Monday, July 19, 2021

BEQ 4:10 (Matthew) 


LAT 2:21 (Stella) 


NYT 3:42 (Jenni) 


The New Yorker 32:12 (Nina) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


WSJ 3:22 (Jim P) 


Stephanie Lesser’s New York Times puzzle —Jenni’s write-up

Oh, goody, a quip puzzle. And by “goody” I mean “aargh.” I do not like quip puzzles, quote puzzles, riddle puzzles, or any of their relatives. I especially don’t like them when the quip seems to be fabricated for the occasion and is not amusing.

We have four sections of the quip:

New York Times, July 19, 2021, #0719, Stephanie Lesser, solution grid


I presume the funny part is the image of someone calling “Shark! Shark!” and causing a panic on the beach. Mind you I can’t remember the last time I went to a beach that allowed dogs to run loose while there were people swimming, and “Shark” is not a classic dog’s name, and panic is not funny. This theme isn’t funny, either.

  • 1od [Large cat you shouldn’t trust on a test?] is CHEETAH. Now that’s funny.
  • I don’t think of a PANSY as particularly showy.
  • I misread the clue for 38d as [Indian mendacity] rather than [Indian megacity]. Since the answer is DELHI, I was very confused.
  • 42a [Liqueur flavor] seems like a pretty vague clue for a Monday. The answer is PEAR.
  • Thank you for not cross-referencing COIN and SLOT.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I got nothing.

Paul Coulter’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

LAT 7/19/21 by Paul Coulter

LAT 7/19/21 by Paul Coulter

Normally when a LAT Monday takes me above 2:20, you’re gonna hear me say it was possibly more appropriate for a Tuesday or Wednesday. Not this time; I blame my keyboard. I’m working on an awkwardly teeny Bluetooth one while I wait for a replacement for my previous keyboard, which inexplicably decided to add a letter N every time I typed M and vice versa, to arrive. #speedsolvelife

To the puzzle! Another thing I often say is “I would’ve traded this revealer for another theme entry.” Not this time at all! Let’s look at the theme entries first, which are two-word phrases with the first word in each phrase in circled squares:

  • 20A [The Gulf Stream and others] is OCEAN CURRENTS.
  • 33A [Summer Olympics sport played on sand] is BEACH VOLLEYBALL.
  • 41A [2010s HBO show set in Atlantic City] is BOARDWALK EMPIRE.

As I was solving, I thought, “Why on earth do you need circled squares?” Usually they’re used to point out hidden words crossing two words in a phrase, or hidden within one word, that solvers might otherwise not notice. I also thought, okay, OCEAN, BEACH, and BOARDWALK — these are things associated with each other, but they’re not all the same type of thing, so this doesn’t seem like the tightest theme.

But. BUT! Then there’s that revealer at 52A [Coastal vacation center, major elements of which are placed as they might look on a picture postcard], which is SEASIDE RESORT.

And then it all falls together and is awesome. Because if you were to have a look at a postcard, first you see the OCEAN going off into the horizon at the top of the image. And then you see the BEACH in the middle. And at the bottom is the BOARDWALK. If you didn’t have those circled squares or that extra-long revealer clue, you might not notice the care taken with the placement of the theme entries. So, bravo, Paul Coulter; I salute you.

Quibble: Does anybody really say BANANA SKIN? Google gives me 635K hits for that and 4.4 million for the way more common BANANA PEEL.

ALEK Wek is perhaps a little fashion inside baseball for a Monday, but I’m still delighted to see her name!

Adrian Johnson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Inside Out”—Jim P’s review

I was expecting a revealer for this one, but it never came. That’s when I realized I should have looked at the title. The circled letters on the outer edges of each familiar phrase spell words that can follow “inside.” Hence the title “Inside Out.”

