Li Ding’s New York Times Crossword — Sophia’s recap
Theme: FOOD FIGHT – each theme answer is a food related person/character with a militaristic name.
- 17a [Military leader who lends his name to a Chinese dish] – GENERAL TSO
- 26a/49a [With 49-Across, the face of Kentucky Fried Chicken] – COLONEL SANDERS
- 60a [Cereal mascot in a naval uniform] – CAPN CRUNCH
- 36a [Type of battle that 17-, 26-/49- and 60-Across might be engaged in?] – FOOD FIGHT
Congratulations to Li on his NYT debut! This is a pretty cute theme. It’s interesting that these three people are food-connected in different ways, General Tso being a namesake, Colonel Sanders being a founder/”face”, and Capn’ Crunch being a mascot/name of the cereal. These folks are also all incredibly well known (at least if you’ve seen the ubiquitous crossword clues for TSO), which meant they were all immediate drop-ins for me – the most difficulty I had with the theme was remembering how to spell COLONEL. I don’t *love* that CAPN CRUNCH‘s name is abbreviated like that in a thematic sense, but hey, that’s his name, it works phonetically, and the puzzle is better with him in it. I’m not mad.
The central answer of FOOD FIGHT is 9 letters, which forces the three black squares on either side of it, which in turn forces the puzzle to be broken up vertically into groups of 7 letter answers. These are hard to work with since it’s difficult to come up with exciting 7 letter answers that stack together (looking at you, ANNUITY), but this puzzle does it beautifully, especially in the bottom two corners (OBSCENE/ALADDIN/SIN CITY and SILENCE/ALPACAS/GET THIS). This design did make the grid feel a little sectioned off though, both between top and bottom generally as well as in the NW and SE corners specifically. That’s a pretty constructor-y viewpoint from me, though, and it didn’t negatively affect my experience as a solver.
- Best clue in the puzzle, IMO, was [Where Wizards play with Magic, in brief] for NBA. I love seeing fun angles for 3 letter words!
- Is J.S. BACH a normal thing to call him? Classical music is a huge blind spot for me, so I don’t know how annoyed to be about this answer.
- I’m glad this puzzle has SOFIA in its center, even if it’s spelled wrong ;)
Who are you betting on in the General vs Colonel vs Capn’ battle royale? Sound off in the comments!
Stephanie Spadaccini’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Working Clothes”—Jim P’s review
Huh. Stephanie Spadaccini is a long-time constructor, but her name doesn’t appear in the Fiend database. That’s because her last newspaper-published puzzle was a NYT grid back in 1999. She’s also a former managing editor at GAMES Magazine and has written several puzzle books under the title Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader. According to her bio on Amazon, she’s a regular constructor of the People Magazine and AARP Magazine puzzles. And here she is today making her WSJ debut.
The theme involves familiar phrases whose first words are verbs but can also be articles of clothing.
- 19a. [Is evasive, fashionably] SKIRTS AN ISSUE.
- 24a. [Adds oil and vinegar, say, fashionably] DRESSES A SALAD.
- 46a. [Gives a shiner to, fashionably] SOCKS IN THE EYE.
- 51a. [Needs to call the plumber, fashionably] CLOGS UP A DRAIN.
I have to admit I wasn’t too keen on the theme at first. The entries sounded odd in the present tense and with indefinite articles (well, for three of them). But the theme is consistent and somehow I’m getting a fun Amelia Bedelia vibe from it.
The grid is heavy on the blocks and cheater squares, but still clocks in at 74 words, lower than the generally-accepted maximum of 78 words. But it does mean there’s nothing longer than eight letters to be found outside the theme. Still, “RECKON SO” is a pretty fun entry.
Clues of note:
- 5d. [Carter or Clinton, religiously]. BAPTIST. I just have to wonder if this country will ever be okay with an atheist president. Here’s an interesting article from 2019 on the subject.
- 12d. [Mal de ___]. MER. I don’t think I know this phrase though it looks like it translates to “evil of the sea.” Ah, it means seasickness.
