Matthew Stock and Chandi Deitmer’s New York Times crossword, “Two-by-Two”—Nate’s write-up
Happy weekend, all! I hope you’re doing well. If the news from SCOTUS this week is hitting you particularly hard, I hope you’re finding ways to cope, connect with others, and tend to yourself.
One way I’m doing all three is by tackling today’s lovely Sunday NYT, a double-up from two star constructors. Let’s see how much they double down on their theme:
– 19A: SISTER SISTER [1990s sitcoms starring Tia and Tamera Mowry]
– 24A: MONACO MONACO [Grand Prix city]
– 41A: LOUIE LOUIE [1963 hit for the Kingsmen]
– 49A: EXTRA EXTRA [Call from an old-time paperboy]
– 70A: ET CETERA ET CETERA [“… you get the point”]
– 74A: SURPRISE SURPRISE [“Well, lookie here!”]
– 97A: NAMES NAMES [Sings, in a way]
– 104A: KNOCK KNOCK [Classic joke start]
– 121A: PEOPLE PEOPLE [Extroverts]
– 129A: DOUBLE DOUBLE [Basketball feat suggested by this puzzle’s pairs of theme answers, informally]
Wow! Each theme entry is a very common, in-the-language phrase consisting of a doubled word AND the theme pairs are doubled up. That’s quite impressive, especially since stacking each pair of themers certainly made for a tougher job building this grid, but I didn’t notice the theme impact the fill much as I solved. Bravo to the constructors – it’s fun, elegant, simple but effective themes like this that make me want to try my hand at making a 21x one day. And I’ll assume their original revealer clue referenced the In-N-Out Burger classic, if only because I’m a Californian at heart.
Other random thoughts:
– 36A: KUDO [Singular praise] – Wait a minute, KUDO again?? Is the NYT trolling us?
– 61A: BONA [___ gratia (in all kindness: Lat.)] – This entry in this puzzle made me smile, since Matthew Stock is easily one of the kindest people in crossworld!
– 20D: ECON [Subject of interest, in brief] – This was cute.
That’s all from me for now. Be well and be kind (especially in the comments section).
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Themeless 19″— Jim Q’s write-up
No theme on this Mother’s Day! Plenty of fun stuff to uncover though, with some great clues along the way.
- [They may spend hours looking at the Sun] NEWSPAPER EDITORS. Nope. Has nothing to do with former presidents. The Sun, in this case, referring to that gossipy newspaper available on a checkout line near you (unless there’s a classier Sun that I’m unaware of?)
- [Crustaceans that sound like they could be a relative of rock lobsters] STONE CRABS. Never heard of them, but thanks for getting Peter Griffin stuck in my head, Evan.
- [“Credit where due…”] I’VE GOTTA HAND IT TO YOU… Took me forever to get this one. Though I would argue that if you’re gonna say GOTTA, then you’re unlikely to say I’VE. I hear it as either I GOTTA HAND IT TO YOU, or I’VE GOT TO HAND IT TO YOU. This one is a marriage of the two.
- [Screenwriting?] INSTANT MESSAGING. Great clue.
- [Restaurant boosters, at times?] YELP REVIEWS. Another winning clue. I swear I wanted PHONE BOOKS or something… like a stand in for a booster seat. Showing my age there…
OTHER FUN CLUES:
- [Folds closed at night] EYELIDS. Nice misdirection. It’s a noun phrase, not a verb phrase.
- [Website whose writers resigned en masse after refusing an order from management to “stick to sports”] DEADSPIN. I know nothing of this. Looks like it’s part of The Onion now. You can read about it here.
- [Home of the only rainforest in the U.S. national forest system] PUERTO RICO. Fun fact!
- [Maid Marian’s portrayer in “Robin Hood” (1991)] UMA THURMAN. You mean the one with Kevin Costner and that Bryan Adams earworm of a song? I had no clue! Update: it’s not.
- [Series of different moods] DRAMEDY. Another nice clue. I wasn’t thinking TV series at all.
A little throwbacky at times with ELYSE from Family Ties listening to BOOKS ON TAPE on her WALKMAN before she knew she could simply burn them ON CD.
