Emily Carroll’s New York Times crossword–Sophia’s recap
I had a blast with this Monday puzzle, y’all. The revealer, 61a [
Slangy question of greeting … or a hint to 18-, 23-, 40- and 53-Across] is WHAT’S POPPIN, and the theme answers are all things that people pop:
- 18a [Edible parts of an ear] – CORN KERNELS
- 23a [Benzoyl peroxide targets] – PIMPLES
- 40a [Item smashed before a ship’s maiden voyage] – CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE
- 53a [Basic bicycle trick] – WHEELIE
I loved how many different directions this theme took me in in regards to the POPPIN’. There’s so much thematic material here without any of it feeling like too much of a stretch! The grid spanning CHAMPAGNE BOTTLES is a particular highlight. I don’t think it matters that some of the theme answers are singular and others plural, because a) if such a small detail is needed to make the puzzle work symmetrically, I think it’s a fair tradeoff, and b) who pops only a single popcorn kernel anyways?
I was on this puzzle’s wavelength the whole time, and finished much more quickly than usual. I think that might be because of the high number of 3-letter answers in the corner that I was just able to knock out? I would be worried about the SALOME/SHE-RA crossing on a Monday, but the She-Ra clue [Comic book superheroine whose name is an anagram of SHARE] really helps out with that last vowel. I think the added anagram is a great way to help ease up that area for newer solvers so that they don’t get stuck.
Fill highlights: THREEPIO (even though I didn’t know how to spell it), PELOSI, PARMESAN. The fill overall is very clean for a puzzle with five theme answers, and there are still some nice bonuses.
Clue highlights: [Drink like a cat … or a place for a cat] for LAP, [Word before rest or wrestle] for ARM
Happy Monday all!
Kathy Lowden & Tess Davison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Slippery Language”—Jim’s review
Theme entries are familiar phrases that end in a slippery substance.
- 20a. [Entire thing, metaphorically] WHOLE BALL OF WAX.
- 34a. [Students often burn it, metaphorically] MIDNIGHT OIL.
- 40a. [Effort, metaphorically] ELBOW GREASE.
- 55a. [Chief source of income, metaphorically] BREAD AND BUTTER.
Very nice! A simple theme to be sure, but these are all fun, evocative metaphors, and they make for a lovely set.
And what wonderful surrounding fill to boot! FIREPOWER, TOM WAITS, CHOBANI, OCTAGONAL, and SEABEES are all very nice and even TORMENTS, WREATHE, and ICE FISH are assets to the grid. There’s a smattering of crosswordese here and there (IBAR, TNUT, ELIA, EMEND), but I barely noticed during the solve.
Clues were Monday smooth and helped make for a quick solve. I didn’t time myself, but I feel it was on the speedier side. Overall, the smooth solve and the evocative theme entries made for an enjoyable start to the puzzling week.
Brian Callahan’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I could’ve sworn I’d seen this theme before recently, but haven’t been able to find anything sooner than Erica Hsiung Wojcik’s take in USA Today in 2021. But lots of themes can be redone well, and this one is, with loads of thematic material made possible in part by the revealer being only three letters. 60D [Response to a funny text, and a hint to this puzzle’s five longest answers], LOL, tells us what’s going on: Each theme entry is a three-word phrase whose initials are LOL.
- 17A [Palm crease read by fortunetellers] is LINE OF LIFE. This sounded green-painty to me (I’ve always heard it as LIFELINE), but it gets more than 93 million Google hits in quotation marks and is an entry in M-W, so consider me re-educated.
- 24A [Wash unit] is a LOAD OF LAUNDRY.
- 36A [Esports giant from Riot Games] is LEAGUE OF LEGENDS. This clue was a little odd to me: I’d think of an “Esports giant” as someone who is very good at esports, not a game that is an esport. “Esports classic” or “Esports blockbuster,” maybe?
- 46A [Illinois nickname] is LAND OF LINCOLN.
- 57A [Letter ender similar to XOXO] is LOTS OF LOVE.
The grid felt on the hard side for a Monday, with NAOH, IN SITU, EDY’S, ALIA, HALLO, ODISTS, ADEN, and the ROSIE/EVIE crossing feeling more appropriate for later in the week.
