Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times puzzle —Jenni’s write-up
This is a cute theme with a revealer that seems to kind of miss the mark. Each theme answer has the same structure.
- 20a [Capable of floating, as a balloon] is LIGHTER THAN AIR.
- 32a [Sanctimonious] is HOLIER THAN THOU.
- 39a [Imposing and then some] is LARGER THAN LIFE.
The revealer is 52a [“Let’s put things in perspective”…or a title for this puzzle] – IT‘S ALL RELATIVE. Maybe it’s just me; this doesn’t seem quite right. I know comparisons are relative….I guess it works.
A few other things:
- Mmmm, PAD THAI.
- 15a [Wife of Zeus] is HERA and 28a [Mother of Zeus (and an anagram of 15-Across)] is RHEA. I don’t think we needed the “anagram” hint, but then again I don’t much care for anagrams.
- Mmm, THIN Mints.
- 47a [Word before “bite” or “go”] is an odd clue for I‘LL. It’s a perfectly good word without the contraction.
- The Yankees RALLIED today from 1-0 down to take a 2-1 lead and then managed to hang on by turning their third triple play of the season – which they had to do because Chapman walked the first two batters.
What I recently learned that relates to this puzzle: Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter From Birmingham JAIL” was written in response to “A Call For Unity,” an open letter published April 12, 1963 and signed by eight Birmingham clergy who called for local activists to negotiate and petition the courts for redress rather than participate in protests “directed and led in part by outsiders.” The same group previously published “An Appeal For Law and Order and Common Sense,” which tells you that some things have not changed in the intervening 58 years.
Chris Sablich’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Looks like we have a debut in the house, and it’s a sugary one. The revealer at 52A [Jackie Gleason catchphrase … and a hint to the starts of 20-, 28-, and 46-Across] is HOW SWEET IT IS, and something sweet is indeed at the beginning of each of the theme entries:
- 20A [Hospital volunteer named for a feature of their uniform] is a CANDY STRIPER. So far, so good; CANDY is sweet, and I appreciate the use of singular “they” for inclusivity.
- 28A [One of two on a post-wedding vacation] is a HONEYMOONER. I’m not as in love with this entry, both because it’s inconsistent with the other two (it’s a compound word, whereas the other two are multi-word phrases) and because either the constructor or the editor decided to try and hide the fact that this theme answer relates to the revealer in a way that the other two don’t. Jackie Gleason’s show was The Honeymooners. From my brief Google research, it looks like he used the catchphrase outside the show, but this still feels like trying to hide an inconsistency. I think it would’ve been better to clue HOW SWEET IT IS with no reference to Gleason at all. Anyway, HONEY is sweet too; fine from that perspective.
- 46A [Legal border-crossing spot] is a PORT OF ENTRY. Today I learned that a PORT OF ENTRY need not be a seaport. Who knew? (If the answer is “everyone,” please don’t tell me.) I quibble a bit with PORT as an exemplar of sweetness compared with CANDY and HONEY — there are dry port wines out there, and even a normally sweet port isn’t candy-sweet. SUGAR MAPLES could have worked.
I enjoyed seeing HUGH clued as the House star Hugh Laurie and OPERA with reference to La Scala (since the last night of my last trip abroad involved a performance of Verdi’s I Masnadieri there).
Despite my quibbles above with consistency issues in the theme, this is pretty darn good for a debut construction. I know I committed far worse sins in my debut back in 2002!
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “H.O.T. Stuff”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Three-word phrases with the initials H.O.T.
- 17a. [Very enjoyable experience] HIGH OLD TIME. Not very familiar with this one. Sounds like very old slang.
- 28a. [Flip choice] HEADS OR TAILS.
- 44a. [Prepares for a bronco ride, perhaps] HOLDS ON TIGHT. This would be much better as a command (“Hold on tight!”), but it needs an extra letter to be symmetrical with 28a.
- 58a. [She was abducted by Paris] HELEN OF TROY.
Simple and accessible enough for newbie solvers.
