Monday, September 19, 2022

BEQ untimed (Matthew) 


LAT 1:52 (Stella) 


NYT 3:39 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 4:59 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Leslie Young and Andrea Carla Michaels’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up

Theme answers:

New York Times, 09 19 2022, By Leslie Young and Andrea Carla Michaels

  • 4d [*Routine medical checkup] – ANNUAL PHYSICAL
  • 7d [*Whom one might not marry no matter what!] – LAST MAN ON EARTH
  • 13d [*”Cool” get-together with cones and scoops] – ICE CREAM SOCIAL
  • 14d [Implementable with expertise and expert ease … or how the starred clues’ answers can be taken?] – DOWN TO A SCIENCE

So, the theme answers go down, and each of their last words is a SCIENCE: physical science, earth science, social science. I like it! And the revealer is perfect and a great a-ha moment. LAST MAN ON EARTH and ICE CREAM SOCIAL are both fun evocative answers as well. ANNUAL PHYSICAL wasn’t as exciting, and I wondered if a different science could have worked in that slot. Maybe something ending with “life” or “food” or “computer”? (OK, I’ll admit I have some bias towards that last one :) ) Side note that it’s interesting to me that the idioms “down to a science” and “down to an art” pretty much mean the same thing, despite science and art themselves being very different.

I won’t complain much about the choice of theme answers, though, because this grid seems like it would have been incredibly tough to put together. Because DOWN TO A SCIENCE is 14 letters long, it can’t go in the next column to the right without creating a two letter word (check it out for yourself and see!). That placement means that all 4 theme answers are crammed into the middle of the puzzle, which makes filling it cleanly difficult, but I thought Leslie and Andrea did a great job. I mean, the two longest across answers, CASH BONUS and CON ARTIST (both great answers in their own right) cross three out of four theme answers! The middle of the puzzle did feel a bit choppy with a bunch of short answers, but for the aforementioned reasons I understood why it had to be that way.

I only had a few major MESS UPS in the puzzle – most of my slowness came from me typing in the wrong letters. I thought 29d [One way to reduce one’s sentence?] might be “plea” but it was EDIT, and I completely forgot where Hispaniola was for a hot second when I was trying to answer 38a [About one-third of Hispaniola, area-wise] – it’s HAITI. My favorite clue in the puzzle was also for the last answer I filled in: 25a [Make-up specialist?] for LIAR.

Happy Monday all!

Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Pirate Program”—Jim P’s review

Piratey ARs are added to the beginnings of familiar phrases to wacky effect.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Pirate Program” · Gary Larson · Mon., 9.19.22

  • 17a. [Sort shirts in a pirate clothing store?] ARRANGE TOPS.
  • 19a. [Welcoming committees where pirates dock?] ARRIVAL GANGS.
  • 34a. [Flex muscles in a pirate gym?] ARRAY GUNS.
  • 51a. [Overdraft protections for a pirate checking account?] ARREAR GUARDS.
  • 55a. [Holding cells on a pirate ship?] ARREST ROOMS.

Well, it is Talk Like a Pirate Day, so this is timely. Can’t say I chuckled at any of these, but it’s consistent and well executed. I was surprised to see two pairs of theme entries stacked without too much gluey fill bringing things down.

Top fill: ELKHOUND, LAST CALL (with a near echo in crossing entry LA SCALA), BEDROCK, IN SHAPE. Is it about time we retire R.U.R. [1921 robot drama] from our crossword databases?

3.25 stars.

Katie Hale’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 9/19/22 by Katie Hale

Los Angeles Times 9/19/22 by Katie Hale

I have just enough time to explain the theme on this one, not much else. The revealer at 66A [Walk heavily, or a three-word hint to the answers to the starred clues] is STOMP, or “walk heavily.” Break that into three words — S TO MP — and it describes the theme answers, which all start with an S and end with, or go “to,” MP:

  • 17A [Park light recharged by the sun] is a SOLAR LAMP.
  • 22A [Street feature that forces drivers to slow down] is a SPEED BUMP.
  • 35A [Winter Olympics structure] is a SKI JUMP.
  • 50A [Program for aspiring astronauts] is SPACE CAMP.
  • 55A [Cube added to tea] is a SUGAR LUMP.

Interesting that the themers are so short, yet with the exception of SKI JUMP they’re the longest entries in the puzzle. Even though there’s no entry in this puzzle longer than 9 letters, it didn’t feel full of cliched short words. I liked seeing OLAF clued with reference to the German PM rather than to the usual snowman from Frozen.

Matthew Faiella’s Universal crossword, “RAsputin” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/19/22 • Mon • Faiella • “RAsputin” • solution • 20220919

Almost certainly the theme was derived from the title here: “RA’s put in” (or possibly “RAs (plural) put in”). I wonder if an earlier attempt was to insert the trigram RAS rather than the bigram RA.

