things:
- Favorite clues:
- [Punny slogan about Cornell’s beautiful, craggy upstate environs] for ITHACA IS GORGES – I am very into the pinpoint precision of this clue!
- [“Only those who have denied their being ___ play at it” (Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Lathe of Heaven”)] for YEARN TO – I’m not sure exactly what this means, but it sounds cool. I also like that this clue breaks the unwritten rule that fill-in-the-blanks shouldn’t be more than 6 letters. TAKE THAT, RULES! Also, did you see that USPS is releasing Ursula Le Guin stamps?
- Least favorite clue
- [Natural stomachful] for ACID – because ew
Ok, well, that’s all from me. Overall, tons of stars for clean fill and satisfying cluing. See you on Wednesday, and good luck with all that snow, East Coasters.
Erik Agard’s Universal crossword, “Weather Report” — pannonica’s write-up
- 54aR [100-degree day, say … or each starred answer’s end, based on a word that can precede it?] HOT ONE. Bit awkward to explain a simple arrangement.
- 21a. [*It’s bigger than a twin] QUEEN BED. Hotbed.
- 26a. [*Meaty lunch order] HAM SANDWICH. Hot sandwich, though I’ve seen more than one hot ham sandwich.
- 42a. [*Faster bus transit option] EXPRESS LINE. Hotline.
- 51a. [Theater box perch] LOGE SEAT. Hot seat. This one lacked the asterisk, but it’s obviously a theme entry.
I’m not too thrilled about the theme itself, but do appreciate the craftsmanship, which is basically ensuring evenness. For the hot constructions there are two one-word conglomerates and two two-word phrases; and for what it’s worth they’re arranged alternately. On the other hand, if they were arranged symmetrically I would have praised that, and if they were arranged sequentially, I would have thought that was ok too. So I guess it’s a scam. Damn, now I feel cheated by this crossword!
Disclaimer: I wrote the above before realizing that 19-across was also a theme answer, but I now refuse to redact or rewrite the passage.
- 19a. [*Four-legged helper at some baseball games] BAT DOG. Hot dog.
The cluing is pitched properly for an early-week offering. Oh and by the way, I’m not going to include a Weather Report tune, because I just don’t care for 98% of fusion jazz.
<Looking over puzzle for material to comment on … >
There isn’t much, which again speaks to its anodynousness.
- 1a [Greek letter that resembles a rotated M] SIGMA. I really liked this as a first entry. It wasn’t an automatic get, neither was it difficult. Rather, it caused me to pause and think for just a moment.
- 37d [Pixy __ (candy)] STIX. Just noting the –ixy –ix.
- 45d [Finish for the day, as a school] LET OUT. Oh let’s not revisit that.
- 13a [Elba of “Cats”] IDRIS. Wow, so many A-LISTERS (35a) in that hot mess.
- 34a [Gurira of “Black Panther”] DANAI. Probably the only obscure to moderately-obscure entry in the grid. Easily obtained via crossings if you didn’t know her.
I didn’t get the NYT theme until I was otherwise done, a nice plus for a Monday.
NYT: I know he doesn’t write for this site, but re: Jeff Chen’s review, I have to agree with him that the US in US MILITARY DRONE is kind of a disaster. (Would we accept UK MILITARY DRONE if a K worked in that spot?) On the flip side, I disagree that IMMA is bad. I think IMMA is a contraction that’s well-established in AAVE (side note: AAVE should be in wordlists) and it’s a welcome and fresh addition to any wordlist. Overall, it’s quite a solid debut puzzle. Grids with straight lines rather than stairstep patterns are so much tougher. Good job, Soleil.
Seconded on all points, especially US MILITARY DRONE, doubly because I don’t think unaccountable extrajudicial murder passes the breakfast test. YMMV.
CUZ, OCULI, WIZ on Monday
This is going to be a fun week.