Sarah Sinclair’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer begins with a DATING APP.
- 17a [Be determined by] – HINGE UPON
- 25a [Critical moment in tennis] – MATCH POINT
- 37a [Extremely flammable, as vegetation] – TINDER DRY
- 50a [Fuzzy buzzers] – BUMBLEBEES
- 59a [Modern medium for meeting someone … or what each of the starts of 17-, 25-, 37- and 50-Across is] – DATING APP
Sometimes when I solve Monday puzzles I have to get to the revealer to understand what the theme is. That was not the case today at all (…please don’t read into what that says about my life). After I got the first two theme answers, I could drop in the beginning of TINDER DRY and all of BUMBLEBEES and DATING APP no problem. It’s a cute theme, even if some of the answers don’t stand out much (looking at you, HINGE UPON). Also, and maybe this is personal bias, but Match seems much less well known/used as a dating *app* in particular to me – I still immediately think of it as match.com. But they do in fact have an app so it does fit the theme!
Given the 9-letter center theme answer, I’m not surprised that the grid feels segmented into large corners. Making a big corner like the ones in this puzzle without any dreck is a challenge, and I liked a lot of the words Sarah chose – CATS PAW, CARGO BAY, UTOPIAN, TOY BOATS all add value to me. There are a few words that are not optimal – the foreign DANSE, the vowel salad EIEIO, the plural PEDROS – but they were generally easy enough to puzzle out. I had to spend the last 30 seconds of my solve error hunting; turns out I had “dead men” and not DEAD MAN for 29a [Sort who tells no tales, per an old saying].
I loved how much personality was packed into the clues of this puzzle. Some of my favorites: 49d [Common eyeliner shape] for WING, 13d [One of up to 200(!) on a scallop] for EYE, and the somewhat morbid 1d [Gives the Anne Boleyn treatment] for BEHEADS. Congrats to Sarah on her NYT debut today!
Kelly Ball’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Inside Joke”—Jim P’s review
LOL is the revealer (65d, [Text tee-hee found in 17-, 30-, 48- and 62-Across]). Each theme answer has those letters hidden within.
- 17a. [Biennial sporting event since 1968] SPECIAL OLYMPICS.
- 30a. [Power dining spot inside the Beverly Hills Hotel] POLO LOUNGE.
- 48a. [Cubic meters] KILOLITERS.
- 62a. [Pre-Beatles song by John Lennon] HELLO LITTLE GIRL.
Okay, let me get this nit out of the way. It’s not really a joke that’s “inside” as the title implies, it’s the reaction to a joke. I’d rather the title was something like “Laughing On the Inside” (though you probably couldn’t use “laughing” since one of the Ls is “laugh”). Anyhoo.
This is a fine example of a hidden word theme. I like both the grid spanners, though I’d never heard of the John Lennon song. (Here’s a decent version of it by another ’60s band.) There don’t seem to be that many potential theme entries, so having the single word KILOLITERS is a compromise, but it pairs with the nice entry POLO LOUNGE, so I don’t have much of a problem with it.
Elsewhere, the long fill is solid with APPLAUSE, HOLDS OUT, and BARRETTE. However, I contend that a horse making the sound CLOP CLOP must be missing a couple legs. Where are the CLIPs? Of course, that first O is used in one of the LOLs.
Some tough-for-Monday fill includes ENOCH, LE ROI, and “PEG O‘ My Heart” (1913 song).
Clues of note:
- 22a. [Have the high score in a golf tournament]. LOSE. Nice switcheroo here. It threw me for a couple seconds.
- 67a. [Org. that Finland and Sweden petitioned to join in 2022]. NATO. Add Ukraine to that list as of September 30th.
A fine debut puzzle. (Congrats!) 3.5 stars.
Prasanna Keshava’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I’m curious how other folks’ times compare to their usual on this one. As I was solving it, there were a couple of speed bumps I thought were unusually tough for a Monday. Then I came out at the end with 1:51 on the clock, which is pretty fast. Would love to hear whether others had this “feels harder than it is” experience.
But first, the theme: The revealer at 60A [Consequence, and where the ends of the answers to the starred clues can be found] is AFTERMATH. That is, the final word in each theme answer can be placed after the word MATH to make a two-word phrase.
- 17A [Cracker topper from Kraft] is CHEEZ WHIZ, leading to MATH WHIZ. Here’s the first speed bump, IMO, since if you don’t know the CHEEZ spelling (and, despite being from Philadelphia, I did not; I like my cheesesteaks with provolone), it’s very easy to think this could be CHEESE or CHEEZE something. (CHEESE WIZ is awfully plausible.)
