David Steinberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Capital Growth”—Jim P’s review
We have a fun play on words today that I haven’t seen before. The revealer is DUBLIN (64a, [Capital that’s a phonetic hint to the first words of 20-, 33-, 40- and 52-Across]). The other theme entries are familiar phrases whose first words are homophones of the numbers 1, 2, 4, and 8, respectively, and each number is double the previous number (ergo, “DUBLIN”). Cute!
- 20a. [Was clearly victorious] WON HANDS DOWN.
- 33a. [“Sorry not sorry!”] “TOO BAD SO SAD!”
- 40a. [Start of an apathetic remark] “FOR ALL I CARE“
- 52a. [Owned up to a mistake] ATE HUMBLE PIE
What a fun set of entries, though I couldn’t see the theme before I hit the revealer. And even then my brain skipped a beat before the aha moment kicked in. Very enjoyable in an unexpected way.
In the fill I liked “I’LL BITE,” COAL CAR, PAN-ARAB, “O CANADA,” and starting the grid off with APACHE (clued [Geronimo, e.g.]). With only four main theme answers, it seems like there should be room for a couple longer, more sparkly entries, but maybe having that fifth theme answer/revealer (and it being an awkward six letters in length) stymied David’s efforts. All told though, the fill is pleasantly smooth.
Clues of note:
- 42d. [One might be behind a steam locomotive]. COAL CAR. Did you try CABOOSE here first? I considered it, but I also knew cabooses haven’t been in much use since the ’80s.
- 49d. [Prepare to play, as a song]. CUE UP. Ah, tricksy! I was thinking of tuning up an instrument the whole time.
- 61d. [Reading lang.]. ENG. I suppose the clue works for both “reading,” the activity, and “Reading,” the city. Cleverly constructed.
Enjoyable grid. Four stars.
Colin Ernst’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Today’s theme has a hardcore NYC vibe thanks to 23a, which isn’t a term of art here in Chicago. The theme is a REAL ESTATE AGENT‘s euphemisms:
- 17a. [“It’s super-cozy, and a breeze to clean!”], STUDIO APARTMENT. Manhattan has some ridiculously tiny studios. Here’s a video that’s capped off with a 60 sq ft apartment that, as of spring 2021, went for $1095 to $1195 a month. I’m sure it costs a lot more now.
- 23a. [“You can cancel that gym membership!”], FIVE-FLOOR WALK-UP. I struggled here because I’d say “fifth-floor walk-up” or “five-story walk-up.” In Chicago, we count stories, not floors.
- 48a. [“The space has endless possibilities!”], MAJOR FIXER-UPPER. Not for me!
If this theme had run in one of the puzzle venues like the Wall Street Journal or Universal, it could have had a title rather than a 15-letter revealer. Or the theme clues could have been lengthened with something like “the real estate agent claimed.” The fill might have benefited from having 45 theme squares rather than 60, and a lot more breathing room. I’m never too entertained by CLIO, EDAM (too hard to find in convenient sliced form in the US!), PAH, CIV. engr., ASSAM, KTS (can you actually pluralize that abbreviation for karat? it’s a measurement of purity, and you do not get 24 karats of gold, you get 24-karat gold), plural interjection AHS, plural abbrev AFTS, an ELL, and the URALS. I know plenty of long-time solvers accept this stuff as par for the course, but I pity a newer solver who gets all this thrown at them in a single puzzle.
Fave fill: PETRI DISH, ANACONDA, A.A. MILNE, SCOOP NECK, SHAKE ON IT.
Three more things:
- 3d. [Fair market price, say], TRUE VALUE. Entry feels weird when not clued as the retail hardware chain, no? The phrase is in Merriam-Webster with legal/taxation senses. Who knew?
- 48d. [Where Gandalf declares “You shall not pass!”], MORIA. I dredged this up with some crossings. Woe to the solver who doesn’t know their Tolkien nor their Indian tea regions, because that could be a tough crossing.
- 60a. [Like the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars], INNER / 34d. [Like the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune], OUTER. My kingdom for [Like the planet Pluto] cluing “NOT!”
2.5 stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX, “We Get Letters” — Ben’s Review
BEQ’s got today’s AVCX, and today’s theme entries get some letters, as the title suggests:
- 21A: Dubya covered up the sound of his toilet? — BUSH MUTED FLUSHES
- 26A: Spot to drink cheap hipster beers on Jekyll Island? — GEORGIA PBR BEACH
- 44A: Stuffed grape leaves flying above the First State? — DOLMA OVER DELAWARE
- 54A: Bad record made by dolts? — SHITTY LP OF FOOLS
- 61A: Stores that sell salacious stoles? — JUICY MINK DEALERS
Each of these entries has a commonly-used internet abbreviation inserted into it to created the clued phrase:
- BUSTED FLUSHES (it’s a poker thing) + HMU (“hit me up”) = BUSH MUTED FLUSHES
- GEORGIA PEACH + BRB (“be right back”) = GEORGIA PBR BEACH
- DOVER DELAWARE + LMAO (“laughing my ass off”) = DOLMA OVER DELAWARE
- SHIP OF FOOLS + TTYL (“talk to you later”) = SHITTY LP OF FOOLS
- JUNK DEALERS + ICYMI (“in case you missed it”) = JUICY MINK DEALERS
Here are Beto y Enrique (aka Bert and ERNIE, 19A), in all their Plaza Sesamo glory.
