Monday, July 18, 2022

BEQ 3:53 (Matthew) 


LAT 1:52 (Stella) 


NYT 3:54 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 7:04 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Phoebe Gordon’s New York Times puzzle– Sophia’s write-up

New York Times, 07 18 2022, by Phoebe Gordon

Theme answers:

  • 17a [In a state of confusion, as in math class?] – AT SIXES AND SEVENS
  • 40a [Very rapidly, as in a ballet studio?] – BY LEAPS AND BOUNDS
  • 63a [In suspense, as in a tailor shop?] – ON PINS AND NEEDLES

This is a hard theme to sum up in a single sentence. Each answer takes a common idiom and reparses it to be about a relevant location. Furthermore, each of the base idioms is structured the same way, and are an oversize-grid-spanning 16 letters long. Any layers I’m missing there?

Overall, I liked the theme, but in some ways it left me wanting a little bit more to tie everything together. Thinking of AT SIXES AND SEVENS in a math class context made me imagine learning the times tables (did other folks have to memorize those?) and everything going smoothly until you have to learn the 6’s and 7’s! I was less sure about the BY in BY LEAPS AND BOUNDS than any of the other articles in the idioms, but a post-solve google tells me that it is necessary for the idiom, so point to the puzzle, I guess.

Other things:

  • I loved the two counts of double Zs in the puzzle! The ONZE/OZZIE could cause some trouble for solvers though; I’ve only heard of “Ozzie and Harriet” from taking a TV history class in college. Other than that, though, a very clean puzzle fill-wise. I guess CLIO is esoteric, but the crosses are fair.
  • Speaking of fill! This puzzle is chock-full of great down answers – SPIT TAKES, STARGAZE, LADYBIRD, CUPHOLDER.
  • Loved the subtle West Side Story reference in the clue [Jet or Shark, in sports lingo] for NHLER. Certainly loved it a lot more than the word NHLER itself…
  • I was certain that the first instance of [Region] at 12d was “area” so it took me a while to see ZONE. So imagine my surprise when AREA turned up as the answer at 24d [Region]!

Congrats to Phoebe on a great NYT debut!

Kevin Christian’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “P’s Process”—Jim P’s review

I only just realized the title is a pun on “peace process.” But the theme is a vowel progression with words starting with P occurring at the end of well-known phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “P’s Process” · Kevin Christian · Mon., 7.18.22

  • 18a. [Big trouble, idiomatically] HELL TO PAY.
  • 20a. [Climbing plant with fragrant flowers] SWEET PEA.
  • 37a. [Object one might take in the face in a slapstick comedy] COCONUT CREAM PIE. Fun grid-spanner.
  • 53a. [Title character of “Kung Fu Panda”] MASTER PO.
  • 57a. [Kneeler spot] CHURCH PEW.

As vowel progressions go, this is very nice. I like the lively theme answers and the long U sound in the final entry. The theme probably couldn’t be done without MASTER PO, so that was a nice find, but I bet most of us needed the crossings for that one. (Was he really a “master” in that movie?)

In the fill, we have STATE LINE, GAVE IT A GO, ALL-IN-ONE, MARVELED, UNWASHED, and ANGELENO to sink our teeth into. This time I remembered that third vowel in ANGELENO is an E and not an I.

I also liked SMURFY [Unusually cheerful, like certain blue cartoon characters], but is that really the definition of that word? As I recall from the show, they’d use that word to replace many different adjectives.

Clue of note: 63a. [Like garage rags]. OILY. Make sure to treat and store those OILY rags properly, folks. Depending on the oil, spontaneous combustion is a real danger.

Solid Monday outing. 3.75 stars.

Howard Barkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 7/18/22 by Howard Barkin

Los Angeles Times 7/18/22 by Howard Barkin

The crossworld has an awful lot of nice people in it, but one of the nicest is Howard Barkin, so I was delighted to see his byline today. Perhaps this puzzle is Howard’s way of telling the universe to send him some money, food, or both. The revealer at 57A [Budget option at a fast-food joint that the answers to the starred clues could all belong to?] is DOLLAR MENU, and the theme entries are all food items that start with words that are slang terms for money:

  • 17A [Fried seafood appetizer] is CLAM STRIPS.
  • 27A [Sandwiches with leafy exteriors] is LETTUCE WRAPS.
  • 43A [Starchy and eggy dessert] is BREAD PUDDING.

Quibble: A CLAM is slang for a dollar, whereas LETTUCE and BREAD are both terms for money in general. But finding a symmetrical theme set that is all foods has to have been tough, and the result is fun. The fill is super clean, leading to a sub-2-minute finish for me. Seems appropriate for a puzzle constructed by a fellow speed demon.

