Note: No WSJ puzzle due to the holiday.
Meconya Alford’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
I love this spin on a President’s Day puzzle! Each theme answer includes the name of a Presidential Pooch with the Prez in brackets. Thanks to Bryan in the comments and Tracy in my Email for alerting me to a glaring omission in my list of theme answers! I also missed that this is Meconya Alford’s NYT debut. When we have a constructor’s name in our list of tags, I figure they’re not new, and her name was familiar. That’s because I reviewed her Inkubator puzzle a few weeks ago. She’s been busy, especially since this puzzle must have been constructed after November 3.
- 21a [“Rush Hour” and “21 Jump Street” [Clinton] ] are BUDDY COP MOVIES. This sounds awkward to my ear. Buddy movies, yes. Cop movies, yes. Buddy cop movies?
- 26a [TV deputy of Mayberry [Bush 43] ] is BARNEY FIFE.
- 40a [The Buddha is often depicted meditating under it [Obama] ] is a BO TREE. How could I forget Bo? Not just a totally adorable dog but a reminder that kids remember everything you promise. In this case, they had help from all the publicity.
- 50a [C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C, e.g. [Biden] ] is a MAJOR SCALE.
And the revealer at 56a, [What the starts of 21-, 26-, 40-, and 50-Across are, for the presidents in their clues]: WHITE HOUSE DOGS. When I came back to edit the puzle, I realized that the dogs appear in order of succession: Clinton, George W Bush, Obama, Biden. This is an even better puzzle than I initially realized!
I love dogs. One of the things I love about doing home visits is that I get to meet people’s dogs. Dog-centric puzzles make me smile even with one iffy theme entry. There’s a bonus puppy I’ll mention later.
A few other things:
- I enjoy the image of a Jewish wedding with people dancing the HORA on the beach at OAHU. Sounds like fun to me.
- I remember when MERV Griffin was a poor man’s Mike Douglas – and then came “Wheel of Fortune.”
- I always give money to people who BUSK in the subway even when they’re not very good. On another note (!), I think BUSK might be a tad obscure for Monday.
- ELSA crossing ELSE isn’t a dupe but it sure looks odd.
- I love our ROKU! We recently upgraded and now we can use Airplay to stream from our computers to our TVs.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that IKE had a dog named Heidi (bonus puppy!).
Stella Zawistowski’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Derek here subbing for Stella on a Monday LAT for a good reason: this IS Stella’s puzzle! Let’s list the theme entries:
- 17A [*Test of hand strength] PINCH GRIP
- 29A [*Ski resort purchase] LIFT TICKET
- 43A [*Accidentally call without touching one’s cellphone] POCKET DIAL
- 57A [Express lack of interest on Tinder … or a hint to the answers to starred clues] SWIPE LEFT
I am getting old and slow, so it took me a minute to “grasp” the theme, but the starred clues all start with a word that means swipe on the left side of the entry. Pretty simple for a Monday, and certainly easy by Stella standards. (Disclaimer: I have NEVER been on Tinder! But they “tell” me that if you swipe left it is a big fat no, but if you swipe right it is game on!) Nicely done for a Monday; it was only I that made it needlessly complicated! 4.3 stars from me.
A few more notes:
- 5A [Man __: 1920 Horse of the Year] O’ WAR – Nice entry that I have to make sure is on my list!
- 27A [Drink with a polar bear mascot] ICEE – It is in the single digits here in northern Indiana. No ICEEs or Slurpees for me in the near future! There is a new freeze at Taco Bell, too, and it can ALSO wait for warmer weather!
- 35A [It’s given in the form of a question on “Jeopardy!”] ANSWER – I WILL be on Jeopardy! one day. Hopefully!
- 7D [Not very much] A BIT OF – This is a 6-letter partial that the NYT I don’t believe would take. This one seems fine to me, and that rule, if it is still there, needs to go. Although clued this way, one could view it as NOT being a partial. The point is, it is easily gettable, and that is the key.
- 21D [NYC museum’s fundraising gala] MET BALL – I believe Stella is quite the fashionista, and that is what this ball is known for. Me, I wear what’s clean and hope the colors match!
- 55D [Omar of “House”] EPPS – Also, as another option, OMAR Sy is the star of Lupin on Netflix. I haven’t seen it yet, but it is supposedly good. I think it involves subtitles, so be warned.
Tune in on Tuesday for my usual LAT gig. Have a great day!
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
This was fun and not that hard! The long entries shine and the medium fill is also pretty solid, although the short fill wasn’t ideal. Quick writeup today:
The marquees are I’D RATHER NOT SAY and TRAPEZE ARTISTS, both with spot-on clues [Polite answer to “How much money do you make?”] and [Ones whose jobs are up in the air?]. PSA: if your colleagues ask you how much money you make, it may be because they suspect there is a gendered wage gap, and you should just tell them! Also, is this puzzle a morality play about officework? See parallel long downs GOOD HABITS [Meeting deadlines, being punctual, etc.] / RAN ERRANDS [Served as an office gofer]. The stacks in the NW and SE are also pretty good: WORK THAT / ON A LEASH / RETURNEE / INSULTED / GARNERED / STATUARY. I’d say WORK THAT is my favorite, and RETURNEE is kind of just there, but generally solid stuff
A few more things:
- Favorite clues:
- [Ones whose jobs are up in the air?] for TRAPEZE ARTISTS
- [Forward-looking person?] for SEER
- Fill I could live without: crossword staples NCIS/IZOD/ATRA, -ASE, SOT, ONE I
- Generationwatch: I tried to put in INCUBUS for 8-Down [“Drive” band] but it didn’t fit ?. Definitely did not know this song by THE CARS, listened to it and watched the video, and… am confused by it. It was not a particularly good time so instead here is WORK THAT by Mary J. Blige.
