Sam Koperwas and Jeff Chen’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer ends in a synonym for MOCK.
- 16a [Quality beef cut] – PRIME RIB
- 24a [Have a noticeable impact, so to speak] – MOVE THE NEEDLE
- 37a [Young phenom] – WHIZ KID
- 51a [Bamboozled] – TAKEN FOR A RIDE
- 62a [Non-alcoholic mixed drink… or a hint to the synonyms found at the ends of 16-, 24-, 37-, and 51-across] – MOCKTAIL
MOCKTAILs are very popular these days – I often see them referred to as “zero-proof” or just non-alcoholic drinks, in order to decrease the idea that they are “lesser” somehow than regular cocktails. I liked the theme as a whole, particularly the amount of theme material that was pressed into the puzzle. The wording of the revealer took me a minute to parse, as I first read it as the “tail” being a synonym (like, a “mock” version of another word) and wasn’t sure how any of the theme answer words related to it. But once I figured it out, it was smooth sailing.
- I had the most trouble in the NE corner of the puzzle, where I had “stomps” before TROMPS, “on a roll” before ON A TEAR, and I didn’t know SLAKE or CDS as clued by [Bank offerings, for short].
- The fill highlights for me were THIN MINTS and PELICAN
- It’s probably a small percentage of people for whom the song EENIE Meenie was a crucial part of their youth… but I am one of those people, and I love its inclusion here (and that it’s clued easily enough that folks who don’t know the song can still get the answer)
- Forget [Actors Radcliffe or Kaluuya], congrats to the DANIELs Kwan and Scheinert, who won best director tonight for “Everything Everywhere All At Once”!
- My mom’s two thoughts on the puzzle: “Has anyone every used PAN OUT in a positive sense?” and “Why can’t we just clue PEE the way we all think of it? We’re all adults here” (I will agree with her that [Letter before “cue”] is kind of a confusing clue).
I saw on XWord Info that with this puzzle, Jeff Chen has “hit for the cycle” (published on every day of the week in the NYT) 10 times over. That’s an incredible feat, congratulations!
Desirée Penner & Jeff Sinnock Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fashion Ensemble”—Jim’s review
Theme revealer: THE FOUR TOPS (60a, [Motown greats, and things that finish this puzzle’s starred answers]). The other theme answers are familiar phrases whose final words can also be types of shirts.
- 17a. [*Need for someone running on empty] RESERVE TANK.
- 26a. [*State ranked first for population density] NEW JERSEY.
- 39a. [*Driver’s aid] GOLF TEE.
- 51a. [*Summer Olympics sport] WATER POLO.
Nice, eh? Pretty straightforward, but that’s what Monday’s all about, and besides, it’s not so straightforward until you get to the revealer. Solid, classic puzzle theme.
The fill is solid as well, though maybe not especially sparkly. Standouts include BEASTIE, EARMARKS, and DOO-WOP (see video below). Some crusty crosswordese might be tough for newcomers (RFD, ORT), but the crosses should be easy enough.
Clue of note: 50a. [Makes a scene?]. DIRECTS. Nice. I was looking at this from the actor’s point of view, so this was a fun misdirect (haha).
Nice puzzle. 3.5 stars.
Rebecca Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Here’s a theme construct that’s not frequently seen on Monday: the “building” of a word letter by letter in the theme entries. The revealer at 57A doubles as a final theme answer: [Jack London short story about survival in the Yukon Territory, and the goal of this puzzle?] is TO BUILD A FIRE. That’s because the ends of the theme answer, in order, “build” the word FIRE:
- 19A [Not making the grade] is GETTING AN F.
- 36A [Mobile virtual network offered by a tech giant] is GOOGLE FI, so now you’ve got the first two letters of FIRE.
- 44A [Evergreen native to the rocky elevations of Big Sur] is a BRISTLECONE FIR, providing the first three letters of FIRE.
- 57A, as noted, provides both revealer and final theme entry in one, with the complete word FIRE at the end.
I don’t trust myself to rule on the cultural importance of the short story in question — I had never heard of it, but it seems to get plenty of Google hits, but also plenty of people could be Googling “to build a fire” for practical reasons. But the theme concept, regardless of how the revealer is clued, is interesting and unusual. As a lover of British English, I enjoyed seeing CHUFFED in the upper right, and the fill on the whole is pretty smooth, with nothing tougher than crossword standby Jean ARP to trip one up on a Monday.
David Steinberg’s Universal crossword, “Out of the WoodS” — pannonica’s write-up
- 23a. [Relax in the tub] HAVE A SOAK.
28d. [Frame for a pane] WINDOW SASH.
30d. [“Don’t be so chicken!”] HAVE A SPINE.
- 41a. [Tedious tasks … or, parsed differently, the ends of 23-Across, 28-Down, and 30-Down?] SLOGS. (s-logs, of s-oak, s-ash, and s-pine)
- 47a. [Jazz instruments … or, parsed differently, tools for chopping 41-Across?] SAXES. (s-axes)
- 61a. [Sleep … or, parsed differently, the result of chopping 41–Across?] SLUMBER. (s-lumber)
It’s an unusually-structured theme, but it’s good in its own quirky way. And I don’t for a moment believe it’s accidental that directly underneath the logs, axes, lumber sequence we find a TERMITE (65a [Insect whose letters appear in “exterminate”])—a fitting end. Conversely, I’m not as confident that 34a ON A ROLL appearing above logs is also an easter egg.
Why “S”? I guess because it works practically, but it has no relationship to the woodstuff that comprises the theme.
- My solve started with bifurcated CAs, as I knew the 1-across/1-down pair—both clued as [Payment option]—was going to be CARD and CASH. Additional near symmetry continued with 2d ARIA and 14a AREA.
- 4d [“That’s hilarious!”] HAHAHA. Triplicate = full-on hilarity. 52a [Half of seis] TRES.
- 10d [It’ll get a few laughs] IN-JOKE. Nice clue.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
Seeing Natan’s byline on the New Yorker puzzle always brings me a little hit of happiness. I like hard themelesses, and I like Natan’s cruciverbal style. (Your mileage may vary, and your interest in complaining about the content of a Last puzzle may be most keen.)
Did not know: [“The Trees” novelist who told the Guardian, “America has a great talent for hiding its own transgressions”], PERCIVAL EVERETT. Indeed it does. How much are Americans taught about US imperialism in places like Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii, and the Philippines? You can read a bit about Everett’s latest honor and recent book here.
Also didn’t know [Derek Walcott’s epic “Omeros,” e.g.], VERSE NOVEL. Knew he’s a poet, though, and I think constructor Aimee Lucido’s first kids’ novel, Emmy in the Key of Code, is in verse.
Fave fill: THE LOVE BOAT, Beyonce’s “BREAK MY SOUL,” talented writer/comedian/actress AYO EDEBIRI (looking forward to season 2 of her show, The Bear), MOMMYBLOG, and PIT CREW solely because of RuPaul’s Drag Race (BEARPIT is less familiar and repeats the PIT, grr).
Crossing that slowed me down: I was blanking on singer Donny Hathaway’s singer-daughter, with LAYLA crowding into my head instead of LALAH, and that H was in HATE, with a clue I sure didn’t know: [“I ___ quotation”: Emerson]. Sorry, Ralphie, you’ve been quoted again.
Four stars from me.