Lynn Lempel’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer is a body part followed by something found in nature.
- 17a [*Region of upstate New York named for its bodies of water] – FINGER LAKES
- 25a [*Navigation hurdle for a sailboat] – HEADWIND
- 35a [*Climbers’ warm-ups before mountains] – FOOTHILLS
- 46a [*Source of shade on a desert island, say] – PALM TREE
- 55a [Set of traits we all have … or a two-part description of the answers to the starred clues?] – HUMAN NATURE
As soon as I read the byline on today’s puzzle, I knew exactly what I was in for. Lynn’s puzzles are well-themed, with generally solid fill that leans away from anything too modern/pop-culture-y, giving her puzzles a bit of a timeless/old school feel. And that’s exactly what I got!
The NYT has been doing more and more of these “both parts of a theme answer are connected to a revealer phrase” puzzles, and I’m always astounded by how many phrases work in these constraints. Yes, HEADWIND is a little bit of the odd answer out since the other three are geographic features, but still! Finding symmetric answers that both fit the pattern and are interesting to have in the grid is no easy task. I first learned about the FINGER LAKES from E.L. Konigsburg’s “The View From Saturday”, which is set in that region. I believe there’s a regular crossword tournament based there too!
Bullet points on the rest of the puzzle:
- I fell on my face right out of the gate today with “knelt” instead of BOWED for [Greeted a king or queen, say]. Luckily, I was able to get the next ten or so answers without looking at crosses, so my mistake became obvious quickly.
- I wish some of the midlength fill had been a little stronger – WINESAP, AUTOMAT, and BUNGLER didn’t do much for me personally.
- I could see people having trouble on the OLSON/ROMERO cross, but hopefully folks will know at least one of those actors.
- I really like both the NE and SW quadrants of the puzzle: SALTINE/CARKEY/PASTA and especially JESUITS/ACORNS/WOWED. Great use of a less constrained area.
Vasu Seralathan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Stress Test”—Jim’s review
Theme: Familiar phrases that are synonymous with “Relax!” are applied to appropriate persons.
- 17a. [“Relax!” (to an overexcited songwriter?)] COMPOSE YOURSELF.
- 27a. [“Relax!” (to an overexcited craps player?)] SLOW YOUR ROLL. I have never heard this phrase, but I guess that’s on me since it looks like it’s been around for a while.
- 48a. [“Relax!” (to an overexcited fighter pilot?)] COOL YOUR JETS.
- 63a. [“Relax!” (to an overexcited stripper?)] KEEP YOUR PANTS ON.
Very nice. This makes for a smooth and accessible Monday theme. Sure, a word is duped in each of the entries, but I’m okay with that on a Monday. At least it’s consistent, and it gives a newer solver something to latch onto.
Plenty of fun fill to enjoy, too: DEMAGOGUE, SORE LOSER, DOE EYES, “WHO SAYS?,” and PARABLE. I’m spying little to no clunky fill which is another reason why the solve felt so smooth.
Clues of note:
- 4a. [Taylor and Fillmore, politically]. WHIGS. What happened to the good ol’ WHIGS? Why don’t we bring ’em back so we can have a third option? *Looks them up.* Meh. They’re basically just Republicans. Never mind.
- 32a. [Action that follows “Bring it in!”]. HUG. Fun clue. Group HUG, everybody! Bring it in!
Rebecca Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I’m low on time so this’ll just be about the theme: The revealer at 66A [Olympic arena that features the ends of 17-, 25-, 41-, and 52-Across] is SKATE PARK, and indeed the last word in each theme entry is something a skateboarder might encounter there.
- 17A [Commuter option] is LIGHT RAIL. Here’s what a skateboard rail looks like.
- 25A [Hawaiian dish with skipjack tuna] is a POKE BOWL. Bowls are those big indented areas in a skate park for doing tricks.
- 41A [Dumped unceremoniously] is KICKED TO THE CURB. Here’s someone jumping off a curb at a skate park.
- 52A [Cloverleaf segment] is an EXIT RAMP. Click and scroll down for a skateboarder doing a trick on a ramp.
Joseph A Gangi’s Universal crossword, “Knead I Say More?” — pannonica’s write-up
Theme here is some steps—in sequence—for the making of bread. The relevant clues all reference 36-down: [Loaf whose popularity spiked in 2020] SOURDOUGH. That was during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, in case you’ve somehow forgotten.
- 18a. [36-Down’s place of humble beginnings?] STARTER HOME.
- 28a. [Having to rise, for 36-Down?] BURDEN OF PROOF.
- 46a. [Cleans up a cut on 36-Down?] EVENS THE SCORE.
- 59a. [Best 36-Down at a baking contest?] BREAD WINNER.
So that’s starter, proof, score … bread. Obviously some steps are elided. (37d [Not every] SOME.) Factette: the traditional tool used to score or slash a formed and risen loaf is called a lame. I’ve never seen that sense used in a crossword clue, even though it’s less problematic than the alternative.
- 2d [Healthy red drink] BEET JUICE. I know that that can be used as a natural sweetener and culinary dye, so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone, somewhere has incorporated it into a bread recipe. <consults internet> Yep, quite a few!
- 3d [Switch to a better-paying job, say] CAREER MOVE.
- 13d [Throw, in modern slang] YEET. Still wondering if this will have staying power, or is merely a fad.
- 48d [Consumes soup rudely] SLURPS. But not in all cultures. And now I’m tangentially reminded of the spaghetti-eating scene from the soup-oriented film Tampopo.
- 33a [Points at a dartboard] AIMS. I don’t believe this clue was intended to misdirect, but I was nevertheless caught thinking about the pointy tips of darts.
Nice easy start to the week.
Liz Gorski’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
I like the round-edged vibe to the grid, which builds in a frame of long entries. On the tougher end of the Monday New Yorker spectrum.
Fave fill: VASECTOMY, BANANA BREAD (hot take: banana bread and other quick-breads like blueberry muffins are cakes and not breads!), SENSIBLE SHOES (the only kind I own), BORDER TERRIER (r.i.p. Jade), ISABEL Wilkerson, DOCUMENTARIES with some RECREATIONS.
All those colorful interlocking entries come at a price: DCII, PINA, INST, TERNE, ORNE, SNERD. ENCHAINS sure is not a common word; the clue [Captivates, as one’s attention] did not point me to the answer.
Names some solvers may be perplexed by: WNBA player ARIKE Ogunbowale; get used to Nigerian names because there are so many notable Americans of Nigerian descent these days (Wikipedia tells us “Arike means a child you treasure, cherish, pamper and love in the Yoruba language,” and that’s so lovely). The cat in Japan named MARU has a dedicated YouTube channel. New to me: [Swimmer Jessica with sixteen Paralympic gold medals], LONG. Lots of easier ways to clue that entry, but it would be churlish to object to a spotlight on an athlete who’s dominated her sport.
Three stars from me.