Drew Schmenner’s New York Times puzzle– Sophia’s write-up
THEME: SETTING SUN – Each theme answer, moving from east to west, has the letters “SUN” in a progressively lower position.
- 11d [Predominant religion of Indonesia and Pakistan] – SUNNI ISLAM
- 9d [Pageant whose hosts have included Bob Barker, Dick Clark and Steve Harvey] – MISS UNIVERSE
- 26d [Dashboard-mounted navigator] – GPS UNIT
- 21d [Animal “relative” an astonished person may claim to be] – MONKEYS UNCLE
- 31d [What glows in the west at day’s end … or a hint to this puzzle’s sequence of shaded squares] – SETTING SUN
A pretty simple theme today for the NYT. My time might belie this puzzle’s difficulty, given that I’m solving on my friend’s computer and made approximately 1000 typos during my solve. When I first looked at the pattern of the shaded squares, I pictured them rising from the west to the east, as opposed to setting in the west. I guess this is because in English we read left to right and that’s how my brain parses information? I’m curious if other folks assumed we were getting a rising puzzle too.
Honestly, the puzzle was easy enough for me that I barely noticed the shaded squares during the solve. I did like the elegance of SETTING SUN being the final theme answer. When I saw EAST down there in the other corner I wondered if it was also part of the theme and there was another layer I was missing… but I don’t think there is. My favorite theme answer was MISS UNIVERSE, although clueing the pageant using three men kind of highlighted the lack of women in general in the puzzle for me (by my count, just ILSA, and clue references to Victoria Beckham and Wonder Woman).
The two longest non-theme answers of THEME SONGS and MUSIC SCENE are both fill highlights for me. I also like SELFIE, although I’ve definitely taken those from closer than arm’s length. I did not love ONE I, or the clue of [On the ___ (unfriendly)] for OUTS – to me, someone on the outs is someone being excluded in a larger group (or at least that’s how it’s used in Survivor).
Sean Ziebarth’s Universal crossword, “Colorful Language” — pannonica’s write-up
- 20a. [“Greetings, fellow gardeners! I’m happy to report that everything’s ___.”] COMING UP ROSES.
- 35a. [“Things looked bad after I clumsily trampled my blooms. ___!”] OOPSIE DAISY.
- 44a. [“Luckily, my replacement blooms grew in beautifully. In fact, I was inspired to ___ by planting an extra row!”] GILD THE LILY.
- 59a. [“Thanks for listening to my ___!”] FLOWERY SPEECH.
- Favorite clue: 12d [Start to “rock” and “roll”] BED-.
- 15a [What catches some waves?] RADIO crossing 6d [Surfers flock to its North Shore] OAHU.
- 69a [Marsupial with two opposable thumbs per front paw] KOALA. Phascolarctos cinereus (‘grey pouched-bear’).
Jon Pennington’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Who Let the Dogs Out?”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Familiar phrases hide dog sounds.
- 17a. [Emergency briefcase that follows the president] NUCLEAR FOOTBALL. Arf.
- 29a. [Nocturnal birds with piercing calls] SCREECH OWLS. Howl.
- 44a. [1986 Top Ten hit for Stacey Q] TWO OF HEARTS. Woof.
- 57a. [Folk hero who planted trees] JOHNNY APPLESSED. Yap.
As happens on occasion, the official online version of this puzzle on the WSJ site is messed up. Across clues stop at 63a, and there are no Down clues. Thankfully, Fiend friend Martin is able to get a .puz version for our site. However, I noticed it doesn’t feature any circles where the official puzzle does. Those circled letters are for the dog sounds I highlighted above.
As for the theme, it’s not bad as far as hidden word themes go. It’s not wholly consistent in that three of the dog sounds are onomatopoeic whereas HOWL is not.
Most of the grid is filled in just fine, but Monday puzzles are historically kind to new solvers. This one has some tough fill that newer solvers might not know like ELOI, ILLE, ADZE, and Nigerian author Wole SOYINKA, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. I’m all for learning new-to-me proper names, but the crossings have to be fair. I finished with an error because I thought 40d [Hectic activity] was BUSINESS and I never, ever would have considered it to be BUSYNESS.
Clues of note:
- 36a. [“Winnie ___ Pu” (first Latin bestseller in the U.S.)]. ILLE. “Latin” here meaning the actual language. The book was a translation of Winnie the Pooh into Latin and was a big hit in 1958. I’d never heard of it and love the idea (but it still doesn’t make for fine Monday fill).
- 57a. [Folk hero who planted trees]. JOHNNY APPLESEED. Recently I learned he didn’t plant trees for the joy of it. “He would find unclaimed land and plant apple orchards on it. Planting the orchards was a legal way of claiming ownership in some areas of the West. After planting, he would leave them to grow and wait for people to settle in the region. Then, he would come back years later and sell the trees at a huge profit. Pretty smart!” To me, that sounds like an a**hole thing to do.
