Ben Pall’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s recap
Theme: All the theme answers are phrases in the form of “___ IT OR ___ IT”
- 17a [“This is my final offer”] – TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT
- 25a [Like something that’s polarizing] – LOVE IT OR HATE IT
- 43a [“Get out of the way!”] – MOVE IT OR LOSE IT
- 57a [Having no middle ground between success and failure] – MAKE IT OR BREAK IT
This isn’t a particularly groundbreaking theme, but it’s a solid enough one for a Monday and will be easy for new solvers to pick up. The first two theme answers are great phrases, and I particularly enjoyed LOVE IT OR HATE IT as an in-the-language phrase I haven’t seen in a puzzle before (it being 14 letters long probably contributes to that). I haven’t heard this use of MOVE IT OR LOSE IT before – I think of that being a phrase related to fitness? Like, move your muscles or they won’t have any more tone? It’s too bad “use it or lose it” doesn’t work symmetrically with the other answers…. (the other thing I immediately thought of with this theme was the TV show “Love It Or List It”, where couples decide whether to sell or renovate their houses). I also use the term “make or break” sans “it” much more than MAKE IT OR BREAK IT, but it was easy enough to figure out given the theme structure.
Often times puzzles with four grid-spanning answers (or as is the case here, nearly grid spanning answers) can end up with choppy corners full of three letter answers. Ben did a really nice job here of placing black squares so that each section of the puzzle was relatively open and contained several long answers. Sure, there isn’t a down in the puzzle longer than seven letters, but as a solver I’ll happily take that trade off to get to see more fun mid-length fill. There’s a lot of great stuff today – favorites for me include HAIR TIE, NEWSIES, and BOWSER. Somehow DAD BODS already feels kind of late-2010’s dated to me – do other people feel like that?? Definitely a term from the REDBOX era. I also liked the Star Trek clue on ENGAGE and the pun in the 20a [What may have the solution to your vision problems?] clue for EYE DROP.
- While Googling for this recap, I discovered that there is a SpongeBob episode called “MOVE IT OR LOSE IT” in which Mr. Krabs and Plankton learn that their restaurants are too close together for zoning and one of them must be bulldozed. If that doesn’t make the phrase NYT-worthy, I’m not sure what does.
- Given that BOWSER was clued as Muriel, I enjoyed the Nintendo shout-out in the clue for APE: 40a [King Kong or Donkey Kong]
- I didn’t know that iPhones didn’t have VIDEO until 2009 – I didn’t even get a flip phone until 2010, so it’s all a little before my time. It’s wild how far the tech has come in the past decade – anyone else getting totally bombarded by iPhone 13 ads everywhere? Next GEN, indeed.
Fred Piscop’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Apologies that I’ve not got a lot to say about this puzzle — time just got away from me this weekend, although I didn’t need much time on this quick solve.
Jumping down to the revealer at 61A [Gobble down food, and a hint to the ends of 17-, 31-, and 45-Across], we get EAT IN A HURRY, because all three theme entries are either compound words or phrases whose second part can mean “to eat fast.”
- 17A [“Born to Be Wild” rock band] is STEPPENWOLF, and you can WOLF your food.
- 31A [Cold-weather neckwear] is WINTER SCARF, and you can also SCARF your food.
- 45A [Flash of lightning] is a THUNDERBOLT. Wolves also BOLT their food, don’t they? Probably not a coincidence.
I’ll stick with slower, mindful eating (when I remember to, at least), but it’s a legit theme and a nice easy solve, plus I enjoyed seeing one of my fave pop artists, JANET Jackson, at 28D.
Kevin Christian & Andrea Carla Michaels’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “On Point”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Things that have a pin applied to them, as revealed by 52a STICK A PIN IN IT [“Let’s get back to that later…” and a literal hint to 20-, 34- and 42-Across].
- 20a. [Place for postcards and such] BULLETIN BOARD.
