Monday, September 5, 2022

BEQ 2:47 (Matthew) 


LAT 1:53 (Stella) 


NYT 3:29 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 6:19 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (malaika) 


Note: No WSJ puzzle due to the holiday.

Adam Simpson’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up

Congrats to Adam on his NYT debut today!

New York Times, 09 05 2022, by Adam Simpson

Theme answers:

  • 17a [Where flutes are played, in an orchestra] – WIND SECTION
  • 25a [Qualifying hurdle for practicing law] – BAR EXAMINATION
  • 43a [Prehiring formality, often] – REFERENCE CHECK
  • 57a [Betray … or a hint to what can precede each half of 17-, 25- and 43-Across] – DOUBLE CROSS

Cross WIND, cross SECTION, cross BAR, cross EXAMINATION, cross REFERENCE, cross CHECK. All very solid phrases, nice! Plus, the middle of the grid has two literal crosses in it, adding another layer to the theme. The theme answers are nice if not spectacular – REFERENCE CHECK is my favorite, although as the daughter of a search consultant I was vaguely offended by the idea that reference checks are only a formality! It also took me a bit to see BAR EXAMINATION since I am more used to seeing just “bar exam”. But overall, I liked how this theme tied together distinct phrases and made me see something new with language. A very cool pattern.

One of my new-to-crossword friends started solving this puzzle while we were hanging out today, and she had a lot of trouble with it, and honestly I can see why. There are a lot of proper nouns that have the potential to trip folks up if they don’t know them: KONICA, ORECK, Paul KLEE, ILENE Chaiken, AIDAN Gallagher. I appreciate that there are extra hints in the clues for some tricky spots like 41d [Patch of loose rock that aptly rhymes with “debris”] for SCREE, but I’m not sure it’s enough. That being said, it is a hard grid to fill due to the 14 letter answers and the crosses in the middle, and I like that the extra long slots give us POKE BOWLS!

Other notes:

  • I always thought “Walk This Way” was by RUN DMC and featuring Aerosmith, since that’s the only version I knew. But nope, as the clue says, it was by Aerosmith originally!
  • Another thing I learned in this puzzle: that an EMU is an [Outback bird that can go two months without food]. How have I solved this many crossword puzzles without knowing that?!
  • Me when I saw 24a [Vaping apparatus, informally] – “…. uh, vape?” (It was E-CIG).
  • Also, the clue [Certain card that can be either high or low in a deck] is just a clue for “ace”, as opposed to ACE OF CLUBS, in my opinion. I wish it had been more specific somehow.
  • Very apt 1a clue – [___ Day (early September observance)] for LABOR! Happy labor day to all in the USA (Today).

Catherine Cetta’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 9/5/22 by Catherine Cetta

Los Angeles Times 9/5/22 by Catherine Cetta

So here’s this puzzle…so it’s about things that start with SO. The revealer is in the center of the grid here, at 39A [Name better left unsaid, or a description of the answers to the starred clues], which is SO-AND-SO. Each of the starred theme clues is a two-word phrase of the form SO___ SO___. Like, well, so:

  • 17A [*Many an aria] is SOPRANO SOLO.
  • 24A [*Not quite apologetic] is SORTA SORRY.
  • 48A [*Persuaded with flattery] is SOFT-SOAPED.
  • 61A [*In the near future] is SOMEDAY SOON.

Pretty straightforward, although I quibble with SORTA SORRY feeling a bit green paint-y. (Google it with quotation marks and the number of hits is in the low five figures, which bears my theory out.) SOFT-SOAP appears in the dictionary with the meaning clued, but it also feels a little dated. The stars are also necessary, given that there are two alliterative nontheme entries, POWER POSE and the always-delightful TATER TOTS (most underrated side dish, especially when topped with cheese and chili as one would French fries) that are nearly as long as the theme entries. True, they don’t follow the specific alliterative pattern of the theme entries, but if you haven’t figured out the theme, you might think the theme is some kind of alliterative action that’s broader than it actually is early in the solve.

The fill is pretty smooth, as the sub-two-minute time attests.

Zachary David Levy’s Universal crossword, “Land’s End” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/5/22 • Mon • “Land’s End” • Levy • 20220905

Four phrases whose final word is a synonym for property.

  • 20a. [What’s left when things have gone to pot?] COFFEE GROUNDS.
  • 26a. [The press] FOURTH ESTATE.
  • 44a. [Devised a fiendish scheme, perhaps] HATCHED A PLOT.
  • 54a. [Vital component] PART AND PARCEL.

Very straightforward, no complaints.

