David Steinberg’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer contains the letter “I” twice, separated by a single letter. Those letters in order spell out NOSE, which is literally right between one’s eyes.
- 17a [Engaged in some risky behavior] – SKATED ON THIN ICE
- 22a [Microphone jack, for one] – AUDIO INPUT
- 36a [“I’m appalled!”] – THIS IS AN OUTRAGE
- 48a [Be honored before burial] – LIE IN STATE
- 56a/67a – [With 67-Across, in a sudden and completely apparent way … or a punny description of this puzzle’s circled letters] – RIGHT BETWEEN THE / EYES
Cute theme! It’s very elegant that the theme answers each only contain the two I’s each; it also makes the theme tighter than just “words with two Is”. The NOSE meta is nice as well. If the letters hadn’t been circled, this could have played as more of an “aha!” moment at the revealer. As it was, I saw what the circled letters were spelling before I got to the revealer, which in turn helped me know what the revealer should be.
This puzzle took me a bit longer than normal, so I’m curious if it will play hard for anybody else. Some things that held me up were:
- ALICIA GARZA, who I was unfamiliar with but was happy to learn about. The other two Black Lives Matter cofounders were Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi.
- TOBIAS Wolff, who I had heard of but completely forgot
- Completely blanking on the last word of LIE IN STATE
- DEVILED EGGS (ok, not really, but I really hate deviled eggs so I had to think about that for a few seconds before moving on)
In general though I found that this puzzle had a bit more life in it than some NYT Mondays do. Oftentimes in order to be “easy”, puzzles resort to bland/overdone clues and fill, but that wasn’t the case today. There were lots of fun clues like [Bespectacled cartoon aardvark] for ARTHUR, [“Whose ___ Is It Anyway?” (long-running improv show)] for LINE, and [Enclosures for shark watchers] for CAGES. I’ve already called out the two longest downs, but PEN NAME and HARD CAP were interesting pieces of fill as well. Overall, a high quality puzzle as expected from David.
Happy Monday all!
Peter Silsbee & Mark McClain’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Private Amusement”—Jim P’s review
Theme: INSIDE JOKE (61a, [A newbie wouldn’t get it, though the theme answers do]). The other theme answers are familiar phrases that hide a synonym of “joke” identified by the circled letters.
- 17a. [#1 spot] TOP RANKING.
- 25a. [Long-haired prisoner of story] RAPUNZEL.
- 39a. [Peeking furtively] STEALING A GLANCE.
- 49a. [Provided with the necessities] EQUIPPED.
Here we’ve combined a synonym theme with a hidden word theme. I always find it nicer when the hidden word is different in each theme answer like we have today. That makes it just a little bit more challenging.
That said, I’m surprised that two of the entries have the hidden word spanning multiple words while two are contained entirely within one word. PUN seems like you ought to be able to find a suitable two-word phrase, but maybe not QUIP. But there are other synonyms one could use, right? “Jape” and “jest” come to mind.
Top bits of fill include CASANOVA, CON JOB, ISRAELI, and DOG SPA. ALLEZ seems tough for a Monday, but the crossings are fair.
Clues of note:
- 47a. [Cause of some cranial swelling?]. EGO. Hmm. I know it’s meant to be a play on words, but “cranial” implies a physical aspect to me.
- 3d. [Default result, for short]. REPO. This was a tough clue for a Monday. I still didn’t get it until just now. “Default” is a noun, not an adjective.
- 4d. [Generator of waves in a canal?]. EARBUD. Meh. This one tries a little too hard to be cute.
- 46d. [Bad direction for a predator]. UPWIND. Now here’s a nice clue. I had no idea what it was going for at the start, but eventually I had an aha moment.
- 64d. [Aunt’s bro]. DAD. Umm. Not necessarily.
Baylee Devereaux’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Unusually for a Monday, the theme entries are Down answers, which is necessary because the revealer at 32D [Advantageous position, and what each answer to a starred clue literally has] is UPPER HAND. That is, the first word or part of each theme entry — which is the “upper” word because the theme entries go down instead of across — is a type of HAND:
- 3D [*Performer’s pseudonym] is a STAGE NAME. A STAGE HAND works behind the scenes at a performance.
