Jeremy Newton’s New York Times crossword, “Some Light Reading”—Nate’s write-up
It looks like we might be playing red light, green light in this Sunday’s NYT puzzle (though hopefully not like in Squid Games!):
– 7A / 12A: INFRA(RED) SPECTRUM [Range of light that’s invisible to the human eye]
– 23A / 24A: WINTER(GREEN) MINTS [Strong breath fresheners]
– 60A / 61A: VODKA (RED)BULL [Cocktail with an energy boost]
– 63A / 64A: IN THE (YELLOW) PAGES [Listed, obsolescently]
– 66A / 67A: EVER(GREEN) STATE [Washington, with “the”]
– 103A / 105A: CATCH (RED)HANDED [Bust mid-crime]
– 109A / 110A: THE JOLLY (GREEN) GIANT [Mascot who made his Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade debut in 2017]
– 27D: (GO) STALE [Lose its spark, as a relationship]
– 29D: (STOP) GAPS [Temporary solutions]
– 35D: HEART(STOP)PING [Thrilling]
– 37D: DON’T (GO) THERE [“That’s a touchy subject”]
– 43D: I’LL (YIELD) NOW [“It’s my turn” [or] Comment after rambling on]
– 77D: MAKE A (STOP) [Pull off the road for gas or snacks, say]
– 80D: HAS A (GO) [Tries]
Indeed, as we read across each row with a theme entry, the color of the light in the black square is a rebus color that is part of the longer theme answer. And, as we read down along each stop light, the direction of that light (go, yield, or stop) is a rebus that is part of the longer theme answer.
For me, this theme was okay, but I felt like it was missing a reason why. I see how the black square layout nicely allows for the stoplight shapes, but it’s not clear to me why we’re to interpret the traffic lights as colors going across but as directions going down. Also, it’s a bit of a bummer that none of the colors or directions are reimagined, and it’s unclear why these specific theme entries were used over any others, aside from that they fit. I will admit that MAKE A STOP and HAS A GO is an uninspiring pair of entries to finish the theme on. And I don’t know that I understand the full clue for I’LL YIELD NOW, so maybe someone can help me with that in the comments.
Overall, I guess I would have wanted some extra way to tighten this theme or some reason for interpreting the traffic lights as we’re intended to. But, then again, this puzzle got published by the NYT and I’ve only had a string of rejections from them lately, so YMMV indeed! (This puzzle is certainly theme-dense, at least, so it can certainly have that feather in its cap.)
Other random thoughts:
– 1A: ITS BAD [“In a word … awful!”] – This isn’t a comment on this puzzle, but rather on a lesson I learned the hard way early on as a constructor: Be very careful about including entries like this in your puzzle (especially at a key place like 1A!) if you don’t want to give naysayers an easy way to self-own the puzzle. To me, it feels extra painful for someone to use my puzzle’s own entries against me!
– 40D: DEAD ASS [Utterly, in slang] – This is one of the few places in the puzzle where I felt any degree of personality or modernity in the grid. I wanted more of this.
– 56D: RBI MAN [Baseball slugger, informally] – Is this a thing?
That’s all from me for now. Time for me to go, so I’ll yield to the commenters for more thoughtful insights. Stop by the comments section and let us know whether this puzzle gave you the green light or not. :)
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Puzzlin’ People”— Jim Q’s write-up
PUN and GROANED are entirely apt entries today.
THEME: Notable people whose names are loose homophones in common phrases.
- 23A [Moisturizer used by “Back to the Future” bully Biff?] TANNEN LOTION. Tanning Lotion. Had no clue of that character’s surname.
- 32A [Author Neil, when he uses Facebook or Twitter?] ONLINE GAIMAN. Online Gaming.
- 51A [Harshly criticize actor Ted?] SLAM DANSON. Slam Dancing.
- 70A [Revelation that actress Stone and singer Carpenter are the same person?] SHARON IS KAREN. Sharing is Caring.
- 93A [Singer Dolly’s musical talent, e.g.?] PARTON GIFT. Parting Gift.
- 108A [Robot resembling actor Atkinson?] ROWAN MACHINE. Rowing Machine.
