Monday, March 7, 2022

BEQ untimed (Matthew) 


LAT 1:45 (Stella) 


NYT 3:41 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 5:06 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Sam Acker’s New York Times Crossword — Sophia’s recap

Theme: The puzzle contains four dishes that are served cold, with REVENGE IS A DISH BEST SERVED COLD spanning the grid.

New York Times, 03 07 2022, By Sam Acker

  • 20a [*Dessert for which “I scream”] – ICE CREAM
  • 30a [*Traditional English pub order of fish in a set stock] – JELLIED EEL
  • 43a [*Picnic bowlful] – PASTA SALAD
  • 54a [*Tomato-based summer soup] – GAZPACHO
  • 3d/11d [With 11-Down, proverb about delayed retribution, with a hint to the answers to this puzzle’s starred clues] – REVENGE IS A DISH BEST SERVED COLD

Congrats to Sam on his NYT debut! This puzzle is an impressive construction, with 6 theme related answers, two of which are grid spanning and cross two other theme answers each. That constraint limits the number of possibilities for each cold dish, since they have to:

  1. Fit the theme (i.e. be a legit cold dish)
  2. Form two symmetric pairs with each other – here, ICE CREAM and GAZPACHO are both 8 letters long, and JELLIED EEL and PASTA SALAD are both 10
  3. Each pair must not only intersect the REVENGE quote, but intersect at symmetric letters – here, at the third and the third from the end.

That’s a tall order! As a constructor, I was impressed with how well Sam did at finding a grid layout and theme answers that worked with the central conceit. Sure, we can play “one of these things is not like the others” when it comes to JELLIED EEL, but that’s a minor knock in my opinion.

As in any puzzle with this much constrained theme material, there are good and bad parts to the fill. I liked the open areas in the top and bottom middle of the puzzle, particularly WALRUS and UPFAKE. Both of those areas took me a long time to get, however, given that I didn’t know SKOPJE and I had “log out” rather than LOG OFF. The ILIA/INST area of the puzzle felt like there must be some better fill possibilities in that corner. Also, tell me a 3 letter [Group of whales] and I’m going to say “pod” every time, no question. Having that answer be GAM, stacked on top of the first half of JELLIED EEL, felt rough to me. I ended up with an average Monday time, despite that the grid was undersized. Overall, this was a puzzle that I enjoyed, especially looking at it from a constructor’s point of view, but there were some tricky crosses that I wish were a little smoother to improve the overall solving experience.

Happy Monday all!

Tori Grant’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Watch Your Tone!”—Jim P’s review

This looks to be a debut, and it’s a nice one.

The revealer is BODY PAINT (60a, [Some festival wear, and a hint to 17-, 30-, 37- and 43-Across]). The other theme answers are familiar phrases featuring a color and a body part.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Watch Your Tone!” · Tori Grant · Mon., 3.7.22

  • 17a. [Many speakers connect via it] BLUETOOTH. Who came up with this term anyway?
  • 30a. [Villain who launches a raid on Fort Knox] GOLDFINGER.
  • 37a. [Coward] YELLOW BELLY.
  • 43a. [Gardener’s gift] GREEN THUMB.

Very nice. I tried to think of other examples, but couldn’t get past “black eye” which, while not quite literal, is almost literal. Same with “redhead.” Can you come up with any others?

The fill is solid, though not especially sparkly. I do like BLOWS UP with its modern clue [Goes viral, say]. “WHAT A GUY!” feels a bit old fashioned, but still fun. Also fun: “HOO BOY!”

There’s a fair amount of crosswordese (MT IDA, ONO, ELAN, IDED), but with Monday-easy clues, they’re quickly gotten past. That ST BEDE / MT IDA crossing at the D might have snared some solvers this early in the week, though.

Clue of note: 49d. [Contacted by phone, in a way]. TEXTED. Because, why call when you can text?

An enjoyable theme making for a pleasant debut. 3.5 stars.

Barbara Lin’s Universal crossword, “But Is It Music?” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 3/7/22 • Mon • Lin • “But Is It Music?” • solution • 20220307

Elements of musical notation—or just of music, I suppose—as parts of phrases, in unrelated senses.

  • 16a. [Set of lines on the sheet music for “Hail to the Chief”?] WHITE HOUSE STAFF.
  • 25a. [Warmup for singing in the shower?] BATHROOM SCALE.
  • 43a. [Parts of a song of gratitude?] THANK YOU NOTES.
  • 55a. [Segment of a tune played when the alarm system is armed?] SECURITY MEASURE.

Solid. Was it music to your ears?

