Monday, March 15, 2021

BEQ untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 1:57 (Stella) 


NYT 3:02 (Jenni) 


The New Yorker 6:05 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


WSJ 4:41(Jim P) 


Philip K. Chow’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

Philip K. Chow makes his NYT debut with this puzzle (and his debut in our tags, so he hasn’t been in the Universal, the LAT, the WSJ, or the indie outlets we cover). It’s a Monday-accessible puzzle even though the theme eluded me until the very end.

The longest answers are the theme answers.

New York Times, March 15, 2021, #0315, Philip K. Chow, solution grid

  • 11d [Cactus with an edible fruit] is the PRICKLY PEAR.
  • 17a [Large bird of prey with a brownish-yellow neck] is a GOLDEN EAGLE.
  • 25d [Venomous predator with a vibrating tail] is a RATTLESNAKE.

I noticed they were all kind of Southwestern. I was wrong. Well, they are, but that’s a US-centric view. My parochialism became evident when I found the revealer at 61a [Where you can find a 17-Across perched on a 11-Down devouring at 25-Down]: the MEXICAN FLAG. See for yourself.

I’m sure I’ve seen the Mexican flag before, and I might have registered that it had a bird. I had no idea of the details. It’s certainly a fresh theme idea! Overall it’s a solid Monday puzzle. The theme may not be obvious but all the entries are clearly clued. A nice debut!

A few other things:

  • We no longer have any snow-covered hills for SLEDS, although there are still bits of snow in the shady spots. The Rockies and Midwest, on the other hand, are buried again.
  • The ISMs I think of are not cynicism or skepticism but racism, sexism, and classism.
  • [Smooshed into compact layers] is PANCAKED. I love the word “smooshed.” I just do.
  • Baseball!! Love seeing BASE HITS in the grid.
  • Crosswordese alert: AWN.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: what’s on the Mexican flag.

Michael Lieberman’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

LAT 3/15/21

LAT 3/15/21 by Michael Lieberman

Shhh! This puzzle is all about things that are quiet! Head down to the revealer at 54D [Behind-the-scenes money source … and a hint to the start of 20-, 35-, and 42-Across], which is SILENT PARTNER. I’d quibble that that phrase would lead me to believe that the theme words are words that would “partner” with SILENT in a phrase of the form “SILENT and ___” or “___ and SILENT,” but in fact what’s happening is that the first word in each theme phrase can follow SILENT to form another phrase.

  • 20A [Youngster, metaphorically] is a SPRING CHICKEN. Silent Spring was Rachel Carson’s explosive 1962 book about the dangers of pesticide use.
  • 25A [Toddler’s monster deterrent] is a NIGHT LIGHT. “Silent Night” is a Christmas carol in three-quarter time.
  • 43A [Morning awakener] is an ALARM CLOCK. A silent alarm is…well, close enough to the theme phrase itself that I would’ve loved to see something different here. MOVIE or FILM something, perhaps?

I enjoyed LIONEL crossing MESSI at 5D/14A, and appreciated cluing TWIN with a reference to the Olsens, since there is only one woman mentioned by name in the grid.

Putting it out there: Every time T-REX is in a grid and is not clued as “___ hates push-ups,” it’s a missed opportunity.

John Hawksley’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Covert Plots”—Jim P’s review

“Covert Plots” makes a good title for the Ides of March, eh? Welp, there’s no ET TU in this grid. It’s all about THE SECRET GARDEN (34a, [Frances Hodgson Burnett novel, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]). I didn’t recognize the author’s name, but I certainly recognize the title. The other theme answers have hidden words that can all precede “garden.”

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Covert Plots” · John Hawksley · Mon., 3.15.21

  • 17a. [Fashion-conscious fellow] METROSEXUAL. Rose garden.
  • 24a. [Barista’s display of creativity] LATTE ART. Tea garden.
  • 48a. [Slow cooker] CROCK POT. Rock garden.
  • 57a. [Largest of all living turtles] LEATHERBACK. Herb garden.

