Ed Sessa’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fall Lines”—Jim’s review
Theme: Well-known skiing locales are found in the circled squares going down and to the right. The two revealers are SKIING HOLIDAY (20a, [Winter vacation, maybe]), and GOING DOWNHILL (52a, [Schussing, say]). The ski resorts in question are VAIL, ASPEN, STOWE, and ALTA.
A fine theme. I’m not much of a skier, so I relied on my crossword memory for each of the resorts. Thankfully each one of them has appeared in many, many crosswords over the years. I appreciated the wordplay in the second revealer.
Fill highlights include CROATIANS and “YEAH, MAN!” I wish BUDDY UP TO could’ve just been BUDDY UP (potential theme alert!). And there seem to be a lot of proper names to work through: YVES, HAIG, ENOLA, KENNY, BAUM, GORE, ERWIN, MAGDA.
That SCHEMA / A-TEST crossing made me pause. Most of us probably wanted SCHEME for 46d [Outline of a plan], but E-TEST is not a thing, and it’s certainly not a [Nuclear trial, briefly].
Clues of note:
- 19a. [Gravlax seasoning]. DILL. Wikipedia tells me gravlax is a Nordic dish of cured salmon with DILL on top.
- 25a. [Tacoma compartment]. CAB. This threw me for a beat since I live just outside Tacoma (the city, not a pickup truck).
- 33a. [Org. that added a P for “Paralympic” in 2019]. USOC. So the new initialism is USOPC.
- 43a. [Chaplin of Netflix’s “Treason”]. OONA. Glad to see she’s been in something other than Game of Thrones. That clue angle was getting old.
- 45a. [Morales who becomes Spider-Man in the Spider-Verse movies]. MILES. As a former comic book collector, I liked seeing this clue. Of course, MILES Morales is Spider-Man in his own right in many of Marvel’s comic books.
- 1d. [Cambuslang cap]. TAM. The town is just outside of Glasgow.
- 8d. [Danced to punk music, in a way]. POGOED. Never knew it was called this, but it makes sense. Wikipedia says it’s a precursor to moshing.
Joe Deeney’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
Here’s a theme for the English majors and poetry lovers: Westminster Abbey’s POETS’ CORNER houses the remains of (or memorials to) scores of British writers, and the eight entries in the outer corners of this grid contain names of poets that are also regular English words. There’s Alexander POPE, the pontiff being [Leader of the world’s smallest nation …] and the clue parenthetical citing one of Pope’s written poems, [… (“An Essay on Man”)]. And yes, that’s a poem and not a straight-up essay; Wikipedia calls it a “philosophical poem in heroic couplets.”
The theme continues with Adrienne RICH, Gertrude STEIN, Robert FROST, Ezra POUND, Robert BURNS, Thomas HARDY (didn’t realize the novelist was also a poet), and Jonathan SWIFT (ditto–here’s info about Swift’s poetry).
I admire the concept and it’s executed well. I could do without the nebulous HAD SOME, but liked ANTSY, POWDER KEG, and “WHAT THE …”
Overall vibe, four stars from me.
Bruce Venzke’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
When I got to the first thematic answer in today’s puzzle by Bruce Venzske, I assumed the all caps meant something outré was on the go. It turns out though, that all the [FOOLPROOF] clues are just synonyms. This is one of the lightest themes I’ve seen in some time, with just 4 times eight letter entries. It’s possible their shorter nature was why capitals were used to make them stick out? The synonyms for [FOOLPROOF] are CANTMISS, IRONCLAD, INTHEBAG and SUREFIRE.
Unsurprisingly, with a quiet theme, there are fewer difficult answers. I struggled the most in the top-left; with [Herb in the spice blend za’atar], SUMAC, although that appears to be its principle claim to fame next to [Vital force, in yoga], PRANA and [Polar Ice gum brand], EXTRA clued as a brand not a word.
It was nice to see [Premier League team, to fans], MANU in a grid. I had been sending grids with that in for some time without it sticking.
Wyna Liu’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
This one played a bit easier than I had expected.
Fave fill: “I HEARD THAT” (though I like it better with an emphatic heard in the middle, not just a flat mention of having heard something), “LET THEM EAT CAKE,” THE OREGON TRAIL (a product of Carleton College), LEAD GUITAR, “OH, COME ON,” BUGATTI (didn’t know it was French rather than Italian), and CHICKADEE.