- 8D [*Flippable timekeeper] is an HOURGLASS. The HOUR HAND is the little one on your clock.
- 13D [*Creamy dip for vegetables] is RANCH DRESSING. A RANCH HAND is a laborer, and may I put in a plug for making your own ranch dressing? It’s so easy a five-year-old can do it: 1:1:1 ratio of mayonnaise, buttermilk, and sour cream, put in a Mason jar or Tupperware (but hold down the lid tightly if the latter), and shake hard for 30 seconds. Wayyyyy better than anything you get out of a bottle, especially with minced chives or scallions mixed in.
- 30D [*Dog in a Disney tear-jerker] is OLD YELLER. An OLD HAND is a seasoned pro.
I thought the theme words in their HAND sense were a little close to their meanings in the theme phrase sense for my liking, especially for STAGE NAME and HOURGLASS. But the grid is nice and smooth, leading to a zippy sub-2 solve.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword—Matthew’s review
I’m interested how people took this one. Chock full of older fill from the themelesses I cut my teeth on, plus one particularly serendipitous entry, this was a nostalgic, sepia-tinted solve for me. But I’m sure there are some who aren’t glad to fill in ESALEN because they saw it a few times 15 years ago. I find utter joy in dredging up things I learned from crossword puzzles in support of solving more grids.
This is a fun grid – a spanning 15 interrupting a staircase in the middle. Lots of connectivity, fun stacks in the NW and SE corners, and that spanner, SMART PHONE PINKY is super fun. The cluing is nicely chewy – I particularly liked [They have prominent ribs] for CREW SOCKS.
Lots of notes today:
- 1a [Bunny hop or barspin, e.g.] BMX TRICK. A lovely 1a clue, if you ask me. “Bunny hop” gets me pointing towards dance and worrying about letter combinations, and “barspin” looks odd until some crossings get set and obvious in retrospect.
- 16a [Calming presences] EASERS. This is mild on the BEQ not-really-common-at-all-but-makes-an-corner-work scale, but it’s definitely on the scale. In the context of my sepia-toned glasses here, I liked it today.
- 18a [Spiritual retreat center in Big Sur] ESALEN. For getting special attention in my first paragraph, I’m surprised this has only appeared seven times in the NYT’s Shortz era. If I’m still motivated later today, I’ll see how much it pops up in the Gisberg database. Do I know anything about ESALEN other than its friendly letter pattern and the information already in the clue? Nope, but it’s sure satisfying to pull it out of the mental cobwebs.
- 20a [“Explain yourself”] TELL ME HOW. I love these types of entries and don’t see them as much here now that I’ve stopped reviewing New Yorker themelesses. This is on the tougher side, and needed a few crossings for me.
- 22a [1099 ID] SSN. Timely, as 1099s are due to contractors this week!
- 27a [Jethro Gibbs’s series] NCIS. If I may channel Ade Koiki for a moment, Sports! Mark Harmon, who plays Gibbs, is a former quarterback for UCLA and the son of Tom Harmon, a College Football Hall of Famer, Heisman Trophy winner, etc etc who played for Michigan prior to WWII.
- 28a [Stiff problem?] DOA. A little macabre, but I *really* like this clue. A little jarring in a neat way to see this not clued to the noir classic, or, in the indie space, as [“___ barrel roll!”] (Don’t ask me what video game that’s from; I don’t know)
- 29a [DVOA or CPOE, in the NFL, e.g.] STAT. Both of these STATs are so-called “advanced metrics,” developed in the sabremetric boom that started in baseball. DVOA is measure of defensive impact normalized across factors, I think feeding into/related to those graphs that track “chance of winning” in real time during a game.
- 31a [“Marjorie Morningstar” author] WOUK. Here’s another of those sepia-toned entries for me: Herman WOUK is someone I learned entirely from puzzles. Just like ESALEN, seven NYT Shortz-era appearances.
