Byron Walden’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer has the string “PAR” in it twice.
- 17a [Opponent who helps train a boxer] – SPARRING PARTNER
- 39a [Most difficult challenge for many a student driver] – PARALLEL PARKING
- 60a [Place in an auto dealership to pick up wiper blades or spark plugs] – PARTS DEPARTMENT
- 67a [Common miniature golf goal … or a hint to what’s found in 17-, 39- and 60-Across] – PAR TWO
This puzzle’s biggest sin was getting me really hyped up by the mini-golf related revealer. I love mini golf, and was very curious how it would relate to the theme – something about a windmill? A hole in one? So then I was a little let down by the not particularly exciting answer of PAR TWO. It’s fine and explains the theme well, but it doesn’t shine as a revealer or parse in an interesting way, and with the set up I was hoping for a little more.
The theme answers are all grid-spanning 15 letters across, which is a neat bit of consistency. I looked at my own wordlist, and these three are the only 15-letter answers that I have that contain PAR twice. Given that, they’re all pretty good, the first two especially. I have never been to a PARTS DEPARTMENT and had no idea it was called that, but the wordiness of the clue helped me figure it out.
There being only three potential theme answers means that Byron didn’t have a lot of grid options, but I like what he went with. There are a whole bunch of cool entries today, from BOY GEORGE to TOTEM POLE to the stacks of EASY PEASY/ART DEGREE and MANIPEDIS/CHEAP WINE (now that sounds like a fun night). I didn’t love the six black squares extending from the NW and SE, because they chopped off a lot of entries into those corners and made them feel separate. A CLAM is also pretty bad, but at least it can be clued easily! Throw it all together and you get a solid Monday, at least in my opinion – Let me know yours!
Lee Taylor’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Farm Team”—Jim P’s review
Theme entries consist of idiomatic phrases that end in a farm animal.
- 22a. [Fortunate fellow, on the farm?] LUCKY DUCK.
- 58a. [Institution above criticism, on the farm?] SACRED COW.
- 3d. [Airhead, on the farm?] DUMB BUNNY.
- 8d. [Family embarrassment, on the farm?] BLACK SHEEP.
- 31d. [False god, on the farm?] GOLDEN CALF.
- 37d. [Unexpected winner, on the farm?] DARK HORSE.
Straightforward theme for a Monday. I was a little confused as to the purpose of the “on the farm” phrasing, since the clues work without it added on. But I guess it helps identify which entries are theme entries since they appear in both directions and we have other long entries that aren’t part of the theme. One other nit is the appearance of both COW and CALF which feels like a dupe, especially with them crossing at the C. But it’s still a fun, enjoyable set.
I’m liking BABY MAMA, WHITE SOX, MEGASTAR, TIME SPAN, EDAMAME, and MEDUSAS (the jellyfish) in the fill. Nothing much to complain about, but I’m not a fan of phrases like GET TO. Maybe if it was clued [Bother] rather than [Arrive at], it would get to me so much.
Clue of note: 42a. [Steamed or boiled soybeans]. EDAMAME. We generally steam them then add a little salt and pepper. Once I added butter, thinking that might enhance the flavor, but nope. Never again. If you’ve got some EDAMAME tips, please share.
Justin Werfel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I couldn’t tell you exactly when having a revealer became nearly de rigueur on Monday for a theme of the “first/last words in theme answer all belong to a certain category” type. This puzzle doesn’t have one, which I’m totally fine with but might trip up a newer solver. Each of the themers begins with some kind of container: CASE, CAN, JAR, and BOX:
- 20A [Like passwords that likely won’t work if Caps Lock is on] is CASE SENSITIVE. Boy, is that clue triggering. IDK why I keep leaving Caps Lock on without realizing it.
- 36A [Question from a store clerk] is CAN I HELP YOU?
- 43A [“Star Wars” character from an underwater city] is JAR JAR BINKS, which I suspect might be triggering for lots of people but not for me since I have thus far managed to avoid seeing any of the prequel movies. And will continue to avoid doing so, based on what I hear about how bad they are and how annoying this character in particular is.
- 54A [Film that doesn’t make much money] is a BOX OFFICE FLOP. Very easy to put BOX OFFICE BOMB in here, which, especially since 50D [Hit high in the air] could plausibly be LOBBED instead of LOFTED, contributed to a little extra solving time in the SE corner.
Not having a revealer didn’t slow me down (wait, crosswords have themes? I usually find out what those are after I’m done solving), but I imagine it would some newer solvers, as would the proper names of Mario Vargas LLOSA and Phillipa SOO in close proximity to each other. SPY VS. SPY at 10D also feels like a bit of an oldie to be in an easy puzzle. Also, [Puzzles (out)] seems like a needle-scratch hard clue for DOPES at 52D. I had never heard this use of DOPES and Google/Oxford dictionary definition seems to validate that, calling DOPE OUT a “dated/informal” usage. That could easily have been a much easier clue, whereas the LLOSA/SOO area (combined with the aforementioned FLOP/BOMB and LOFTED/LOBBED ambiguity in the same region) and SPY VS. SPY IMO should’ve pushed this puzzle to a different day of the week.
