Monday, May 15, 2023

BEQ 7:45 (Matthew) 


LAT 1:56 (Stella) 


NYT 3:30sh (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 6:26 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (tk) 


WSJ 4:10 (Jim) 


Tomas Spiers’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Phrases with synonyms for “small”, with the words they describe literally written smaller in the clues. (Note that I’m having trouble changing the font size in WordPress, so I’m just italicizing the small words here.)

New York Times, 05 15 2023, By Tomas Spiers

  • 17a [Earth or Tatooine] – SMALL WORLD
  • 44a [Heineken or Pabst] – MICROBREWERY
  • 57a [Ballerina or Rockette] – TINY DANCER

I thought this theme was super cute, and an innovative use of cluing. I solved on my phone today, so I don’t know how this looked in print – woe to those with troubles with small font, I guess. I liked that none of the “small” synonyms were literally talking about the size of the thing in question, and they were all fun answers besides. MICROBREWERY was probably my favorite, there are approximately a million of these in Seattle so I’m very familiar with the term.

Some great bonus fill in here for a Monday: SNACK FOOD, PARASITE, COLD FEET, HAUL ASS. I was helped in my solve by being able to immediately drop in LIONSGATE, as I was definitely the Hunger Games target demographic and saw every single movie in theaters. NIVEA was also familiar to me, although it may trip up other folks (but the crosses are all very fair). I liked CAMERA just above SKYLINES clued with a photography angle, and I liked the Minnesota shout out in the LAKERS clue.

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend!

Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Wolf’s Bane”—Jim’s review

A very nice straightforward theme today! The first three theme answers end in a building material used in a certain fable, that fable being “The THREE LITTLE PIGS” (54a, [Homeowners associated with the ends of 17-, 28- and 43-Across]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Wolf’s Bane” · Gary Larson & Amy Ensz · Mon., 5.15.23

  • 17a. [It broke the camel’s back] PROVERBIAL STRAW.
  • 28a. [“Phooey!”] “FIDDLESTICKS!”
  • 43a. [Skedaddle] HIT THE BRICKS.

I really enjoyed this. The theme remained opaque until the third entry for me, at which time I enjoyed the aha moment. It was still nice to get the confirmation from the revealer though. I’m loving the title, too, even though neither straw nor stick was much trouble for the big bad wolf (who, I just realized, makes no appearance in this grid).

We don’t get much in the way of sparkly long fill today, but everything flowed quite smoothly. I don’t know that you can pluralize FEDEXES though [Overnights, say]. Oh, hang on a sec, I think that’s a verb. Never mind. EYEROLL [Skeptical reaction] tops the fill for me and might be your reaction after reading those last few sentences.

Clues of note:

  • 13d. [Made minis, maybe]. SEWED. I’m assuming this is about skirts? As far as I know, they’re called “mini skirts” not just “minis.” I thought this clue was about cars.
  • 39d. [Nintendo console]. WII. We probably need to start qualifying this as Nintendo’s old console. There have been a couple of generations since then.
  • 45d. [Big Ben, for one]. BELL. The building is called Elizabeth Tower.

Solid fill and a tidy and pleasant theme. 3.75 stars.

Gary Cee’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 5/15/23 by Gary Cee

Los Angeles Times 5/15/23 by Gary Cee

Everything’s coming up in this puzzle! The revealer is in the center of the grid at 38A [“On your feet!” courtroom command, and a hint to the ends of the answers to 17-, 23-, 48-, and 59-Across], which WHEW is a long clue for ALL RISE. That is, the last word in each theme phrase is something that rises:

  • 17A [Cold War political symbol] is IRON CURTAIN.
  • 23A [Project announced as a test of public opinion] is TRIAL BALLOON.
  • 48A [Maryland-based daily paper] is the BALTIMORE SUN.
  • 59A [Alabama team] is the CRIMSON TIDE.

Some falling-out-of-favor entries like TYRO, OPIE, and ABES (as slang for $5 bills) felt a little musty, but on the other hand the grid structure allowed for some lively 10s: ARE YOU DONE, SACROSANCT, I’M AFRAID SO, PENCILED IN.

Taylor Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Down Under” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 5/15/23 • Mon • “Down Under” • Johnson • 20230515

This was a very quick crossword to solve, as all the clues were pitched easily. Took me about halfway through to understand the theme, but it would have been sooner had I peeked at the title beforehand.

I always describe such themes as being in the spirit of Games Magazine’s ‘Wacky Wordies’ — those typographical rebuses. For this one, familiar phrases hinging on the word UNDER obviate its inclusion by positioning, in vertical entries, the active verb or subject beneath the other elements. (Hence the down and under of the title.)

  • 3d. [Betray, literally?] THE BUS THROW (throw under the bus).
  • 34d. [Wait to reveal, literally?] WRAPS KEEP (keep under wraps).
  • 24d. [Perjure oneself, literally?] OATH LIE (lie under oath).
  • 8d. [Be unaware of current events, literally?] A ROCK LIVE (live under a rock).
  • 26d. [Immense bravery, literally?] FIRE COURAGE (courage under fire).

