Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
I love Zhouqin’s puzzles! They’re always smooth and well-constructed. This is a perfect Monday puzzle – the theme is simple and consistent while not overly familiar, and the grid is just unusual enough to engage seasoned solvers (at least this seasoned solver) without stymying newbies.
There are four theme entries. The two Down entries are symmetrical and the two Across entries are centered. They’re all foods that end with colors.
- 17a [Easy-to-peel citrus fruits] are MANDARIN ORANGES.
- 22a [Main ingredients in meringue] are EGG WHITES.
- 28d [Crispy breakfast side dish] are HASH BROWNS. Are? Is? Discuss.
- 30d [Salad base similar to Swiss chard] are BEET GREENS.
Solid, simple, solvable. Nice!
A few other things:
- 9d [Low-altitude clouds] are STRATI. That’s not really a Monday word. All the crossings are straightforward, though.
- 18d [Has a war of words] is ARGUES. Not all arguments are wars. My family argues for sport – and not blood sport, either.
- Many children do, indeed, begin to READ in kindergarten. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t. Let them play!
- I know our beloved Amy is a SPORCLE fan. I’ve dabbled. Maybe if I SPORCLEd more diligently, I’d do better in Learned League.
- The juxtaposition of OSLO and OR SO amuses me.
Andrea Carla Michaels’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Andrea is a TOP constructor, so she went ahead and put some TOPS in this puzzle. Four of them, in fact. We’re back firmly in revealer-land, so let’s hop down to 62A [“I Can’t Help Myself” Motown group … and what’s comprised by 18-, 24-, 39-, and 52-Across’ starting words?], which is in fact THE FOUR TOPS. Also, that revealer clue. Whew! I’m out of breath just reading it, let alone trying to read it out loud. Would it really not be okay to just say [“I Can’t Help Myself” Motown group … and the theme of this puzzle]?
Anyhow…the first word in each theme phrase can be preceded by TOP to create a new phrase. Hence, THE FOUR TOPS:
- 18A [Cloak-and-dagger spy] is a SECRET AGENT. And if something is TOP SECRET, you’d better not tell.
- 24A [Typically yellow tangy fruit] is a BANANA PEPPER. Yes, peppers are technically fruits, but this felt a bit misleading for Monday. They’re always in the veggie section of the grocery store! Today I learned that the phrase TOP BANANA comes from vaudeville, in which the leading comedian in an act used to be given a banana.
- 39A [Accessory metaphor for an accomplishment] is a NOTCH ON ONE’S BELT. Enh, a ONE’S phrase. I do not consider ONE’S phrases to be TOP-NOTCH.
- 52A [Spaghetti-in-a-can icon] is CHEF BOYARDEE. This is by far my favorite theme entry. As a child of the ’80s, I ate plenty of that stuff. (I’m not saying it was good, just that I ate a lot of it.) And I do love me some TOP CHEF. (Currently rooting for Shota, who has an infectious laugh and makes duck that I really want to try. I’m writing this post on Thursday afternoon; hopefully he wasn’t eliminated in Thursday night’s episode!)
Jeff Stillman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Feeling Good”—Jim P’s review
Theme: FINISHING TOUCH (51a, [Grace note, and a feature of 20-, 28-, 37- and 46-Across]). The other theme answers finish with a word that can also mean a kind of touch.
- 20a. [Line from Hamlet’s soliloquy] AY, THERE’S THE RUB. From my favorite sequence of that soliloquy: “To die, to sleep; to sleep perchance to dream.” But shouldn’t that be “AYE,” not “AY”? Looking online I see both versions used. Anyone have a more definitive answer?
- 28a. [Stick stubbornly to a decision ] STAND PAT.
- 37a. [Bug, of a sort] WIRETAP.
- 46a. [Tamagotchi, for example] CYBERPET. I think we still have a few of these lying around the house.
Nice theme. I don’t think I’ve seen it before and it works well.
In the fill, I love “MUST BE NICE” clued as [Words of envy]. SPARE PARTS, IN THE RAW, “TOP THIS!,” ENSUITE, and YES I SEE are strong as well. I’m not sure that I recall the term PREMOLAR, but it was easy enough to infer. Very nice long fill. My only grumble was weird-looking plural RES [Notes between dos and mis].
Clues of note:
- 24a. [Low digit]. ONE. I feel wronged! The answer to this clue is always TOE. Always!
- 63a. [Words before sea, seed or sleep]. GO TO. I’ll admit it; I went with DEEP at first. I didn’t notice that it was asking for more than one word, and “deep seed” sounds a lot like “deep seated.” Duh.
This was a really enjoyable Monday grid. Four stars.
Sebastian L Iger’s Universal crossword, “String Trio” — pannonica’s write-up
Smooth, easy-peasy Monday offering.