- 122A [1936 presidential candidate Alf gets naked?] LANDON STRIPS. Landing Strips.
- 31D [Hypnotist’s command to actor Christopher?] SLEEP WALKEN. Sleepwalking.
- 47D [Where “The Catcher in the Rye” protagonist Caulfield presides as a judge?] HOLDEN COURT. Holding Court.
A classic theme type if ever there was one, very reminiscent of Evan’s predecessor, Merl Reagle. Never feels like this sort of theme gets old If (and it’s a big if…) the entries land. And these all do.
I mean, SHARON IS KAREN (both the clue and the entry) for the win. It knows it’s good too. It’s dead center. That one got a lol scoff from me. Pretty much everything else tied for second place.
No major stumbles other than in the MISSEND / SALAD OIL / NINTHS section. Didn’t know if the plural of ULNA ended in an S or an E, so that didn’t help. But those three entries didn’t jibe completely with me as clued during the solve (in retrospect, they’re fine).
I’m not sure how KNIGHT comes from [Board member?] either. Oh wait… is it a chess reference? That’s my best guess. Clue for PAINTER [One who may have a brush with fame?] felt a little out there too, but in a more clear sense.
Overall, a pleasant return-to-the-roots sort of puzzle today. Not too much else to say about it other than I enjoyed this one!
Seth Bisen-Hersh’s Universal Crossword, “Father’s Day” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Phrases with a synonym for “father” in them
- DAD JOKES
- POP MUSIC
- THE OLD MAN
- SAN DIEGO PADRE
Nice smooth puzzle with an almost themeless vibe. Lots of interesting longer answers and a nifty L/R symmetry to accommodate the theme.
Theme is fine. Very clear as to what it’s trying to be. None of those “fathers” are hiding anywhere. A little bit of inconsistency with a phrases like POP MUSIC in the mix with the likes of DAD JOKES as, in context, the word POP has nothing to do with fatherhood while the word DAD certainly does.
Not familiar with the 2022 FX show THE OLD MAN. Oh wait. I just googled it. It’s very new, and I think I just read a NY Times article about it. I mean, Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow star, so already my interest is piqued. Ah yes- here is the article.
Also, is TEE TIME a little nod to the stereotypical DAD pastime of golfing? It seems to be winking at us from the center of the puzzle.
My favorite mistake was entering SCREWED for [Like most lightbulbs]. I thought that was rather crass. It is. The correct answer was SCREW IN.
Thanks for this one! And Happy Father’s Day!
Doug Burnikel and Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Stuff the Bird”—Jim P’s review
Two Burnikels for the price of one! Making his debut today is Doug Burnikel, husband to veteran constructor Zhouqin.
They bring us a grid for the birds this Father’s Day. Each theme answer is a familiar(ish) phrase whose outside letters (beginning and end) spell out a type of bird. Circles are provided to make finding said birds much simpler.
- 23a. [Reliable source of income] STEADY WORK. Stork.
- 25a. [One is easy to buy] GOOD EXCUSE. Goose. “Buying a good excuse” sounds idiomatic, but I don’t think I’ve heard of it nor can I find any instance of it online. A little help here?
- 37a. [“La Vie en Rose” Oscar winner] MARION COTILLARD. Mallard. Ooh, nice find.
- 58a. [Societal practices in Hanoi] VIETNAMESE CULTURE. Vulture. This feels a bit green paintish.
- 83a. [“This is how things are …”] “HERE’S THE SITUATION.” Heron.
- 101a. [Course taught in Quebec] CANADIAN HISTORY. Canary.
- 120a. [Drowned out] PLAYED OVER. Plover.
- 122a. [Icing on the cake] FINAL TOUCH. Finch. Aptly, the final answer.
Very nice, eh? I especially like how each bird is more than five letters long, upping the challenge for the constructors. No jays or owls here, even though JUDGEMENT DAY and OWNER’S MANUAL would make for fine answers.
And eight long theme answers is a hefty amount for a 21x grid, but with Zhouqin’s experienced touch, the fill is smooth all over. Highlights include AUDIO TOURS, TEEN DRIVER, BAR EXAM, MUG SHOT, CAPE COD, PAGE ONE, BOX SETS, PET BEDS, TAGLINE, and HOT AIR as well as “I’M DEAD,” and “I’M GLAD” (not necessarily in that order).