Kevin Shustack’s Universal crossword, “Card-Carrying” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 7/17/22 • Mon • Shustack • “Card-Carrying” • solution • 20220717

You’ll be excused for having a sense of déjà-vu, as this crossword replicates part of the mechanism seen in yesterday’s much-discussed (technically, anyway) New York Times 21×21 puzzle. From what I learned in the comments, there was a similar theme in Thursday’s BEQ crossword, so I’ve just consulted the Fiend write-up to see that it replicates the other major mechanism of the Times’.

Call it happenstance, call it co-occurrence, call it whatever you like. In any case, it shouldn’t diminish any of the three crosswords; they should each be judged on their own merits.

Back to the one at hand.

  • 48aR [Showing affection publicly, or what the answers to the starred clues are doing] HOLDING HANDS. The long across answers contain the names of playing cards, in sequence. In each case, the higher value card appears first, as it would be described.
  • 20a. [*Justifies, in a way] SPACES EVENLY (ace-seven).
  • 27a. [*Perk for a college graduate] ALUMNI NETWORK (nine-two). Not sure how realistic a hand of “nine-two” is, but perhaps my mistake is considering something like a 5-card hand as a default. Maybe it’s more like Texas Hold’em, which I learned yesterday has the players with just two cards of their own.
  • 43a. [*Coat worn at a cigar lounge] SMOKING JACKET (king-jack). Same answer appeared in the NYT.

These are good finds, and it’s a solid theme.

  • 10d [Comedy and medicine, e.g.] CAREERS. Why those two, I wonder.
  • 23d [Gift-wrapping roll] TAPE. Not the paper that you thought of first.
  • 36d/53a [University in North Carolina] DUKE, ELON.
  • 42d [Pouts or stomps, say] ACTS MAD. My misfill here was ACTS OUT.
  • 46d [Scrutinized, with “over”] PORED, crossing 46a [Rain cats and dogs] POUR.
  • Favorite clue: [Popular Japanese band?] OBI.
  • 31a [Works at, as a craft] PLIES. Usually we see that verb collocated with trade.
  • 41a [Purple hue associated with the 1890s] MAUVE. That’s because it was ‘invented’ in 1859. “The synthetic dye mauve was first so named in 1859. Chemist William Henry Perkin, then eighteen, was attempting in 1856 to synthesize quinine, which was used to treat malaria. He noticed an unexpected residue, which turned out to be the first aniline dye. Perkin originally named the dye Tyrian purple after the historical dye, but the product was renamed mauve after it was marketed in 1859. It is now usually called Perkin’s mauve, mauveine, or aniline purple.”
    But! “The first use of the word mauve as a color was in 1796–98 according to the Oxford English Dictionary, but its use seems to have been rare before 1859.” Both quotations are from Wikipedia.

    If you’re interested in the story behind and beyond the hue, I can recommend the 2000 book Mauve: how one man invented a colour that changed the world, by Simon Garfield.
  • 61a [Time to beware] IDES. I object to this clue on the basis of its Juliocentricness. Seriously, why do people say “beware the ides of March” so far removed from Caesar?

Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 7/18/22 – Pasco

Good puzzle, solidly challenging, well situated on a Monday. I do appreciate the New Yorker going with Brendan Quigley’s “tough themelesses on Mondays” vibe.

Fave stuff: HEAD RUSH. [Oil cleanups, maybe] to clue ART RESTORATIONS (which can be hilarious). SEMESTER ABROAD. CONTENT CREATOR. LAST NIGHT IN SOHO. “EYES ON ME.” PAT MORITA. Very “meh”: STOAT.

Did not know: [Hong Kong democracy activist Chow], AGNES.

1a. [Dad, in Korean], APPA. Fair game these days since Korean TV and movies are so much more popular in the US now, and Parasite won the Best Picture Oscar.

Wouldn’t normally care for the duplication of “MUST I?” and “CAN I?” but the pairing strikes me as a cute echo here. Reluctance vs. eagerness.

Four stars from me.

Rafael Musa’s USA Today puzzle, “Top Hats”– malaika’s write-up

USA Today– Top Hats

Today’s deeply asymmetrical puzzle features three vertical answers whose “top” is the letter string HAT. We’ve got HATERS GONNA HATE (the best answer, imo) along with HATHA YOGA (a new term for me) and HATTIE MCDANIEL, another new one for me. I know Walter White is from the show “Breaking Bad” (which I have never seen) but this clue is referencing a real-life Walter White.

