Note: No WSJ puzzle today due to the holiday.
Seth Bisen-Hersh’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up
Happy New Year everyone! I’ve already written this puzzle’s date incorrectly multiple times, so it’s off to a great start for me.
THEME: “It Had To Be You” – each theme answer contains the string “BU” twice.
- 19a [The 2005 compilation “Killer Queen” is one honoring Queen] – TRIBUTE ALBUM
- 27a [Chemistry lab device] – BUNSEN BURNER
- 42a [Topper for a Whopper] – HAMBURGER BUN
- 50a [Classic song about a soulmate … or a phonetic hint for repeated pairs of letters in 19-, 27- and 42-Across] – IT HAD TO BE YOU
I decided to solve this puzzle without looking at the revealer until I reached it naturally, so it took me a while to get what the theme was. As I solved, I noticed that each theme answer had two Bs, but that was it (and the only reason I knew that much was because the B’s were the last entries I put in to TRIBUTE ALBUM). I like all the theme answers; they’re all solid if not truly stand-out, and the rhyme in the clue for HAMBURGER BUN is cute.
The revealer itself is clever, I like how it repurposes all three of the last words of the song title. When it comes to the song itself, I know it but am not sure I could sing any lyrics besides the title…. That’s all to say that I think it’s fair game for a Monday, but if you don’t know the title you could get stuck there. Oh, and it might have been elegant if there were no B’s or U’s in the puzzle besides the ones in the theme answers, but I have no idea how possible that would be, and anyways clean fill should probably be the priority on a Monday.
This puzzle played really easy for me, timewise. I think there’s a couple reasons for that – there aren’t many longer answers that require crosses to get, and there’s a large amount of (fairly clued!) proper names that I was able to quickly drop in. The only negative in the fill is the sheer amount of three letter words clogging up the corners, but the nice open middle makes up for it. My favorite piece of fill is BABKA and I’m surprised but not displeased that the NYT is allowing ASS-backwards into their puzzles.
Congrats to Seth on a great debut puzzle!
Dylan Schiff’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
This puzzle’s on fire! The revealer at 54D [“Hamilton” song about destroying love letters, or what one can do to the ends of the answers to the starred clues] is BURN. That is, each theme entry is a two-word phrase, the second word of which can be “burned.” I thought the song clue was quite a deep cut trivia-wise for Monday — I see constructor or editor was trying to avoid actually cluing BURN in a definitional sense that gives too much away, but I also think the clue still could’ve been done with no need for factual knowledge. [“Oh snap!”…] or [Witty insult…] could’ve accomplished the same effect.
Anyway, on to the theme answers:
- 20A [*Frozen structures that help with some winter migration] is ICE BRIDGES; to BURN BRIDGES is to damage a relationship such that it’s impossible to rebuild.
- 27A [*Food that lacks nutritional value] is EMPTY CALORIES; BURN CALORIES is what I’m trying to do so I can finally get rid of the quaran-ten (what I call the weight I gained during lockdowns). This theme entry is a little out of place with the others, given the more literal meaning of BURN CALORIES relative to the other BURN phrases.
- 44A [*For all to see, after “in”] is BROAD DAYLIGHT. TIL that to BURN DAYLIGHT is to waste time.
- 50A [*Yoga mat material] is FOAM RUBBER; BURN RUBBER is something only drivers more confident than I do.
Rebecca Goldstein’s Universal crossword, “Bugs Out” — pannonica’s write-up
Insects and other small arthropods are a perennially popular vehicle for crossword themes. Perhaps it’s because there are so many with short names, and perhaps that in turn is because the insects themselves have a long and intimate history with humans and it’s more efficient to refer to them thus. Here I am getting philosophical and out of my depth already.
So! Insect names bookend various phrases; they’re helpfully pre-circled in the grid.
- 17a. [“A League of Their Own” team] ROCKFORD PEACHES (roaches). (52d [Jacobson of “A League of Their Own”] ABBI.
- 32a. [Heavy weight, in an idiom] TON OF BRICKS (ticks).
- 41a. [Quickly resells homes] FLIPS HOUSES (flies).
- 58a. [Good times, to a Brit] BEER AND SKITTLES (beetles).
Not sure that we’ve seen this precise theme before, but casually speaking, it seems likely to me. It done well enough here.
- 9d [Log-splitter: Var.] AXE. This is how we know it’s the Universal crossword.
- 32d [Like someone head-and-shoulders above the rest?] TALL. Literally.
- 42d [LSAT section?] LAW School Application Test.
