Monday, February 20, 2023

BEQ 4:11 (Matthew) 


LAT untimed (Jack) 


NYT 3:04 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 7:20 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (malaika) 


Note: No WSJ due to the holiday. Happy Presidents’ Day to those who celebrate.

Emily Carroll’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer is a two word phrase, where each word is also a type of box.

New York Times, 02 20 2023, By Emily Carroll

  • 18a [Daytime television drama] – SOAP OPERA
  • 24a [Kitchen gadget for the health-conscious] – JUICE PRESS
  • 35a [Romantic prospect after swiping right] – TINDER MATCH
  • 53a [Stress ball, e.g.] – SQUEEZE TOY
  • 59a [Electrical panels found in older homes … or what 18-, 24-, 35- and 53-Across do (regarding each half of each answer)?] – FUSE BOXES

I’m on vacation with my parents this week, which means I can get more perspectives on the puzzle! All three of us liked it a lot, even though we have different puzzle tastes. None of us figured out the theme at all while we were solving the puzzle, but the answers are interesting enough that it makes a fine themeless with a solid “aha” moment at the end once you go back and see what’s going on. I love how many different box phrases Emily incorporated, and how none of the answers felt forced (well, maybe SQUEEZE TOY. But I’m not mad at it).

My parents both were surprised that the revealer clue specified “older homes” – they both told me that they tried “knob and tube” before FUSE BOXES. (I personally have never touched a fuse box so I cannot speak to this). My mom and I both tried “Tinder dates” before TINDER MATCH, which is especially amusing given that the answer DATES is right above it!

The fill is very clean but still interesting, which is quite the feat given the 11 letter answer in the center of the puzzle, which forces the big corners. There are a fair amount of proper nouns that could trip people up, but they’re all crossed fairly (I’m grateful for this given ERIQ La Salle, who has a name that looks… very odd). There are a few bits of ALB/YESM, but great answers like HOT TODDY, BLUE JAY, and POODLES make up for it. The clueing is fresh too, with a lot of modern references (who else is hyped to see URSULA in the new Little Mermaid??).

Closing with the best clue in the puzzle: [Exclamation at the end of a trip?] – OOPS

Gary Cee’s Universal crossword, “Possession” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 2/20/23 • Mon • Cee • “Possession” • solution • 20230220

  • 39a/42aR […”I don’t want that” … or a hint to the starts of 17-, 26-, 56- and 66-Across] YOU CAN \ KEEP IT.
  • 17a. [Executive’s free ride] COMPANY CAR.
  • 26a. [Lamp on a rail] TRACK LIGHTING.
  • 56a. [Disco descendant] HOUSE MUSIC.
  • 66a. [First black man to win a Grammy] COUNT BASIE. Sounds somewhat damning, but it was during the first year of the Grammys.

So, in a phrase, either literally or metaphorically, each of those first words are things that may be ‘kept’.

  • 11d [China’s most populous city] SHANGHAI. I feel as if I should have known this.
  • 23d [Bay Area city whose name is Spanish for “tree-lined path”] ALAMEDA.
  • 51d [San Francisco team] GIANTS.
  • 27d [Roast or toast] COOK. Good misdirection.
  • 53d [They say “boo” but not “yay”] GHOSTS.
  • 21a [Fictional bear in a red shirt] POOH. Now in the public domain, which is why we’re “treated” to a slasher-type horror film with the character. And who knows what else is headed our way.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday Crossword—Matthew’s review

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday Crossword solution, 2/20/23

SOCIALLY AWKWARD and FUZZY MATH make for a nice pair of attention-grabbers, intersecting in the middle.

Otherwise, I got bit a touch by some pop culture gaps. First, the crossing of Velvet Underground song SWEET JANE with MAN ROPE [Gangway’s handrail], not helped by the M- in the latter coming from EMIL [Die Brucke member Nolde]. SWEET JuNE with guNROPE seemed plausible for a moment.

Second, “The Avengers” Patrick MACNEE and Selena song “Si UNA Vez.” MoCNEE looks quite wrong in retrospect, but not so much in the moment.

I quite like [Stand-alone issue?] for ONLY CHILD — lots of good wordplay in clues using this meaning of “issue.”

Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 2/20/23 – Pasco

Gorgeous open swath in the middle of this grid; puzzle of suitable difficulty for the Monday/hardest designation.

Fave fill: the surprising GYM SOCK, FACETUNED (ugh for concept, thumbs-up as an entry), NERF GUNS, STATE BIRD (Northern cardinal, represent!), BEER TENTS, METAVERSE (finally watched Everything Everywhere All at Once last night—so good, so original, such great performances), OP-ED PIECE (I join the legions who have wearied of the New York Times running so many op-ed pieces and articles that give weight to transphobic bigots—can we assume that the higher-ups are transphobes and have advised the editorial staff to keep running such bilge?), TOUCH-STARVED (fresh but not so familiar), and TRIBUTE BANDS (good clue, [Acts of homage?]).

