John Guzzetta’s New York Times Crossword — Sophia’s recap
Theme: STARTING QB – Each theme answer is a two word phrase where the first word starts with Q and the second starts with B.
- 16a [It doesn’t need time to rise before baking] – QUICK BREAD
- 29a [One of two “royal” sleeping options] – QUEEN BED
- 35a [Social crafting event] – QUILTING BEE
- 42a [ATV with four tires] – QUAD BIKE
- 59a [Key member of a football team, in brief … or a feature of 16-, 29-, 35- and 42-Across?] – STARTING QB
Today’s puzzle is a classic early week theme type (the NYT ran a similar one about a month ago with a MATCHING PJS revealer), but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the solve! I’ll run through each aspect of the puzzle that kept it feeling fresh to me:
- The puzzle has a solidly punny revealer. STARTING QB is a common phrase, and one that can be re-parsed here well. It also feels appropriately timely given that we’re in the middle of playoffs season – for that reason, I also liked the bonus NFL in the southeast corner.
- The theme answers are interesting. This might feel like a “well, duh” aspect, but when your theme is constrained by particular letters, it’s easy to try to pass off a boring filler answer as good just to get a symmetric set. John didn’t do that here – all these answers are great (although I might have gone for “queen bee” over QUEEN BED – maybe the fill in the northeast wasn’t as good with that?). My personal favorite is QUICK BREAD, which I learned from Great British Bake Off.
- The letters themselves, Q and B, are interesting. There aren’t a million phrases that start with those two letters, much less a million that form a symmetric theme set. Actually, it was the rarity of the letters that helped me find the theme in the first place. I skipped 16a (for some reason, I thought that [It doesn’t need time to rise before baking] might be a pun or misdirect clue, despite the lack of question mark on a Monday), but entered in QUEEN BED no problem. When I hopped back up to the early downs and put in SEQUIN, I thought “huh, another answer that starts with a Q. I wonder if that’s thematic!”. Figuring out the theme early helped my solve time a lot, and I might not have noticed as quickly with letters that are more common in crosswords. On a similar note, none of the Q crossings felt forced or like concessions in fill had to be made to get the rare letter in.
- Speaking of fill! I loved all the long answers in the corners/middle of the puzzle. Personal favorites were STAR TURN, HUGGABLE, and TAKES TEA. The puzzle is 76 words, but honestly felt like less when I was solving it. There were some answers that I didn’t love today – I can see ILO and LEES (as clued I had never heard of this) tripping up folks in the bottom right. Also, I would have sworn BUR was spelled with two r’s (but the internet tells me I am wrong about this, so, point puzzle), and I didn’t know OBE (me, while solving: “Is this…. Obie spelled wrong??” – It’s not, it’s the Order of the British Empire and has nothing whatsoever to do with theater). But given the high quality of fill in the rest of the puzzle, none of these crosses are too killer.
Let me know your takes in the comments! And please leave suggestions about which of the remaining teams in the playoffs a sad Seahawks fan should root for from here on out.
Barbara Lin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Business Ideas”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Familiar phrases whose final words can also be used to refer to businesses. The starting words also change meaning to wacky effect.
- 17a. [Business that sells bleachers?] STANDS FIRM.
- 28a. [Business that supplies gift shops?] PRESENT COMPANY. Hmm. Well, gift shops aren’t necessarily selling presents.
- 44a. [Business that’s contracted to fold socks?] MATCHING OUTFIT. Socks tend to be the last items folded when I’m doing laundry because they’re more tedious than the rest of the load. That’s why I could relate to this entry and why it’s my favorite of the lot.
- 57a. [Business that interprets REM sleep?] DREAM HOUSE. “House” is not as commonly used when referring to businesses, but I can think of publishing houses just offhand. Are there others?
An easy-to-grok Monday theme, and a nice smooth start to the week.
My faves in the fill are OPEN LATE, GYM SHOE, CHALLAH, and “STOP HIM!” I’m on the fence with “I CAN’T LIE” which sounds more formal than the much more common “Not gonna lie.”
Clue of note: 56a. [First name of two of the dozen men who have walked on the Moon]. ALAN. I know the name ALAN Shepard, but didn’t know ALAN Bean. Bean was the 4th man on the moon in Nov ’69 and Shepard was 5th in Feb ’71.
