Michael Schlossberg’s New York Times puzzle– Sophia’s write-up
Theme: This one’s a bit complicated to explain without the answers as context, so let’s jump into them:
- 17a [*Secretary of Perry Mason] – DELLA STREET
- 23a [*Alcoholics Anonymous program] – TWELVE STEPS
- 39a [*Finish a gymnastics routine perfectly] – STICK THE LANDING
- 52a [*Description of a wholesome, clean-cut guy] – BOY NEXT DOOR
And the revealer:
- 63a [Cry after navigating the last parts of the answers to this puzzle’s starred clues?] – HONEY, I’M HOME
So, the theme progresses from the STREET, to the STEPS, to the LANDING, to the DOOR, before the speaker enters their HOME.
When I solved this puzzle online, I noticed the highlighted revealer, so I jumped down there immediately to see if it was any help. When I saw that it would require all the theme answers to understand, I went back to the top of the puzzle and solved it top-down. So once I had the theme answers in place, I went back to the revealer… and I still couldn’t get it and had to get it all on crosses.
HONEY I’M HOME feels straight out of old TV to me (although when I googled the phrase I mostly got a 90’s sitcom and a Shania Twain song). Combined with DELLA STREET, who I had never heard of, and the puzzle on the whole has a retro vibe. (In fairness, there are not many STREET phrases that don’t refer to “street” in a road sense). So overall, I’m not sure the theme stuck the landing (haha) for me. It’s a bit convoluted and hard to explain, and it also assumes a particular path – this felt a bit meta-funny to me, since HONEY I’M HOME still had me in the sitcom mindset, and normally you can’t even see the exterior of the houses there! All that being said, STICK THE LANDING and BOY NEXT DOOR are great entries.
Despite my inability to understand the theme while solving, I still nearly broke 3 minutes on my solve, which is pretty rare for me. And that came after drawing a total blank on 1a [Kudzu or ivy] – both VINEs, apparently. That’s a testament to how clean this puzzle is; I’m not sure I can see a single objectionable crossing.
Other thoughts on the puzzle:
- I loved both SPACE SUITS and SKINNY DIPS, especially the clue on the latter: 29d [Is unsuited to go swimming, but does so anyway?]. Funny that both of these were about suits of some sort!
- Weird amount of Roman related clues up there in the NW corner – VIDI, IDES, CATO. Just needed “ettu” up there for a real bacchanalia.
- No matter how many puzzles I do or how many times I see her name, I can never remember if SONIA Sotomayor spells her first name with an I or a Y. One of my eternal crossword struggles.
Happy Monday all!
Gary Cee’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Showtime”—Jim P’s review
We’re out to MAKE A SCENE with today’s grid (60a, [Be disruptive, or what you can do with the ends of 17-, 25-, 35- and 51-Across]). The other theme answers are familiar(ish) phrases whose final words can also be part of the scene-making process.
- 17a. [New house need] BEDROOM SET.
- 25a. [Homestretch] FINAL STAGE.
- 35a. [Pregnancy keepsake] BELLY CAST.
- 51a. [Place to weed and seed] GARDEN PLOT.
I was focused on the first words of the entries during the solve that I didn’t pay any attention to the second ones. Consequently I needed the revealer for the aha moment. Theme works well enough.
Never heard of a BELLY CAST. All I can say is I’m glad my wife never broached the subject of getting one. (They probably weren’t a thing 13+ years ago, anyway.) I did come across this gem of a quote, though: “It’s the only way to get plastered when you’re pregnant.”
The long fill mostly consists of stacks of 7s in the corners which have some nice entries: ANTIGUA, PIG IRON, CHIANTI, HOT SEAT. Plus, DENTIST and HEAVE-HO.
Clues of note:
- 32a. [Winter of classic rock]. EDGAR. Wow. This 50-something year-old did not recognize that name. But of course I’ve heard the song “Free Ride.”
- 12d. [Caribbean island from the Spanish for “ancient”]. ANTIGUA. The locals call the island Waladli or Wadadli, which means “our own.” Fittingly, the island gained its independence in 1981, and in 2015 even the American military presence that was there was deactivated due to budget cuts.
- 48d. [Cowboy moniker]. TEX. This name was in the NYT yesterday with the clue [“The Muppets” villain Richman]. I missed my opportunity to comment with the below video yesterday, so I’m putting it here. If you never heard Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning actor Chris Cooper rap, here’s your chance.
Craig Stowe’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
This puzzle is a big ol’ Dagwood — that is, a sandwich with plenty of layers. A trip down to the revealer at 63A [Spot to assemble the first parts of the answers to the starred clues] gives us SANDWICH BAR, and the first word in each theme entry is a component of a (not-kosher) sandwich:
- 17A [*Take a chance] is ROLL THE DICE.
- 24A [*Minnesota medical center] is the MAYO CLINIC.
- 38A [*Mug for the cameras] is HAM IT UP.
- 52A [*Vatican security detail] is the SWISS GUARD — that is, those awesomely uniformed troops who guard the Pope, although it sounds like their role is a lot more ceremonial and about managing not to sweat in those heavy pantaloons while dealing with tourists.
