Monday, January 31, 2022

BEQ  8:16 (Matthew) 


LAT  2:01 (Stella) 


NYT 3:13 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 6:45 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


WSJ 4:24 (Jim P) 


Eric Bornstein’s New York Times Crossword — Sophia’s recap

Theme: PARTING WORDS – Each theme phrase is a two words, split across two answers. When combined, the end of the first word and the beginning of the second word form a word that means “goodbye” – so the parting words are literally “parted” by a black square, get it?

New York Times, 01 31 2022, By Eric Bornstein

  • 20a/21a [With 21-Across, broadcast unit that may operate with 50,000 watts] – RADIO/STATION
  • 27a/30a [With 30-Across, numbers displayed in rows and columns] – DATA/TABLE
  • 49a/51a [With 51-Across, long-lasting cover for a house] – SLATE/ROOF
  • 56a/58a [With 58-Across, what this puzzle’s circled letters are … or what they’re doing] – PARTING/WORDS

Coming up with this theme set must have been tricky for two reasons: First, the phrases must contain a word that means “goodbye” that spans both words. But then, for symmetry’s sake, the answers must not only be the same length in total, but have corresponding word lengths (like how DATA TABLE is a 4 letter word followed by a 5 letter word, and SLATE ROOF is a 5 followed by a 4). For that reason, it’s understandable that there are only three theme phrases, and that they are solid but not incredibly sparkly. My favorite answer was RADIO STATION, because it breaks up “adios” in an interesting way. SLATE ROOF was my least favorite, because that first word could have been anything to me – luckily the circled theme answers act almost as a second clue.

I’m not sure about the wording on the revealer clue. The circled letters are certainly parting words, but isn’t the black square between them what’s doing the parting? In general I think the double pun works, but there may have been a better way to explain it.

Other thoughts:

  • Since all the theme answers are by definition two words, I’m glad Eric worked in some extra long fill throughout the puzzle to keep it from feeling choppy. PASSED OUT, TRIPLE PLAY, and LOLLIPOP were standouts.
  • Hope you know your Republican women down there in the southwest corner! PALIN/ERNST could hypothetically be a tricky cross, just because the two people referenced come from the same world of politics so if a person doesn’t know one, they might also not know the other.
  • My favorite wordplay clue: 42d [Checkout lines?] for BARCODES. My favorite non-wordplay clue: 10d [Fake name given by Odysseus to the Cyclops] for NOBODY.

Back to the NFL playoffs for me! Happy Monday all.

Freddie Cheng’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Express Yourself”—Jim P’s review

Theme: FACE FORWARD (59a, [Look directly ahead, and a clue to the starts of 17-, 24-, 36- and 49-Across]). The other theme answers start with words that can precede “face”.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Express Yourself” · Freddie Cheng · Mon., 1.31.22

  • 17a. [Adjective in a battery ad] LONG-LASTING. Long face.
  • 24a. [Play date for grown-ups] GAME NIGHT. Game face.
  • 36a. [Ram in football] STRAIGHT-ARM. Straight face. Pretty tricky clue for a Monday. And if you don’t watch football, this might be perplexing. A STRAIGHT-ARM is when the runner holding the ball jams his hand into the face of the would-be tackler.
  • 49a. [Trips, for example] POKER HAND. Poker face. “Trips” meaning “three of a kind”.

Pretty standard word-following-another-word type theme. It works well enough, and the entries are fun and evocative.

Fill is clean if not especially exciting. I liked FINESSES, MINI MALL, LIE LOW, and “HOLD ON!” Didn’t know the 1993 rap song DRE DAY, and I had to stare down that crossing with 57d [Laddie] before the Y fell into place in BOYO. Other than that, a smooth solve all around.

Clues of note:

  • 61a. [Spot for a yacht]. SEA. I get that the clue is going for the rhyme, but the SEA is hardly a “spot”.
  • 50d. [Greedy cache]. HOARD. What am I missing from this clue? It seems to be saying the cache is greedy. How about [Greedily cache] or [Cache of the greedy] or [Cache greedily]?

Solid but standard Monday grid. 3.25 stars.

Will Tobias’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 1/31/22 by Will Tobias

Los Angeles Times 1/31/22 by Will Tobias

This is a rather uncomplicated theme that I’m nonetheless glad has a revealer, because I spent a little bit after I solved the puzzle trying to figure out what these things had in common before I figured that there must be a revealer, found it at 70A, and then went, “oh, duh.” 70A [USO show audience … and a hint to the answers to starred clues] is GIS, or more clearly, GIs, which on its surface refers to soldiers but in the puzzle points us to the fact that each theme entry is a two-word phrase whose initials are G.I. Like so:

  • 20A [The Bible’s golden calf, e.g.] is a GRAVEN IMAGE.
  • 26A [Giving a higher mark than students deserve] is GRADE INFLATION.
  • 48A [It’s not always the same as one’s assigned sex at birth] is GENDER IDENTITY.
  • 56A [Intuition, often] is GUT INSTINCT.