Jerry Edelstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I might have been converted to a revealer advocate without realizing it. I know in plenty of reviews I’ve said of some puzzle or another that I would’ve preferred another theme entry to a revealer, but now I’ve solved this puzzle and I wish there were a revealer, perhaps in place of that fourth theme entry!
What would a revealer somehow tell us, if there were one? It would say, somehow, that the words in the circled squares — one per theme entry — are all anagrams of each other. I’ve italicized the words in circles:
- 20A [Nicholas II was the last one] is TSAR OF RUSSIA.
- 24A [Hopping western rodents] is KANGAROO RATS.
- 44A [Meteor] is a SHOOTING STAR. (Fun fact: If it burns up entirely on its trip through the atmosphere, it is in fact a meteor. If it survives and lands on the ground, it’s a meteorite. Both are meteoroids.)
- 58A [Tasks in music, painting, etc.] are ARTS PROJECTS.
Apologies to the constructor, but I have a few nits to pick here. One is that ART PROJECT gets about twenty times the hits that ARTS PROJECT does, so 58A felt contrived to me. The other is that two of the theme entries have the theme word at the beginning and two at the end. Symmetrical, yes, but I think a set could have been found with consistent placement. I also wasn’t crazy about AURUM, CDRS, CEES, RUER, A TOE, ALKA — definitely a few too many “glue” words for my taste.
On a personal note, I do not count ARNO as “glue” even though I know rivers aren’t a lot of people’s thing (hi, sorry, says the gal who’s put ELBE in a puzzle here and there). That’s because my husband of going on 13 years proposed to me on the banks of the ARNO in Florence. :)
Emet Ozar’s Universal crossword, “In the Pocket” — pannonica’s write-up
I definitely needed the title in addition to the instructions in the first theme clue to understand what was going on.
- 20a. [* Artistic freedom (note the last word in each starred clue’s answer] POETIC LICENSE.
- 24a. [*Oxygen carrier] RED BLOOD CELL.
- 43a. [*They’re pressed when typing] COMPUTER KEYS.
- 52a. [*Environmentalist’s concern] CLIMATE CHANGE. This is not a niche issue; it affects everyone.
So with LICENSE, CELL, KEYS, and CHANGE alone I might not have been able to reason that all of these items can be found in one’s pocket. License in a wallet, which may in turn be in pocket. I don’t really call a phone an unadorned ‘cell’. The other two are more natural fits, to my mind.
- 1d [Is really good] SLAPS. Is this new slang? I wanted SLAYS.
- 3d [Ancient Nahuatl speaker] AZTEC, 37a [Yucatan natives] MAYAS.
- 9d [Tangy orange drink brand] SUNNY D. A case of a company caving to popular usage, as the precious name was Sunny Delight.
- 61a [Animal on Morocco’s coat of arms] LION. It looks like this:
- 45d [In __ (all together)] UNISON, 16a [Forge an alliance] UNITE. ❌
- 51d [Very small] TEENY crossing 64a [Very small] ITSY.
- 22a [Split from a country] SECEDE. More relevant lately, it certainly seems.
- 34a [Homophone and antonym of “raise”] RAZE, 40a [Word that becomes its own antonym when an “n” is added to the front] EVER.
- 48a [What might be curbed?] STREET, 56a [Avenue crossers] STS. ❌
- 56a [Look inward] SOUL SEARCH, 37d [Period to recharge alone] ME TIME.
Don Dixon “Pocket” (1985)
Editor: Erik Agard & Mollie Cowger (!!! I believe this is the first time Mollie’s name is on the editing byline? Congrats!)
Theme: The last word of each phrase is a bill denomination
- Car racing class with Grand Prix competitions: FORMULA ONE
- “Up high!”: GIVE ME FIVE (this was my favorite answer)
- Doing a tricky surfboard manouver: HANGING TEN
- Like the Kaktovik number system: BASE TWENTY (this was the weakest theme answer for me because you can say any number after the word “base”)
I am always impressed when constructors have a symmetrical grid and four theme answers in a USA Today puzzle! These are self-imposed constraints, since the USA Today doesn’t require them, and I find it very hard to build a grid around these when the publication is so strict about fill smoothness. It feels like the constructor is doing a little extra credit. Notes:
- ALAIN Locke was the first Black Rhodes Scholar and wrote dozens of publications in the 20s and 30s
- A SEED is a pomegranate morsel– usually in puzzles I see the trickier ARIL
- Danai Gurira is an actress (I know her from Marvel movies) and Robin Thede is a comedian (I know her from A Black Lady Sketch Show). Both are IOWANS.
