Note: No WSJ puzzle due to the holiday.
Evan Mahnken’s New York Times Crossword — Sophia’s recap
Theme: The grid features the names of three oceans, each with the second half of its name “dropped” to the line below, as highlighted by the revealer A DROP IN THE OCEAN.
- 17a [Teenage military leader canonized in 1920] / 21a [Not inclined to reveal one’s feelings] – JOAN OF ARC / RETICENT
- 40a [Insignificant amount … or hint to this puzzle’s shaded squares]/ 45a [Actress Rigg of “The Avengers”] – A DROP IN THE OCEAN/DIANA
- 58a [Big-dollar election-influencing grp.] / 64a [“Tell someone who gives a hoot”] – SUPERPAC/AS IF I CARE
I like today’s crossword theme a lot! It’s a nice twist on a common phrase and made me think “that’s clever!” when I figured it out. It’s fortuitous that Evan was able to use the IN from A DROP IN THE OCEAN for a theme answer as well as a revealer, since that meant he didn’t need to take up extra grid space to have them both separate. All of the theme answer choices are solid, and I especially like how AS IF I CARE breaks up the back half of PACIFIC across three separate words.
I’m of two minds about the fill in this puzzle. On one hand, there were a lot of words that I was excited to see on a Monday because they’re more interesting than what we sometimes get, and I’m not just talking difficulty-wise: for example, all the down answers in the NW corner of the puzzle (UNJAM, PHONY, SLANG) are common words, but they have cool letter combinations and were satisfying to put in. Things like WACKO and BOOBY are also different from the norm, and the long downs of OLD SPICE and ALLERGIC are nice too (although it did take me a looong time to see ALLERGIC since I had “scab” instead of SCAR, and I didn’t immediately know ENGELS). Oh, and there are a bunch of women in this puzzle – ILHAN Omar, Patsy CLINE, JOAN OF ARC, DIANA Rigg, the biblical LEAH, and … SARA Lee? (so close, puzzle!) After last week’s nearly woman-less puzzle, this was a great change of pace.
On the other hand, some of those uncommon words I mentioned earlier cause tough crossings. Personally, this was the first Monday puzzle in a long time that I didn’t finish without Googling, thanks to the ENOW/WYVERN cross. I had no idea on the fantasy dragon (didn’t even know if it was from a specific thing or was just a generalized creature) and thought that [Sufficient, to Shakespeare] had something to do with the word “enough” (which maybe ENOW does; I didn’t check), so after running “f” and a few other letters in “enough” I decided I had had enough (haha) and looked it up. I’m not sure how that will play for other people – both clues did hit known blind spots of mind, and ENOW has been in the NYT plenty of times before – but for me, it was an impossible crossing. I also worry about SARIN down there in the SW – I’ve never heard of this and got it entirely off crossings. If someone doesn’t know STP or the URAL River, those consonants could be pretty much anything.
Sound off in the comments about how things went for you! Happy MLK day everyone.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday Crossword — Matthew’s recap
Have to be quick today, unfortunately. Real toughie for me from BEQ this holiday.
Plusses: WEASELS OUT OF, SIN TAX, DUST DEVILS, STETSONS ([They’re part of ranch dressing] *chef’s kiss*), RAGOUT
Big Minus: A CUP. I’d certainly like these to be gone from wordlists, but even limiting to this case, it’s really not hard to avoid this in this corner. PIPE/UCLA/TAUT gives you PUT OUT/PLUTO/EAT OF in the downs while preserving the longer entries, and there are plenty of other fill options if you don’t like one of those from this very amateur constructor.
Green painty?: AGED WOOD
Fact checking: I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone calling it “The” CBC (5d). ZEBUS are bovines, not equines.
Congrats to Will on his USA Today debut!