  • 4d [Triples, say … but doesn’t quadruple] GETS A HIT. Hey, let’s call home runs quadruples, or quads.
  • 27d [Sources of folded street food] TACO TRUCKS. Still nowhere close to one on every corner. This is a failure of society.
  • 24d [TV channel for film buffs] TCM (Turner Classic Movies); 49d [Movie lead, often] STAR; 24a [Movie cliché] TROPE.
  • 48d [Locale for three straight Olympics, starting in 2018] ASIA. Pyeongchang, Tokyo, Beijing.
  • 15a [Pop, for some] SODA. 59a [Pop, for some] PAPA.

Haven’t got much else to say this morning.

Janice Luttrell’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Can’t say I was familiar with the constructor of today’s LAT, but now I want to be: This puzzle was light and breezy and everything a Monday should be.

Los Angeles Times 3/7/2022 by Janice Luttrell

Los Angeles Times 3/7/2022 by Janice Luttrell

Let’s start with the revealer at 53A [Kit Kat bar slogan … and hint to the starts of answers to starred clues], which is GIMME A BREAK. Each of the three themers, which are spread around the grid pinwheel-fashion, starts with a synonym for BREAK:

  • 20A [*”Come to your senses!”] is SNAP OUT OF IT. I’ve been looking around for a GIF of when someone on RuPaul’s Drag Race (Chad Michaels, probably?) parodied Cher saying it in Moonstruck, but I keep striking out. Oh well.
  • 11D [*Do some stand-up] is CRACK A JOKE.
  • 28D [*Debate tiny details] is SPLIT HAIRS.

Really, what’s to say except “nice”? Take a look at how short those theme clues are — that’s an indicator of how in-the-language the theme phrases themselves are, that one doesn’t need to do backflips to clue them. Super-smooth grid that got me done in well under 2 minutes, with very few proper nouns to trip a Monday solver up.

Also, I recognize that I am being baited here. MALT clued with reference to whisky, STELLA at 30A (though I will admit I dislike the beer because it means I hear my name at bars a lot), and the partial A CAT clued with reference to Robert Heinlein. (I read William Patterson’s two-volume biography of Heinlein last year and therefore got to know quite a bit about Heinlein’s love for cats.) One hiccup: I wish RHEA had been clued either as the bird, or with a little more information so that those of us who don’t know the actress can walk away from the puzzle having learned something. [“Better Call Saul” star Seehorn] would’ve been enough.

Heartily enjoyed this puzzle!

Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 3 7 22, Gorski

Quick take:

Easier than I expected for a Monday. Could just keep entering answers without slowing, for the most part.

Interesting grid, with six 13s framing it up.

Fave fill: TREE SQUIRRELS, ICE CREAM CAKES and CHEDDAR CHEESE, OLIVE BRANCHES, WORD LIST (very “in the language” to crossword constructors).

Unfave fill: ROES OCS ARA MCCI.

21a. [Dance pro Chmerkovskiy of “Dancing with the Stars”], VAL. Val and his brother Maksim were born in Odesa, Ukraine, during the Soviet “Odessa, USSR” years. You may have seen them recently on lists of celebrities with Ukraine ties.

Hoping not to see complaints about the 2Pac EYEZ/BLITZING crossing. You know BLITSING isn’t a thing, and you ought to recognize 2Pac/Tupac Shakur’s name and remember that playing with spelling is a common thing in hip-hop.

3.75 stars from me. Ended up liking it more than I thought I would after the early ROES OCS COQ lineup felt clunky and heightened my Spidey sense for iffy short fill.

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

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 3/7/2022

I enjoyed the heck out of 98.9% of this puzzle (I did the math) — it’s chewy in both clues and entries, some of the requisite BEQ cluing angles didn’t make me roll my eyes too much, and I just plain enjoyed my journey around the grid – NW to SW, jump back to the NE, then work down. But two crossings are just brutal, leading to a DNF, and I am generally pretty reasonable with difficult crossings.

Let’s get into it:

  • 15a [Portuguese house founded by Afonso I] BRAGANZA // 15d [Furniture designer Marcel] BREUER. Crossing at the B, I had nothing, though annoyingly my first guess of F- is so, so close phonetically.
  • 42a [Actress Kazan] LAINIE // 33d [Dutch Golden Age painting technique that depicts an exaggerated facial expression] TRONIE. Crossing at the N.

If you’ll indulge me, I’m struggling to nail down why I find these more objectionable than difficult crossings I’ve found in the past. I *certainly* don’t mind learning about these — and will go to a Wikipedia dive once I post this — but they don’t ring the same “oh, that’s really a weak area for me” or “oh, I rarely see something from that area in crosswords” bell that happens with opera, fashion, reality television, etc. But rather than opera or fashion or reality tv, we’ve got European history and European art (x2), and we’ve got them crossing.

