Monday, September 12, 2022

BEQ 4:07 (Matthew) 


LAT 2:04 (Stella) 


NYT 3:45 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 6:25 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Michael Lieberman’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up

Theme answers: SHONDA rhymes – the first word of each theme answer rhymes with SHONDA.

New York Times, 09 11 2022, By Michael Lieberman

  • 20a[Los Angeles venue named for the star of “12 Angry Men”] – FONDA THEATRE
  • 30a [Disney+ series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe] – WANDAVISION
  • 45a [First car from a Japanese manufacturer to be made in the U.S. (1982)] – HONDA ACCORD
  • 54a [Creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” … or, when said aloud, a hint to the starts of 20-, 30 and 45-Across] – SHONDA RHIMES

Oftentimes when I solve the Monday puzzle I jump down to the revealer in order to “get” the theme more quickly. I didn’t do that today, but I still figured out what was going on quickly and used it to my advantage for the HONDA ACCORD clue, which I never would have known. (I will say that I’ve seen this theme before in Margaret Seikel’s March 7, 2021 Atlantic puzzle, but I won’t hold that against Michael – I don’t even know if theme write-ups exist for the Atlantic since we don’t do them here, and I only remember because I liked the theme so much then).

I’m curious how the difficulty of this one is going to play – SHONDA RHIMES is well known, but if you don’t know her the revealer will fall flat. I myself needed most of the crosses to get FONDA THEATRE, especially given the “theatre” spelling. I do like that the pop culture theme references span a wide variety of subjects/eras, and given how few words rhyme with “Shonda”, there aren’t too many choices with which to create a symmetric set.

Given how the length of the theme answers forces them to be squished tightly together, I generally liked the fill today! Some bullet point notes:

  • The long pieces of fill were definitely highlights, CINCO DE MAYO as the true standout.
  • I love when callback and referential clues are right next to each other, so 35d [Something brought home unintentionally from the beach] for SAND and 39d [Something brought home intentionally from the beach] for SEASHELL (whose down clues come sequentially) were great fun for me.
  • I know ARCO is classic crosswordese but I still never remember the last vowel. If folks don’t know FONDA, this is a potential trouble spot.
  • Clue: 59d [Animal aptly found in “banana peel”]. Me: “… what does an eel have to do with bananas?” DUH, it was actually APE.

Alexander Liebeskind’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Up in the Air”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Words that can precede FLY (61d, [Cool, in dated slang, and what can follow the ends of 20-, 25-, 46- and 52-Across]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Up in the Air” · Alexander Liebeskind · Mon., 9.12.22

  • 20a. [Object of temptation] FORBIDDEN FRUIT. Fruit fly.
  • 25a. [Largest extant lizard] KOMODO DRAGON. Dragonfly.
  • 46a. [Disastrous situation] DUMPSTER FIRE. Firefly.
  • 52a. [One’s main source of income] BREAD AND BUTTER. Butterfly.

I enjoyed this solve. Both theme answers and fill were lively, and everything flowed smoothly.

That said, I wanted more from the theme. In compound themes of this type (where we find words that can precede or follow another word), we’ve come to expect that the revealer gives us some purported reason for finding those other words. For example, a revealer of PREGAME might hint that the words we’re looking for can all precede “game” in a common phrase. Similarly, POST OFFICE might indicate we’re to find words that can follow “office.” Having the keyword as an entry by itself, as we find in this puzzle, feels much less elegant.

But as I said, I really enjoyed this grid, especially lively answers like “YOUR MOVE,” “I MEAN IT!,” Megan RAPINOE, and GIFT TAGS. I did notice one potentially tough crossing for a Monday where RAPINOE crosses Moroccan capital RABAT at the R. If you don’t know either of those names, there are a lot of potential possibilities for that square.

Clues of note:

  • 24a. [Earth visitors]. ALIENS. I like that there’s no qualification in this clue, like “in fiction,” or “perhaps.” It’s just a fact. I hope you know where your towel is.
  • 44d. [“Clair de Lune” composer]. DEBUSSY. Sounds like just the musical interlude I was looking for.

Lovely grid, but I wanted a more solid basis to the theme. 3.25 stars.

Kelly Clark’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 9/12/22 by Kelly Clark

Los Angeles Times 9/12/22 by Kelly Clark

Chill out! This is an easy puzzle. No, really — no revealer necessary, each of the theme entries starts off with SIMPLE or a synonym thereof:

  • 17A [“Careful now”] is EASY DOES IT.
  • 27A [Nursery rhyme guy who met a pieman] is SIMPLE SIMON.
  • 44A [Mennonites, e.g.] is PLAIN PEOPLE.
  • 60A [Fair-weather forecast] is CLEAR SKIES.

The themers feel legit, no green paint here, but I’m not sure I quite buy that EASY feels the same as SIMPLE, PLAIN, or CLEAR. Something can be uncomplicated without being EASY.

