Taylor Johnson’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer contains the string EARTH, and since the theme answers are oriented vertically, the word appears to be “rising”, left to right.
- 11d [Phenomenon witnessed from space … or a hint to this puzzle’s sequence of shaded squares] – EARTHRISE
- 9d [Ancient tool for hunters or warriors] – SPEAR THROWER
- 22d [Like a diet low in sodium and favoring whole grains] – HEART HEALTHY
- 34d [“Gotcha”] – I HEAR THAT
- 53d [What the Apollo 8 crew was orbiting when astronaut Bill Anders took his iconic 11-Down photograph] – MOON
Happy (almost) Monday everyone! I did this puzzle while watching the Grammys, and Bad Bunny provided some excellent background music for my solve. This was a fun solve, although the theme is pretty standard. EARTH is at least a long string, and I like that it spans two words, and is broken up differently in each answer. I didn’t know that a SPEAR THROWER was a tool – I thought it was just the person who threw the spear. But no, it’s a tool that uses leverage to increase the velocity of the spear… or so wikipedia tells me. I also liked the MOON popping up there in the bottom of the puzzle, watching the earth rise.
- There weren’t too many standout pieces of long fill, although I liked PEPITA, GRINDR, and ROTINI. A bunch of words had intensifiers on them – see SMARTER, FRESHER, ODDEST – and while I don’t mind it too much, it did feel a tad repetitive.
- Ugh, it might hold the corner together, but I just don’t like thinking about IVANA Trump, ever.
- Favorite clue in the puzzle: [Clothing line?] for SEAM.
Robert Wemischner & Mark McClain’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Not Quite Right”—Jim P’s review
Theme: OFF CENTER (64a, [Out of whack, as shown in 18-, 24-, 41- and 51-Across]). The other theme answers are familiar phrases whose middle letters are OFF.
- 18a. [Ingredient in the witches’ brew in “Macbeth”] TOE OF FROG.
- 24a. [1962 Katherine Anne Porter novel] SHIP OF FOOLS.
- 41a. [Amount to which one may openly act] DEGREE OF FREEDOM.
- 51a. [It’s not a sure thing] LEAP OF FAITH.
Nice. Straightforward, accessible Monday theme. I especially like the consistency in having each phrase be of the same form (x OF Fy). There are other ways to have OFF in the center that aren’t of this form (KRISTOFFERSON, CASE OFFICER, e.g.), so I like that our constructors chose to give Monday solvers a hand by making the theme just that little bit easier to put together.
I would’ve liked to have seen more along the lines of sparkly long fill, though, but what there is is solid enough. I like the symmetrical pairing of PADRES and SIESTA as well as the British “AFTERS” and the Israeli MOSSAD. In the most crosswordesey category, our winners are ORONO and ATTAR.
Clues of note:
- 20a. [“Disgusting!”]. “UGH!” Maybe it’s coincidence, but it’s fun that this comes right after TOE OF FROG.
- 26d. [Opera extra, for short]. SUPE. Seems like a tough clue for a Monday, no? If I’m not mistaken, it’s short for “supernumerary,” which as an adjective means the same as “extra.” I only know this because my brother was one for Aida once.
Patti Varol’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Most of the time, the bulk of a post about a Monday puzzle is explaining the theme, but here the theme is in the clues, all of which are “bees” of some kind:
- 17A [Bee with fabric squares] is a QUILTING SESSION. That is, a quilting bee is a social event centered around quilting.
- 26A [Bee on TV] is ACTRESS SAMANTHA. Sure, I guess so, but isn’t Samantha Bee better known as a host (for Full Frontal) than as an ACTRESS?
- 48A [Bee in a classroom] is a SPELLING CONTEST. Raise your hand if you can remember exactly what word knocked you out in spelling bee back in the day. I won my middle school’s bee and then got knocked out at the county level on TROCHILINE (of or relating to hummingbirds).
- 62A [Bee near flowers] is a POLLEN COLLECTOR. Bzzz!