Most notable to my experience was the big duplication of 20-across in clue for 60a [Coffee region southwest of 52-Across] KONA. 52-across is [Home of Hawaii’s Hana Highway] MAUI and 10-down is [Dinner at the Royal Hawaiian, perhaps] LUAU.

  • 22d [Molecule in many COVID vaccines] RNA. New one is just becoming available, in an effort to keep pace with the rapidly mutating virus.
  • 26d [Vijay Singh’s Oceanic country] FIJI. The clue is explicitly reminding us that despite his name he doesn’t hail from South Asia. Note also that the capitalized adjective indicates Oceania.
  • 29d [Letters at the sides of “lateral”] ELS. Mildly meta.
  • 42d [Head to sea] SHIP OFF, which is not synonymous with 12d [Mails off] SENDS.
  • 46d [Hold a spoon?] CUDDLE. Not utensils, bodies.
  • 55d [It may be red or rising] TIDE. Not SUN, obviously.
  • 56d [“Fantastic Four” actress Jessica] ALBA. Mild dupe with themer 26-across.
  • Strange, nothing really pops out at me from the non-theme acrosses.

Brooke Husic’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up

New Yorker crossword solution, 9/5/22 – Husic

I learned or relearned a few things in this one, but it didn’t feel much harder than a Saturday NYT. Your mileage may vary—if, for example, you don’t know what PRESS-ON NAILS are (they are sold in basically every American drugstore/grocery with a cosmetics aisle—and the PORE STRIPs are nearby in the skin-care section), you might have had to fight harder to finish. I appreciate it when puzzles include things that are probably more familiar to women than to men—payback for the decades of IROC GTO OTT content.

New or newish to me:

  • 16a. [Stew served with dosa], SAMBAR. I feel like most of Chicago’s Indian restaurants up on Devon Avenue serve non-dosa cuisines. Just googled it, and will try a nearby place with 13 different dosa options, all served with coconut chutney (!) and sambar. Looking forward to it.
  • 33a. [Strength-training routines performed with minimal rest], SUPERSETS. Hard pass!
  • 42a. [African culture whose jewelry helped inspire the costumes of the Dora Milaje warriors, in “Black Panther”], NDEBELE. I almost certainly read about this in 2018 when the movie came out, but did not remember the name.
  • 29d. [Felton who voiced the Fairy Godmother in “Cinderella” and the Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland”], VERNA. She died back in 1966.
  • 53d. [___ el hanout (North African spice blend)]. RAS. Didn’t even see this clue while solving. Probably some overlap with the Hello Fresh “Tunisian spice blend” we’ve cooked with.

I learned too much about 21a. [Active component of lean], CODEINE in the HBO Max documentary, Juice WRLD: Into the Abyss. The crew blithely filmed Juice WRLD at age 20 taking increasingly massive doses of lean—multiple ounces of codeine cough syrup added to a bottle of pop, multiple times a day. Get rich enough, and you will always have enough lackeys happy to comply with your drug abuse requests. Tragic loss of a gifted young musician.

Four stars from me. I liked the things I learned! Wondering if any solvers didn’t encounter anything new to them in this puzzle. If you can’t introduce newer fill in the hardest-of-the-week crossword, when can you?

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

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 9/5/2022

Easiest BEQ puzzle I can remember in some time, though there’s plenty I didn’t know. Fun grid design, too, with the NE and SW corners balancing longer entries with some more open space. I’m sure I would have had a different experience if I were less familiar with baseball Hall-of-Famer JOE MORGAN [17a His #8 was retired by the Cincinnati Reds], but I was able to work around unfamiliar entries all over the grid.

Highlights for me: THEY WHAT [26a Question of incredulity at a group’s behavior], DOTAGES, DON’T SHOUT. Quite a few new-to-me names: FAHD, Yo GOTTI, MAURA Johnston, Chris PENN.

Anything tricky to spotlight? Let’s see: A pair of brand names-as-misdirection in [22a Degree application] and [55a Virgin offering?] for SPRAY and AIR TRAVEL, respectively. Nothing else jumps out much, other than that I’ve never heard Adderall referred to as a SMARTPILL, but I suppose I can see it.

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24 Responses to Monday, September 5, 2022

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Nice debut.
    A+ for the theme concept and its execution. And the two crosses in the grid. Well done!
    But the fill (or its cluing) were less ideal for a Monday. It was all inferable but took me about 20% longer than my average Monday time.
    In other words, what Sophia said.

  2. Eric H says:

    “It also took me a bit to see BAR EXAMINATION since I am more used to seeing just ‘bar exam.’”

    No one who has taken one has ever called it the BAR EXAMINATION.

