Monday, March 8, 2021

BEQ untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 1:57 (Stella) 


NYT untimed (Jenni) 


The New Yorker 14:30 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


WSJ 6:43 (Jim P) 


Eric Bornstein’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

The puzzle is easy enough for a Monday. The theme seems a little opaque to me, or maybe just a little thin. There’s a revealer at 13d: [Subject of this puzzle], ECONOMICS. The circled letters read SUPPLY and DEMAND.

New York Times, March 8, 2021, #0308, Eric Bornstein, solution grid

  • Then we have 1d [Y-axis], PRICE
  • And we have 62a [X-AXIS], QUANTITY
  • Oh! And there’s ADAM SMITH at 32d, [“Father” of 13-Down].

Is there more that I’m missing? Yes. Yes, there is. The Y axis, PRICE, and the X axis, QUANTITY, are placed accurately and thus what we have is the supply/demand graph in all its glory. And you all now know that I did not take economics in college.

A few other things:

  • Thanks to the constructor and editors for cluing PLAYMATE  as [Schoolyard friend].
  • ESO Beso turns up a lot in crosswords, doesn’t it?
  • [Golden state?] is a great clue for UTOPIA.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Philip AHN has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Martha Kimes’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Not a lot of people my age are named Stella. As a result, I tend to answer when my name is called (by contrast, my husband, David, is far more likely to respond to “Zawistowski!”). And since old-timey names like Stella are back in vogue, there are lots of small children in Brooklyn who share my name…and dogs who do, too. This makes it rather awkward when I hear my name shouted and it turns out someone is just trying to get their child’s or dog’s attention.

What does all this have to do with today’s LAT? Well, when it’s a dog and not a little kid being yelled at, today’s theme is dog commands that sometimes follow my name when people in Brooklyn are yelling. (Can I tell you how weird that was the first few times it happened? Snapping my head in the direction of my name being called and immediately being told to sit? It’s weird.) So explains the revealer at 62A [Where a puppy may learn the starts of 17-, 29-, and 46-Across], OBEDIENCE SCHOOL.

LAT 3/8/21

LAT 3/8/21 by Martha Kimes

  • 17A [“Make yourself comfortable”] is SIT BACK AND RELAX. I don’t have a dog, but SIT is the first thing they usually learn, right? Feels right that it should be in the first theme position.
  • 29A [“Don’t be a stranger!”] is STAY IN TOUCH.
  • 46A [Regardless of how things go] is COME WHAT MAY.

As with last week’s Monday, I would’ve been happy to trade the revealer for one more theme entry (HEEL-TAP REFLEXES? LEAVE IT TO BEAVER? DOWN ON ONE’S KNEES?).

I love any reference to PAULA Abdul, I’m not sure how modern a TEXT message is anymore, and it’s nice to see a NIHAO on Monday!

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Turning Colder”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Each Down theme answer has ICE UP (59a, [Freeze over, and a hint to a feature of 5-, 6-, 10-, 25- and 33-Down]) inside of it.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Turning Colder” · Mike Shenk · Mon., 3.8.21

  • 5d. [2017 Tom Hanks thriller] THE CIRCLE. I remember seeing ads for this which film which stars Emma Watson, but I would never have remembered the title.
  • 6d. [They’re not in government positions] PRIVATE CITIZEN
  • 10d. [Fall quaff] APPLE CIDER
  • 25d. [Mentioned earlier in the text] ABOVE-CITED. Hmm. I don’t know about this one. “Aforementioned” seems far more commonplace.
  • 33d. [“Gunsmoke” setting] DODGE CITY

I appreciate that each entry has the hidden word spanning both theme answer words, but I just didn’t get much out of this theme. One, with the title being “Turning Colder,” I was expecting something to turn. I guess since the theme answers are vertical, they’re “turned” from the usual Across direction? Meh. Two, it’s spring, and most places are generally getting warmer (despite the intense hail storm we just had). Why not run this in the fall? Three, hidden word themes that have the same hidden word in each theme entry are less interesting than when the hidden words are all different.

I’d say this might be a good puzzle aimed at new solvers, but the cluing certainly didn’t seem that way, or else I was just on the wrong wavelength. The long Across entries also made it seem that the theme was to be found there, not in the Downs. I do like those entries though, LIVER SPOT and METRO AREA especially. I could do without RIVE [Split apart violently] (I wanted REND) and CANO [Baseball’s Robinson] on a Monday (I wanted JACKIE).

