May Huang & Kevin Trickey’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Readout”—Jim P’s review
Theme: BOOKENDS (59a, [Supports for some volumes, and a hint to the circled letters]). Theme answers are familiar phrases whose outer letters spell out parts of a book.
- 18a. [Attempt to hide a bald spot] COMBOVER.
- 24a. [Champagne, e.g.] SPARKLING WINE.
- 37a. [Emotional factors that may be impediments] PERSONAL BAGGAGE.
- 50a. [1973 #1 song by Jim Croce] TIME IN A BOTTLE.
Very nice. I love all these entries for their sheer level of liveliness. Good choices. And I love the multilayered theme where together the circled words comprise a book in addition to bookending their respective entries. Very well constructed with the solver’s enjoyment in mind.
Keeping on that theme, the fill has some lively entries in MOVIE STAR, ERUPTIONS, GASOLINE, and “I’M DEAD.” WEIRD is a fun way to start off the grid at 1a. Not so keen on DRINKS TO but it’s not as bad as other preposition-ended phrases, and ORNE [French department that includes Alençon] is tough for a Monday, but I barely saw it since the crosses were a breeze.
Clues of note:
- Both MASS and ENERGY get clued with respect to Einstein’s famous equation (E = mc2). It would’ve been nice if the 2 could’ve been written properly as an exponent though. (It’s correct in the PDF.)
- 9d. [Participant in a hat trick?]. RABBIT. Apt bit of misdirection there.
Fun Monday puzzle and a nice debut for one of our constructors. Congrats! Four stars.
David Rockow’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer is a phrase that contains both a type of bear and the string “ME”, so the who phrase includes “BEAR WITH ME”
- 15a [Maker of instant pictures since 1948] – POLAROID CAMERA
- 28a [1997 Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones blockbuster] – MEN IN BLACK
- 39a [“The Godfather of Soul”] – JAMES BROWN
- 52a [Brief time to shine] – MOMENT IN THE SUN
- 32a [“Please be patient” … or a literal description of 15-, 28-, 39- and 52-Across?] – BEAR WITH ME
This is a wacky theme in concept, and I prefer wackiness over boringness every day, so I’ll take it! Bears are super cool animals and I like the double-layer of theme in each answer. We have SUN bears at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle so I knew that was a type of bear; curious if that answer felt harder to others. POLAROID CAMERA is a bit of the odd theme answer out since all the other answers have the type of bear as its own word, but I don’t count that against the puzzle, particularly since the shaded letters make it obvious what we should be looking at anyways.
This puzzle played really easily to me – I ended up with a much faster time than normal, and I wouldn’t even just account that to the smaller size. I talked to some of my friends who regularly solve puzzles together, and they told me this was a Monday PR for them as well. I wonder if that’s because there are some answers – MOUE, RENI stand out to me – that might be harder than usual for Monday, so there are also some easier clues (see: [The “N” of N.Y.C.] for NEW) to balance it out. Feel free to share how the difficulty felt for you!
Standout fill in the puzzle: SEVEN SEAS, LEMON LIME, B MOVIE
Conspiracy theory – the NYT ran this puzzle this week as a subtle advertisement for “Cocaine Bear”…
Rebecca Goldstein and Rachel Fabi’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Here’s a Monday packed with thematic material! The revealer at 56A is, IMO, not necessary to get the theme, but that they got it in there on top of four theme entries while having all the theme entries and the revealer be perfectly natural words and phrases, is pretty impressive. The revealer [Reminiscing, and what 17-, 22-, 35-, and 49-Across all have] is LOOKING BACK; that is, the second word (or half of the compound, in 22A) is some kind of LOOKING:
- 17A [Excessive introspection] is NAVEL GAZING.
- 22A [Tourist’s agenda] is SIGHTSEEING.
- 35A [Consuming “Succession” in rapid succession, say] is BINGE WATCHING.
- 49A [New England fall activity] is LEAF PEEPING.
Look at how short those theme clues are (with the exception of 35A, in which the slightly longer length is due to some clever wordplay, not to having to do backflips to make a green paint-y phrase easy to get on Monday). It’s a sign, IMO, of how evocative the theme phrases themselves are. To get four such rich theme entries AND a revealer AND fun fill like GBBO (I refuse to call it The Great British Baking Show) and I’M SO DONE, is an achievement.
Taylor Johnson and Matthew Stock’s Universal crossword, “You’re Unbelievable!” — pannonica’s write-up
The title refers to the revealer, but not to its alternative sense, which is the actual theme.
- 62aR [“That pushes things” … or what you could say about 17-, 35- or 42-Across?] IT’S A STRETCH.
- 17a. [Period in Earth’s history that started 66 million years ago] CENOZOIC ERA.
