Rachel Simon’s New York Times Crossword — Sophia’s recap
Theme: The second word in each theme answer can be preceded by “pick up” to form a new phrase.
- 20a [Earthquakes occur around them] – FAULT LINES (pick up lines)
- 36a [Fortnite and The Legend of Zelda, for two] – VIDEO GAMES (pick up games)
- 42a [Construction site vehicles] – DUMP TRUCKS (pick up trucks)
- 59a [Eating utensils that might come wrapped in red paper] – CHOPSTICKS (pick up sticks)
- 66a [Learn, as a new skill … or what can precede the ends of 20-, 36-, 42- and 59-Across] – PICK UP
First and foremost, congratulations to Rachel on her New York Times debut! This is a classic theme type, but I feel like we haven’t seen it around in a while? I had no idea while I was solving the puzzle what tied all the theme answers together, so it was exciting to finally reach the revealer and realize what the common thread was. That being said, I found the revealer itself a little underwhelming – it would have been cool if it was a more exciting, full phrase rather than just PICK UP. It left me with a tiny bit of an “oh, that’s all?” sense on an otherwise good puzzle.
- There’s a pretty high amount of thematic content in the puzzle, but you wouldn’t guess that from how strong the rest of the fill is. TIMEPIECE, BLOSSOMED, COLOGNE, KEEP OUT, and DIMITRI (as a 90’s kid I appreciated the Anastasia reference) are all lovely bonuses.
- I nearly put in “eddied” (is that a word?) instead of ROILED for [Made turbulent, as water], so it was funny when EDDY ended up crossing it!
- I personally struggled a little bit all over the puzzle rather than a lot in any particular area. On the right, I wanted “I see it” and “uh, no” rather than OH I SEE and UHUH. I don’t speak French, so ANNEE was all due to crosses for me. OAST and maybe F-STOP might be tricky for newer solvers. But aside from that, it’s a remarkably clean puzzle.
Hope everyone had a lovely weekend!
David W. Tuffs’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Use Your Eyes!”—Jim P’s review
This is Mr. Tuffs’s WSJ debut. You may have seen his NYT Sunday puzzle just yesterday with the anagrammed second words in familiar phrases. I was quite impressed with that one. Let’s see what he has for us today.
Um, well. I’m not so keen on the revealer of “HEY, GOOD LOOKIN‘” with its male-gazey, cat-calling connotations. But I certainly do know the song in the clue [1951 Hank Williams hit, and a compliment for 17-, 23-, 45- and 56-Across]. Sure, it was before my time, but my parents had music of that era playing in the house while I was growing up. The other theme answers are hobbyists—for lack of a better word—using their eyes.
- 17a. [Tourist in a city] SIGHTSEER.
- 23a. [Observer on a boat] WHALE WATCHER.
- 45a. [Hobbyist by a track] TRAINSPOTTER.
- 56a. [Enthusiast with a telescope] STARGAZER.
Though this is just a list of activities, I’m quite impressed with how common they are and yet how each one uses a different word as a synonym for “viewer.” It’s a really nice collection.
In the fill there are some definite highlights like “WHAT TO DO,” FRIGHT WIGS, FLEA MARKET, and GOAL POSTS. I’m not so sure about GET NASTY, and I’m even less sure about STRAW BALE; I’ve only ever heard “hay bale.”
Clues of note:
- 9a. [The missus, informally]. WIFEY. Again, like the revealer, I’m not keen on this entry, but the clue gives it an old-timey feel, like it came straight out of “Li’l Abner”.
- 22a. [Comedian Notaro]. TIG. Props for including this very funny comedian. Here’s an older piece about her, at about the time when she was coming onto the scene after dealing with her personal struggles.
I like the theme set, but wouldn’t have minded if a different revealer could’ve been found. 3.5 stars.
Edited to add: Don’t think cat-calling is insulting and objectifying? Have a look at this woman’s silent walk through Manhattan.
Kathy Lowden’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Apologies, not much time to blog this week. This puzzle’s theme is so simple it doesn’t require much explaining. There is a revealer at 71A [Second addendum to a letter … and a hint to 18-, 34-, 44-, and 62-Across], which is PPS, indicating that all the theme answers are two-word phrases whose initials are PP.
- 18A [Petite Mattel doll with her own Netflix series] is POLLY POCKET. These have been around long enough that I wanted to play with them when I was a kid (my mom always told me they were a waste of money).
- 34A [Guy featured in “Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation”] is PETER PIPER. Never heard of this book, but sure, makes sense.
- 44A [Porky’s girlfriend] is PETUNIA PIG.
- 62A [Animated feline in Inspector Clouseau films] is the PINK PANTHER.
Interesting that all the theme entries are fictional characters. The fill was fine although I didn’t love that you start out with the abbreviation ATT in that 1A slot.
Will Pfadenhauer’s Universal crossword, “Location, Location, Location” — pannonica’s write-up
A theme I’m certain I’ve seen before, but not recently. Each of the featured phrases ends in a common street name designation. An added gimmick is that the fill-in-the-blank style clues provide a punny, Tomswiftian layer.
- 17a. [“Meeting with the gold medalists on ___?”] FIRST PLACE.
- 23a. [“Heading to the fundraiser on ___?”] CHARITY DRIVE.