My campaign against I RULE continues. Who says this?? Also not keen on having I RULE, I HEARD THAT, I AM I AM, and AREN’T I all in the same grid.
3.25 stars from me.
I’m finding the NYT a killer. Top center has crossings of the NBA team, Norwegian-born suffragette, and Ikea founder, none of which you see everyday, running down to the 1990s song, Survivor host, Nintendo avatar, and Pedrad. I should have guessed that How Firm a Foundation is a hymn, but it took crossings, too. (Of course, non-musicians are unlikely to know which clef is the bass staff.) At NW, there’s children’s TV.
Maybe they felt that had to make up for the high-brow theme by getting into contemporary proper-name territory. FWIW, most themers for me were gimmes, which is not to my taste but it’s only Wednesday. The exception: I didn’t recognize “The Maypole.” Pope’s Essay on Man is indeed a poem, and its couplets comport with his love of neatly laid out but surprising one-liners. It’s the source of “hope springs eternal” and “the proper study of mankind is man.”
The 11 1* ratings lean towards your POV
wasn’t my demitasse of espresso
The puzzle sure had a lot of names. I was able to finish it but not without some difficulties. I remembered (from other crosswords) that the New Orleans NBA team was the Pelicans; without that, getting HELGA would have been a whole lot harder. HEYMRDJ is unknown to me, but the crossings were fair, I guess, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get it.
The theme was kind of clever and got me at least 1A, which should have been a gimme but wasn’t. (I know that Vatican City is the smallest country, but last night I just blanked on it.)
I don’t really think of SWIFT and POPE as poets, but I’m no expert on either.
It would have been cool if all eight poets were actually buried in POETS’ CORNER, but that’s a bit much to ask.
The NASIM/MII cross was tricky for me. I haven’t watched SNL since Martin Short, Billy Crystal, et al. were on it. I don’t play video games, but I know what a Wii is and should have gotten MII more easily.
“I don’t really think of SWIFT and POPE as poets.” Interesting, as I don’t think Pope wrote anything else, unless you count his translating Homer a different art form.
He’s most often assigned in school for “The Rape of the Lock,” which wasn’t to my taste, but I warmed up to him a bit when I read his two long-ish “Essay” poems and, especially, The Dunciad. It’s huge and daunting, but it allowed him to get down vicious, as well as kinda, well, poetic. The ending, when darkness falls on earth (owing to all those dunces, or bad poets, out there), is delightful.
Swift’s definitely far more popular as a prose satirist, too, with Gulliver’s Travels, A Modest Proposal, and all.
Thanks. I obviously know less about Alexander Pope* than I thought I did. I’m not sure that I have read anything by him.
I tend to think of Swift as a satirist, since I remember reading “Gulliver’s Travels” and (less clearly) “A Modest Proposal.”
*I can’t help but remember the scene in “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” in which the Kristen Dunst character lets it slip that she thinks it was “Pope Alexander.”
TNY: I’m pretty sure Amy will mention it in her review, but the clue for 22A is incorrect.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_%22L%22 and specifically https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_%22L%22#Nickname
And also http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/2468.html
I never even saw the clue or entry while solving. But yes, Chicagoans take the L, and it’s crosswords that throw ELS at us.
AVCX: nice theme!
I screwed up and put rebuses with the vehicles (train, van, car) instead of X’s. I should’ve paid more attention to the revealer.
It’s taken me until now to get that the “onomatopoeic, reduplicative Japanese hotpot dish is SHABU-SHABU. I’ve seen that in another puzzle, but I’d forgotten it. (If you haven’t done the AVCX puzzle, the correct answer for the grid was SHAXHABU, with the X hiding what would otherwise be a rebus of “bus.” The crossing Down word was HOAX.)
That whole SE corner was hard for me. ‘The Bear” didn’t ring any bells, and though I have seen “A League of Their Own,” it’s been a long time.
Off my game this morning, I guess. I see that the vehicles are replaced by X in the grid, but can’t make a connection to a theme (or the title).
It took me a while. and I had to carefully reread the revealer in the middle: “Type of test that might ask you to place a mark over all the squares with vehicles, as in this puzzle.” If you’ve done one of these CAPTCHAs recently, you’ll be familiar with the task, but if not, it feels weird. Also, I don’t think they usually have Xs (instead, I usually see checks), but hey, it’s a cute puzzle.
Thank you! I completely glossed right over the reveal when I was solving.