An asymmetrical grid like this typically means we get lots of fun long answers because just because there’s a little stack on one side (like MORTADELLA / CRAIGS LIST), it doesn’t have to be on the other side as well. ATHEISTS, BIOCHEMIST, and CARNE ASADA were also fun. I had to guess on the crossing of DANA and MCDANIELS but it was a pretty educated guess. “McLaniels” and “McHaniels” sounded weird haha.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday puzzle– Matthew’s write-up

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 7/18/2022

Open corners, a central spanner, and some other long stuff held together by a bit more 3- and 4-letter entries than we usually see on Mondays from BEQ. I’LL SEE MYSELF OUT clued to a failed Dad joke is spot-on, and the highlight of the puzzle for me. I also quite liked NO MONEY DOWN, ARE WE ALONE, and the trivia ins to ALABAMA and MILLER LITE (Helen Keller’s presence on the state quarter, and the motto “A Fine Pilsner Beer” on cans, respectively).

Ultimately, the higher count of short stuff helped piece together entries that would otherwise give me more resistance, like IKE, Richard Gere’s role in “Runaway Bride,” historian JILL Lepore and author PAM Muñoz Ryan. I did have some trouble with actress ELLA RAINES crossing ERIC Dolphy and the ELI Young Band, though that’s as much my fault for mis-entering EEOC as any particular difficulty in the grid. So it’s not necessarily my favorite balance of “puzzling difficulty” and “things I know” as themelesses go, but it’s nice to learn a bunch of new things without feeling like I was flailing to piece names together.

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18 Responses to Monday, July 18, 2022

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Nice debut puzzle.

    Yes, Sophia, I had to memorize the multiplication tables in grade school — which was a long time ago, but even then, the OZZIE and Harriet show was old TV.

    I’m pretty sure the NYT has used that “Jet or Shark” clue before, but without any sports reference (so probably on a Friday or Saturday). And yes, NHLER and answers like that feel a bit forced

    • huda says:

      I still multiply in French, even though it was not my native language, nor is it now my most familiar language, but those multiplication tables were drilled into the brain.
      The combination of the clue and phrase “ON PINS AND NEEDLES” was my favorite- it seems perfect.
      And yes, lots of cool fill for a Monday. Well done!

  2. Michael says:

    Holy cow! Is this THE Phoebe Gordon, a second-generation Gordon crossword constructor (at least)? I actually remember when Peter made the announcement of her birth. Congrats on the debut, Phoebe! I’m sure you made your dad proud (and some of us feel old).

  3. Gary R says:

    NYT: Somehow, living my entire life in the U.S. and having reached the age of 65, I have managed never to run across the phrase AT SIXES AND SEVENS until now (I guess I was “today years old” when I heard it). Crosses were fair, and it was easy enough to guess after six or seven letters were in place.

    I’m old enough to have watched OZZIE and Harriet when it was fresh, so no problem there. The rest of the fill seemed solid.

    Overall, a nice puzzle.

    • Eric H says:

      AT SIXES AND SEVENS is part of the lyrics of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.” I don’t know that song well enough to have remembered that.

      I’m about your age, and I don’t think I’ve ever encountered the phrase in real life. I must’ve heard it somewhere, because I didn’t have any trouble filling it in with only a few crosses.

    • Lester says:

      It’s a repeated line in Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth. “The whole world’s at sixes and sevens.”

    • Rob says:

      NYT: Never heard of “at sixes and sevens” until today! I had to memorize the times tables up to 12 x 12. I grew up with Ozzie and Harriet on TV. Congratulations, Phoebe, on a very nice NYT debut puzzle. Proud dad must be beaming ear to ear!

    • AlanW says:

      In Act II of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore,” the captain sings:

      “Fair moon, to thee I sing,
      Bright regent of the heavens,
      Say, why is everything
      Either at sixes or at sevens?”

      The origin of “at sixes and sevens” is uncertain, but it can be traced in writing to Chaucer in the fourteenth century, and may derive from the game of dice. See the discussion at

  4. e.a. says:

    @Amy, is the premise of this – “Fair game these days since Korean TV and movies are so much more popular in the US now, and Parasite won the Best Picture Oscar” – that if those things weren’t true (or if it were another language that hasn’t entered the US tv/movie mainstream as much, say Tagalog or Vietnamese), it would have been unfair?

  5. Chris+Anderegg says:

    I went to British colonial schools (long ago) and “at sixes and sevens” was a common phrase.

  6. Gloria E. says:

    LAT I liked that the person chanting 52 Across clearly lacked 52 Down.😊

  7. Kathleen says:

    RE: Shustak’s Card Carrying 7/17/22 32 across
    I believe a moralistic person is not necessarily a prig. I know many fine people who choose to live a moralistic life who are very down to earth and accepting of others lifestyles. Crossword is just a game, but it’s also a commentary on our culture.

    • pannonica says:

      The two definitional senses of moralistic at m-w both stipulate ‘characterized by’ or ‘expressive of’. You’re describing the former, while the clue is invoking the latter. Think of how tiresome and yes, priggish, someone who often moralizes at others can be.

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