Monday, September 6, 2021

BEQ 6:03 (Matthew) 


LAT 2:19 (Stella) 


NYT 4:40 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 29:10 (Nina) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 5:06 (Darby) 


Note: No WSJ puzzle due to the holiday.

Joshua Rosenblatt’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s recap

Theme: Each starred clue is the name of a celebrity whose first name is a famous fashion house.

New York Times, 09 06 2021, Joshua Rosenblatt

  • 17a [*Asian American who became only the second woman to win the Oscar for Best Director] – CHLOE ZHAO
  • 24a [*Runway model famous for her work as a Victoria’s Secret Angel] – CHANEL IMAN
  • 50a [*Longest resident performer at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace] – CELINE DION
  • 61a [*Atlanta rapper featured on Lizzo’s Grammy-nominated “Exactly How I Feel”] – GUCCI MANE

And the revealer:

  • 38a [Fashionable … or where you might find the starts of the answers to the starred clues] – IN VOGUE

First and foremost, congrats to Joshua on his NYT debut! This was a fun puzzle to solve – I wasn’t sure what the theme was until I hit the revealer, and it was a nice aha moment. I liked how female-centric this puzzle was – even GUCCI MANE, the lone male theme answer, gets a Lizzo reference in his clue. It might have been confusing that two of the non-theme across answers, PRISCILLA and EGGPLANTS, were the same length as two theme answers, but starring the theme clues avoided any confusion there – a nice choice to allow for some more long fill.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the problem with easy puzzles relying on proper names for themes – if you don’t have the knowledge base the puzzle requires, it becomes much, much tougher. I think that’s a problem that some folks might run into here, but because this puzzle has the overarching fashion theme, solvers can come at the answers (or the first half of the answers, at least) from either direction, by knowing the fashion house or the celebrity. I personally didn’t know Celine the fashion house, or who CHANEL IMAN was, but because I knew Chanel and CELINE DION, I felt satisfied as I figured them out.

Very clean gridwork today overall. The big northeast and southwest corners really shine: it’s tough to fill an open corner like that cleanly, but this puzzle does it, with fun longer answers to boot (ICED LATTE! GROOMSMAN! AGILITY!). I didn’t love YMHA and didn’t know WEI, but the crosses on both entries are fair.  I got a little tripped up on thinking that 54a [Have ___ in one’s belfry] was going to be “a bat”, but luckily it was the much cleaner BATS (According to Google the plural version is the real phrase; I apparently can only handle a single belfry bat at a time).

Other notes:

  • Forget YMHA, KUGEL is the Jewish representation I want to see in crosswords.
  • I thought that 37a [D.C. “Squad” member] meant that the answer was from D.C., so it took me a few seconds to think of AOC.
  • Between MOCHA and ICED LATTE, this was a very caffeinated puzzle. I’m not mad about it, and props for finding distinct clues for both entries.

Happy Labor Day everyone!

Craig Stowe’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

LAT 9/6/21

LAT 9/6/21

Looks like LAT intended that for Labor Day, one should not have to labor very much to figure out what’s going on with the theme. More typical of a Newsday Monday or Tuesday IMO, there’s not any wordplay to this theme — all the themers are simply things you might say when you’re feeling noncommittal.

  • 16A [“Let me consider this for a bit”] is I’LL THINK ABOUT IT.
  • 22A [“Who can predict the future?”] is YOU NEVER KNOW.
  • 39A [“Maybe”] is PERHAPS.
  • 50A [“We’ll just have to wait to find out”] is TIME WILL TELL.
  • 61A [“Can’t rule anything out”] is IT’S A POSSIBILITY.

Not much to say about this theme — I’m not averse to “lots of ways of saying something similar” themes, although they’re more fun if some other element of wordplay is brought in with the cluing.