Not gonna lie, this one wasn’t my favorite. I’ve made this sort of theme-in-the-clues puzzle before, but I’m not a huge fan of them these days because they often lead to contrived-sounding theme entries rather than in-the-language phrases. I also thought this puz was a bit heavy on the trivia for a Monday: SOREN Kierkegaard, a little Italian at 35A, VIN Scully (why not French wine or VIN Diesel?), journalist DANA Bash, REE Drummond, Eckhart TOLLE. Even CALL ME, although I love the song, I think would’ve been kinder as something like [“I’d love to hear from you!”] on a Monday.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up
Super-hard today! Just me, or did others also need more than double their usual MonTNY solving time? The upper left corner was particularly resistant, with tricky clues intersecting some non-gimme short fill. 1a [Tab-bracket connectors] sounds like hardware, sort of, but on a typical computer keyboard, the QWERTYUIOP keys are flanked by the tab and left-bracket keys. 1d is QTS, quarts, not a common plural abbrev, but could have been PTS or CCS or MLS just as easily. Plural TSKS, could-be-ARFS-or-YAPS YIPS, and second-tier goddess INO cross QWERTYetc and its downstairs neighbors, TIME SIGNAL ([Series of beeps on an old radio broadcast, e.g.], never heard of this) and oblique [Subject of a frameup?], a STOCK PHOTO in a picture frame you might buy. Oof!
Stuff I liked: TRIS as short for triceps, [Bench-dip targets, briefly]; can visualize that. FLAT WHITE coffee order. Rainer Werner FASSBINDER for the film crowd. GRE SCORES, MAIN DISHES, EAMES CHAIR, PASSION PLAY, the COMMISH.
Not keen on: THE NSA with another “The” in the clue, meh. [Frying, maybe] as an adjective rather than verb for IN OIL, meh (and the entry itself is lackluster). Two French plurals, MERS and RUES, meh. Uncommon LINEATE crossing TUNNELERS.
A question on [Vanity purchase, perhaps], PLATE NUMBER: If your vanity license plate reads, say, DA BEARS without any numerals, does it still have a PLATE NUMBER?
Did not know:
- [___ tablets (trove of more than fourteen thousand cuneiform pieces dating to the third millennium B.C.)], EBLA? Huh. In high school, we just knew them as Babylonian CLAY tablets.
- [Subject of transformation by media technologies, per Marshall McLuhan], SENSORIUM. Who knew this? Not I.
- [Banquet-decor concern], TABLESCAPE is a thing? Hadn’t heard of it before.
- [Contraction trademarked by Kourtney Kardashian as the name of her gummy-supplement brand], LEMME. Good lord, now we’re expected to know influencers’ brand-name products? Gross.
- [Some enamel sets], GRANITE WARE. Zero idea what this is. Dishes? Cookware? Googled it, and it’s speckled, enameled cookware that’s been around for over a century, but my parents and grandparents weren’t using these and I’d never heard of the brand.
Three stars from me.
Taylor Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Breaking the Record” — pannonica’s write-up
Synonyms for ‘record’ span the gaps between across entries. Due to printing limitations, the clues explicitly mention the letters that are conveniently circled in the .puz version; I’ll be omitting those elements in reproducing the clues here.
- 17a. [ __ Dame] NOTRE. The explicit directions unfortunately start with the word note, which is 80% of this answer.
18a. [Part of a model’s résumé] PORTFOLIO.
- 25a. [“__ or that?”] THIS.
28a. [British politician Rishi Sunak, e.g.] TORY LEADER.
- 46a. [Restaurant special in a bowl] SOUP DU JOUR.
50a. [Beyoncé’s role in “The Lion King”] NALA.
- 59a. [“I don’t want to hear your excuses!”] OH SPARE ME.
61a. [“Schitt’s Creek” matriarch] MOIRA.
All fine and good.
- 30a [Brooklyn artist Lawson] DEANA. She’s a photographer, and here’s a mini-profile over on the MoMA website.
- 44d [Surface for a Child’s Pose] YOGA MAT. Usually we see one or the other part.
- 1a [Walk and talk, e.g.?] VERBS. Was wise to this one right away.
- 57a [They’re waged over drinks] BAR BETS. Waged or wagered? Ah, I see Ngrams gives some illumination, showing that it’s a rather recent phrasing.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — Matthew’s write-up
Coming back after the workday/dinner with a write up!