Clues of note:
- 1a. [“Doggone it!”]. NUTS. Lots of things could go here when the grid is empty. I went from DARN->RATS->NUTS. You?
- 33a. [It has a screamo subgenre]. EMO. That’s a new angle I haven’t seen before. Per Wikipedia, screamo (or “skramz”) is “an aggressive subgenre of emo that emerged in the early 1990s, emphasizing ‘willfully experimental dissonance and dynamics’.”
- 39d. [Board game with Dr. Orchid]. CLUE. Whoa. Who’s Dr. Orchid? Guess I haven’t played the game in a while. She officially replaced the matronly Mrs. White in 2016. The online magazine Slate describes her thusly: “The adopted daughter of the game’s mansion-owner, Samuel Black, Orchid was expelled from a fancy Swiss boarding school after a ‘near-fatal daffodil poisoning incident.’ Then, Mrs. White herself (gasp!) homeschooled Orchid, who went on to get her Ph.D. in plant toxicology.”
- 78d. [Curry may leave one on a shirt]. STAIN. Why curry? I’m guessing because it creates some doubt in the solver’s mind about whether the clue is referring to NBAer Steph Curry. It sure did in mine.
Very nice theme with lovely long fill and fresh cluing. Four stars.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Seasonal Food”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer is a food that has a season in its name.
- 17a [“Gourd used in a Chinese soup”] WINTER MELON
- 28a [“They’re like scallions but with a stronger flavor”] SPRING ONIONS
- 55a [“Zucchini, for example”] SUMMER SQUASH
As always, this puzzle has made me hungry. I thought that this was a fun theme. It was pretty clear from the title what it was going to be, but I still enjoyed the journey as it was, and it took me a few minutes to fill in each. I started with WATERMELON in 17a but quickly realized that it was, in fact, WINTER MELON. SPRING ONIONS fell into place quickly after that, as did SUMMER SQUASH, that Q of 58d [“Campus courtyard”] being pretty helpful.
This grid was asymmetric, and I think that the NE and SW corners were both a bit tight, with only one Down answer coming out of each (3d [“‘I didn’t want it anyway!’ attitude”] SOUR GRAPES and 52d [“Available for use”] ON HAND). I’m guessing that had more to do with the theme answers cutting across both of those.
A few other things I noticed:
- 15d [“Bit of recognition from the Television Academy”] – Immediately, I wanted to fill in EMMY AWARD for this, but I was thrown off by its seven letters rather than the full nine of my guess. I ultimately left in EMMY and let NOD be filled in on the crosses.
- 31d [“Store’s brief promotion”] – This was a fun 10 letter answer that was snuck in via ONE DAY SALE.
- 60a [“Toni Morrison’s birth state”] – I think it was from a crossword puzzle that I learned that Toni Morrison was born in OHIO, and so I was thrilled, not only as an Ohioan, but also because I remembered this great tidbit of information.
Another solid Sunday.
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword, “Switching Sides” – Gareth’s summary
I did notice the title of Ed Sessa’s puzzle featured an “-ing” form verb and each answer had an “-ing” form word of various functions, but it took an embarrassing while to cotton on that it was just common phrases swapped, each having one “-ing” form word. It’s an odd quirk of the puzzle that the first two have new forms ending with the “-ing” word, but then the final seven go the opposite way.
- [Part-time job for teenage waterfowl?], DUCKSITTING. Wouldn’t that be ducklingsitting? SITTINGDUCK
- [Extravagant and elaborate way of going around slowpokes?], FANCYPASSING. PASSINGFANCY
- [Breather in the ballroom?], DANCINGBREAK. BREAKDANCING
- [Glee found on horseback?], RIDINGJOY. JOYRIDING
- [First-rate dog shelter?], STERLINGPOUND. POUNDSTERLING
- [Extremely blah coif?], NOTHINGDO. DONOTHING
- [Cattle that may tip over?], LISTINGSTOCK. STOCKLISTING
- [“Life’s too short for dull razors,” e.g.?], SHAVINGPOINT. POINTSHAVING
- Queue for lottery tickets?], DRAWINGLINE. LINEDRAWING
Always intimidating to find clues and answers to single out in a big puzzle, but here goes:
- [Comedy duo Garfunkel and __], OATES. Named for the second bananas of other musical duos, they sing such songs as Go-Kart Racing (Accidentally Masturbating).