Rebecca Goldstein’s Universal crossword, “How It Started” — pannonica’s write-up
- 60aR [Narrative that may explain how a villain turned evil, or what’s found at the start of 17-, 23-, 38- or 51-Across] ORIGIN STORY.
- 17a. [Street art form also known as “guerilla knitting”] YARN BOMBING.
- 23a. [Cost at some banks] ACCOUNT FEE.
- 38a. [Happening that feels fresh] NOVEL EXPERIENCE.
- 51a. [Write-up of a student performance?] REPORT CARD,
That’s a nice bunch of answers.
- 4d [Covered California statute, briefly] ACA. Is this the Affordable Care Act? If so, why California specifically?
- 12d [2022 Tony nominee Ruth] NEGGA. For playing Lady Macbeth, I presume.
- 18d [Cookie with a pumpkin spice flavor] OREO. AAAAaaaaaaaaaaa
- 32d [“This. Always. Happens.”] EVERY TIME. Fun clue.
- 50d [Latest five-letter month] APRIL. Only one other, but a different clue wording would just be weirder.
- 30a [Wriggled digits] TOES. I did a couple of proximity searches on Google, wriggle vs. wiggle and toes. Result: wriggle approximately 401,ooo results, wriggle approximately 4,330,000. So, a factor of greater than 10. On the other hand, 400 thousand is nothing to scoff at.
Liz Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
I do use the word PARENTHETICAL a lot in my work—there are crossword clues that benefit from a parenthetical to give some context. How cute that the word is flanked by a pair of brackets here! Really, the closest you can get to drawing small parentheses with black squares in a 15×15 grid.
Fave fill: “ALL I ASK…,” “LOSE THE ATTITUDE,” Van Gogh’s STARRY NIGHT, KITSCH, COUCH-SURF, AVERAGE AMERICAN. The good stuff is offset by fill like -INE, AN E, HPS, SNEE, DDE, TTOP, ILER, and NAES. HULLING, STERNA, TYRONES? Meh.
21st century vocab lesson: 60d. [Not prone to amorous feelings, for short], ARO. That’s shorthand for aromantic, roughly meaning not into falling in love or having romantic relationships. Ace is short for asexual; an ace person might be into emotional romance, just not the physical angle. Someone who’s panromantic is open to loving people of any gender expression. If you’ve wondered what the “+” is for in LGBTQIA+, well, some of these terms might fit there, along with nonbinary, genderfluid, or agender (I’m not sure how many terms fit into the “A”). (Note: I am not an expert! If I’ve screwed things up or missed important nuances, please do correct me.)
3.25 stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword—Matthew’s review
Less wide-open than the last few Mondays from BEQ, but I found this one the toughest in some time; truly a puzzle where every crossing was valuable. Let’s go right to notes:
- 20a [Gentle breeze] ZEPHYR. I learned this word from minor league baseball; my Buffalo Bisons played the New Orleans ZEPHYRS through the mid-90s. Alas the Zephyrs were renamed and moved to Wichita in the last few years.
- 41a [Oboe] HAUTBOY. I’ve seen this word before, but not often enough to know it readily when solving a puzzle.
- 43a [Thanksgiving side] YAM. I’ve never seen individual YAMs served as sides – only a general serving of mashed yams with marshmallows when I’ve been a guest at others’ Thanksgiving tables. That said, I’m not much a fan of adding marshmallows to yams or sweet potatoes – they’re plenty sweet as they are!
- 58a [It has a big bell] NYSE. I was skeptical of this before some research, but it turns out the NYSE bell is 18 inches in diameter, which seems plenty large to this former handbell player.
- 1d [Area with plop art] PLAZA. I was unfamiliar with the term “plop art.” It’s a pejorative term for “public art made specifically for government or corporate plazas,” per Wikipedia.
- 7d [“The IHOP Papers” author Liebegott] ALI. This book is new to me, but added to my reading list.
- 9d [French anti-ship missile] EXOCET. This is not the first time I’ve seen it in the puzzle, and not the first time I’ve wondered at its relevancy. Seems it was used in the Falklands War and a couple dozen countries have them in their current arsenals.
- 26d [Mulgrew’s sci-fi captain] JANEWAY. A Star Trek: Voyager reference that reminds me, a Next Generation fan, that I haven’t gotten around to watching Picard yet.
- 34d [Band with the 1996 hit “Popular”] NADA SURF. This is a deeper cut than BEQ normally goes, no? “Popular” peaked at a whopping 51 on the US charts…
Rachel Fabi & Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today puzzle, “Find a Way Back”– malaika’s write-up
Hey folks! Today’s puzzle features four answers that have the word WAY within them, but backwards. They’re arranged in a symmetrical grid. We have BY A WHISKER, as well as DON’T SAY A WORD, ACADEMY AWARD, and STAY A WHILE. It’s cool that WAY is split up across words for all of these. I also liked the two longer down answers, GAME ROOMS and EMMA STONE. Happy Monday!