Alina Abidi and Matthew Stock’s New York Times crossword — Jack’s write-up
Theme entries are known phrases of the form: animal + gait, where the animals change and the gaits decrease from fastest (race) to slowest (crawl):
- 13A. [Corporate grind] = RAT RACE
- 28A. [Aquatic migration sometimes aided by a fabricated ladder] = SALMON RUN
- 43A. [Ballroom dance in 4/4 time] = FOXTROT
- 45A. [Platform at the center of a fashion show] = CATWALK
- 54A. [Core-building exercise that starts on all fours] = BEAR CRAWL
Themes centered around animals are so common that several crossword outlets explicitly discourage them in their submission specifications. To stand out with an animal theme, you really need to find something novel and special, and I think Alina and Matthew have done just that. It’s a simple idea, but it’s remarkably tight and exactly the kind of quirk in the language that demands a crossword be constructed in its honor.
I’m grateful to left/right symmetry for widening the scope of theme possibilities. With three 7-letter themers and two 9-letter themers, you could build a traditional grid with rotational symmetry, but you would lose the elegant progression from fast-paced gaits to slower ones — not a loss worth adhering to tradition.
It feels like this theme could allow for some unifying revealer but I’ve spent a few minutes on it and have returned empty-handed, so maybe Alina and Matthew explored that option and didn’t find anything good.
The surrounding fill is pretty clean, although maybe a few too many abbreviations for some Monday solvers (LSU, FRI, OTS, GMC, SGT), plus A MAN = [“__ for All Seasons”]. Perhaps those entries are reason enough to bump this to a Tuesday. There are also plenty of interesting answers in the grid. KING ME = [Cry in a checkers game] is a particularly nice use of a 6-letter slot, and I also enjoyed GASLIT, CAPRESE, and SAND ART.
A couple of other thoughts:
- MAA = [Goat’s bleat] and MOO = [Cow’s sound] make the grid feel like a real zoo. I wonder if these theme-adjacent entries were intentional or not.
- 40D. [Jekyll and Pepper, for two: Abbr.] = DRS. It took me a few reads to understand what Jekyll could have in common with anyone named Pepper. Dr. Pepper the soda, nice.
A personal plug: I write a weekly puzzle column at Gizmodo that I think the puzzle lovers here would enjoy!
Thanks for the Monday amusement Alina and Matthew.
Sean Ziebarth’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Setting Aside”—Jim’s review
Theme: Parts of a table setting appear at the ends of familiar(ish) phrases. The revealer is CLEAR THE TABLE (51a, [What people are likely to do in response to 20-, 27- and 44-Across?]).
- 20a. [Inflict further pain] TWIST THE KNIFE.
- 27a. [Access a fire alarm] BREAK THE GLASS. This one’s taking a few liberties since the actual phrase is “Break glass in case of fire” (no “the”). I would’ve been perfectly happy if this was “SHOOT THE GLASS” [Command from Hans Gruber in “Diehard”]. The phrase isn’t idiomatic, but Alan Rickman delivers the line so distinctly that it’s pretty memorable to those who’ve seen the movie more than once.
- 44a. [Get cozy at home to swing at that outside pitch] CROWD THE PLATE.
This was enjoyable even if the second one isn’t quite on target. I like the consistent format and I enjoyed sniffing out the theme before the revealer firmed things up. I’m not exactly sure how twisting a knife and crowding a plate would cause someone to CLEAR THE TABLE, but I’m happy to give the puzzle some leeway in that regard.
Plenty of fun fill today with STANDSTILL, AFTERTASTE, FRITTERS, DEAD ENDS, SPY BOT, and SMIRKY.
Clues of note:
- 32a. [“The Family Circus” dog]. BARFY. Ha! I’d forgotten that name. I suppose that’s the only way to clue that word and pass the Breakfast Test.
- 49a. [It’s creepy and clingy]. IVY. Nice clue. Simple, yet deceptive.
