Simon Marotte and Trenton Lee Stewart’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up
- 19a [“Does the name contain an animal?” YES. “Is it a band fronted by Adam Duritz?” YES!] – COUNTING CROWS
- 31a/45a [With 45-Across, “Does the name contain a vegetable?” YES. “Is it a band fronted by Billy Corgan?” YES!] – SMASHING PUMPKINS
- 59a [“Does the name contain a mineral?” YES. “Is it a band fronted by Mick Jagger?” YES!] – ROLLING STONES
So, each theme answer is a band whose name is structured as [gerund] [noun], and the nouns are, in order, an animal, vegetable, and mineral, and the clues are written 20 questions style. I’m honestly not sure if there’s an easier way to explain what’s going on here! I feel like there needs to be a revealer, or a title, or just something to tie everything together. It feels like the start of a super cool idea, but when I finished I spent a bunch of time trying to figure out if I had missed any layer of the theme, which is never how you want a solver to feel.
The bands themselves are all solid answers, although anytime you build a Monday puzzle around proper names there will be people who don’t know them. That was why it was great that all the answers were structured the same. ROLLING STONES was the only one I got solely from the frontman clue, with apologies to Adam and Billy. Side note that it feels much weirder to just say “Rolling Stones” than “Smashing Pumpkins” even though both band’s names technically start with “The”, according to Spotify.
- Loved the gridwork today – SPACE RACE, AMBROSIA, SLIDESHOW were all standouts to me. I also liked the clue of [Excessively promote] for HYPE.
- When I saw the clue of [Winnie-the-Pooh’s craving] I had to wait for some crosses to see it would be HONEY or “hunny”, as Pooh often spells it…
- I didn’t know Sonia BRAGA or the brand OSTER. Everything besides that flew by for me – I finished with a time solidly below my Monday average. Let me know how the difficulty felt for y’all in the comments.
Congrats to both constructors, and especially Trenton for his NYT debut!
Bob Frank & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Come Clean”—Jim’s review
Theme: Cleaning supplies. Theme answers are familiar phrases whose first words can also be items used for cleaning.
- 16a. [Scrubland blaze] BRUSH FIRE.
- 23a. [Soft, light dessert] SPONGE CAKE.
- 37a. [Major source of allergy-triggering pollen] RAGWEED. It’s often nice when you have a 7-letter themer you can throw down in the center of the grid.
- 46a. [Amplifier part prized by some audiophiles] VACUUM TUBE.
- 59a. [Small wild pony] BROOMTAIL. New to me, so I needed most of the crossings, but still a good entry
A nice set. I solved for time so didn’t pay attention to the theme until I was finished when I was rewarded with a belated aha moment. But each word’s meaning is changed enough from the original, and each phrase is evocative and an asset to the grid. Nicely constructed theme.
And the fill ain’t no slouch either. We get the likes of ROUNDS OUT, COMEDY DUO, NO RETURNS, ADD TO CART, DOG STAR, and the 80s Pet Shop Boys hit “IT’S A SIN.” Very smooth overall.
Clues of note:
- 28a. [Platter player]. PHONO. I didn’t know you could just lop off the -graph part.
- 61a. [Most everyone puts them on one leg at a time] PANTS. Is there a non-zero percentage of people who put PANTS on two legs at a time?
A smooth and aptly clean Monday puzzle. And a fine debut for Jeff Chen’s co-constructor. 3.75 stars.
Zachary David Levy’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
This is an unusual construction for a Monday, with a couple of nontheme Down entries that are as long as or longer than the themed Across entries. The revealer at 59A [Common time for homework, and where to find the starts of 17-, 26-, 37-, and 49-Across] is AFTER SCHOOL, meaning that the first word (or part of a compound) in each theme entry is a word that can follow SCHOOL in another phrase:
- 17A [Swimming trunks worn by some surfers] is BOARD SHORTS. I like this entry: It’s evocative, and the meaning of BOARD is quite different from that in SCHOOL BOARD.
