Daniel Grinberg’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
I figured out the theme early on. The revealer was still a surprise. It’s a perfect Monday theme and a solid puzzle overall.
The theme answers:
- 17a [Collectible toy vehicle] is a MATCHBOX CAR.
- 29a [Birthplace of General Motors] is FLINT, MICHIGAN, which still does not have reliably safe water.
- 45a [Certain online dating bio] is a TINDER PROFILE.
MATCH, FLINT, TINDER all fit together, and there’s more in 58a [1980 Stephen King novel….or a hint to the beginnings of 17-, 29-, and 45-Across]: FIRESTARTER. Nice!
A few other things:
- These days JAB is likely to evoke COVID immunization, not boxing.
- My husband enjoys AMARO. “How many do we have?” “Kind of depends on what you count. Six. Seven. Eight. No, nine, and that doesn’t count the other aperitifs.” Also: vermouth is not an amaro, he’d like you to know.
- Not too many PLAYDATEs in the past year, which would have been hell when my kid was of that age. I lived for mother-daughter PLAYDATEs. I’d happily relive the teenage years. Please please please do not send me back to toddler/preschooler days.
- Are there actual TRIP WIREs on security systems now? Or is it all optical and motion sensors these days?
- Are corner offices and prime parking spots still PERKS in the time of COVID?
Val Melius and Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I think I might have beef with this theme. Even though the theme is actually vegan. It’s a little more complicated than the average Monday, enough so that I think this puzzle would’ve been better on Tuesday or Wednesday; note my overall solving time is more consistent with one of those two days. But that’s really more a note to the editor on rating the difficulty here; I’m more not that into the choice of theme entries.
First, what’s going on? The revealer at 56A [Circular fried food … and what’s in the circled letters] is ONION RINGS. And when you look at the circled letters in each of the theme entries, they spell out the name of a type of onion. The circled letters, not coincidentally, are at the beginnings and ends of the phrases; that is, they “ring” the words or phrases.
- 17A [Accompanying dishes, like 56-Across] is SIDE ORDERS. This answer isn’t part of the circled-letter theme although it is topic-wise linked to the revealer.
- 23A [Athenian now a citizen in Athens, Georgia, say] is a GREEK-AMERICAN. The circled letters spell out GREEN.
- 30A [Spraying gently, as plants] is SPRITZING. The circled letters spell out SPRING.
- 38A [Expecting a baby, quaintly] is WITH CHILD. The circled letters spell out WILD.
- 45A […nothing more…] is PURE AND SIMPLE. The circled letters spell out PURPLE.
Here’s my (onion-flavored) beef: IMO, for a theme like this to work well, the phrases that are alluded to by the circled letters need to be well known. GREEN ONIONS and SPRING ONIONS, sure. WILD ONIONS, though, feels a little more like GREEN PAINT than like GREEN ONIONS. PURPLE ONIONS is iffy; I’m much more familiar with them as RED ONIONS, even though they are in fact a purplish red. Google the various onion phrases and you get: GREEN, 8.8 million hits; SPRING, 5.4 million; WILD, 360,000; PURPLE, 939,000. So I think Dr. Google is with me on this one. I admit I can’t think of what theme entries I would have proposed in place of WITH CHILD and PURE AND SIMPLE, alas.
The fill is nice and clean; I liked INDIGNANT, PR BLITZ, HOEDOWN, and PILAF especially.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Food Chain”—Jim P’s review
This puzzle goes from SOUP to NUTS.
- 18a. [Stock holder?] SOUP BOWL
- 24a. [Fiesta in Arizona, for one] BOWL GAME
- 35a. [Nintendo console replaced with the Wii] GAMECUBE
- 40a. [12, for 1728] CUBE ROOT
- 49a. [Black cow base] ROOT BEER
- 57a. [Sweet-and-salty snack brand] BEER NUTS
Is there a name for this type of theme. It’s not a word ladder, that name’s taken. Word chain? That name’s also taken. A word chain is a list of related words where the last letter of a word starts the next word. So this is similar to that but with whole words, not just letters. How about a phrase chain? Works for me.
There’s a lot of duplication here, but that seems okay for a Monday when you might have newer solvers. But not all the clues are Monday-level, I’d argue. I’ve never heard of a “black cow” drink, which looks to be a root beer float. The BOWL GAME clue is tricky as well, and the SOUP BOWL clue is a tough one to start with. As far as I know, people usually don’t put stock in their bowls; stock is the basis for a soup, not the finished product.
Other non-Monday things: U THANT, MOUE, EOS, and possibly SQUAB. I do like SEA LEGS, DOG POUND, and “YOU GOT ME.”
