Kevin Christian’s New York Times puzzle —Jenni’s write-up
This is the sort of puzzle that convinces me I’ll never be a constructor. First you have to notice that the four theme entries all have 15 letters. Then you have to notice that there are country names hidden in all four and that all the countries are on the same continent. That’s how constructors think and not how my brain works. It’s a solid, consistent theme that seems Monday appropriate to me.
The theme answers all have circles; I’ve highlighted those letters.
- 17a [Song lyric before “short and stout”] is I‘M A LITTLE TEAPOT. Mali.
- 26a [Attorney general under George W. Bush] is ALBERTO GONZALES. Togo. I would have put an upper-case G in “general” and I would have been wrong.
- 43a [Appeasing, idiomatically] is THROWING A BONE TO. Gabon.
- 56a [Grilled Japanese dish on skewers] is CHICKEN YAKITORI. Kenya.
And the revealer: 62a [Where this puzzle’s circled letters can be found] is AFRICA. Plus a bonus at 18d [Band with the 1983 #1 hit “62-Across”]: TOTO. I’m not usually a cross-reference fan but that one amused me. I like this theme not just for the reasons I mentioned above. I also appreciate the fact that the countries all span at least two words. Nicely done.
A few other things:
- I am considering having some NAIL ART done before I go on vacation.
- Speaking of vacation, I’m a bit RUSTY when it comes to travel. I trust it will come back to me. I am so grateful for a functioning immune system that allows me to go, and will continue to mask indoors because it’s safer for everyone.
- [“Cross my heart and ____ to die”] is a creepy expression when you think about it. The answer, of course, is HOPE. A bit of Googling suggests several possible origins of the phrase, including a reference to the Christian practice of crossing oneself to make an oath and the need for rapid burial in times of plague.
- Happy to see TONI Morrison in the grid, and hadn’t heard this quote: “A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.” Amen.
- NEURAL network will never not make me think of Data from TNG.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’ve never heard the word UBERIZE although it was obvious from the clue as soon as I had the U. [Transform using mobile technology, as a market]. Yup.
Larry Nargi’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Pep Talk”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Synonyms of VERVE (66a, [Characteristic suggested by the first words of 17-, 20-, 36-, 55- and 60-Across]).
- 17a. [Batman and Robin] DYNAMIC DUO.
- 20a. [Quality of fluorescent paint or neon lighting] VIBRANT COLOR. Ironically, this feels green paintish.
- 36a. [Exercise option] BRISK WALK. “Brisk pace” outdistances BRISK WALK on Google’s ngram viewer.
- 55a. [Inflatable rental for kids’ parties] BOUNCY CASTLE. This one I love since it reminds of my days in England where this is the generic term for any large inflatable. I didn’t think the term is used the same way in the States.
- 60a. [Sporty clothes] ACTIVEWEAR.
This is well done as far as synonym themes go. My main nit, though, is that the revealer is not some play on words, but just the word being synonymized (feel free to use that). It’s much less elegant this way.
There’s nothing especially long in the non-theme fill, but CAMELOT and MORONIC are fun. I also like BELOVED, NAPOLI, and ASTORIA, Oregon, since I’m in Ashland, Oregon, at the moment, road-tripping from the Puget Sound to the Bay Area.
Did not know EATON [Fine stationery brand], and there sure are a lot of dudes in the grid: James AGEE, ORSON Welles, ERLE Stanley Gardner, ISAAC Stern, IRA Gershwin, SAL Mineo, James ARNESS, and LEVI Strauss compared to solitary AVA Gardner. And wow, all of them are pretty old-timey crosswordese. Nothing new here. A missed opportunity is KAT which could’ve been clued as [Actress Dennings] instead of old-timey comics character Krazy KAT.
Clues of note:
- 14a. [“I need that like I need ___ in the head”]. A HOLE. The entry sure reads differently in the grid without any context.
- 39a. [Letter encl. with a manuscript]. SAE. I’m not sure why the word “Letter” is in the clue. That threw me off.
- 21d. [Arthur’s realm]. CAMELOT. Hmm. I’m of the belief that only the castle was called CAMELOT, not the entire realm.
