Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s recap
Theme: All theme answers are of the form “[Word that can mean ‘run fast’] OF [other word]”
- 20a [Hoped-for experience at a casino] – STREAK OF LUCK
- 28a [Sprinkle often paired with salt] – DASH OF PEPPER
- 45a [Fashion designer’s purchase] – BOLT OF FABRIC
- 54a [Early advantage … or what 20-, 28- and 45-Across each have?] – RUNNING START
As I solved today’s puzzle I noticed that all of the theme answers were structured the same way, but I couldn’t see immediate connections between them otherwise, so I thought “hm, I’ll wait to see how the revealer brings everything together”. So imagine my surprise when I hit the revealer, and it mentioned nothing about the ____ OF _____ format! It’s a good revealer for the theme answers, and I like how none of them have anything to do with movement, but I felt like part of the puzzle was left unexplained. BOLT OF FABRIC was probably my favorite theme answer (I’m a big Project Runway fan), and I liked DASH OF PEPPER but the “pepper” part of the phrase felt somewhat arbitrary. But I pretty much never cook, so maybe this is a more common phrase than I’m giving it credit for.
The fill today felt remarkably clean to me, especially given that the grid only has 74 words (the maximum allowed is 78). All the sections feel very connected to the grid, and the NW and SE corners in particular are well-constructed from a technical standpoint. My favorite answers in the grid today are LIMEADE and RAGTAG, and I like STARDOM too although I found its clue, [Fame in the field of sports or entertainment], to be a little too wordy. I kind of wish there had been a bit more here that was new/different/surprising in either clues or fill, but what is here is so Monday smooth that I can’t have much of a problem with the puzzle overall.
- There were two modern clues in the puzzle that I did like – 39a [Classic doll with “Shaving Fun” and “Mod Hair” versions] for KEN and 34a[Modern love?] for BAE (hey, is that a meta New York Times shoutout?)
- Hey, NYT, you’re kinda leaning into the binary there with 5a [Daughters’ counterparts] for SONS…
- I know ONUSES is the correct plural, but I parse it as “on uses” every time.
- I really thought 62a [Lakeside rental] was in reference to a building rather than something you would get at the lake. I had “lodge” and “cabin” before the correct CANOE. Not sure why I’m so real estate minded today.
- SEGA may be a 63a [Nintendo competitor], but as someone who grew up playing “Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games”, I prefer to think of them as collaborators.
Happy Hanukkah to all celebrating!
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Top Marks”—Jim P’s review
In celebration of Hanukkah, today’s theme answers are familiar(ish) words and phrases that hide the Hebrew letters found on a DREIDEL (38a, [Spinning top whose four sides bear the Hebrew letters found in this puzzle’s circles]).
- 17a. [Where koalas and kangaroos live] DOWN UNDER.
- 29a. [Lacking an institutionalized power structure, as a city or state] REGIMELESS.
- 46a. [Team with a record 27 World Series titles] THE YANKEES.
- 62a. [Collide with] CRASH INTO.
I’m afraid I don’t know the Hebrew alphabet but I have heard of GIMEL (it’s just fun to say). I haven’t ever seen the word REGIMELESS used anywhere, though. For you other DREIDEL-illiterate solvers, learn more about the game here.
It’s nice to see this theme to celebrate Hanukkah instead of the usual Christmasy fare (which I’m sure we’ll get in due time). And the title is so perfectly apt. Plus, there’s the theme-appropriate ISRAEL making an appearance at 10d.
Elsewhere, highlights include PAUL NEWMAN, TIPPECANOE, and YO-YO MA.
3.75 stars. Happy Hanukkah to all those celebrating the holiday!
Kurt Krauss’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I don’t think there’s a lot to explain here even though there’s no revealer — the theme is just that cut-and-dried.
- 17A [How books are usually read] is FRONT TO BACK.
- 30A [How chapters in books are read] is FIRST TO LAST.
- 46A [How pages in chapter books are read] is TOP TO BOTTOM.
- 61A [How words on pages in chapters in books are usually read] is LEFT TO RIGHT.
That being said…there’s a bit of assumption in that “usually.” Arabic is written right to left; many East Asian languages are traditionally written top to bottom, right to left, although based on my cursory Googling it sounds like modern texts in Chinese, for example, are more likely to be written left to right. (Yeah, yeah, I know. I wish that I knew from experience rather than cursory Googling. I really wish my parents had made me learn Chinese as a kid!) I would’ve liked to just see a clue like [How books in English are read] for 17A rather than the assumption that how it is in English is what “usually” happens.
I wasn’t crazy about the fill in this puzzle. Between RATA, OPIE, the abbreviation AMB., SSTS, TPKS, POR. as an abbreviation…it was a little too much crosswordese IMO.
Drew Schmenner’s Universal crossword, “Put a Ring on It” — pannonica’s write-up
Taking inspiration from the Beyoncé song, the gimmick of this theme is adding in the tetragram R-I-N-G to familiar words and phrases for wacky results.
- 17a. [“… plus, a certain smoked fish is another favorite of mine”] AND I LOVE HERRING (And I Love Her).
- 33a. [Shredding company?] TEARING SERVICE (tea service).
- 40a. [Flexible spectacles?] SPRINGY GLASSES (spyglasses).
