Ian Rathkey’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s recap
Theme: All theme answers are phrases in the form ” [verb] ME [person]”
- 20a [1986 #1 hit by Falco] – ROCK ME AMADEUS
- 31a [Title lyric heard 41 times in a 1965 Beach Boys hit] – HELP ME RHONDA
- 40a [Red-haired toy craze of 1996] – TICKLE ME ELMO
- 51a [Request from the voracious plant in “Little Shop of Horrors”] – FEED ME SEYMOUR
I’ve been hanging out with my family this weekend, which gives me a fun structure for this recap – my mom (in her words, “a regular but non-fanatical solver”) and I solved this puzzle separately and compared notes. Here’s my mom’s take: “Why is there no revealer? It needs something to tie it all together… actually, why is TICKLE ME ELMO there? That’s not a song! Everything else is a song!” I agree with her in regards to that second point – TICKLE ME ELMO feels like an outlier here (and I guess Elmo has red…. hair, but I would call it fur, really – I kept wanting it to be a Raggedy Ann answer). I personally don’t mind the lack of revealer, but it would be nice if the phrases had a bit more in common than just their structure if that structure is relatively common. As a musical theater kid, I did love the inclusion of FEED ME SEYMOUR.
Both my mom and I agreed that the fill here was good overall. We had different mistakes for SLED RIDE – she had “sledding” and I had, uh, “sleeps in”, and we both agreed the phrase itself feels a tiny bit off, but it’s still fun and evocative. Neither of us knew Jean GENET, but other than that the fill is solidly Monday level. I liked the misdirection on the 40d clue [Make the rounds?] for TEND BAR and the wide open NE and SW corners. I FEEL SICK and ANCHOR LEG are great across answer bonuses, which can be a rarity. My mom enjoyed how CIG and KEG were next to each other, which I hadn’t even noticed. I did notice, however, the double big cats (OCELOT and CHEETAH) and I enjoyed both the Falco and EDIE Falco references. Overall, this was a fun and easy puzzle – congrats to Ian on his debut!
Catherine Cetta’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Apologies that I don’t have time this week to do much more than explain the theme here: 63A and 65A, clued together as [Chore on a winter to-do list … and what appears in each set of circles], are SPLIT WOOD. In each Across row in which they appear, the circled letters spell a type of tree that is “split” by a column of black squares:
- 17A/18A: The AS in ALAS and the PEN in PENNE spell ASPEN.
- 28A/30A: The ending MA in OH MAMA and the PLE in PLEASE DO spell MAPLE. (Mmm, pancakes and sausage doused in maple syrup. Gimme!)
- 47A/51A: The CED in TWO-FACED and the AR in ARE TOO spell CEDAR.
I could’ve done with one more theme entry pair. The left side of the puzzle played harder than the right, to the point that I thought I was going to end up with a rather Wednesday/Thursdayish time until I got past the halfway point.
Bojan Koprivica’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Defensive Position”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Phrases that contain the letters of WAGON, non-consecutively. These letters are circled, hence the revealer CIRCLE THE WAGONS (57a, [Get into a defensive position, and what we do in this grid]).
- 17a. [Humpbacks’ annual journeys to polar waters] WHALE MIGRATIONS.
- 25a. [Coexisting campus/off-campus community] TOWN AND GOWN. Tough phrase to clue, but it was pulled off nicely.
- 44a. [Business offering Brazilians] WAXING SALON.
Catching on to the first wagon relatively quickly and seeing it take ship in the second entry made filling in the rest of the circles (and thus the theme entries) pretty quick. And that’s okay on a Monday. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the phrase WAXING SALON, but then I wouldn’t be the best judge of that, so I went with it. I still wasn’t sure how it was all going to be tied together, but the revealer did that nicely with an apt aha moment.
SHOOTS POOL and WIRE-HAIRED make for fine long Downs, and I also liked the frustrated “COME ON!” and the NO-TELL motel.
Clues of note:
- 10d. [Six-legged groups?]. TRIO. Trying to be cute, eh? This felt like a stretch, as if the legs are the key component of a TRIO.
- 38d. [Roman goddess of peace]. PAX. I know PAX means “peace” in Latin, but I didn’t know there was a goddess of the same name.
- 41d. [Suit fabric]. TWILL. Who else went with TWEED for this one?
A smooth Monday outing. 3.75 stars.
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Secret Word” — pannonica’s write-up
A different kind of meta puzzle. Hiding words are hidden in the theme answers. But they’re circled and easy to find.
- 16a. [Get the basic notion] HAVE A ROUGH IDEA (hide).
- 31a. [Dampen future events] CAST A SHADOW (stash).
- 39a. [Deteriorates] GOES TO WASTE (stow).
- 57a. [Makes sense] STANDS TO REASON (store).
- 58d [It ended on Nov. 7 in 2021] DST. Timely.
- 6a [“Dancing Queen” group] ABBA. They have a new studio album after a hiatus of some forty years. It’s been received rather tepidly.
- 29a [They make a living from bills] SENATORS. Do they?
- 39d [Board, as a streetcar] GET ON dupes part of the clue for themer 16-across, but it is admittedly a ‘small’ word, after all.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — Matthew’s recap
At first blush, I usually say I prefer these “four corners” style themeless grids to those that have 9- or 10-stacks in two corners.
I find more 6- and 7-letter entries give me more chances to really love an entry or three. But of course, it also means more chances to find something I don’t love, and I’m realizing the more BEQ grids I review that in general he’s looser with clues than I’d like. This puzzle has looked better the more time I spend on this review, but usually I don’t come back at all after the last square of course.