- 33a [Injury from overuse of a mobile] SMART PHONE PINKY. This recalls to me a terrifying study from a few years back about the the ligament at the back of our skull ossifying into a small horn due to the strain of us looking down at our phone screens. So thanks for that, Brendan.
- 36a [Vitamin B10 once-common in sunscreens] PABA. Another sepia hug, mixed with a bit of “this could be plausible” guessing.
- 48a [Punnily named design house that did the iconic album covers for “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “Houses of the Holy”] HIPGNOSIS. Serendipity: I first learned of HIPGNOSIS doing these album covers at trivia at my local taproom a few months back. No one got it then, but it’s become my go-to “don’t have a clue” answer, so big smile to see it here. I am fully aware that so many of the reasons I loved this puzzle are individual to me.
- 51a [Jethro of “The Beverly Hillbillies”] BODINE. Two Jethros, one grid!
- 54a [Some extremists] ULTRAS. I know this usage primarily in the context of European soccer fan groups, but see it more time to time in more general settings.
- 57a [Hollywood kid with one or more famous parents] NEPOBABY. A fun term I’ve seen a few times before — most recently in the context of tennis players, some of whom benefit from wealthy families who can afford to move to Florida and pay for high-level coaching at a young age.
- 3d [Element used in arc lamps] XENON. I’m not sure if argon is also used in lamps, or if I just was too hasty with -ON already in, but I was a bit caught off by this.
- 8d [Old compilation label now in the licensing business] KTEL. Another one I had to learn from puzzles.
- 23d [Skyler ____ (singer of the Commodores who replaced Lionel Richie)] JETT. I love Joan Jett, but also love this angle, which I haven’t seen before.
- 53d [Wild party game?] UNO. Because some of the cards in an UNO deck are “wild”s.
Hanh Huynh’s Universal crossword, “Change My Mind!” — pannonica’s write-up
Just three theme answers today, but they’re 15, 13, and and 15 letters.
- 17a. [Small quahogs (In this clue’s answer, anagram letters 1–9)] LITTLENECK CLAMS (intellect). Great find.
- 32a. [Car whose name sounds like an arachnid (… letters 5–10)] PORSCHE SPYDER (psyche).
- 52a. [The “MB” in Brooklyn’s DUMBO (… letters 8–12)] MANHATTAN BRIDGE (brain). Nice that it wasn’t BRIAN someone-or-other.
All of the anagrams can be synonyms for ‘mind’.
I believe there’s some sort of limitation in the print edition that precludes the circles that appear in the .puz version, hence the listing of the letter positions.
- 27d [Up the creek] IN HOT WATER. But of the creek needn’t contain hot water, and it most likely doesn’t. Metaphors!
- 33d [Do crisscross applesauce, e,g,] SIT. This is apparently a children’s song that I’ve never previously heard of. Or perhaps the song describes something that preceded it? Anyway, new to me.
Not really too much of note in the general fill, just the expected: solid, easyish entries and clues.
Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
A shorter solving time than usual for me on the Monday TNY puzzle, but it felt harder because so many of the Across clues at the top didn’t shout their answers to me.
Fave fill: HONORÉ de Balzac, Thanksgiving TRIMMINGS, FLUTE SOLOS (see below for Lizzo’s short flute solo during her performance at the BET Awards), ROMANTIC DINNERS, POODLES, VISITING SCHOLAR, IN TOWN, STAY LATE.
Some hits of crosswordese/roll-your-own words pepper the grid: IOLE ([Object of Deianira’s jealousy, in Greek mythology]? sure, if you say so), NEAP, EMIRS, TO A TEE, SERIN, AGARS, awkward HONERS.
Fun clue: 3d. [Makes treats from taters?], ANAGRAMS. Allow me to mention that I have leftover rosemary roasted potatoes in the fridge awaiting my lunchtime.
Also appreciated 7a. [Heap] for LAVISH. Heap feels more common as a noun than a verb, and lavish as an adjective rather than a verb, so it’s doubly tricky. Let us lavish praise on this clue.
3.4 stars from me.