I like the theme entries; there’s a good amount of thematic material and they’re all phrases that are totally legit yet that I don’t feel like I’ve seen in puzzles before.

But, this puzzle got me thinking about a nuance I hadn’t really paid attention to until fairly recently, when I started to get this comment from editors as a constructor myself: matching the difficulty of the fill to the complexity of the theme. “Phrases that have the same initials” is a pretty straightforward theme device, and it makes perfect sense that a theme like that would run on a Monday. But this puzzle has quite a few entries that IMO would be fine later in the week but not so much on Monday: LIVIA, Anthony van DYCK, ILIA, LIRA (as clued, although I think it could be clued a bit easier), ARGUS, CALI, IRINA Shayk. RONAN Farrow and KNESSET might also fall into this group.

So I think there’s a mismatch between the theme and the fill and I’m curious how this affected other more casual solvers, especially since some of the harder answers are in my wheelhouse (supermodels! ancient Rome! Greek mythology!) and therefore didn’t slow me down.

Winston Emmons’ Universal crossword, “Front-End Alignment” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 1/31/22 • Mon • Emmons • “Front-End Alignment” • solution • 20220131

Wasn’t quite sure what the theme was as I was solving, but the final theme entry has a helpful indicator tacked on. So let’s do them in reverse order. (54d [Backward: Prefix] RETRO-)

  • 57aR [*Retail consultant (Theme hint: Note six letters that bookend each starred clue’s answer] PERSONAL SHOPPER. That is to say, the same trigram appears at both the front and the end of these long across entries. PER-PER
  • 50a. [*2019 NBA champion] TORONTO RAPTOR.
  • 26a. [*Victor Hugo classic with the character Jean Valjean] LES MISÉRABLES. Bonus echolalia in the character’s name.
  • 20a. [*1954 Marlon Brando film set at Hoboken’s shore] ON THE WATERFRONT. Clue is pitched super-easy.

Half the time these trigrams sound the same, the other half they don’t. Works for me!

  • 2d [Isfahan’s country] IRAN. I believe I’ve shared this one before, but it’s such a pretty tune. Can you blame me for doing it again? 10d [Persian poet Khayyam] OMAR.
  • 8d [Bravolebrity Giudice] TERESA. That’s quite an agglomeration of letters in the clue.
  • 9d [Domestic cattle/bison hybrid] BEEFALO. What a thoroughly depressing and saddening name.
  • Quite the trio all together on the left flank: 26d [Frankenstein’s workplace] LAB, 27d [Self-importance] EGO, 28d [Put in stitches] SEW. Tells the story, eh?
  • 47d [Eurydice’s lover] ORPHEUS.

After perusing the acrosses and not really finding any individual clues to highlight, I’m struck my the overall smoothness of the fill and the gentleness of the clues. A very good introductory crossword.

Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up

New Yorker crossword solution, 1 31 22, Kameron Austin Collins

When you see Kameron’s byline on a Monday New Yorker, you know you’re in for a challenge. Not a Saturday Stumper level challenge, though—just a Saturday NYT level.

Fave fill: EGALITARIAN, TICKLE FIGHT, ICE PLANET (this part of Earth feels like one!), ISABELLE Adjani, Scrabbly AZERBAIJANI, TINDER DATES (the clue, [Meetups between right-for-each-other people?], alludes to the “swipe right” yes on Tinder, and not right-wing politics; the question mark had me wondering if I needed a right-wing dating site in the mix), KICKBALL, HIGH BEAM, and TIJUANA.

Questionable fill: ON A VISIT feels contrived to me, not idiomatic, and I’m not entirely convinced that “NOT A SOUND!” works without additional words (“not a sound out of you,” “I don’t want to hear a sound”).

Three more things:

  • 45d. [Magical ___ (Allende or García-Márquez, e.g.)], REALIST. If you’ve enjoyed their writing, or that of other authors in the magical realism sphere, check out the animated movie Encanto. Songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, two of which have become hits. Gorgeous animation. Bring Kleenex for the ending if you’re emotional!
  • 20a. [Word with heat or cheat], DEATH. I know about cheating death (I’ve been doing it this whole pandemic!), but what’s up with the other one? Is this about heat deaths, such as those that wallop unfortunate souls during extreme heat waves? Because that’s awfully grim for the puzzle page.
  • 10d. [What so-called singing caterpillars attract with their song], ANTS. I’d never heard of this and it’s wild! If this is new knowledge for you, too, check out the Wiki for a brief explanation.