- 10a [Lose feathers, say] MOLT. 22a [Loses fur, say] SHEDS.
- 37a [Sitting on] ATOP.
- 55a [Cutting tools that can also be instruments] SAWS. Clue should have included ‘musical’.
- 67a [Pages with lots of views?] OP-EDS. Nice clue.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — Matthew’s write-up
Clean, clean grid today from BEQ, who can take liberties in the 6-8 letter fill sometimes. But other than BALD AS A COOT [38a Unlocked?] and I suppose ERUCTS, this grid is full of in-the-language (or at least in-the-crosswords) fill. And lots of gentle, but amusing, misdirection in the clues.
Perhaps the right and lower area is easier than the left and upper? That may just be me failing to piece together TRANSIENTS [5d They won’t be here for very long] or BAINES [26a Presidential middle name].
- 14a [_____ Lutz (WWII hero who was the first Army nurse to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross)] ALEDA. Lots of superlatives for Lt. Lutz — her Wikipedia page is worth a visit.
- 32a [Bent-over rows work them] LATS. I couldn’t tell you what this exercise is, but I at least recognized it as part of a workout.
- 38a [Unlocked?] BALD AS A COOT. This phrase Googles decently well, to my surprise (not that that’s the be-all and end-all), and I learn that a “coot” is a black waterbird with a white patch above its beak.
- 2d [’80s-’90s series whose title appeared on a California license plate] LA LAW. Here’s something I learned from crosswords and (this reflects on me) haven’t ever seen outside of puzzles.
- 33d [Hard-drive make whose name means “the company”] LA CIE. New to me.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
Today’s my last day of holiday break, so I really made of most of lounging around doing nothing and forgot to blog till late evening. It happens.
I like this grid with its dogeared corners allowing the seldom-seen 12- and 13-letter entries stacked with an 11. BACKPACKERS, a movie set intimacy coordinator’s care for actors’ COMFORT LEVEL in sex scenes, SEX POSITIVITY up top, OCTAVIA BUTLER down below. I’ll raise my hand for never having heard of 49a [1968 Ken Russell film about Frederick Delius, named for one of Delius’s tone poems], SONG OF SUMMER. I’ve heard of Ken Russell, but not the movie or the poet. Just me?
Fave fill: CENTENNIAL and INFLUENCER (super-tough clue for the latter: [Wanted poster?]—meaning an Instagrammer whose posts are “wanted” by their followers). Also cool to see IEPS; if your kid needs a classroom aide, speech therapy, physical therapy, or occupational therapy, they may have an IEP plan at school (for conditions that fall short of the “disabled” category, your kid may have a 504 plan for accommodations). If you needed all the crossings to fill in IEPS, well, now you know a bit more about it.
Less keen on French UNIE, butcher lingo RIB CUT (no idea what a cowboy steak is, and please don’t elucidate), SIT AT.
Know your Carls: Thorstein VEBLEN, author of The Theory of the Leisure Class, went to Carleton College over a century before Team Fiend’s Sophia and I did. [Social scientist Thorstein who wrote, “The possession of wealth confers honour; it is an invidious distinction”].
2.75 stars from me.
NYT: Thanks for pointing out the TO/two aspect of the revealer. It makes it a much tighter theme.
It was a fun puzzle. I don’t try to solve as quickly as I can type because I just end up making a lot of typos that take me a minute or two to find. So I did this one in an average Monday time, mainly because I read the clue for TRIBUTE ALBUM too hastily and tried to maker “greatest hits album” work.
[Edit: Rachel Fabi’s Wordplay column also mentions the TO/two pun, but not as explicitly. And I tend to read Wordplay too hastily anyway.]
NYT – Not only did you have trouble with the date today, but the “continue reading” link from the homepage, which works, is “2022” instead of “2023”, while each link to specific puzzle writeups think the page is named with a “2023” so they do not work.
(Aside, starting the week with a personal Monday best AND besting Sophia’s time on a clever puzzle must mean the rest of the year will be a breeze… right?)
Note also the date errors on Sunday, December 25. I commented on them at the time (https://crosswordfiend.com/2022/12/24/sunday-december-25-2002/#comment-495222), but it could be no one noticed.
TNY — The SE and entire bottom section of the puzzle were jammed with adjacent and crossing proper names, making it unsolvable unfortunately. Just feels like you’ve been cheated when that happens.
The New Yorker: very challenging. Ultimately fun, but took me forever.
