Monday, August 22, 2022

BEQ 4:24 (Matthew) 


LAT 2:20 (Stella) 


NYT 4ish(Sophia) 


The New Yorker 5:35 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Doug Burnikel and Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up

New York Times, 08 22 2022, By Doug Burnikel and Zhouqin Burnikel

Theme: The first word of each theme answer is a name for the subway.

  • [Black Forest Ham and Cold Cut Combo, for two] – SUBWAY SANDWICHES
  • [Region encompassing a city and its suburbs] – METRO AREA
  • [One-size-fits-all hosiery] – TUBE SOCKS
  • [Nonmainstream productions like “Pink Flamingos” and “Eraserhead”] – UNDERGROUND FILMS

Cute theme! I’m a noted public transit lover so this was an easy theme for me to like. It’s impressive how many words we have for these type of transit – in Seattle we have the light rail, which wouldn’t have really worked for this puzzle. A few of the clues were a little strange to me: Are TUBE SOCKS really one size fits all? I had also heard of “Eraserhead” but not “Pink Flamingos” so I had to get that from context.

I don’t have many comments on the fill today – it was very smooth and Monday friendly, no crosses that seemed unfair.

Other notes:

  • The grid is oversized to accommodate the two 16 letter theme answers. That also gives extra space for some fun fill – I WAS RIGHT, DOGGONEIT (which I couldn’t spell correctly for a while), MANDELA, WAIT OUT.
  • I really should know LEN Dawson by now, but I forget his name every time. On the other hand, I knew Heidi KLUM instantly, but I associate her with “Project Runway” not “America’s Got Talent”.
  • There are also multiple astronauts in the puzzle in YURI Gagarin and Ellen OCHOA, which is a fun parallel.

Kurt Krauss’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Take a Little Off the Top”—Jim P’s review

Theme: CAN OPENER (59a, [Soup preparer’s need, and a hint to the starts of the starred answers]). Theme answers are familiar phrases whose first words might “open” for (i.e. precede) “can.” (By the way, I’ve made my share of soup from cans, but I’d still prefer it if the clue had a “perhaps” in there to indicate not all soups come from cans. Oh, and don’t most soup cans have pop tops these days, anyway?)

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Take a Little Off the Top” · Kurt Krauss · Mon., 8.22.22

  • 16a. [*Prominent gut] BEER BELLY. Beer can.
  • 24a. [*Where to go for a fill-up] GAS STATION. Gas can.
  • 35a. [*Taunts between teams] TRASH TALK. Trash can.
  • 49a. [*Sweet treat at Starbucks] COFFEE CAKE. Coffee can. Hmm. Does coffee still come in cans? Will anyone admit to buying coffee in cans?

My laptop battery’s at 12%. Gotta make this quick.

Fortunately for me, this is a perfect example of a Monday grid: an easy-t0-grasp theme and smooth fill. Theme answers were fun and lively though I still needed the revealer to put it all together. The solve proceeded smoothly through to the end.

It’s a challenge to construct a grid with a nine-letter central entry, but it’s handled well here. Unfortunately, the grid gets bisected meaning we don’t get any juicy long entries, but with such smooth fill I hardly noticed. I enjoyed the BEE GEES, “OH YES,” ALFALFA, AL DENTE, “TRY ME,” and even BAD NEWS. The iffiest entry I spotted was the partial A TALE, but it was quickly gotten past.

Clues of note:

  • 42d. [You might need to brace for it]. BAD NEWS. I wanted this to be IMPACT.
  • [UFO crew] does double duty for 12d ALIENS and 58d ETS.

Lively Monday theme and a quick solve. Four stars. (Battery check: 11%. Pretty good!)

Rebecca Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 8/22/22 by Rebecca Goldstein

Los Angeles Times 8/22/22 by Rebecca Goldstein

OK, I know I’m the reviewer here, but please tell me how to feel about this puzzle. On the one hand, there’s lots of thematic material — six entries! They’re explained by the revealer at 53D [Total stranger, or a three-word hint to the answers to the starred clues], which is RANDO. Split that into R AND O, and you see that the theme answers are two-word phrases whose initials are RO:

  • 16A [*Playful semiaquatic mammal] is a RIVER OTTER.
  • 24A [*Seafood served on the half shell] is a RAW OYSTER. (Yum! I miss the days of $1 oyster happy hours. Thanks, inflation.)
  • 36A [*Really get down to the music] is ROCK OUT.
  • 38A [*Floral perfume ingredient] is ROSE OIL.
  • 47A [*Request with a tight timeline] is a RUSH ORDER.
  • 59A [*”Only the Lonely” singer] is ROY ORBISON.

