Freddie Cheng’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s recap
Theme: ART FORMS – five answers in this puzzle contain at least two permutations of the letters “ART”.
- 17a [Athlete who rarely gets sacked or has a pass intercepted] – STAR QUARTERBACK
- 29a [Run-down places] – RATTRAPS
- 33a [Figure to aim for, according to personal trainers] – TARGET HEART RATE
- 42a [Pastry made with an orchard fruit] – PEAR TART
- 56a [Political group symbolized by a donkey] – DEMOCRATIC PARTY
And the revealer:
- 37d [Various creative mediums … or a hint to variations found in the shaded squares] – ART FORMS
When I first opened this puzzle up in the NYT web app, I wondered if it was going to be a barred crossword where the thick lines represented the starts and and ends of distinct words. Nope! They just delegate where the “art” variations are. I wonder if this implementation was used since some of the “art”s are next to each other, and so simply shading/circles would look like a single group of six letters as opposed to two groups of three. I found it a little off-putting, but I don’t have a better idea of how to graphically represent the theme, so I can’t complain too much.
Five theme answers (three of them grid-spanning) plus a revealer that crosses two theme answers? That’s very hard to construct, and Freddie has done it masterfully here. All of the theme answers here are very solid phrases, none of which feel contrived to get an extra “art” in. I particularly like all three of the 15 letter ones, and am impressed by the find of TARGET HEART RATE. There are six possible orderings of the letters in “art” – ART, ATR, RAT, RTA, TAR, TRA – and Freddie uses four of them in the puzzle. It would have been neat to use all six, but that would probably be impossible while maintaining the same level of theme density and fill cleanliness.
The five black squares reaching out into the puzzle from the sides section off some of the corners a bit, but I think the trade off of keeping the fill clean is worth it. Sure, there are some weird plurals (HORAS, HAHS), and no one loves seeing ODEON or AAAS, but we also get I’M A GONER and HORNET and TEACUP dogs! (Which I didn’t know; I’ve only heard of teacup pigs before). Overall, a very art-fully done Monday puzzle.
Now off to watch the Seahawks play Sunday night football without our STAR QUARTERBACK :( Hope everyone had a great weekend!
Lynn Lempel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
You could say this puzzle gets around. The revealer clue at 62A doesn’t tell you that this is a transportation theme: [Morale booster … or words that might suggest the arrival of one of the circled words] clues PICK-ME-UP, which in its “morale booster” sense could suggest dark chocolate, a back rub, or one of Shostakovich’s happier compositions, at least to me. But go to the circled letters in each theme entry, and you get a mode of transportation that can PICK ME UP in the literal sense:
- 16A [Happy-go-lucky] is CAREFREE. The circled letters spell CAR. (Incidentally, I am CAR-FREE and am happier-go-luckier than I would be if I had to own one in NYC.)
- 24A [Meddlesome types] is BUSYBODIES. The circled letters spell BUS, an underrated way to get from NYC to Philadelphia.
- 38A [Pie a la mode choice] is VANILLA ICE CREAM. The circled letters spell VAN. I would agree that vanilla is, in fact, the best ice cream for most pie pairings.
- 50A [Anxiety resulting from being stuck indoors] is CABIN FEVER. The circled letters spell CAB, an option mostly replaced by rideshare these days.
Lynn Lempel is one of the greats and thus it’s not surprising that this theme is perfectly consistent in its execution: In no case is the circled-letter theme word used as a word, not even a word with a different meaning than its transportation sense. (For example, using VAN MORRISON as a theme entry would’ve been legitimate, but less elegant.) As an added nice touch, in three cases, the theme word is pronounced differently in its theme-phrase context than it is as a standalone word.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ground Cover”—Jim P’s review
Theme: DEWDROP (24d, [Bit of morning moisture, and a hint to 3-, 8-, 30- and 34-Down]). Each of those Down entries hides the word DEW within.
- 3d. [Dictionary entries in bold] GUIDE WORDS. Whoa. Did not know this. A guide word is a word at the top of a dictionary page identifying the first or last word on that page.
- 8d. [2009 Kate Hudson/Anne Hathaway comedy] BRIDE WARS.
- 30d. [Tropical air movements] TRADE WINDS.
- 34d. [Caused a stir] MADE WAVES.
Solid enough, and well aimed at a Monday crowd, but I can’t say the theme did much for me. Hidden words where the word is the same in each entry have become less interesting to me.
WIENER DOG tops the fill along with LOUD SHIRT, ACID TESTS, and ASIA MINOR. I don’t recall seeing EARBUD or B-BALL before, or at least not very often, so I liked those modernish/slangy entries.
Not much else to comment on here. The theme is Monday-solid and the grid is clean. It just doesn’t have that usual Burnikel sparkle. 3.25 stars.
Adrian Kabigting’s Universal crossword, “Staff Cut”— Jim Q’s write-up
- CRED / SEASON PASS
- HARDWIRED / SEAT
- BRED / SEAN ASTIN
- DISCOVERED / SEAR
- (revealer) PARTED THE RED SEA
Jeepers, that’s a lot of real estate for theme! It’s essentially five grid spanners if you will, since the black squares play a key role. And very nifty with a solid revealer that I’m glad I found in the middle… this way I had the mystery up top but I was able to plunk in RED SEA at the bottom. Best of both worlds! A couple gimmes and a couple that make you toil a bit.
Took me a while to appreciate the title… Moses “cutting” the SEA with his “staff.” Very nice.
CUSS WORDS was cute to uncover. IRELANDER looks… difficult to pronounce?
