Monday, May 22, 2023

BEQ 4:20 (Matthew) 


LAT 1:45 (Stella) 


NYT 3:52 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 4:43 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (tk) 


WSJ 5:11 (Jim) 


Dang Quang Thang’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up

New York Times, 05 22 2023, By Dang Quang Thang

Happy Monday everybody! Today’s theme revealer is AS SEEN ON TV, and the rest of the theme answers are TV stars whose initials are A.S.: ADAM SAVAGE, AMY SCHUMER, ANDY SAMBERG, and AL SHARPTON. These were each clues via the show they starred in – “Mythbusters”, “Inside Amy Schumer”, “Brooklyn 99”, and “PoliticsNation”, respectively. I thought this theme was very clever, and it tapped into my long-standing love of infomercials.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it’s hard to make a puzzle based around pop-culture knowledge that is easy and appeals to everyone. Given that caveat, I think today’s does a pretty good job. I liked that the four theme answers covered a wide array of TV genres. They are all relatively modern shows, though this puzzle does have strong early 2010’s television vibes all around (OBAMA ERA and GLEE CLUB definitely add to this). But I think it’s better to lean modern than the other way around. The people clued are also tied very strongly to these roles, but are all also well-known enough on their own to not solely feel like TV trivia.

Other thoughts:

  • ADAM SAVAGE gets his full name twice in the puzzle in two months. He was also in the Saturday 4/1 themeless – hopefully folks who learned his name then remember it now!
  • This puzzle only has 74 words in it (maximum for a themed puzzle is 78), so there are a fair amount of bonus long answers. Besides those already mentioned, there was PAD THAI, YOUR CALL, and REVAMP. Given that it is a name-heavy theme, I loved that none of the longer downs were proper nouns.
  • Given how many fun long answers there were, the fill was remarkably Monday-clean. My two biggest hangups were NABOB and writing “nude” instead of BARE for [Unclothed].
  • Favorite clue: 33a [Place for sweaters, but not shirts?] for SAUNA.

Congrats to Dang Quang Thang on a great debut!

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Alt Music”—Jim’s review

Theme: Genres of music are found within a sequence of alternating letters inside familiar phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Alt Music” · Mike Shenk · Mon., 5.22.23

  • 17a. [Baked dessert often topped with cream cheese icing] CARROT CAKE. Rock.
  • 26a. [Airstream vehicles] CAMPER-TRAILERS. Metal.
  • 36a. [Speaker boosters] PRE-AMPS. Rap.
  • 43a. [Feature of a car or plane] ADJUSTABLE SEAT. Salsa.
  • 57a. [Arrive after the overture, say] SHOW UP LATE. Soul.

Well, that’s different for a Monday, but it works just fine. Once I caught on to what was going on, the theme helped me resolve some of those lower entries, just like a good theme should. I wonder if there were any other music genres that didn’t make the cut for this grid. I suppose “pop” would’ve been low hanging fruit, especially since there’s already one three-letter genre in the grid.

Fill highlights include an old movie (ME AND MY GAL) and a Madonna hit (BORDERLINE), though it wasn’t clued as such. PICA might be tough for a Monday as well as that IRMA/RIATA crossing.

Clue of note: 45d. [One of four NFL teams never to appear in a Super Bowl]. BROWNS. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this clue before, but the other three are the Lions, Jaguars, and Texans (oh my).

Solid Monday offering. 3.5 stars.

Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 5/22/23 by Doug Peterson

Los Angeles Times 5/22/23 by Doug Peterson

I think I spent more time figuring out the theme of this puzzle after the fact than I did solving it. 55A, the revealer [Complete a morning chore, and what the start of the answer to each starred clue can do] is MAKE THE BED. It’s not a perfectly literal revealer — the first word (or half of a compound word, in one case) in each theme entry can precede the word BED to make a new phrase.

  • 16A [Stage show featuring traditional Irish music] is RIVERDANCE. Take RIVER and pair it with BED to make RIVER BED.
  • 23A [Candice Bergen sitcom] is MURPHY BROWN, an entry I appreciated. (Ask me how I often feel like crosswords have passed Gen X by — boomers got their ’70s baseball players and old movies, and Gen Z gets Issa Rae and Bon Iver and friends, but references to the ’80s and ’90s, not so much.) A MURPHY BED is one of those space-saving beds that folds into a wall when it’s not in use; I am deeply suspicious of whether they can possibly be comfortable enough for a good night’s sleep.
  • 35A [Extras in a bowl of chowder] is OYSTER CRACKERS. I nearly always prefer to get my carbs somewhere else. OYSTER BEDs, on the other hand, produce delicious mollusks. Gimme.
  • 44A [1960s counterculture slogan] is FLOWER POWER, so this theme has a little Boomer energy too. Grow things in a FLOWER BED if you can. (I can’t; I have the brownest of brown thumbs.)