- 51d. [Support for begging?]. KNEES. There are so many ways to clue this, why go here? I realize people beg to other people for a great many things (love, forgiveness, etc.), but the clue only made me think of homeless persons and their plight while making light of it.
2.5 stars from me.
Will Nediger’s USA Today puzzle, “Name Names”– malaika’s write-up
This puzzle contains three answers that are names of people which contain the string NAME– each one is a “name name,” if you will. SELINA MEYER and IDINA MENZEL were gimmes for me– entered with zero crosses, but I have never heard of ANA MENDIETA, an artist who was a part of Operation Peter Pan. (I read this book about Operation Peter Pan when I was young.) (CW: If you look further into her art, she discusses rape and violence against women.)
Nice to see ICE CREAM, the best dessert, in this grid. I was just in Mexico City for a few days where it seems like there was an ice cream store on every block. In New York City, it is very trendy to do weird savory flavors like mac&cheese or floral flavors like lavender. No thank you!!
Liz Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
Atypical write-up format today, because why not? Pitched to Saturday NYT difficulty, spot on for a Monday New Yorker puzzle.
Fave clue: 39a. [Mudslingers?], BARISTAS. Definitely had me at a loss for a while.
Music! WEST COAST HIP-HOP is clued [“2001” genre], and first I thought of the sci-fi novel and movie. Wondering who the artist was, I googled 2001 rap and boy, does that search query give you a lot from the year and very little for a numerical title. Appears to be the title of a late-1999 Dr. Dre album. Also in music, a Nelly Furtado song, I’M LIKE A BIRD, clued [Lead single from the 2000 album, “Whoa, Nelly!”]. Had never heard it before, it’s kinda catchy.
Not music! [Pitchy] clues RESINOUS, having to do with sticky pitch, and not bad singing.
Fave fill: “DANG IT!,” LILAC, ZEPHYR, MELISSA Benoist, BIG BERTHA. Less keen on: -ILE, GIAN, LIMNERS, SSS, ‘STRO.
Really?: 22d. [Take on as a member], INCEPT. Not sure I’ve ever encountered this usage.
3.5 stars from me.
Will Pfadenhauer’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Let’s head down to the revealer at 59A [Christian doctrine of divinity, and the starts of the answers to 18-, 29-, and 45-Across?], which gets us HOLY TRINITY. No, not FATHER, SON, and HOLY GHOST; the question mark in the revealer indicates that something else is going on, and that something is that HOLY can be placed before the first word of each theme entry to make a new phrase.
- 18A [Age-old method of long-distance communication] is a SMOKE SIGNAL. HOLY SMOKE, that’s not an entry I would question!
- 29A [Triple-A baseball team based in Ohio] is the TOLEDO MUD HENS. HOLY TOLEDO, I’m not sure I quite buy that a triple-A baseball team is culturally important enough to build a theme around! Especially not for a Monday.
- 45A [Atmospheric patterns that resemble fish scales] is MACKEREL SKIES. HOLY MACKEREL, I’d never heard of such a thing! If you go by Google hits, MACKEREL SKY is the more common phrasing by a lot, but even that gets fewer than 500K hits, which to me says “not Monday territory.”
The grid overall is fine, with some unusual but totally legit for Monday entries like BRATTY, JET PILOT, and BLUE MOON. But I think this puzzle could’ve been improved by taking away the constraint that the constructor was clearly looking for [HOLY ___] exclamations — other words that follow HOLY but aren’t exclamations, like SEE, WATER, and FAMILY could, I think, have produced theme phrases that are more appropriate for Monday.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday puzzle–Matthew’s write-up
First of all, apologies for missing a bunch of reviews lately. My father-in-law passed this past Friday after escalating complications from surgery a week prior; it’s been hectic to say the least and I’m now in rural Missouri for another week (though I will say that Thursday’s RDU-DCA-ORD-COU flight itinerary went totally to plan, somehow).
Back in the saddle, I got a toughie from BEQ this afternoon. The biggest issue was my errors – “BUILDS UP” instead of BUILDS ON at [42a Develops] right next to “LED” instead of XED for [49a Made one’s mark, e.g.], which totally muddled up the middle for a while. But I also wasn’t a huge fan, for various reasons, of GO ON A TRIP, ERIE PA, ROBOTRY, or VILENESS. I had ISRAELI FETA [25d Crumbly Middle Eastern cheese] in that list, but with some Googling I see that it is distinct from other fetas — mellower and less salty. So fair play there.