DOSAS was new for me. The anagram nudge was appreciated.
and ADELE [“25” singer] is about to be [“30” singer]. Looking forward to that release a month from now.
Nothing to0 exciting fill-wise, but nothing terrible either. That’s a lot to ask for with all that theme. Well done!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday Crossword— Matthew’s write-up
Pretty crunchy grid from BEQ today: two 14s anchor the top and bottom halves and while the corners are decently open, there’s not a ton of connectivity through the middle. I’m usually pretty forgiving of short stuff, but it did pile up for me today.
First, the 14s, which are each very BEQ-y in their own way. YOU’VE GOT A POINT (20A- “Sounds reasonable”) is a solid conversational entry, and “punchable faces” (however uncouth) in the clue for EMOJI KEYBOARDS (46a- They’ve got punchable faces) is part of the internet lexicon that’s right in Brendan’s wheelhouse.
Connecting the halves, PASSEUL (32a- Ballerina’s solo) was a new word for me. Partially due to that -L preventing me from seeing the also-new-to-me WHIPTAIL (9d- Lizard with a jerky gait), I found the east side the more difficult part of the puzzle. It certainly helped in the SE to know some sports with JOHN DALY (34d- 1991 PGA Championship winner) and Loui ERIKSSON (35d- Arizona Coyotes forward Loui ___) right next to each other. And I still needed the remainin crossings to get (57a. Christie detective PARKER ___) PYNE. Julia Roberts’ character TESS Ocean is also in that corner.
- 11d- (TV personality Welteroth) ELAINE. I was unaware she had moved to a TV role. Prior to her current role on Project Runway, she was EIC of Teen Vogue, at a time when the magazine stepped up its coverage of social justice, politics, and civic engagement. I would have loved to see the Teen Vogue angle in the clue here.
- 49a- (Instances when you’d want to be told “get a life”) VIDEO GAMES. Clue feels a little forced here, no? I admit I’m not much of a gamer, but are you ever told “get a life” to receive a bonus play, or whatnot? This wasn’t the only clue that felt off to me, but it was the one that stood out the most
- 10d- (“The Swing” and “The Theater Box”) RENOIRS. Before I got a good look at EN PLEIN AIR (18A), I thought I was super clever dropping “memoirs” in here. But no.
Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
It’s been a few years since triple-stacks of 15s were seen in a bunch of NYT themeless crosswords. They’re hard to pull off without a lot of gluey crossings, especially when there are three triple-stacks rather than just two. Here, the 15s are great—SOCIAL AWARENESS, CHEVROLET BLAZER, ASSET MANAGEMENT, fun PROPELLER BEANIE, RAREFIED CIRCLES, ANASTASIA STEELE, ATOMIC ENERGY ACT, the great ROBERTO CLEMENTE, and a ONE-ON-ONE SESSION. They’re all crossed by another 15, WENT THE DISTANCE. But the shorter Downs that facilitate the stacks leave a bit to be desired: foreign C’EST, ELEVE (which is also old crosswordese), NOBIS, ESTOS, CIELO; crosswordese ALATE, STEN, ECTO, plural ERTES; abbrevs SRTA ATTN RSS MCS CTO GMS; [French cathedral town] SENS (?!).
Four more things:
- 27a. [Follower of boo, woo, or yoo], HOO. HOO ain’t good fill, but the clue was fun and I liked it.
- 23d. [“Super Soul Sunday” host] OPRAH. Ooh, what’s this? Is it music? Alas, no, it’s “Each week, enjoy mind-nourishing conversations between Oprah and top thinkers, authors and spiritual luminaries.” Doesn’t grab me, but it’s good to know what Oprah’s current projects are.
- Tough crossing if you’re not suitably literary: [Rosalind’s cousin in “As You Like It”], CELIA meets 47d. [“America’s biographer-in-chief,” per The Economist], Robert CARO.
- 48d. [Alma mater of Percy Bysshe Shelley], ETON. Apparently he was bullied a ton at Eton, liked to blow things up (for science!), published some books before enrolling at Oxford, and was kicked out of Oxford. The early life/education section of his Wikipedia bio is worth a read. Lots of surprising bits!
2.75 stars from me. I’m okay with seeing triple-stacks (especially trios of them) fade from the vogue.
Rose Sloan and Michael Lieberman’s USA Today puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Title: Cake Toppers
Theme: The “top” word of each theme answer (the first word, but they’re going vertically) can be followed by the word “cake”
- 3D FUNNEL CLOUD: Reason for a tornado warning
- 7D POUND SIGN: Start of a hashtag
- 25D COFFEE TABLE: Piece of furniture named after a drink
- 34D SPONGEBOB: TV character who sings “Ripped Pants”
I believe this is Rose’s debut! Congrats! Since the USA Today themes only involve one of a few set mechanisms, I think they work best with an apt title and vibrant theme answers. This title is perfect, I love how it works with the vertical answers, and SPONGEBOB is awesome as a theme answer.
- The bonus answers (long entries that don’t have to do with the theme) were going horizontally, since the theme answers were going down. HUMBLEBRAG (58A: “Complaint” about how hard it is to be famous, for example) is great fill.
- Reminder to please get your FLU shot!! (36A)
- I don’t think I’ve seen POG (38A) in a puzzle before! This is slang that I believe originated from the name of an emoticon that is used on the streaming platform Twitch. (You might also see “poggers.”)
- I am watching the Great British Baking Show right now (I would die for Crystelle) so CUSTARD (56A: Egg tart filling) made me think of that.