George Jasper’s Universal crossword, “Leading Edge” — pannonica’s write-up
Good find for a theme here.
- 37aR [Playground devices for two, and a phonetic hint to the starts of 17-, 26-, 47- and 60-Across] SEESAWS.
- 17a. [Back-and-forth switching between scenes, in film] CROSSCUT EDITING.
- 26a. [Jokey name for a wastebasket] CIRCULAR FILE.
- 47a. [1967 Aretha Franklin hit whose lyrics mention a weak link] CHAIN OF FOOLS.
- 60a. [Method used to handle stress] COPING MECHANISM.
Crosscut saw, circular saw, chainsaw, coping saw, and they all begin with the letter C. Isn’t that nifty?
The fill and cluing are solid but not super-interesting, so I won’t be listing much here.
- 67a [Indian lentil dish] DAL. You’d think we’d see this more often in crosswords.
- 28d [Violin bow need] ROSIN. Or for a musical saw.
Will Nediger’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
Interesting grid layout, with those two Across 13s forming a lattice with the two Down 14s. All four of those entries are terrific: Lizzo’s ABOUT DAMN TIME, THROW FOR A LOOP, DON’T GO ANYWHERE, DOES NOT COMPUTE.
Other nice bits: ARMADILLO (what a fun clue: [Animal with “screaming hairy” and “pink fairy” species]), HOVER OVER, IRENE ADLER, FANDOMS, I SUPPOSE SO.
Not sure anyone really has use for the superlative GAMEST.
Three more things:
- 19d. [Esparza who has been nominated for a Tony in all four eligible acting categories], RAUL. I know him from Law & Order: SVU, where he played prosecutor Rafael Barba. He left the show to focus on theater again, I think.
- 31d. [“I hate almost all ___ people, but I think I’d be darling at it”: Dorothy Parker], RICH. Hadn’t known that quip before. I like it.
- 8d. [Con-centric circles?], FANDOMS. As in groups of fans who go to ComicCon and other fan conventions.
4.25 stars from me.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Forming a Group” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer progressively starts with more letters in the word “band”
- 16a [Optimistic-sounding blood type] – B POSITIVE
- 35a [Four-year college offering] – BA PROGRAM
- 42a [U.N. Secretary General from 2007 to 2016] – BAN KI MOON
- 61a [Concert T-shirts, posters, etc.] – BAND MERCH
I haven’t seen this theme type from USA Today in a long time, possibly ever, so it was a nice change of pace! I liked the clue on B POSITIVE, which made the answer much more specific and fun. Do people actually say BA PROGRAM? I’ve heard of master’s programs and PhD programs, but as someone with a BA, I don’t recall it being referred to in that way. Also, because I didn’t see the theme until I completed the puzzle, I had “tour merch” instead of BAND MERCH for a while.
Favorite fill: OPEN SESAME, I MADE IT, TOLD YA, EASY STREET (although I really wish it had an “Annie” clue!)
Favorite clues: 52a [Lilo, to Nani, for short] for SIS (A “Lilo and Stitch” reference), 24d [ Chinese culture, gifting someone a clock is one] for TABOO, 9a [Word after “jam” or “makeout”] for SESH – also vaguely thematic for the puzzle!
David Alfred Bywaters’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
I figured David Alfred Bywaters’s theme out long before I got to the revealer: Sartre’s [“Find another way out” sign and a feature of four answers in this puzzle], NOEXIT. In part, it therefore wasn’t the most satisfying of revealers, especially as it doesn’t quite tie everything up. Each theme answer consists of a word pair with the second part of each being formed by NO exiting from the first. The pair itself is then clued “wacky style”:
- [Teatime treat topped with shaved ice?], SNOCONESCONE
- [Feature of King Arthur’s court?], NOTABLETABLE
- [Gaggle native to northern Italy?], GENOESEGEESE
- [Trainee’s bad habits?], NOVICESVICES
- [Part of t.i.d., on an Rx], TER. I wonder how many people who use tid on prescriptions or in patient notes don’t actually know what it stands for?
- [Microscope blobs], PROTOZOA. Not always blobs exactly. My favourite to find on a microscope are giardia on faecal wet preps…
- [“The Snowy Day” Caldecott winner __ Jack Keats], EZRA. Completely new Ezra to me. Caldecott awards are for children’s works.
NYT: I enjoyed the theme answers, as we’ve been watching the Netflix series “Uncoupled,” in which Neil Patrick Harris plays a Manhattan real estate agent.
