Tomas Spiers’s New York Times Crossword — Sophia’s recap
Theme: STOP, DROP, AND ROLL:
- 17a [Grand Central, for one] – RAILROAD STATION (which is a stop)
- 29a [Event of October 1929] – MARKET CRASH (which is a drop)
- 49a [Pastry with a swirl] – CINNAMON BUN (which is a roll)
- 65a [Fire safety technique … or 17-, 29- and 49-Across together] – STOP DROP AND ROLL
I talked to my mom (who had already solved this puzzle) right before I did it myself, and she wondered if I was “old enough to understand the revealer”. Well, I don’t know what they’re teaching kids now, but as an elementary schooler in the mid 2000’s, STOP DROP AND ROLL was a constantly repeated phrase. I’ve never imagined seeing it as a revealer though! I enjoy that this puzzle finds a new way to bring together phrases other than “they all start/end with [things in the same category]” – this is not in any way a knock to that type of puzzle, but stepping away from that formula made this crossword feel fresh. MARKET CRASH feels like the stretchiest theme answer to me as the other two phrases can be more closely substituted by “stop” and “roll”. I’m not sure what a better option would be, though. And now I want CINNAMON BUNS :(.
Other notes on the puzzle:
- Loved the use of the long down answers today – BRIE LARSON and ANOTHER ONE (which to me just feels like a DJ Khaled reference) are both great pieces of fill. “Room”, mentioned in the Brie Larson clue, is also an incredible if intense film; I highly recommend it.
- It feels like there are a lot of animal clues today – sea horses, land horses, canines, pigs, aardvarks, zebras, geese, and ducks all make appearances. There’s even a CRAB in the grid, which should have been clued as an animal over [One who’s always complaining, complaining, complaining] in my opinion.
- One of my favorite things about December NYT puzzles is the sheer amount of shoehorned-in holiday-related clues. Today’s example: “Elves have big ones, stereotypically” for EARS.
- Anyone else have “Argo” before AERO for 14a [Prefix with -naut]?
- In general, the fill is clean today and everything is pretty well KNOWN (well, assuming you’ve heard of Bryn MAWR). I wish there had been a few more pieces of fresh fill a la BESTIE. Words like PSST, ATTA, OLDE, TORT, AERO… there’s certainly nothing wrong with them per se, but they show up so often and particularly on Monday there’s usually a single type of way they are clued to be easy for a wide swath of the population, so it just doesn’t make for an exciting solve. But still much better than a grid with lots of junk in it, certainly.
Congrats to Tomas on a great NYT debut! Happy Monday everyone!
Gary Cee’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Up for Grabs”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Things you catch. The revealer is “DID YOU CATCH THAT?” (37a, [“Someone say something?” or a hint to the ends of 18-, 20-, 54- and 59-Across]).
- 18a. [Aggressive basketball play] FAST BREAK. Catch a break.
- 20a. [First American woman in space] SALLY RIDE. Catch a ride.
- 54a. [Pre-Academy Awards attention] OSCAR BUZZ. Catch a buzz.
- 59a. [Sudden inspiration] BRAIN WAVE. Catch a wave.
An enjoyable theme. I’m not sure I’ve heard “catch a buzz” very much, but it checks out. Maybe it’s a regional thing. But I like the lively and interesting choices of entries, especially SALLY RIDE.
Today I Learned: Though she was married to fellow astronaut Steven Hawley while at NASA, later in life SALLY RIDE had a long-term relationship with professional women’s tennis player Tam O’Shaugnessy. Ride is therefore the first astronaut to be recognized as LGBT.
Loads of fun fill all around: SMALL FRY, TRUE BLUE, BEER RUN, “BIG DEAL!,” POP ICON, MARLON Brando, and John BELUSHI.
Clue of note: 4d. [Young kids]. SMALL FRY. Not sure I’d clue it as a plural. Usually I hear it as a not-necessarily-unkind nickname.
John Harrington’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Looks like we have a debut today!
The revealer at 62A [Like a nonfunctioning vending machine, or what the circled letters are, in two ways] is OUT OF ORDER. The revealer clue is pretty long, but IMO the “two ways” bit is necessary to really make this theme airtight. See, what’s going on is that the circled letters are “out of order,” in that they come OUT of the word ORDER. And in each case the letters are OUT OF ORDER; that is, they appear in a different order than in the word ORDER.