Robin Stears’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
There’s a bit to unpack here, or, rather, unravel, since this puzzle has no revealer. And I get why it doesn’t: I can’t think of a word that encompasses all of the four theme entries that isn’t one of the theme words! Anyway, there’s STRING or a relative of string in each of them:
- 17A [Street art involving knitted wool] is a YARN BOMBING. This is one of two theme entries in which the theme word (YARN, in this case) is used in its literal meaning in the theme phrase, but the theme phrase is so evocative that it’s a quibble.
- 28A [Internet troll who takes over a discussion] is a THREADJACKER. THREAD is the thinnest of the STRING-like entities used as theme words here. Also, as I solved, given that the first two themers include BOMBING and JACKing, I was wondering whether this puzzle was taking a dark turn!
- 44A [Concept in particle physics] is STRING THEORY.
- 58A [Access points for some treehouses] is ROPE LADDERS. Again, ROPE is pretty literally the same thing in its thematic meaning and its meaning in this specific phrase.
I found some unexpected hiccups for a Monday, especially 41A EARDROPS which is so easy to fill in as EARRINGS, plus the new-to me MARGO Martindale and Robyn CARR. The propers are pretty well isolated from each other, though, which led to a slightly higher than average but not wildly off Monday time.
Lance Enfinger and Jeff Chen’s Universal crossword, “Kidding Around” — pannonica’s write-up
Familiar phrases recommissioned to read as if they are admonishing children.
- 17a. [“Put away your toys”?] PICK-UP LINE.
- 24a. [“Don’t refuse to eat it until you’ve tried a taste”?] NO COMMENT.
- 35a. [“Garbage goes *in* the trash can”?] THROWAWAY REMARK.
- 48a. [“If you keep sucking your thumb, you’ll gross out your friends”?] FINGER TIP.
- 59a. [“Ask permission before grabbing something”?] TAKING NOTE.
Nice, and I appreciate how the answers all end in (rough) synonyms for ‘utterance’.
- 3d [Relative who’s up a tree?] ANCESTOR. Metaphorically.
- 10d [“The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly,” per Ambrose Bierce] OPTIMISM. The Devil’s Dictionary is a lot of fun. It’s long been in the public domain, so it’s unsurprising that there’s a whole web page for it.
- 22d [Camping treat] S’MORE. Chef Slowik was not wrong here, is all I’m saying.
- 56d [Flour used in naan] ATTA. Is it just me, or has there been a boomlet for crosswords having this entry lately?
- 1a [Cover for a lab … or a lab technician] COAT. New spin on the old lab pun.
- 52a [“__ you OK?”] ARE.
That’s all I’ve got for this tidy little Monday offering.
Brooke Husic’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
Check out all the entries that could not have appeared in a crossword 20 years ago: K-DRAMA (Korean drama series, popular worldwide via Netflix), BEE EMOJI (for the Beyhive), SEND NUDES, ZOM-COMS (I’d never seen this term before) and Great British Bake Off‘s STAR BAKER honors. Love the clue for that last one: [Hollywood award?], referring to GBBO judge Paul Hollywood.
Other fave fill for me: RAIN GODS (Chicago must have angered them recently), KICKED IT, “SAY NO MORE,” “I LOVE YOUR WORK,” and a Scooby-Doo-ish ZOINKS with a “Jinkies!” clue (jinkies:Velma :: zoinks:Shaggy?). GRIOT is also a great word, and it’s a nice touch to clue BASSIST via jazz artist Esperanza Spalding rather than some dude in a rock band.
New to me: chef Iliana REGAN, the RASTAS’ “I AND I,” and a smattering of clues where I drew a blank till there were enough crossings to help me along. Definitely a tough (but eminently solvable!) puzzle for me.
I don’t care for the entries ESSO and OBIES, but their parallel “phonetically named” cluing offers partial redemption (probably a really tough crossing for solvers who don’t have a crosswordese vocab, though).
Four stars from me.
Thanks for the write-up, Jack! I think we briefly considered something SNAILS PACE bringing up the rear as a revealer but ultimately decided the theme stood just fine on its own.
Thanks for the inside scoop! SNAILS PACE is definitely interesting, but I think y’all ultimately made the right call letting the theme speak for itself.
