Monday, February 28, 2022

BEQ 5:14 (Matthew) 


LAT 2:03 (Stella) 


NYT 3:36 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 4:42 (Amy) 


Universal tk (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


WSJ 4:10 (Jim P) 


Zach Sherwin and Andrea Carla Michaels’s New York Times Crossword — Sophia’s recap

Theme: The first three letters of each theme answer are repeated later in the word

New York Times, 02 28 2022, By Zach Sherwin and Andrea Carla Michaels

  • 18a [Swamp in “Pogo”] – OKEFENOKEE
  • 24a [1990s cartoon series featuring Yakko, Wakko and Dot] – ANIMANIACS
  • 39a [Baby-boomer series that starred Ken Olin] – THIRTYSOMETHING
  • 55a [Poet William who wrote “The Prelude”] – WORDSWORTH
  • 63a [South American rodent with soft, dense fur] – CHINCHILLA

First and foremost, congratulations to Zach on his New York Times debut! I’ve been a fan of his ever since I learned he co-wrote a few songs for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, so I was hyped to see his work today, especially paired with the incomparable Andrea Carla Michaels.

The theme isn’t too groundbreaking, but I enjoyed that the first trigrams were constrained to the beginning of the words (the HEADS, if you will). The repeated trigram will also help new solvers get extra letters in each theme answer, which makes it a perfect fit for a Monday theme. The theme answers are uniformally excellent. I really liked how varied the pop culture references are in this puzzle; there’s a little something for everyone. (Not sure that we needed the level of specificity in “baby boomer” or “1990’s” in the clue though). CHINCHILLA is a fun word, but I took a while to think of it since I forgot that chinchillas are from South America – I guess I just think of them as pets?? I also had no idea how the middle of OKEFENOKEE was spelled and had to get it from crosses. Outside of the theme answers, I thought that the two long downs were great – WIKIPEDIA is an interesting entry, and SITUATION, while an average word, had a great clue in [Word before room or comedy].

Other notes:

  • This is a neat grid design in that there aren’t any areas that feel full of three letter answers. Because the shorter answers are so spread out from each other, the whole puzzle feels more open, even though there aren’t many ways into each section.
  • The fill is suuuper clean everywhere except for 36d [“Hometown proud” supermarket] IGA, which honestly could have been any three letters to me and I wouldn’t have known any better. NEA is a little suspect too, but that’s it.
  • Lots of women in today’s puzzle! ELENA Kagan, Margaret MEAD, ARLENE Francis, Joan DIDION (RIP). I didn’t know Jeannette RANKIN  – she was from Montana and was elected to congress in 1916, four years before women were guaranteed the right to vote! Pretty amazing.

Rebecca Goldstein’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Good for What Ails Ya”—Jim P’s review

Theme: CAUGHT A BUG (63a, [Came down with something, and what each theme answer has done]). Now that we are maybe, possibly, hopefully starting to see the light at the end of this tunnel, it’s okay to have a crossword theme about “coming down with something.” (But we’re not out of the woods yet, and don’t forget there are still many people in at-risk categories who need us all to stay vigilant.)

The theme answers are all familiar phrases with an insect (or an arachnid in one case) hidden within. I’m interpreting the revealer to mean that by circling the buggy letters, we’ve “caught” them.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Good for What Ails Ya” · Rebecca Goldstein · Mon., 2.28.22

  • 17a. [Symbol of eternity] CELTIC KNOT.
  • 24a. [Free-range animal area] OFFLEASH PARK. How apt.
  • 38a. [Low-tech communication method] TIN CAN TELEPHONE.
  • 52a. [Visual phenomenon at some raves] STROBE EFFECT.

Works for me. I like the slight twist on this standard theme whereby we’ve captured the bugs by enclosing them with circles.

Check out those two stacks of 10s in the corners: STAY AT HOME and POKER HANDS in the NE and ONION TARTS and CENSOR BARS in the SW. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that last phrase, but it was inferable. However, it sounds like it should be clued [Hangouts for FCC employees?].

Clues of note:

  • 11d. [Flushes, e.g.]. POKER HANDS. I had to do some toilet repair this weekend, but thankfully it didn’t ruin me for getting this answer pretty quickly.
  • 60d. [Numbers on a board game box]. AGES. I like the angle of this clue. But is there ever more than one number listed? Usually they’ll say “12 and up”, e.g.

A fine puzzle and a good start to the week. 3.5 stars.