- 26A [Plant family that includes tomatoes and eggplant] is NIGHTSHADE. Can’t have more than one drink, it’s a SCHOOL NIGHT!
- 37A [Guardian angel, e.g.] is a SPIRIT GUIDE. I’m sure my alma mater’s annual giving campaign people wish I had more SCHOOL SPIRIT than I do.
- 49A [Salad vegetable that may be red, yellow, or green] is a BELL PEPPER. SCHOOL BELL feels like the weakest of these combo phrases: It does get three million-plus hits when googled with quotation marks, but when was the last time you referred to it as a SCHOOL BELL rather than just the BELL?
So: I mostly like the theme entries, which do a good job of having the thematic word have a different meaning between the theme entry and the combo phrase from the revealer word. BELL PEPPER is a slight needle scratch for the reason noted above.
The grid is on the harder side for a Monday, with those long nonthemers BELEAGUERED and CONSIGLIERE, plus the BANAL/BAHAI crossing at 6A/6D: I think the clue [Tediously familiar] is going to lead people to drop in TRITE before BANAL if they have no crossings.
Rebecca Goldstein’s Universal crossword, “Race for the Cure” — pannonica’s write-up
Self-inclusive revealer for this one.
- 59aR [Biotech focus achieved by the starts of 21-, 33-, 48- and 59-Across?] DRUG DEVELOPMENT. The theme answers build up the word DRUG, letter by letter.
- 21a. [Very minor celebrity] D-LISTER.
- 33a. [First lady who’s made history by working a non-White House job] DR JILL BIDEN.
- 48a. [“How Deep Is Your Love” R&B group, 1998] DRU HILL.
- … and back to 59a DRUG DEVELOPMENT to complete the series.
Two main observations: (1) This is not a particularly exciting theme. (2) It would have felt cleaner without the presence of other ‘letter’ entries such as 11d [Athlete’s second-best effort] B-GAME and 13d [Aesthetician’s swabs] Q-TIPS.
- 3d [Plains people who believe in Wakanda] OTOES. No, they aren’t Marvel superfans. “a supernatural force similar to mana believed by the Sioux to pervade animate and inanimate objects in varying degrees sometimes giving them extraordinary powers and usually assumed to be the cause of extraordinary happenings” (m-w)
- 4d [Nickname that drops -nifer] JEN. Well that’s unambiguous.
- 39d [Out of the woods] HOME FREE. Nice clue/entry.
- 51d [Circular part of a roller coaster] LOOP. I wonder what percentage of them are true circles (aside from the necessary offset).
- 15a [Workplace initialism whose middle letter stands for “equity”] DEI. The other two are diversity and inclusion. Also, one of the latest targets of conservative’s ire.
- 41a [Genre hidden in “played music”] EDM, in which the M stands for music.
- 55a [One born yesterday, say?] NEONATE. Quite literally, even though the ‘say’ of the clue makes you think it might be idiomatic. Such are our solving expectations, and inversions thereof.
- 67a [What’s more?] LESS. The question mark stands in for a wry qualifier, such as “to some”.
A very competent crossword, but again I feel the theme is blah.
(I think this is EDM—electronic dance music:)
Will Nediger’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
Challenging? Yes indeed! Felt a bit Saturday Stumperish with clues that just weren’t clicking for me; lots of squares left empty as I sought crossings that were more malleable. Nothing stretched beyond the boundaries of fair, though, so I did enjoy the battle.
New to me: The verb UBERIZE, [Disrupt using mobile technology]. I find I hate a lot of this “disruption.” Did cab drivers who invested a lot in getting a taxi medallion need to be disrupted so that people could instead be driven around by amateurs with no sense of how to pull out of traffic so as not to block others?
Also didn’t know the [Type of mushroom in Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s “The Mushroom at the End of the World”], MATSUTAKE.