I agree that some of the short fill is at best iffy. It makes this quote from the constructor’s notes more interesting: “[M]y original submission was soundly rejected in a good news/bad news kind of way. Good news, we like your theme. Bad news, dull short uninteresting fill means no.”
One wonders what the original submission looked like.
BEQ: That’s probably the fastest I’ve ever done one of his puzzles, likely because the social media/texting initialisms made it easier to get those answers. But those wacky phrases didn’t really amuse me, and the NE/SW corners feel isolated.
NYT: This puzzle brought back memories. My two kids spent years in NYC (one as and undergrad and early grad student, the other as med student and medical resident/fellow). They lived in numerous apartments in the process, and it seemed like a whole different world. Being an agent in NYC requires a special talent–to help people reshape their expectations.
The video you shared Amy was fascinating. I kept thinking about the times during the quarantine and how it might have felt living in such tiny places. The city itself is so exciting, and so essential if you live in a tiny place. I’m happy that it is back to its vibrant self.
NYT: At the other end of the Manhattan spectrum, there’s this. An artist masqueraded as a billionaire to gain access to and photograph the most exclusive and stratospheric properties in the City:
Some chutzpah! There’s also a fictionalized take on Netflix. Haven’t seen it yet, but it’s from “Scandal” creator/producer Shonda Rhimes: “Inventing Anna.”
Which is actually the true story of Anna Sorokin who did scam her way into the elite, as seen through the eyes of someone she scammed.
It was really unreal how she pulled it all off.
I was put off by actress Julia Garner’s accent at the beginning, until I heard an interview with the real Anna Sorokin… Garner was dead on.
FIVEFLOORWALKUP seems like it would describe an entire building, not a single unit within it. But then I’ve never lived in NYC, which evidently has a real estate system and language all its own.
In Chicago, a place you rent in a multi-family dwelling is an apartment, and if you buy a place like that, it’s a condo. In NYC, you rent and buy apartments. I like having a distinction between rented and owned flats.
My understanding is that when you buy an apartment in NYC it can be either a condo or a co-op. So, condo has a more specific meaning than in other places. The process of buying into a co-op is quite different. You get interviewed by the co-op board and it can get very personal. You are essentially entering into a partnership with others in that building.
It varies, depending on the policies of the board at hand (and, I suspect, how terribly exclusive the building styles itself). They’ll surely ask for some papers before approving the sale, since financial stability is at stake, and inform you by paperwork or in person through the managing agent of building policies (say, pets or not). But mine doesn’t conduct interviews or get personal. Indeed, when I moved in, we were eager to encourage sales where the “sponsor” or “holder of unsold shares” (the original owner and landlord of what had been a rental) still had a majority and controlling interest.
As for language, yes, you can buy a condo, buy a coop, or more generally buy an apartment (which might happen to be a condo or a coop). The last seems no more mysterious to me than saying you can buy a studio, buy a one-bedroom apartment, or something larger or more generally buy an apartment, depending on the context in which you are holding a conversation. It’s not about New York conventions but about what you’re trying to get across and what your listener is interested in.
You and Amy are correct, that’s not idiomatic. It’s always “fifth floor walkup.”
FWIW I live in a second floor walkup.
I’m a New Yorker and lived in one for five years, but it’s definitely a fifth not five floor walk up. (I didn’t have a gym membership back then but did continue to run the Central Park loop everyday.)
I was held up at ASSAM MORIA ARONLEA and (is it really?) ERM. So let’s just say way fun theme but iffy execution.
Agreed. three letters of AssAM were all guesses for me. Seems pretty unfair
I’d actually heard of it, so I did complete it, with trepidation. I also hesitated with SCOOPNECK / CHO, but it really couldn’t be anything else.
Interesting TNY diagram.
I thought ASSAM was darn near crosswordese. (How can a constructor ignore those handy letters?) Further, the clue for it is usually “Indian tea region”. Nothing to see here, move along…
Yes, that moriA/Assam cross should have been avoided. You know it’s a vowel, but which vowel? That’s the most textbook Natick I’ve seen in the NYT for a while.
I appreciate what the constructor was trying to do here, but surely we’re all in agreement with JohnH that FIVE FLOOR WALKUP rather than FIFTH is simply wrong. To have it in such a prominent position, too … all I can is that would be a puzzle killer for any sane editor.
And wow, that is one huge conglomeration of irredeemably bad three-letter entries. This whole effort needed a few more rounds of revision.
ERM is the British spelling for “um.” They stick an R in there just to modify the vowel sound, but they don’t pronounce that hesitation sound to rhyme with “term.” My Irish neurologist says it, distinct from the short U in my “um” but definitely no pronounced R in the mix. Clue definitely needed a British cue because ERM simply isn’t part of American English.
Interesting (and surprising), thank you!
In the crossword coincidences category, today’s Wall Street Journal and LA Times puzzles have the same answer at 8-Down and the Universal and Stella’s Tough as Nails puzzles have the same answer at 2-Down.
LAT was really fun today!