Caryn L. Robbins’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer is a character with distinctive ears.
- 17a [One who asks “Ehh … What’s up, doc?”] – BUGS BUNNY
- 24a [Cartoon character who once had a “Club” named after him] – MICKEY MOUSE
- 38a [Iconic magazine cover figure who asks “What, me worry?”] – AlFRED E. NEUMAN
- 51a [Second-in-command on the U.S.S. Enterprise] – MISTER SPOCK
- 61a [“You have my full attention” … or something 17-, 24-, 38- and 51-Across might say?] – I’M ALL EARS
First and foremost, congrats to Caryn on her New York Times debut!
While solving this puzzle, I wasn’t sure what the connecting thread was going to be. BUGS BUNNY and MICKEY MOUSE… maybe something cartoon related? But then I got ALFRED E NEUMAN and was totally lost. (Side note, it was lucky for me that we had a NYT puzzle last month that featured ALFRED E NEUMAN, because his name would have been much more tricky for me to come up with without it). I eventually got to the revealer and, yep, these guys all do have big ears – I think? Are MISTER SPOCK’s ears particularly big or just pointy? I haven’t seen Star Trek. Anyway, it was a satisfying reveal, if a little one-note and pop-culture heavy. Could there have been more wordplay with the theme, I wonder? I went to a corn maze this weekend – that’s technically “all ears” as well, right?
The fill is generally smooth. I didn’t feel like I was moving through the puzzle particularly quickly, but I ended with a below average time, so what do I know? Highlights were WELCOME MAT, IT ME and BOUGIE (even with its oddly worded clue), lowlights were LAMS, COATI, and KAL Kan (my crossword dog food brain can only accommodate Iams and Alpo, sorry). This puzzle is also pretty male-dominant: besides that all four theme answers are male, there’s also DANA Carvey, SEAN Connery, MARC Anthony, ERIC Holder, TRU Capote, Joseph EDY, John DONNE, and Willy MAYS. For women, we have the biblical EVE and MOM clued via tattoo.
Favorite clues today: 65a [Mocking retort to Captain Obvious] for NO DUH, [Jarring noise at 6 a.m.] for ALARM, and 69a [Village People classic with a pantomimed chorus] for YMCA!
Happy Monday all!
Naomi Klarreich & Daniel Shapiro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Mental Gymnastics”—Jim P’s review
Well, this is new. Two debuts for the price of one. Congrats to both of our constructors.
They bring us a gymnastics-based puzzle with a lovely title. Each theme entry is a familiar phrase whose final word can also be an apparatus in gymnastics.
- 17a. [Where Simone Biles might keep her gold medals?] BANK VAULT.
- 27a. [Snacks for Simone Biles?] GRANOLA BARS.
- 44a. [Where Simone Biles might testify in support of legislation?] SENATE FLOOR.
- 59a. [What Simone Biles might use to cut metal?] LASER BEAM.
Pretty straightforward, so quite apt for a Monday, and it gets the job done. I wouldn’t have minded, though, if other gymnasts got some love here as well. Crossworders certainly know Aly Raisman, and Sunisa Lee won the all-around gold last time around. And there isn’t anything here that precludes the use of older gymnasts. Absolutely nothing against Simone Biles, but I found it odd that only her name appears here.
Top fill includes HONEYBEE, ARTISTES, and ISABELLA of Spain. Knowing some Italian would come in handy for QUATTRO and PIETRO, but the crossings helped if you didn’t. I liked the crossing of two Alans (ALDA and ARKIN), but there may be younger solvers who don’t know an A goes in that spot.
The rest of the grid felt solid with straightforward clues. 3.5 stars.
Rebecca Goldstein’s USA Today puzzle, “Uno!”– malaika’s write-up
Good morning folks! Today’s puzzle features three entries whose first word is a card in the game Uno. I haven’t played Uno in… probably a decade? But the card names are familiar to me. We have WILD GOOSE CHASE, SKIP INTRO (my favorite of the themies) and REVERSE COMMUTE.
Rebecca also gave us some fun long answers. I like SLOW CLAP, NEWS TO ME, and NO NOTES the best. More thoughts below:
- I don’t follow baseball, and I only knew that PADRE was a San Diego player because I watched the game on Saturday with some very depressed Dodgers fans
- I knew what the A in the phonetic alphabet was, but I didn’t know how to spell it (I thought it was “alpha”) which slowed me down here
- The clue for PIT CREW gives two groups that use this term, RuPaul’s Drag Race, as well as actual racing. I was thinking more of Backstage Theater Vibes, but I think I was mixing up the pit and the tech crew
- The clue “Huff and puff” for PANT made me think of the running joke on “Abbott Elementary” that Janine breathes really heavily
- Inre JUNO: I know Greek mythology from reading the Percy Jackson books, and I know this detail of Roman mythology from watching the movie “Juno”
David Alfred Bywaters’ Universal crossword, “In Connecticut” — pannonica’s write-up
Some nutmeggery is afoot.
The original phrases have been wackified by being ENROBED (28a) by the letters CT, the two-letter abbreviation for Connecticut.
- 17a. [“Hello, it’s me,” maybe?] CALL START (all-star).
- 24a. [What pants ought to do, at minimum?] COVER THE SEAT (over the sea).