Given that this took me 2:19 (in large part because I spent too much time on TIME WILL TELL; probably would’ve been quicker to do this Downs-only), I was surprised to go back and notice that there really isn’t much tough fill in this puzzle, with the exception of the OLAPALAU crossing at 13A/4D. I enjoyed the 9D clue [Parrots a parrot] for SQUAWKS, which in itself is a fun word.

Chris Gross’ Universal crossword, “Final Amount” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/6/21 • Mon • “Final Amount” • Gross • solution • 20210906

  • 16a. [*”Thrift Shop” rapper (Theme hint: Note the last several letters of each starred clue’s answer)] MACKLEMORE.
  • 25a. [*”Cagney & Lacey” co-star] SHARON GLESS.
  • 43a. [*Former country that residents called Deutsche Demokratische Republik] EAST GERMANY. At least, the government called it that.
  • 59a. [*Out too late] PAST CURFEW.

More, less; many, few

Tidy theme, and the paired ordering is perfect.

  • 11d [Golf club with grooves] IRON. Does that imply that woods do not? I’m not a golfer, but it seems like an odd distinction. Perhaps it’s in comparison to a putter?
  • 44d [Dogs from Japan] AKITAS. Other Japanese breeds are also crossword-friendly, though they don’t have traction in the medium, e.g.: SHIBA, TOSA, KAI, AINU.
  • 53d [One may cheat a polygraph test] LIAR. Presumably of the pathological variety. Polygraph tests aren’t terribly reliable, anyway.
  • 57d [Birds that fly almost silently] OWLS. Their feathers have special adaptations
  • 31a [Hiking trails] PATHS, 35a [Clearing in the woods] OPEN AREA.
  • 65a [Lip or cheek] SASS. Cute.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — Matthew’s recap

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday solution, 9/6/2021

Writing from the road with a dying laptop, so gotta be quick today. It’s probably a symptom of when I got into NYT puzzles, but I love themeless grid designs like this, with four corners and lots of 6- and 7-word fills. Today’s from BEQ had a good amount of challenge in each corner, and I think even difficulty throughout, which can be a problem in grid layouts like this. Perhaps it’s a little name-heavy, but many of the crossings brought a smile to my face, at least.

My favorite area by far was the SW corner, with EDIT WAR (53a- Conflict between Wikipedians), JUST WOW (38d- “Incredible, man — incredibile!”), and a little bit of misdirection in DIGESTS (35d- Takes in).

I particularly liked the clue for ARMENIA (14a- Country with the oldest known wine-making facility). I took a course in Classical Armenian in college and have always loved learning more about the country and its history.

I can’t easily find the clip from the short-lived Britcom The Vicar of Dibley that revolves around SUCCOR (47d – Helping hand), but I highly recommend the show to anyone who wants a laugh.

Aaron Paulsen & Olivia Mitra Framke’s USA Today crossword “Now I Know My ABC’s” — Darby’s review

Theme: Every themed answer includes the letters “ABC” within it.

Theme Answers

Aaron Paulsen & Olivia Mitra Framke's "Now I Know My ABC'S" USA Today crossword, 9/6/2021 solution

Aaron Paulsen & Olivia Mitra Framke’s “Now I Know My ABC’S” USA Today crossword, 9/6/2021 solution

  • 15a [“Seafood patty”] CRAB CAKE
  • 22a [“Apparel that’s hardly eye-catching”] DRAB CLOTHING
  • 41a [“Quickly assembled rustic homes”] PREFAB CABINS
  • 55a [“Boxer’s combo”] JAB CROSS

I was curious when I saw that the title was “Now I Know My ABC’s” to find how the theme played out, and I think it did so relatively successfully. JAB CROSS was my favorite answer, though, at first, I really wanted the latter to be ONE-TWO PUNCH because I thought that would’ve been clever. JAB CROSS ended up working out really well and being very creative, so that’s a new fave. PREFAB CABINS, DRAB CLOTHING, and CRAB give us a lot of assonance with their short “-ab” energy, which was kind of fun and could’ve been a theme in and of itself.

