Beth Rubin and Trent H. Evans’s New York Times Crossword — Sophia’s recap
Theme: Each theme answer has a feeling embedded inside of it, marked in the puzzle by circled letters.
- 17a [Telepathic sort] – MIND READER
- 27a [Embedded spy awaiting a mission] – SLEEPER AGENT
- 37a [Scattered here, there and everywhere] – ALL OVER THE PLACE
- 45a [“Quit arguing, kids!”] – STOP IT YOU TWO
and the revealer:
- 61a [Intuition without logical explanation, or a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters] – GUT FEELING
Happy New Year, everybody! And happy NYT debut to Beth Rubin, one half of the construction duo for today’s puzzle! As someone who loves to construct with other people, I always get excited when I see a co-constructed puzzle because I firmly believe getting to talk through and play with theme/fill/clue ideas with someone else prior to submission makes a puzzle better.
I thought this was a solid execution of a classic “hidden word” theme type. It’s nice that the feelings all span at least two words, which makes finding them as a solver feel much more satisfying. When I got that the first two theme answers hit DREAD and RAGE, I thought that the revealer was going to be something much darker than GUT FEELING. Speaking of, does “gut” here just refer to the feeling being in the middle of the phrase? If so, it might have been elegant if the feelings were hidden in the exact middle of the words rather than just “not the start/end” as they are here. But I like all of the theme phrases that were chosen (ALL OVER THE PLACE in particular is a nice spanner), so that’s a very minor nitpick.
By far my favorite thing in this puzzle is EGG BAGEL, I enjoyed the slight misdirection on 22d [“Forever” purchase] for STAMP – my mind immediately went to something like a diamond ring! I also like YO DUDE and THE GAP down at the bottom. I worry a bit about the southeast corner in terms of fill – there’s a big pile of names there with ANNIE, NIGEL, and ARIE, and MOIRE is a pretty difficult word on Monday. None of these taken individually are a problem, but if a solver didn’t know any of them (especially as NIGEL and ANNIE as clued both come from the photography world) they might have an issue finding a foothold.
- Loved the 26a [Greek letter that one might expect to come last] clue for ZETA. Even after years of solving crosswords I have absolutely no idea what order the greek alphabet is in, so this was a fun twist on a not very exciting word to clue.
- I’ve only seen clips of Fantasia so 42a [Animal that dances ballet in “Fantasia”] as HIPPO was not a gimme for me (I almost put in “rhino”). Did other folks know that immediately?
- I know PEROT mainly from crosswords, but I didn’t know until I read the 68a [H. Ross ___, candidate of 1992 and 1996] that he had an H in his name rather than just being named Ross.
- The 23a clue [Affirmative response to “Shall we dance?”] for YES LETS seems almost too specific – I wanted the answer to have something to do with dancing.
- In honor of 30d [Long part of a giraffe]:
Sujata Fretz & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Hallowed Words”—Jim P’s review
Looking first at today’s puzzle on the main WSJ puzzle page, the title of this grid is “Halloween Words” which I thought was odd for the third day of January. But clicking through I saw the actual correct title is “Hallowed Words.”
That makes a lot more sense since the revealer is HOLY (71a, [Blessed, and a word that can precede the starts of 18-, 28-, 48- and 62-Across]).
- 18a. [Provincial university, insultingly] COW COLLEGE. Don’t think I’ve heard this term before, but it checks out.
- 28a. [Distracting tactics] SMOKE SCREENS.
- 48a. [Nacho topping] GUACAMOLE DIP.
- 62a. [Home of Minor League Baseball’s Mud Hens] TOLEDO, OHIO.
Holy cow, holy smoke, holy guacamole, and holy Toledo! Ha! A fun set. I appreciate the consistency here in that all these words that follow HOLY make for interjections, not standard phrases like Holy Land or Holy Grail. I’m sure that’s by design and that makes for a tighter theme and more fun. Nice touch!
Fill faves include COLOSSUS, “TOLD YOU SO!”, EVEN MONEY, RIVIERA, and PROSECCO. The rest of the fill is quite clean though the crossing of proper nouns ACCRA and REGAN isn’t ideal (though R is the only letter that makes much sense there).
Clues are Monday smooth, so I will leave it there. A fun, quick grid. Holy Four Stars, Batman!
Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Afraid I don’t have a lot of time today to do much more than explain the theme. The revealer at 51A [Nuclear fission phrase, and a hint to each set of circles] gives us SPLIT THE ATOM. Each theme phrase has ATOM spread across it in the circled squares.