- I always love seeing Lamar MONTERO in a grid. Take a moment and appreciate his Met Gala outfit.
- BIG DATA is a fun entry. Once my sister asked me how much data you have to have before it qualifies. I don’t know the answer! Do any of you?
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday Crossword — Matthew’s recap
I’m going to depart from my usual template a bit with today’s BEQ puzzle, which I found generally on the quick-medium side of his offerings, certainly quicker than the last few weeks.
Through about 80% of the puzzle, it felt almost like a BEQ-Tim Croce hybrid; phrasal entries like ON WITH IT, IN THE AM, and ON THE DOT, conversational things like IS IT ME and FACT IS, and letter combos I’ve never seen in a grid before but have to admit aren’t *that* green paint-y in EDM DJS and F SEVEN.
(Side note; Tim Croce’s puzzles can be found at club72.wordpress.com. Definitely give a look if you like harder themelesses and corner stacks!)
But I really want to talk about the SE corner, where I almost gave up over four words I didn’t know: HIAM, HATLO, IMPASTO, and the “death spiral” in the clue for 59a [Sport with a death spiral]. It’s a hard area, for sure, made harder by my fixation on SKI- and inability to see SKATING at 59a, but I also had a number of options for both the 4th and 6th letters in IMPASTO.
What got me through was the extra hint for HIAM at 53d [“Succession” actress ____ Abbass (or with the vowels swapped, “Women In Music Pt. III” band)], which got me off SKI- in the crossing entry (as I had the -I- and the vowels needed to be different) and set me looking for four-letter band names ending in -IM. I don’t know the album in the clue, but I’ve certainly heard of HAIM. That left the HATLO/IMPASTO crossing, which is the most dubious and probably wouldn’t fly in a newspaper puzzle (and certainly not in a tournament), but it’s not the end of the world to cycle through A/E/I. It would be nice if the correct answer were a little less up in the air — were this a tournament puzzle, I’d’ve wavered between IMPiSTO and IMPASTO and ultimate just coinflipped — but it’s not completely un-inferrable.
Lastly on this area, credit to all those entries coming from different knowledge bases: sports, television, music, art, comic strips. It’s possible that I had a tougher time than most, especially after struggling with the clue in my usual wheelhouse.
- 33a [Snowboarder Samková] EVA. A new angle for EVA, and while I didn’t know the name, the obviously Slavic surname gave a hint, and ANNIE Wilkes in the crossing is pretty well-known, as names go.
- 35a [Group of atoms, briefly] MOL. Didn’t love this, but admittedly I don’t spend a lot of time in chemistry so maybe it’s totally cool.
- 43a [Prepare carrots, say] JULIENNE. I really like this word – just fun. Not sure I’ve seen it in a puzzle before.
- 53a [“They’ll Do it Every Time” cartoonist Jimmy] HATLO. Back to HATLO briefly to say this isn’t the first or third time I’ve been tripped up in a puzzle by cartoonists – at some point I studied all the Li’l Abner characters. The strip in the clue ran for 34 years!
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
I wasn’t trying to speed through this puzzle, but found myself filling in so many Across answers in order, it felt much easier than expected for a challenging Monday New Yorker puzzle. Anyone else find it particularly unresisting?
Fave fill: STRIKE GOLD, yummy KEY LIME PIE, YARMULKE, ROLLER RINK (liked the clue, [Place that’ll rent you a set of wheels]), SNAPCHAT, JENGA, LONG JUMP, “MAYBE LATER.”
Re: ALLITERATE: On the Hulu show Letterkenny, about once each season an episode starts with several small-town farmers rotating through runs of alliteration. There’s so much fast-paced verbal play in the script—an unusual show and one I’m enjoying. (Video clip below includes the F word in the F alliteration.)
Toughest clue for me: [Spoken name of a 1971 heist film whose title is a single non-alphabetic character], DOLLARS. Don’t recall the movie, didn’t connect “heist” with $ when I had the DOLL in place.
Four stars from me. Mighty smooth puzzle.