And one section that was irksome for me was name heavy. I mean, I sussed it out just fine, but I didn’t find it as enjoyable as the rest of the puzzle. It’s over in the west with TRINI LOPEZ, OCTAVIO PAZ, MARY ASTOR, ELI Roth (okay, that one was a gimme), and GAIL Devers about to share breakfast after using an OMELET PAN. That last entry was clued vaguely [Diner cookware item], so it didn’t offer much help to me over there.
I enjoyed this one overall. I think it’s a difficult task to make a 21x themeless that’s challenging, accessible, and entertaining throughout. Evan pulled off his 19th one just fine.
And just so it’s stuck in your head too:
Tracy Gray and Tom Pepper’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Unreal!”—Jim P’s review
Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms and mother figures out there! I hope part of your day involves putting your feet up with a crossword in one hand and a mimosa in the other.
Our theme today involves reality shows whose final words get anagrammed into something else. The result is an “unreality” show, I guess.
I’ll tell you up front that I’m not much of a reality show watcher, and I’ve never even heard of some of the shows referenced below. But I like the premise here of taking actual names and anagramming them into “unreal” shows.
- 23a. [Reality show “remake” about aspiring actors who won’t settle for bit parts?] THE BIGGEST ROLES. Loser.
- 35a. [… about a single guy whose dates aren’t private?] BACHELOR PDA. Pad. I’ve heard of The Bachelor, so I guess Bachelor Pad is some kind of spin off?
- 41a. [… about contestants navigating a gigantic corn maze?] THE AMAZING ACRE. Race.
- 70a. [… about choreographic pairs dressed like Romanov rulers?] DANCING WITH THE TSARS. Stars. This one got a chuckle out of me.
- 94a. [… about people investigating an Area 51 conspiracy theory?] THE SURREAL FILE. Life. Never heard of The Surreal Life. I hope it’s about Dalí, Magritte, Kahlo, and Picasso sharing a house.
- 103a. [… about meetups at a Hoboken sub shop?] JERSEY HEROS. Shore. Wouldn’t “horse” be the more natural anagram?
- 117a. [… about a superhero’s crusade to teach ASL?] THE MASKED SIGNER. Singer. Well, Superman doesn’t wear a mask, but amazingly, I found the video below.
So the theme wasn’t really up my alley, but I certainly enjoyed the fill like “WHERE AM I?,” “KEEP GOING,” EGO TRIP, CHOKE UP, EARMARKS, PIANO BARS, GAS PEDAL, BALL HOGS, SNOOPY, festive STREAMERS, “THAT SO?,” SCORPIO, both BERT and ERNIE, and RICOTTA.
And that reminds me that we made RICOTTA fritters the other night—not with this recipe, but close enough—and served them with a simple arugula salad. It was yum.
Clues were quite straightforward; I didn’t spot a single question mark outside of the theme clues. I guess that helps make for a non-sloggy solve, but I like at least a little bit of trickery in the cluing. Anyway, summing up, the theme wasn’t for me, but the fill was quite sparkly. 3.5 stars.
Brooke Husic’s Universal Crossword, “Themeless Sunday 2”— Jim Q’s write-up
I guess “Themeless Sunday” is a fixture now? I’m cool with that! It doesn’t seem like it was given the same pomp as “Themeless Saturday” as far as an announcement goes. Also, I’m not sure why it gets a different title. On Saturdays it’s Universal Freestyle.
- ASMR-TISTS. I’ve never heard the term, but it’s pretty good. I first heard about ASMR on a This American Life episode. It wasn’t all that popular then. Now, I hear people talking about it all the time (high school students in particular).
- POUR ONE OUT. I used this as a seed entry for a themeless I constructed once. Love this phrase.
- SUGAR SKULLS. New term for me. Glad to learn it.
- Our current astrological time period AGE OF PISCES. Fun fact!
- And [Story in which Watson and Holmes might be an item] is a fun clue for FAN FICTION.
