Tommy Pauly’s New York Times puzzle —Amy’s write-up
Quick post, subbing for Jenni. Revealer is 1a. [With 68-Across, what the trio in this puzzle’s clues is trying to promote], JAZZ / SHOW. The three themers are:
- 20a. The first member of the trio said he’d …], TOOT HIS OWN HORN.
- 38a. The second member of the trio said he’d …], PULL SOME STRINGS.
- 53a. The third member of the trio said she’d …], DRUM UP BUSINESS.
Cute theme! The three things all work as actions you might take to raise interest in your upcoming show.
3.5 stars from me.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Top Billing”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Phrases whose first word is a synonym of “top.”
- 16a. [Brand with Pro-Health and 3D White varieties] CREST TOOTHPASTE.
- 25a. [1945’s Yalta Conference, e.g.] SUMMIT MEETING.
- 41a. [Ones at the top of the food chain] APEX PREDATORS.
- 54a. [Fulfillment of an athlete’s training] PEAK PERFORMANCE.
Hey, it’s a synonym theme, so there’s not a whole lot to talk about here. The meanings of the words don’t even really change, either. So it works, and it’s no doubt helpful for newer solvers, but there’s not a lot here to sink one’s teeth into. I do appreciate the length of these entries, especially the nice, grid-spanning ones.
UNSUNG HERO takes top prize in the fun fill category followed by FERRARI, MEDIASCAPE, and CATTAIL. GET STALE feels rather…unfresh.
BARM is new to me (2d, [Foam on fermenting beer]) and I resisted it for some time. It’s surprising to learn a new word in a Monday grid. OCHS and ASPIC are other non-Monday entries.
Rebecca Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Phew! I’ve got my replacement keyboard and my solving times are back to normal.
I’m pretty impressed by this theme from Rebecca Goldstein. Starting with the revealer, 56A [According to Sir Walter Scott, what “we weave, / when first we practise to deceive” … and what appears in each set of circles], we get TANGLED WEB. Each theme answer has circled letters that include a “tangle,” or rearrangement, of the letters in WEB:
- 17A [Reebok rival] is NEW BALANCE, with the arrangement EWB.
- 22A [“Bravo!”] is A JOB WELL DONE, with the arrangement BWE.
- 36A [Pasture neckwear] is a COWBELL, with the arrangement WBE.
- 38A [Creator of a spider named Charlotte] is E.B. WHITE, with the arrangement EBW.
- 48A [1968 Steppenwolf hit featured in “Easy Rider”] is BORN TO BE WILD, with the arrangement BEW.
Two points of theme execution here: First, we’ve got some fun, evocative themers, with COWBELL immediately putting that sound in your head, E.B. WHITE and Charlotte’s Web as a nostalgia-inducer, and BORN TO BE WILD for some more ear candy. Second, the constructor included all six permutations of those three letters between the theme entries and the revealer. All this in a grid that’s totally Monday-appropriate. Brava!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday Crossword—Matthew’s write-up
For the second Monday in a row, I struggled in multiple places in this BEQ grid, but everything cleaned up quickly at the end. It didn’t help that I kept trying to find a theme in the grid that has its longest entries interlocking instead of stacked.
I wasn’t particularly wowed by the long answers, but the parallel middle downs (5d – [“That might not happen”]) DON’T BET ON IT and (23d – [“Not so much for me!”]) JUST A LITTLE are a small highlight. It’s a nice touch in a themeless IMO when symmetric long fill has a little something in common.
- 20a – [Mashed Potato alternative] WATUSI. I had NAENAE in here for most of the solve. Just… 50 years off.
- 13a – [Shake off, as a Predator] DEKE. Key information here is recognizing the Nashville Predators are a hockey team.
- 35a – [____ queen] SLAY. This is new to me as a noun, as Brendan didn’t put quotes around the clue, and a few minutes of Googling has turned up several competing definitions, some of which are snidely judgmental. Educate me in the comments?
- 11d – [Bar regular] DIPSO and 49a – [Bra measurement] ACUP. YMMV, but I’m really not a fan of either of these.
- 23a – Ending on a more positive note, [“The Thomas Crown Affair” director (1968)] is (Norman) JEWISON. I’ve heard of the movie (and know there’s a 1999 remake) from cultural osmosis, but here’s another for my lifetime reading list.
Aaron Young and Sophia Maymudes’ Universal crossword, “Effortless” — pannonica’s write-up
The presumed inspiration/revealer entry for this one is pretty good.
- 55aR [What Yoda said after “Do or do not,” and a hint to the word deleted from 20-, 29- and 46-Across] THERE IS NO TRY.
- 20a. [Small cars that may suddenly disappear?] MINIS OF MAGIC (Ministry of Magic). That’s apparently from Harry Potter, which I suppose makes sense.
- 29a. [Happenings on an Asian river] INDUS EVENTS (industry events).
- 46a. [Edgar Allan on the go?] POE IN MOTION (poetry in motion). By far the best of the three.
