Erika Ettin’s New York Times puzzle —Jenni’s write-up
This is Erika’s NYT debut. In the constructor’s notes on Wordplay, she says it came on her 40th birthday – I’m not sure if that was 6/6 when the puzzle dropped or 6/7 on the official pub date, but either way, happy birthday! Thanks for giving us a present. I didn’t know what the theme answers had in common until I got to the revealer.
- 17a [Sleuth for hire] is a PRIVATE EYE.
- 23a [Perform and act of kindness, in a way] is PAY IT FORWARD.
- 36a [1977 Eagles #1 hit] is HOTEL CALIFORNIA.
- 46a [It might catch a thief or a speeder] is a HIDDEN CAMERA.
And the revealer at 57a [Be willing to accept whatever…or a hint to the ends of 17-, 23-, 26-, and 16-Across]: ROLL WITH IT. EYE ROLL, FORWARD ROLL, CALIFORNIA ROLL, CAMERA ROLL. Everything is solidly in the language and the theme is consistent. A very nice debut! I look forward to seeing more from Erika (especially if she uses her punning expertise in her themes).
A few other things:
- 10a [Lines at the cash register, for short?] are UPCS. The plural seems off to me. Aren’t all the lines one UPC?
- I would rather have FROYO than a PLAYA bowl or TARO chips.
- At least with the snowman I know it’s OLAF. With the Scandinavian king, I never know what the last letter is supposed to be.
- We have [Popular berry] for ACAI and [Popular Berry] for HALLE.
- NERDS may be [Crunchy, colorful commercial candies] but they taste terrible.
The puzzle gave me an earworm and it may not be the one you expect.
John R. O’Brien’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
It’s June, so it must be time for a baseball puzzle, right? As 38A [With “the,” rare batting feat whose components begin the answers to starred clues], CYCLE, tells us, this puzzle is about the four hits that are part of “the cycle” if they’re hit by the same person in the same game: SINGLE, DOUBLE, TRIPLE, HOME RUN.
- 17A [*Selling point for a used car] is a SINGLE OWNER.
- 28A [*Going out with another couple] is DOUBLE DATING, which is fun if you pick the right other couple and excruciating if you don’t.
- 44A [*High club in a deli] is a TRIPLE DECKER, as in a club sandwich with three layers of bread. “High club” is cute, but not Mondayish IMO.
- 58A [*Metaphor for the perfect person for the job] is a HOME RUN HIRE. This entry was a clunker for me. Put quotes around it and it gets fewer than 25K Google hits, which is an indicator that it falls in the GREEN PAINT category. I’d have gone with HOMER HICKAM, or perhaps HOMER PLESSY — although Plessy v. Ferguson was a deplorable decision, HOMER PLESSY was on the side of good in the case.
Some tough entries for a Monday: TWO BOB, ANEMO-, EFREM, KUDU, GEOS. Favorite clue: [Work bound to sell?] for BOOK.
Overall: Not my favorite. Baseball themes have been done enough times that it’s hard to find a fresh take.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Boosters”—Jim P’s review
Theme: UPLIFTS (25d, [Elates, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. The other theme answers (in the Down direction) are comprised of phrases that hide the word LIFT when parsed from the bottom up.
- 3d. [Dryer part] LINT FILTER. Hmm. Is that what you call this? I think I normally hear “lint screen” or possibly “lint trap.”
- 14d. [Indie studio’s production, often] LOW BUDGET FILM.
- 16d. [Pie features] FRUIT FILLING.
- 31d. [Highly classified record] SECRET FILE.
Meh. I know it’s Monday, so this is probably good for the newer solver, but having the same hidden word in each entry is a lot less interesting than when the words are all different.
Further, the fill feels rather staid as opposed to the typical Burnkel grid, starting with “GOT YA!” [“Oh, now I see”] which most people would write as “gotcha!” Elsewhere, there’s IMED, IMUS, ANON, INCAN, and DSL. In the long fill, STORM DOOR is nice and “DON’T LET GO!” is fantastic, but for me, those don’t make up for the minuses. Maybe it’s not fair, but I’ve come to expect a lot of sparkle when I start a Burnikel puzzle.
Being Monday, clues were on the straightforward side throughout. I did like the KIA clue [Seller of Souls, Sorentos and Sedonas] which makes you think something devilish is going on at first.
Not my favorite puzzle from ZB, but maybe it’s good for the new solvers. 3.3 stars.
Ari Halpern’s Universal crossword, “Rise for the Cause” — pannonica’s write-up
This puzzle is part of the Universal Pride Month series.