- 38a. [“Looking for the pickup game on ___?”] BASKETBALL COURT.
- 47a. [“Trying to find the northern Alaskan hotel on ___?”] ARCTIC CIRCLE.
- 58a. [“Going to the reunion on ___?”] MEMORY LANE.
It works, it’s Monday. I’m satisfied.
- 2d [Friend, in France] AMIE. 34d [Building next to a she shed] HOUSE.
- 54d [34-Down, in Seville] CASA. 5d [Resonates strongly] HITS HOME.
- 4d [Texting format: Abbr.] SMS, which stands for Short Message Service.
- 13d [“One of __ days …”] THESE.
- 49d [Ride a bike] CYCLE. One of only two minor missteps for me—here I first filled in PEDAL. The other was 30a [Filled with activity] ASTIR, where I wrote ABUZZ.
- 16a [“Life Elevated” state] UTAH. New-to-me slogan.
- 22a [They might be “held down”] FORTS. 47d [San Antonio landmark] ALAMO, 56d [“Don’t __ with Texas”] MESS.
The rest of the fill is to me nondescript but solid.
Theme: Each of the two-word entries has a word that ends and starts with a P.
- Number-one thing to do– TOP PRIORITY
- Vertical labret, for example– LIP PIERCING
- Party game that involves disrobing– STRIP POKER
- Public opinion survey since 1935– GALLUP POLL
Good morning, CUTIEs! I love the shape that wraps NAPS / GRETA / SWIG in the center– the F pentomino. I so rarely see it in puzzles. Not a lot of comments from me today but I do want you to know that I put in “pot” for [Bud] before PAL. I had not heard of EUGENIE Clark or ANNE Moody, but I have now.
Not a ton of exciting bonus answers (although I like MASCARA) but I’ll always take that trade off if it means no difficult fill. Have a good Monday, everyone!
Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
What a delight to have a thorough ass-kicking from a themeless puzzle, without the wildly oblique cluing that sometimes irks me in a Newsday “Saturday Stumper.” I do love a good challenge, and this crossword turned out to be eminently fair, with everything coming together eventually in this visually pleasing grid (love those criss-crossed stair-stepped 11s in the middle).
My biggest misstep was PODIATRISTS instead of PEDICURISTS for [Sole caretakers?]. Most of the letters worked with the crossings. Having the wrong letter crossing HERO COMPLEX‘s space hurt me, as the [Need to save?] clue was also a tricky one, and I was thinking of saving money. Another misdirect: For [Lavender or periwinkle, e.g.], I tried SHADE long before I was able to plant that SHRUB.
Fave fill: HAITIAN Revolution, HERO COMPLEX, JAZZ FUNERAL, BEHOOVES (unrelated etymologically to hoof, and both words have been in the English language for 900 years or so), SOMALIA, MASONS (I come from a long line of masons), GORGON, JOE SCHMO, HALL MONITOR (tricky clue: [One making cutting observations?], as in seeing which students are cutting class), SPLASHY, and BAD-ASS.
Three more things:
- 21a. [Little bit of everything?], ATOM. I came to this one with ATO- in place, and debated between A TO B and A TO Z before grasping the clue better.
- 27a. [“Paris, Texas” director Wenders], WIM. Anyone else find that the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul theme music evokes Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Paris, Texas?
- 33d. [Practically beg to get tuned out], DRONE ON. Yes, this seems like a good place to stop my review!
4.5 stars from me. Happy to really have to chew on this puzzle for a while.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday Crossword — Matthew’s recap
This is the fastest BEQ Monday solve I have on record, so naturally it’s a great puzzle, what else is there to say? ;)
Slowing down a bit, this is a plenty smooth grid with in-the-language long stuff in the corners, and even sparklier long stuff bridging into the middle. I mean:
- 26a [Mistakes will be made] I’M ONLY HUMAN
- 44a [Star strictly for being a star] CELEBUTANTE
- 7d [Bring sophistication to a place where it’s not expected] CLASS UP THE JOINT
These are pure delight for me, particularly CLASS UP THE JOINT. I don’t have the resources handy to know if it’s been used before, but I don’t remember it, and I adore it today.
There are a couple spots I could see being difficult: RAYS at [8d Team with a diamond in their logo] — it’s a baseball diamond; [25d Fixed FedEx shipping plan] ONE RATE — plausible once I got it, but a bit of help from the clue and crossings there, and [48a Green mineral from Burma] JADEITE, which I’ve seen before I suppose, but possibly only in puzzles, and I certainly got to JADE– and wasn’t sure what to do with the remaining three spaces. I’m also not a big fan of (either spelling of) UEY [39d Turnaround], but it and any other iffy short stuff is well worth the longer entries in today’s grid for me — AFTER YOU, LAY EYES ON are more lovely bits of themeless fill that I haven’t even gotten around to noting yet.
- 32a [Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner nicknamed “Little Al”] UNSER. Could I tell you anything about any UNSER other than that he’s a driver with different letters than RAHAL? Nope, but they come up in grids plenty, and I haven’t needed to know more yet.
- 23d [Garbage music?] ALT ROCK. Similarly, what I know of Garbage is “a band BEQ puts in grids.” Hasn’t failed me yet.