David Ding and Ross Trudeau’s Universal crossword, “Costume Ball” — pannonica’s précis
Pressed for time this ayem, so just a skeleton here.
- 16a. [Company starter dressed as a horned fantasy creature?] UNICORN FOUNDER.
- 23a. [Physician dressed as a sorceress?] WITCH DOCTOR.
- 35a. [Venture capitalist dressed as a heavenly body?] ANGEL INVESTOR.
- 49a. [Novelist dressed as a spirit?[ GHOST WRITER.
- 58aR [October event for 16-, 23-, 35- and 49-Across] HALLOWEEN PARTY.
Kind of meh, to me. Can’t say much more, but these twists on actual phrases don’t feel so fresh. The ballast fill is competent but nothing to write home about. So all in all a moderately pleasant way to pass a few minutes.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword–Matthew’s recap
Back later with commentary, but here’s the grid!
for the following review
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
Starting on a positive note, my fave fill: CARAMELS, EYEROLLS, ECHO CHAMBER, NATIVE SON, BELLE DE JOUR, “I’D LOVE TO,” “YOU HAD ME AT ‘HELLO’,” and CELLULOID CLOSET.
Fave clue: [Perform at a high level], AVIATE.
Did not know: [“Meshes of the Afternoon” director], MAYA DEREN, and her crosser, [Author of “Her Body and Other Parties”], MACHADO. There’s a recent New Yorker article about a Deren biography; she was avant-garde and big in the 1940s-’50s. Wiki tells me Carmen Maria Machado is “often” published in the New Yorker. The target audience for Anna’s New Yorker crosswords may be “people who devour the magazine’s arts content.” Guess I should be keeping a notebook as I try to catch up on my New Yorker backlog?
As a Fiend commenter noted, there are lots of proper nouns here; names, titles, and all-caps abbreviations. Many of them intersect other entries in this category, which makes it more challenging to work the puzzle. There’s also a smattering of foreign vocab: OLA, FIDE, ICH, BELLE DE JOUR, VINO, IN ESSE, DIOS, AMO, and ETRE. So many! Feels like the foreign-word census caps out around three or four in most puzzles.
2.75 stars from me.
The US fascination with folks who watch pimple-popping is disturbing. Yes, it’s just a segment but that’s like middle school level developmental arrest.
There’s also a whole bunch of YouTube videos of people having ginormous clogs of wax removed from their ears. Very satisfying to watch! YMMV.
My husband’s Facebook feed used to offer him pimple-popping videos. I got huge parasitic worms being pulled out of ears or thumbs. Why anyone would want to watch either of those is beyond me.
Will Shortz is all too willing to accept answers like PIMPLES, zit, acne, and the disgustingly evocative bacne. I know the breakfast table test is a relic, but there’s some stuff I would just rather not think about when I’m trying to have fun.
TNY: Well that was… a lot of proper nouns. The north and west part of the grid was manageable but the whole central-to-SE part was a huge “?”
Amen … Plus, TNY’s clues are getting so wordy that I feel like I’ve read a novelette by the time I’m done with them.
Given how few of their Monday and Tuesday puzzles I’ve completed this year without resorting to Googling, I don’t know why I’m bothering to try. I’ve DNF’d 14 of 33 so far. In all of 2022, I only had 10 DNFs out of 92 Monday and Tuesday puzzles. My primary nemeses are Anna Shechtman (15 DNFs of 49 Mondays) and Natan Last (13 of 58).
today’s puzzle got me too
first in a long time that more than one cross got me
anna’s puzzles often leave me scratching my head even when i complete them
paulo is another whose puzzles i often just skip, just don’t resonate with them
I also struggle with Paolo’s puzzles, but am usually at least able to finish them. I’ve only had one DNF among his 14 TNY puzzles, but my solve times have averaged about 27% above my day-of-week-specific median. I’ve recorded 40 other PP puzzles published in other sources in my solving spreadsheet and averaged about 15% above my average solve time on those.
Other particularly tough constructors for me these days: Erik Agard, Brooke Husic and Sid Sivakumar. Going back a few years, it was Bob Klahn, Bob Peoples, Bryant White and Frank Longo who most consistently gave me fits.