I like the theme, especially going from SOUP to NUTS, and it’s fun to say the phrases aloud as you go along, but there were some non-Monday aspects to this that didn’t sit well. 3.3 stars.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Hello good morning! I have to admit, this is not my favorite Patrick Berry I’ve solved lately. It felt a little stale to me, and there were a few crossings and cluing decisions that left me a little baffled, although there were some solid long entries.
Long entries I liked include STRIP POKER / ALL THE RAGE / HATE WATCHED / GO FOR A SPIN. I particularly like HATE WATCHED [Viewed with disdain?], which feels more contemporary. SYMPATHIZES and FATHERLAND were both perfectly fine entries, although I think the clue for SYMPATHIZES would be more appropriate for EMPATHIZES [Shares feelings?] and FATHERLAND felt to me like it should have been MOTHERLAND [Where one’s ancestors are from]. Other long entries were BOBBY DARIN / COAL MINING / SCRATCH PAD / SOUR CHERRY.
I struggled with the proper nouns today, not realllly knowing BOBBY DARIN or the MR T character Clubber Lang or the [Literary character who was once married to Milady de Winter] (ATHOS). There were also a couple of entries I raised my eyebrow at — specifically DIPPY and H BAR. I’ve seen a lot of construction-materials-named-after-letters in my time as a solver, but I think H BAR is a new one for me. Is it just an I BAR that has been turned on its side? And DIPPY, to me as a Pittsburgher, means “over easy,” as in, “I’d like some DIPPY eggs with my toast, please.” I have never encountered this meaning of DIPPY, and I didn’t know CANOE slalom, so that whole section was pretty tough for me.
A few more things:
- I’ve never read Ella Minnow PEA but I’ve done enough crosswords to know it, and I think the concept+title are so fun. I should probably just read this already!
- The clue on GUT is a little graphic for my tastes [Destroy from the inside out]
- Favorite clue: [Viewed with disdain?] for HATE WATCHED
Overall, several stars from me.
P.S. If you’d like to solve an easier puzzle, check out today’s USA Today, which is a collaboration between me and Rebecca Goldstein!
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1350), “Themeless Monday #613” — Jenni’s review
A true Torah scholar, which I am not, would have a lot to say about the number of today’s puzzle, since there are purportedly 613 mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah. I’m sure we could come up with some crossword mitzvot if we tried.
This was a fun puzzle! It seemed a smidgen harder than the last couple of BEQ Mondays. Just me?
- Two entries span the grid: BODY TEMPERATURE and MARRIAGE LICENSE, both very solid 15-letter entries that I don’t remember seeing in puzzles very often.
- Four 11-letter entries that I enjoyed: VAYA CON DIOS, WHAT ON EARTH, FRIVOLITIES, and FINE SEA SALT. Samin Nosrat has made a slat believer out of my husband. Food in our house now tastes much better, and it wasn’t bad before. This year I will be able to put enough salt in the matzah balls, the chicken soup, and the gefilte fish for the first time since we were married.
- Speaking of chicken soup, it often comes with TLC. Yes indeed.
- 23d [Cold open?] is HARD C. This kind of clue gets me every time. You’d think I’d learn.
- I also liked the nine-letter downs: ONE–MAN BAND and SINGLE FILE.
Sally Hoelscher’s Universal crossword, “Growing a Garden” — pannonica’s write-up
This is a really fine theme.
- 17a. [*Botanical specimen whose fronds resemble a flightless bird’s plumes] OSTRICH FERN.
- 34a. [*Botanical specimen that large African animals eat] ELEPHANT GRASS.
- 41a. [*Botanical specimen that attracts fluttering insects] BUTTERFLY BUSH.
- 59a. [Botanical specimen whose offshoots resemble arachnids] SPIDER PLANT.
Nifty, right? Animal names in plant names. And it’s evenly split between two that resemble their namesakes and two that provide nourishment for their eponymous cohorts.
But wait! There’s more: 53d [Body parts that the starred answers’ starts have increasing numbers of] LEGS. That adds a whole other dimension to an already solid theme. 2-4-6-8, much appreciated.
The ballast fill is mostly unremarkable but solid. A few mentions:
- 34d [Caesar’s supposed question] ET TU, BRUTE? Not often we see the ‘full’ quote.
- 60d [Lead-in to “season”] PRE-. In more ways than one.
- 48a [Top-notch mark?] HYPHEN. Little sneaky there. More explicit punctuation with 11d [\] BACKSLASH.
A very nice Monday offering.