After I sorted the revealer and saw the first entry had ROSE in it, I assumed all the other hidden words would be flowers. That certainly would have been a valid angle for a theme. But this one works just as well and was even a little surprising.

There’s some good stuff in the fill. I’m not going to say I LOVED IT, but I did like HEROINES, a SAMPLERCREOLE, and ZIPCAR. However, some of the clunkier bits (for a Monday) were noticeable: TESTEE (which never doesn’t sound awkward), ORONO, and uncommon SPECIE [Money in coin form].

Clues of note:

  • 5a. [Having more stories, perhaps]. TALLER. A nice clue, but rather ambiguous for the second clue out of the gates on a Monday.
  • 40a. [Golf’s Tiger]. WOODS. I haven’t kept track of him since the accident. I assume he’s recovering. Here’s the latest.

A good puzzle. Nothing too flashy, but it gets the week going in the right direction. 3.5 stars.

Enrique Henestroza Aguiano’s Universal crossword, “Level Up” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 3/15/21 • Henestroza Aguiano • Mon • “Level Up” • solution • 20210315

  • 37aR [*Gaming term whose two-letter abbreviation is hidden in each starred answer (find all five examples to master this puzzle!)] EXPERIENCE POINTS, or XP.
  • 17a. [*Voice of the people, in Latin] VOX POPULI. Am reminded of Coyle & Sharpe‘s satirical interviews and stunts.
  • 24a. [*Streaming option] NETFLIX PLAN. 22d [Enjoy a 24-Across, perhaps] BINGE. Maybe it’s just a peeve of mine, but I never enjoy mixing between theme and non-theme content (except for the requisite crossings, of course).
  • 45a. [*Light dough] CHOUX PASTRYChoux meaning ‘cabbage’, presumably for the way it can become stringy when stretched.
  • 58a. [*Talk in flowery language] WAX POETIC.

That’s all five, including the revealer itself, which is the only one to not break up the X and P between two words.

  • 43d [Flowers that ought to be related to irises?] OXEYES. Cute. I see what they did there.
  • 53d [The seasons, e.g.] CYCLE. Spring begins, calendrically, this coming Saturday.
  • 40a [A colon has two of them] DOTS. Obviously the typographical symbol. As per, it is “used chiefly to direct attention to matter (such as a list, explanation, quotation, or amplification) that follows.”
  • ©Jordan Strauss

    16a [Gibbs of “The Jeffersons”] MARLA. She’s still quite actively working, at the sprightly age of 89. 56a [Word that surrounds “sprightly”] SPRY.

  • Rather enjoyed the crossing in the lower left of 60a [Lace up again] RETIE and 48d [Dismantle sail supports] UNRIG, two entries I normally wouldn’t be too keen about. Synergy!
  • 65a [Fashion sense] STYLE. Ending in style, garnering style points.

Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

The New Yorker crossword solution • Kameron Austin Collins • Monday, March 15, 2021

This was definitely on the easier side for me. Quick hits again today, because life is overwhelming and I don’t have time for a deep dive!

  • I’m a sucker for a pinwheel grid. They’re just so pretty!
  • Fun stacks in the middle, especially that very center across entry, which was undoubtedly the seed. Across: CAESAR SALAD / MONKEY JESUS / SAMUEL MORSE; Down: WEASEL WORDS / CAR PAYMENTS / BURGER JOINT. I’ve never heard “WEASEL WORDS” before but it’s definitely a thing, per google.
  • Grid is super clean; non of the fill is a dealbreaker for me!


  • Favorite clues:
    • [“Tumbly,” per Pooh] for STOMACH
    • [Wild animal whose young are sometimes called squeakers] for BOAR – did not know this and think it’s ADORBS
    • [___ people, a.k.a. body snatchers] for POD

Overall, this was a clean, fun, quick solve. Have a good week, folks!

