Note: No WSJ puzzle due to the federal holiday of Juneteenth.
Theme: The last word of each theme answer sounds like a group of people from a certain country
- 17a [Data sources for Election Day coverage] – EXIT POLLS (sounds like people from Poland)
- 21a [Accessories that may feature Windsor knots] – NECKTIES (sounds like people from Thailand)
- 39a [Large props held by contest winners in publicity photos] – OVERSIZE CHECKS (sounds like people from the Czech Republic)
- 55a [Late-1950s car stylings designed to look aerodynamic] – TAIL FINS (sounds like people from Finland)
- 65a [D.C. baseball players … or what the ends of 17-, 21-, 39- and 55-Across sound like] – NATIONALS
My brother’s name is Nat, so when I first saw the revealer I thought “Is this a Nat themed puzzle???”, and was slightly disappointed when it was not. But after I got over it, I realized there’s a lot to like in this puzzle! It’s cool that all of the words are pronounced the same way as the nationalities, but none of them are spelled the same. Are there other countries it would have been possible to include? Feel free to brainstorm in the comments. Also, I love the entry OVERSIZED CHECKS, because it’s legitimately one of my goals in life to win one of those for literally anything.
The fill overall is pretty Monday-friendly, in my opinion. I ran into a bit of trouble with ELEGIAC (47a [Mournful, as poetry]), and originally had “elegian” even though that’s not a word. I was also not sure about LISLE (34d [Cotton fabric named for a French city]) and was wondering at first if I was meant to have “Lille”. Oh, and it’s a good thing that I did the whole SE on the downs and totally missed ISMS, or else I would have been annoyed about that. But otherwise things are super smooth, which is impressive for a puzzle with 5 theme answers!
Favorite clues: 29d [Plural that makes one wonder why there aren’t any meese] for GEESE, 26a [Kid-lit classic “Blueberries for ___”] for SAL (I loooved this book as a kid), 72a [Like moldy basements and some memes] for DANK.
Susan Gelfand’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
This is a theme of a sort that I think has fallen out of favor — it reminds me of Maura Jacobson and Merl Reagle, in that there’s not much tying the theme entries together other than a pun in the clues. I’m hoping that this puzzle is a sign that Patti is open to reviving this theme type, because when done well, as it is here, it gets you starting your Monday with a smile on your face.
Said theme relies on people’s names that are related to a particular pursuit, and therefore some places that it would be very on-the-nose for such folks to go:
- 20A [Where Clay went to make a ceramic vase?] is a POTTERY STUDIO. Because pottery is made of clay, got it?
- 25A [Where Penny went to deposit money?] is a SAVINGS BANK. Maybe in the not too distant future we won’t be saving our pennies because inflation will have made them obsolete, but for now, it’s a pun that works.
- 47A [Where Viola went to perform with an orchestra?] is a CONCERT HALL. As someone who used to play the viola in various (not at all of professional quality) orchestras, I especially appreciated this choice of pun.
- 53A [Where Dean went to meet with professors and students?] is a COLLEGE CAMPUS, because a dean is a college administrator.
When I say this puzzle is done well, I mean: The fact that the theme is in the clues and therefore won’t necessarily help beginning solvers get the theme entries they’re missing once they have one or two, is not a barrier to solving because the grid is so clean. There are almost no proper nouns crossing each other (I caught only ERATO and OTTO crossing MALI in the NE corner, and JODIE/ODIN in the SW), and lots of nice easy clues to help beginners along. It’s really freakin’ hard to make a Monday grid this clean; my compliments to the chef.
Joe DiPietro’s Universal crossword, “The Puck Stops Here” — pannonica’s write-up
During and after the solve, I wasn’t clear on what the theme was, but then I consulted the title. Also, I might have been considering 18a [Totally flopped] LAID AN EGG and 60a [Neutralize] CANCEL OUT as part of the theme.
- 20a. [Give off a false sense of well-being] MASK YOUR PAIN.
- 35a. [Not give up] STICK WITH IT.
- 41a. [Charges a customer for things not ordered, say] PADS THE BILL.
- 54a. [Doesn’t address directly] SKATES AROUND.
As soon as I saw the title—and with a jolt of memory about 40a [Goalie’s success] SAVE, the theme was obvious. Roughly top-to-bottom, we have mask, stick, pads, and skates—i.e., a goalie’s gear.
I believe the NHL playoffs are still underway this year.
- 1d [Done the backstroke, say] SWUM. Bit awkward cluing the past participle, in my opinion.
- 11d [That’s the kicker!] LEG. I believe goalies sometimes kick away the puck.
- More theme-adjacency: 12d [N.Y. Rangers’ arena] MSG, Madison Square Garden.
- 31d [Labor union foes] SCABS. Incorrect, inaccurate. How many times do I NEED TO (29d) rail against this deceptive framing?
- 52d [Seat in a bar] STOOL. I am currently considering buying an ergonomic/active stool for my desk/’workstation’. Have nearly made a decision.
- 5a [Foot curve] ARCH. 9a [Tree common in Florida] PALM. Would you say that the PALM is the hand’s analogue to a foot’s ARCH? Hmm, I guess that would be sole and PALM; so is there a handy equivalent to ARCH?
- 17a [Not yet achieved, as goals] UNMET. Not theme-related, despite the ‘goals’ in the clue.
Solid theme, solid crossword.
Wyna Liu’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
Let’s see what this 70-worder holds. Some of my fave fill has a Juneteenth vibe to it: WATTSTAX crossing HOT BUTTERED SOUL, with a BARBECUE and its EAR OF CORN, maybe a POOL SLIDE, too. Other likes: YOU’RE MUTED, SKOPJE (friend of mine worked there for a few years with the Peace Corps organization), PRAIRIE DOG, WABI-SABI, OMAKASE (none for me, thanks, I need to choose my own foods!), and THE LUXOR.
What also jumped out at me was some crosswordese holding the grid together: ODER, OARED, OSIERS, AROAR, PLAN A (does anyone really talk about plan A, or is it just the thing you’re trying, and if it doesn’t pan out, there’s always plan B?).
- 35d. [Aesthetic that values imperfection and impermanence], WABI-SABI. I feel this one viscerally, not just as an aesthetic. Surgical scars, the creaks and twinges of middle age.
- 20a. [Colombian artist Fernando, known for his paintings and sculptures of plump figures], BOTERO. So delightful! I find his artwork so appealing.
- 32d. [What might get you in to a pickle], JAR OPENER. I do not own a jar opener and I do not care for pickles, but I really enjoyed this clue!
3.25 stars from me.