The aesthetic of this grid was very appealing to me with the diagonal squares in the middle breaking up the rows into a 4-3-5 (BUMSRAEISSUE), 3-3-3-3 (USASKYSECALL), and 5-3-4 (MERITGODOWLS) pattern. It felt a little bit like a gridded haiku, with the same word-lengths in the top and bottom of that trio and a longer middle line. On top of that, this section felt cemented by DRAB CLOTHING and PREFAB CABINS.

Other clues worth noting:

  • 18a [“Fish dish cured in citrus juice”] – This puzzle felt very vegetarian/pescatarian friendly, what with the inclusion of CEVICHE directly under CRAB CAKE and the appearance of the ever-infamous OREOS (45 [“Cookies with a gluten-free variety as of 2021”]), 53a’s BANANAS ([“Fruits spelled out in a Gwen Stefani hit”]), BEETS in 59a [“Red borscht veggies”], and 61a [“Milk option”] SOY. Overall, it was all very 14a [“Vegetarian’s request”]: NO MEAT.
  • 1d [“It’s faced when performing salah”] – Salah or “salat” is the term for the prayers offered five times daily by Muslims as they face MECCA and makes up one of the five pillars of Islam. You can learn more about each prayer and each pillar here.
  • 7d [“Like a flight from L.A. to Chicago, e.g.] – I saw the clue first here before I noticed the word length, and I was excited, if slightly thrown off my mental process, to see that it required a full word rather than the combination of directions often seen when pairing two cities in relation to one another (ex. SSE). This made DOMESTIC a nice twist on the usual approach to a clue like this, which I found refreshing this Monday morning.

Honestly, I could BLAB (50d [“Spill the beans”]) about this puzzle all day, so I just want to quickly say that I also enjoyed 42d [“Hands a brewski to”] BEERS and 44d [“Drew of children’s literature”] NANCY.

Overall, great puzzle! Shout out to Amanda Rafkin, who edited this one and to Aaron and Olivia for a JAW-dropping start to the week!

Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker puzzle –– Nina’s writeup

9/6/2021 New Yorker puzzle

Bumpy solve on this New Yorker puzzle. All the corners were tricky, particularly the SW and NW where I felt that the fill got a bit gluey. 57a. AEOLIAN and 62a. ESSENES crossing   57d. ABE clued as [Former Japanese P.M. Shinzo] and the suffix –TION at 51d.? Oof. Even in the NW, where I got lucky, the fill wasn’t ideal. Had I not known 1a. DAUMIER off the top of my head, the crossings would have been a nightmare to work: 1d. [Genealogical abbr.] is DESC, 3d. [Tangelo trademark] is UGLI, 5d. [____ La Douce” (1963 Shirley MacLaine title role)] is IRMA, and 6d. [Head of Hollywood] is EDITH. (As a side note, I did actually like the 6d. EDITH clue, but thought it was used inappropriately in this grid, as it contributed to the NW difficulty).

Some clues that jumped out at me:

15a. [Pointed warning?] –– This was a fun one for the exclaimed EN GARDE. Clever!

17a. [They’re cured!] –– I always like seeing playful clues, and this one for SALAMIS definitely fits the bill. Very endearing.

19a. [Youth action spearheaded by Great Thunberg in 2019] –– Nice, current entry with CLIMATE STRIKE. 

24a. [Tissuelike] –– I had this as SPONGY originally, thinking it was going for the anatomical angle, but got PAPERY when I realized it was the Kleenex type.

38a. [Lover of Endymion, in myth] –– I got this one from a line in The Merchant of Venice: “Peace! How the moon sleeps with Endymion / And would not be awaked.” The moon in myth, of course is SELENE. Shakespeare can be unexpectedly useful!

63a. [Device to get texts on] –– Nice, tricky misdirect: instead of text messages, we’re referring to books and other texts, making E-READER.

12. [The Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, for two] –– Great fill with VR HEADSETS. 

