Monday, February 21, 2022

BEQ  3:45 (Matthew) 


LAT  2:12 (Stella) 


NYT 4:42 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 4:47 (Amy) 


Universal  untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today  untimed (malaika) 


·• no WSJ today, as it’s a federal holiday •·

Natalie Murphy’s New York Times Crossword — Sophia’s recap

Theme: Three word phrases where the first letters of each word form a presidential initialism

New York Times, 02 21 2022, By Natalie Murphy

  • 17a [On a whim [#35]] – JUST FOR KICKS (John F. Kennedy)
  • 23a [Denim pants with a red tab label [#36]] – LEVI’S BLUE JEANS (Lyndon B. Johnson)
  • 38a [Where domestic meals are enjoyed [#32]] – FAMILY DINING ROOM (Franklin D. Roosevelt)
  • 48a [“On the other hand …” [#33]] – HAVING SAID THAT (Harry S. Truman)
  • 59a [In the distant past [#43]] – GOING WAY BACK (George W. Bush)

First and foremost, congratulations to Natalie on her NYT debut! When I first saw the numbers in the clues, I thought this was going to be a periodic table puzzle, but no! We see presidential initials in the puzzle all the time as fill, so it was fun to see them expanded out to full phrases. I didn’t realize so many of the presidents we call by initials are from the same era – four of the five mentioned here are between #32 and #36 (and even Eisenhower, who missed out on being in this puzzle, is sometimes called DDE). My two personal favorite answers were JUST FOR KICKS and HAVING SAID THAT. Weirdly, it took me a really long time to see the “blue” in LEVI’S BLUE JEANS.

There were a couple of pieces of fill I really liked in today’s puzzle, namely ZUMBA and ROAST HAMS, and I loved the clue of 36d [Tag line?] for COST. However, there were some pretty rough areas too. The middle section with EBAN/JONG/LIANA/MILLA/YEGG (which I have personally never heard of and was certain was going to be incorrect when I got it from crosses) is full of names or uncommon words, and the southwest corner with AKELA could also be tricky. Having five theme answers is very impressive, but I wonder if the fill could have been improved if there were only four and the grid had fewer constraints. I personally think of JFK, LBJ, FDR, and HST as the big four when it comes to crossword initialisms, so maybe GWB could have been dropped?

Other notes on the puzzle:

  • This puzzle is oversized at 15×16, so don’t worry if it took you a little longer to solve than usual!
  • I’m a fan of The Wallflowers and knew the lead singer was the son of Bob Dylan, but that didn’t help me know his first name was JAKOB. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him in puzzles before, though, since there aren’t too many well-known folks with that spelling.
  • I personally would have loved if LIANA and TRACY were clued as female names instead of [Jungle vine] and [Dick ___, comic strip detective], respectively!
  • I had “at four” instead of AT FIVE for 5d [When happy hour often begins]… clearly I’m ready for happy hour anytime :)

Happy President’s Day weekend to everyone in the US! Oh my goodness, I just now understood that this is a timely theme. Another fun layer!

Beth Rubin and Christina Iverson’s Universal crossword, “Fabulous Firsts” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 2/21/22 • Mon • Rubin, Iverson • “Fabulous Firsts” • solution • 20220221

It somehow seems fitting that this crossword should have bilateral symmetry, and that it has two authors.

  • 27dR [Jay-Z and Beyoncé, for one … or a hint to what can precede both words of each starred clue’s answer] SUPER COUPLE.
  • 25d. [*It may be free of additives] NATURAL FOOD (supernatural, superfood).
  • 20a. [*Feminist slogan coined in the ’90s] GIRL POWER (Super Girl, superpower).
  • 40a. [*Math whiz] HUMAN COMPUTER (superhuman, supercomputer).
  • 56a. [*Outfielder’s catch] FLY BALL (Super Fly, Superball).

And as a small bonus, there are a pair of centrally-located theme-adjacent entries: 6a [Common number of weeks given for notice] TWO, 61a [6-Across, in cards] DEUCE.