I guess you could say that I had today’s LA Times Crossword all tied up. 😎
Today’s puzzle was the crossword debut of the word THREADJACKING. #first
re NYT writeup: I looove this: “… exactly the kind of quirk in the language that demands a crossword be constructed in its honor.”
I thought CAPRESE and CATWALK were a little unMondaylike (although easy enough to get) but maybe that’s just me. I’m not a foodie and know even less about fashion.
WSJ … I don’t really get the connection between the revealer and the themers. I get that the last word of each themer is something that might be CLEARed from THE TABLE. Is that it? Why are people “likely” to CLEAR THE TABLE “in response to” TWISTing THE KNIFE, BREAKing THE GLASS or CROWDing THE PLATE?
TNY …. what a humbling experience … I really am trying to keep up with the language and culture younger of the a new generation of crossword constructors, but puzzles like this make me think that it’s a lost cause. I bet there weren’t more than a half of clue/answer combinations here that landed for me.
Doh … I ran out of time to edit my comment … I meant to write “I really am trying to keep up with the language and culture of the new generation of crossword constructors, …”
And, I intended for the next sentence to read “I bet there weren’t more than half of the clue/answer combinations here that landed for me.”
More importantly, most of these phrases or terms will be forgotten in a couple of years. With social media, things become hot and then disappear just as quickly. I understand putting a new phrase or a hot new person in a crossword to liven things up but if a large portion of the xword puzzle is set up this way, then it is an exercise in trivia. Look at the difference between this one and the BEQ which used to be considered the alternative puzzle of the past. The BEQ was smooth with some current fill and a satisfying solve. Unfortunately new constructors are trying to find a way to differentiate that may not be in the best interest of most solvers. With that said I do solve most of these TNY puzzles but don’t necessarily enjoy the process or have interest in some of the fill.
Amy’s ’eminently solvable’ verdict certainly wasn’t true for me. I had everything but the K in STARBAKER and could make nothing of it; and I had MSG instead of MTG, so that crossing defeated me. The SE was a blank except for ANODE and SOAR, the latter being wrong. ‘Jinkies!’ meant nothing to me, and KICKEDIT for ‘chilled’ is not part of my vocabulary. I thought ‘curling need’ was probably ICE but it didn’t help me.
This looks like the worst ratings yet for TNY, which his hard to imagine given their history, but it sure resonates with me. Solvable? I can’t even break out of the SW, and that’s after 2 hours. Is there an answer that is NOT a pop culture proper name? (Well, I exaggerate, but not by much.)
Hannah ARENDT is not exactly pop culture. Per the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, she was “one of the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth century.”
I know she’s not exactly a household name. 40 years ago, I took a history course on Germany in the 20th century. We had to read one of her books. I don’t remember the title, but her name stuck with me.
I know perfectly well who she is. That one was a gimme for me, the token sop to people like me as often happens in these puzzles. She’s part of the reason I did as I say get the SW, that and some tired fill like ESSO, Obie, Emu, tae bo, and rodeos, although the last three of those had truly obscure clues.
Is she a household name? I’ve no idea, although I’d have said her phrase “the banality of evil” has entered culture, cementing her association with the Eichman trial. Another article about both appeared in the NYT just the other day. Is she a “chronicler” rather than theorist? I doubt it, but the clue will just have to do.
Sorry I offended you.
A while back, I started solving the Monday (and sometimes Tuesday) TNY because the Mon/Tue NYT puzzles just aren’t very interesting to me anymore. I was looking for something that gives me a workout like a Friday or Saturday NYT, and that’s what I get with the early-week TNY puzzles (yes, I realize that the content of the puzzles at the two outlets is different, but the challenge level is similar for me).
I’m 66 years old and, yes – there are a lot of current references I don’t get (didn’t understand STAR BAKER until I read Amy’s recap) – but that’s okay. I suspect there are younger (or less well-rounded) solvers who don’t have Karl Marx quotes or the names of political philosophers of the 1960s or long-retired opera singers at top-of-mind, and were challenged today, too.
It seems to me that today’s TNY puzzle is pretty much what I expect on a Monday. The big mystery to me is why the people who grouse about these puzzles and give them 1- and 2-star ratings don’t just skip them. Why keep ordering the lamb chop special and then complain that it doesn’t taste like your favorite New York strip?