- 60a. [Pitcher’s boast during a shutout?] NOBODY’S HOMERING (nobody’s home).
With the first one, I thought an additional unifying element was going to be song titles.
- 27d [“Lord of the Rings” language for pointy-eared beings] ELVISH. And I thought the title might be too intrusive to the theme!
- 54d [What you may hit when you’re in a jam] HORN. Don’t do this.
- 29a [Landforms at river mouths] DELTAS. Confusingly, DELTAS are also found upriver, such as the famous Mississippi Delta in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana.
Rebecca Goldstein’s USA Today puzzle, Spin the Dreidel– malaika’s write-up
Editor: Amanda Rafkin (despite a little byline mix-up on the site!)
Theme: I couldn’t get the theme today and wondered if it was a themeless, which would be a first! But Sally’s blog points out that the first word of each answer is “spun” (indicated by the title)– i.e. an anagram of each other. Additionally, a dreidel is a TOP. USA Today themes are often subtle, but this one felt particularly so.
- TOP TEN LIST— Ranking of favorites, maybe
- POT BELLIED PIG— Pet that oinks
- OPT OUTSIDE— Hashtag that encourages people to reconnect in nature
Happy Hanukkah y’all! (Tonight will be the second night.) I completely spaced on this last night, and didn’t have any candles, so I lit one of my Diwali lamps instead. There was lots of good Hanukkah content in this puzzle:
- “I have a little dreidel, I made it out of CLAY“
- SING— Perform a rendition of “Light One Candle”
- LATKE— Fried Hanukkah treat
- YIDDISH— Source of “chutzpah” and “mensch”
The two center bonuses, WILLY NILLY and STICKY NOTE were lovely, and I think the NE corner was my favorite, with KING KONG alongside I CANT WAIT.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
Seemed quite a bit harder than usual, though it might just be that I was distracted while solving. Lots of clues left me drawing a blank till I had enough crossing letters in place to start to piece things together.
- 30a. [Warmly attached?], HOT-GLUED. I was absolutely thinking of emotional attachment despite the question mark.
- 38a. [Body building?], TOMB. As in a building where a body is entombed.
- 5d. [Like a well-executed thriller], TAUT. Crisp!
- 11d. [Person who doesn’t have it all], PART-OWNER. Clever!
- 22d. [Consultant hired for a fortune?], SEER. To tell your fortune, not costing a fortune.
- 24d. [Warm and fuzzy inside?], FLEECE-LINED. Cozy!
Fave fill: HALF PAST, I AM A ROCK, LEAVE IT TO ME, GLOBE-TROT, FAN FAVORITE (great!), STREET FAIRS.
Four stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — Matthew’s recap
Straightforward grid from BEQ, and unfortunately an abbreviated review from me.
AWAY IN A MANGER (27a- Carol with the lines “The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes”) is the long across connecting the grid. Seasonal, now that Thanksgiving is behind us.
Likes: CYBER MONDAY, MINNESOTAN, Patty SMYTH, TALL ORDER, WHAT A JOKE
- 1a- (Donruss rival) TOPPS. Both are trading card companies, though Donruss has been defunct for 12 years, so it wouldn’t have hurt to have something more contemporary.
- 16a- (Spots where the crew sleeps, for short) FOCSLES. It’s been a bit since I’ve seen one of these overly-condensed nautical words in a grid, and I haven’t missed them. FOCSLES is a condensed “forecastles.”
- 24a- (Wesley who created the Bazooka Joe comic strip) MORSE. Bazooka Joe is plenty well-known, but hasn’t appeared in the bubble gum wrappers since 2012.
- 26a- (Dunghill) MIDDEN. Completely new word for me from archaeology- some shell mounds, which I have heard of, are also MIDDENs.
- 34a- (Big houses?) POKEYS. Would love to stop seeing punny clues about prisons given their role in the US as dehumanizing, trauma-filled weapons of a wildly inequitable criminal justice system.
- 28d- (Happy kitties) MEWERS. I’m not sure about that. My cats only meow or MEW when they are unhappy and want my attention!
NYT: I really enjoyed solving it (in almost record time for me). Any puzzle with Ann ARBOR in it gets an extra half point from me :) . Especially this weekend! The Wolverines rocked.
NYT Mini: Really enjoyed discovering the name of the sleeve for a hot cup of coffee. Didn’t know that Zarf was used in English. It comes from Arabic and means envelope.
Thanks for explaining Zarf, Huda. I had assumed it was named for the sound it makes when pried open before use.
We call it a java jacket. Zarf is certainly more compact and fun to say.
Today’s puzzle was an enjoyable solve, nicely constructed.
Incidentally, for those who hated KOALA BEAR in a daily puzzle last week, it was in the second Sunday NYT puzzle, a fairly easy cryptic. I guess American usage wins out over biology.
NYT: Really liked it.
LAT: I think that the “usually” left-to-right is reasonable, since only accomplished English-readers will even be reading the puzzle. OTOH, I agree there was too much crosswordese and abbreviations for a Monday puzzle.
Universal: a bit of piscine pedantry — herring is the name of the fish as it comes out of the sea. If you smoke it, you have a kipper (in the UK anyway). In Scandinavia they prefer it pickled, I believe.