John Michael Currie’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 2/28/22 by John Michael Currie

Los Angeles Times 2/28/22 by John Michael Currie

Wonder whether this constructor came up with the theme because his last name is a homophone for a word that could have been a component of this theme.

Lots of circled squares here, and the revealer at 55A [Subtle element in a success story … and what’s revealed by each set of circles] is a SECRET SAUCE. Meaning: the circled letters in each theme entry spell out a type of sauce.

  • 20A [Like civilizations that antedate written records] is PREHISTORIC, with the circled letters spelling PESTO, a sauce that’s ridiculously easy to make if you have a food processor.
  • 30A [Pop singer’s list of recordings, e.g.] is a DISCOGRAPHY, with the circled letters spelling SOY.
  • 46A [Sourced locally, as a menu] is FARM TO TABLE, with the circled letters spelling MOLE, a delicious sauce that is NOT ridiculously easy to make, and which I therefore mostly leave to the experts.
  • 11D [Official inspection spot] is CHECKPOINT, with the circled letters spelling HOT.
  • 29D [Diver’s rotation] is a SOMERSAULT, with the circled letters spelling MEAT.

I do have a couple of quibbles with thematic execution here: first, that I think this kind of circled-letter theme works a lot better with Across entries than Down ones, or at least that mixing both could be confusing to Monday solvers. Second, three of the theme words are sauce descriptors, not the sauces themselves: When you say MOLE or PESTO, that means a sauce. But you have to say SOY SAUCE, MEAT SAUCE, or HOT SAUCE if you mean the sauce, not SOY or MEAT or HOT. I guess because there’s more than one example of each it’s not taboo, but I think fewer theme entries that are all sauces and not descriptors for the word SAUCE would have been a better execution.

That being said, the sauces themselves are fun and evocative, and there’s plenty of other yummy food words in the grid between BOBA, OLIVE, KOBE, CHEX, LATKES, and CHAI. The way to my puzzle heart is sometimes through my stomach! Also got a smile out of BOOP at 1D, and thank you to the editor and constructor for not cluing LET IT GO with reference to Frozen.

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

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 2/28/2022

Tough beginning to end from BEQ today. I initially made progress down the left side but quickly started jumping around and never smoothly traveled through the grid. That’s not a bad thing in my eyes – more an indication that the difficulty level was even throughout.

*Five* grid spanners: HAMBURGER BUTTON, DEGENERATE STATE, AMERICAN SPARROW, MARIE ANTOINETTE, DONT START IN ON ME. The first is by far my favorite, even before the hard-but-spot-on clue [3d Menu provider]. Edit: Scroll to the comments to learn more about DEGENERATE STATE. 

As other long entries go, I particularly liked ART SCHOOL and FLOPHOUSE stacked in the SW corner, and NIETZSCHE (at some point I learned how to spell it right on the first try, apparently) and DANIEL-SAN [10d “The Karate Kid” kid, to Mr. Miyagi] in the middle columns.

I learned a good bit from this puzzle: KILTIE loafers [21a], the cosmetics company Origins in the clue for ESTEE [62a], the words “herdwicks” (in the clue for 37d EWES) and EPIGON [35d Poor imitator]. LET [30a Touching stroke?] is a play on the tennis term.

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up

New Yorker crossword solution, 2 28 22, Natan Last

I’m always happy to see Natan’s byline on a New Yorker puzzle, especially when I get to blog it. I can count on being rewarded for knowing a good range of pop culture and culture in general, and on learning something new.

I knew the title of the Gwendolyn Brooks poem WE REAL COOL thanks to Francis Heaney’s book, Holy Tango of Literature, in which Francis anagrams poets’ and playwrights’ names to create the title of a parodic riff on the poem. GWENDOLYN BROOKS anagrams to WE LONG BONY DORKS, and Francis’s poem adhered to Brooks’s meter/structure, but was about Mathletes (about whom there have been written, I suspect, very few odes).

I learned that SEVEN DWARFS were in a play decades before the Disney movie came around; [Group whose members were named Blick, Flick, Glick, Snick, Plick, Whick, and Quee in a 1912 play]. Also did not know of MY LIFE, [Lyn Hejinian’s poetic autobiography whose most recent version, updated when the author was forty-five, consists of forty-five sections with forty-five sentences each].

Workable (for me) pop culture includes VESPA, POKEMON, CHARO, LAVERNE COX, GERI Halliwell, RADIOLAB, FRANZEN (though not that book title), LEROY, current slang SNEAKERHEAD (what a great clue! [Someone who might spend a lot just for kicks], where kicks = sneakers), FABIAN, and DAN Levy. Note that Natan’s references range from the 1950s to present, with TV, film, literature, and music—something for everyone. Inevitably people who don’t know pop culture from the past 30 years will complain that Natan leans too heavily on it.