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Inside Out” · Adrian Johnson · Mon., 7.19.21

  • 16a. [Group with merit badges] SCOUT TROOP. Inside scoop.
  • 23a. [Whiskey/soft drink cocktail] JACK AND COKE. Inside joke.
  • 32a. [Rail in the bathroom] TOWEL RACK. Inside track.
  • 48a. [Feeling of self-importance] INFLATED EGO. Inside info.
  • 56a. [Horse racing association] JOCKEY CLUB. Inside job.

I thought this was unexpected and cute. Don’t think I’ve seen a theme quite like this, so it provided a nice little aha moment.

Likes in the fill: COCONUT, NEW MOON, CROAKED & MURMURS, CINEMAX, ELF-LIKE, and the Arabian duo of ALI BABA and SINBAD.

Not sure that I’ve ever heard the term PRO GAMER, but it seems legit. Once, we stumbled upon an esports tournament in Seattle and it was packed full of fans watching the happenings on large outdoor screens. It was quite an event.

Clues of note:

  • 9a. [How some audiobooks were stored]. ON CD. This is the second clue I’ve seen recently referring to audiobooks ON CD. I realize this says “were” but I’m not understanding why we’re supposed to think there’s some intrinsic relationship between CDs and audiobooks. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, none of them ON CD.
  • 38d. [Resembling a pixie]. ELF-LIKE. 44a‘s LIV Tyler played an elf in The Lord of the Rings films, yet she wasn’t very ELF-LIKE.

I liked this clever, unexpected theme. Four stars.

Michael Lieberman’s Universal crossword, “This Puzzle Stinks!” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 7/19/21 • Mon • Lieberman • “This Puzzle Stinks!” • solution • 20210719

Risky title when it comes to a critical assessment, but fortunately (or unfortunately) it refers to the theme—body odor, with a BO prefixed to phrases for amusing effect—in a literal manner.

  • 17a. [Uninteresting dad?] BORING POP (ring pop). Apparently the genesis of the candy was to wean kids from thumb-sucking. Also, it seems that it’s one of the few kosher candies—I would have thought there were plenty of those.
  • 25a. [Reason for a U2 cover band to hold tryouts?] BONO VACANCY (no vacancy).
  • 40a. [Particles that refuse to obey the laws of physics?] BOSONS OF ANARCHY (Sons of Anarchy). Interesting that it’s just ‘particles’, nothing more specific such as ‘subatomic’.
  • 52a. [Turbulent body of water?] BOTHERED SEA (the Red Sea). I’m torn. This is the cleverest themer, possibly because it’s the only one that involves reparsing the original phrase by consolidating two words. So it’s inconsistent with the others. The presence of that definite article, while not unprecedented, was not in any way indicated via the clue. Also, there’s the irony in the this particular body of water being ‘unparted’.
  • 65a. [Heckle Sidney Crosby’s team at the Winter Olympics?] BOO CANADA (O Canada).

I liked the crossword well enough, despite that title. Having the predictable BO- at the beginning of each long across answer helped boost my solving efficiency.

  • 3d [Board game of Indian origin] PARCHEESI. So many spelling variations of pachisi, but this is the one adopted by Parker Brothers for their popular version.
  • 28d [Podcaster Santa Maria] CARA. New to me; she specializes in science communication and her ’cast is called Talk Nerdy.
  • 37d [Tricky pitch] SCREWBALL, 55d [ __ the ball (messes up)] DROPS.
  • 52d [Neckwear in a saloon] BOLO. Lo!
  • 13a [Astronomer/poet Khayyam] OMAR. I feel as if I should’ve known about the astronomer part.
  • 56a [Iraq War concern: Abbr.] WMD. That concern was politically manufactured; the effect was real, and deadly.
  • 70a [“Happy” sea creature] CLAM. Ya, what’s that all about? … Aha, the full expression is “happy as a clam at high tide”, which makes a lot more sense.