- 70aR [Org. fighting to end AIDS … and a hint to what’s hidden in reverse, and progressively higher, in 34-, 21-, 9- and 11-Down] ACT UP. Whew, got all that? It stands for AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, so there’s a nested acronym inside that acronym.
- 34d. [*It might record a biker’s stunt] HELMET CAM.
- 21d. [*How best-sellers sell] LIKE HOTCAKES.
- 9d. [*What may be aimed at a loud fan] T-SHIRT CANNON.
- 11d. [*”No rush”] IT CAN WAIT.
Explicitly naming the clues and asterisking them? That’s like wearing suspenders and a belt, or [insert STD prophylactic reference here]
The ACTs rise by 2 rows, 3 rows, 4 rows, and 4 rows again, but the slope looks different than that sounds because of the column spacing.
- 19a [Quickly look over] SCAN. [insert pedantic discussion of definitions here]
- 44a [Multicolored cat] CALICO, 73a [Multicolored horses] ROANS. The former derives from Calicut, India—which is now called Kozhikode. I just listened to the pronunciation of that, which to my ear sounds a lot like kodkod.
- 26d [E, F or G, but not H] NOTE, though I understand H is used for B natural in some European countries.
- Speaking of ACTing, 61a [Stage fright, say] NERVES. This is the best I could do for a musical selection (kind of an obvious but reliable choice, I guess).
- 64d [“__ questions?”] ANY.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
Natan’s stair-step corners allow him to anchor the grid with 13s and 14s, and these long entries are all terrific: the MARRIAGE STORY movie, the animated series BOJACK HORSEMAN, ABRAHAM LINCOLN as a literary character in Lincoln in the Bardo, and PLANE GEOMETRY citing Euclid’s Elements. I like that common thread through these four, all referring to things that were written. That written vibe continues through George Eliot’s SILAS, a Lawrence WELK bio, songwriter/actor ICE-T, Milne’s EEYORE, songwriter/rocker Chrissie HYNDE, singer/songwriter Justin BIEBER, Walker PERCY, doctor/writer ATUL Gawande, poet Marianne MOORE (here’s “Poetry”), Latin CANO from The Aeneid, the film HER. Now, you know me, I enjoy puzzles packed with names because I tend to know the references. There will be dissenters who shriek that this crossword is a “trivia quiz” if they happen to not know the names and titles.
Other fill I liked: LIKE A BOSS, BATTING CAGE, and these lively bits of vocabulary, PAUNCH, PEEVE, MOLLIFY, and PERSNICKETY. Are those last four not great words? Love ’em.
Five more things:
- 22a. [Mandarin equivalent of “dad”], BABA. As the world becomes ever more connected and the U.S. grows increasingly diverse, I appreciate this sort of clue approach. My son has grandparents he calls Lola and Lolo. What goes to the heart of our humanity more than basic words for family?
- 29a. [Problems in old wooden buildings], DRY ROTS. Hmm, a plural form? Is that legit?
- 41a. [Mucilaginous], GLUEY. I’m always here for a mucilage reference.
- 5d. [Region whose highest point is the volcano Emi Koussi], SAHARA. I didn’t know the Sahara had any volcanoes, but the volcano name had an Arabic/North African vibe and the crossings pointed me in the right direction.
- 27d. [Source of the words “spunk” and “trousers”], ERSE. Never keen on seeing ERSE in a grid, but this clue is perfection. Who doesn’t like a little casual etymology?
4.25 stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1372), “Themeless Monday #623” — Jenni’s review
Harder than usual! Just me?
There were some things I just didn’t know and some I found difficult to figure out, and when two of those crossed, I struggled. I’m not sure JIM BEAM HIGHBALL is a thing. I’d be willing to do the research and report back. Here’s the grid. I was on call last weekend and I’m signing off.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of GAME JAMS.
loved the Universal theme
Re: LAT While I don’t disagree that “Home Run Hire” is a little clumsy, it’s part of the baseball theme, unlike “Homer Plessy”. “Hitting for the Cycle” is a single, double, triple, and home run.
I had a little issue with 34-D; in my world to deny a taxidermist the necessary raw materials for the trade by not killing wildlife is much more deserving of a “wildlife preservation” clue. Taxidermy is more akin to embalming.
NYT: I was perplexed by ‘camera roll’ and thought maybe it referred to an old-fashioned roll of film (although that seemed unlikely, since I guess the constructor may well be too young to know of such things). Instead, google tells me it’s some kind of smart phone app or camera mode, although I didn’t read enough to figure out exactly what. I don’t think it’s on my phone, or maybe it’s one of numerous capabilities I haven’t discovered.