Ned? [Legendary textile worker whose name is now associated with technophobes], NED LUDD. Raise your hand if you know Luddite but not that Ludd was named Ned.

Not so keen on MENTION TO, RAINING ON, PARTED FROM. They feel less natural than STEP IN and STEAL PAST, which have specific meanings rather than “here’s a preposition you can tack on to any verb.”

Never knew what “Begin the Beguine” meant, did not know BEGUINE was a [Ballroom dance from the Antilles].

3.75 stars from me.

Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Jack’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 2 20 23

Three grid-spanning themers begin with a type of question:

  • [*Sincere intention to be fair] = GOOD FAITH EFFORT (“That’s a good question!”)
  • [*One who can’t help but see the bright side] = ETERNAL OPTIMIST (“Ah, the eternal question…”)
  • [*Private fashion consultant] = PERSONAL SHOPPER (“Don’t ask me such a personal question!”)
  • [Reason for a courtroom objection, and what the start of the answer to each starred clue has] = LEADING QUESTION, our revealer (all of the questions are at the beginning of their phrases, i.e. they’re “leading”)

I usually try to guess themes before I encounter the revealer. Today I stared at the three themers for several minutes and absolutely nothing would click. That’s rare for a Monday theme! Though hard to predict, it ended up being pretty straightforward. The theme entries are all solid and I always feel that a theme comprised of 15-letter spanners acts as a pleasing anchor to the grid. It comes with some costs, though (see: IBID, RIA, LBOS, KSU, EIRE).

I might be in a minority of solvers pleased to see EL CAP [Rock formation in Yosemite, familiarly] in the grid. This is short for “El Capitan”, the awesome monolith that Alex Honnold climbed without any ropes in 2017. I recommend National Geographic’s Documentary Free Solo about the feat. As a former climber who followed this story, EL CAP is well known to me, but I’m curious how familiar it is to others. 

More thoughts:

  • The clue on ODDS ARE [“There’s a nonzero chance…”] seems off. I interpret nonzero chance as “possible but unlikely”, whereas ODDS ARE means “it is likely that…”
  • I enjoyed learning that IKEA sells lingonberry preserves. 



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10 Responses to Monday, February 20, 2023

  1. e.a. says:

    “a name that looks… very odd” what does this mean

    • Mr. [not really] Grumpy says:

      I think ERIC and ERIK would be many [most?] people’s guesses before ERIQ, but “odd” was arguably not the best way to put it.

      • JohnH says:

        I started by entering ERIK, but the crossings were fair and I had no troubling correcting it, only a bit of uncertainty that I had it right given the, well, oddness of the name.

        Must admit that BOX does not come to mind to me as an addition to several theme answer words.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Eriq La Salle was so good on “ER.” I remain surprised that he didn’t move into starring roles after his years on that top-rated drama.

      I think of him when I pass the Erie-LaSalle Body Shop, a car joint that’s been in business for 89 years. Such a great neon sign!

      • marciem says:

        He truly was great in ER, and tore me up in “Coming to America”!! He has chosen to spend his time behind the scenes directing and producing, and some of my favorite shows have his imprint (Chicago PD for one, the movie “Rebound” for another.).

        He also chose the “odd” spelling of his name, for professional reasons. It does stand out :) . He was born Erik.

      • Matt Gritzmacher says:

        I have spent less than two weeks total in Chicago in my life, and I have a picture of this sign in my camera roll!

    • R says:

      I’d conservatively estimate that less than 0.01% of names you’re familiar with end with a Q. In my book, that would make something look odd, but I suppose your mileage may vary.

      • e.a. says:

        it seems commonplace enough (Tariq, Saddiq, Tawfiq, Musiq, Lyriq…) to not be totally unguessable, but even if it were 0.000001%, i would still want to know why someone made the choice to call that out (and in a way that came across as negative to me, with the word choice of “odd” and the ellipsis, but then tone is hard on the internet)

        • sanfranman59 says:

          I agree that Tariq is somewhat common, but Saddiq, Tawfiq, Musiq and Lyriq? “Commonplace”? Seriously?

          Do you actually think that ERIQ is a standard spelling for Eric/Erik that solvers of American English crossword puzzles should know or are you really bothered that someone would call it odd? I watched ER regularly and remember the actor’s name, in part because it’s so unusual and in part because I really liked the show and his acting. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never seen it anywhere else. FWIW, English Wikipedia appears to have articles for only two or three other people with that spelling. I’m not saying that’s a be-all, end-all metric, but it’s at least suggestive of its oddness as a spelling.

  2. Gene says:

    Pepto Bismol does *not* use a CAPFUL, there is a separate dosage cup.

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