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.