Perhaps this will make you happy:

Cheer up; I could have posted the doomy Lou Reed version.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday — Matthew’s write-up

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday solution, 07192021

Fun grid design from BEQ today, with stacks in two relatively open corners, and lots of spots to move around the grid. I was glad for the latter in particular, because there was plenty that tripped me up.

I thought I’d be off to a hot start after EDINA (1a – [Suburb of Minneapolis]), ELAL (1d – [Carrier that had its one millionth passenger during its bar mitzvah year]), and GOLF-something (6a – [Driver’s destinations]) all came quickly. But that’s as far as I got before confronting LINY (19a – [Ruled]), which looks pretty awkward to my eyes, new-to-me SELSYN (14d – [Motor-current system]), and eventually piecing together GOLFLINKS for the rest of 6a. There are links courses and “links” can be used as a metonym for golf or a golf course, but GOLF LINKS feels awkward to me.

Working through the grid, I got a chuckle out of BBQSTAIN (40a. – [Sloppy rib eater’s giveaway]) and enjoyed NUDNIK (29d. – [Bothersome person]), but overall this didn’t feel as current as my favorite BEQ puzzles – I struggled more to piece together PRESENTAGE (27d – [Modern Days]) and get into the bottom sections.

Other notes:

  • 30a – Fun to see ITO clued as not-Lance, not-Midori. Here, it’s [“City of Ghosts” creator Elizabeth]. I hadn’t heard of the show, but it looks like all sorts of fun – I assume it’s TV option of choice for Brendan’s daughter right now.
  • 56a – Russell Crowe played John NASH [Game theoriest John Forbes ___ Jr.] in “A Beautiful Mind” and got an Oscar nom for it, but I’m a big fan of Paul Bettany and always think of him first.
  • 64a – I find JAWED [Engaged in a verbal fight] such a colorful word. I think of other things – the words themselves, arm and face movement, etc first when imagining an argument, but the mouth absolutely moves differently too.
  • 59d – Like ITO, CLE could have added to the hefty sports content in the southwest here, but is clued to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I leave you with (sentimentally) one of my favorite speeches, in honor of one of my favorite bands. Mild NSFW language:

Rebecca Goldstein’s USA Today puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Title: Gatekeepers

Theme: Each of the theme answers contains the word GATE. It’s a nice touch that they’re split in three different ways, although I don’t think that USA Today requires that for these hidden word themes.

  • 17A: Excuse for missing homework: THE DOG ATE IT
  • 38A: Making comfortable: SETTING AT EASE
  • 61A: Instructor on a mat: YOGA TEACHER

Rebecca Goldstein’s July 19, 2021 USA Today puzzle

Hey besties, I liked the bullet points I used on Friday, so maybe those will be here to stay. We’ll see how things shake out!

Things that made me smile:

  • BEE (19A: Spelling competition) because it makes me think of Zaila Avant-garde, the coolest person in the world.
  • I usually see Yalitza Aparicio in clues for ROMA (31A: 2018 film starring Marina de Tavira) so it was nice to see another actress get shouted out.
  • “Anticistamines” is a flawless portmanteau for HRT (1D), a drug that helps that trans people transition. Kudos to whoever came up with that.
  • I love that T-shape in grids. I asked people on Twitter their favorite black-square arrangement a little while ago, and it was fun to see people’s answers.
  • As is the standard for USA Today puzzles, squeaky clean fill.

Things that made me say Hmmm:

  • When I construct puzzles, the term EMO RAP (15A: Hip-hop fusion genre) always comes up as fill (it has a nice alternating vowel/consonant pattern) but I never use it. I think with genres that are just two other genres stuck together I’m always a little skeptical about how legit they are. (Feel free to sound off in the comments about how I’m totally wrong and emo rap is very very legit!)
  • I know about “pineapple-ing” as a term for styling curly hair, where you gather your hair into a loose bun that sort of resembles the spiky part of a pineapple. But I hadn’t heard of this referred to as a “pineapple bun” (23D) so I looked it up, and apparently a pineapple bun is not related to hair at all! It is a sweet treat from China. I’ve seen these in Chinatown bakeries, but didn’t know their name.
  • SCIENCES appears in the grid (50A: Pharmacology and botany, for two). I don’t really care about dupes, but figured I’d call out that it crosses SPACE which is clued as “Setting for many sci-fi movies.”