- 24A [Expensive travel option] is FIRST CLASS, leading to MATH CLASS. FIRST CLASS is indeed expensive, and really delightful if someone else is paying for it.
- 36A [Anything wrong?] is IS THERE A PROBLEM, leading to MATH PROBLEM.
- 49A [Constellation that translates to “greater dog”] is CANIS MAJOR, leading to MATH MAJOR.
Other bits I thought were a little tough for Monday: 8D [Red Sox legend, to fans], or YAZ, the nickname for Carl Yastrzemski. Patti does love her baseball, though (see also 20A, [A’s, Jays, or Rays] for TEAM). I was pleased to see HTTPS at 9A; it’s much more common in puzzles to see HTTP, but the latter is well on its way to obsolescence IMO.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword — Jenni’s write-up
Good morning! I’m sitting in for Amy who can’t, well, sit. Or sit well. Or at least comfortably.
When I see Anna’s byline, I always smile. Her puzzles are smooth, elegant, and challenging in a good way when they’re supposed to be. I had to maneuver around a few spots in this one, as I expect for a Monday New Yorker.
- Loved seeing HELLO GORGEOUS because I saw Lea Michele in Funny Girl a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed her performance.
- My friends would tell you I fit the clue at 9a: [People who should avoid wearing white], SLOBS.Turns out that when you eat a chocolate ice cream cone while wearing a white skirt on a hot day, you may never live it down.
- BS METER shows up for the second time in a few days, confirming that it’s a thing. I tend to say “bullshit detector” myself.
- [Book title shared by several Pulitzer Prize winners] is a great clue for SELECTED POEMS. Anna takes a straightforward entry and makes it difficult with a vague and yet perfectly fair clue. I can’t imagine anyone got it without at least some crossings. I tried WORKS before I got it right.
- I enjoyed [Well-intentioned businessman?] for OIL BARON.
I wasn’t crazy about LOCOMOTE and it’s a good puzzle that yields only one word for this section of the review.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: as always with TNY, I have choices. I’ve never heard of Vampire Weekend; the only BAIO I know is Scott (turns out they’re cousins). Also not familiar with PAIGE Taylour.
Wendy L. Brandes’ USA Today puzzle, “In OT”– malaika’s write-up
Good morning, folks! Today, we have a symmetrical puzzle with four theme answers, each of which start with an O and end with a T. They are all delightfully conversational (it’s giving Robyn Weintraub Themeless)– ON SECOND THOUGHT, OF COURSE NOT, OH NO YOU DON’T, and OFF TO A GOOD START. I really don’t have a favorite here, they’re all so good. And two spanners!
Wendy still managed to work in some long answers, STEPS ON IT and VENDETTAS and even NOT COOL and HALIBUT. I also want to draw your attention to those corners with four five-letter answers in them. It’s actually deceptively hard to get spaces of that size filled so cleanly, so my hat is off to Wendy. The last thing I’ll call out is that I did not really know what a space opera was until this puzzle forced me to look it up! I knew Zendaya starred in DUNE (I never saw it, but my friends said she was drastically under-utilized) but I guess I thought an opera had to involve singing. Google tells me it is simply…. a dramatic story set in space. I propose we call these “space epics.”
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “In Addition” — pannonica’s write-up
Feel a little cheated by the theme, as the first two relevant entries are more restrictive than the other two.
- 17a. [1?] HALF AND HALF. That’s what they add up to.
- 27a. [14?] SEVEN AND SEVEN. Same. This is the name of a cocktail, named for its ingredients.
- 41a. [15 cents?] NICKEL-AND-DIME. You do the math.
- 56a. [24 hours?] NIGHT AND DAY. Same again.
So you see what I mean, yes? First two clues are just numbers, and the answers are two identical entities. Other two are a bit more expansive. But the math always checks out.
- 11d [Prepared, as grub] RUSTLED UP. Evokes the right colloquial tone.
- 27d [Beachfront building with free rent?] SANDCASTLE. Seems forced to me.
- 21a [Black cat, perhaps] OMEN. I’d have preferred the clue to use a more critical qualifier, such as “to some”. It saddens me that at this late date there are still a lot of black cats that go unadopted because of persistent medieval superstition.
- 36a [Cancel, as a mission] SCRUB, 38a [Cancel, as a subscription] END.
- 55a [Key also known as Option] ALT. 6a [Apple computers] MACS.