I just didn’t find much to get excited about in this puzzle; hopefully your experience was different. Three stars.

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

The New Yorker crossword solution • Natan Last • Monday, March 8, 2021

True to the label, this was a challenging puzzle! I earned one of my slowest times yet on a New Yorker puzzle, but I’m proud to say I did not have to google. Just… struggle. I didn’t know either of the long names in the N, although I am happy to have learned them, but the crosses were (mostly) fair. The trickiest part of this puzzle, for me, wasn’t the long unfamiliar names but rather the exceptionally high count of excellent misdirecting clues. There were so many good ones! To be discussed below.

First, the long entries. Actually, first, this grid design: Natan is one of the only people I’ve seen regularly stack a 14/15 and 15/14 like this, and I think it’s cool and weird and must be hard as hell to construct. Ok, now the long entries: GARTH GREENWELL / VALERIA LUISELLI / SOCIAL BUTTERFLY / INTERNATIONALE. As I said, I didn’t know the names, and I also didn’t know left-wing anthem The INTERNATIONALE (this is, after all, a Natan Last puzzle ?), and the clue on SOCIAL BUTTERFLY was a brilliant misdirect, so these long entries took me *forever*, but I got there eventually by chipping away at the downs. I think it’s not unlikely that some solvers would get tripped up on the VALERIA LUISELLI / Atul GAWANDE crossing — even if you know GAWANDE, it’s not obvious that the first vowel is an A and not an E, so you could easily end up with VALERIE, which looks equally plausible. VCHIP is also not a thing I have heard of, but I think the V was harder to miss on VALERIA.

Now let’s get into those clues! My favorite misdirects were:

  • [Birthstone?] for HOME PLANET
  • [One likely to vote for a third party?] for SOCIAL BUTTERFLY. I love the implication that there have been two parties so far and the SOCIAL BUTTERFLY would obviously vote to have a third.
  • [Offered some hindsight?] for MOONED – this is a fun new angle (lol) on this entry
  • [They often have chair lifts] for HORAS
  • [Sample text?] for TAKE ONE (as in, the text that might accompany a sample tray at a grocery store or other place where, pre-pandemic, sample trays existed)

Other clues I loved that were not misdirects:

  • [Places to buy false thumbs] for MAGIC SHOPS – I didn’t know about false thumbs and just spent some time on their wikipedia page and now I will never be fooled by a magician again!
  • [Adjective in many a land acknowledgment] – STOLEN. Land acknowledgments recognize the colonial displacement of indigenous peoples. If you’re interested in learning more, see here, and here for a map of indigenous lands.
  • [“I’ll have a half double decaffeinated half-___, with a twist of lemon” (Steve Martin, in “L.A. Story”)] for CAF – I have never seen this movie but this is hilarious

A few more things:

MIRÓ: [Surrealist painter of “The Hunter (Catalan Landscape)”]

  • RAWR tripped me up–  I put MROW. How many [Faux-sexy cat noise]s are there??
  • Remembering the “It’s a kick in a glass” as the slogan for TANG brought me back to watching Nickelodeon in the 90s. Those commercials featured chimpanzees on skateboards, right?
  • Googled the MIRÓ painting after solving just for fun. It’s cool!!

That’s all the time I have for this writeup, but overall, I’d say despite (because of?) the challenge, I very much enjoyed the puzzle. Natan’s voice came through loud and clear, and I also enjoyed that. Tons of stars from me.

Roland Huget’s Universal crossword, “Once or Twice” — pannonica’s write-up review

Universal • 3/8/21 • Mon • “One or Twice” • Huget • solution • 20210308

The theme is recursively self-explanatory:

  • 17a. [One’s history, redundantly] PAST RECORD.
  • 26a. [Warning, redundantly] ADVANCE NOTICE.
  • 43a. [Misrepresentation of fact, redundantly] FALSE PRETENSE.
  • 55a. [Fresh face at boot camp, redundantly] NEW RECUIT.

The theme is recursively self-explanatory.

Sometimes pleonastic phrases have rhetorical value, so these aren’t necessarily undesirable tics.