Overall, several stars for the long entries and solid cluing. See you Weds!
Zhouquin Burnikel’s Universal crossword, “QR Reader” — pannonica’s write-up
I spent a not insignificant amount of time editing this crossword’s grid to look kind of like a QR code with the intention of scanning it to see what the result might be. Unfortunately, my labors were in vain, as it lacks the identifying trio of concentric squares in the corners, and even had I inserted those, the grid possesses the wrong resolution. Plus, there are numerous other standards.
So on to the puzzle itself. The theme is simply two-word phrases with the initials QR.
17a. [Snake oil, say] QUACK REMEDY.
- 27a. [Short musical pause] QUARTER REST. Quarter notes rests defeated me in high school percussion class. I’m that inept.
- 47a. [Doha currency] QATARI RIYAL.
- 61a. [Monarch’s stand-in] QUEEN REGENT.
QUITE (27d) reasonable.
I mean, I suppose I could play around with that grid some more. Perhaps quadruple it and add those alignment figures and whatever else is needed … but frankly, that’s TOO (16a) much work dedicated to what is probably a fruitless exercise.
- 3d [Fall weather advisory that’s useful to gardeners] FROST ALERT. Freezing temps all over the South right now. 15a [Winter fishing shelter] ICE HUT. I bet there’s a bit of that going on right now too.
- 6d [Pole-vaulting paths] ARCS. I suppose, after the vaulter has left the ground?
- 7d [Where people may make a pyramid?] CIRCUS. This turned out to be a tricky clue for me.
- 57d [Some fluffy sandals] UGGS. Fluffy sandals confuse me.
- 62d [Cashew, e.g.] NUT. Of course, they’re really seeds, but colloquially they are considered nuts.
- 25a [Auto garage service] LUBE. I was thinking more about parking garages rather than repair/maintenance garages.
- 33a [Browser history contents] URLS. I bet the majority of QR codes are simply URLs.
- 45a Actress HANA Mae Lee is new to me.
Don’t forget BO at 40A! :) Fun theme!
NYT: This is such a fantastic puzzle and so perfect for Presidents Day. I really love this one. I didn’t figure out any of the themers until I got the revealer, and then it all made sense instantly, and I realized how brilliantly done this was. The fact that the dogs are all in chronological order is awesome. I also got a kick out of the bottom middle, with these crossings, each only one letter different: SOLE/SOLO, ELSE/ELSA and DOER/DEAR.
Well done, Meconya! And congrats on your NYT debut. I look forward to seeing more puzzles from you.
NYT: Congratulations to Meconya Alford on a very fine debut, but my wife (a beginning solver and expert in media metrics) felt compelled to say that the clue for 70A is way off and that a Roku in absolutely no way makes your TV smart, even allowing for the fudgery licensed by the quotation marks around “smart.” In her words, a Roku gives your TV “over-the-top capabilities.” Carry on.
The clue may have been a bit in artfully worded, but the principal features of a TV that would make it a “smart” TV are the features provided by a Roku — the ability to reach streaming platforms. Some smart TV operating systems also add an internet browser, but who uses a TV browser? It’s not a surprise that Roku itself provides the operating system for many smart TVs these days. In any event, the clue seems about 95% right, not “way off.”
The clue fits the current commercial use of the phrase “smart TV”, but as an old IT guy that use still makes me cringe. We used to actually have a technical definition of “smart”, which basically was that it could download an app. By our definition, smart phones really are, but smart TV’s are not.
I thought the NYT was a bit hard for a Monday, maybe unless you’re a real dog lover that keeps up with presidential pets. Without those as givens, you need the fill, and BUDDY COP MOVIE and BO TREE are not things you see everyday. I got them fast enough, thankfully.
BUSK, though? Maybe it’s an urban/nonurban divide, but here in NYC “buskers” if not “busk” is not obscure. (They’re just a real annoyance.)
Admittedly not as many buskers here in DC as there are in NYC or some west coast cities, but whether here or when traveling elsewhere, I’m more than willing to tolerate a few passing moments of the “annoying” ones for the occasional 5 minutes of stop-you-in-your-tracks talent.
Fair point. In nicer weather there were two different decent jazz trios in Madison Square Park. But then also a guy whose location varies (last weekend in Union Square) who can go for hours repeating the same 3 second drum riff. It drives me crazy.
New Yorker was ridiculously easy for a Monday. My only overwrite was “skit” at 48D, which I knew was wrong because of the “?” in the clue but I put it in anyway.
I agree. I’m not a power or speed solver and look forward to the Monday New York for a good solid tussle. This wasn’t it. This bordered on read the clue, fill in the answer. Thought the fill was ordinary with very little sparkle. Liz Gorski normally merits accolades not mehs.
An accolade from me anyway for Liz, even if or because this crossword was easier than most NYer Mondays; and I also loved the doggy theme in the NYT, because I love doggies, all doggies. Thank you all.
Uni: I know almost nothing about variations in shoes and have never worn a pair of UGGS, but I thought they were made of rubber. If so, they can’t very well be “fluffy”, can they? Duh! I’m thinking of Crocs. As I said, I don’t know much about shoes. Never mind!
@pannonica: Thanks for the education about cashews being seeds and not nuts. As much as I love to eat them, I don’t think I’ve ever actually researched what they are.
TNY: There are conflicting theories in the Gen X world as to what “Drive” is about. Ric Ocasek cagily said it was about women who would hang out in bars until last call. Others say drug addiction or bipolar disorder. It was 1984 so it was best to not be too explicit. The video was probably mostly about Ocasek’s wish to meet Paulina Poriskova, which worked out pretty well.
BUDDY COP is a pretty standard term for that particular formula that dominated American action movies of the 80s and early 90s: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddy_cop_film .