So, some nice, evocative theme entries, and a lot of them. The reason I don’t know how to feel is that there are four long Down entries that are longer than the two central themers (and the two longest are longer than any of the themers). Even with the stars, that contributed to this solve being quite a bit longer than the usual Monday for me (particularly when I had realized that each theme entry begins with R, hadn’t noticed the O commonality, and therefore thought that FEELS AT EASE at 9D should be RESTS AT EASE). In fact, I just noticed that the difference between my solve time on this past Saturday’s puzzle and today’s was only four seconds!

In the end, I think I’ll go with “nice puzzle that could’ve been midweek,” or maybe that needed a black square breaking up the 11-letter nontheme entries, as much as I like LUCKY CHARMS.

Chloe Revery’s Universal crossword, “Swizzle Stick” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 8/22/22 • Mon • Revery • “Swizzle Stick” • solution • 20220822

Let’s go for a spin.

  • 59aR [Make a sudden change, or a hint to the words transposed in 17-, 23-, 37- and 47-Across] SHIFT GEARS. The circled letters can be rearranged to form the names of gears in an automatic transmission. Am wondering if ‘transposed’ was used to reinforce that idea, rather than the more-often-seen ‘rearranged’ or ‘anagrammed’.
  • 17a. [Employment documents] WORK PAPERS (rkpa → park).
  • 23a. [Himalayan cats with spots] SNOW LEOPARDS (owl → low).
  • 37a. [Bad medical response] ADVERSE REACTION (versere → reverse).
  • 47a. [Gave up legal entitlements] WAIVED RIGHTS (ivedr →drive).

I note that these are not in order—reverse and low would be transposed—and not complete, as neutral is absent, although it’s arguable that it isn’t a gear per se. I’ll also note that the title seems inapt to me, as ‘stick’ generally connotes a manual transmission. Automatic transmissions often have stick-like controllers, but they’re called ‘shifters’ to differentiate them from stick shift vehicles.

  • 9d [Dodgers’ opponent?: Abbr.] IRS. Cute.
  • Theme-adjacent: 12d [Drive too fast] SPEED. Does the ‘drive’ in the clue constitute a duplication?
  • 49d [“Odyssey” : journey :: “__” :: war] ILIAD. Both are eponyms and may be rendered uncapitalized.
  • 55d [Lack of challenge] EASE. Unrelated etymologically to 25d [Artist’s stand] EASEL. Etymologies: ease: Middle English ese, from Anglo-French eise, aise convenience, comfort, ultimately from Latin adjacent-, adjacens neighboring — more at ADJACENT. easel: borrowed from Dutch ezel, literally, ‘donkey,’ going back to Middle Dutch esel, going back to Germanic *asil- (whence Old Saxon & Old High German esil ‘donkey,’ Old English esol, eosol, Gothic asilus), altered from Latin asinus — more at ASS entry 1. (both from
  • 46a [Can-crushing comic character] POPEYE. This was extremely difficult to get if, like me, you accidentally filled in 35d [PlayStation 5 maker] as SONZ {SONY} and didn’t notice the error.

Despite some minor failings in my opinion, this is a solid crossword. I still prefer manual transmissions, but they admittedly make for a less interesting crossword theme.

Rena Cohen & Kate Chin Park’s USA Today puzzle, “Creature Chorus”– malaika’s write-up

hey besties, today’s puzzle is a DEBUT from rena. everyone say “congratulations, rena” in the comments!!!

usa today– creature chorus

the title is not a phrase i am aware of, maybe it’s not a common phrase at all and it just has nice alliteration? let me know. in any case, it refers to the sounds animals make, which kick off each of the three answers. we’ve got TWEET STORM, BUZZ LIGHTYEAR, and MOOSHU PORK.

also, check out these TEN juicy seven- and eight-letter words that we’ve got! DEAD EVEN, CAR KEYS, FRENEMY, STIMULI, RIHANNA, HARD PASS, TAKE NOTE, SKY MALL, ZOOM DATE!! that is a wild amount of non-theme content (i actually went back to recount, since it seemed like so much) and so much of it is sparkly stuff.

other things to note:

  • i love Small Business Saturday. i love when people tell me i am allowed to SHOP because it is good for the economy. yes please. i’m doing my part!! in my neighborhood, they close the main street (which is lined with restaurants and clothing + trinket shops) to cars on saturday, and there’s live music and it’s so much fun.
  • i love seeing ARIA clued as a PLL character rather than opera or whatever, but i wonder if we’ll have to get more specific about the title now that there’s a reboot.
  • i had not heard of Amy Rodriguez, an american soccer player who is nicknamed A-ROD.
  • ZOOM DATE is a great entry, but the clue made me go “hmm.” [Long-distance romantic outing]– is it an outing if you are presumably calling from your home?
  • i hear more about people slapping bags of rice (also love to slap a watermelon) than slapping bags of SOIL but sure why not!! let’s all slap all the bags!! brb, setting “slap the bag” to 100 in my word list. rise up, franzia squad.

Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up

The New Yorker crossword solution, 8/22/22 – Collins

It’s always a treat to have a KAC themeless, but I was expecting the clues to be harder! I feel cheated out of 20% of the mental effort I was prepared to expend. Kameron doesn’t usually gravitate towards 72-word grids, but I’m guessing that the triple-stacked 15s nudged towards having a lot of short fill in the mix. I used to love triple-stacks, but my ardor for them has cooled in the last several years.

Fave fill: MADAGASCAR, OPEN SOURCE, SECURITIES FRAUD (I know an SEC lawyer—her job is nailing those rats), ZZ TOP.

Seven more things:

  • 17a. [It underwent a newsworthy split in the thirties], ATOM. I was thinking of countries breaking up, but no. Good mislead.
  • 34a. [Tricks of the trade?], SECURITIES FRAUD. Tricks of the stock trades, etc.
  • 47a. [Any entry in the Final Fantasy series, for short], RPG. Short for role-playing game. A much more pleasant expansion than rocket-propelled grenade, no?
  • 59a. [Surveillance system on a warship], NAVAL RADAR. The NAVAL part feels extraneous. Those of you who’ve been in the Navy, what say you?
  • 1d. [Cause for alarm?], BLAZE. For a fire alarm, sure. Nice repurposing of a familiar phrase.
  • 13d and 27d. [Novel developments] clues both story or character ARCS and FIRSTS.
  • 48d. [Plumed military hat], SHAKO. Is this in contemporary use, or is it strictly historical? I learned the term from crosswords of yore, along with KEPI.

3.75 stars from me.

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

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 8/22/2022

This was a bit of a doozy, no? Traps galore, two sets of triple-staggerstacked long answers, and more long stuff into the middle and in the corners. Not many opportunities for footholds here.

I actually finished the puzzle unsure if I was correct, before looking up ECDYSIAST [8d One in a pole position?]. Apparently this is a word for a striptease performer coined by H.L. Mencken. I’m unfamiliar, but if any commenters are more familiar with pole dancing or strip teases, they can weigh in on the obscurity (or not) of this word.

Other than that, I thought the long stuff was nicely flavorful. Soccer club FC BARCELONA clued to its stadium, the Camp Nou, is a bit trivia-y, but they are one of the richest and most famous sports teams in the world. PAJAMA RICH [14a So loaded that you don’t have to dress up for work] is a coinage I first heard before COVID vaccines were available, pointing out the disparities between folks in careers who could afford to continue to isolate and social distance several months in, and those who had little choice but to return to their jobs and attendant health risks.

There are quite a few names in the grid, from a variety of knowledge bases: activist BIANCA Jagger and actor WES Bentley each cross that ECDYSIAST entry and are new to me, as is Jody RELL. Mythbuster JAMIE Hyneman, 9-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino ROSSI, New England Patriots quarterback MAC Jones, and actress PAIGE O’Hara cover pretty broad ground as well. A tough but ultimately manageable grid IMO.