  • 29d [Punishment for bad service perhaps] NO TIP. Only in the most extreme circumstances, please. Otherwise it’s incredibly RUDE (54a).
  • 40d [Tijuana tongue] ESPAÑOL. Was not expecting that to be in the language itself, so my initial first try was SPANISH.
  • 24a [Like the piper of Hamelin] PIED. That’s in reference to his attire, which was multicolored. Most representations seem to omit this nominal detail, distressingly.
  • 42d [Business case?] ATTACHÉ. This gets a question mark, for some reason. As does 16a [Sticking point?] TINE. Chalk it up to hand-holding on Monday, I guess.
  • 36a [Downed a sub, say?] ATE. This one merits the question mark symbol, in my personal opinion.
  • 33d [Greek god who fought Hercules] ARES. Or Herakles, if you will. 50a [British “Bye!”] TA-TA.

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1346), “Themeless Monday #611” — Jenni’s review

As Kelly mentioned in the comments, this was a terrific puzzle. I forgot to turn the timer on so I don’t know how long it took me to wrestle this to the ground. It felt like a long time and I enjoyed every minute.

Puzzles always feel harder when the NW doesn’t yield right away, and especially when it’s the last to fall. I had a blank grid until I got to the bottom half and then worked my way back up counter-clockwise and found myself starting at a nearly empty NW corner. I finally saw DO UP for [Make pretty] at 16d and then the rest fell into place. We see Desi ARNAZ in crosswords fairly often, almost always with reference to Lucy. This time we got [He had a breakout role in “Too Many Girls”] during which he met, you guessed it, Lucille Ball. If you’ve forgotten – or didn’t know – that she was an absolute knockout, just take a look.

Other fun things:

Brendan Emmett Quigley, Puzzle #1346, “Themeless Monday #611,” solution grid

  • I was looking for something COY for [Vamped] at 12a. It’s LOOPED, which I presume refers to the accompanist played the intro over and over until the singer is ready to start. Back in my musical theater days, we used to call that VTR – vamp till ready.
  • A good hard puzzle includes clues like [Last], which could be last as in “final” or “part of a shoe” and here is SURVIVE.
  • [Bottom lover] is TITANIA. Characters in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream]. Get your mind out of the gutter.
  • [Some lead sheltered lives] is POOCHES, which is true no matter how you read it.
  • 49a [Arousing sadness in a melodramatic way] is THREEHANKY.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of Hendrik SEDIN even though he won two NHL honors in 2010, did not know that William the Conqueror is buried in CAEN, and I’ve never heard of Cluj-Napoca, a city in RUMANIA.

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33 Responses to Monday, March 8, 2021

  1. Giovanni P. says:

    Little bonus on the NYT app: the x axis and y axis were drawn in on the left and bottom of the grid to make the whole thing look more like a classic supply/demand curve. Cute touch.

  2. Nutella says:

    NYT: as supply goes up, demand goes down! Nice reinforcement of macro 101. (Which I barely passed, but apparently kept something from!)

    • PJ says:

      It’s more as price goes up the quantity supplied will increase while the quantity demanded will decrease.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Yet another misplaced Tuesday puzzle. The ratings will undoubtedly reflect that.

  4. Anne says:

    NYT: On International Women’s Day, I had thought that the theme might – somehow – concern women.

    • damefox says:

      Or at least be constructed by a woman. Last year, the NYT did deign to have the first week of March be all women constructors (not all of March though). This year it does sort of feel like they’re giving the finger to the whole concept. Only two puzzles last week were constructed by women, and one of those was co-constructed with a man.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      … and maybe don’t include a beauty contest winner in the grid?

  5. Joe O says:

    Stella, that 1:57 is amazing! I couldn’t read the answers off a sheet of paper as quickly. How do you do it!?!

  6. person says:

    NYT: CHOPRA crossed with AHN and DIDO definitely not Monday worthy

    • JohnH says:

      That crossing bothered me, although an H seemed the only pronounceable choice. Worse for me was SMAUG / JUKES, which would bother me any day of the week, not just Monday.

      I’m probably overthinking the puzzle, but it felt as if the circles were just plopped down on the grid to match two long and two shorter corner entries, which you could then recognize as appropriate if you felt like it. I wanted them to emerge more naturally. Say, shouldn’t the circled letters have spelled something? I kept looking for it.

    • Joe Pancake says:

      Priyanka CHOPRA is a massively famous entertainer. (Google her name in quotes and you get close to 57 million hits.) Probably she’s a bit less known in the US than internationally, but still very well-known in the States.

      Also, CHOPRA is a common Indian surname (see also Deepak CHOPRA), so I think she was very inferable even if you’ve never heard of her, even with other proper noun crossings, even for a Monday.

    • Mutman says:

      Agreed. 0-3 on that. Monday — Haha!