- 20A [Addictive] is HABIT-FORMING.
- 28A [Arguing with a cat, say] is BIG WASTE OF TIME. This one feels a bit GREEN PAINT-y to me.
- 43A [Lists of principles for political groups] is PARTY PLATFORMS.
I would’ve liked to see this theme executed with phrases that each started with A and ended with M, although the way it was done is perfectly fine. I could do without LIFO, TASER, and MR. ED in the fill but liked seeing Margaret CHO, TOY STORE, and MCRIB.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday Crossword — Matthew’s recap
Ugh, back to work. But at least I got this doozy from BEQ this morning to sharpen me up.
Wide-open corners like this usually mean some questionable 6- and 7- letter entries, but they also make turning a foothold into a completed section particularly satisfying. I had the toughest time in the NW corner, but once I got going it moved alright. Let’s go right to notes:
- 1a [2005 James Franco film whose main character has a rude and rather hairy roommate] THE APE. I haven’t seen a single James Franco movie (and whoo, that’s a long list on Wikipedia), so I’m grateful for the added info in the clue!
- 7a [Navy men] SEABEES. My grandfather enlisted in the SEABEES at 16. I both am generally not very patriotic and am always glad to see the bee on a license plate frame or whatnot.
- 16a [Dual-handled soup bowl] ECUELLE. I always love it when I learn a new word from puzzles. There’s not a whole lot more to this one than the definition in the clue.
- 21a [1847 whaling novel] OMOO. As Moby-Dick obsessed as I am, it’s always nice to have Moby-Dick and Melville-adjacent answers that aren’t AHAB. OMOO isn’t as autobiographical as Melville purports, and I prefer TYPEE, but it’s a good letter combination for crossword grids.
- 24a [Big name in toilets] SLOAN. Every time SLOAN or KOHLER pop up in a grid I’m left to contemplate how much I’ve seen those brands in bathrooms.
- 55a [Major golf tournament] THE OPEN. This would be what we also colloquially call “The British Open”. “Major” in the clue means a little more than “big”, as well, as the open is one of four premier tournaments on the calendar, collectively known as the “Majors”
- 58a [Like some superhighways] SIX LANE. I get antsy in four lanes when I get close to the airport. SIX LANE highways are not something I miss from past home cities.
- 2d [Chris of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers] HILLMAN. BEQ was a bit lighter on the music than normal today (ETTA James does appear at 29a), and I was able to fill this in in part because I’ve seen it in a BEQ grid before, and I think even at 2D in that one, as well.
- 13d [Demi Singleton’s “King Richard” role] SERENA. I’d forgotten about this biopic, of the Williams Sisters’ father. The past week would have been a great time to watch it!
- 26d [Social critic Chomsky] NOAM. Flashback to 19-year-old me thrilled that Chomsky was coming across the river to lecture at my school, only for him to talk about foreign policy instead of universal grammar.
- 35d [Vodka brand named after a Polish king] SOBIESKI. I was surprised to see that Leelee SOBIESKI retired from acting in 2012, but then again, I’ve never even seen a James Franco movie.
- 43d [Sets of governing facts] DONNEES. A second new word for me in this puzzle, but I see that it should have an accent mark and derives from the French for “given”
- 44d [Falling sounds] SPLATS. Ooh, a chance to quote Douglas Adams: “It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop.”
Michael Lieberman’s Universal crossword, “Temperature Conversion” — pannonica’s write-up
Brief rundown today; apologies.
This one needed the title to provide a rationale, such as it is. Phrases beginning with the letter F have it changed to C—Fahrenheit to Celsius—to wacky effect.
- 20a. [Guaranteed strategy for getting excluded from the in-crowd?] COOL-PROOF PLAN (foolproof plan).
- 26a. [Like an actor who got the worst role?] CAST AND FURIOUS (fast and furious).
- 41a. [Silver linings of awkward situations?] CRINGE BENEFITS (fringe benefits).
- 48a. [Butt-dial culprit?] CALLING BEHIND (falling behind).
Strikes me as an insubstantial theme, just not enough holding it together, but I guess it provided a yuk or two along the way.
- 21d [Middle of a date?] PIT. This one fooled me. Perhaps had I seen the next clue earlier it would have been easier. 22d [Fruits eaten from the icebox, per a William Carlos Williams poem] PLUMS.
- 35d [What you do after a workout?] SMELL. Was not expecting that answer.