NYT: 10a . One item has a upc , but a several different items would have varied UPCS, no? The clue/ans. work in that way.
NYer: As it happens, I knew most of the ‘trivia’ in this one so was able to solve the puzzle without too much trouble. But I still didn’t care for it. I don’t find such puzzles nearly so enjoyable to solve as those with twisty clues, clever wordplay and the like.
I do crosswords for the enjoyment, diversion, mental challenge. With software has come an explosion of constructors, a minority of whom do it well. I regret seeing the crossword world being hijacked by any cause right or wrong, being hijacked by commentators judging a work by eg. how many female or male references it contains, how “politically correct” it is, etc. I am sorry for the many constructors and solvers who are subjected to all this stuff. I feel editors and bloggers should get back to basics – clever, enjoyable minor diversions in an otherwise at times cruel and heartless world. Work hard for justice, don’t make a word-game of it.
Ah, but many of us actually ENJOY a puzzle more if we feel that we and our friends and families are represented in them.
And constructors who are women, LGBTQIA+ folks, people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, etc., DO exist. They aren’t “subjected” to anything when solvers say that they appreciate the more diverse references they may include in their puzzles. Nate Cardin, Stella Zawistowski, and Sid Sivakumar are just three of the many constructors who are explicitly addressing diversity shortfalls because they want to see their tastes and cultures represented more. (Nate tired of the uniformly heterosexual framing, Stella wanted more themelesses by women, Sid would love for Indian foods and vocab to appear more in crosswords.)
I actually LIKE learning things I didn’t know about other cultures, and if we were still only seeing mainstream-audience crosswords edited by white men and mostly constructed by same, the crossword community would be weak and exclusionary. I believe the majority of NYT constructors are still white men, mostly straight ones. It’s churlish to complain that the spotlight is now being shared SOMEWHAT with everyone else.
Good for you, Amy.
New Yorker: I enjoy learning new names, but that cross at 25D/30A was brutal for me. I didn’t know either, so any vowel seemed plausible.
Atul Gawande is great! I don’t think I’ve read any of his books, but he’s written a number of important New Yorker articles over the years.
I want to commend Kelly Clark and Anonymous for the comments above. They’ll undoubtedly get scorn from the ideologues who populate this site, but their comments are actually very important and indeed brave.
There needs to be a pushback from the silent majority on this – a very very small handful of people are influential in this disturbing trend of seeing crosswords as activism, but this very small minority is a very loud and a very illiberal, authoritarian one that threatens to ostracize and punish those who don’t follow in lockstep with their plainly divisive approach. And they have captured several publications’ puzzles at this point – USA Today and the New Yorker are the most bald-faced and unapologetic about their divisiveness, which is always cloaked in terms like “diversity” and “inclusion” – ironic cudgels, those, as inherent in its mission is explicit “exclusion”, not only of the content in the puzzle but of the writers and editors themselves. From what I can tell the USA Today crossword’s most apparent editorial principle is “no white men.” Basic, cut-and-dry, definitional exclusion fobbed off as Heightened Morality – truly, truly disgusting.
All these puzzles do is preach to a choir of >10% of the populace who already believes in their insane worldview and repulsing the other 90+%, many of whom would readily consider and even support their ideas if they weren’t immediately turned off by the tactics. Soon crosswords will just die on the vine because you can’t sustain a business model that seeks to intentionally piss off a huge swath of potential consumers by endorsing partisan politics – *especially* when the product is a GAME!!!! This is supposed to be fun! These activist puzzles are simply not. fun. at. all. And the market will realize that eventually and dry up. So write these publications – send an email to Universal and tell them you will stop solving their puzzles as long as they have a commitment to regularly explicitly endorsing divisive partisan politics. If your local paper runs the syndicated Universal puzzle send an email to your local paper’s editor and complain. We’ve gotten to this point because the silent majority stays silent because of fear of being called out by the extremists. The extremists, hence, are the only voice that these media organizations and their leaders hear, so there’s this false consensus that is motivating both the crossword editors who accept and endorse this approach and the media companies that finance it. It needs to stop.
Are you for real?!? The “silent majority” that is so persecuted, in a country where Trump was president for 4 years and continues to push the Big Lie, and where QAnon extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene waft around Congress.
Say, why don’t you start your own blog that serves your so-called silent majority, and complain on a daily basis that the USA Today and New Yorker crosswords aren’t helping enough white men? Heck, you could even see about interesting right-wing sites in running crosswords more to your liking. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding one or two white male constructors who wouldn’t mind being in business with those sites.