NIKKI Giovanni at 49D was new to me. At first I was going to gripe that that was too deep of a trivia cut for a Monday, but I think now that I’ve Googled her that I’m just showing my lack of poetry knowledge. Personally, I’d have gone with Prince’s “Darling Nikki,” but that’s a lot more NSFW than Ms. Giovanni.

Emma Lawson’s Universal crossword, “Fresh-Cut Flowers” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/12/22 • Mon • “Fresh-Cut Flowers” • Lawson • solution • 20220912

Simply, it’s phrases that possess bookending flowers. The relevant squares are pre-circled.

  • 20a. [What Roe v. Wade established] RIGHT TO CHOOSE (rose).
  • 25a. [Neighborhood that often has gr6eat pizza] LITTLE ITALY (lily).
  • 47a. [Inquiring about the well-being of] ASKING AFTER.
  • 53a. [Large group of males in Antarctica, say] PENGUIN COLONY.

It isn’t a “wow” crossword theme, but it gets the job done.

  • 4d [“That would be huge,” in modern lingo] BIG IF TRUE. I’ve also seen huge if true.
  • 12d [Teen’s room, perhaps] MESS. 55d [Tidy] NEAT.
  • 26d [Summer complaint] I’M HOT. 28d [It keeps things cool] ICE.
  • 40d [Purple ingredient in tortang talong and moussaka] EGGPLANT. The former was unfamiliar to me; it’s an EGGPLANT ‘omelet’ in Filipino cuisine.
  • Just noticing that during the solve I must have finished with all acrosses, because I hadn’t read the final 4 or 5 down clues at all until now!
  • Not much of note among the acrosses, so I’ll just highlight a few clues from around the grid that struck me for whatever reason. 56d [Girls Who __ (nonprofit supporting women in computer science)] CODE, 41a [Enjoy a comic book] READ, 53d [“As if!”] PFFT.

Bonnie Eisenman & Brooke Husic’s USA Today puzzle, “First Aid”– malaika’s write-up

Good morning besties, and happy debut day to Bonnie! Today’s symmetrical and swirly puzzle gives us four long entries whose “first” word is a tool (or “aid”) used by disabled people. We’ve got CHAIRPERSON, RAIL TRAIL (a new term for me made easy by the clue which indicates that it rhymes), CANE SUGAR (my favorite entry), and LIFT WEIGHTS. I have started lifting weight recently and now I am sore and tired all the time but it is cool that when I stare in the mirror and flex my arm, it looks different.

usa today– sep 12

I did notice a lot of three-letter words while solving this puzzle, and indeed, there were 24 of them, which is nearly a third of the words in this puzzle. Reducing those central stairstacks to L-shapes could have dropped that to 18. I liked to see GARAGE BAND (which I actually associate with the deprecated Apple program for mixing) and DEMIGOD which reminds me of the amazing Percy Jackson books. I hope last Monday you all had some delicious CHARRED food! We had wings and spare ribs and hotdogs. (And non-charred food, like pasta salad and brownies.)

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

New Yorker crossword solution, 9/12/22 – Collins

Cool-looking grid with that big eye in the center.

New to me: 17a. [“Enough said!”], “THAT’S THAT ON THAT.”

Fave fill: KOBE BEEF, BAS-RELIEF, DREAM DATE, WHEEDLE, MOBIUS strip, SHAR-PEI (I love that swapping the last two letters gets you a Sharpie marker).

Four clues of note:

  • 51a. [Beauty admirer], THE BEAST. As in Beauty and the Beast, not the Fantastic Four’s Beast.
  • 23d. [Like a bear right before hibernation], OBESE. Not sure I’ve seen a non-human clue for OBESE, and I like this angle a lot. Too often we seen clues that frame obesity as a negative rather than as a neutral descriptor.
  • 27d. [Race identifier], BIB. As in the Tyvek rectangle pinned to a runner’s shirt, with their race number on it. My husband has quite a collection of his past race BIBs!
  • 36d. [Brother hood?] FRAT ROW. A neighborhood for fraternity brothers.

Four stars from me. Easier than his Saturday NYT puzzle the other day, I thought. Same true for you?

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

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 9/12/2022

I’m not feeling well today, so this is a bit rough-and-ready. We’ve got a love stairstack design, with a 15 running top-to-bottom in RATTLESNAKE STEW [7d Hearty bowlful containing reptile meat] and colorful highlights in 90s tennis star ANDRE AGASSI, JUNEBUG, LEVEL WITH ME, and (literally colorful) JADE EMPEROR and BLUE HAIR. I struggled to complete several names today; GENA Lee Nolin, BURT Kreischer, and NOAH Schnapp, and I felt lucky to pull LAA (in reference to Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels) and DUNKIN’ without needing crossings. Not a name, per se, but piecing together DAKOTA [32d Yoko Ono’s residence, with “the”] in the SW corner took a minute, particularly as I was until now unfamiliar with TUP [46a Ram], a synonym for “ram” in the farm animal sense. I was quite surprised to see RIPA clued as a partial [42a ___ loud fart] rather than TV personality Kelly — I would think that a partial like that would be less attractive than reusing a common cluing angle.