- 61aR [Stop subscribing to cable, or what 17-, 27- and 46-Across literally do?] CUT THE CORD. One component of the metaphorical meaning might be subscribing to 60a [Popular streaming service] HULU.
- 17a. [Military branch whose logo has two anchors] COAST GUARD.
- 27a. [Model who co-authored “Becoming”] CINDY CRAWFORD. This is obviously not the Michelle Obama memoir of the same name.
- 46a. [Deep-voiced YouTuber known for horror stories, music and “Among Us”] CORPSE HUSBAND, who is entirely unknown to me.
One revealer, three themers (hence the title). What elevates the theme a bit is how the three possibilities for dividing the tetragram CORD are represented—it really makes for a more satisfying product.
Both the fill and the cluing were gentle, making for a rapid solve.
- 1d [Ocean predator] ORCA followed by 2d [Jungle predator] LION. Despite the popular regal moniker, LIONs are not found in tropical forests. In Africa they prefer savannahs or scrubby woodlands and in Asia they are found in dry forests. They do, however, have (13d) DENs, but sans TVs.
- 30d [Queen’s time in power] REIGN. 31d [Had the courage] DARED. Are these more LION-adjacent clues?
- 6d [www.morehouse.__ ] EDU. Is this tokenism or inclusion?
- 8d [Mistakes in a text?] ERRATA, 24d [Mistake in a text] TYPO (or maybe just an autocorrect fail).
- The only two clues which gave me the most minor of hesitations were 38d [Go from stop to stop] TOUR and 47d [British bar] PUB. For the latter, I was somehow not considering drinking establishments and wrestled with soap and the law.
- Favorite clue: 40d [High school activity with pros] DEBATE.
- Oh wait, there was a third troublesome (in a good way) clue: 57d [It has been new many times] MOON. I had MATH at first. (59d [Finds the sum of] ADDS.)
- 20a [“Inuyasha” genre] ANIME. The titular character is apparently a half-human, half-dog demon of Japan’s Sengoku period. I guess he also eats whole daikon raw?
- 66a [Feature of a certain sweatshirt] HOOD. That certain sweatshirt would be a hoodie, natch.
- 69a [Concludes] ENDS.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Hi everyone, late start today so just the quick hits!
- I love this grid design; I just think staircases let you do cool things with a grid *and* look neat. A twofer!
- Long entries today: GOD HELP THE CHILD / SLEEPWALKER / LEAD STORIES / BOOTY SHORTS / SHAPELESS / WOOD TONES / BLOCKADED / REINFORCE. I didn’t know GOD HELP THE CHILD, but that’s a great entry. Also enjoyed SLEEPWALKER, SHAPELESS, WOOD TONES, and BOOTY SHORTS. Fun stuff!
- As usual, we get our dose of labor movement history from Natan with [City where Red Clydeside, a radical era in Britain’s labor movement, began] for GLASGOW
- Did I initially try ASSLESS CHAPS instead of BOOTY SHORTS for [Cheeky bottoms?]? Yes, yes I did. No regrets.
- It’s a tie for my favorite new-clue-for-a-short-entry between [Critic’s pick?] for NIT and [Relative of BTW] for FYI
- I didn’t know CC RIDER, but having googled it, I appreciate the clue incorporating the word “see” as a hint, given that an alternative title for the same song is apparently See See Rider:
Overall, no complaints and plenty of stars from me! See you Weds.
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1364), “Themeless Monday #619” — Jenni’s review
When 1a is a gimme, the puzzle feels easier, no matter how much I struggle with the other areas. I filled in the NW with no difficulty and then wandered around the grid for a while before I got enough toeholds to solve the whole thing – and my overall impression is still “on the easy side for a BEQ themeless.” As always, Brendan gives us some fresh fill to chew on.
- 1a [Baby in Action Comics no 1] is KAL–EL, the refugee from Krypton found in a field by Mr. and Mrs. Kent.
- I liked the two long downs, LOSING ONE‘S EDGE and INSERT JOKE HERE.
- I’m glad to see BATTLEAXE clued as an actual weapon rather than with its misogynistic idiomatic meaning.
- I take issue with the clue for RETROFLEX. Brendan has [Turned backward], past tense. In my world, that would be RETROFLEXed. During various medical procedures, the clinician RETROFLEXes the scope to fully visualize the relevant area. Here it appears to be a noun rather than a verb – or at least that’s how I read it, and it doesn’t sit right for me.
- 61d [Hot pies] are ZAS. In college, we used to have to get money from the ‘rents to order the ‘za, and then we’d argue about whether or not we wanted ‘shrooms on top. I graduated college 39 years ago, so this feels a tad dated to me. Is it back?
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’ve heard of EMILE ZOLA, of course, but did not know he wrote “Les Rougon-Macquart.” Looking up the English title didn’t help much.