- 17A [TV Mister with a “neighborhood”] is FRED ROGERS; the circled letters are REDRO, or ORDER spelled backwards (not that that means anything special). Who doesn’t love Mr. Rogers?
- 23A [Regular cybersecurity measure] is a PASSWORD RESET, with the circled letters spelling ORDRE. Hypothetically, what would you think of a company that makes employees change their passwords every three months and insists that the passwords be long AND contain all four types of characters, BUT doesn’t block the use of dictionary words/names/etc. as part of the string? Hypothetically, do you think employees would pick the easiest-to-remember and therefore not-that-hard-to-guess strings that fit those criteria? Asking for a friend.
- 40A [Agatha Christie play set in Egypt] is MURDER ON THE NILE, with the circled letters spelling RDERO.
- 51A [Self-inflicted tennis mistake] is an UNFORCED ERROR, with DERRO as the circled letters.
This is a pretty smooth debut, with the exception of Robert IGER — IMO it’s about time we retired him from puzzles, since he quit the Disney CEO post nearly 2 years ago. (This puzzle was probably accepted many moons ago, so I’d call that more on the editing than on the constructing; maybe an attempt was made to refill the bottom right corner and if not, I think it would have been a good idea to try.)
Beth Rubin and Trent H Evans’ Universal crossword, “Funny Business” — pannonica’s write-up
Comedians’ surnames, punningly reimagined in ‘second careers’.
- 17a. [Comedian Arsenio, in his second career as a tour promoter?] CONCERT HALL.
- 26a. [Comedian Lucille, in her second career managing the Dodgers?] MAJOR LEAGUE BALL.
- 44a. [Comedian Chris, in his second career as a teacher?] SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK.
- 60a. [Comedian Samantha, in her second career making bedspreads?] QUILTING BEE.
These are … ok?
- Was fooled twice in the same way: first at 3d [Belted out] SUNG and later at 63a [Launched] BEGUN; had an A for the U in both instances.
- 8d [Controversial meat in some cutlets] VEAL. Some ethical concern.
- 10d [Punkie Johnson’s show, for short] SNL. I’m falling out of touch, I guess.
- 35d [Sunny note?] SOL. The currency of Peru. This was my immediate thought for the answer, but it seemed maybe a bit too tricky for a Monday.
- 45d [Performs soothing music] CROONS. Soothing for some.
- 48d [Assistant whose reply to “OK Google” might be “Wow. Awkward.”] SIRI. I would not be in the least surprised to learn that someone has gotten SIRI, Alexa, and Google Assistant (is that what it’s called) to all talk to each other.
- 54d [Latvia’s capital] RIGA. Here’s a useful Latvian phrase I’ve recently come across: Mans transportlīdzeklis uz gaisa spilvena ir pilns ar zušiem.
- 22a [Made on a loom] WOVE. I like how this crosses 22d [Where Charlotte spun “Some Pig”] WEB.
- 52a [Plastic weapon in Clue] ROPE. Is it still plastic? Wow.
- 59a [Reaction to Christmas lights] OOH, 38d [Sound of surprise] OHO, 27d [“I solved it!”] AHA.
Theme: The first word of each theme answer can come before the word “play”
- POWER COUPLE— Pair who might exemplify #relationshipgoals (This was my favorite theme answer)
- CHILDS POSE— Asana used for resting (I love child’s pose and do it practically every day ((I do not do yoga every day, or even every week)). Highly recommend.)
- FAIR ENOUGH— I see your point
- DOUBLE MAJOR— College degree with two specializations
Good morning everyone! The long down answers in this puzzle were awesome. TIK TOK DUET (split-screen social media video) could be the seed for a themeless puzzle easily, and PRETZELS, MOUSSAKA, and SORRY IM OUT were also great. I like that there were food items in symmetrical slots. More notes on this pretty, symmetrical grid below:
- Vi Redd played SAX in the sixties and seventies with a variety of jazz musicians.
- Your T-zone is the skin on your nose and forehead, and on some people it has a propensity to get OILY.
- The unseen “Bambi” villain referenced in this clue is a MAN. This felt a little vague to me, I kept trying to put in “hunter” even though obviously that would not fit.
- The word ROUT, clued as a decisive victory is a new word for me.
- Timo Boll is a German table tennis player.
- PTO stands for PAID time off. I feel like I’ve seen these letters arising more and more in the last couple of years as people discuss labor conditions in the States… although maybe that’s just because three years ago, I didn’t have a job. Did you know that in France, every single full-time employee (and by the way, full-time there means 35hrs/wk, not 40) is legally required to get twenty-five paid vacation days?