I share Gareth’s opinion that the LAT theme is “light”, so light that I’m a little baffled at its acceptance in a mainstream venue. I mean, it’s synonyms. Four synonyms. I guess the themers are lively enough to warrant so simple a theme? Wondering if I’m missing something, I browsed today’s Crossword Corner but didn’t find any theme extrapolation. And I’m curious if the LAT has, just as the NYT does, a tier of constructors that are paid to contribute regularly or whatever; ’cause if they do surely as stalwart a name as Bruce Venzke would qualify.
I’m curious about where you heard that the NYT has “a tier of constructors that are paid to contribute regularly or whatever.” Everything I have seen suggests that the NYT uses an open submission process (though I suppose that wouldn’t preclude the editors from favoring Joel Fagliano, Wyna Liu, et al.)
I seem to recall that constructors who have had more puzzles published receive a larger payment.
Hmm. Wait a minute, yeah, there are some constructors who are paid more than average, yeah. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Will Shortz comment on this, saying that for this group of constructors he knows their work, trusts their clue-writing ability, etc., such that the editorial process is expedited, or something. Other than that I guess I’ve just heard Rex Parker talking about it.
The most recent NYT submission guidelines say Payment varies based on the day of the week and number of puzzles you’ve had published with The New York Times.”
They used to have fixed amounts — I’m thinking something $300/puzzle for a 15X15, more after the third published puzzle.
That doesn’t bother me and I buy the rationale. But as a wannabe constructor, I’d like to feel that anything I submit will have a fair shot at being accepted. Especially when the Wordplay columnists are trumpeting the number of debut constructors they’ve had in the last few years.
Here ya go. Third paragraph.
But I’m still pretty sure I’ve heard mention of some even better-paid “group” that isn’t what this article refers to.
Newer constructors (1-2 puzzles published in the Times) are paid $500 for a Monday-Saturday puzzle, and $1500 for a Sunday puzzle. More established constructors (3+ puzzles published in the Times) are paid $750 for a Monday-Saturday puzzle, and $2250 for a Sunday puzzle. The disparity in pay has been explained as a way to incentivize more submissions from established constructors, whose work generally (though not universally) requires less work to edit.
There is no payment tier above the $750/$2250 level, and there’s no “tier of constructors that are paid (differently/more) to contribute regularly.” No idea where such a rumor might’ve come from, but it simply isn’t true. Some special projects, such as the Super Mega crossword and the ACPT puzzles, have different payment rates, but nobody’s getting paid more than that for standard NYT puzzles.
Re: the question of whether “anything [you] submit will have a fair shot at being accepted,” established constructors are not given any explicit preference in the selection process. The goal, as stated, is to pick the best submissions, regardless of who submits them. Of course, what constitutes the “best” submission is highly subject to the needs and preferences of the editorial committee, and it may be naive to believe that subconscious bias doesn’t creep in, since bylines aren’t stripped from submissions during the selection process.
Thanks, placematfan and Andy.
Re Andy: “…it may be naive to believe that subconscious bias doesn’t creep in.”
Shortz and I began our falling out over this very notion. He vehemently insisted that is not the case. I believe he said the submissions are reviewed without knowing the constructor’s name.
NYT – I guess I’m in the minority here. I really liked the puzzle, perhaps in part because I knew all the poets (though not necessarily the poems, and, like Amy, I think of SWIFT and HARDY more as prose writers than as poets). Also in my wheelhouse were TETRA and FCLEFF, and I enjoyed the clues for PIT and PSI. I was almost done in by the crossing of KAMPRAD with both HELGA and HEYMRDJ. I doubt I’ll remember KAMPRAD, but I was pleased to learn about HELGA Estby, whom I’d never heard of. Definitely a difficult Wednesday for me, but ultimately a satisfying one.
NYT was my worst Wednesday solving time ever.
New Yorker: I can’t say that I have ever heard anyone say I RULE (I had I Rock until I realized the crosses wouldn’t work). But I can easily picture the kind of guy who would say that, and I’m glad that I don’t hang around with such bros. (Or is that bruhs?)
Fun puzzle. My husband convinced me to subscribe to the New Yorker, so this may have been one of the first of their puzzles I have done that wasn’t a Monday or Tuesday. For what it’s worth, my solve time was one second faster than yesterday’s NYT, which was in line with my average Tuesday NYT time.
nyt — really admired it! not an easy kind of construction, w/ those themed corners; w/ the perfect reveal; and at just the right time of the year, too!