  • 20a. [Thrift shopper’s mentality?] BARGAIN BRAIN (bargain bin).
  • 28a. [Angry rant that picks up steam?] RISING TIRADE (rising tirade).
  • 48a. [Best cornrow at a hair contest, e.g.?] WINNING BRAID (winning bid).
  • 57a. [Febreze/Glade competition?] SPRAY VS SPRAY (Spy vs Spy). -••• -•– •–• •-• — •••• •• •- •••

These clue/answer combinations are all quite good and entertaining. Yes, it’s quite silly and contrived, but they work well.

The cluing is pitched very easy, so this is a good crossword for neophytes, despite the fact that there is no revealer and the title is a bit cryptic. I’ve never been certain whether the Universal adheres to a schedule of gradually increasing the difficulty of their puzzles as the week progresses, but this certainly seems Monday-simple.

  • 3d [Nasal sound of disbelief] SNORT. Not referring to a typically nasal sound quality, but merely to the fact that it’s generated with the nose.
  • 8d [Pressed sandwiches] PANINIS. Of course, in the original Italian, panini is already a plural.
  • 12d [Morse code plea] SOS. Completely missed this during the solve, but see 57-across, above.
  • (recreated from my long-defunct blog)

    32d [Sharp parts of cats] CLAWS.

  • 61d [Word before “boat” or “of war”] TUG. Reflexively I almost put in MAN, as in the type of boat called a man o’ war, so obviously a neural short-circuit there.
  • 17a [Its roar can travel five miles] LION. Did not know this, or perhaps forgot it.
  • 18a [Improvise, in jazz] VAMP.
  • 32a [’90s music recordings] CDS. It’s my understanding that they’re currently resurgent, along with vinyl.
  • 36a [Like one who passes the bar, perhaps?] SOBER. Possibly the only really tricky/punny clue in the crossword. Just a taste.
  • 64a [Part for an actor] ROLE. 5d [Where to make a scene?] MOVIE SET. Okay, I guess that latter one is a bit punny also.

Solid introductory style crossword.

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

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 9/19/2022

BEQ refers to this grid as a “Sort of a ‘classic'” shape today, and I have to agree. I’ve said it before that I love these themeless grids where there’s some open space in each corner, rather than two corners with stacks and two thta are relatively smaller.

Today, I found the NE and the middle far more straightforward than the rest. It’s been a bit since I’ve worked through a puzzle with such a difficulty gradient within the same grid.

Some rapid-fire thoughts today: Are LYE SOAPS [10d] “artisinal” themselves, or used in cleaning artisanal things? I would imagine the former. Generally, I enjoyed the fill here, but wonder if LARGE TEA is green-painty–certainly [39a Drink order in a to-go cup] isn’t much of a specific clue. I’m done with Harry Potter things in puzzles (ROWENA today), given the doubled-down hate and intolerance coming from author.

My slow area in the south? TMZONTV, BALINE, ROGEN, CICI all next to each other is tough, though some of those I feel I should know a little more quickly than others. I’m not sure [50a Starts from] quite works for ORIGINATES. Simply [Starts] would be more comfortable for my brain. Know what? Throw RCA, AME, and STAN Kroenke in there from that section too. The first is inferrable enough I guess, the second less so, and STAN Kroenke is a bit of a sports deep cut – he owns a lot of things, but you’re not going to see his name as much as players on his teams.

Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 9/19/22 – Gorski

The clues weren’t as tricky as I expected for a Monday New Yorker, so despite all the uncommon fill, it fell in a Fri NYT amount of time. Your mileage may vary if entries like IN A FURY, AIN, ESSE, IRANI (this does not mean IRANIAN! And the actual meaning is not at all well-known to Americans. Constructors, please remove this from your word list if you’re going to pretend it’s the same as Iranian) ASPISH, ZOYSIA grass, COWSHEDS, EBONITE, and CARROTY threw you a curveball.

Two things:

  • 57a. [Bite-size pastry], TARTLET. On a Junior Bake Off episode I watched recently, the kids made tartlets. They weren’t bite-size! Maybe 4 inches across? You’d need a big mouth for that to be bite-size. (Eminently possibly that U.S. tartlets are markedly smaller.)
  • 27d. [It’s played with four hands], PIANO DUET. Started to fill in PINOCHLE but ran out of letters. The PIANO DUET figures into a recent Ian McEwan short story, “The Duet,” about a 14-year-old schoolboy and the woman who teaches him piano (it’s creepy).

2.75 stars from me.