The New Yorker puzzle editors are trying to do something a little different with their Monday and Tuesday puzzles. There was lots in this puzzle I didn’t get — whoever the Vengaboys are, that reference to Great British Bake Off — but except for one damned i, nothing I couldn’t figure out by working the crosses. And that teasing things out is what I like about crossword puzzles.
this comment is so good it should get its own tab on the website
I’ll be 64 in a few weeks. Still, I got 90% of the New Yorker puzzle on my own.
The NE and SW went quickly, such that I thought the “challenging” label was an overstatement. My gimmes included ARENDT, GRIOT, and BASSIST; it was nice to have them scattered throughout the grid.
The SE corner was the hardest. I have no idea what “Jinkies!” means and originally thought that perhaps “zounds!” is having a revival after 500 years.
“Zounds” later became ZOuNKS, which I should have realized was probably something like ZOINKS. (Googling ZOuNKS, I saw the correct answer.) UANDI sort of made sense for the RASTA affirmation.
Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts. I don’t know the Vengaboys song (hell, I don’t think I have ever heard of the Vengaboys), but __OM pointed to a rhyme with “room” and “doom” seemed less likely than BOOM.
I gotta admire any puzzle that has “Get ready to blow” intersecting SEX PARTY.
Actually, GRIOT was a gimme for me, too. (I didn’t say that I got not a single answer, darn it!) It’s turned up in the art world to contextualize culturally diverse work that is on display a lot these days. I saw it again just last week at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, where it’s in a show’s title, in fact.
I’m glad you had some gimmes. A puzzle like this is damn near impossible without them.
Listening to BOOM BOOM BOOM now. I can’t say that it’s doing a whole lot for me.
I know. I followed it up with John Lee Hooker. That helped a lot.
I don’t know the Vengaboys in the slightest, but BOOM rhymes with “room” so it felt gettable.
Looking at Wikipedia, I see that the BOOM song peaked at #86 on the Billboard Hot 100, and that the band is/was a Dutch Eurodance band. I wonder if Brooke has lived in the UK, because this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered a recording artist who’s much bigger in the UK than the US mentioned in one of her puzzles.
TNY: Indeed. I have enough of a problem with gimme count being very low in other puzzles (yes even Monday NYT stuff), but this venue seems to take the cake in turning these things into crossquiz puzzles (what I’ve started calling all “crossword puzzles”, which is much more accurate). I’ll have to say I’ve gotten very good at guessing my way through these things, but to some extent a solver shouldn’t have to do that and go into a solution page with complete doubts on all the clues for the amount of obscure trivia I would be surprised if 5 people in the whole world knew.
I definitely want “good” crossword puzzles but I rarely find them, and as was described, I definitely don’t “hate solve” anything (and yes I successfully fill in the grids for all of them, eventually, even though it results in many… many errors). I thought TNY was decent for a while, but they definitely have fallen off the rails going 5 days a week and say Wednesday for the most part has been the only real consistent day.
I recognize in a lot of cases that people are both editing and reviewing these puzzles who have no clue exactly how easy or difficult these puzzles are for the rest of us that wouldn’t dare occupy a chair at the ACPT. I know it doesn’t get addressed here, but I’ll say it seems the idea of “beginner” (Thursday) seems to be Friday/Saturday NYT at the New Yorker. Most laughable being a Weintraub crossword that solved nearly identical to the Friday NYT ran a few days later by the same constructor.
It’d just be nice to have some degree of realism in these things, along with a lack of cynicism in creating/editing these things. Being required to Google every entry in the puzzle really defeats the entire purpose of the exercise.
BEQ – For those mystified by 48A like I was, check out 10D. (Thanks and credit to John Reid’s comment on BEQ’s web site.)
Thanks! Was stymied also.
Thanks! I figured out “butterfly relative” without much trouble, but filled in 48A from the crosses and never went back to the clue.
Be sure to check the link BEQ posted to the Atlantic one (Sunday). Definitely as good an effort as the one on the main site.