Portia Lundie’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review
This smooth Monday is Portia Lundie’s debut in the NYT daily puzzles. They have constructed Midi (9×9) puzzles for the NYT Crosswords App. I hope to see more from Ms. Lundie. Constructing good Mondays is not easy, and they have a knack for it.
I figured out the theme pretty early on and was delighted by the unexpected revealer. All the theme entries go in the same direction and each has circles.
- 3d [Completely confused] is DISCOMBOBULATED.
- 6d [Lara Croft, in film] is the TOMB RAIDER.
- 31d [Layer of soil that never thaws] is PERMAFROST.
And the revealer: 10d [“Loosen up!”…or a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters: LET YOUR HAIR DOWN. BOB, BRAID, and AFRO are all hairstyles going down. Nice!
A few other things:
- I enjoyed seeing JADA at 1a and JENNA at 1d. I know it’s sometimes troubling to have two names crossing. I can’t think of another proper name in the format _ENNA so I think it’s a fair intersection.
- I met DR RUTH once when I was in college. She was delightful – smart, empathetic, and funny as hell.
- Conversational clues that I enjoy: 20a [“You did it!”] for NICE JOB and [“That’ll be the day!”] for HAH.
- The long downs are fun: PRIESTESS and ROCAFELLA.
- Could have done without OPPS.
Jared Goudsmit’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Y’all, I haven’t enjoyed a Monday this much in a long time. This appears to be a constructing debut, and a very fine one it is!
There’s nothing complicated to this theme at all; the central entry at 38A, B AND B [Inn offering a morning meal, briefly … or a hint to six puzzle answers] is more of an extra touch of elegance than a revealer. I don’t think you need it to know that the theme entries are all two-word phrases in which both words start with B:
- 17A [Foamy tubful for unwinding] is a BUBBLE BATH, which sounds lovely as I shiver and look at the giant piles of snow on the sidewalk out my Brooklyn window.
- 27A [Lumber on a diamond] is a BASEBALL BAT. This is the only theme entry with a slightly tricky clue, although you don’t need to solve puzzles for very long before the word “diamond” makes you think of baseball before you think of elemental carbon.
- 47A [Bryan Cranston crime drama] is BREAKING BAD, a show everyone in America seems to have seen except me.
- 62A [Fish-and-chips coating] is BEER BATTER. Yum yum YUM.
- 3D [Infant’s source of nourishment] is a BABY BOTTLE, a phrase that immediately evokes Maggie Simpson for me.
- 30D [Icon with a left-facing arrow] is BACK BUTTON, which I hope you won’t hit on your browser before you finish reading today’s reviews.
Sure, themes of alliterative phrases are as old as the hills. But this is such a nice example of how it doesn’t matter that a constructor is using a trope if it’s as well executed as this is. There are 62 thematic squares, not counting the central revealer, and every theme entry crosses at least one other theme entry. So, holy wow, that’s an achievement!
But more important to the solving experience than how impressive the theme construction is, I think, is how evocative the theme entries are. Fill in 17A and you think of taking a nice relaxing soak; fill in 27A, you hear the crack of a ball on a bat; I can picture Walter White in my head even though I’ve never actually seen 47A. And, sigh, 62A makes me think of how nice it’d be to have some well-made deep-fried food, which is something that I haven’t really done since Before Times. Someday I’ll eat at a fish shack again…but see what I mean about being evocative?
The fill is not only fine, it’s got the gem of astronaut Mae JEMISON in the upper right; I’ve only ever seen her first name as an entry before, I think.
Bottom line: This is a beautiful Monday puzzle. I hope to see more from Jared Goudsmit!
Stephanie Lesser’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Open-Ended”—Jim P’s review
It’s another debut! Congratulations, Stephanie!
The revealer is KEYWORD at 39a [Database search option, and a hint to the ends of the starred answers]. Each entry ends in a word that can follow “KEY.”
- 17a. [*Performance evaluation] REPORT CARD. Key card. (Though “card key” is also a valid phrase.)
- 62a. [*Highlighter alternative] STICKY NOTE. Keynote.
- 11d. [*It may be at the head of the class] BLACKBOARD. Keyboard.
- 29d. [*Spot to jot] SCRATCH PAD. Keypad.
Solid entries, accessible theme. Just right for a Monday. There’s also sort of a loose school theme pervading the entries, which I kinda like. Well done.
Top bit of fill has to be BONANZA which is always a fun word. Soup TUREENS and ESPAÑOL are nice as well, and I’m partial to “JUST SO” which sounds quaintly refined to my ear.
ENESCO is tough for a Monday as is odd plural CELLI. And square one turned out to be harder than expected since 1a [Complain] could be HARP as well as CARP, and 1d is [Red Sox manager Alex] whom I don’t know. Luckily I guessed CORA correctly.
Clues of note:
- 33d. [Peer group?]. EYES. Whoa. That’s tricky for a Monday (but good). Didn’t get it until just now. “Peer” as in “to look.”