- The url www.bxscience.EDU is for Bronx Science, which is a specialized high school in New York City.
- “Interplanet Janet” is a song from Schoolhouse Rock about space. The fourth planet mentioned in it is MARS.
- A crystallographer uses XRAYs to look at the arrangements of atoms in solids.
- The phrase that is aptly found in “hormone” is ON E. (It took a second for me to parse this as two words.) I believe this is referring to taking estrogen as part of a transition. Let me know in the comments if I’m incorrect– I’ve mostly heard that term to refer to taking ecstasy.
- Salah is the second pillar of Islam, PRAYer. This took me a second because I know Salah as the captain of Liverpool. I was lucky enough to see him play for Fiorentina before he had become a superstar.
Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
First, let me say I’m perplexed as to why two readers hit this puzzle with a 1-star rating and one gave it 1.5 stars. Are they that upset about ARETES showing up in the grid? Are they resentful about not knowing all the answers? Did some crossings vex them? Do they have it in for the constructor? I just don’t get it. I think it’s a 4.25-star puzzle.
Fave fill: STINKY TOFU (don’t really know it, but the clue points the way to each half), “NO SIREE, BOB,” APPLE STORE, WHATSAPP, NAIL POLISH, THE BEE GEES, LIMBURGER (our second smelly food!), FONTANELLE (doesn’t that word look like it should mean something pretty rather than the soft spot atop of baby’s head?), OSCAR SNUBS, KREMLIN, UBER EATS, the late BOB DOLE, REGINA KING, and GIANT PANDA ([Big fan of shoots], and Kam’s not referring to movie shoots here). Lots of good stuff!
Six more things:
- 11d. [Knife-edge ridges], ARETES. We just watched Free Solo and The Alpinist, two documentaries about two young men who free-climb up daunting rock faces without ropes. You can imagine my crossworder’s delight when the word arête popped up in the captioning. “Hey! I know that word!” Rare for me to encounter the word in the wild.
- 29a. [Pans], SHOTS. I think this refers to film shots, panning over the panorama. Could also be that a negative review is a pan that takes a shot at a particular movie. What say you?
- 40a. [Hardly bristled at?], UNSWEPT. As in a floor you’ve hardly run the broom bristles over, so it’s UNSWEPT. Tricky clue.
- 6d. [General admission?], “YES, I DO.” Not general-admission tickets, not military generals, just a generic admitting that you do something unspecified.
- 26d. [Who the nominees aren’t], OSCAR SNUBS. Not saying that OSCAR SNUBS are unnominated people, just that a list of OSCAR SNUBS identifies who the nominees aren’t.
- Awkward repetition: the game I SPY and the phrase “I SEE.” So close in meaning! And yet distinctly applied.
As I said, 4.25 stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday Crossword — Matthew’s recap
I enjoyed myself for much of today’s puzzle from BEQ — it’s nearly one of my favorite puzzles of his in the past year. We’ve got intersecting stagger stacks, with particularly juicy entries in the acrosses: INFINITY POOL, WIDE ANGLE LENS, and CALENDAR YEAR and wide-open corners.
The cluing was particularly up my alley today: (Belief you’re not being watched) at 13A for ATHEISM tickled me in just the right way, and (Places where you might find home plates) and (It’s all relatives) for DINING ROOMS and FAMILY PHOTO in the downward stagger stack are in a sweet spot of overt, but not too overt, misdirection.
For all the positives, though, I’ll remember this puzzle for two squares. First, the crossing of OXYMORA (48a- Awfully good and bittersweet, e.g.) and AMPS (49d- Spoon boxes). If I had more readily recognized “Spoon” as a band, it might have been no problem, but the rare-but-technically-not-wrong-I-guess plural OXYMORA stymied me, because you know, we’re in English and not Greek, and “oxymorons” is something I’ve actually seen and heard before.
Even more difficult was the 14D/20A crossing of two words I’d not seen before. It’s not a Natick – there aren’t too many letters that could work, but MATUTINALLY (14d- Tending to happen early in the day) and ROTIFER (20a- Microscopic aquatic invertebrate) is a tough crossing. I can see the relation to French matin in the former, but had no help sussing out a root word for ROTIFER (it’s rot- ~ “wheel”, as these creatures are also known as “wheel animals”) from the clue.
No notes today, since I’m late enough as it is.