Mixed feelings on this one. 3.25 stars.
Lynn Lempel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
A true Queen of Monday is back this week with a theme that’s more than it seems on first glance. The revealer at 60A [Does a daily chore using the elements at the ends of the answers to the starred clues] is MAKES THE BED. That is, the last word of each theme phrase is an item that goes on your bed when you’re making it:
- 17A [Important figure in sports betting] is POINT SPREAD, and you put a SPREAD on top when you’re making the bed.
- 24A [Party pooper] is WET BLANKET. BLANKET needs no explanation.
- 37A [Record submitted to payroll] is a TIME SHEET, aka the bane of my existence in my career as an advertising professional.
- 53A [Paper for doodling] is a SCRATCH PAD. Not everyone has a mattress PAD on their bed; chacun a son gout.
Why is this more than meets the eye? Look at the order of the themers: From top to bottom, they are in the order of which these layers would actually appear if you’re making the bed, with SPREAD on top, a BLANKET over your SHEET, and a PAD on the bottom. That’s craftsmanship right there!
I thought CLOTURE at 2D was tough but fair for a Monday, and otherwise the fill is easy-breezy. I do not usually do star ratings — I hate judging other constructors in that way — but this one I can give a solid 5 to!
Prasanna Keshava’s Universal crossword, “Sing Sing, Sing” — pannannannonica’s write-up
- 54aR [Damaged vinyl, or what 19-, 27- or 46-Across suggests?] BROKEN RECORD, which tends to repeat.
- 19a. [1965 Byrds hit with the words “There is a reason”] TURN TURN TURN.
- 27a. [1999 Destiny’s Child hit with the words “You’re slowly making me pay for things”] BILLS BILLS BILLS.
- 46a. [1964 Beach Boys hit with the words “The beat’s really hot”] DANCE DANCE DANCE.
Very straightforward stuff, befitting an early week crossword experience.
I’m pretty sure that 1-across ([Very easy crossword clue] GIMME) is an Easter egg of sorts, given its prominent location. Though it wasn’t a hit (69a [Like a perfectly pitched inning] NO HIT) in the US, ABBA’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” is a fairly well-known song from a band with a penchant for such repetitive titles. It’s crossed by 3d [“Mamma __!”] MIA, an even more famous song of theirs. 9a [Easter egg event] HUNT.
- 8d [Spread out, as a flag] UNFURL, 10d [Straighten out] UNCURL.
- 20d [ __ Goldberg machine] RUBE.
- 16a [First course?] PLAN A. I confess it took me numerous beats to see that this was neither PLANA nor that my letters were in fact entered correctly.
- 29d [“Cheered” for the villain] BOOED. I’d never really thought of it that way.
Not much to highlight in the ballast fill—it’s just there and doing its job.
Brooke Husic’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
The puzzle wasn’t all that hard for a “hardest of the week” slot, but I did have a careless typo (MOSSES for MISSES, absolutely meant to enter crossing SUNI) that cost me maybe 45 seconds.
Brooke’s pinwheel grid spins fairly chunky corners around an unusual core where three 11s cross two 11s and a 3/3/3 split instead of having another 11 in place of SAP HON LAG. The reward is entries like “NEVER CHANGE,” NEO-PRONOUNS, RED CRESCENT, and “WHY, THANK YOU.” Other fave fill: WANGARI Maathai, DRAG KING, PEORIA clued as a tribe rather than the Illinois city named after the people, Ursula K. LE GUIN, and SHARPIES.
Other welcome bits are the ones that hint that this puzzle isn’t edited by an older, straight man. We’ve got a menstrual PAD and the retailer ULTA clued as a [Sephora competitor].
Three more things:
- 15a. [Centaur on staff at Camp Half-Blood, in the Percy Jackson series], CHIRON. If you don’t know your Greek mythology and don’t look at TikTok much, good luck guessing the O where this answer meets 5d. [Guy with an anime-inspired aesthetic, on TikTok], EBOY. E BOY? E-BOY? Oh. It’s a generic term, not the name of a specific TikTok account. “The terms egirls and eboys are slang terms for young women and men, respectively, who are active internet users, often stereotyped as emo-styled anime and gaming fans trying to get attention on social media.” And if you didn’t know EBOY, you may have been guessing on painter KERRY James Marshall’s name (KERRI/EBOI?). Here’s a New Yorker article about him.