I would’ve liked a better revealer with this theme or a title that could do the same job (“Energetic Starts”, perhaps?). Not every grid is going to have room for long non-theme fill, but some fresher cluing would have been welcome. 3.25 stars.
Brian Gubin’s Universal crossword, “Kitchen Invasion” — pannonica’s write-up
Not to pry, but do you have ants in your pantry?
That’s essentially the suggestion of the title, but to be vigilant in parsing said title, there really isn’t much of a connection to kitchens aside from the stereotype of ANTs ‘invading’ there: not in the answer nor the clues.
- 20a. [Overjoyed cry from the fitting room] PANTS I LOVE YOU (P.S. I Love You).
- 27a. [One who insists on takin the wheel] ADAMANT DRIVER (Adam Driver).
- 43a. [Recollection of eating sugary paste?] FONDANT MEMORY (fond memory).
- 51a. [Fruity breakfast item you might top with cream cheese] PLANTAIN BAGEL (plain bagel). Just, ew. But at least this one has something to do with kitchens. Still, ew.
Okay enough theme, serviceable.
- 10d [“Psst!” from a tree house] UP HERE. Nice, evocative clue.
- 36d [Like the emoticon :-( ] SAD. That is, it’s meant to convey sadness.
- 41d [Pesky flyer] GNAT, which is ¾ ANT, orthographically.
- 52d [They can be opened with a tap] APPS. Good misdirection; I was thinking about water pipes.
- 26a [Songwriter Higginbotham] IRENE. New to me, but good to learn. She co-wrote the classic “Good Morning Heartache“.
Bruce Haack & Esther Nelson · “Army Ants in Your Pants”
Amanda Rafkin & Brooke Husic’s USA Today puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Title: That’s Quite A Schlep!
- 21A: DRAG BRUNCH (Event with mimosas and pop diva impersonations)
- 34A: PULL THE GOALIE (Risk an empty-netter, in hockey)
- 52A: CARRY A TUNE (Sing on-key)
Theme explanation: The first word of each phrase (drag, pull, carry) means the same thing.
- I thought the clue on FIGS (6A: Fruits with a Brown Turkey cultivar) was quite hard for a USA Today puzzle. “Cultivar” means a variety, i.e., there’s a type of fig called a “Brown Turkey fig.”
- I have been to a drag show and I have been to a brunch, but I have not yet been to a DRAG BRUNCH. They are very much a thing in NYC! I am curious how popular they are elsewhere.
- I love how the clue for RHYMED (26A: Paired “scared” with “dared”) also rhymes, and how the two words chosen suggest a story.
- The clue for MOM (51A: Person to ask when Mama says no, perhaps) is very cute, and even cuter with the matching clue for DAD (21a: Person to ask when Pop says no, perhaps).
- The other day, my sister and I were talking about songs where the singer openly describes a queer relationship. I love “Honey” and she loves “If She Ever Leaves Me.” I hadn’t heard of “SHE Keeps Me Warm” (1D) until now, beyond the parts that were sampled by Macklemore.
- PARTY HOP (2D: Go from one rager to another) is such a great entry.
- You can read more about Lesbians Who Tech (28D) over here. What a lovely way to clue a fairly standard piece of fill like ORG.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday puzzle– Matthew’s write-up
An aesthetically pleasing grid from BEQ this morning, with open corners, multiple 15s in both the top and bottom halves, and center stairstacks with a long down holding it all together. I was really on Brendan’s wavelength through the top before getting tripped up in two separate areas in the bottom.
I’m a bit of a sucker for 15s: PEOPLESCHAMPION and ACTIONCOMMITTEE set a flavorful tone at the top, and it’s no surprise to see NATUREISHEALING pulled right out of my Twitter feed and into a BEQ grid. The absolute highlight for me, though, was COFFEEGROUNDS connecting the entire dang puzzle together, and with a clue (16d – [Hot stuff in a composter]) that made me work to get there, too.
Other clues and answers of note:
- I had real trouble with the mid-south area where LOIS (40a – [“Such Good Friends” author Gould] and GARN (46a – [Senator Jake who co-wrote the thriller “Night Launch”]) cross LAREID (40d – Longtime producer/writing partner of Babyface). It looks easier in retrospect now that I’ve had time to parse 40d into L.A. REID, but I didn’t see that at all during the solve!