Theme: The lowest part of each vertical theme answer is a fruit
- WHATS TODAYS DATE— Question from someone writing a check
- MEADOWLARK LEMON— Harlem Globetrotters icon
- BEIJING MANDARIN— Dialect group spoken in China
- We had some nice mid-length across answers, with SOUTHPAW, KINDNESS, KEYTAR, and DRY SPELL. I had the P and E for that last one and was trying to make “flop era” fit.
- ASHA bandele wrote, among other things, The Prisoner’s Wife and stylizes her names with all lowercase letters, much like erik agard frequently does. I wish it was more common to do this, I prefer “malaika” to be lowercase, as you can see from the title’s of my write-ups.
- INTO the Thick of It is a song from The Backyardigans. What’s your favorite Backyardigans song? Mine is Secret Agent.
- Miso and ngapi are both PASTEs used in Asian cuisine; the former is made of fermented soy beans and the latter is made of fish or shrimp. Here’s my hot take of the day: Stop putting miso in desserts. I do not want it there. Soups, salads, marinades? Hell yes. Cookies, cakes, ice cream? No no no.
- DED stands for Dutch ELM disease, a fungus deadly to trees
- C.R. Patterson & SONS was the first car company with a Black founder
- For me, REMAP falls into the category of “contrived RE- words that make crosswords easier to fill” but maybe I’m wrong and this is actually legit. My home state right now is going through a tumultuous gerrymandering trial right now.
Catherine Cetta’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Monday regular Catherine Cetta is back with a theme that’s a bit more complex than usual for a Monday. The revealer at 60A is [Say “See you mañana, e.g. … and a hint to each set of circles], which gives us CODE SWITCH. Each theme entry contains circled letters that, when anagrammed, or “switched,” become a type of CODE:
- 18A [Coen brothers’ “Best Original” Oscar-winning output for “Fargo”] is SCREENPLAY, with the circled letters NEPLA anagramming to PENAL. Man, this one was tough for me, since those letters also anagram to NEPAL, PLANE, and PANEL. Thank goodness for the Internet Anagram Server or I’d still be wondering what a PLANE CODE was.
- 24A [Weather warning on your cellphone, e.g.] is a TEXT ALERT. Phew, this one’s much easier: the circled XTA gives us TAX CODE.
- 39A [Informal name for the classic painting “Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1” is WHISTLER’S MOTHER, with the circled ERSMO leading to MORSE CODE.
- 50A [Sleight-of-hand swindle] gives us SHELL GAME, with the circled ELLGA leading to LEGAL CODE.
This one wasn’t my favorite — I found the theme a bit overcomplicated — but maybe it’s because I’m not very good at anagrams. I also didn’t love some of the short fill, like HOSNI Mubarak, the partial AS RED, the plural ESSES, and the odd-sounding HAYED. On the other hand, PIGHEADED and TELEPATHS were fun longer nontheme answers.
Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
Apparently I am always going to forget to blog the New Yorker puzzle on Monday mornings without a calendar reminder. Calendar now set!
Fave fill: AIR BUBBLE, BACKSEAT DRIVER, LA CLASSE DE DANSE, AROMATICS, SCOTUS (great clue for that—[Justice league acronym?]), AREPA.
New to me: HIRO MURAI, FROM PRADA TO NADA.
Meh: LMN SMA CMS TAFTS EATERS ABRAM LBARS DRT.
2.75 stars from me.
Zachary David Levy’s Universal Crossword, “What A Zoo!”
Theme: Words/phrases that are places animals can live that also include said animal’s name.
- 17a [*Perch from which you might hear “Land ho!”] – CROWS NEST
- 29a [*Issue that can be blown out of proportion, idiomatically] – MOLEHILL
- 45a [*Hostile place] – LION’S DEN
- 56a [*Shape of some windshield cracks] – SPIDERWEB
- 1d [*Busy place] – BEEHIVE
- 43d [*Shelter on the front lines] – FOX HOLE
and the revealer:
- 35a [1978 comedy set at Faber College, and a clue to this puzzle’s theme] – ANIMAL HOUSE