- [Subject of PETA’s traveling exhibit “Without Consent”], LABANIMAL. Ugh. PETA.
- [Traps in an attic?], WEBS. Such an elegant misdirection!
- [Surface for shavasana], YOGAMAT. I see the stem “asana”, but have never heard of that word before.
- [Talk through the whole movie?], NARRATE. Another beaut of a clue!
I don’t know if it helps, but I was able to make sense of the yellow down clue in the NYT only because I read the Wordplay blog — and then only because the blogger gives up and gets the intended answer from a statement by the setter. It isn’t that YIELD makes more sense seen differently or that you can reconcile the two definitions in the clue. It’s that he sees yellow as ambivalently STOP and GO, and one definition asks for one, the other the other. I’m not convinced. To me, this would take mind-reading, and it doesn’t help that, rather than YIELD, my first thought was SLOW (or, at greater length, “slow and be prepared to stop”). But then I’m a city dweller without a car, so I have no claims to authority!
To me, then, that clue is way off, but at least it’s just one entry. I have mixed feelings about the whole puzzle, but for other reasons. First I figured out the theme of the three lights from what seemed obvious, plus the title, plus the statement (which I know online solvers don’t see) in the Sunday bio. I found it ingenious, but then it felt diminishing that one could then complete theme entries with no work on the diagram. I got INFRA RED right away (although not associating it with a SPECTRUM) and then IN THE YELLOW PAGES. I worried that the latter isn’t an idiom in itself, so not a normal crossword fill, and that occurs elsewhere, too. But it’s therefore ingenious, and then there was the twist that down themers parse differently. While I can’t justify the inconsistently, it added an additional aha for me, unlike for the review. I didn’t know VODKA RED BULL, but no question that adding vodka to Red Bull should have a name.
So what to make of it all? Should I be more than a little put off? I leave that to others behind the wheel.
I couldn’t tell you from personal experience, but the fill seems just fine.
I took the yellow as the typical way American drivers look at it: Either as a signal to speed up (GO) or to slow down (STOP). And the clue for 43D offered either interpretation (“It’s my turn” for ILLGONOW or “Comment after rambling on” for ILLSTOPNOW.
I appreciated that the across clues used the related color while the down clues used the related driving rules so that there was some puzzle to figure out with regard to those.
This explanation of the yellow light is consistent with the constructor’s notes at xwordinfo.
When I moved to Boston, I was told (tongue in cheek) that to Boston drivers, GREEN means “go”, YELLOW means “speed up”, and “RED” means “one more can go through the light”. Not too far from the truth in my experience here. Thus it made solving today’s puzzle just a tad hard to parse…
Not to mention their penchant for flooring it when making a left turn from a stop light and cutting off the person going straight on the other side of the intersection. I learned about this the hard way when I lived in the Boston area in the late 80’s. Gee. I wonder why folks in the Boston area pay among the highest auto insurance rates in the country?
Well haha on me, I never got the yellow. All I could figure was “I’ll GO now” so I thought it meant the newspaper green pages where sports and players and statistics are ‘listed’.
That’s my story and I’ll stick to it. I’ve never heard “I’ll yield now” to mean “It’s my turn”.
I thought it was a fun puzzle and theme even though I was wrong there :) . It didn’t affect my puzzle fill anyway.
To be clear, the correct meaning is “I’ll GO now/I’ll STOP now.” “Stop or go, you decide” is not the way I think of a yellow light so it was a bit tough for me too. But if you think about it, it is as good a way to describe it as any.
I’m sure this entry was a tough one to clue as well as solve.
Thanks… after your explanation and finally reading the constructors notes, I can wrap my head around the yellow :D . I didn’t pay much attention to the second part of the clue (about yammering on), so now it all makes more sense.
Still a tough one, to clue and ‘get’.