Four stars from me.

erik agard’s USA Today Puzzle: Narrative Structure– malaika’s write-up

I love when the byline says “puzzle by erik, edited by erik,” it reminds me of that image where a dog is holding its own leash and walking itself. Look at this asymmetric grid!! You’ve heard of Utah Blocks, now get ready for whatever that monstrosity is in the lower right corner. This puzzle has three of my favorite shapes though, The Humble T, The Flying Dove, and The Hinge (although I won’t lie, I prefer a symmetric hinge).

Anyway, onwards: the theme of this puzzle is that there are vertical answers that are topped with double letters. This ties in with the “revealer” of TWO STORIES HIGH, and the “stories” aspect of that ties into the title, “Narrative Structure.”

  • TTEOKGUK is a rice cake soup eaten to celebrate the New Year
  • AALIYAH is the Princess of R&B
  • Crias are baby llamas, hence they would be raised on a LLAMA FARM
  • Deja vu is an EERIE FEELING

This was a hard one for me (about six minutes, vs my usual four minutes), lots of vocabulary in the clues that I was unfamiliar with. I logged onto Fiend expecting to see a 1-star rating (What I like to call a “This Puzzle Had References To Other Cultures Rating”) but it was actually slightly higher. (And now, higher still– any time a puzzle has a low rating, I try to boost it with a five star rating, since it’s such an inherently meaningless scoring system.) (One day I’ll go rogue and delete ratings from all the posts, but until then, I’ll merely loudly complain about them :D)

erik agard’s USA Today puzzle– Narrative Structure


  • Angela Peralta was a soprano known as The Mexican Nightingale. Is there a “cool women from Mexico with bird nicknames” crossword theme that can include Sor Juana?? Ross, DM me.
  • Char kway teow is a Malaysian noodle dish cooked in a WOK
  • Lake TAHOE is also known as by the Washoe people. I also got results for da’aw and da’wa, which could be typos or could just be the chaos that comes with expressing non-English languages using our English alphabet.
  • Several People ARE Typing is written entirely in Slack messages and looks extremely good. ttyl squad rise up. Just placed it on hold.
  • The clue for LEI was pluralized ([Necklaces sent by Abraham Akaka to Selma marchers in 1965]) because in the Hawaiian language, there is no distinction between singular and plural. The word “lei” has now sort of crossed over to English, where it can be pluralized as “leis.” Sort of like how we say panini and paninis here, when in Italian, the singular is panino and the plural is panini.
  • Halmoni means grandmother in Korean, hence, RELATIVE
  • [Name that’s hidden in this clue’s penultimate word] struck me as a very erik-esque clue for TIM. Raise your hand if The Series of Unfortunate Events is responsible for teaching you the word “penultimate.”
  • Also, look how nice it is that the clue didn’t say “Man’s name,” it just said “name.” Good.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday Crossword — Matthew’s recap

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 1/31/2022

It’s been a long while since a BEQ puzzle has taken me this long, and I’m not certain it’s much more difficult than his usual – I just seemed to consistently gloss over the one or two more accessible (to me) entries in a given area, only for it to suddenly make sense. That happened four times.

Highlights: HALFLINGS, EL CAJON, EITHER WAY as a conversational entry [33d – “I’m flexible], the marquee spanner TWO TOPPING PIZZA [34a Classic pie order] which absolutely *stymied* me (“a two-topping pecan is NOT a real pie, come on BEQ”), and especially, especially THEY WHAT [34d “The kids did that?”], which is just a joy.

I have a quibble with [A low one can cool off bats] for 42a ERA. Feels like that’s out of order a bit; a low ERA isn’t the thing cooling off the bats of hitters, rather it’s a reflection that a pitcher has done it in the past. Some of my slowdown was a reluctance to enter ERA there, for sure. The AMO/EZER/IAN GOMEZ area was another notable slow area, though sussing out ACID JAZZ and actually committing to RCA helped enough to clear out that area.

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21 Responses to Monday, January 31, 2022

  1. Ethan says:

    NYT: I wonder if LID could have been replaced by CIA. Looks feasible (easy for me to say!). That would have been a fourth themer.

    • Eric H says:

      I suspect not. Changing one word in a grid often has a cascading effect, and any other word makes the grid fall apart.

      • Ethan says:

        Well, lol, yeah, obviously you’d have to rewrite most of the grid, I just wondered if the constructor considered putting that there. It seems like there are options for the long downs at 8D and 40D if Eric decided to go that route.

