John Ewbank and Jeff Chen’s New York Times Crossword — Sophia’s recap
Theme: Each theme answer contains the name of a famous singer, backwards.
- 20a [Greater responsibility, often as part of a promotion] – EXPANDED ROLE (Lorde backwards)
- 26a [Pointing out minuscule annoyances] – PICKING NITS (Sting backwards)
- 38a [Reality star sister of Kim and Kourtney] – KHLOE KARDASHIAN (Drake backwards)
- 46a [Goal of some core workouts] – CHISELED ABS (Adele backwards
- 52a [One helping in a band … or what can be found in each set of circled letters?] – BACKUP SINGER
I liked this theme a lot! It was a nice touch that each backwards singer is a single-named person, which helped the theme feel consistent. What helped this puzzle rise above other hidden word puzzles, in my opinion, was that the answers themselves, regardless of the hidden content, were interesting words that I was happy to see. CHISELED ABS and EXPANDED ROLE were standouts, in my opinion. I also kept trying to put in “nitpicking” rather than PICKING NITS. (I did notice after a quick google that a very similar theme to this one was done by BEQ in 2017. But I bet the vast majority of folks won’t remember that… and honestly, BEQ has done like 50% of all themes ever, so.) I did not love the clue on the revealer – backup singers are an important part of the band and I feel like the clue minimizes that! I thought it was going to involve, like, roadies.
Other notes on the puzzle:
- TEA GARDEN and especially INBOX ZERO are great extra answers! I’m not one to care much about rare letters, but that XZ looks very cool. At first I thought that these were going to be theme related since they were longer across answers, but given that they don’t have circles it wasn’t too hard to correct myself.
- I spent a while at the end of my solve hunting down an error, which turned out to be AMIS/URIS. I had it as “amos/uros”. Crossing two lesser-known authors at a vowel feels a little rough for a Monday.
- My other major write over: 17a [Classic Sylvester Stallone part] is RAMBO, but I had “Rocky” (I haven’t seen either).
Happy Monday y’all!
Sam Buttrey’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Walking the Beat”—Jim P’s review
We have a pleasant, musical debut this morning, so put on your walking shoes and step lively.
- 20a. [“Walking ___” (1992 Annie Lennox song)] ON BROKEN GLASS. Video here (featuring Hugh Laurie and John Malkovich).
- 28a. [“Walking ___” (1979 Police song)] ON THE MOON. Video here (filmed at Kennedy Space Center).
- 48a. [“Walking ___” (1991 Marc Cohn song)] IN MEMPHIS. Video here.
- 58a. [“Walkin’ ___” (1957 Patsy Cline song)] AFTER MIDNIGHT. Listen here.
I was going to say that most solvers will probably know at least one of these songs, but looking at the dates I see that three of them fall squarely into my demographic (’80s teens), and the other one fits my parents’ demographic. Nothing for the youngsters. Songfacts.com lists a “Walking in the Wind” by One Direction, “Walking on Air” by Katy Perry, and “Walking the Wire” by Imagine Dragons, but I don’t know how popular those became. The admittedly overplayed but still catchy ’80s hit “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves is noticeably absent. Good title for the puzzle, though.
Fill is solidly clean with Nero Wolfe creator REX STOUT and RAMPAGES in the marquee positions and very little in the way of gluey bits.
Clues of note:
- 39a. [Homes of swallows?]. THROATS. Meh. Not sold on this one. Trying a little too hard to be cute, IMO.
- 59d. [55-Across in “Born Free”]. ELSA. Ah, the old Born Free clue for ELSA. I don’t think I’ve seen it since Frozen came out.
Enjoyable puzzle if you know the music. 3.5 stars.
Janice Luttrell’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
The revealer at 61A [U.S. capital whose location is a hint to 17-, 25-, 37-, and 52-Across] is WASHINGTON. Wait, not WASHINGTON, DC? That’s because each theme entry is a two-word phrase with initials DC. Like so:
- 17A [Bull’s-eye location] is DEAD CENTER.
- 25A [Result of a weak phone signal] is a DROPPED CALL.
- 37A [Maximum a country can borrow] is DEBT CEILING, a topic frequently discussed in WASHINGTON.
- 52A [Pro team’s selection from a pool of college players, say] is DRAFT CHOICE. Not crazy about this one, since DRAFT PICK is by far the more common expression (more than ten times as many Google hits with quotation marks around either phrase), and Googling “draft choice” doesn’t get you a single sports reference on the first page of hits.
There are plenty of phrases that fit the D__ C__ pattern, so I would’ve tried harder to avoid DRAFT CHOICE (and how fun would this set have been with, say, DESTINY’S CHILD or DISNEY CHANNEL or DIGITAL CAMERAS or DOUBLE CREAM?).
I am also distinctly UNAMUSED by the inclusion of 26D, Joe PATERNO. You know why.
Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Universal crossword, “Strange Notions” — pannonica’s write-up
- 52aR [Mix of things on your mind, or this puzzle’s scrambled words?] JUMBLED THOUGHTS. The relevant squares are pre-circled in the grid.