- 50d. [Bartiromo of Fox Business]. MARIA. I wish we wouldn’t give our precious crossword time to those who propagate Trump’s lies.
- 59d-63d. Every once in a while, the WSJ puzzle is missing the final few Down clues. Such is the case here.
Nice puzzle. 3.6 stars.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
First of all: The New Yorker announced today that the crossword will be appearing in the print edition of the magazine going forward (full announcement here). This is huge news and a well-deserved show of confidence in the talent and artistry of their constructors, who make some of the best themeless crossword puzzles you can find in a mainstream publication. This will have a huge impact on the size of the their solvership, and I’m just so thrilled for this talented team to reach a wider audience. Congratulations, New Yorker constructors!!!
And to celebrate this excellent news, let’s look at Patrick Berry’s
challenging Monday puzzle. I didn’t think this was particularly hard, but I [Very much indeed] enjoyed the solve. The long entries were all pretty fun (ORRIN HATCH notwithstanding), the wordplay was clever, and the trivia was great.
Highlights from the long stuff: CALCULATORS / PENNY ARCADE / ABANDON SHIP! / PRIME MOVER / PARADE REST / DIANA ROSS / LOST WAGES. To illustrate Jenni’s point in the comment about “boomer-centric” easy entries, I’ve never heard of or seen MARATHON MAN. And to the larger point, that’s ok! I still found so much in this puzzle to relate to. In fact, despite the near certainty that Patrick Berry and I went to high school in different eras, this puzzle reminded me of high school in many ways—CALCULATORS! Reading the webcomic PENNY ARCADE (admittedly not what this entry was clued with)! Seeing high school productions of the Wiz (admittedly not starring DIANA ROSS)! Just a fun set of long entries.
A few more things:
- The thought of the droplets that would be produced by 5000 KAZOOS being played at once made me *shudder* [Instruments played by over five thousand audience members in a record-shattering (and ear-shattering) 2011 Royal Albert Hall performance]
- Favorite clues:
- Favorite wordplay clue: [Many go overboard upon hearing it] for ABANDON SHIP
- Favorite trivia clue: [Country name that replaced (and was later replaced by) Democratic Republic of the Congo] for ZAIRE
- I’m at the wordplay clue, I’m at the trivia clue, I’m at the combination wordplay clue and trivia clue: [Punny nickname for Sin City] for LOST WAGES
- For anyone who may be wondering, [Brick in a brickfilm] is LEGO because the main character in “The LEGO Movie” was a LEGO man named Brick
Overall, tons of stars from me. See you Wednesday!
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Knocked Sideways” — pannonica’s write-up
- 57aR [Attracted attention … or what 17-, 29- and 44-Across have, based on their first letters?] TURNED HEADS. The three phrases all begin with a Z which, when rotated, becomes an N.
- 17a. [What kept an infamous emperor grounded?] NERO GRAVITY (zero …).
- 29a. [Pair up permanently, as pigeons?] NEST FOR LIFE (zest …). Wikipedia sez: “Current evidence suggests that wild, domestic and feral pigeons mate for life, although their long-term bonds are not unbreakable. They are socially monogamous, but extra-pair matings do occur, often initiated by males.”
- 44a. [Has a mishap similar to biting the tongue?] NIPS ONE’S LIP (zips …).
There are no Zs in the grid, though there are additional Ns that are not-formerly Zs. To have arranged that would have been a much greater constructing feat, and certainly would have made this crossword much knottier.
Even so, there is some iffy-for-an-easy-puzzle fill, such as ASSESSEE, SINE DIE, and RIFEST.
Today’s geography lesson is world capitals. 14a [Capital of Ghana] ACCRA, 20a [Asian capital with a bamboo-shaped skyscraper] TAIPEI, 41d [Tallinn’s land] ESTONIA.
- 9d [Picture that can’t be Photoshopped] TATTOO. Though a picture of a tattoo can be photoshopped. And then there are the likes of this and this.
- Favorite clue: 27d [Union contract] PRENUP.
That’s all I’ve got today.
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1338), “Themeless Monday #607” — Jenni’s review
This one was harder than Brendan’s most recent Themlesses, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
- BIRB, which makes me laugh. See below for the meme that taught me about birbs
- The center across stack of TRANSYLVANIA, KABUKI THEATER, and VIVE LA FRANCE. There’s an absurdist play in there somewhere.
- The center down stack (is it a stack if it’s vertical?) GLUE SNIFFER, PEDESTRIANS, and MARY HARTMAN. Very 1980s.
- [Job discussion?: Abbr] for SERMON. Job as in the book of the Bible.
- Disambiguation: ANG is Angola, which borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of BLUE MUD. The resident geologist is not a sedimentologist. Did not know the TERPs were part of the Big Ten. Had never heard of a SLAY queen, which seems to have shifted from a term of admiration in the drag community to one of opprobrium in the straight world, because of course women who care about their appearance are shallow/nasty/obnoxious/stuck-up. And women who don’t care about their appearance are slobs/slackers/undateable/unfuckable. Verse #1,204,505 of the old standard, “Women Can’t Win.”