I admit, I usually brace myself for stumbling over some spots when I see this constructor’s name in the byline. OKINA was rough for me, especially because I read the crossing “dessert” clue as “desert” and didn’t stop to wonder why a quinceanera would take place in such an arid land. So that K… I had to run the alphabet. Doh! T’NIA Miller was outstanding in the excellent series The Haunting of Bly Manor, but I needed every cross. Brian LARA, NADIA Murad, NAN Goldin, and DUA were other new entries for me.
- [What might follow a successful chemistry experiment?] SECOND DATE. Nice one.
- [Length of a ruler] FOOT. Seems so easy… unless your brain insists that it has to do with the political term of the ruler of a land.
- [Drive-through tourist activities] SAFARIS. Been a while since I’ve been on a drive-through safari. Do those exist outside of Six Flags?
Overall, I never got a strong foothold, so sometimes felt like a bit more of a grind than I’d prefer. But still full of happy-to-learn-that stuff.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Legend”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Together, the last letter of each word in the theme answers spell out LEG, putting LEG at the END.
- 17a [“Discontinue something”] PULL THE PLUG
- 27a [“Impatient reply to ‘Can we get it to you later?’”] I’LL BE WAITING
- 60a [“‘I’d like to know…’”] TELL ME SOMETHING
This was a tricky theme to spot for sure, so it didn’t play into my solve as much. I think it’s such a clever use of the word LEGEND though. It definitely wasn’t the map legend or story legend motif that I was first expecting when I opened up the grid. The themers were all really great, and, as usual, I enjoyed that TELL ME SOMETHING was that perfect fifteen to plunk into place. It does also make obvious that this grid is asymmetric since there is no twin grid spanner.
A few other things I noticed:
- 42a [“Asian region that celebrates Seollal”] – Seollal refers to KOREAn New Year.
- 26d [“Abdominal exercise”] – I first read this clue as “abominable exercise,” and my first thought was “all of them, to me.” In this case, the clue is referring to a SIT-UP.
- 31d [“Frances McDormand plays one in a 2020 film”] – Frances McDormand starred in NOMADland in 2020, a film about a widow who travels the U.S. in her van. It is based off of a nonfiction book by Jessica Bruder and includes some of the real-life NOMADs included in the book playing fictionalized versions of themselves.
Overall, this was solid Sunday and kickoff to my week!
Matthew Stock’s LA Times crossword, “Monsters Incorporated” – Gareth’s summary
Well, I suppose since Samhain was last weekend, it’s kind of timely for me at least to get a “Monsters Incorporated” theme. Matthew Stock’s puzzle features circles that spell out mythological beasties from a wide variety of cultures. ONI may be the least familiar to Euro-Americans, being Japanese demons. Wonder if Mr. Stock tried to work in a WENDIGO?
Overall, the puzzle played easy, but it sure felt there were quite a few difficult clue/answer names in the puzzle:
- [Historian Cobb who writes for The New Yorker], JELANI.
- [Comedian Notaro], TIG
- [Some political campaign research, for short], OPPO. Not even sure what this is?
- [South Asian rice cake], IDLI
- [Strong ale brewed by Trappists in the Low Countries], BELGIAN>TRIPEL<
- [Mireille of “Big Love”], ENOS
- [“Black Panther” role for Chadwick Boseman], TCHALLA
- [Antioxidant beverage brand], BAI
NYT: The stacked theme answers are impressive from a construction point of view, and the overall fill is fine, but my overall reaction was a bit tepid. It’s easy to figure out the theme, and once you do, the theme answers all fall into place. Only a few other answers slowed me down much.
Agree. Pretty drab. I thought the clue for NAMES NAMES was the only one with any sparkle, and I wish PEOPLE PEOPLE had been clued to the magazine. Missed opportunities for more fun here.
NYT: It was lovely.
I realize that it was not hard to figure out the theme and that the doubling made for an easier solve. But the phrases were great and the stacking of the doubles surprising. Things have been hard in this world, and having something on the easier side that is satisfying and fun is exactly what I needed.
Happy mother’s day to the moms out there.
I enjoyed the theme. The revealer didn’t add to it for me, as I’ve never heard of the term. (I doubt it existed when I was last a basketball fan, which isn’t recently.) For me there was enough other hard fill to raise the difficulty sufficiently, but then bear in mind that Sunday isn’t supposed to be the hardest day of the week.
