Michael Lieberman’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
This is Michael’s NYT debut. It’s a nice Monday! I got the theme immediately so there was no “aha!” moment, and that’s OK on a Monday. I have a couple of issues with the fill. We’ll get to that.
The theme clues are all cities and dates.
- 18a [*Seattle, 1962] is the SPACE NEEDLE.
- 27a [*Paris, 1889] is the EIFFEL TOWER.
- 45a [Chicago, 1893] is the FERRIS WHEEL.
And the revealer: 58a [Event for which the answers to the three starred clues were built]: WORLD‘S FAIRS. Solid, consistent, and entirely Monday-accessible. Not exciting for experienced solvers. Ah, well, you can’t have everything.
My issues with the fill: UNFREE and FRATTY, both of which feel very roll-your-own. They don’t make the puzzle difficult or obscure. They still feel off.
A few other things:
- BRUTE FORCE problem-solving gets a bad rap. It solves the problem, doesn’t it?
- I love RACK of lamb. Mmm.
- Can’t wait for EXTRA innings! Or any innings! We’re probably headed for some kind of work stoppage after this season, so let’s enjoy what we can while we have it.
- 42a [Words spoken after a big raise?] are I FOLD. Poker, not employment.
- [Pants holder-upper] for BELT made me giggle.
What I did’t know before I did this puzzle: that the FERRIS WHEEL at the Columbian Exposition was the first in the world.
Catherine Cetta’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
This theme seemed not quite appropriate for a Monday. Not the constructor’s fault; it’s executed consistently, and there’s a revealer, but I would say even with a revealer this one would have been better suited to a Tuesday or even Wednesday.
The revealer at 64A gets a mighty long clue: [Track meet infractions … or short words hiding at the beginning of the answers to starred clues]. That’s because this is a “things in common” theme, but the things in common are not entire words in the theme entries; they are portions of words. The answer, FALSE STARTS, turns out to mean that a word meaning a false statement is spelled out at the beginning of every theme answer. Thus:
- 17A [*Data transmission science] is FIBER OPTICS, which has FIB at the beginning.
- 24A [*Elementary school fundraiser] is a TALENT SHOW, which has TALE at the beginning. Do people actually pay money to see their kids’ talent shows? I’m asking. I don’t remember my school ever charging admission.
- 51A [*Rank for TV’s Columbo] is LIEUTENANT, which has LIE at the beginning.
I dunno…one of the reasons I’ve never been a huge fan of revealers is that a revealer takes a slot that could have gone to a theme entry, and in this case the puzzle is left with three non-revealer themers at a total of 31 letters. That felt a little light to me, especially for Monday when a fourth themer would have been nice for the solver. Perhaps CROCKER in the center, clued as [*Fictional Betty of the kitchen]?
Moving this puzzle later in the week might have also allowed NELLE at 53A to be clued with reference to Harper Lee, rather than not referring to any specific woman so that the solver could get an extra hint about how the letters work. (Or ADA could have been the Countess of Lovelace rather than the dental organization.) I count one woman referred to by name: ESME at 23A. Granted, the overall proper name count in the puzzle is very low, which is probably why it got chosen for Monday.
Overall, I’m ending on: Not a bad puzzle, but it’s a little frustrating that some different editorial choices could have made it, IMO, a better solving experience.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Oil Field”—Jim P’s review
ART CENTER is the revealer at 66a [Place with a gallery, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. Each theme answer has ART in the exact center, spanning two words.
- 17a. [Gift-wrapping roll] CLEAR TAPE
- 21a. [Its main unit is the day] SOLAR TIME. I’ve heard of a solar day, but I don’t think I’ve heard this exact phrase. Makes sense, though.
- 39a. [Pal of Robin Hood] FRIAR TUCK. Nice find.
- 60a. [Source of aromatic wood] CEDAR TREE
Straightforward and accessible. I admit there wasn’t much here that I found intriguing, but it’s a good, solid theme. Perfect for a new solver.
The nine-letter central entry bisects the grid, so we have corner stacks of sevens rather than any long flashy entries, but I like CICADAS, STEPMOM, LATINOS, “ONE MORE,” “ALL DONE,” “SET ‘EM UP!,” and “I VOTE NO.” Zhouqin always seems to manage to work in fun colloquial phrases, doesn’t she?
Clues of note:
- 20a. [Greek vowel]. Not eta or iota, but ALPHA.
- 33a. [Slow lane vehicle]. SEMI. Wouldn’t it be something if SEMIs and all other slow vehicles stayed in the slower lanes? Around here (the Puget Sound area), people pick a lane and stay there regardless of what’s going on around them.
- 2d. [Disagree sharply]. COLLIDE. This clue is fine, but it feels like it belongs later in the week than on a Monday.
Solid grid, cleanly executed. 3.6 stars.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Well, it’s March again. Somehow. Let’s solve a puzzle!
