Katherine Baicker and Scott Earl’s New York Times crossword–Sophia’s recap
- 17a [*Cold shoulder] – SILENT TREATMENT
- 27a [*Texter’s options for sending faces and symbols] – EMOJI KEYBOARD
- 44a [*Easy-listening background tunes] – ELEVATOR MUSIC
- 57a [“I can’t even!” … or a hint to the answers to the starred clues] – THERE ARE NO WORDS
This is, to me, a picture perfect Monday theme. I love how the revealer phrase connects back to each of the thematic phrases, and I love how each of those phrases are exciting in their own right as stand-alone answers. The grid-spanning SILENT TREATMENT, the modern EMOJI KEYBOARD… it’s all lovely. I had no idea what the theme would be until the very end, and getting the revealer was incredibly satisfying.
There are a bunch of great down answers: SPEED DATES, ON THE SCENT, ODE TO JOY, GET REAL. Yes, there is some classic crosswordese here too (if I never see EELY again in a puzzle I will be very happy), but overall it’s very clean fill. The only holdup I had was “coos” instead of GOOS for [Some baby noises], otherwise it was smooth sailing. Oh, and side note, as a Beauty and the Beast fan, it feels odd to refer to Chip as Chip POTTS. Yes, his mother is Mrs. Potts, so I guess technically that is his last name, but c’mon, he’s just Chip.
Congrats to Katherine on a fabulous NYT debut, and to co-constructor Scott as well!
Sam Koperwas & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Abs-olutely!”—Jim’s review
The theme revealer is CORE BUSINESS (55a, [Main focus of a company, and of the starts of 19-, 26- and 48-Across]). The other theme answers are familiar(ish) phrases whose first words are exercises that strengthen one’s core.
- 19a. [Barbecued with cedar-infused smoke] PLANK-GRILLED.
- 26a. [Take a chair near the stage] SIT UP FRONT.
- 48a. [Crucial period in an undertaking] CRUNCH TIME.
That works, I suppose. The second one isn’t as strong a colloquial phrase but it does the job, and I’m not personally experienced with plank grilling, but I know it’s a thing.
The long fill felt like a mixed bag to me. There’s nothing exciting about IN ORDER TO and I’m never a fan of “ONE’S” phrases (CURL ONE’S LIP). But DOG POUND, STAND TRIAL, TANK TOP, and PUT ASIDE are all good.
Clues of note:
- 36a. [Squeal on sighting scurrying]. EEK. You know, it’s possible for people to scurry as well, so I think the clue needs to specify something about rodents.
- 51a. [Morning hour]. TEN. Odd clue; it’s just as much a night-time hour.
- 3d. [“___ to Our Ocean” (Amanda Gorman work)]. ODE. Ooh, I didn’t know this piece. Definitely worth a read (or a listen).
- 22d. [Donkey beaten with a stick, perhaps]. PIÑATA. I could’ve done without the animal abuse imagery. There are better, cleverer ways to clue this.
- 41d. [Squirrel away, say]. PUT ASIDE. Those aren’t quite the same to me. Putting something aside is a short-term thing. Squirreling away is a long-term thing.
Catherine Cetta’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
The revealer at 58A [Completely wrong, and what the answers to the starred clues literally are?] tells us that the theme answers are FULL OF BEANS. That is, a type of BEAN spans two or more words in the circled squares of each theme entry:
- 17A [*”Don’t be a stranger!”] is KEEP IN TOUCH, with PINTO in the circled squares.
- 27A [*Vision in the mind’s eye] is MENTAL IMAGE, with LIMA in the circled squares.
- 43A [*Enthusiastic comment in the fitting room] is THAT IS SO YOU, with SOY in the circled squares.
The puzzle felt a little light on the thematic material for my taste. I enjoyed the accessible pop culture in the top middle, with “All ABOUT That Bass,” ANT-MAN, Betty BOOP, and UNC clued with respect to sportsball.
Karen Steinberg and Paul Steinberg’s Universal crossword, “Covered Up” — pannonica’s write-up
Down theme answers, for reasons that will become apparent. Also, the clues explicitly mention the relevant squares to compensate for venues where the circles may not appear—I’ve not reproduced those parenthetical comments here.
- 25dR [“Stop complaining” … and a hint to the words hidden in the starred clues’ answers] PUT A LID ON IT.
- 3d. [*Some boot attachments at Aspen] SKI BINDINGS (bin).
- 4d. [*Short distance] HOP, SKIP, AND A JUMP (pan).
- 8d. [*Crime lab scientist] FORENSIC ANALYST (can).
Each of those hidden three-letter items is additionally intersected by an across answer that contains the trigram LID, ‘resting’ atop it. Respectively they are: 17a [*Got home, in a way] SLID, 30a [*__ deck (pool’s place on a cruise ship)] LIDO, 35a [*Ashen] PALLID. I am just now noticing that these entries also have asterisks.
I like it. Somewhat involved but comprehensible and suitable for solvers of all experience levels.