It’s a little amusing to me that two of the answers, when untangled, are definitely metaphorical, even though the entries also fulfill the clues’ admonishment that they are ‘literal’.

  • 14a [What Luke Skywalker wore over his prosthetic hand] GLOVE. Gratuitous Star Wars reference, but easily gettable by abstainers and the uninitiated.
  • 30a [Canine coat?] ENAMEL. One of the few ‘tricky’ clues among the ballast fill, but it’s such a well-worn bit of wordplay that it’s practically an insta-get.
  • 37a [Detest] ABHHOR.
  • 45a. [Cohort born during COVID, informally] GEN C. New to me; C is for COVID, presumably.
  • 52a [Words of confession] IT WAS I. Took a chance on I DID IT first. 9d [“Would it be too bold of me?”] DARE I.
  • 54a [Bird that swallows large pebbles to aid in digestion] EMU. Crossworders learn all sorts of information about the EMU—some of which may be dubious, such as the one about calf muscles some days ago.
  • Conversely, we rarely get to see interesting facts about 67a [Wildebeest] GNU. Perhaps they’re more run-of-the-mill.
  • 59d [UFO beings] ETS. 17a [Planets where some sci-fi tales are set] ALIEN WORLDS. 19a [Sci-fi writers’ awards, or clouds in space] NEBULAS.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword—Matthew’s write-up

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 5/15/2023

This is one of my favorite themeless grid shapes — not one but two (intersecting) stagger stacks — a hallmark of constructor Andrew Ries, who shuttered his themeless subscription a few months ago to my sadness.

So of course in this particular grid, I hopped from manageable corner to manageable corner know that if I could get *one* of the six central 11-letter entries, I’d be all set, and I just couldn’t see them. I prefer the vertical options – NAVAJO TACOS, WE SALUTE YOU, THE TRASHMEN – to the horizontal – BAKED ALASKA, READJUSTING, ANY OTHER DAY, but chewy stuff throughout.

I fell for a few traps — BRENT Spiner instead of LEVAR Burton at 24a — hey that clue is off — Jean-Luc is the character’s name, not the actor! I don’t regret Data coming to mind before Geordi. and “FINER TUNING” at 29a [Making some more minor tweaks], as well as struggling to find a one-letter-longer version of “ANOTHER DAY” at 31a. And I had to play Wheel of Fortune a bit with MISIRLOU until it started to look like something that I at least knew was a song.

Other highlights: TONSURE and JUNE (love it when BEQ works his typewriter love into grids) had clues that brought a smile to my face. Maybe not a “highlight” but SALSA BAR sure is on the upswing in grids the last year or so – most of the misdirection (not that this clue had it) is starting to feel telegraphed, so interested in a new angle there.


Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 5/15/23 – Collins

Some folks were asking after the ACPT if Kameron was still on the New Yorker’s constructor roster, and here he is with a lovely and not-too-tough puzzle. The grid looks a bit like four satellite mini-puzzles pinwheeling around the capacious center, but I never felt locked out of any section so I hereby declare that the grid works nicely.


Among the question-marked or otherwise clever clues I enjoyed:

  • 13a. [Quickie on vacation?], BEACH READ. Get your mind out of the gutter!
  • 16a. [Startup hurdle, perhaps], CAR TROUBLE. The ignition sort of startup rather than a startup business. Has [Startup business?] been used to clue IGNITION yet?
  • 48a. [Settler?], ARBITER. They settle disputes rather than colonizing.
  • 59a. [Denial from a contractor?], ISN’T. One contracting “is not” into a contraction, not a building contractor.
  • 26d. [Like some hot spots?], EROGENOUS. You’re welcome to return your mind to the gutter.

Didn’t really know:

  • 8d. [Place smaller than a hamlet, in Dungeons & Dragons], THORP. Old English sort of word, but if you’ve never played D&D (like me), on the tough side.
  • 9d. [Island with caves that contain traces of Caquetío art], ARUBA. With the last letter in place, I tried MALTA. Did not know of any Caribbean cave art, glad to learn it. Wikipedia tells us the Caquetío lived in Venezuela and the offshore ABC islands before the Spanish colonizers showed up.

4.5 stars from me.

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17 Responses to Monday, May 15, 2023

  1. Eric Hu. says:

    NYT: KINDA fun, as Monday puzzles go. My only hang up was reading the “Heineken or Pabst” clue and immediately putting “beer” in the last four squares.

    I would have sworn that HAUL ASS was in a recent NYT puzzle, but its only previous appearance was in 2018.

  2. Philip says:

    NYT: I solved using the Android version of the NYT app. The clues appeared to be normal-sized, but with the word “or” as subscript. (Or maybe the “or” is normal and the rest is superscript.) Either way, there was no discernible size difference, which made it a bit of a baffling solve.