  2. Crotchety Doug says:

    TNY – This one was a delight. Felt very stumperish, yet didn’t have to resort to google at all. 4.5 stars

    • Zulema says:

      I come to this very late (two days), but did no one notice the clue for SALIVATE, 34 A
      “Drivel with hunger”? In my language it would be “Dribble” rather than “Drivel,” especially for the answer SALIVATE.

  3. LaurieAnnaT says:

    I thoroughly enjoy doing the USA Today crossword puzzles. I often need all the crosses in order to solve a clue because the clue is outside my Upper Midwest background, but that’s entirely fair in a crossword puzzle. Today’s puzzle included “tteokguk” and “Aaliyah.” I had to look both words up after I completed the puzzle, and realized that Aaliyah is actually a person I remember reading about (she died in 2001). But now I’m more likely to remember her name.

    By the way, the first puzzle I do each morning (Sun-Thur) is the 10 x 10 puzzle on The Daily Beast’s website, created by Matt Gaffney. I highly recommend it. It oftentimes references events which have happened in the past couple of days.

  4. pannonica says:

    USA: I see that the doubled letters spell TALE.

  5. dhj says:

    USAT: According to the reviewer, the go-to explanation for a 1-star rating is “This Puzzle Had References To Other Cultures Rating”. FFS, race is not the only explanation for everything in the world. You know who thinks that? Racists. Stop acting like one.

    This was a terrible puzzle for no racialized reason whatsoever. This was a terrible puzzle for basic competency reasons, and a completely botched theme. Both EERIE FEELING and TWO STORIES HIGH are not in-the-language phrases. EERIE FEELING is an adjective-noun phrase that can be swapped out with other synonyms to equal the same thing, and it’s not a standalone phrase. TWO STORIES HIGH opens the door for [Any number] STORIES HIGH to be acceptable as well. “Two Stories High” works as the title of the puzzle, but get it out of the grid as it’s not a standalone phrase.

    Then the asymmetry, which is completely unneeded and the result is a horribly unsightly grid. A 10-block chunk in the bottom right of the grid? My goodness. You just didn’t try hard enough (possibly because he himself as the editor enables this crap). Have a real 8-letter word for the EE phrase (EERINESS, e.g.) to balance out TTEOKGUK, and there are several symmetrical options for the AA and LL entries (spending 15 seconds of thought, there’s AARONPAUL to balance out LLAMAFARM).

    The TT/AA/LL/EE thing is a kernel of a decent idea. But the execution was a trainwreck. This is the kind of thing a good editor would help with, but…well, you know. One star.

    • malaika says:

      I did not say anything about race, I only mentioned culture :)

    • David Steere says:

      USAT: Just as in my comments yesterday about the USA Today puzzles, I disagree. I enjoyed this puzzle quite a bit and thought the puzzle title was clever…much better than just “decent.” Sally in her blog describes the good things in this puzzle much better than I can. As to malaika’s comments about deleting ratings, GO FOR IT ! ;-) Inspired by Evan’s thoughts a few weeks ago, I stopped rating puzzles and it feels nice not to have to assign numbers to creative work.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni: This was a piece o’ cake to solve and very smooth, but a BOWL {35A: Trendy form for food} is “trendy”? Huh? That sure seems like a bizarre clue. I’m pretty sure they’ve found BOWLs in the ruins of the earliest human civilizations, right?

  7. TNY: I think the “heat” part of the DEATH clue was pointing towards the idea of the heat death of the universe, rather than individuals dying of heatstroke.

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ: I watch an almost embarrassing amount of American football, but I think I’ve only very, very rarely heard a “stiff ARM” referred to as a STRAIGHT ARM {36A: Ram in football}. At least I assume that’s what this clue is referring to. It’s not some kind of soccer term, is it (I doubt it)? In any case, that seems like a pretty poorly worded clue to me.

  9. Philip says:

    I made tteokguk for the first time a few weeks ago, and it was easy and delicious. Highly recommend Maangchi’s recipes for Korean dishes.

  10. Brenda Rose says:

    So glad many people have joined the conversation of a *grading system* of crosswords. Like art work by great & not so great artists, constructing a xword grid is an art & should be seen as such. You may disagree on tone (a greedy cache is just that: something that is hoarded for one’s own lust.) You may find content that does not pass your personal breakfast test or worse, a simple 3 letter word may step on your toes about a sensitive issue to which no one else can relate. It’s ludicrous to grade any art work if it’s solely based on personal taste. For me, I embrace all people out there providing me with entertainment regardless if it is words, paintings, poems etal. Grading systems belong in academia to reward those who strive for excellence in fields that hopefully will enhance humankind.

  11. Natalie T says:

    I’m a fairly casual solver and had a rough time with the LAT puzzle. Thank you Stella for pointing out the mismatch between theme and fill. I was confused why I was struggling on a Monday puzzle.

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