Yes. It did ask for a lot of knowledge, and I struggled just for a foothold much less completion. But luckily for me it was ultimately solvable, so as TNY puzzles and proper-name puzzles go, not a bad challenge. Hardly a fave, but there have been more unacceptable ones, for sure.
My last to fall were TAE and IEPS, adjacent and crossing TAPES. I hesitated. Could they want “takes,” obliging “secure” to have the sense of a military assault and capture? But IEKS looked painful, so I got away with a guess.
All of it was challenging, but the east and southeast were toughest for me. Like JohnH, I was unsure about TAE, and after it was in place, I think *maybe* I’ve seen/heard of IEP’S somewhere.
Didn’t help that I tried to make beSETS work for a long time at 22-A, which made it hard to figure out CAME OFF, and down below, I wanted RIBeye for RIB CUT.
I guessed that 19-D had to do with on-line “posters,” and though I’ve heard the term, it took me a long time to see INFLUENCERS (probably doesn’t help that I don’t care about them).
Ms. BUTLER is new to me, as is poet RUMI. I actually knew VEBLEN without any crosses.
You know, I didn’t think of mentioning it, but I, too, had BESET for a long time and found VEBLEN a gimme and my only real hold on the bottom sectors for a while. I entered a mistake instead of RUMI at first, but eventually it rang a bell (and here I thought I knew Glass/Wilson), and it was a recent crossword that introduced me to OCTAVIA BUTLER, although I needed lots of crossings to hit on it. I’d learned in the interim that she is influential as a diversification of and greater sophistication in sci-fi, a genre about which I couldn’t care less. I also didn’t remember that Alberti was from Genoa and not Renaissance Florence (where he designed the upper story of Santa Maria Novella and where his On Painting had such influence). I didn’t know San MARCOS, DAN, or SONG OF SUMMER, although with the last of these I felt sure somehow that I ought to know, given the clue’s two points of reference. I knew GITMO but not the movie that clues it.
So yea, a name-heavy E and S took its toll on me, but you can see how my thought processes worked out in due time without slamming crossings as unfair as in many TNY puzzles.
if you’re curious about Butler but not big into sci-fi, you could try “Kindred”, which does involve time travel but could easily be called historical fiction
loved the puzzle btw! early contender for clue of the year at 19d
I’m glad to start seeing ASSES clued as something other than “Biblical beasts of burden.”
“Kindred” sounds interesting. Maybe if I ever start reading novels again . . .
Oops! I think I was looking at the Universal 19D, and I’ll bet you, Mr. Agard, meant the New Yorker 19D. I’m sure it’s a brilliant clue.
TNY 19d: Wanted Poster? = INFLUENCER
So yeah, it’s pretty good
Yeah, that’s a great clue. As I wrote earlier, that corner of the puzzle was the hardest — in no small part because of that brilliant clue.
TNY … Good grief! I’ve been working on this puzzle for over 20 minutes and only have about a third of it filled in. I’ve got almost everything in the far left 5 columns and almost nothing else. I’m used to getting beat up by this constructor, but this is nuts. I think it’s time to accept a DNF and start cheating.
Much of what I had outside the western third of the grid turned out to be wrong. This was a very humbling experience. It reminds me of when I first started solving NYT Saturday puzzles way back when and brings back nightmares of when I used to try to solve Newsday Saturday Stumpers. AS has made her way to the top of my most difficult constructor list.
New Yorker: I got off to an quick start: San MARCOS is about 30 miles from my home; Thorsten VEBLEN* is such an unusual name that it’s stuck with me for decades; I was a kid when Mr. MAGOO was popular.
But after getting most of it by myself, I hit a wall and started checking a few entries around INFLUENCER. I couldn’t see that answer because of my incorrect entries (specifically, CAME out, which is weird, because I started with CAME OFF).
I used to know more about federal special education law than I do now, because the I of IEPS would not come to me. The term seems a bit niche to me. So I was trying to figure out INFLUENCER from something like _euL_ENCER.
There were some really nice clues — INFLUENCER and CORN COB, especially.
*I’m not sure the VEBLEN quote was necessary, but it does make me want to read some of his work.
My apologies to Thorstein VEBLEN for misspelling his name.
Universal: Nice enough for a puzzle that’s supposed to be on the easy side.
I’m almost positive that, within the past few weeks, I solved a puzzle with a very similar theme of circled letters spelling different bugs. (No shade on the constructor or editors; that sort of thing is bound to happen.)
It’s been 35 years since I took the LSAT, but it’s not a test of one’s knowledge of the law, but rather of one’s ability to “think like a lawyer.” A minor nit.