- 35a. [Backbending yoga asana] COBRA POSE. Asana much more often appears as fill, so it’s nice to see it get some clue use.
- 42a. [Long ride?] LIMOUSINE.
Nice, unexpected theme.
- 5d [Brew with a cloudy name] HAZY IPA. This is apparently a relatively recent style, introduced in 2004, and also known as New England IPA.
- 6d [Omakase tuna] AHI. Yes, but it’s still a Hawaiian-derived name.
- 29d [Histrionic person, casually] DRAMA LLAMA. I cannot have been the only one to put in DRAMA QUEEN here. Also a reminder to all you Learned League members: don’t forget to submit your answers (the way I did one day last week)!
- 44d [Food court regular] MALL RAT. Probably a vanishing breed, now that suburban kids have screens galore.
- 66a [Chili in Tex-Mex cuisine] ANCHO, which is a dried poblano pepper.
- 67a [Setting for current events?] SEA. Nice clue, probably my favorite of the puzzle. Partial dupe with 63d [Volleyball action, or part of a match] SET.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword — Jack’s write-up
Whew, that was tough! I had several moments where I thought I couldn’t finish this one. Those doubts make eventual success so much more exhilarating. I love a tough puzzle but it’s a slender line between a satisfying challenge and a frustrating struggle. This one landed just on the right side of that line for me. Nice tightrope walk, Natan.
I flailed for two reasons. 1. The clues were harder than your average themeless. 2. The fill lives far outside my wheelhouse. Call me uncultured (it’s deserved) but SEAMUS HEANEY, Thomas MERTON, and ARTURO Sandoval are all new to me. I’m aware of LAKE WOBEGON but it’s low on the list of fictional places that spring to my mind. Having never watched a full episode of The Simpsons, I was embarrassingly slow to recall KWIK-E-MART. I’ve never heard of a WOOD EAR mushroom and I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’m seeing the terms CRUST PUNK and COPAGANDA (I love them both). How did I even solve this thing??
Many people get frustrated when their puzzle is crammed with terms they don’t know. I understand that. I believe constructors and editors have a responsibility to make puzzles solvable by a steep majority of experienced solvers. Given that this ignoramus was able to persevere through the unknown, I’d say they managed that today. Learning new things is one of the many joys of crosswords. Plus, somewhere there’s a crust punk Seamus Heaney enthusiast with wood ear mushrooms in her garden who blitzed this grid.
- 22A. [Earn a beep] = CUSS. I know the high-pitched sound that drowns out bad words on TV as a “bleep.” I got fixed on the idea that “earning a beep” must mean “making another car honk at you” so I cycled through 4-letter traffic violations for too long.
- 37A. [Cutlet?] = SNIP. Playing on “let” as a diminutive suffix. A snip is like a little cut. Cute clue.
- 49A. [Grant in filmmaking] = CARY. I had “Hugh” at first. We’ve already established that I’m uncultured.
- 6D. KIDS WB. That’s an awfully high density of unusual consonants for a 6-letter slot. Cool entry.
- 40D. RED SHOE. Probably my biggest complaint in the puzzle. This has real green paint energy, i.e. an adjective+noun entry that, sure, someone might say, but isn’t exactly a unified standalone concept.
- 44D. [Certain hawk] = NEOCON. Yowza, that’s a hard clue. Neoconservatives are hawks in the sense that they advocate war.
Thanks for the workout Natan.
NYT: I laughed out loud when I got the revealer partway through. Definitely delightfully wacky.
NYT: The grid has 28 three-letter answers and 16 four-letter answers. Normally, that much short stuff would irritate me. It’s a sign that the puzzle was fresh enough and fun enough that I didn’t notice that while I was solving it.
For some reason, Amy’s write up of the Monday New Yorker crossword is not showing on the crossword fiend site. Her star rating is there, but the link takes you nowhere. This is my first time doing the New Yorker puzzle so maybe the lack of review for this one is standard, but I’m just wondering. I was hoping to hear someone else’s thoughts – I thought it was extremely hard – a Monday?? Really??
New Yorker puzzles go from Hard to Easy, M-F. I think Mondays are officially called “Challenging.”
Phew! Thanks! I thought I was going crazy. I’ll try the later week ones!
And Natan Last puzzles should come with a warning label: “Arcana and esoterica ahead”
Last time I commented on this site was also on a Natan Last Monday TNY. Way too much specialized trivia for me to handle (or even find enjoyable)
Agreed. The M-F expectations with TNY are never all that consistent anyway. Just go by the setter, and if it’s him, not a chance. (Incidentally, it’s M-Th, all themeless; Friday is a themed puzzle of varying difficulty.)