    • pannonica says:

      In the web version of the crossword, it appears that the ‘small’ text was coded as superscript rather than as a reduced font size.

  3. dh says:

    Cute theme, but I have a couple of nits. First, how do Heineken and Pabst qualify as “Microbreweries”? According to the Brewer’s Association web site, these two are the #4 and #5 largest breweries by sales volume in the US. Microbreweries and Craft Beer companies abound in this country; any pair of them would have made more accurate clues than these two giants.

    My second complaint is that Popeye’s big muscle is a “Biceps”, with an “s” at the end. This is not a plural, except in the sense that a single muscle has two “heads”, hence the Latin name.

    • pannonica says:

      You’re taking the clue at face value. The diminutiveness refers only to the typography.

      • dh says:

        I solved this using Across Lite, and the typeface did not translate. When I read Sophia’s write-up, I had no idea what she was talking about when she referred to the small fonts, or not knowing what these clues looked like in print. Regarding my other comment, here in Rochester there is a microbrewery called “Three Heads”, which is also the translation of “Triceps”; if you go into the Three Heads brewery and order a draft, you’ll get a fourth. Of some sort of relevance here is the fact that “Muscle” is derived from the Latin “”musculus” which means “little mouse”. Might have been cute to work that in, but maybe not on a Monday.

      • billy boy says:

        Whatever’s convenient, I know that tune

        I did on Android tablet and the theme made little sense with sub and superscript

        Just checked – Which is exactly how it appears on Safari – based Newspaper page (?)Java

        meh either way

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Not sure what you’re getting at re: BICEPS. The S-less “bicep” is a fairly recent back-formation from the singular BICEPS (“two heads” but generally treated as a single muscle, like the triceps and quadriceps). The clue I see online has a singular “muscle.” Was it plural in the clue earlier?

      • Me says:

        I think the question is whether BICEP is considered to be nonstandard, in which case it should probably be flagged as such on a Monday, or whether it is standard English at this point. I don’t think there would be a consensus.

        My personal vote is that it is nonstandard. If a medical student called that muscle a BICEP, I think their preceptor would give them a talking to. But clearly Will Shortz thinks it’s standard.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        ‘-ceps’ means “-headed” in Latin. ‘-cep-‘ means “receive”. Biceps translates as two-headed (the muscle has two branches). Bicep translates as two-receive [sic]. Biceps is both singular and plural, though also lists bicepses as an alternate plural spelling. As you might guess, triceps means three-headed and the muscle has three branches. M-W lists only triceps as a valid plural spelling for this word. I don’t really buy that bicepses is a valid spelling for the plural.

  4. Jenni says:

    There have been a few puzzles lately that confounded me because I downloaded them using Crossword Scraper and the graphic clues didn’t come through. Since my husband uses the app and we usually solve at the same time, this works best for us….except when it doesn’t. The NYT made it clear they would no longer support .puz solving so it’s not their fault. I solved the puzzle and came here to figure out what I was missing!

    • JohnH says:

      Funny how seemingly everyone had a different experience. I go to pdf by clicking on the (small) printer icon in the NYT Games page, and the small type was clear, but I wondered what it would look like to on-screen solvers. Then I came here, and the reviewer wondered instead what it would be like for print solvers! So I concluded, obviously wrongly, that it worked for everyone. Instead, looks like both on-screen and print solvers were often frustrated.

      Go figure. Anyhow, I just did what I don’t generally do, which was go to pdf using Crossword Scraper. For me at least, while the words were superscripts, they were also small type. Indeed, I guessed that they chose supers as a handy way to get small type without an html small tag or class tag with accompanying css tweak. But obviously this isn’t working for others. I can’t spot a pattern.

  5. Boston+Bob says:

    ARUBA in both the NYT and TNY on my last day in Aruba.

  6. Eric H. says:

    New Yorker: I always enjoy Kameron Austin Collin’s work. This gave me a little trouble in the NW, despite having dropped ESPO in as my first answer. (I’m no hockey fan, but I’ve seen that answer enough that “Phil” and “hockey” have made it a gimme.) PEPPA PIG took some crosses, as it always does, and even then, I came up with PiPPA.

    I would have been a bit faster if I’d thought through the spelling of Kim CATTRALL’s name. The C of CAR TROUBLE pointed to her, but my initial attempt with a single T was not helpful. (Nice misdirection on the CAR TROUBLE clue.)

    • JohnH says:

      Yeah, I found lots of culture entries, indeed including PEPPA (where I hadn’t heard “Got any TIPS” before) and CATTRALL, far, far harder than did Amy. Still it was only the level of a hard NYT Friday, and by TNY standards that’s a real gift.

    • David L says:

      Ditto on ESPO, but then I dropped in PEPPAPIG, who I learned about some years ago from nieces in England.

      I found the puzzle distinctly unchallenging, by the usual Monday NYer standards. On my wavelength, I guess.

      Got any TIPS seems like a very random expression, unless it has some specific connotation I’m unaware of.

Comments are closed.