Today we’ve got stacks of 10s in the NE and SW, with some pretty open corners in the NW and SE balancing them out. The stacks, as usual, are pretty excellent, although there’s some fill sprinkled through that I’d be happier without, including some not-so-great partials. The clues are uniformly pretty solid!
The NE stack is SWING BANDS / THEORY HEAD / RADIO SHOWS (the first two sounding like examples of what you might find on the third, if we read RADIO SHOWS broadly to include podcasts). The SW stack is INSINUATES / CORNEL WEST / CRASH DIETS, which are all great entries. I did not know that CORNEL WEST made an appearance in the Matrix movies (the Matrices?)! That’s some fun trivia. Other nice long/longish entries include: FYREFEST [Notorious 2017 scam chronicled in two 2019 documentaries, familiarly], WHATSAPP, WET KISS, WINE LISTS, MORE LATER. Nice!
Alongside these excellent entries were some things I’d rather not see in a puzzle, like ABUSER and IEDS. Some of the short fill also just didn’t reach the high bar set by the New Yorker, like BYS, AS AN, ITS SO, A TEE. Especially this last one— the expression is “to a T,” like the letter T, which I guess we sometimes spell out in crosswords as TEE, but… that didn’t work for me.
A few more things:
- The movie CON AIR was constantly on tv when I was a kid/teenager, so although I have no good reason why, I *love* this movie. Also a perfect clue: [Nineties action thriller with the tagline “They were deadly on the ground. Now they have wings”]
- MORE LATER is a great colloquial phrase
- I read the clue on CAVEMAN [Alley Oop or Fred Flintstone] with an “and” instead of an “or” so I had to hunt down my error at the end for several minutes when I didn’t know ALEN [Chrysler Building architect William Van ___]
- Bit of a John Steinbeck mini-theme going on with the “East of Eden” references and “Of Mics and Men”
- Favorite clues:
- [Words before “Easy” in a Linda Ronstadt title and “Hard” in a John Lennon title] for IT’S SO. The clue nearly rescues this partial entry entirely!
- [Platform for tweets?] for NEST
- [References with white pages?] for WINE LISTS
Overall, some solid long entries, great clues, and occasionally iffy fill net this one a good chunk of stars from me. See you on Wednesday, March 368.
David Alan Van Houten’s Universal crossword, “Two Be or Not to Be” — pannonica’s write-upIn which letters are doubled to wacky effect.
After completing the grid I looked at the title and said, “hey!” because only one of the themers doubled the B. Took an extra beat, but when I looked at all four sets I realized that they spelled, in order, TO BE. So that solves that.
- 24a. [TV program about artistic baristas?] THE LATTE SHOW (The Late Show).
- 35a. [Like supervillains?] GOOD-FEARING (god-fearing).
- 43a. [Virtuous liar?] MORAL FIBBER (moral fiber).
- 52a. [Big Apple track events?] NEW YORK MEETS (New York Mets).
Am reëxamining the title, and having conniptions trying to parse it fully. Going to throw up my hands and say it works impressionistically.
- 5a [Lower the bar before raising it?] SQUAT. Good clue.
- 16a [Candy with Left and Right varieties] TWIX. Okay, at first this registered in my mind as Kit-Kat and figured it must be referring to the smaller 2-up version, and that seemed iffy at best. Then I sorted out (read: remembered) what Twixes are, and thought there was no difference. A little sleuthing revealed that back in 2013 Mars launched an ad campaign querying whether people preferred the left’s “unmistakably cookie, caramel and chocolate” versus the right’s “distinctively caramel, chocolate and cookie”. As anyone should be able to predict, there’s no difference between the two and it was (is?) solely to generate buzz.
- 23a [Change out of your PJs] DRESS. What?
- 28a [Color without a common rhyme] ORANGE. But see this. Spoiler: all hail the sporangia!
- 49a [Fish and chips, but not chips and salsa] ENTRÉE. To be or not to be?
- 71a [They’re bigger than fives] TENS. >squints<
- 31d [Cooks constantly break them] EGGS. Constantly.
- 34d [Left on the ship?] PORT. Doesn’t really need the question mark, but perhaps because it’s Monday. Ditto for 54d [Make a round trip?] ORBIT.
Nice Monday offering.
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1344), “Themeless Monday #610” — Jenni’s review
Quickly, because I have to get back to work:
I had to work a bit at this one. I liked the long entries and could have done without some of the shorter fill.
Things I liked:
- HOW IS IT POSSIBLE down the center of the grid.
- PILOT EPISODES across the middle, clued as [Series openers], which of course made me think of sports rather than TV.
- JETER. I just like him. Don’t @me.
- The 7-letter stack in the NW: WHIPLASH, RODE INTO, and OVERVIEW sounds like the writeup of a Western.
- BLOOPING in the SE, clued appropriately as [Making robot noises, say]. I don’t care if Brendan made it up. I love it.
Things I could have done without: I guess it’s really just one thing, now that I look at the grid again. AGENT FEE for [Cost of selling one’s house] is clumsy, at best.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that RED–DOG is a kind of? another word for? the blitz play in football.