On this one, I have the right half but almost nothing in the left half.
Scratch that. I came close but no cigar to finishing. In the NW, I knew enough of the name ATARI to enter it blindly, and AIR MEDAL looked like it could easily be a term, but I got hung up on KIDSWB and KWIK-E-Mart. I’m guessing from the clue that it’s a remote, regional thing.
In the SW, I didn’t recognize the poem but definitely knew the poet. I’ve read both Heaney’s own poetry and his translation of Beowolf (terrific), so with enough crossings I could enter it. I wavered, though, on the first letter of GEOTAGGED, between YUP and “yum” (hey, maybe he means hmm-hmm-good, I pondered), and between I’M DONE and “I’m gone.” I was only kinda sorta familiar with CAMI for camisole. Instead of WANT AD, I’d entered “sorted” (assuming a different kind of clever definition), I had no idea that these were GIANTS, and even with the solution had no idea what COPAGANDA is.
So a disaster for me, and I’m not saying the other quadrants were any more of a pleasure. I’m just glad to be able now to throw this in the trash, and looks from the ratings like an overwhelming majority agrees.
You came closer than I did! I was able to fill in most of the NW somewhat quickly, a rare promising start for a Monday. But my foray into the rest of the grid quickly made clear that my luck had run out.
It’s been quite a few years since I read Heaney’s Beowulf translation (thank you high school) but that sums up my knowledge of his work. I wasn’t able to dredge up his name, even with SE___. Paired with all the surrounding proper nouns made the SW unsolvable for me.
There are a few clues I’m particularly peeved at not getting, like GEOTAGGED (fair clue but it just wasn’t clicking). In fact, knowing the answers, most of the clues were fair. I will however allow myself some unapologetic complaining on both the “Count me out” clues. I get how the answers could be synonymous given certain context but they nonetheless left a bad taste in my mouth. Of course, that’s just me. There may very well be people who regularly reply with NOCHANCE when asked if they’re in. At least for that I would strongly argue for the inclusion of a “!” after “Count me out” to match the intensity or weight behind NOCHANCE. Had IMGOOD instead of IMDONE, which again I think is more appropriate given the wording of the clue, but that’s just my little hill to die on.
Suffice to say, big DNF for today. A good 50% blank. I won’t go as far to say ISTUNK (50% for a Last Monday isn’t bad) but I wasn’t too far off!
Reviews marked with “tk” above haven’t been posted yet. Sometimes it takes reviewers (of which I am one) a while to get it done. The listed star rating isn’t the reviewer’s; it’s the average from site visitors like you. In the meantime, feel free to discuss the puzzle with other commenters.
Also, because people often ask what “tk” means, it’s a journalism abbreviation meaning “to come.” Here’s why it’s “tk” and not “tc”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_come_(publishing)
For anyone who’s interested, here’s a great post about various journalism abbreviations: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004380.html
I’m a former print journalist and still use these abbreviations to this day, such as “sked” for “schedule.”
Yes… TNY Monday is supposed to be a challenge. This may be because the NYT and others usually designate Mon-Wed as easier, the TNY goes the opposite, with Thurs. being designated “beginner friendly”
Monday combined with Natan Last… Phew! a workout. Ok, well most of the TNY constructors on a Monday don’t come easily :) .
But some are less ridiculous than others.
The New Yorker puzzle was tough, as are most of Natan Last’s for them.
I got most of it in about 20 minutes, but I’M gONE crossing the nonsensical COPAGANgA took a check to find. I assume “Blue Bloods’ and “Major Crimes” are TV shows (or whatever you want to call programs on a streaming service); if I had heard of either, the portmanteau COPAGANDA might have been more obvious. (I actually kinda like that word, which is new to me.)
It helped hugely to have a few gimmes like LAKE WOBEGONE, KWIK-E MART, and LEHAR, plus a few authors I’ve at least heard of (SEAMUS HEANEY and Thomas MERTON). And after a gazillion crossword puzzles, it’s nice to learn the full name of Nabokov’s ADA. I read “Lolita” 45 years ago, but don’t even know what ADA is about.
Like Jack Murtagh, I went with Hugh Grant before CARY. I don’t think that’s a sign of being uncultured; both are perfectly cromulent answers once you’ve determined the clue’s “Grant” is a surname and not a big wad of money.
Now: Do I want to know what CRUSTPUNK is?
Similar experience. I got all of it except the SW corner without too much trouble, and I had MERTON and BUOYANT, but eventually I gave in and clicked reveal for COPAGANDA.
I read ADA a long time ago, when I had a thing for Nabokov, but it’s not one of his best and I don’t care for him so much these days.
NYT: I liked the puzzle but I was surprised to see reNi and Ankh cross sieNA on a Monday