  7. Alexander Quinn says:

    The first and only time I ever broke two minutes on an LA Times puzzle was on one of Stella’s, a couple weeks ago. Still made it under three today, but I made a typo that ate up a lot of time. Typos ruined my times on the Newsday and USA Today as well.
    I usually do the WSJ last, and with the exception of 7D (huh?) I thought it was straightforward.

  8. marciem says:

    universal 24A; Thanks pannonica for the explanation of “pied”. I thought it might be some ancient Old German expression describing him :) , I’d never thought of our usual “pied” meaning of multicolored etc. (I didn’t dig deeper, it may well be an old german expression brought forward).

  9. JohnH says:

    TNY: “The trickiest part of this puzzle, for me, wasn’t the long unfamiliar names but rather the exceptionally high count of excellent misdirecting clues.” I disagree. All obscurity all the time. But then Natan Last puzzles always seem directed to Rachel’s knowledge base and not mine. Maybe his worst slog yet. I felt lucky to have a foothold from two proper names for us TNY reader types, GAWANDE and MIRO.

    • David L says:

      As Rachel put it, “Natan’s voice came through loud and clear.” That is certainly true. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing is another matter.

    • Joe Pancake says:

      “Natan Last puzzles always seem directed to Rachel’s knowledge base”

      Huh? I think Rachel is frequently saying in her writeups that she *doesn’t* know many of the proper nouns in Natan’s puzzles. But she usually has positive things to say about them nevertheless.

      I’m with her. I really like Natan’s puzzles even though I have to struggle through them. When I don’t know the proper nouns (often), I still can usually fill them in by crossings and/or by using meta strategies (letter patterns, clue phrasing, etc.), which is an enjoyable changeup to the usual rote fill-it-in solving style I’ve developed after doing hundreds of puzzles a year for two decades. (And I usually find it interesting to look up the things I didn’t know afterwards.)

      Every now and then I get it wrong (today I incorrectly put an E at VALERIA LUISELLI / Atul GAWANDE, as Rachel suggested might happen), but so what? I’m just solving by myself on my laptop. It’s not like I’m in the finals of a big tournament.

      • Rachel Fabi says:

        Thank you! I thought I was pretty clear that I had no idea who the proper nouns were, so I’m glad that came through to you. I love these puzzles not because I know the people (I usually don’t), but because I enjoy learning about them from Natan.

      • R says:

        I’m pretty sure he meant that Natan’s puzzles are still more directed at Rachel’s knowledge base than his own. His puzzles are really directed at people like Natan himself, 30-something ivy-educated extremely progressive New Yorker hipsters, and they’re far less accessible to every one else.

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    For a deeper look at Natan’s goals and interests in making crosswords, read this interview at The Tempest:

    • dhj says:

      My goodness. If he believes a quarter of that drivel, he’s either overdosed on huffing his own farts, or the world will end in about fifteen minutes. At least we were able to cancel Dr. Seuss before the apocalypse.

    • pseudonym says:

      Last would do a lot better if he worried more about making a good puzzle rather than trying to change the world through them.

      BTW, would love to see links open in a new tab rather than being sent away from here.

    • Ethan says:

      What a gratuitous and vicious swipe at Jeff Chen. Awful.

    • R says:

      Yeah, that definitely made me like him less. I’m a big proponent of more openness and representation in crosswords, but I’m starting to get tired of endless lectures from super-progressive extremely online people in Brooklyn and Oakland about how their politics are the only legitimate reality. Also, having the words “historiography” or “isomorphic” in your first couple sentences is a bad bad sign.

  11. pannonica says:

    TNY:“[“I’ll have a half double decaffeinated half-___, with a twist of lemon” (Steve Martin, in “L.A. Story”)] for CAF – I have never seen this movie but this is hilarious”

    Here’s the scene. Keep in mind that this was 1991, before Starbucks went nationwide, precipitating the modern coffee culture.

  12. Phil says:

    The New Yorker puzzle was impossible. Full of obscure stuff. And the NYT was not easy enough for a Monday. It was a Wednesday puzzle.

  13. Kelly Clark says:

    For a super-good time, check out BEQ’s Monday themeless…wonderful!

  14. pseudonym says:

    I think I speak for the overwhelming majority of crossword solvers when I say please quit Mr. Last, you’re terrible at your job.

  15. pseudonym says:

    I should add that whenever a Last puzzle goes up I usually feel compelled to rip it. As Tom Joad said, “Wherever there’s a trivia laden box masquerading as a crossword puzzle, I’ll be there.”

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