However, like the first theme answer, a lot of the fill feels aimed at solvers in the 60+ demographic. DEEP SIXES [Gets rid of, for good] is also some pretty old slang, but it does maintain enough currency to be fun. COOL WATER [1948 hit for Vaughn Monroe] is probably unknown to anyone under 50, though I believe it was featured in the Coen Bros. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Oh yeah, here it is. More old timey slang: DO RE MI for money.
In the more modern era, there are references to Dear EVAN Hansen, The Connors, and TRON (if you want to call that modern). But the grid definitely feels skewed toward older solvers, with the likes of ETHEL Merman, PSYCHO, and GOGO dancing.
A straightforward grid with an easy-to-get theme. A broader range of clues would be welcome, though. 3.5 stars.
Sophia Maymudes and Kyra Wilson’s Universal crossword, “Identity Theft” — pannonica’s write-up
This puzzle is part of the Universal Pride Month series.
… and its theme is relevant to that subject.
- 61aR [The assumption that two women dating are lesbians, e.g., or [a] hint to what was deleted from 16-, 26- and 45-Across] BI ERASURE. Sure enough, that two-letter sequence—a literal bigram!—is dropped, to wackyISH (5d) effect.
- 16a. [Undercover agent’s cell?] MOLE PHONE (mobile phone). I appreciate the changed meaning of ‘cell’ here.
- 26a. [Unfurnished mansion?] BARE DREAM HOUSE (Barbie™ Dream House).
- 45a. [Why pillboxes and newsboy caps are still in fashion?] OLD HATS DIE HARD (old habits die hard).
Solid puzzle and theme. For what it’s worth, there are no occurrences of ‘BI’ in the grid, save for the revealer.
- 15d [Gymnastics great Katelyn] OHASHI, unfortunately right alongside 20d [P.E. footwear] GYM SHOES (I of course had SNEAKERS first).
- 28d [TikTok dancer Addison] RAE. Too hip for me.
- 57d [Dinosaur with comically tiny arms] T REX. While it may be true, but that’d be the least of my concerns in an encounter.
- 44a [First nightly news segments?] ENS. Yep, fooled me.
- 31d [Concludes] ENDS.
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1376), “Themeless Monday #625 — Jenni’s review
I found this one a bit harder than usual, possibly because my brain is a bit overwhelmed at the moment.
What I noticed:
- 6a [Persian groups] is LITTERS. Cats.
- 16a [Title on audiobooks.com?] is LOGIN NAME.
- Does TEAC still exist? Fancy stereos of my youth.
- Not crazy about TILERY for [Ceramics factory].
- And I’m not sure that [Soy ___ ] is the best clue for FLOUR.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that LARS ULRICH was the first Dane inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
I’m writing this up on short notice a day after the fact, so there isn’t time to do justice to this chewy, challenging themeless.
The flow was good, the fill nice and varied, the cluing frequently oblique, and the obstacles enough to make it a minor workout.
I kept thinking I was going to be stuck, but each time there was a toehold or fingergrip to get me just a bit farther, until the whole thing was complete. That’s how a crossword should work, as far as I’m concerned.
- 19a [Nickname for the Basketball Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson] BIG “O”.
UNI: See you again in July…
Nah, just stay away.
NYT: I agree that the revealer is a little off. One thing that ties these theme answers together is that they’re a little extreme in nature (e.g. LARGER THAN LIFE). Maybe the revealer is trying to capture that, but if so, it’s a bit subtle.
PS. The only reason I missed being a Queen Bee yesterday is because of Neocon… The list of acceptable words in that game continues to baffle me.
Yes. Exactly. And some of them come and go, like ILIAD. And YEAN – I managed to learn that one, and it subsequently vanished. My running buddy and I have a scheduled SB complaining session (whatever gets us through the run, I guess) each time we meet.
We thrive on both SB and complaining about SB ?
You become much more aware of the editor’s decisions once you get down to the last few words in the list. And words on the list do come and go.
Thanks, NYT, for using Addison RAE a few weeks back. They’re probably the only TikTok personality I could have confidently plugged into today’s Universal grid.
I think it’s a rather good summer-upper revealer – “IT’S ALL RELATIVE”, even sanctimony isn’t absolute.