  • 17a [New Mexico city that boasts a sculpture of the World’s Largest Pistachio] ALAMOGORDO. My wife’s hometown boasts the World’s Largest Pecan. I’ll have to get to Alamogordo someday to compare.
  • 19a [It comes after 3rd: Abbr.] LEX. This is an entry that could have been clued with a non-New York City angle for the many puzzle solvers who aren’t familiar with that city. I find that NYC maintains a presence in puzzles even as puzzle options beyond the Times build their footholds.
  • 42a [___ America (South American soccer tournament)] COPA. Most major soccer tournaments are “cups,” even ones whose trophies are not.
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13 Responses to Monday, August 22, 2022

  1. Mister [Not At All] Grumpy says:

    What an entertaining batch of Monday puzzles! Was there a minor theme in the NYT? The subway system in Paris is known as the Metro and the Tube is the underground in London. I thought it was cute that the longer theme entries had the more general name and the shorter had a more localized one. LAT seemed very random [forgive me!] until the revealer, and then it was obviously a perfect Monday. Was able to guess the WSJ theme once I had beer and gas in place but still enjoyed the rest of it … and it has been YEARS since I bought Yuban in a can or used a percolator [shudder]. And the Universal was very okay as well. Didn’t we have one within the last few years [maybe a Sunday?] in which the proper sequence of an automatic transmission ran from top to bottom? This one was still nice. Thanks to all of today’s constructors!

    • Mr. [Not At All] Grumpy says:

      Answering my own question about the Universal. June 7, 2009 “Shifty Business” by Jeremy Newton in the NYT. A rebus puzzle for a manual 5-speed transmission … including Neutral exactly where it should be but no Park, of course.

  2. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT … smh re ZOOM DATE … Is this really a thing now? Woody Allen’s “Sleeper” was way more prescient than I realized when I first saw it.

    “Slapping the bags of SOIL at Home Depot”??? WTF? I Googled this phrase (excluding ‘crossword’ from the search) and it returned 3(!) hits. Can someone please give me some context here?

    • malaika says:

      here you go:

      (googling “slapping bags of soil” gives 500k results– i suspect they added “Home Depot” to the clue to provide context that might make it easier)

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Thanks Malaika … an internet meme … I should have known

        So I guess it’s kinda like that thrill that some people get from popping the little air pockets in bubble wrap. I never really understood that one either, but whatever floats your boat, I suppose.

        Point of order … A video that got “over 700 views in a year” five years ago qualifies as a meme that’s crossword-worthy? Hmm.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          Oops … I misread … apparently the 700 views in a year was for someone slapping a bag of rice in a grocery store.

          BTW and FWIW, when I just now Googled the exact phrase “slapping bags of soil”, I got 650 hits.

          Anyways … moving on …

  3. JohnH says:

    The WSJ was, shall we say, quaint, back in the days of gas cans, coffee cans, and bland, salty canned soup requiring a can opener. But I don’t expect all that much early in the week. It’ll do just fine.

    TNY was as hard as expected, with much I didn’t know, but ultimately one I could complete without looking up non-NY sports figures and TV shows. I’ll take for granted what I got for Drummond, Aladdin, Stream, and Blyton, say. I do appreciate the bow for a change to literacy with Rita Dove, Robert Caro, and Amiri Baraka. The last reads from his poetry right now (along with Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery) in a terrific art exhibition at the Jewish Museum on the theme of NYC 1962-1964. It brings alive the excitement of a city I can’t myself quite remember.

    • PJ says:

      I don’t keep up with my times but I’m pretty sure I completed TNY in record time with no errors. I was able to fill in most of the long acrosses and the two long downs with few or no crossings though I started with GREEN instead of GIANT SEA TURTLE.

  4. Lester says:

    TNY: To answer Amy’s question, I was a radar operator in the Navy, and NAVAL RADAR sounds decidedly roll-your-own to me.

    Elsewhere, the puzzle reminded me of when I had pneumonia and the doctor called her assistant over to listen to my classic RALEs.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thanks for weighing in, Lester.

      I don’t think doctors recognize a singular RALE. When I was a medical editor, it was always rales. Apparently rales are now called pulmonary crackles, in case you wondered what your physician and her assistant were hearing.

  5. marciem says:

    Jim P: WSJ… Yes, coffee still comes in cans, at least “house/store brands” do in two stores I shop at. I tried one of them, the price was great….. but it tasted sooooo awful! But somebody must buy them at least once :D .

  6. Gary R says:

    TNY: Enjoyed the puzzle, and finished with no errors. But I was stuck for quite a while on the three grid-spanners in the middle. I had filled in SAG at 34-D and then DOE at 42-A, which got me ENID at 35-D. Then I decided on XOXO for “Smooches” (I still don’t especially like CIAO for that). But that left me thinking that 34-A had something to do with tricks in the sex trade.

    Finally, some other downs let me see ENCLOSURE and TURTLES, and I was able to back into the rest of it.

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