Nice Monday quicksolve.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday puzzle – Matthew’s write-up
Relatively straightforward from BEQ today, though each of the long downs are in his wheelhouses (sports and rock music) and maybe not yours. 12d in the NE corner features [First rock band to achieve one billion YouTube hits] LINKIN PARK, which I did not know, but recognized with a few crossings, and then 26d opposite is the more obscure CRUYFF TURN [Deceptive about-face move in soccer named after a Dutch player]. Johan Cruyff is a legend of the sport, a centerpiece of the Dutch national teams in the 70s that popularized a strategy called “Total Football,” which emphasized extreme positional flexibility. Imagine an American football team with players able to jump from role to role in the same quarter!
In the opposite corners, I found NOT A SCRAP [1a Quantity of lack of evidence] and POSTED ADS [56a Hung up flyers, e.g.] a touch awkward, but they made sense with the crossings. Not much in the way of big misdirections today; [Lab time unit] for DOG YEAR and [Store for the time being?] for POP UP SHOP gave me a chuckle. MORRO [31a Castle in Havana] is a historical piece of trivia I didn’t know – crossing CRUYFF is tough. Does SOCAL [25d Bakersfield’s spot, for short] include Bakersfield in your book? Not mind, and not a Merced-born-and-raised coworker I was in a meeting with this morning. Southern portion of California, sure. SOCAL? Nah.
USAT: I’m with Malaika. Someone calls science fiction movies “space operas”? Why? I guess it’s probably a play on “soap opera”, which never made much sense to me either. I understand that the soap part comes from the fact that the original sponsors were soap manufacturers, but why “opera” when there’s no music involved? There were also “horse operas”, but I think they actually had music in them. Language sure can be bizarre.
Horse operas don’t have singing either. They’re simply Western movies or TV shows. I have no idea how the ‘opera’ got in there, with soaps or space or horses. Maybe the soap “opera” started because they tend to be melodramatic, like operas, and the others have followed suit??… Just a thought.
In older westerns, it’s not uncommon to see characters break out in song. Heck, even “Bonanza” occasionally featured Lorne Greene and Pernell Roberts singing and I remember a very young Wayne Newton appearing on that show a couple of times as a singer.
p.s. I responded to you earlier today on yesterday’s “Cologne sample” thread. I wish Taylor would drop in to one of the sites (here or Crossword Corner) and let us know exactly what they were going for there.
My understanding is that “space opera” was intended to be pejorative – comparing often poorly written and melodramatic (as @marciem points out) sci-fi to “soap operas.” And while there is rarely singing (AFAIK) in either soap operas or space operas, there is often music used to highlight/intensify dramatic scenes.
I think in more recent times the usage has broadened to include higher-quality sci-fi.
Nice NYT debut today! Perfect Monday imo, with a straightforward “why didn’t I think of that” theme, clean fill with plenty of interesting longer entries, and personality in the clues.
Deja vu …
Interesting. It’s probably just an example of two people having the same idea. I wonder if the LAT puzzle was published before the NYT accepted this one?
Jeff Chen at xwordinfo.com looked through a list of the many dating apps that are out there and thought that only these four names were likely to be part of a common phrase.
LAT … I kind of had the opposite experience of Stella. I thought it played pretty easy and I sailed through it with barely a hesitation and no write-overs at all (somewhat rare, even with a Monday puzzle). So, when I submitted my solution and entered my solve time in my solving database, I was surprised that my time was just a second below my current 6-month LAT Monday median (though 16 seconds below my 6-month mean).
I seem to be reaching a point in my crossword solving career where I can no longer post the faster solve times that I did even a few years ago. I think part of that is becoming further and further removed from pop culture and modern slang and probably also being well above the average crossword constructor’s and editor’s age these days. But I must reluctantly admit that some of it is probably also related to the synapses just not firing as efficiently as they once did.
LAT: About 1:30 off of average for me. As for CHEEZ WHIZ, it’s not so much location as probably time frame and station in life. It was introduced in the 1950’s, so definitely old enough for most of us. As for spray cheese (what people typically know it as) and cheese in jars (for dipping), it’s definitely very *processed* cheese, so a lot of people moved away from using it a lot when they started getting more health conscious. Hence, it’s not really all that much in memory anymore and was more nostalgia for me than anything current.
Not nostalgia for anyone within striking distance of Philly.
LAT: A few minutes faster than today’s NYT (which might be my slowest NYT Monday ever). My biggest slowdown was 36A, where “What’s the PROBLEM” fits all to well.
BEQ – I, too, gave 25D the side eye [Bakersfield’s spot, for short.] SOCAL. But it turns out that Bakersfield is only about 100 miles NNW of Los Angeles – a lot further south than I thought. Still, I never considered Bakersfield to be part of SOCAL.
NYT, 4-Down: BIEN is “well” in Spanish, not “good.”