It’s a nice touch that the theme entries appear in the order in which you would lay them down if making a sandwich: first the ROLL, then spread on some MAYO, and some HAM and SWISS on top.
Some uncharacteristically tough spots for a Monday:
- LAMAS crossing LORNE — this likely won’t trip up experienced solvers, but seems like a tough one for newbies.
- 9D [Without oomph] as the clue for FEEBLY. If this were the ACPT, this would be the Puzzle 1 entry that’s designed to take out at least a few top competitors. If you don’t check that FEEBLY/AH YES crossing, as I did not, FEEBLE can’t be ruled out by the way the clue is written.
- 52D [Sailing vessel] is a pretty nonspecific clue for SLOOP; if you know your boats you can at least rule out LINER and FERRY as not having sails, but even if you’re a boat expert, KETCH is still plausible until you have at least one crossing.
Ross Trudeau’s Universal crossword, “Four Starters” — pannonica’s write-up
- 39dR [Tip over, and a phonetic hint to the starts of 3-, 7-, 8- and 20-Down] CAPSIZE. That is, each of those vertical entries is capped by a phoneme sounding like \ˈsī \. The crossword’s title is rather generic—nothing to do with hats—so I deduce that it’s meant to emphasize and make explicit the ‘cap’ wordplay.
- 3d. [Campaigns involving propaganda] PSY WARS.
- 7d. [Gathering of Trekkers, e.g.] SCI-FI CONVENTION.
- 8d. [Pitcher’s honor] CY YOUNG AWARD.
- 20d. [Wordless “whew”] SIGH OF RELIEF, which is really nice fill.
Not the most exciting theme, but it’s done well and the symmetrical entries feel natural, unforced.
- 29d [No, in Russian] NYET. Which is what I say to my cat, on the theory that ‘no’ is too generic sounding and the distinct sound of the word will be more salient for her.
- 43a [One issuing travel advisories?] REF. This is a basketball reference.
- 49a [Knock on] RAP AT. Looks a little weird, but it EVOKES (59a) Poe’s The Raven for me.
- 60a [Item at a regatta] OAR. Theme-adjacent?
- 15d [Gripped] HELD. 55d [Apt rhyme for “grab”] NAB. 1d [Fitting] APT.
- 33d [One in a picnic buffet line?] ANT. Clue seems a bit silly.
OK that’s all I’ve got this ayem. 43d [Take a mental health day] REST.
Kelly Nguyen Dickson & Hoang-Kim Vu’s USA Today puzzle, “West to East”– malaika’s write-up
Today’s puzzle gives us four answers with a W on the left and an E on the right, arranged symmetrically in the grid. WARSAN SHIRE (Poet who wrote “no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark”) was new to me– I needed every crossing. (If you didn’t know TORO, that may have been tough.) WILL YOU MARRY ME, WORKOUT ROUTINE, and WHAT DO I CARE were the other three answers. It can be hard to place answers that are fourteen letters long, but the constructors did so very elegantly.
- I believe a composite number is just any positive whole integer that isn’t prime– that is, a number that is the result of multiplying two smaller numbers.
- An AO DAI is a Vietnamese garment. This was crossing HOU, which referenced two sports teams, so I had to do some educated guessing on that O.
- “The Mighty Five” are five national parks that are in UTAH
- I had TACOs de birria for the first time the other day and wowowowow. Very good, although they do not unseat my favorite taco (al pastor).
- I had GSAs over PTAS at first, for [Grps. that provide school support]
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
I couldn’t for the life of me find my error, so I used the Check function to identify the trouble spot. It was the O where SOPPIER and OH GROW UP meet—I had an A. I had an A because in U.S. usage, SAPPIER means [More schmaltzy] and sentimental. SOPPIER appears to be largely a Briticism. Why did I go with the terrible AH GROW UP? Because I had already filled in OH ME and figured OH wouldn’t be repeated so close by. (Personal philosophy: If your grid has either OH ME or AH ME, tear up that section and fill it anew. “OH, GROW UP” is fine.)
Didn’t know that [A.O.C.’s Courage to Change, e.g.] was a PAC, and I also didn’t know 24d. [Miller who won a Tony for her performance in the 2013 revival of “Pippin”] was named PATINA. I also hadn’t heard of the SPYBOT brand ([Cybersecurity brand with a “Search & Destroy” program]), so PAC was a guess. Would have been an easier section with PATINA clued as the common noun, but I’m pleased to make Ms. Miller‘s acquaintance. She’s done TV and film as well as being a Broadway star.
Fave fill: TEXT-TO-SPEECH, TO BE FAIR, MOMMY BLOGGER, GLUTEN-FREE, ADAM SMITH, BRATZ DOLLS, BODHI tree. (I never did see Point Break, in which Patrick Swayze played surfer Bodhi.) Oh! And SHRILL with a Lindy West book clue. She’s such a funny writer.
Three more things:
- 3d. [Colorful bowlful], TRIX. Got this one with no crossings!