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12 Responses to Monday, September 12, 2022

  1. BarbaraK says:

    Re NYT: Matt Gaffney also did a Shonda Rhimes/rhymes puzzle, though it was several years ago

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      True — and as you’ll see at BarbaraK’s link, Will Nediger had done it (unbeknownst to me) a couple of months before mine.

    • placematfan says:

      I find the ethics of this whole paradigm fascinating, and difficult. I mean, as a constructor, let’s say I get a theme idea in my head; now… to what lengths do I need to go to to ensure as best as I can that my theme hasn’t been done before? And if I find my theme HAS been done, does that mean that this kernel of a theme idea in my head should not be pursued?

      If I lay out a spectrum, a line segment from A on the left to B on the right, where B is, like, the noblest, most honorable cruciverbalist I can imagine, and A is Timothy Parker, what behavior, what theme-generating or theme-shopping activity places me left-of-center on that spectrum?

      Are there constructors out there who go scan a Fiend page from 10 years ago, find someone’s theme they like, change it up a bit, create 1 or 2 different themers, make a puzzle, submit it, and get it published? I mean, Statistics would say at least one person has had to have done exactly that at least once before. So, how often does that happen? For me, that’s a little too Parkerish for me to handle; it’s just sort of ooh, ick. But if I listen to my objectivity’s counterargument, I guess a case could be made that maybe that’s a legitimate idea-generating method. I guess.

      In one of his novels, Tom Robbins harangues profoundly about originality versus individuality–his point being that originality is overrated and that basing the quality assessment of an idea or an art piece primarily on whether it’s been done before or whether it’s like anything else out there is ultimately superficial, and that what’s really important is integrity and doing your own thing regardless of how similar or different it is to someone else’s thing.

      I used to make crosswords but I stopped after I got tired of the self-put-upon pressure of being original. But lately I’ve been considering once again picking up The Black and the White, and I’m curious about what my theme-producing ethics will look like after I’m all up in it for a while. For now, I think I truly believe that if it starts in my head, I am entitled to do something with it, big picture.

      • huda says:

        Sorry for the late reply, but the broader question of what constitutes originality is interesting.
        In science, people win major awards and achieve great honors for conducting groundbreaking research. But it’s rarely, if ever, without history. In most cases, the question has been brought up before, the concept has been framed at least to some extent. It’s all about how you put things together, use new approaches, different technologies and connect different dots to achieve a new insight, and in the process open new avenues for others. So, at least in my world, originality is a relative term, and insisting on absolute novelty would not allow me as a scientist to build on previous progress and move things forward. Integrity is of course important (and my job is to acknowledge those whose thinking preceded mine), but I’m not sure it’s the counterpoint to originality. The counterpoint would seem to be evolving something rather than creating if from whole cloth.
        The other consideration is the overall body of work– if the whole has made an impact by defining a different direction, developing a new style, changing how others pursue matters, that is an original contribution which is more about strategy than content.
        I imagine the lack of requirement for absolute originality translates to to art or literature– how many people have drawn a mother and a baby, or painted a bowl of fruits, or written a love story?
        Maybe crossword themes are so discrete that they raise the question in a sharper way. As a solver, I don’t mind at all if the theme has been done before, but I would want the solving experience to feel different. And that is where the constructor’s unique style comes in. But when the theme is rather narrow– e.g. words that rhyme with SHONDA, maybe some extra effort needs to go into researching it to make sure that the exact same theme elements are not used in the same way, because that is almost dictated by the limited options. Would that be something to consider? If you can only think of 4-5 elements that fit your theme, check to see if it’s been done before with these same elements? Then ask yourself, can I make it really different?
        What I don’t know is how easy it is to find out if a theme has been done before. Is there a database of themes, or some systematic way of searching that question?

  2. marciem says:

    NYT: Loved the theme… We just finished binging on “Scandal”, onward with “How to get away with murder”. Have given up on Grey’s Anatomy since I can no longer unravel all the interconnected relationships & babies (which remind me of the song “I’m my own Grandpa” )

    I did LOL at the write-up comment on 59d, since it was my thought exactly! I even carried it further to “Ok, eels are slippery so are banana peels” in trying to figure the connection.

    Rhonda is another rhyme, but I can’t think of a good clue to work it in.

  3. PJ says:

    Uni – Good job on the music choice!
    And don’t think I overlooked spiffy or iffy.

  4. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: I finished this in less than half the time KAC’s Saturday NYT puzzle took me — as far as I know, faster than I have ever done one of his puzzles. Like the recent NYT one, this had just enough gimmes that I was able to move through the green fairly steadily, and just enough stuff that I had never-heard-of/could-be-anything type clues to slow me a bit, but that I could figure out with a few crosses.

    • Mike H says:

      My experience was the same – very smooth, and easier than the Saturday NYT. Today’s New Yorker puzzle (Tuesday) was a lot harder for me.

  5. Leah Talfesson says:

    Obese isn’t used as a neutral descriptor because it is a negative descriptor.

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