    Even the Texas Board of Law Examiners shortens it:

    Otherwise, a fine Monday puzzle and a nice debut.

    • JohnH says:

      NY State here doesn’t shorten it except in the URL, where lots of things go short. Or maybe, too, it’s an age thing and whether one’s a lawyer or striving lawyer and thus in need of repeating it a lot. I’m not, but both forms are lodged quite comfortingly in memory. I didn’t give the answer in the puzzle, once I got it, a moment’s thought.

    • Gary R says:

      The ABA website has a page titled “Bar Exams,” but everywhere in the text of that page, they use the phrase “bar examination.” So I guess I’m okay with having the formal version in the puzzle.

      I agree with Sophia though, that a number of other answers seemed like a stretch for a Monday puzzle.

  3. Jose Madre says:

    wow, what an age check to think that someone alive today didn’t realize Aerosmith originally sang Walk This Way. I am old. Very, very old. Alas

  4. JohnH says:

    To put it another way, it’s obviously still the bar examination, whatever we choose to call it.

    Agreed that some clues were hard for a Monday, although precise daily variations aren’t that big a deal for me. Then, too, maybe the editor just decided that the fraction of solvers still in the newbie stage of never having seen crossword staples isn’t all that large. I’m more inclined for concern when they become so all over the place that they are labored or trite.

  5. David says:

    I loved the NYT and found it easy and lively. Seeing RUNDMC was a treat!

  6. JohnH says:

    Payback? I think of IROC, GTO, and OTT as known solely from crosswords, not a male obsession. Indeed, as a NYer, where virtually no one owns a car, all the car clues (like all the golf clues, in a city were courses are remote and anyway unaffordable, like Trump’s) are just a nuisance.

    But yeah, I could have done in TNY with a little less cosmetics and jewelry, along with so much else. I circled 30 clue numbers as things I had to learn. I can’t swear that’s a record, but it’s up there. ONO, “lean” in that sense, and plenty else weren’t even confirmable with two dictionaries. And I still don’t know why a “research lab leader” is called a PA. News to me, a science major with a close (female) friend who runs a marine biology lab. Don’t get the relation of ESP to “accept” either.

    • Gary R says:

      Actually, the research lab leader is a PI – Principal Investigator on a research grant.

      And many people don’t accept that the “gift” of ESP actually exists.

      • marciem says:

        Ah, Gary R… I see you addressed my question while I was chatting with hubs between typing LOL!! Thanks for that, I didn’t look at the puzzle to see that it was PI as in porestrIp crossing.

    • marciem says:

      TNY: I don’t about the Research Lab leader = PA… is that initials or like “ma and pa kettle” paternalistic leader?

      I will always love a puzzle that shouts out to Irma Thomas. Lots of new words for me here, but happy with that, Ndebele and Sambar being two.

      I never heard of lean, and wish I hadn’t :( . Purple drank? UGH. What are people thinking?

      As far as “accept” esp… I think constructor was playing with words, since not everyone accepts esp as a real thing.

      I liked the challenge here. Just about as Amy said, Sat. NYT tough, but doable mostly. (Dubstep/sambar crossing did me in.)

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Another thorough butt-whupping (how do you spell that anyway?) for me by BH. I had no prayer of getting through this puzzle without multiple cheats. At times, it seemed like I was attempting to solve a puzzle in a language I don’t know. While there were tons of learning opportunities, I’m not sure how many of them will stick with me. We’ll see.

      • Eric H says:

        I know exactly what you mean. Brooke Husic is an enormously talented constructor, but the world she lives in is very different than mine.

        I did manage to limit myself to a single cheat — the V in Verna. If I ever saw Disney’s “Cinderella,” it’s been 50+ years.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          Re BH … My sentiments exactly … Like Erik Agard and Paolo Pasco among the new guard and Byron Waldon, Frank Longo, Bob Klahn and Bob Peoples among the old guard, I get a real sense of accomplishment when I manage to get through one of their puzzles without looking something up, but it’s almost always tough sledding.

  7. Chris says:

    NYT – don’t think anyone else mentioned this yet, but in addition to the two black crosses in the grid, there are exactly two X‘s in the completed puzzle. Nice touch!

  8. KarenS says:

    TNY: Amy, it’s been a few years since I’ve eaten there, but I loved the dosai at Udupi Palace on Devon. I recall they were served with sambar. Karen

  9. Leading Edge Boomer says:

    BEQ: “Degree application” is SPRAY—hopeless.

  10. pannonica says:

    Feeling obligated to share that this is also a SAMBAR, Rusa unicolor a threatened species native to the Indian subcontinent. (image ©Joe Sartore)

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