- 27d. [Humdinger], DOOZIE. I (and Merriam-Webster) consider this a variant spelling. Long live DOOZY!
- 29d. [Like e but not i], REAL. This is a math thing, and the clue wouldn’t work at all in a venue that doesn’t use italics. You can’t put these in quotation marks and have the clue make sense the same way. Hooray for New Yorker/PuzzleMe italics!
2.75 stars from me.
NYT: I think it’s an original and fun theme for Monday. But I understand that DELLA STREET may not be familiar to younger solvers. If, like me, you’ve read all the Perry Mason books, then it was a gimme, but on average maybe this entry was too tough for Monday?
Still, the idea of a progression as a theme was really cool.
DELLA STREET is also a gimme if a considerable part of one’s childhood TV viewing consisted of “Perry Mason” reruns.
It’s on TV twice a day out here – I often watch the 9 AM episode. So that was an easy one.
There is also the updated (2020) version, which I don’t know if anybody actually watched… but Della Street is there so it isn’t a completely outdated clue. (I watched part of one episode, but it didn’t click with me.)
Della was a gimme for me from having read all the books in my youth, plus watched it on TV.
I didn’t remember STREET, so it wasn’t a gimme for me, but working it out seemed well within a Monday. Maybe I should give Perry Mason another chance. And while, sure, several entries are from back when in fact or idiom, STICK THE LANDING is new enough to have puzzled me on getting it.
I’ve heard STICK THE LANDING, but I don’t watch gymnastics, so it didn’t immediately come to mind when I read the clue. I was trying to get “perfect ten” to fit in there somehow.
I watched the original show occasionally as a kid, because my parents watched it, and occasionally watch a rerun now – so all the main characters are familiar.
Caught a rerun a couple of months ago, in which Della tells Perry she has a favor to ask, but the catch is, he can’t ask any questions. Perry agrees, and it turns out the favor is Della needs $25,000. Perry doesn’t bat an eye, pulls a checkbook out of his pocket and writes the check. The episode originally ran in 1962. In 2022 dollars, that check would be just shy of a quarter million. I know Perry was supposed to be a very successful attorney, but still…
Maybe this is just me, but to my mind LANDING is strictly an interior feature, the flat space at the top of a flight of stairs that leads to other corridors or rooms.
If there’s a flat area at the top of steps leading to a front door, I call it a stoop (small) or maybe porch (larger and covered).
FWIW, the International Residential (building) Code has a section on “Floors and landings at exterior doors,” in which they lay out standards for landings on each side of an exterior door. But I admit that when I hear the word, the picture in my mind is usually of an interior stairway.
But who’s to say that the STEPS and DOOR aren’t also interior features? (I’m thinking of a walk-up apartment.)
I have a u-shaped staircase in my home that has two landings. What else do you call them?
We have fun regularly with the phrase “Honey, I’m home!” after having heard it uttered by William H. Macy in “Pleasantville”. We always follow up by saying, “Where’s my meatloaf?” (He says “dinner” in this clip, but I believe he says “meatloaf” shortly after.)
WSJ- not sure how CLEARED is [Let off the hook] To me, let off the hook means avoids any punishment for something one did. Cleared indicates that one never actually did the offence.
WSJ … One thing I strive for in life is to learn something new every day. Crosswords are often a good place to do that. One of today’s learning opportunities for me was BELLY CAST. Google say that this really is a thing. You can get a casting kit on Amazon (naturally). It’s not just the belly, but the breasts as well and, apparently, people decorate them. What do you do with something like this, put it up on the wall as decor or is it one of those things that gets put in the corner of the attic or basement for years and years and years for your survivors to deal with?
TNY … This one was like pulling teeth for this solver, but that tends to be the case for me with Anna Shechtman’s puzzles. I’m kind of an old school math nerd, but even with Amy’s explanation, I don’t understand how “Like “e” but not “i”” clues REAL. I know of the math concept for REAL vs imaginary numbers, but what does that have to do with “e” and “i” and whether or not they’re italicized in the clue? I think that was the only clue/answer combination that made no sense at all to me in this grid, but to say that this puzzle was off my wavelength would be a gross understatement. I was pretty happy to come as close as I did to finishing it.
e, of course, is the base for natural logs and is a real number even though it’s irrational.
i gets us in to imaginary numbers where i-squared = -1. That makes 3i the square root of -9, for example.
e is Euler’s number, which is a real number.
i is the square root of negative one, which is an imaginary number.
I thought this was a very good puzzle. Maybe I’m just happy I got to use my math degree on this clue. :-)
TNY – I need some help from music folks. The clue is “odds that a randomly selected key on a grand piano is not a C.” The answer is TEN TO ONE.
I get there are eight C naturals among the 88 keys. That’s a ten to one ratio. But 88 keys include 36 black keys. Seven of these keys are C#. Or Db. Is that key Db by some convention or something? Or should I assume the clue means the odds of the key being a natural C?
Yep, C# is not a C, as “C” is not an umbrella term. If you say that the key is in C, or that you should play a C major chord, you’re referring, specifically, to C natural.