Other fill I liked: CUTIE-PIE, BUENOS DIAS, PUDDLE, GYOZA, SHAMPOO with a Hindi etymology clue ([Word derived from the Hindi for “to massage”]).

Know your anatomy: The thumb is called the POLLEX in Latinate anatomy terminology. The big toe is the hallux. I don’t know the names of the smaller digits. One, two, three, and four?

4.5 stars from me, because I enjoyed the puzzle and flowed through it without getting stumped on anything.

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today puzzle: “Middle Man”– malaika’s write-up

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today puzzle

Apologies for the late / short write-up, it’s been One Of Those Mondays.

  • Love that MAN lies directly central in each theme answer, it works beautifully with the mirror symmetry
  • Thank you for reminding me that “AMOR prohibido” exists, it’s been a while since my last listen. By sheer coincidence I was listening to “Secret Love Song” while solving.
  • My favorite of the longer bonus answers was TRIFECTA
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13 Responses to Monday, February 28, 2022

  1. Boston Bob says:

    TNY: 45 across, LOL

    • JohnH says:

      Somehow I’m missing the joke. Not that I’ve heard of the writer or the book. Not in fact that I’ve heard of much else in the puzzle either. When I saw it would be a Natan Last Monday, I felt the dread coming on, knowing it would all be knowledge I needn’t be expected to have. And sure enough he outdid himself, and I circled 26 clues as things new to me.

      I did know FRANZEN’s book since it’s on my list of last year’s books I want to read (preferably when a copy becomes available at the local library), although it took me embarrassingly long to remember. (My fault.) And maybe I should have known the Gwendolyn Brooks poem, as there’s a small show of her work up right now at the Morgan Library. But otherwise, forget it. My DNF was Spanish crossing a technical term in anatomy. He can sure range far and wide in search of obscurity!

        • David L says:

          Everyone seems to say you are a great guy, Erik, but your occasional comments here indicate quite the opposite.

          As it happens, I knew the anatomical term and the Spanish word seemed plausible, so I got over that particular obstacle. But I don’t think it’s a good cross.

  2. Doc Daneeka says:

    So the NYT is running themeless Mondays now?

  3. marciem says:

    NYT: I thought 54d was a secret mini-revealer with Echos :) .

    Fun Monday puzzle!

  4. David L says:

    BEQ: DNF because I didn’t know KILTIE, DANIELSAN, and had PET for LET. First two seem pretty obscure to me, but that’s what I expect from BEQ.

    More important, the clue for DEGENERATESTATE is flat-out wrong. I don’t know what’s intended by ‘condition tending toward deterioration’ in the clue, but degenerate states in quantum mechanics are simply multiple states that have different quantum numbers but the same energy.* They can be perfectly stable.

    *Simple example: electron states in an atom can accommodate two possible spin orientations. In the absence of a magnetic field, those states have the same energy, and are therefore degenerate. When a magnetic field is applied, one spin orientations aligns with the field and the other opposite to it. That causes the states to have different energy and thus breaks the degeneracy. This is the Zeeman effect. Here endeth the lesson.

  5. DJ says:

    NYT – really not sure I get the point at all of this puzzle, and if you really want to alienate solvers under the age of 50, use “Arlene Francis” in your crossword

    • Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

      How about Garfield’s girlfriend?
      Or scrap Arlene entirely: TEED UP +THO/EEK/PAN = HELENA.

  6. Zulema says:

    Just one observation about the Spanish phrase in the NYer, BUENOS DIAS, as an “alternative” to “CIAO.” The meaning is clear, The problem is that “CIAO” is not used in Spanish in that Italian version, ever! In Spanish it is always spelled CHAU, just as it is pronounced. I can’t vouch for all other countries, but that is true for Argentina, Uruguay, etc.. That’s why it took me a while to get the answer in the puzzle. I wasn’t finding an Italian equivalent to fit.

  7. Zulema says:

    Now, I had no trouble with Arlene Francis, but of course I am a “little” older than 50.

  8. Derek says:

    Trivia: Stanley Newman not only creates crosswords, but as a puzzle solver, he holds the world’s record, set in 1996 under Guinness Book conditions, for the fastest completion of a New York Times crossword at 2 minutes, 14 seconds.

    (I guess this was before puzzles could be played on PCs, and everything had to be handwritten.)

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