It’s impressive, but super is such a common combining form that it probably wasn’t too difficult to come up with enough workable entries. Heck, in the center we have 31a [“The final frontier”] SPACE, and superspace is a thing in theoretical physics. And 37a [Flavoring from the ocean] SEA SALT? Well, Panthalassa might be considered to be a supersea in some quarters, and super salt seems to be a thing—”‘Super salt’ is a mixture of 9 parts salt, to one part MSG and 0.1 parts disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate.” (Wikipedia, again). These, however, are stretches and in should in no way diminish the theme as it’s been executed.

  • 43a [Like some plant-based diets] RAW, crossing the NATURAL FOOD themer.
  • 24d [Curved landmark at Washington Square Park] ARCH. I guess it’s timely, as today is the observation President’s Day/Washington’s Birthday. The permanent marble ARCH was erected in 1892.

Haven’t got anything else to comment on. The ballast fill is businesslike and doesn’t lend itself to discussion, at least not by me and not this morning.

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

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday solution, 2/21/2022

The ten stacks in the NW and SE corners feel vintage BEQ, with something recent (Super Bowl MVP COOPER KUPP), something from pop-culture(ish) with QUESARITO, a telegraphed misdirect for ACUTE ANGLE [61a It’s not obtuse], and a “I suppose it’s a word…” in RAYLESS.

IM INTO YOU, DIVE BAR, and PADRAIG Harrington add to the BEQ-ness. Not a lot else to say in the way of highlights or lowlights, to be honest. Have a restful holiday!

Timothy Schenck’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 2/21/22 by Timothy Schenck

Los Angeles Times 2/21/22 by Timothy Schenck

Here’s a theme whose revealer elevates it even though it really isn’t necessary. What do I mean by that? For once, I won’t start with the revealer as we go through:

  • 17A [How a boat may rock] is SIDE TO SIDE.
  • 21A [How boxers square off] is TOE TO TOE.
  • 27A [How Fred and Ginger sometimes danced] is CHEEK TO CHEEK.
  • 48A [How BFFs converse] is HEART TO HEART.
  • 55A [How people may agreeably see] is EYE TO EYE.

At this point you shouldn’t need the revealer to see that all the theme entries are of the form [BODY PART] TO [BODY PART], but here it is anyway: [1984 De Palma film, and a hint to five puzzle answers] is BODY DOUBLE, a clever way of referring to the five themers with “doubled” body parts in them. Cute! It’s also a nice touch that the theme clues all begin with “How…”

The fill is mostly fine, although I absolutely could have done without the variant plural AMEBAS on any day of the week, much less Monday.

Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker themeless crossword—Amy’s write-up

New Yorker crossword solution, 2 21 22, Shechtman

I actually checked to see if the current issue of the New Yorker had a European cinema theme, because this puzzle was jammed with it. I did get WIM WENDERS off the W (though did not know his clued quote, “Before you say ‘cut,” wait five more seconds”). AUTEURS with a French film criticism clue. Contemporary French director CLAIRE DENIS. EVE clued via a Mankiewicz (American!) analogy to Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar. Really, for most solvers, I suspect a single European cinema reference would suffice. Four is just wilding out!

Fave fill: HALLOUMI cheese, which is in my favorite Nando’s order (the clue, [Grilled cheese], is impossible if you don’t know HALLOUMI, and that AMIA crossing, [“The Right to Sex” philosopher Srinavasan], is a tricky one). Also liked “ITS MAGIC,” SHAKE WEIGHT, Louise ERDRICH, COAST GUARD, MR UNIVERSE, and GARDEN SLUG.

Overall, I see 20+ proper nouns (names, places, parts of titles, brand names). That frustrates so many solvers. Something to watch out for when constructing.

Fill and clues I didn’t care for: Plural IRENES. German STADT (“city”) with the German phrase zum Beispiel in it (I sure didn’t remember that from high school German—it’s “for example”) and a cross-reference to ULM. MOTLIEST (WISEST and NICEST joined this in making -EST endings feel overused). Dies IRAE, crosswordese. TSETSE, IN E, terrible abbreviation TNS (really? is this a common abbreviation for tons?).

I do like the grid design. It’s not the prettiest, but it offers good flow and movement throughout the puzzle.

2.5 stars from me.