Fave fill: “Bye, FELICIA,” COSIGNS with the agreement sense rather than loans, SAYS SORRY, THROUPLES (one of the few gimmes I had!), HOLD SPACE (I think I’ve been using the phrase wrong in my head), HERBIE Hancock, PIE CHARTS, ALLEY OOPS, “DESPACITO” (didn’t know that was Spanish for “slowly”), ROLLED OUT, SCIHUB (sure didn’t know it was […founded by Alexandra Elbakyan]), and the faintly familiar LAHAINA on Maui that made me fill that corner quite despacito. Not wild about “ARE WE ON?” but nothing else bugged me.
That gorgeous grid center with a spinning star with ten 9-letter entries intricately laced together? Love it. 4.25 stars from me. If you grumble when a puzzle has a lot of proper nouns in it, you should like this puzzle better–but it might well be a more rigorous workout for you.
All I could think of with the NYT was “that can’t be it!” I know that a Monday can’t be overly deceptive, but do we really need a themer to explain that “Smashing Pumpkins” contains “pumpkins,” “Rolling Stones” contains “stones,” and “Counting Crows” contains “crows”? Next thing we’ll have a theme that brilliantly observes that crossword puzzles are puzzles.
You said it so much better than I could have.
NYT: The theme clues seemed long and awkward, particularly for a Monday. I understand they were trying to get the animal/vegetable/mineral part into the clues but it didn’t flow well. Like Sophia said, it seems so complicated that it feels like we’re missing something.
NYT: Kind of a strange Monday solving experience for me. Of course the band fronted by Mick Jagger was a gimme, but I never heard of either Adam Duritz or Billy Corgan. And I am a huge Rock ‘n Roll fan. But their bands, which I do know, dropped I pretty quickly
Same experience for me with the bands/front men. I kinda liked the theme. Each clue was two clues in one – the 20 Questions part and the front man part. If you know the front man, the whole answer is obvious, but if you don’t, the 20 Questions part at least gives you some guidance.
I thought the fill was above average for a Monday.
NYT: Very fast, though a difficult-to-explain typo (AUtT at 6D) added a few minutes to my time.
All three bands were gimmes. I’m not at all familiar with the music of The Smashing Pumpkins, but I recognized Billy Corgan’s name. I’m perhaps overly fond of the debut album by Counting Crows; Adam Duritz’s singing gets me on a couple of songs.
And you just can’t beat the Mick Taylor-era Stones.
I didn’t fully pick up on the 20 Questions theme while solving, but I’m gonna say that’s because I didn’t slow down to think about it that deeply. (Which I admit isn’t *that* deep.) The puzzle works for me without a revealer.
My expectations for NYT Monday puzzles are not high; I usually prefer something more challenging. But you can’t always get what you want.
NYT: Since I’m a science nerd, I look at many things including puzzles as experiments. From that perspective, I give the constructors many points for a very original experiment.
First the imagery: If you close your eyes and think of someone counting crows, smashing pumpkins and rolling stones, you’d imagine they were having a very interesting (maybe fun) day.
Then the structure of the names and the progression: Animal, vegetable, mineral. Very cool.
But the cluing threw me on a Monday. I think Monday’s expectations may be too extreme and it might be good to break them. Alternatively, I wonder if this puzzle would have fared better if the cluing for the theme was different and it ran on a Tuesday?
Because really, it’s a fun theme and very good fill.
that new yorker puzzle was astonishingly good, what a delight
I thought it was a fun solve, but the center of the puzzle gave me fits. It was all fair – just holes in my memory and in my knowledge base. I know the song at 24-D, but can never bring the title to mind. Similarly, I know 27-A, but could not bring it to mind without a bunch of crosses. On the “knowledge gap” front, the mushroom at 20-D was only vaguely familiar, 33-A was new to me (but inferable) and the “therapy-speak” at 38-A still doesn’t mean anything to me.
Gary, let’s say you have a friend who is going through tough times. You might (if so inclined) tell your friend, “I’m holding space for you,” which might be considered shorthand for a combo like “I’m here if you want to talk” and “I’m keeping you in my thoughts.” If someone feels I’m off base here, I’d love to be corrected!
Thanks, Amy. The clue also seems to suggest something like “I’m not going to judge you,” which, along with the combo you suggest, all seem to be proper sentiments to express to a friend going through a rough patch. I don’t have any first-hand experience with therapy/counseling, nor have I read much about it, so the terminology is unfamiliar.