- 32e. [Xe and others], NEO-PRONOUNS. The objective and possessive pronouns that xe is paired with have a variety of spellings. I’ll bet many solvers wanted to get INERT GASES (xenon) into this space.
- 16a. [Widely practiced school of karate that was developed by Gichin Funakoshi], SHOTOKAN. This was inside my memory banks as a recognizable word but I couldn’t have told you its meaning. If it’s new to you, I hope you know your crosswordese and nailed down the AGORA crosser.
Four stars from me.
Rafael Musa’s USA Today puzzle, “First Gen”– malaika’s write-up
Good morning, friends! This puzzle had three answers that begin with the letters G, E, N. I have never heard of GENDER EUPHORIA, but I had heard of “gender dysphoria” so it sounded right. GENERAL ELECTION and GENTLE REMINDER were our other two first gen answers. Onwards to the bullet points!
- I am patiently waiting for IM IN MY FLOP ERA to seed a themeless. Actually, Ada probably already did this with a subscription puzzle.
- I don’t know who Jackee HARRY is (got off the crosses) but while writing this I am listening to HARRY Styles and Shania Twain sing “Man! I Feel Like a Woman”
- This puzzle made me realize I did not know what a mollusk was! In my head I was confusing it with “mussel” although apparently a mussel is a mollusk.
- AYCE is an abbreviation I hadn’t seen before, for all you can eat
- I liked seeing REPO clued in relation to a file system, I probably use this word every day
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday Crossword — Matthew’s recap
Manageable-to-smooth solve on the top half, then very slow going in the bottom. Right to notes, because I’m late:
- 1a – [Tired travelers] CARS. Simple and effective misdirection that held me up long enough to enter an incorrect entry at 1D and second-guess what should have been a gimmer at 3D. I love it. I don’t love that my car failed inspection today – the bill to fix isn’t *terrible* but I really would like to get another 2-3 years out of this one, particularly given the market for vehicles right now.
- 5a – [Dry plaster paintings] SECCOS. I knew this word somewhere, but “frescoes” on wet plaster came to mind more quickly. I’m not familiar with any notable SECCOS, and it turns out that Wikipedia tells me they’re less durable than frescoes, since the pigment flakes off more easily.
- 25a [Some conic lines in geometry] POLARS. “Conic” in crosswords is usually a gimme for one of the conic sections, but this is … something else. After several minutes of research, I understand how to generate a POLAR with a compass and straight edge, but not much more.
- 26a [“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” director Michel] GONDRY. I recognize the film, though I have not seen it, but not the name. GONDRY won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Eternal Sunshine… also had a hand in Be Kind Rewind, which maybe I have seen. I can’t remember.
- 28a [Light-colored Kentucky tobacco] BURLEY. Today I learned. Not finding anything particularly interesting to share, but it’s certainly a friendly combination of letters.
- 31a [Demonstration of military power] A TEST. I have solved tens of thousands of crossword puzzles, and I still regularly fail to parse this entry correctly during a solve and make things more difficult for myself.
- 36a [Goes downhill fast] RUNS TO SEED. This didn’t raise my eyebrow during the solve, but has to be less common than “Goes”…, right?. Dictionaries support it, so maybe not, but I’ve generally heard “Go”
- 3d [Scotiabank Arena pro] RAPTOR. This is the NBA’s Toronto RAPTORs — Scotiabank derives its name from Nova Scotia (though it also has a significant presence in the Caribbean). I was not aware this building was no longer called the Air Canada Centre. At least the NHL’s Maple Leafs still play there, so my knowledge isn’t totally out of date.
- 5d [Highway speed] SIXTY. I was going to make a joke about how in my neck of the woods, the highway speed limit is very much 70 miles per hour, but in researching it I see that there’s in fact no state with a 60mph speed limit on urban or rural interstates – 55, 65, or 70 are most common. I’m sure there are non-interstate highways with 60 mph speed limits.