I’d more trouble with the west-center and SW, but yes, a truly burdensome name drop. I got lucky with more gimmes than on a typical Monday, such as VINO and DIOS, plus some that fell quickly like IT IS SO and CEDED. I also got lucky with a few high brow entries among the names, with the Bunuel film, Sartre novel, and Wright novel. Still, overall pretty awful.
BTW, I’m very much one who pores over every issue of TNY. (Hey, I’m cheap and I paid for it.) And with due respect to Amy, the puzzles are definitely not aimed at me.
As I keep saying, I’m guessing they’re a deliberate effort to broaden their readership beyond an aging but erudite reader base. They’re shooting at a generation with the latest texting vocabulary, a pleasure in the latest pop culture, and a taste for trivia nights. Indeed, as Sanfran’s feeling close to giving up suggests, they may be willing actually to lose solvers in order to reach that potential audience.
Yeah, that’s evident in all the articles about pop music and the latest influencers. Even the cartoons show this. Hope they’re right; it would be a shame to alienate the base without improving the demographic.
I’ve always said the New Yorker crossword needs to focus more on retaining the “most vocal commenters on Crossword Fiend” demographic but none of the editors are responding to my emails
I don’t do TNY puzzles that often, but my impression is that there is a group of younger constructors who are more intent on impressing each other than appealing to any particular demographic. Paolo’s smug and snarky response tends to bolster my suspicion.
Oh, you’re upset with the person who was insulted (and has been repeatedly insulted here) for being snarky in return. Got it.
Re LAT puzzle: I have a pet peeve about clues that use what I consider to be entirely unnecessary words, which if omitted leave a perfectly adequate clue in their wake.
Cases in point:
* 20A “Really angry” clueing “mad”.
* 15D “Utter fiasco” clueing “debacle”.
The word “angry” is a perfect synonym of “mad”, and the word “fiasco” is a perfect synonym of debacle. I just do not like to see a silly extra word that tends to imply that without it the clue would not point to the same answer, even though it does.
(Also, “line of life” sounds tone deaf to my ear; I have always heard “lifeline” or “life line”, not “line of life”.)
FIASCO is that wicker basket bottle of [really awfully unacceptably poor] Chianti 😇
Thanks! — I didn’t know that.
So “fiasco” must be a cognate of the English word “flask”.
Fiasco means bottle in Italian. “Far fiasco” (make a bottle) is Italian actors’ idiom for a disastrous performance, and is the source of fiasco in English. One theory is that a performance of a play involving a bottle went horribly wrong and — actors being notoriously superstitious — all details of the disaster were suppressed from collective consciousness. Another theory is that losing the bar game “fare fiasco” — who buys the next round — is a disaster. We’ll probably never know exactly why the Italian word for bottle became the Italian and English word for disaster.
M-W offers a third possibility. My understanding is that ‘fiasco’ in English is one of those words for which no clear origin has been established,
TNY: I enjoyed it more than Amy or any of the commenters. There was enough stuff I was familiar with that I never got completely stuck. I finished in about half the time a Saturday Stumper typically takes me, or about the same time as the average NYT Saturday.
YOU HAD ME AT HELLO ought to be a gimme for anyone who’s paid any attention at all to pop culture in the last 30 years. (I finally saw “Jerry Maguire” about two years ago, but even without having seen it, that line is iconic.) ALLISON Janney has been wonderful in everything I’ve seen her in. PATSY Cline is in regular rotation in my house.
CELLULOID CLOSET would have been another gimme for me, if I had read the clue before crosses filled in half the letters. O’TOOLE should have been a gimme, as I knew that fact about him, but again, I needed crosses.
Susan ORLEAN is always clued to “The Orchid Thief.” I didn’t recognize “The Library Book,” but I made a lucky guess.
Much of the rest — ECHO CHAMBER, NATIVE SON, BELLE DU JOUR — needed some crosses. But that’s how it’s supposed to work, right?
Like Amy, I had not heard of MAYA DEREN or Carmen Maria MACHADO. But if all you need is that M, what letter seems most likely to work there?