You’re quite good at misinterpreting arguments and creating strawmen.
I’m not a right-winger, never voted for Trump, and think Marjorie Taylor Greene is a certifiable nutjob. I consider myself liberal though I’ve hesitated using that word in the last few years due to the emerging dominance of the illiberal extreme left. My point wasn’t about “helping white men,” that’s an inflammatory provocation meant to subvert rebutting my argument with one of your own, and is primarily used to shut down any conversation.
If you would have read my comment it’d be clear that I wouldn’t want “right-wing sites” to publish politically partisan crossword puzzles either.
Here’s a thought experiment: if a puzzle used MARJORIETAYLORGREENE in a celebratory manner as a basis for a theme would you be okay with it? If not, that’s the kind of feeling non-extreme-progressives get when encountering controversial extremist people and policies in puzzles in a laudatory light.
OK, then. Please cite your sources for saying that 90% or more of crossworders agree with you. Frankly, I’m not seeing it.
Also, it’s only your opinion that “these activist puzzles are simply not fun.” Hey! If you don’t enjoy them, don’t do them. Those of us who do appreciate them will keep solving those puzzles and mentioning what we love about them.
Although I’ve kinda sworn off making comments, pro or con, on this blog for a variety of reasons, I must shout my support for Amy’s take on the cruel, misleading nonsense coming from “Anonymous” and “anon.” The USA Today crossword series is marvelous, beautifully edited to allow lesser known names, places, personalities, foods, etc. to get better representation while maintaining fairness in crosses so that the puzzles can be finished. I just wish my memory was better so that all the new info displayed in this puzzle series stayed in my brain. I may send positive feedback to Universal praising the work of Erik as editor and his wonderful band of constructors–many of whom are women, thank heavens. Natan’s puzzles in the New Yorker often give me big problems–like today’s puzzle’s crossing of 24D and 30A. I knew neither name, I’m embarrassed to say, so I had to leave that crossing unfilled in. I suspect that particular crossing would not have appeared in one of Erik’s edited puzzles at USA Today. Cheers to Amy, Erik, and the many women constructors who are making puzzles that are so much more interesting.
David Steere (my real name) — aged 67
Two succinct thoughts are coming to my mind regarding anon‘s comments:
Further, I have trouble conceiving that the attempted both-sideism isn’t in thoroughly bad faith.
“My point wasn’t about ‘helping white men,’ that’s an inflammatory provocation meant to subvert rebutting my argument with one of your own, and is primarily used to shut down any conversation.”
Uh, excusez-moi ?
“USA Today and the New Yorker are the most bald-faced and unapologetic about their divisiveness, which is always cloaked in terms like ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ – ironic cudgels, those, as inherent in its mission is explicit ‘exclusion’ […] From what I can tell the USA Today crossword’s most apparent editorial principle is ‘no white men.’”
What in the blue hell are you on about? That kind of rhetoric is something I’d expect from some asshole whose idea of hard-hitting journalism is whatever effluvia is spilling from Tucker Carlson’s confused-dog-lookin’-ass face. Based on your very own words there, I don’t buy for a second that you “consider [yourself] a liberal”, and I think everyone here would have more respect for you if you just admitted from the jump that you’re not, especially if you didn’t hide behind your “anonymous” label, you poor, persecuted victim.
As a nearly 40-year-old white guy myself, I don’t feel threatened at all by this laughable “white genocide” crap to which your above manifesto feels like a thinly veiled allusion, nor do I feel like we don’t get enough recognition in [checks notes] crossword puzzles…? Really? You’re going to hyperventilate over perceived white male underrepresentation in goddamn crossword puzzles? Maybe you need to try an edible and chill for a minute.
Agreed! It took me a while to find where to send feedback to Universal/Andrews McMeel, but this site’s form seemed to work: https://universaluclick.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/requests/new
Apparently Universal/Andrews McMeel manages the USA Today puzzle as well, so that was convenient. I got an email confirmation that they received the message.
Love how the New Yorker puzzle attacked for being exclusionary of white men contains references to Lincoln, Euclid, Virgil, George Saunders, Walker Percy, Spike Jonze, Justin Bieber, Severus Snape, Silas Marner, Lawrence Welk, and Pat Sajak. (The male Bojack and Winnie the Pooh probably don’t count.) Attack it for being too name-heavy if you like (I wouldn’t, I loved the puzzle!) but there’s no shortage of white men on offer. Makes you wonder what the commenter’s real problem with the puzzle is…