Decent bit of fun to start the week.
- 1d [B’way show with the song “On My Own”] LES MIS. The casual version of the title is indicated by the informal ‘B’way’. But is it more often Les Miz? No, that doesn’t look right.
- 3d [Snoring, say] SOUND ASLEEP. Bit of a double entendre inherent in that phrase.
- 6d [Place to see anemones] REEF. Once again, the animals are sea anemones, but I concede that the unqualified version can be taken to indicate them.
- 60d [What’s tested at drama school?] MIC. Cute, and I needed the crossings for it. 48a [Some hip-hop artists] MCS.
- 53a [Chorus at a fireworks show] OOH AAH, which looks odd in-grid.
- 62a [Person who may think inside the box?] MIME. Cute. I guess I’ll revisit Saturday’s duplication discussion by highlighting 2d [“Here’s my idea …”] I THINK.
- 67a [“A partridge in a __ tree”] PEAR, 36a [Stately tree] ELM, 55d [Outdoor furniture wood] TEAK. Quite woodsy, like Yoda’s home on Dagobah.
I did a little poking about, and apparently people have produced philosophical meditations and documentaries on this bit of wisdom. Feel free to check them out. (I have not, hence won’t be sharing them here.)
Obviously they didn’t heed Yoda’s admonition.
Tracy Gray’s USA Today puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Title: First Things First
Theme: The first words of the theme answers are words that can come after the word “first”
- 17A: LADY FINGER: Tiramisu cake
- 30A: PITCH BLACK: Completely dark
- 48A: AID AND ABET: Assist in crime
- 65A: BLUSH WINES: Pink alcoholic drinks
Good morning folks! I hope you all enjoyed the Boswords tournament yesterday, and are as excited as I am for the fall themeless league’s line-up of constructors.
I wanted to note that Amanda Rafkin edited this puzzle– she edits a lot of the USA Today puzzles now. I just wanted to draw attention to that because a lot of people know Erik Agard as the editor, but it’s been both of them for more than a few months now.
Things that made me smile:
- 9A: McDonald’s ___ and Oreo burger was SPAM. I watched and enjoyed this video about spam the other day.
- I always love clues like 40A: “UH-OH, I THINK MY CAPS LOCK IS ON!” which sort of imply that the constructor of the crossword is in a conversation with the solver.
- We got Beyoncé (56A: “I am … SASHA Fierce”) AND ARIana (15D: “god is a woman” singer, to fans) in this puzzle. What a treat.
- I strongly believe that all pink alcoholic drinks (65A) taste good. Cosmo, rosé, clover club, hibiscus margarita, strawberry mojito. Yes please.
- Entries like SIS (9D: Serena to Venus, for short) are fun because when you write the clue, you get to pick your favorite famous siblings. I like using Chloe and Halle.
Things that made me say hmm:
- REPO (5A: Seized vehicle, for short) and RBI (5D: Batting stat) are two terms that are prevalent in crosswords, but I think of as being too niche / tough for a USA Today puzzle– especially crossed. I wish I could see an xwordinfo-esque stat as to whether either these have appeared in Agard/Rafkin-era puzzles.
- Is a LADY FINGER a cake? I always think of it as a cookie. Maybe a cakey cookie?
- There were two dupes that caught my eye because they slowed down my solving. I was pretty sure that 48D (“The Muppet Show” drummer) was ANIMAL, but then saw that a clue a little below it was “Animals” (50D: BEASTS) and so I didn’t fill it in. Similarly, I thought BITTER made sense for 33D: Filled with resentment. But I had just read it as the clue for ALES (70A: Bitter beers).
Natan Last’s New Yorker puzzle –– Nina’s writeup
Tricky puzzle for me today, but really well constructed. Natan Last’s cluing voice shines through beautifully here.
30a. [Buzz from next door, say] — Intercom? No, CONTACT HIGH. Fantastic misdirect for this one—I had an audible “aha” moment when I got this from the crossings.
54a. [One heading to the Spanish cape?] — A world-class clue for EL TORO. While you might think of a vacationer on first glance, the Spanish bull, TORO, “heads” to a cape-wearing matador. Deliciously elusive clue.
55a. [Heated argument] — RHUBARB tends to pair better with strawberries than straw men, but I learned a new definition for a summer staple today.
6d. [Emmy-winning Natasha Lyonne series that debuted in 2019] — RUSSIAN DOLL is one of my favorite shows today, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting the second season since it was confirmed in June 2019. Production slowed because of pandemic-related challenges, but my fingers are crossed that it’ll premiere soon! Fun to see this entry today.
30d. [50 cent hit with the lyric “One taste of what I got / I’ll have you spending all I got”] — Unexpected pop culture cluing for CANDY SHOP, which was a pleasant surprise.
34d. [Possible result of a fumble] — Good mental image with DOG PILE, but keeps on line with several other sports terms that caused me trouble in this puzzle.