- 34a. [Item used in black magic] VOODOO DOLL.
- 42a. [Birthday party handful for the blindfolded] DONKEY TAIL.
Solid set, though DONKEY TAIL isn’t an in-the-language phrase like the others. The theme is consistent in that the pins in use are all straight or push pins, as opposed to other types of pins like bobby pins, cotter pins, or bowling pins.
In the fill I especially liked GOOD ANSWER [Encouraging cry from “Family Feud” players], mostly because they always say that, even if they know the answer is the stupidest response imaginable.
Clue of note: 24a. [John of “Three’s Company”]. RITTER. Today I Learned: “Three’s Company” was the American version of a British sitcom called “Man About the House.”
Not much else to say here. 3.5 stars.
Jeremy Borison’s Universal crossword, “Self-Revelation” — pannonica’s write-up
We’ve got double clues but single answers:
- 17a. [*Starting to encounter – ? = Situated alongside] UP AGAINST.
- 25a. [*Making a landing – ? = Like a genuine person] DOWN TO EARTH.
- 49a. [*Movies that should be exciting – ? = Romantic feelings] ATTRACTIONS.
And by way of revelation:
- 62aR [LGBTQ+ milestone celebrated on October 11, or a hint to each starred clue’s missing word] COMING OUT. Adding “coming” to the starts of the entries resolves the cryptic aspect of the first parts of the clues.
It’s an interesting theme dynamic and it’s explained explicitly enough for a beginning-of-the-week crowd.
- 65a [Part of, as a joke] IN ON.
- 27d [Parts of hearts] AORTAS. Originating at the heart is not the same as being part of it.
- 28d [Shooting star, actually] METEOR. One may quibble about meteoroids, but I think this is fine.
- 50d [“We hold __ truths to be self-evident”] THESE. I wonder about the assumptions of the founding fathers (and mothers); far too much and severe corruption of their intents is occurring. 51a [Implied] TACIT.
- 69a [It’s outstanding] DEBT. Ouch! What a way to end the crossword.
Good morning solvers!
Title: Mind the Gap
Theme: Each theme answer has the word GAP in the center
- 18A: Nickname for New York City– THE BIG APPLE
- 36A: Festival celebrating the defeat of Mahishasura– DURGA PUJA. I didn’t know the name of this specific festival, but a puja (or pooja) is a general term for a Hindu ritual, which I did know.
- 58A: Strategizing– MAKING A PLAN
When the central answer is a nine-letter word, you end up with twelve seven-letter words in the corners. I don’t usually think of a seven-letter entry as a long entry or a “bonus” but when there are twelve of them in stacks like that, they can get really hard to finagle. Erik filled those really cleanly, BRACKET (41D: Tournament diagram) and PICTURE (2D: Selfie, for example) were probably my favorites.
Chimichurri sauce is one of my favorite sauces (yes, “favorite sauce” is a frequent topic of discussion in my household, and yes we routinely settle on chimichurri being S Tier) so I loved the double shout-out with OREGANO crossing PARSLEY. Our recipe also includes cilantro and red pepper flakes, and we make jars of it at a time and then put it on everything.
It was great to get ISSA RAE‘s full name in a grid (45D: Founder of Hoorae Media), and the clue for MUG (21D: Hot chocolate holder) had big “Winter Is Coming” energy, for me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — Matthew’s recap
Satisfying resistance from BEQ today; I always like when I can drop in some long stuff to feel like I’ve made progress, and then work from there.
Today, I started with the *very* in-the-language USE YOUR WORDS (19a- Parent’s request to a tongue-tied toddler) and WASABI PEA (20d- Spicy Asian snack tidbit) off that. Is “spicy” appropriate to describe the wasabi/horseradish thing? It doesn’t hit my tongue like a chili pepper does, more overwhelms the nose. Maybe “pungent”?