Li Ding’s USA Today puzzle, “First Contact”– malaika’s write-up

usa today– sep 19

Today we have a puzzle with five theme answers in a symmetrical grid. The “first” word of each answer can be preceded by the word “contact”– we’ve got LIST PRICE, PAPER TIGER, SPORT COAT, HIGH ROLLER, and LENS FLARE. My favorite entry was the last one, but PAPER TIGER reminds me of one of my favorite short stories, The Paper Menagerie. If you haven’t read it– go read it. It’ll take you like fifteen minutes. Also, please leave short story recs in the comments; they’re my fave bc I can finish them on the train.

When the central answer is nine letters, that makes it very tough for a constructor to include long down answers. Instead, we get some seven-letter stuff like ORIGAMI, BALLADS, and WAGE GAP. Shout-out to the clue for ATE which will have me thinking wistfully of baozi until I can have some… maybe for dinner tomorrow night.

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26 Responses to Monday, September 19, 2022

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Thanks, Sophia, for your observations on how the theme made the grid difficult to fill cleanly. I don’t pay as much attention to that sort of stuff as I should.

    As Monday NYT puzzles go, this was a fun one.

  2. Gary R says:

    TNY: Enjoyed the puzzle, and was pleasantly surprised to see the Happy Pencil when I finished. I could not come up with any plausible alternatives to 19-A and 22-D, but they were both utterly unfamiliar to me – thought there must be something I was missing.

  3. Karen says:

    BEQ: Irving Berlin at birth – is there an alternate spelling? Because the correct fill does not match the original last name.

    • pannonica says:

      Found this at Wikipedia: “On September 14, 1893, the family arrived at Ellis Island in New York City. When they arrived, Israel was put in a pen with his brother and five sisters until immigration officials declared them fit to be allowed into the city. After their arrival, the name ‘Beilin’ was changed to ‘Baline’.”

      So the clue is still incorrect.

      • Karen says:

        Many thanks, Pannonica!

      • RunawayPancake says:

        Yeah, I tried to look this up and and only became more confused. Some sources say he was born Balein (e.g. Wikipedia) – and others say Baline (e.g. Britannica, Kennedy Center, Washington Post obit). I guess some confusion shouldn’t be all that surprising given he was born in eastern Russia (now Belarus) in 1888, and whose family came through Ellis Island in 1893.

  4. marciem says:

    NYT: Thanks for the information re: Irani vs. Iranian, Amy! Virtually every puzzle using Irani clues it with a city or area in Iran, or Persia. Now we know that is incorrect :) .

    I love this place!!

  5. JohnH says:

    I’m not convinced that differentiating IRANIAN and IRANI is worth getting too worked up about. If people are starting to use them both, fine, and we’ll just have to see.

    More important for now, RHUD has IRANIAN as “also IRANI” for definitions 1 and 4, the latter meaning inhabitants. But even definition 1 might be close enough to give them a pass (of or pertaining to the country, its inhabitants, and its language). MW11C has IRANI only in that sense, but I’ll still give it a pass. It’s just not one of those distinctions whose loss threatens real meaning and nuance (like “disinterested” for “uninterested”) or potentially grating on the ear (like, no doubt to a minority like me, “gifted” as a verb form). More like an excuse to play expert for its own sake.

    • pannonica says:

      Dunno. I would think it’s important to an entire geographic population of some tens of thousands?

      • Ethan says:

        If you click through Amy’s link, the top line clarifies that Irani is, in fact, Persian for “Iranian.”

        • marciem says:

          Yes but not a current resident of Persia.

          • Ethan says:

            I don’t claim to be a Persian/Farsi speaker, but yes, I think in that language “Irani” would be used for someone living in modern-day Persia.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              And yet I haven’t met any Iranians who’ve told me they’re Irani. Persian, sure.

              Please find out what the Mandarin word for “Chinese” is and transliterate it to the Roman alphabet, and tell me if that’s good crossword fill. The English demonym for the people of Iran is Iranian, and not Irani. The New York Times hasn’t used the word that way since … 1958.

      • JohnH says:

        Those tends of thousands may not all speak English or have any opinion whatsoever on English usage. Heck, the French are not called “French” in French. Should we all defer to that by speaking of them as Francais?

        I do not see this in any way as parallel to debates over whether it’s insensitive to refer to African Americans or those preferring non-binary pronouns in a certain way. Those are real debates at that. Whoever thinks IRANI as wrong is settled anywhere or even discussed anywhere.

        But I already explained what I meant, and I’m satisfied with it.

      • RunawayPancake says:

        Pannonica – Just trying to figure this out (I’m slow). Is your objection that Irani refers to a specific ethnicity (“ethno-religious community” per Wikipedia), and that Iranian is the proper term for the nationality of someone from Iran?

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          I can’t speak for pannonica, but yes, in my write-up of the New Yorker puzzle, that was exactly the problem. I’m tired of seeing a word that painfully few Americans use, as if it’s the standard word for someone from Iran. It isn’t!

  6. Kent says:

    RE: Universal crossword

    Humans are APEs now? No.

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