- 15a [Maine town spelled with three O’s] ORONO. 33a [Former White House chief of Staff spelled with three U’s] SUNUNU. I thought he was also from Maine, but it turns out it’s neighboring New Hampshire. Also (copyediting), Chief should be capitalized in the clue.
- 58a [Crossword solver’s asset] VOCABULARY. Pandering!
- 6d [“Go right ahead!”] DO SO. 46a [Raiding the cookie jar, e.g,] NO-NO.
- 52d [Birds with undeveloped wings] EMUS. Underdeveloped is more accurate.
As a coda, here are the three senses that m-w.com provides for the thematic idiom (or most of it, anyway):
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Marching Bands puzzle–Matthew’s recap
Brendan uses his Monday slot this week to advertise his subscription Marching Bands service, a variety format available for email delivery every other week for $15 a year. Marching Bands are a nice intro into variety formats, and even if you don’t need a soft sell on variety puzzles, Brendan’s here are high-quality.
I’m particularly a fan of Marching Bands for the longer entries — here we have (probably not the first Back to the Future star you thought of) CRISPIN GLOVER, LESS THAN ZERO, and ROCK AND ROLL — and the fact that the different interlacings of words tamps down on the typical American grid crosswordese — MOSQUITO, LASZLO, and JALEEL don’t stress the grid at all, despite scrabbly letters.
If you want to try more, past editions of this post are still up on his site, as well: One, two, three, and I’m sure there’s more.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
What, what? I was expecting a sterner challenge from Natan, but the puzzle played nice today, even with a 15-letter name (that would be [Activist turned president of the Amazon Labor Union] CHRISTIAN SMALLS) that I hadn’t gleaned from the news.
Fave fill: BOO-HOO, the Marx Brothers’ MONKEY BUSINESS, hip-hop’s DROP A BEAT, HOLD TIGHT, MONEY IN THE BANK, MOON SHOT, BOND GIRLS, CREMA (roughly speaking, sour cream’s sibling), TIME SINK, UPFRONT, SHAMBLE, CELESTE NG, and a HALLMARK. A hallmark of Natan’s crosswords is that he often spotlights interesting people who’ve not been featured in many puzzles yet, such as a union organizer in the news this past year and novelist Ng, whose first book came out less than a decade ago. I like that!
A few clues:
- 17a. [Underestimated, with “on”], SLEPT. As in “Don’t sleep on the Cubs; this might really be their season.” (Narrator: It won’t.)
- 42a. [Sy of “Lupin”], OMAR. Omar Sy is a French actor and Lupin is a Netflix series. I hope he breaks into Hollywood and becomes a household name, because crossword editors weary of cycling through the Omars Sharif, Epps, and Khayyam.
- 52a. [Word from the Chinese for “black dragon”], OOLONG. Neat etymology! Sit down, put your feet up, and enjoy a hot cuppa black dragon.
4.25 stars from me.
NYT: About as good as a Monday puzzle can be. Nice fill.
But what the hell is an EMO JIKEY BOARD?
NYT: I also had cOOS instead of GOOS until the very end. I’ve never seen GOOS in terms of baby noises outside of “goo goo ga ga.” Feels a little odd, although not wrong, to have it by itself, with no “ga” around.
Natan Last’s Monday New Yorker: super challenging, but fun. NE took me forever, but maybe that’s because I was so wrung out from doing the rest of it.
Actually, I got the NE pretty easily. I didn’t know of PAPAWS or SESH in those phrases, AH I SEE could have been “oh I see,” WEST could have been “East,” PASTE-UPS took me way, way back to jobs in production, and I never ever heard of a use in the plural like that. Still, ASEA is crosswordese, the wine was not hard, and while I couldn’t remember which plot goes with which Marx Brothers film, picking one to fit the clue length was a gimme.
But the rest, well, Amy found it easy, but I’m with the large majority who still finds Natan Last impossible. I’ve really nothing after a couple of hours in the center and center-E, with a ton of names and some usage left undone. They’re all things you don’t get by thinking harder, but either you know them like Amy or you don’t, and that’s not my idea of how to make a good, tough puzzle.
Maybe I was just lucky, but I finished in record time for me — just under 15 minutes. There seemed to be fewer proper names than typical for a Natan Last puzzle. I didn’t know Christian Smalls, but Celeste Ng sounds vaguely familiar. Greta SCACCHI took a few crosses to remember. I can’t picture her, but I remember enjoying “The Player” decades ago.
PASTE-UPS was a gimme for me, as my husband started studying graphic design just as digital was taking over, and I remember some of the old-fashioned work that he did.
I get that they are trying to appeal to a younger demographic, but puzzles like this one just make me want to stop trying. Only saving grace was Monkey Business.
WSJ: “Put aside” for a rainy day sounds like a long-term prospect to me!
UNI: Another fun puzzle by Karen & Paul Steinberg, edited by their son David. (It must be hard to get a “word” in whenever you talk with them, lol!)
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