Brooke Husic and Rachel Fabi’s USA Today puzzle: “. . .”– malaika’s write-up

Good morning, everyone! Today’s puzzle confused me for a second because I did not register the title– I thought it was like a “see more” menu or something. But the theme was “. . .” with the three theme answers synonyms for the “.” symbol:

  • [Cycle-monitoring tools] for PERIOD TRACKERS. I wanted “period tracker apps” here but I suppose that was very Gen Z of me– there are lot’s of ways to monitor outside of apps! I use Spot On, what about y’all?
  • [Aboriginal Australian art style] for DOT PAINTING. I learned about this in one of my elementary school art classes! I really like this style.
  • [Pittsburgh landmark at the confluence of three rivers] for POINT STATE PARK. I went to college in Pittsburgh, and we visited this spot– a very beautiful landmark.

Brooke Husic and Rachel Fabi’s USA Today puzzle

A few more notes:

  • I have heard of LYE water being used in cooking before, e.g. pretzels, but jianshui zong, a type of dumpling, was new to me
  • Dalilah Muhammad is an Olympian track and field athlete
  • Aruna ROY is an activist from India
  • ART Spiegelman wrote “Maus” which has been in the news recently because it was banned at a school. I read this book in middle school and one thing I remember about it was how the Holocaust survivor himself went on to perpetuate his own prejudices, despite everything. It was complex in a way that I think lots of people think middle schoolers can’t handle– but they can handle it!
  • “homage to my hips” is an ODE by Lucille Clifton
  • LSQ is sign language that people typically use in Quebec
  • Bumble is a dating app that has women send messages first, and Fiorry is an app for trans people and allies
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20 Responses to Monday, February 21, 2022

  1. Me says:

    NYT: LIANA, YEGG, NAN Goldin, AKELA… This puzzle doesn’t seem like it should be on a Monday, even if it’s a ‘Presidents’ Day” kind of theme.

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: The puzzle needed W (a/k/a GWB) to balance all the Dems. Or sort of balance them.

    LEVI’s BLUE JEANS and FAMILY DINING ROOM bugged as not really in the language. Anyone who’s ever worn LEVI’S calls them Levi’s.

    Aside from those two theme answers, it was fine for a Monday puzzle.

    • R says:

      It must be a liberal-leaning thing to go by initials. You never hear about RMN or GRF or RWR or DJT, and only GHWB in response to his son.

      • Zulema says:

        I remember RMN quite common, but one has to be older for that, may be.

      • Gary R says:

        I don’t think the theme was relying on these initials being how the particular president was referred to. That would really only apply to FDR, JFK and LBJ. To the extent that Bush 43 was referred to by initials, it would have been just “W.” And I don’t think Harry Truman was routinely call HST.

      • Jim says:

        The use of initials to refer to presidents was largely driven by the newspapers because it used less room in headlines. JFK is much shorter than KENNEDY, FDR much shorter than ROOSEVELT. But RMN vs NIXON, GRF vs FORD, GWB vs BUSH, DJT vs TRUMP don’t make a big difference.

  3. JohnH says:

    It’s a holiday, so no WSJ.

  4. Mike H says:

    NYT – MADEA/MAJA on a Monday? Ouch!

  5. Jim says:

    NYT – seriously, has anyone ever encountered “N-test” in the wild? I can marginally go for today’s A-TEST since that had a bit of a usage peak back in the early 60’s, but even that seems contrived, and was mainly seen in headlines to conserve space. I cringe whenever I find either of those in a puzzle.

    • JohnH says:

      I’m rather used to it as crosswordese, even if no one ever says it.

      Agreed that the puzzle is hard for a Monday, and I had to work hard, too. But I’m finding TNY impossible, totally in their annoying trivia quiz mode. No ingenuity required, just their version of the facts.

  6. Mary says:

    Hello. I am a digital subscriber to the NYT year round but get the paper delivered only on weekends. Can anyone direct me to where I can get the solutions to the Saturday, Feb. 19 Wit Twister by Nancy Coughlin? I usually dove the puzzle but not Saturday’s. Thank you.

  7. Mary A says:

    Sorry I’m so dense, but I can’t find the Wit Twister answer anywhere.

  8. J says:

    NYT had a LOT of proper nouns and un-Monday like fill. Took about double my average Monday time.

    Hasp? Yegg? Maja? Liana? Eban? I mean sure some of them are crosswordese but that’s a LOT all at once.

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