Andrea Carla Michael & Doug Peterson’s New York Times puzzle —Jenni’s write-up
I always like Andrea’s puzzles. This collaboration between two veteran constructors is no exception.
Each theme answer ends in the sound “way,” spelled differently every time.
- 20a [Food for Little Miss Muffet] is CURDS AND WHEY. Never sounded all that appetizing to me.
- 31a [Chinese dissident artist] is AI WEI WEI. This quote appears on the first page of his website: “Expressing oneself is a part of being human. To be deprived of a voice is to be told you are not a participant in society; ultimately it is a denial of humanity.” Think about that the next time you’re moved to denigrate the push for broader representation in crossword puzzles (or any other facet of culture). I suppose some people may feel he is not a familiar enough name to Americans to be a theme answer in a Monday puzzle. He should be.
- 36a [U.S. Naval Academy Anthem] is ANCHORS AWEIGH.
- 43a [Neighbor of Botswana] is ZIMBABWE.
- 54a [Breakup song by Fleetwood Mac] is GO YOUR OWN WAY. Ah, the sounds of my youth.
English is a weird language. Look at all those different ways (!) to make the same sound. Yes, I know one of them is transliterated Chinese. Still. Fun theme! I wondered if WIIMOTES was a theme-adjacent entry, but it’s a different sound.
A few other things:
- This is the second time lately I’ve seen WATUSI clued as a [1960s dance craze]. The other was a Rows Garden from several years ago that I solved last week. It’s factually correct. The craze itself was pretty darn racist. It did give rise to one of the great TV scenes of all time.
- [Spooky-sounding lake?] is a nice clue for ERIE.
- I didn’t know that RIC Ocasek cut his wife, Paulina Porizkova, out of his will until I read this article.
- IOC is a timely entry as we get closer to the postponed Tokyo Olympics.
- We installed SOLAR panels three years ago. My husband estimates they will pay for themselves by 2026. Then we bought an electric car and now we can say we drive on sunshine.
Catherine Cetta’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I always enjoy seeing Catherine Cetta’s byline, because I expect things to be nice and fresh. And I have to say that the fill in this puzzle is just about perfect. She clearly knew this was a Monday kind of theme and she strove for easy fill, with nothing harder than BALEEN and pretty much everything else a whole lot easier.
Although this is a Monday kind of theme, I would argue that it’s very much not a June kind of theme, at least not where I’m sitting. That’s because it’s hot and sticky as you-know-what here in NYC, and I know this isn’t the only part of the country that’s pouring sweat. And then you’re gonna show me a theme about snow? Unkind. Not the constructor’s fault, obviously!
Anyhow, the revealer at 60A [Persuasive efforts using insincere flattery … and a hint to the last words of answers to starred clues] is SNOW JOBS, because the word SNOW can be placed before the last word of each theme entry to make a new word or phrase. I think this theme would’ve been cleaner simply having SNOW as the final Across or Down answer, so that the revealer clue wouldn’t have to do such backflips.
- 17A [Emulate Bonnie and Clyde] is ROB A BANK. Wouldn’t you like to have a SNOWBANK to dive into right about now? I would.
- 22A [Highly aware and ready to act] is ON THE BALL. A SNOWBALL fight also sounds lovely.
- 37A [Grasps an underlying meaning] is the slightly awkward CATCHES THE DRIFT, which sounds way more natural as CATCH MY DRIFT. The giant SNOW DRIFTs that piled up in Brooklyn this winter were quite unwelcome at the time (especially when they linger for weeks and turn 50 shades of gray). Now…you get the idea.
- 52A [Kellogg’s cereal morsel] is CORN FLAKE, which is also not perfect to me in the singular. SNOWFLAKEs make up all the other constructs we’ve seen above (DRIFTs, BANKs, and BALLs).
Despite my quibbles with the theme, this is a really lovely puzzle. Small number of proper names and lots of evocative entries like CURFEW and PRAWN and ORCHID. And I learned what BALEEN is. Into it!
Carl Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Buzzwords”—Jim P’s review
You know what I think of when I see the word BEHEADS? The news. I’m not a regular cryptic solver and I don’t have any succulents around the house. Don’t want me to think about human decapitation when solving your puzzle? Don’t make the revealer BEHEADS.
BEHEADS is clued [Takes off the top, and a hint to 17-, 24-, 47- and 56-Across]. Other entries are two-word phrases where both words start with BE-.