For symmetry’s sake, JAM MASTER JAY (49a- DJ heard on “Peter Piper” and “My Adidas”) did not come as easy as USE YOUR WORDS, so clearly I need to listen to more Run-D.M.C.. I did nail KENT STATE (35d- Ohio University where DEVO was formed), though less from any DEVO love and more from sports fandom, picking up tidbits about your rivals over time.
This is a good example of a grid where a few crossings can go a long way; every sector’s got something that really held me up, most of which I have more to say in the notes. Plenty of proper nouns too, but none I didn’t recognize once they were filled in. I did have trouble in the western side, putting in SEAmER for SEALER (concrete has seams, right?), and never seeing KD LANG in the cross or recognizing the song in the clue (39a- “Miss Chatelaine” signer). I also didn’t love the TINA/UNA crossing (34a- Tony Award-winning role for Adrienne Warren // 31d- The Redcrosse Knight’s lady in “The Faerie Queene”) but -N- was my first guess and I suppose there’s nothing else plausible.
- 1a- BASSIST (One with a foundation in music?) Gosh this tripped me up, but I like it. My voice has been off for about a week, so I’ve been signing a lot of bass lines in the car, instead of my usual high tenor. Well, baritone lines at least.
- 17a- (Subsection of the Arctic Ocean) KARA SEA. This is not the first time I’ve seen this in a grid, but it still feels new. It’s north of Russia, east of the paren-shaped Novaya Zemlya archipelago.
- 30a- HUSK (Tamale part). Oaxacan food on Saturday, tamales today. The puzzles are tempting me.
- 42a- (Heavy drinking and smoking, e.g.) AGERS. Adding to my trouble in this area, I really wanted “VICES” in this slot. I’ve been seeing AGER(S) a bunch in puzzles the last few months, and I’m not sure it’s much in the language.
- 43a- (Make out) SPOT. I wonder if anyone fell for a trap with “SNOG” here.
- 58a- (Sci-fi character who said “Look, I ain’t in this for your revolution, and I’m not in it for you, Princess.”) HAN SOLO. I don’t know these movies well, and I didn’t recognize the quote, but by the time I got to the end I could hear it in Harrison Ford’s voice. Right on brand for the character.
- 62a- (T-shirt style) VEE NECK. “VEE” spelled out? If you say so. I’m sure some retailer has done it.
- 37d- (Capital also known as “the Jerusalem of Europe”) SARAJEVO. I did not know this, but fun to learn! And makes sense, given the religious and cultural diversity in the Balkans.
Wyna Liu’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
Wyna never disappoints and always challenges.
Fave fill: MAZIE HIRONO ([First Asian-American woman elected to the Senate]—it’s so bonkers than various “firsts” are still happening or haven’t happened yet. Sen. Hirono was took office just 8 years ago, and the Senate that has “so many women” these days is still 76% dudes and has never been below 74% dudes), POKEMON CARD, GOING FAST, MAKES MAGIC, ZODIAC SIGN, PAUL DIRAC, SATORI, FROGGER, GRACE NOTE, IT’S ALL OVER, and THE DEEP END.
Five more things:
- 12d. [Place for a plunger?], THE DEEP END of the pool. Ha! Please do not place the toilet plunger in the swimming pool.
- 6a. [___ pearls (ingredient in Cantonese dessert soup)], SAGO. I needed pretty much all the crossings to get this.
- 29a. [___ Choppa, “Shotta Flow” rapper], NLE. Young rapper, a a fresh alternative to abbreviating baseball’s already-abbreviated N.L. East. I missed encountering this song on the radio but you should know the lyrics mention the artist’s veganism! He’s 18 and he meditates.
- 57a. [System of servers created for faster Internet use: Abbr.], CDN. Never heard of this. Short for content delivery network. *shrug*
- 40d. [Game with a square ball], PONG. Dang, between PONG and FROGGER, that’s two video games from the years 1972 and 1981, so many generations ago.
Four stars from me. Happy Monday to you all!