Happy Monday, y’all!

Kameron Austin Collins’ New Yorker puzzle –– Nina’s writeup

New Yorker solution, 07/09/2021

This was a fun puzzle––relatively clean and a lot of fun answers. I was a bit sluggish today. I’m not sure if that was the cluing or the entries, but something just didn’t click for me. Ah, well. Overall, I liked it!

16a. [Ring of light] –– Respectable, but intentionally and glaringly evasive cluing choice for the very much in-the-language CORONA. I understand beating around the bush so as to avoid negative connotations, but for something with so current an association as CORONA, it feels as though the constructor is ignoring the elephant in the room.

20a. [Roomie, quaintly] is COHAB –– quaint indeed. I’ve never heard this abbreviation of cohabitant (cohabitee? cohabitator?) before, and it comes up in Merriam-Webster as “one living in illegal cohabitation, especially: a polygamous Mormon.” 

27a. [Stiffen the upper lip, say] –– What a clue for BOTOX! A deliciously constructed misdirect, with a satisfying alternate meaning. Very nicely done.

30a. [Wayne Aerospace craft] –– Alongside many other bat mobiles, the BATCOPTER emerges. I’d like to think Bruce Wayne is slightly less dystopian a billionaire (or, rather, former billionaire) than a certain someone of SPACE X fame.

36a. [Dulcet] –– Good vocabulary refresh with this clue for MELODIC. Though I struggled with it for a bit, a tricky clue is to be expected on a Monday here.

44a. [Sub boss] –– Cheeky clue for DOM.

28d. [Elementary sum] and 29d. [Chats] –– Kind of fun to have ONE PLUS ONE and TETE A TETES right next to each other, due to the doubling in both entries.

41d. [Arrived inconspicuously] –– Tame clue for SLID IN, but a fun entry nonetheless.

Shoutout to LAVA PITS, BICURIOUS, and HELLHOLE. I don’t have anything to say about these other than that I love the entries. Super well done!

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24 Responses to Monday, July 19, 2021

  1. Bryan says:

    NYT: I, for one, thought this puzzle was clever, and I enjoyed solving it. Congrats on your debut, Stephanie! It was the perfect level of easiness for a Monday (I got very close to my record Monday solve time). I didn’t fully piece together the quip until the end, and then I got a chuckle out of imagining someone calling out “Shark” on the beach to summon their dog.

  2. Gary R says:

    NYT: Mostly agree with Jenni’s comments, but will disagree about pansies – they can be quite showy with their brilliant and contrasting colors. One of my favorite annuals.

  3. Eric S says:

    NYT: Jenni’s first paragraph echoes my thoughts exactly.

    Jeff Chen keeps writing that Will Shortz is accepting fewer quip puzzles than before. If this is what he’s taking, I hate to think about the quip puzzles he’s rejected.

  4. JohnH says:

    Yeah, based on the NYT, if Lesser has a comedy act, I won’t be attending.

  5. Billy Boy says:

    Punchline: yelling shark at the beach


    Tiger Woods is the CHEETAH cat. That would be a bold cluing.

    Not a stellar puzzle

    …This puzzle was so bad I did an archived Friday available on the bottom of the web page that included WOMANIZING


  6. Bryan says:

    NYT: Tough crowd today. Geez! How about being charitable to a constructor making her debut? This puzzle was a perfectly fine, light Monday puzzle. It wasn’t meant to be the height of comedy. People seemed to generally enjoy Sunday’s Julia Child puzzle, which was a puzzle full of “quips.”