27d. [Ways to make oneself content?] –– Though I got the pun straight away because of its somewhat awkward syntax, I still liked this angle for a social media related entry. What I didn’t like as much was the actual answer, VIDEO BLOGS. I guess it’s technically more correct than its abbreviation VLOGS, but really, when have you ever heard someone call it a VIDEO BLOG? It’s like using the long form of “radar” (technically an acronym for (RAdio Detection And Ranging), “scuba” (ISelf-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus” or (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation). Not technically wrong, but feels forced.

36d. [K-12, in ed-speak] –– Ugh. ELHI. 

52d. [Kitchen extension?} –– Cute, playful clue for ETTE! Instead of a physical kitchen extension, the answer functions as a suffix. Together, this makes KITCHENETTE, which, ironically, is a miniature rather than extended form of a kitchen.

55d. [Like some shoppes] ––The syntax of this was surprisingly refreshing: even though OLDE is often clued with this spin, I liked the clue more than the standard [Ye ____ shoppe]. Speaking of which… A fun fact about “ye” is we’re all mispronouncing it! In Old and Middle English, our alphabet included a thorn character (þ) which was pronounced with the “th” sound. Due to font choices and handwriting, it often bore a similarity to the letter “y” and led to our modern day confusion. 

All in all, an okay puzzle, but not particularly exciting.

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14 Responses to Monday, September 6, 2021

  1. Gary R says:

    NYT: Perfectly fine puzzle, and no major problems with the solve, but the theme didn’t work very well for a non-fashion-conscious old fart like me. I recognize CHANEL and GUCCI as fashion names, but don’t know CHANEL IMAN or GUCCI MANE. I recognize CHLOE ZHOU and CELINE DION, but don’t know CHLOE or CELINE as fashion names. Oh, well!

    • Scott says:


    • JohnH says:

      I did even worse, recognized just those two fashion names but only one of four celebrities. Of course, that just means the puzzle is for others who care about such things, and why should I object? Still, no fun for me at all. Might as well have been pure gibberish.

  2. Philip says:

    I don’t understand the issue with YMHA.

    • JohnH says:

      I don’t either. I do agree with the review that “a bat” in one’s belfry is more idiomatic. In fact, I was outright puzzled by BATS.

    • R says:

      It looks like the YMHA brand was phased out in the 60s in a merger to become JCC. Though a handful of institutions still use the name YMHA, this clue is going to activate JCC for the majority of solvers. For those of us under 70 or don’t have one of the few remaining YMHAs nearby, it’s not a great Monday clue.

  3. Anne says:

    NYT yesterday. Could somebody please explain 49A: The “e” in Genoa? Answer AND.

  4. Zulema says:

    Very cute clue?! for 1 Down in the NYT, “flavore.” Just add an “E” at the end of an English word and it becomes Italian? Between the constructor and the editor, no one could find an Italian dictionary? SAPORE was the term you wanted. What you came up with was what’s usually called “FRACTURED” English, or in this case perhaps “FRACTURED” Italian. As a joke it will do, but I don’t think it was meant as a joke.

    • AlanW says:

      The clue is the innocuous “Chocolate-flavored coffee.” But the PDF version is badly formatted; it has an unfortunate mid-word line break between “e” and “d.” At a glance, it looks like “Chocolate flavore.” That must be what you saw. The other puzzle formats seem to be unaffected.

  5. Chris Gross says:

    Thanks for the kind comments on my puzzle today at Universal. It was my first “solo” effort, having collaborated with C.C. Burnikel and Mark McClain in the past …

  6. Zulema says:

    Alan, thank you for your explanation. I saw the loose “d” but I didn’t want to add to my complaint, which still stands. It’s what my version gave me and I read it correctly as it stood.

    • marciem says:

      I still don’t understand how “fractured Italian” has to do with either the clue or the answer? Mocha coffee is from Yemen and the drink takes its name from there.

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