My own preferences aside, I appreciate a tougher themeless that’s consistent throughout the grid – I had both footholds [SMYRNA, RENNER, ISOTONER] and sticking points [ORRIN, TYNER, etc] in each area, so I made steady progress. I don’t like CRYPTOBROS [17a Dudes big on staking BTC and collecting NFTs] necessarily, but it’s certainly grid-worthy. CORNISH HEN [58a Broiler alternative] was a nice clue that took me a minute to dig that meaning of “broiler” out of my brain.
NYT: I liked this Monday theme… It’s more visual than most Mondays and it’s very clean.
NAMESAKE reminded me of one of my favorite books- The Namesake by Lahiri.
To my mind, On the OUTS implies that people were close but have had a problem that is causing a cooling or distancing of the relationship. It wouldn’t sound right if you’ve always been unfriendly with someone. And if it turns into a permanent break, it might get a different name… Did I make this up?
NYT: I agree with huda about “on the outs” … I’ve always heard/thought of it as one person vs. another, friends who have had a tiff and stopped speaking (for a while, usually).
Universal: I did not know about the koala’s two opposable thumbs per paw (are they also on the back paws?)… how cute! Thanks for the picture. The scientific name provided says they are a bear… I thought they weren’t? I’m confused. Yesterday (or this weekend), “Koala bear” was a misnomer, wasn’t it?
eta: I answered my own question, the hind paws are different and don’t have two opposable thumbs each, so the clue is a bit misleading ,
I take that back, the clue does say “per front paw”. Sorry.
Scientific names don’t always reflect reality. Taxonomic validity is based on precedence rather than descriptive accuracy.
Thx :) ! Unconfused now.
Because the common names of plants and animals are not scientific at all, I really don’t understand getting bothered by “koala bear,” “jellyfish” or the like. This is coming from a guy who drives his wife nuts by quoting the Latin name of every fish I cook for dinner.
Don’t get me started on “bass.” White sea bass is a croaker; black sea bass is a grouper; Chilean sea bass is a cod icefish, not to be confused with cod or icefish; giant sea bass is a wreckfish; the largemouth bass is a sunfish and the peacock bass is a cichlid. Moreover, the “striped bass” is called rockfish by my brother-in-law in Maryland, while the true rockfish is call “red snapper” here in California. Morone saxatilis is always the striped bass and only the striped bass.
So use the Latin name when scientific accuracy matters and leave the koala bears and jellyfish to when we all know what you mean.
lol … Language is certainly a strange and wonderful thing, ain’t it? But I suppose I don’t need to point that out in a forum populated by cruciverbalists.
I’m a stickler on this. “Latin name” is a bit of a misnomer, as there is a comparable amount of Greek vocabulary (as well as other languages) inherent to the enterprise. True, the naming conventions sort of follow classical Latin grammar, but not faithfully. At best it could be dubbed Latinoid.
Anyway, marciem was reacting to my literal translation of the koala’s scientific binomial.
And as for the permanence of the name Morone saxatilis, although unlikely, it could be subject to change based on systematic revision. This is why synonyms exist. Historic synonyms I’ve found for the species:
Perca mitchilli alternata (Mitchill, 1815)
Perca saxatilis (Walbaum, 1792)
Roccus lineatus ((Bloch), 1792)
Roccus saxatilis ((Walbaum), 1792)
Sciaena lineata (Bloch, 1792)
(Incidentally, the parentheses around the describers’ names have taxonomic significance, regarding genus placement relative to original description.)
Yep, when I learned most of my binomial names, the striper was Roccus saxatilis. Every few years I have to relearn a name.
Also, I know that marciem was talking about the genus name. But it’s not just a matter of precedence. The seahorse genus is Hippocampus, which has “horse” in it. The “scientific” names are often based on ancient Greek or Latin names that weren’t very scientific. But once they’re official binomial names, they are precise in taxonomy if not in etymology.
Martin, pannonica… THANK YOU for the interesting and informative discussion!! :) Its hog-heaven for a nonscientifically educated cruciverbalist, I am saving the discussion to further learn more !
Merely refreshing the WSJ page twice loaded all the clues correctly
Thanks to Fiend friend Glenn for preparing a .puz version from the correct .pdf. I reported the problem to Mike Shenk, and he got the online version corrected.
I just replaced the WSJ .puz with one that has circles.
Disagree. At the very least it’s debatable.
Hope Stella is ok! No LAT write up for Saturday or today
Stella is fine and on vacation. She left writeups to be pasted in and we apparently missed Saturday. I just added today’s.
Thank you for sounding concerned rather than scolding.
TNY: I thought LIMNERS and INCEPT were ridiculous. Does anyone really use such archaisms any more. “Hey Mom! Guess what? I was incepted to the limners club!”
TNY: Pretty smooth except for the SE corner. It took me a long while to decide that the “ultimate prize” of 47D wasn’t the Nobel.
Matthew – My condolences to you and your family on the passing of your father-in-law.