NYT: Some fun spots– DONT GO THERE was my favorite theme entry. It’s in the language and the word GO is not quite literal. But other (non-theme) entries are legit but don’t roll of the tongue…SIGNEE, UNGLOVED…
Happy Father’s Day to the dads. This might be a good puzzle to do with one’s kids?
Oh, and I forgot SPLICER… no one who does DNA sequencing, or the follow up data integration calls themselves a splicer…
WP: Loved it!! Yes, very Merl-ish which is a huge compliment :).
I got hung up for a bit at 51a, with slam in place my mind went to Slam Dunkin’, (I kept thinking of Tim until I saw it wasn’t working and re-read the clue).
WaPo: Maybe I’m hopelessly out of touch, but ‘Sharing is caring’ is new to me. I figured out that’s what the pun was based on, but it’s not a phrase I know.
This was indeed a Merl-ish puzzle, but for me that not’s a good thing. My reaction to these puns is fingernails on a chalkboard, or something like that.
I’m guessing “sharing is caring” is an ad slogan, but in any event, I’d never heard it before.
I’ve been doing a lot of mid-1990’s NYT puzzles. The puns in today’s WaPo reminded me of some of those puzzles. Between the groaner jokes and the boomer-friendly names used, this had a old-school feel.
Guess that makes it perfect for Father’s Day.
It’s a pre-school maxim, and notably espoused by Barney the Purple Dinosaur
Thanks. That explains my unfamiliarity with the phrase.
Who on earth thought it was a good idea to print the lights in black grid at at the NYT app? Goodness, I’m so glad I ignored the Notepad entry until I was done and solved in AcrossLite. Where’s the challenge if those lights are staring you in the face before you even begin? And that yellow light thing is just wrong. Nice concept; poor execution.
NY Times — 98 Across: “ZENNED”? Really? Only one of the dozen or so times I was shaking my head in this solve.
63 Across: “Listed, obsolescently” IN THE [YELLOW] PAGES. I don’t consider them obsolescent. I have three different ones in my desk drawer and make frequent reference to them.
79 Down: “Book some wedding entertainment” HIRE A DJ. Is a DJ the entertainment or does he provide the entertainment? I think it’s the later.
I also feel slighted because this puzzle was not a salute to Father’s Day. Jeesh!
I, for one, enjoyed this puzzle immensely. Mostly because it’s different – including the fact that it was not a salute to Father’s day. The “stop-go” yellow light clue was fun for me – I initially thought it was “yield” but that only made sense for half the grid.
I heard an interesting comment about John Hancock on a podcast the other day. He was a very wealthy businessman, he was a young, handsome, a “freedom fighter” and a very eligible bachelor in Boston in the 1770’s – in short, a kind of colonial “Batman”. And “Batman” not only fit in the grid, I thought it was a better answer than “signee”.
NYT: 43D, it seems “It’s YOUR turn” would be more appropriate than “It’s MY turn”. When you YIELD, you’re letting the other person go ahead or instead of you.
As discussed above, the yellow doesn’t mean “yield” in this case. It can either be go (it’s my turn) or stop (comment after yammering on and on i.e. “I’ll stop now”). A bit of a schrodinger answer, where either or both are correct.
Tough parsing but again, it doesn’t affect the puzzle fill.
I know this is late, but I just did the ACVX puzzle for Wed June 8. I read the review of it here and noticed that the write-up gets the title wrong. The title should be “Rhythm Parts,” not “ACVX Themeless #63.”
NYT: I see Merl Reagle mentioned here with regard to the Washington Post puzzle, which I haven’t done yet. I find that it’s the Times puzzle that reminds me of Reagle, with the different uses across and down for the traffic lights. Enjoyable!
UNIVERSAL (SUN): Jim P “Buying a good excuse” is not a phrase that this entry is going for.
If you believe something you are told, you might say, “I’ll buy that.” So, what makes an excuse good? Answer: When the person you are trying to convince buys it.
NYT This puzzle appeals to me and I rate it as EXCELLENT,****. Thank you Jeremy.
I liked 42A, label on some jars and 55A, Treacherous places for eagles to land and 103 deserves mention, Bust midcrime. I thought to myself, what’s midcrime?
Re the Downs, there were several that stood out to me but I liked 88D the best, Clothed, so to speak.