- 36d – [Tours conclusion, perhaps] invites us to Tours, France, with that disguised capital at the beginning of the clue. I cottoned onto the trick, but couldn’t find the appropriate farewell (BONSOIR) for a bit.
- I don’t know that either of the two universities I have connections to have buildings named after ALUMNAE [33d – Names on some college buildings], or after any women, which isn’t great! But the Latin nerd in me does love seeing the -ae plural ending. Small joys.
- Lastly, GARO Yepremian (46d – [Yepremian of the Dolphins’ undefeated season.]). That’s the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and their 1972 undefeated season. Yepremian was a top-flight kicker for his era, but I rarely think of him outside of this truly wonderful gaffe from that season’s Super Bowl. It would be even better-known if the Dolphins had lost the game, and their undefeated season.
George Jasper’s LA Times puzzle – Gareth’s summary
Stella is unable to be here today so I am babysitting you. The Monday puzzle today is by George Jasper, and features a very broad theme: ESPYS. Each of four entries have the initials S&P; SWEETPOTATO, SECRETPASSAGE, SILENTPARTNER and SEARCHPARTY. I was a little puzzled as to why Hogwarts was singled out for SECRETPASSAGEs, but otherwise the theme went over easily.
- [Many a stray pooch], CUR. This clue didn’t jibe well with me. Maybe it’s the stray I treated today (and dubbed Pipit) with the extensive bruising from likely being kicked around?
- [World Cup cheer], OLE. “It’s coming home…” to Italy. Well the Euros are anyway…
- [Ripken nickname based on his durability], IRONMAN. I initially had IRONCAL, but then CAL showed up above…
- [Canadian-born singer with the 2019 album “Courage”], CELINEDION. I don’t recall any songs from that getting much air?
Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker puzzle –– Nina’s Writeup
Great New Yorker puzzle today, jam-packed with impressive long fill.
I found that a considerable portion of the pop culture entries pulled from the previous millennium, with Steffi Graff’s GRAND SLAM at 36a, SEPARATE LIVES (the Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin song) at 46a, and Rickey Henderson’s record for STOLEN BASES at 13d. While these are fantastic entries, the references went completely over my head. At least SUGA [Stage name of BTS’s Min Yoon-gi] made an appearance at 42a!
12a. [Living monuments?] –– A fantastic clue for an equally fantastic answer, HUMAN PYRAMIDS. Anyone else remember the elementary clamor to be the one on top? Absolutely splendid, and kicked off the puzzle quite nicely.
21a. [“Tik ___” (Kesha’s debut single)] –– It’s been a minute since I’ve seen it clued this way, as opposed to the wildly popular Tik TOK app. Now I have Kesha stuck in my head.
29a. [Withdrew] –– Tripped me up with its near-identical cousin, SECEDED, which remained in my grid for about 10 minutes after I had completely filled it and stunted my final time. Changing the ’S’ to an ‘R’ to make RECEDED prompted a feeling any solver knows well––a mix of utter frustration and considerable relief. Well-played, Ms. Gorski.
31a. [Clobbering, slapstick-style] –– BONKING is a delightfully goofy word, one that has recently seeped into my vocabulary, and, much to my friends’ dismay, is frequently accompanied by an impromptu demonstration. Consider this my formal apology for any distress incurred or injury caused.
4d. [Portable writing surface] –– I can get behind LAP DESK, but are we really sure that LAB BOARD is in-the-language, or, for that matter, a term at all? Even when I google it, the only hits redirect to LAP DESK products.
14d. [Ultra-fashionable and oft-mocked aristocrats of the eighteenth century] –– You learn something new every day! While MACARONIS may nowadays appear more often in your kitchen cabinet than your neighborhood cafe, I got a laugh out of the Google image results for the fashion. (Speaking of macaroni… If anyone is on the market for a late night dorm room snack, I highly recommend Annie’s Microwavable Mac & Cheese Cups.)
33d. [One for the books?] –– I didn’t quite understand this clue; the best I could come up with was that a PRINTER (as in a person who prints) prints books? A bit iffy, unless I’m missing something.
37d. [Wines often paired with scallops or risotto] –– My first instinct here was WHITES, but the puzzle called for the more precise SOAVES. I need to take a wine tasting class.