- 37a [Only African country with a one-syllable name] CHAD. Nice bit of trivia.
Erik Agard’s puzzle, Inside Lap– malaika’s write-up
Theme: The word LAP is contained within each of the theme answers.
- HOLA PAPI— John Paul Brammer memoir subtitled “How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons.” This book sounds fascinating based on the subtitle alone! I’ve placed it on hold at my library.
- CARAMEL APPLES— Sticky treats on sticks
- HUALAPAI— People for whom Ha’Kamwe’ is sacred. Ha’Kamwe’ is a medicinal spring in Arizona.
Good morning folks! I hope your 2022 has been safe, healthy, and peaceful so far. I was surprised to see a symmetrical grid from Erik. Both of the vertical stacks in these (I like to call vertical stacks “colonnades,” a word which refers to a row of columns) were nice, but the SW one was particularly good, with REZ BALL, CUTIE PIE, and ANAGRAMS. That could have easily been a corner in a themeless puzzle. The clue for ANAGRAMS was tougher than I’d expect from USA Today– Rico Nasty and Satyricon are both musicians, but they are also anagrams of each other.
- I liked the clue [Maid of honor, maybe] for BFF. My friend recently told me that he is going to be his sister’s maid of honor, which I like. No need to gender everything, ya know?
- The clue for SOROR is [Fellow AKA]. No clue what this means or how to parse it. Any ideas?
- “Sula” is a novel by Toni Morrison, and the titular character’s grandmother is named EVA
- “In Moonlight, Black Boys Look BLUE” was the inspiration for the critically acclaimed film “Moonlight”
- FORGERY is the specialty of Adolfo Kaminsky, who mostly forged identity documents that helped Jewish people during World War II.
- ZARA Cully was an actress on “The Jeffersons”
- Such a spotless grid, thanks Erik for the smooth solve!
NYT: I’m sorry to sound like a broken record, but this puzzle should have run on a Tuesday. I offer this as feedback whenever I see an intrinsically good puzzle that winds up with lowish ratings based on what I perceive to be a wrong placement rather than any issues with the idea or execution.
Sophia in her excellent review pointed to one corner where the issue was clearest.
Anyone know when the across lite app will update the calendar for the WAPO Evan Birnholz Sunday puzzle?
NYT 5D: I know NAE being clued as a Scottish ‘no’ is a long-time crossword convention, but I believe it’s wrong. You sometimes see ‘nae’ used for ‘not’, as in ‘he will nae go’, but if we are talking about ‘no’ as the opposite of ‘yes,’ then the Scots generally say ‘naw’, rhyming with ‘law’, as explained here. (It doesn’t exactly sound like ‘law’ in standard English or US pronunciation, but it’s not far off.)
The USA Today puzzle is usually an easy start to the day, but I’m still perplexed by:
17 across: Clue – Fellow AKA, Answer – SOROR
A Google search on SOROR is your friend. I also didn’t know this, but my search turned up that SOROR = “a fellow member of one’s sorority”, so AKA here presumably means Alpha Kappa Alpha.
NYT: 5a NO MSG
I much prefer that constructors remove this answer from their word lists. It’s a phrase rooted in xenophobia.
I read the first five pages on Wikipedia but could only find “‘Merriam-Webster Dictionary revising its definition of ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ to point out that the term is ‘dated’ and ‘potentially offensive’ and that there’s no research to support the idea that MSG is harmful.”
Chinese Restaurant Syndrome seems to be the only xenophobic connection to MSG but not MSG, per se. The article also claims that many Chinese restaurants display signs or notices that their food contains “No MSG” more for the incorrect but widely held notion that MSG is unhealthy, not racist.
What am I missing?
According to the Mayo Clinic website, “a small percentage of people may have short-term reactions to MSG,” and the only way they can prevent this is to avoid MSG. So it may make good sense for restaurants that serve food sometimes prepared with MSG to include a statement such as “no msg” if the restaurant doesn’t use it.
I’ve said this before (and only once – I usually need lots of help, i.e. Googling or Autocheck), but how was The New Yorker rated “challenging”? I don’t speed-solve and still solved in 14 minutes today – my usual Friday range, and perhaps a medium Tuesday time for the NYT puzzles.
New Yorker: I think you are right, Mike. This was a much easier Monday than usual but still a wonderful Patrick Berry creation. He has had Monday puzzles that were much harder than this. I confess I’ve never heard of the plant being referred to in 41 D. I loved the 37 A clue, “Inurbane”– a wonderful word I rarely encounter. David