- 8d [Pop singer Jepsen] CARLY RAE. Love Carly Rae. That’s all.
- 16d [Magazine stands?] FORTS. This is a play on “magazine” as an ammunition… thing.
- 25d [Pringles can opener] PULLTAB. It’s been so long since I’ve had Pringles I’d forgotten there is more than only a plastic cover on the cans.
I’m a classical musician and “J.S.Bach” is a very common way to shorten Bach’s long first and middle names. Especially since musicians invoke him so frequently.
As a classical pianist I rarely hear his full name too. J. S. Bach is the most common way I see him being credited.
Both J.S. and P.D.Q. Bach are commonly referred to by their initials.
And W.F. and J.C.
C.P.E is my favorite. Love the Sturm und Drang stuff. And W.F. wrote some eerily jazzy stuff. I’ve played his flute duets with a friend and they’re all fun.
Weird that both WSJ and LAT chose to clue ALEC Guinness as the portrayer of Obi-Wan on the same day. P.S. excited to see the new Disney+ series this May.
NYT: I really liked this food fight. It was a fun revealer. I think Colonel Sanders would win the food fight because he has a whole menu of weapons, not just one item.
Oh, but don’t forget the Cap’n has crunch berries in his arsenal and presumably the cannons to launch them. If there’s a naval warfare component to this food fight, don’t count him out.
But I suspect you’re right. I mean, mashed potatoes and gravy FTW.
NYT: ATEAT was a new one for me.
TNY: I ended with six empty squares in the NW corner, and having now revealed the whole grid to see the answers, I don’t feel bad about not knowing any of them. I also don’t feel like I had any fun.
I’m missing only one crossing in that corner, but I have a lot to go in the center and SW and not having any fun at all. Hard to say for TNY, but it could be their record obscurities and proper nouns. I don’t think I’ve seen yet a single clue that earns its difficulty by cleverness.
TNY: I quite disagree, respectfully, with Lester and JohnH. Slightly easier than many Monday New Yorker puzzles, I enjoyed Brooke’s creation immensely. And that is in spite of not knowing many of the references: 14A, 15A, 16A, 17A, 23A, 40A, 5D, 7D, 24D, 29D, 31D. 37D, and 50D. That’s a big number of answers not to know when reading the clues. But—much like Brooke’s work for USA Today–the crosses seems so carefully chosen to allow the “unknown” to become “known.” I particularly liked the wonderful clues and answers at 21A, 24A, 9D and the literary references at 13A, 34A and 22D. More please, Brooke!
Jim–In regard to your query, “I just have to wonder if this country will ever be okay with an atheist president,” I though you might be interested in the following: Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do etc
“In Good without God, Greg Epstein is not trying to engage the debate on whether God exists, or to critique religion. His goal is to defend non-believers, etc”
I find it interesting that Epstein was elected the president of the Harvard Chapels, composed of about 40 representative of most religions.
“Morality without religion is far preferable to religion without morality.”
The later is usually rather selective. 😇
Given the polarity of American politics, it’ll be quite a while before a true atheist is at 1600.
A professed atheist, perhaps. It’s hard to know their true belief or non-belief. Some of our founding fathers were certainly flirting with the notion.
Thanks for the recommendation, and I’ll look at it. But I’m already certain there are plenty of good people who are non-religious. Just as there are plenty of bad people who claim to believe. My question is whether voters will ever realize that a candidate’s profession of faith (or lack thereof) is no indicator of whether or not they will make a good political leader.
The poll the article cites says in 2019 only 60% of respondents said they would vote for an identified atheist. That’s way lower than other historically marginalized groups (Black, women, and even LGBT candidates—96%, 94%, and 76% respectively). But it’s much higher than the 18% who answered the same way in a 1958 poll. Forty-two percentage points in 61 years is something, I guess.
Makes perfect sense, as such an individual is probably the most nonpartisan arbiter available.