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1348), “Themeless Monday #612” — Jenni’s review

Quickly while it’s still Monday….

there are a couple of great entries in this puzzle. Overall it’s not my favorite of Brendan’s, which means it was still fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve actively disliked one of his puzzles. I’m not sure I ever have.

The good stuff:

Brendan Emmett Quigley, March 15, 2021, Crossword #1348, “Themeless Monday #612” solution grid

  • 19a [Feeling that one really wants to get shot?] is the ripped-from-the-headlines VACCINE ENVY. Don’t hate me because I’m immunized.
  • 39a [They sometimes get blown on and thrown] are DICE.
  • 48a [Recently announced Elizabeth Banks thriller that the Guardian described as the “must-see and must-avoid movie of 2022”] is COCAINE BEAR. I’ve never heard of this. I’m kind of intrigued. And kind of not.
  • 50a [Average producer] is a great clue for DOW JONES.
  • 55a [It’s almost always right] is a RED STATE.

I wasn’t so crazy about the clue for CT SCAN. I’m sure there are some people with claustrophobia who can’t tolerate them, but CT SCANs are usually pretty open. It’s MRI scans that often require sedation and sometimes full anesthesia. I also didn’t like SLEEKS for [Makes shiny and glossy].

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: COCAINE BEAR. I also didn’t know that “3 Feet High and Rising” by DE LA SOUL is in the National Recording Registry, nor that it’s permanently out of print.

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14 Responses to Monday, March 15, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Very cool and unexpected theme. I too feel like I should have known this but needed to look it up and zoom down on a close up to see it. I appreciate that a Monday puzzle has taught me something that I should have known but managed to miss.

    • Lise says:

      When I was a second-grade instructional assistant in the 1990s, we taught a unit on Mexico, including the flag design. Those students would be in their mid-30s now, perhaps doing this puzzle. I found myself wondering if any of those students would remember the flag.

      This is a wonderful Monday theme, very cool indeed, Huda!

    • Mutman says:

      Nice toss-in of PINATAS and SIESTA as well.

      WHIST? Really? Maybe Will Shortz’s great-great-great-great grandfather played this game. I don’t think anyone plays it now.

      • David L says:

        I played a variety of whist with my family in the 60s and 70s, so it’s not quite that old. But yeah, it’s an old-fashioned game.

        • marciem says:

          Plain whist yes pretty old fashioned, though I played some back in school. Bid Whist, on the other hand, is alive and kicking and popular.

  2. placematfan says:

    From the constructor’s notes over at “In addition to constructing crosswords for fun, I design my own ‘escape room’ puzzles. I would lock my friends and family in my apartment and see if they can get out.” God I love crossword people.

  3. J says:

    It’s interesting, for the NYT theme, I actually learned about it within the past week.

    Basically, the story goes that an Aztec deity told some of the Aztec people that the land where they should build their city would be signified by an eagle perched on a cactus. I can’t remember if the snake eating was part of the original myth according to the person who was telling me about this. They found the sign at Lake Texcoco which would become the site of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City.

  4. STEVEN says:

    thought today’s new yorker cluing was very good

    also another fine BEQ

    nice ot have some good monday puzzles!!

  5. Margaret says:

    I liked the LAT but it felt Tuesday-ish to me rather than Monday, mostly because I got Naticked on Hesitant utterances crossing Hindu god of desire. I figured it was probably UMS/KAMA but could possibly be UHS/KAHA or even URS/KARA? I solve on paper so Mr Happy Pencil is not a thing for me. I’ve been solving a really long time but this crosswordese had escaped me.

  6. Lobsterboys says:

    On the Universal. I didn’t pick up on the XP aspect until I read the write-up. I had noticed that each themed was OX, IX, AX, EX, UX. I didn’t quite understand how that had anything to do with gaming and was actually disappointed that they were out of alphabetical order in the grid.

    But it all makes sense now!

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