- 40a. [Tail or paw?] CAT PART (at par).
- 51a. [Do some careful ironing?] CENTER A PLEAT (enter a plea).
- 63a. [Humble athlete’s award concealment site?] CUP CLOSET (up close).
Works for me.
- 12d [Fish named for its “four-sided” fins] TETRA. Makes sense.
- 52d [Early computer therapist] ELIZA. New to me. Here’s the Wikipedia page.
- 20a [Get ready to beg for mercy] KNEEL. This wants a ‘perhaps’-style qualifier.
- 43a [Hawaiian hello] ALOHA. 45a [Polynesian dance] HULA.
- 49a [GIF or TGIF] ACRONYM. Some sticklers might insist only one of those is an acronym, while both are initialisms.
- 40d [Walking stick] CANE.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
Tough one for me this week, though nothing was really vexing. Cost myself some time by having —NIEL— for the singer and making it DANIEL instead of ANNIE LENNOX. Oops. Don’t recognize the song title.
Fave fill: MOCHI (though the clue, [Hishi ___ (treat served on the holiday Hinamatsuri)], was challenging for me), MAD-LIB (the singular is bogus but it’s the second time I’ve seen the entry lately and I always got a kick out of Mad-Libs), “WOULD I LIE?”, GIRL POWER, “BETTER NOT,” tasty RIESLINGS, “MONTERO” (which is Lil Nas X’s given name, Montero Lamar Hill), MWAH, THE BIG EASY (fiendishly the same letter count as NEW ORLEANS, but I had that first T so didn’t fall for the trap), LITTLE SPOON, and EPRINT (lots of the covid-related medical journal articles I see are eprints, pre-publication).
Think I’d prefer to never see NOTELET again.
Four stars from me, lots of fun stuff here.
Dylan Schiff’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Sorry, not much time to do much more than explain the theme, which is revealed at 54A [Tex-Mex fare found with increasing spiciness in this puzzle’s circled letters?], STUFFED PEPPERS. The circled letters in each theme answer are a type of pepper, starting with the totally unspicy BELL at 20A, moving down to the hotter but not super-hot ANCHO at 33A, and the sear-your-mouth GHOST at 41A:
- 20A [Annual honorees in chemistry, physics, economics, etc.] is NOBEL LAUREATES.
- 33A [Military division] is BRANCH OF SERVICE.
- 41A [WordPress, for one] is a BLOG-HOSTING SITE.
Quibble: It feels like the PEPPERS are the stuffing, rather than being stuffed, since the circled letters are in the interior of the themers rather than a phrase like GRAFT VERSUS HOST, in which GHOST is “stuffed” with other letters. I guess you could argue that the peppers are “stuffed” into their phrases, but I think the revealer would’ve been more appropriate the other way.
NYT: The reveal made me chuckle and kept me smiling for a while. Good antidote to ” the Sunday Scaries”…
Congratulations to Caryn on a fun debut!
Agreed. I had it all filled in and couldn’t connect everything but the reveal pulled it all together. A great debut.
Clues that either use less-common definitions or are not entirely accurate. Later in the week, I’d be more likely to excuse them, but on a Monday I found them irksome.
Uni … I guess I’m a stickler. TGIF is not an acronym. Per M-W.com: An acronym is “a word (such as NATO, radar, or laser) formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term”.
I was going to post something similar until wiktionary told me that nowadays “acronym” can mean a blanket term for acronyms, initialisms, and even portmanteaus.
Yes, that broad definition has been standard for decades. Only pedants ignore actual usage and demand that contrived distinction for the sake of ego.
Wow … pretty harsh there, R
TNY – I enjoyed seeing Annie Lennox and Would I Lie in the same grid. That plus Leon Redbone in the UNI writeup made for a good morning.
OT … When I do Google searches, I sometimes use – and + operators to refine the search. The minus presumably excludes pages that have whatever comes after the minus sign and the plus is supposed to require that the page includes what comes after the plus sign. But sometimes, the search results don’t make any sense. For example, today I wanted to know how many hits I’d get on ‘NOTELET’ (an answer in today’s TNY puzzle that I didn’t know was a thing) but wanted to exclude crossword-related pages. I got 660,000 hits with just ‘notelet’ as the search term and 1,280,000 hits with ‘notelet -crossword’ as the search term (with no space between the ‘-‘ and ‘crossword’). I don’t get it. I would think that the latter would be a superset of the former. Anyone out here have an explanation for me?
From what I see there cannot be a space between the – sign and the word you want to ignore. That’s what I find. When I tried using it I got unanticipated results
Googling notelet got 1,280,000 hits.
Googling notelet -crossword got 2,000,000 hits.
Thanks for the reply, PJ. I know not to put a space after the – or +. Back when I was a working stiff, I spent much of my time as a programmer, so I’m pretty comfortable with doing this stuff and sort of naturally think like a computer. But the Google search command syntax baffles me sometimes.
Weirdly, I now get 941,000 hits with just ‘notelet’ and 1,900,000 with ‘notelet -crossword’. I know that the internet is dynamic, but why am I getting 50% more hits now than I was just a few hours ago? What gives Google? It really bugs me when stuff like this doesn’t work the way it seems like it should.