  7. Alexander Quinn says:

    I had the opposite experience with the LAT: I set a new PR of 1:41, but I didn’t have a defective keyboard. My old record of 1:51 was on one of Stella’s puzzles a few months ago.
    On the other hand, the New Yorker took me 10:11.

  8. Ethan says:

    NYT: I think this might have landed better if the quip had been structured so as to end on “shark” which should be the punchline. I fooled around with it a little bit and came up with: ITS A BAD IDEA (11)
    NAME IS SHARK (11)
    Added bit of realism: You have to yell after a puppy much more than a dog. Those lengths don’t give you the easiest grid layout, but it’s not impossible.

    • huda says:

      Nice constructive feedback. I hope the constructor will find it helpful.

    • cyco says:

      Totally agree. Ending on “…IS A BAD IDEA” was a letdown. I was really expecting a pun or something to justify all the real estate.

      I feel for the constructor, since this seems like something the editors should have helped rework. Overall, the fill and cluing were quite good, especially for a debut, but the theme just didn’t land at all.

  9. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT: Can someone explain HRT {1D: “Anticistamines”} to me? I have a medical background, know very well what antihistamines are and know that HRT is an abbreviation for drugs used by women at menopause to alleviate symptoms (hormone replacement therapy), but I’ve never heard of “anticistamines”. Google isn’t giving me anything except “Did you mean antihistamines” and crossword answer web sites.

    • Kameron says:

      HRT is part of the hormone therapy for trans women in transition, so it’s a play on “cis” — cisgender — as in, anti-cisgender —> transgender.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Ah … thanks! I’m a little surprised that I didn’t get any Google hits for that, though maybe I shouldn’t be.

    • Derek Benedict says:

      “HRT” stands for hormone replacement therapy.

  10. Jim says:

    NYT: Android NYT app posted September 24, 2018 puzzle. Or is it just me?

  11. Scott says:

    Unlike Jenni and many other commenters, I very much enjoyed the puzzle and the quip.

  12. Martin says:

    The quote is a perfect quip for Steven Wright. Interesting that it doesn’t seem to be enough for a puzzle theme while I bet most of us would think it clever as one of many of his dead-panned lines.

  13. AmyL says:

    NYT: I really liked the quip, but I really like quip puzzles. They are so much better than the all too common add-a-letter/change-a-letter themes that result in bad puns. The CHEETAH clue and answer is not at all funny–I find it really stupid, not even worth a groan.

    • Sailor Doug says:

      I liked it too, and thought it was a perfectly fine Monday puzzle. I’m disappointed to see so many harsh critiques from a crowd that’s usually a little more even-handed. The fact that you don’t care for the genre doesn’t make it a bad puzzle.

  14. huda says:

    As a scientist, I have to submit grants for funding and papers for publications and we get judged all the time. I’m also an associate editor for a journal, so I see a lot of critiques.
    It has made me think about different careers (and hobbies) and how much judgement they can entail as an intrinsic part of the job. I’m guessing that being a puzzle constructor, a musician, artist, writer are all occupations or avocations that entail being subjected to ongoing judgement.
    I like this site because the bloggers’ critiques (including today) are honest but not harsh. It is important to give people honest feedback, express one’s reaction to what worked and what did not. And it’s good that others agree or disagree- it shows that these things are a matter of taste and that “the right thing” is not so obvious.
    I hope the constructors, especially new ones, see the reactions as useful information. Accepting critiques is an art that has to be developed right along with the other skills needed for success . And I hope seasoned constructors mentor new ones into how to roll with it, as we try to do with our junior scientists. We want to encourage talent as we help refine it.

  15. Crotchety Doug says:

    BEQ – Clue for 12D should have had a “var.” Try typing NAVAHO – it feels weird to do, and looks weird.

  16. Stephanie says:

    Many thanks to everyone who took the time to comment. I appreciate the feedback and support!! Thanks again and happy solving!

Comments are closed.