- 17a. [“SNL” cast member who plays a shirtless Vladimir Putin] BECK BENNETT
- 24a. [Straining credulity] BEYOND BELIEF
- 47a. [What to be on when meeting the parents] BEST BEHAVIOR
- 56a. [Stella Artois or Chimay, e.g.] BELGIAN BEER
This doesn’t redeem the puzzle in my eyes. It would take an incredible amount of cleverness to come back from that revealer, and this doesn’t do it.
And the title. “Buzzwords”? I think it’s trying to evoke bees, but the first thing I thought about was buzzsaws.
I once had a puzzle rejected with the revealer DOWN WITH THE SHIP with ship names in the Down direction. It was deemed too grim. But this is in a whole other league.
Even if you don’t mean to imply human decapitation, it’s there. Someone will think of it. I did, and I consider myself a fairly average solver. So yeah. Not all theme ideas should be made into puzzles. And not all puzzle submissions should be published. For me, this was in very poor taste.
Steve Faiella’s Universal crossword, “Down and Dirty” — pannonica’s write-up
Here’s the lowdown: it completely slipped my mind that I had a crossword to write about this morning, and I’ve got to head out the door rather soon. So it’s going to be a quick recap.
This puzzle is part of the Universal Pride Month series.
Thematic answers are vertical, befitting the wordplay invoked by the title.
- 4d. [*Able to afford many mansions, say] FILTHY RICH.
- 8d. [*Before-tax income] GROSS PAY.
- 43d. [*Immoral course of action] LOW ROAD.
- 36d. [*It’s not fair] FOUL BALL. Snot, you say?
- 32d. [*Redhead who was the Expo’s first star] RUSTY STAUB.
To varying degrees, the starts of those answers can be synonymous with ‘dirty’ or ‘soiled’.
- Long acrosses: 22a [Reverberating quality] RESONANCE, 53a [“Marvelous,” to Angela Merkel] WUNDERBAR. 31a [Meeting place after a political debate] SPIN ROOM, 46a [Dinner and a date, say] NIGHT OUT. Interesting that the longer pair are single words.
- 27a [Three, in Rome] TRE, 52d [Groups of three] TRIOS. All three (three, trio, tre) are close cognates, derived from Latin.
- 67a [Dough in tamales] MASA. You’d think we’d see this convenient word more frequently in crosswords.
- 7d [Five or ten, but not fifteen] NOTE. As in, banknotes.
- 12d [What may stick on your shoes?] VELCRO. Given the theme, you’d be forgiven for falling for the gunky misdirection here, by gum!
- 39d [Ended a juice cleanse] ATE. Oo, dirty, dirty food.
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1374), “Themeless Monday #624” — Jenni’s review
I was about to ask for help with an entry I didn’t understand. I went to the grid to check what I was writing and realize the answer isn’t NOW A IT. It’s NO, WAIT. Oy. The clue is 34a [“Hang on…I just got it”] so IT shouldn’t be in the answer, anyway. As I said, oy. Aside from that moment of stupidity, I found this puzzle fairly straightforward.
Some things I noticed:
- We know about CAST STEEL here in the Lehigh Valley, where our AAA baseball team is called the Iron Pigs. Their mascots are Ferrous and FeFe.
- The grand crossword conspiracy seems to be focused on giving me high school-era earworms. First it was Fleetwood Mac in the NYT; now it’s ERES TU. I’ll take Stevie Nicks any day.
- 20a [Stiff arm providers?] are SPLINTS.
- We have an ARLO doorbell.
- Not sure why ROTTWEILER is specifically a [Rescue-dog breed]. Does that mean they perform rescues?
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Taylor Swift has won more AMAS than anyone else. I also have never heard the term GENTLEMAN‘S SWEEP for winning four out of five games in a playoff series – anyone else? David REES and ZANE Lowe are new to me as well.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker themeless crossword—Amy’s recap
Apologies for tardiness, it’s been one of those days™.
Solid puzzle, smooth fill. Had a couple hitches while solving—HIT ON instead of LIT ON at 59d obscured the paint BLISTER, and the [hard-to-read documents] were FAXED, not FADED. Was thinking of geese and the Blue Angels for that 24d [Member of a flying team], but it’s VIXEN, one of Santa’s reindeer. D’oh!
Today’s perfect pair is Operation’s CAVITY SAM and possessed doll ANNABELLE. You know—for kids!
Four stars from me.