- 20a. [Improve society] MAKE A DIFFERENCE (idea).
- 32a. [Concrete result?] VISIBLE EFFECT (belief).
- 39a. [It’s associated with clues but not a grid] DETECTIVE WORK (view). But sometimes such an approach is necessary to figure out a crossword meta!
A common theme type, done quite well. An excellent Monday offering. Was an extremely fast and smooth solve for me.
All right, I’ve gone through all the clues and am not finding anything particularly salient to discuss. But don’t take that as indictment; rather it speaks to how well-crafted this early-week puzzle is. I’m going to go ahead and call it vanilla, in the truer sense, not the one that dismisses something as blandly boring. Vanilla, as should be more widely recognized, is a marvelous flavor and is exotically derived from subtropical orchids. Merriam-Webster frames it thus: “Vanilla’s unfortunate reputation arose due to its being regarded as the ‘basic’ flavor among ice-cream selections, particularly as more complex flavors emerged on the market. (Its somewhat beigey color probably didn’t help.) From there, people began using the adjective to describe anything plain, ordinary, or conventional.”
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday Crossword — Matthew’s recap
A little over halfway through I feared BEQ had gotten me this week – enough names in constrained corners and some answers I just couldn’t see. But I managed to bring it without too much stewing, and while this puzzle wasn’t for me, I hope you had a good time.
I quite like the long down answers here in CRIMINAL CHARGES and APPROACHING ZERO. [Bad raps] is used in enough situations nowadays that it took me a minute before recognizing there wasn’t really a trick at play. I wasn’t as taken by the longer acrosses THERMAL PRINTER and FENDER JAZZ BASS, though I don’t think either are bad, just didn’t tickle me.
That lattice of long stuff results in a bunch of mid-range answers, though the parallel clues at 2D [One who works for a fashion] COUTURIER and 3D [One always making plans] ARCHITECT were an elegant touch. COUTURIER (and UCLA) also could have been clued in sports directions, but ART MONK, RUPP, and STRO had that area covered, so it’s nice to see balance there.
Lots of names I didn’t know, and I probably don’t have time for Wikipedia dives today: CLARA McGregor, SHIV, KANE Brown, SARA Sampaio, ALAN Zweibel, KLAUS Iohannis. For completeness, I did know ART MONK, JENA Malone, CURTIS Sliwa, and ANDY Beshear.
- 14a [Cold and strong wind] BORA. This is new to me. I’ve learned it’s “a strong, cold, dry northeast wind blowing in the upper Adriatic.” Not sure when I might need that again, but not too optimistic!
- 29a [French red] MALBEC. Malbecs are my go-to when I’m in the mood for wine, but increasingly associated with Argentina.
- 47a [Form’s beginning] LINE A. This is a old puzzle trick, and it totally got me today. Was just completely unable to see the word break.
- 63a [Sign-stealing player, casually] STRO. This is in reference to the Houston Astros scandal in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, one of a handful of reasons I’ve pretty much stopped caring about baseball.
Good morning everyone! Happy Debut Day to Kaitlin! (I think– correct me if I’ve missed something.)
Theme: All the theme entries have OWO (a surprised-face) inside of them, as indicated by the clue / entry for 69-across. This is the first USA Today puzzle I’ve seen with a revealer. Do you remember any others?
- HELLO WORLD— Greeting often output by a coder’s first program
- VOW OF SILENCE— A daylong one is taken in April to protest discrimination of LGBTQ+ students
- KANGAROO WORD— Honorable (which contains the letters of “noble” in order, for example)
- NOW OR NEVER— Phrase said before going all out
These theme answers were awesome, with the first being my favorite. It’s a nice touch that none of the smaller words (like OR or OF) are repeated. Also, I am always impressed when USA Today puzzles have four symmetrical theme answers, because that makes filling the grid so much harder, and it’s not a requirement.
The flip-side is that this puzzle is heavy on blocks (50) and three letter words (27). I think a typical Monday NYT puzzle would have 38, and around 18. I think these things matter in terms of solve experience, rather than stats. So, if a puzzle has a bunch of three letter words all in a row, and many of them are abbreviations, that can be kind of annoying as a solver. But this puzzle didn’t, so it didn’t impact my solve experience at all.
- Loujain al-Hathloul is a women’s rights activist from SAUDI Arabia
- My hottake is that I highly prefer stemless wineglasses to STEMMED wineglasses
- City Faces is an organization in St. Louis that aims to reduce educational disparities
- Mary Beth Tinker was central to a Supreme Court Case about wearing an armband to protest the Vietnam War. I remember learning about this in my history class.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
Fave fill: ZOOMS IN, ADRIENNE RICH, WEDLOCK (solely because a friend is getting remarried next month and I’m looking forward to the livestream), SMELL TEST, MICRODOSE, THICKET.
Did not know: TWITTERATURE.
Also DNK: I know there are dog beds, but cat beds? Not sure I was aware those were a thing.
Meh: PINER. Are you a piner? I’m a piner. The whole family’s piners. (Bonus points if you know what I’m riffing on.)
3.75 stars from me.