I tried CRIPES, and since I didn’t know UGLY CRY it took a while to straighten out that section. I stared no end at AMUNRA, certain the U was wrong and trying to find my mistake, but there you go.
If I’m not mistaken you can find transliterations in any combination of (Amun, Amen, Amon, Ammon) & (Ra, Re), so it’s a nightmare entry.
Right. Wiki lists them all.
DOUBLE DOUBLE isn’t anything new – I had a few back when I played high school basketball in the early 70’s (and we used the term then).
WAPO: 41D might need clarification that it is the home of the only “tropical” rainforest in the US national forest system. Olympic National Forest has a temperate rainforest, and there are Appalachian temperate rainforests in the national forests in the Southern Appalachians.
I don’t remember which site I’d found that showed me “only rainforest” — I think it was this one — but regardless, yes I see there are a lot of other sites that specify El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. national forest system, with mention of temperate rainforests in Washington State and Alaska.
I’m sorry for messing that clue up.
Hi Evan: I figured that you omitted “tropical” from the clue because of space limitations, but it’s no biggie. BTW, you are my favorite constructor because your puzzles are always high quality, humorous, entertaining, and educational. Pls keep up the great work!
Much appreciated, Derek.
WaPo: The Baltimore Sun qualifies as classier. Home to great writers from HL Mencken to David Simon and Laura Lippman (who are married).
You beat me to it!
Oh yea. That makes much more sense. Thanks.
I’ve never come across MONACOMONACO until today. Per Wikipedia, there’s a section of Monaco (the country or city-state) that’s known as Monaco City, except that it’s not technically a city. But in any case, the Grand Prix runs mainly in Monte Carlo, which is a different section of Monaco.
ETA: Googling ‘monaco monaco’ produces no such phrase
Maybe it comes with the territory, so to speak, of a city-state, but Wiki very clearly describes Monaco as a principality with its capital Monaco, so it passes muster for me. True, it wasn’t a giveaway for me, but since others found it all too easy, all the better.
I don’t see anything in the Wiki piece about there being a ‘capital’ of Monaco. In fact, There is no geographical distinction between the State and City of Monaco, although responsibilities of the government (state-level) and of the municipality (city-level) are different.
More to the point, I’ve never heard Monaco Monaco as a phrase and can’t imagine in what circumstances it would arise.
The Universal Sunday was hilarious, even if (like me) you’ve never watched any of the shows, since they’ve been talked about enough [with the possible exception of the The Surreal Life, which I’ve never ever heard of] … and DANCING WITH THE TSARS was an LOL moment.
And five stars from me for the WaPo themeless. Maybe a few too many popular names [but not many obscure ones and the crosses were fair], and I gotta agree with Jim Q. about the phrasing of I’VE GOTTA HAND IT TO YOU, but REBECCO seemed too weird for the cross [although the person was unknown to me] and it didn’t detract from a wonderful puzzle. I love me a good themeless.
I went on a flight from NYC to LA several years ago, and said that silent prayer as additional passengers piled on – hoping for a relatively small seat-mate. I thought I was home free when the attendants began closing the doors and no one had come to sit with me, but to my dismay they re-opened the doors for one of the largest humans I’ve ever seen, just in time to sit with me! How big was he? When I asked him about his trip, he said that he had qualified as a contestant on “The Worlds Biggest Loser”.
“Jersey Heros” was interesting. There is a “Jersey Mike’s” sub shop in my old hometown (on the Jersey Shore), and I think it’s one of several now. (I can see the complaints now for a clue like “Mikes, eg?”) Talk about esoterica! Hoboken wasn’t the best city to use in the clue IMO- what about Asbury Park or LBI? Coulda been packed with references – even a shout-out to those who worked day and night after Hurricane Sandy decimated the shore instead of cold cuts. https://youtu.be/ok6E1mwgpE0 – but I’m the one who advocates for word-play over social commentary so no complaints here.
Wikipedia says Jersey Mike’s has ~2000 stores. We even have them here in flyover country!
LAT: JELANI, TIG, IDLI, TRIPEL BAI. All new to me.