Stuff I liked: BAD ART FRIEND (Recent internet buzz topic; classic BEQ), WARSHIP, GO IN PEACE (clued by the nicely tricky “Father’s farewell” at 8D), PAT MORITA (25D- He lost Best Supporting Actor to Haing S. Ngor), JALOPY.
- 11a- (Like some Christmas ornaments that make noise) BELLED. Kind of an awkward word forcing an awkward clue, no?
- 13a- (Accoutre, as with all the latest gadgetry) RIG OUT. I did not like this at all during the solve, but I see in Google that it’s relatively common.
- 14a- (Set up a window display of the latest fashions, say?) ETAILED. I’m still not sure how I feel about this clue. Is it a nice play on “window display”, or is it too wordy and cute? I lean to the latter. To my point above, this is 3 of the first 5 acrosses striking me funny during the solve.
- 17a- (Nestea rival) ARIZONA. I can’t remember the last time I drank an Arizona Iced Tea, but it was everywhere in my high school and college years.
- 34a- (American Airlines’ frequent flyers’ suite) ADMIRAL’S CLUB. I *think* this is relatively inferable if you didn’t know it – some crossing downs could be tough if you didn’t.
- 3d- (Historian Keisha N. ___) BLAIN. I needed the crossings for Dr. Blain, who is a scholar of African American history, African Diaspora Studies, and Women’s and Gender History. I will add a book or two of hers to my reading pile.
- 24d- (Like the time you might prepare eggs?) INCUBATIVE. Not an asset to the grid, for my money.
- 31d- (Flutes and shakers, e.g.) BARWARE. Here’s an example of something I didn’t like til I Googled – it’s a far more common word than I thought.
- 33d & 36d- (British actress ___ Johns) (Al’s “Sunday Night Football” cohost) GLYNIS & CRIS. Ms. Johns has a robust filmography, but was most active prior to 1970, and CRIS Collinsworth is on one of the most-watched TV programs in America, but it’s football, which may mean he’s unfamiliar to many solvers. (For the record, I believe sports in general are woefully under-represented in puzzles relative to their following in society.) Add these two with INCUBATIVE and I would have liked to see a different SE corner here.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
Look at this grid pattern—so much flow through the various sections of the puzzle. That might help explain why this one fell more swiftly than the typical Monday New Yorker crossword, which is supposed to be the hardest of the week. Everything just FELL INTO PLACE, I didn’t STOP DEAD anywhere. I did start out thinking 1a was SLAPDASH rather than SLIPSHOD, and don’t those two words make a great pair?
Fave fill: PAPER AIRPLANE, RICHARD II, PINK PEARL erasers, LACQUERED furniture, MONSOONS.
Five more things:
- 18a. [R. & B. singer ___ Marie], TEENA. First off, it’s silly for the New Yorker to include those fussy periods and spaces in R&B. Second, I missed her big pop hit in 1984, “Lovergirl”—it was released just after I started college and was surrounded by “college music” rather than the current top 40—and she didn’t have any other mainstream hits, and I don’t know her sound at all. She was a regular on the R&B charts, though, which explains why Black Twitter recently included her among non-Black artists whom Black people love. (See also: Dolly Parton. Nobody doesn’t like Dolly.)
- 42a. [Suit bottoms?], DEUCES. As in the piddly 2s in a deck of cards.
- 11d. [Michigan, for one], GREAT LAKE. I love that lake! It soothes me just to be near it. A few years ago, we stayed in a place in Duluth with a balcony overlooking Lake Superior, close enough to hear the waves and see the ships heading to the port. I probably won’t get back to Duluth again, but I’d definitely stay there again to soak up the lake vibes.
- 30d. [Subject for a speech therapist], LISP. I appreciate the straightforward clue, vs. all those other LISP clues that try to be playful and probably end up being a tad hurtful to folks who lisp.
- 50d. [Tilda Swinton, for one], SCOT. Did I know this? I might have, but I’ve been going along thinking she’s English. Just saw her on a Season 1 episode of the vampire comedy, What We Do in the Shadows, which my husband and I have been devouring this past week. It’s on Hulu—if you saw the New Zealand movie with Taika Waititi, you’ll enjoy the US series too. And if you didn’t see the movie, check it out.
Four stars from me.
Brooke Husic & Matthew Stock’s USA Today puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Title: Us First
Theme: Two-word phrases whose initials (i.e., the first letter) are US
- 18A: St. Louis’ country– UNITED STATES
- 36A: Person likely to be involved in a particular situation– USUAL SUSPECT
- 53A: Uncontrolled growth around a city– URBAN SPRAWL
Short write-up today as my computer is on the brink of death and shuts off every hour or so!! That can’t be good but I don’t have time to deal with it right now!!!!!!!
This grid had asymmetry, even though it’s theme answers could have been placed symmetrically in the grid. I go back and forth on how I feel about asymmetry for no particular reason– some days I’m like “Why not!” (and I’ve constructed asymmetrical puzzles, both for my website and for the USA Today) and some days I miss the elegance of a symmetrical grid. Today I was more in the former category, probably because of the lovely bonus answers that we got– DEMISEXUAL (was just discussing this with my friend at dinner last night!), CROWN ACT (it was nice to drop that in with no crosses) and PARTNERS IN CRIME (fifteens-as-fill is so incredibly impressive to me).
Thanks, Brooke and Matthew for a fun puzzle :)