New to me, too, as was 33A, the mushroom, and this meaning of TO NO END. To me that means “pointlessly.”
FWIW, I was delighted to see an author in French, new to me, winning the Nobel Prize, since then I can read her work. But so far I’ve tried only one, and it didn’t grab me. Maybe another will.
Well, I cheated but thus got through the SE. If the Hawaiian and Alexandra Elbakyan project crossing what sounds like a childish movie is fun and fair, on top of the otherwise legit but nicely deceptive cluing there, is fun and fair, I don’t know what isn’t.
I also had “text” for CHAT, which sure seemed right, no doubt my fault. But still, isn’t a chat in a continuous, open window, not with messaging?
I’m a psychologist and I’ve never heard the term “hold space.” Just sayin’. A hard puzzle has one saying “I should have known that.” This one was chockful of answers I wouldn’t have gotten in a century.
The Monday New Yorker was quite a workout, but ultimately fun and fair. I’d say it was pitched at about the level of a tough New York Times Saturday.
Same here. Four entries that I had no idea about but I was able to get them from crosses or (for 49A) make a fairly obvious inference.
Yes, a nice challenge. Anyone else spot an error in the 41-A clue, though? Unless I’m missing something, “Fail to gain traction” needs to be in the past tense to get the answer SLID. The answer SLIP works with it as clued, but then you don’t get the D in 28-D’S ROLLED OUT.
Doh! You’re right, of course, thanks. I got tripped up by the MATSUTAKE mushroom at 20-D. And … now I’m hungry.
“ultimately fun”? No
“ultimately … fair”? No
One of the worst Monday puzzles in a long time
Your mileage obviously varied
Fun, fair, and comparable to the Saturday NYT? Not alas for me. (To judge by the ratings, 2 below normal to 1 above, not for most others as well.) After close to two hours off and on, my center and SW are pretty much empty, while other fills have been wild guesses or to my ear dubious connections. If anything other than a TNY puzzle were anything like that, I’d have lost interest in crosswords years ago.
At least far fewer proper names than from Natan Last. So still hoping for more progress, but who knows.
It took me almost twice as long as a challenging Saturday NYT puzzle — more like a Stumper. And that was with checking a few answers once I’d gone over 30 minutes.
I figured out ALLEY OOPS (I knew it had a basketball meaning, but hadn’t really thought about it being a two-player thing). Then I misspelled it.
I probably should have known what HETERODOX means, but I didn’t.
Don’t know the movie “Friday.” Don’t know “The Traveling Players.”
Nice clues for FINGERS and FEDERAL.
Challenging? Definitely. Fun? At times, yes.
A nice workout for me, too. Very tough. My grid doesn’t look as bad as my bracket, but it’s close.
Just want to throw my opinion in there to add: this was considerably harder than any tough Saturday NYT (which I can actually solve). Massive DNF.
Did not love the NYT’s Monday puzzle.
The 8D clue for “sonnet” is this:
“One of Shakespeare’s begins ….”
(where the … stands for a quotation from The Bard) seems malformed to me.
If you ask yourself the question: “This clue is asking for one of Shakespeare’s what?”, the natural answer is “sonnets” — plural.
Also uncool was putting “space race” and “racing” in the same diagram.
Finally, my personal reaction to the theme was to find it terminally boring.
For the singular answer “sonnet”, the clue would read better as ”
One by Shakespeare begins ….”
That last proposed clue should be formatted like so:
“One by Shakespeare begins ….”
Rebecca Goldstein’s Universal crossword, “Race for the Cure” — pannonica’s write-up
51d [Circular part of a roller coaster] LOOP. I wonder what percentage of them are true circles (aside from the necessary offset).
AFAIK, only the oldest looped roller coasters were based on circles. Newer designs are more tightly curved at the top of the loop so that the acceleration felt by the riders is more uniform. Thus, the curve looks more like a cursive lower-case “l” than an “o”.