Digging a bit into those Wikipedia pages, BREUER was a Bauhaus artist; LAINIE Kazan was in My Big Fat Greek Wedding (I’ll concede this is weakest of my objections); St. Elsewhere; BRAGANZA is cognate to Bragança on modern maps; and TRONIE is exemplified in some famous paintings I have definitely seen. So I’m glad to learn about them and fit them into what I already know — if they weren’t crossing I’d probably treat all four as “hey, cool stuff I learned today,” but those are some tough crossings. (Side note [that maybe isn’t that -side]: Bauhaus and St. Elsewhere show up *all* the time in trivia and trivia-adjacent stuff I do. It’s really noticeable.)

Notes, which may or may not be brief. We’ll see:

  • 6a [It’s used to making (sic) curving cuts] FRETSAW. First google: ‘hey, this looks like what I know as a ‘coping saw.” Second google: turns out a fret saw is more useful for small, precise work due to a smaller size and differences in how the blade is mounted.
  • 17a [Beltway:US :: ___:UK] RINGROAD. I really liked this – I haven’t heard the term, but totally inferrable.
  • 25a [Smallest nation to host the World Cup] QATAR. Qatar is hosting the men’s World Cup later this year despite, you know, rampant bribery, slave labor, and needing to upend the entire global soccer calendar to play in habitable temperatures. I am working up the self-control to boycott.
  • 35a [They serve butterflies] PASTA BARS. Tough crossings aside, this was one of the last to fall for me. Love the play on “butterflies” in the clue, especially because I call farfalle “bow ties”
  • 1d [Rubbish] BOSH. In a puzzle with less sports than usual from BEQ, I’m a little surprised this wasn’t clued to the 11-time NBA All Star. I like this use of the word plenty.
  • 3d [Country with a map of itself on the flag] CYPRUS. I love this – I first pictured the flag, then had to zoom in to the shape of the island to remember which country it was for. I suppose it’s easier to be confident in the lasting power of your flag design if you’re an island country.
  • 19d [House Martell head in “Game of Thrones”] DORAN. Here’s a good example of an entry I’ve got nothing on, that wasn’t an issue because the crossings were accessible to  me. (I don’t have a lot of patience for Game of Thrones, and I’m glad it’s over for now)
  • 36d [Sign of bad driving] SLICE. This is a golf thing, if you were wondering.

Zaneb Akbar’s USA Today puzzle, “Para Troupe”– malaika’s write-up

Zaneb Akbar’s USA Today puzzle

Looks like this is a debut! Congrats Zaneb, I loved this puzzle. (And please correct me if I’m wrong!)

Theme: The first word of each puzzle can have the prefix “para.” I’m not sure what the title refers to… It may be a band (I got a few music results). Any ideas, commenters?

  • NORMAL PEOPLE— Sally Rooney novel-turned-series about a complex relationship. I watched this whole series on one gloomy Sunday and absolutely wept through the whole thing. Then composed a five paragraph email to one of my ex boyfriends. Then showed immense restraint and did not send it. [Please clap.]
  • SOCIAL BUTTERFLY— One who “flits” in well with everyone. Lovely entry, and a spanner to boot!
  • SITE SPECIFIC— Like Maya Lin’s earthwork, “The Wave Field”

This puzzle was super fun. Love the lighting bolts in the middle, the center entry was so good, and the two longer down answers, TRUFFLES and DRUMROLL were delightful, which is my ideal puzzle adjective. Let’s go through some of the clues:

  • A cradleboard is a BABY carrier used by Native Americans. I learned about this from the Little House on the Prairie books, although re-reading these as an adult, I am aware of the author’s racism.
  • I love DATA, I love any puzzle that has DATA as an entry
  • I love a “floor is lava” reference, I love any puzzle that has a “floor is lava reference”
  • Churi is a dessert made of roti mixed with ghee and sugar. The roti is made from ATTA and water. I’ve had churi, but I’m not crazy about the texture. I much prefer a paratha cooked with sugar inside– the sugar gets all molten and syrupy when you cook it, and it’s all crispy and drippy.
  • Even though the clue is just [Take a LEAP of faith] with no other indications, I will always associate this with the theme of Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
  • AAVE stands for African-American vernacular English. Linguistics in general is fascinating to me, so this is a Wikipedia page I have spent a decent amount of time on. From a section on the habitual be– “For example, to be singing means to sing habitually, not to presently be singing. In one experiment, children were shown drawings of Elmo eating cookies while Cookie Monster looked on. Both Black and white subjects agreed that Elmo is eating cookies, but the black children said that Cookie Monster be eating cookies.”
  • Mocha beans are a specific type of coffee beans from YEMEN. I am trying to remember if this detail was present in the Chocolatier computer game that I played obsessively as a child and, uh, as an adult.
  • Love a reference to The Princess Diaries with TIARA
  • EOS is a brand of lip balm. I think it’s so funny when crosswords use a different cluing angle (a goddess, I think?) because the lip balm is so, so commonplace for me. Like Burt’s Bees or whatever. Everyone in high school had one of these and it would make a bulky shape in the pocket of your skinny jeans.
  • Apia is the capital of SAMOA
  • I liked the clue [Version of someone else’s song] for COVER because I spent roughly two hours last night listening to Broadway stars covering songs. Please let me know your favorite COVER in the comments! Here is the love of my life, Eva Noblezada:

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14 Responses to Monday, March 7, 2022

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I felt that Sophia’s review was spot on. I love the theme, but the rough spots took away some of the enjoyment. I would say that SKOPJE on a Monday is a dealbreaker. Either that neighborhood needed to be reworked, or this puzzle could have run on a Tuesday with slightly tougher cluing.
    Overall, very creative!

  2. Billy Boy says:

    IMHO, a grossly inconsistent puzzle, apropos the calling out of low numbers yesterday, but again though not terrible enough to earn a one *.

    A loose set of foods one eats some degree cooled that no one would ever eat together … Yum! Jellied Eel, macaroni salad (aka salmonella City) and iced cream. Gazpacho?

    All at the cost of three letter gunk and abbr. out the wazoo.

    The best puzzles aren’t feats of construction that scream look at the obscure words I can get in a puzzle with a two part vertical “sort of ” revealer at such compromise. I love a good Monday, one to give someone to foster a new interest in keeping up on puzzling rather than abandoning the pastime altogether.

    RHYTHM of solve. CONSISTENCY of vocabulary, words not needing nearly every cross (Skopje???) that you might actually want to remember (such as ATACAMA) yesterday.

    Maybe the construction is impressive, but there’s zero BALANCE, a lack of ELEGANCE.

    This is a face palm.

  3. Gary R says:

    NYT: I liked the theme, and thought the food entries were all fine – I’ve never had the pleasure(?) of eating JELLIED EEL, but I’ve heard of it, and all the rest are very familiar.

    As Sophia mentioned, SKOPJE seemed like a stretch on a Monday. I also didn’t care much for UPFAKE – I’m a basketball fan, and I think I’ve heard the term before (can’t remember when), but in common parlance, it’s just a “shot fake.”

    I guess this is, at least in part, a function of constraints imposed by the theme, but it seemed like a ton of three-letter entries – never a plus in my book.

    Overall, a decent Monday.

  4. Mark says:

    BEQ was a fun workout. I did guess at the two crossings you reference above, and I might have liked this less if I didn’t happen to guess correctly so that’s a fair critique.

    I give it 4.314159 stars (I didn’t see a way to rate this above – let me know if additional significant digits are needed).

    • David L says:

      I happened to know BRAGANZA and BREUER, but the other one was a guess. N seemed reasonable for the woman’s name, although TRONIE seemed highly unlikely for a Dutch painting term. But it was right, so hooray for me.

  5. Philip says:

    Re the NYT, I am always fascinated by what people do and do not know. Pachinko was totally beyond me yesterday, but Skopje was a gimme. (I understand it’s still a tough one for a Monday.)

  6. Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

    New Yorker: I really liked the symmetrical placement of TRIUMPHAL ARCH and OLIVE BRANCHES.

  7. Art Shapiro says:

    WSJ: Jim asks if we can come up with other thematic examples. How ’bout BROWN NOSE?!

  8. Brenda Rose says:

    “Why phone when you text?” Because my friend in S.C. & I discuss current politics, because my brother in law in L.A. just moved to a new place after my sister passed & wanted to tell me all about it, because Don is in a retirement home 50 miles away & loves it when I call, because Norma Jean is in Marin & underwent surgery & needed a hug, because…well some people just like to talk to someone for a bit. And as a widow it brings me joy to give & get a convo.

  9. R Cook says:

    BEQ: I’m surprised no one noted KOALA BEAR is inaccurate and should have required a hint in the clue. Koalas aren’t bears in any sense.

    • pannonica says:

      Yep, we opine about that plenty. Perhaps it was fatigue.

    • Martin says:

      “Koala bear” is inaccurate, but in the language. It should not be signaled in a crossword any more than starfish or jellyfish should. A bio teacher can rail that it’s merely “koala,” or sea star or whatever we’re supposed to call jellyfish now. She’d be wasting her time most likely but it’s worth a shot. However, a crossword just uses the language we’ve got.

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