The rest of the puzzle was super easy, as is appropriate for a Monday.

Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 5/22/23 – Gorski

The 62-word grid is ringed by 11s and 13s plus a pair of 9s, and that’s where we find today’s fave fill: THE OBAMAS, “WRITE THIS DOWN,” SEASON FINALES, STEREOTYPED, TRUMPET LILIES, SWEET-TEMPERED, and NURSE’S AIDES.

Mind you, a 62-worder isn’t easy to fill, and thus we encounter more crosswordese than usual. The difficulty felt like a Friday NYT to me rather than the Saturday-plus we usually see. I’ve been doing crosswords since the era when words like these made regular appearances: EERO, ERNES, ALINE, ARIL, PACA, NERTS. A couple phrasal answers felt clunky: STONE URNS, ACTS MAD.

Clue that did not help me with any letter other than the plural S at the end of HUTS: [Rondavels, e.g.]. What’s a rondavel? Turns out it’s an African structure, albeit one with a European (Afrikaans had Dutch origins for most of the vocab) name.

3.25 stars from me.

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

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 5/22/2023

Odd one for me today, with some of the marquee entries — AVOCADO SAUCE, PETFLUENCER, PANTY LINE, STEP AUNTS, ORCHESTRA HIT — really not landing with me, and much of the fill feeling not all that fresh.

I quite liked PARCHEESI, CHURCHY, [Cut some greens] for MOW, and SIDE HUSTLE. PRANA and TORR were new to me. Noah WYLE hasn’t exactly been common on either the small or big screen lately. I’m not sure if I’m missing a reading of [Benjis] for C NOTE, but seems to be a plural-singular mismatch there. TORR, LAURA Kelly and the tough-ish to see WILD THEORY and ON MY SIGNAL made the SE corner a bit tougher than the rest for me, but not sure if that will be personal to me or common among other solvers.

Zachary David Levy’s Universal crossword, “At a Crossroads” — pannonica’s précis

Universal • 5/222/23 • Mon • “At a Crossroads” • Levy • solution • 20230522

No write-up, as I’m finally getting to this only at sixish pm EDT.

The circled squares spell out types of roads—words that can precede road—and they naturally intersect.

Fine crossword. There were some minor partial duplications, but nothing serious.

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19 Responses to Monday, May 22, 2023

  1. Eric H. says:

    NYT: It’s worth noting that Đặng Quang Thắng is a 17-year-old Vietnamese man whose first language is not English.

    I didn’t recognize any of the names as clued (except maybe Adam Savage), but it wasn’t hard to get each of them with only a few crosses.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Back in the day, Michael Shteyman began contructing NYT puzzles as a teenager who grew up in Russia not speaking English. Zhouqin Burnikel isn’t a kid, but she’s mastered the art of making American crosswords despite growing up in China, where the language uses logograms rather than letters. Such flexible and powerful brains these folks have!

      • Eric H. says:

        Thanks! I knew English wasn’t Ms. Burnikel’s first language, but I didn’t know about Mr. Shteyman. I usually enjoy his puzzles in the NYT archives.

  2. Katie+M. says:

    WSJ: IRMA/RIATA was my error. REATA and RIATA are synonyms and are both used in crosswords. And Joy of Cooking is famous, but if you don’t know the author’s first name, both ERMA and IRMA are possibilities

    • marciem says:

      +1 same here. I guessed right the first time, but it was a bad crossing IMO. (I always go with the spelling of the ranch in “Giant” first, which was REata) And you either know whether she’s Erma or Irma, or you don’t. Riata/reata is a coin flip period.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      That’s a terrible cross, especially in a Monday puzzle. I can never remember if it’s Irma or Erma Rombauer/Bombeck. Crossing that with a relatively common legit alternate spelling that doesn’t resolve the Irma/Erma conundrum is a bit unfair.

    • JohnH says:

      I think it’s a terrible crossing, too. I remembered ERMA and entered it, but then figured I must be mistaken and changed it to IRMA since RIATA looked so obvious to me.

  3. David L says:

    NYer: not particularly challenging but I had to correct an ambiguous crossing at 6D/15A. Stupid Star Wars trivia again. Anyway, I thought Skywalker’s love was for Princess Leia.

    • PJ says:

      Different Skywalker. Luke and Leia are siblings (twins).

    • Gary R says:

      I enjoyed the puzzle, but it wasn’t nearly as “chewy” as I expect on a Monday. Solved in a Thursday NYT time for me, even after spending a minute or so looking for one error.

      My first thought on Skywalker was Princess Leia, too – but I think they ended up being cousins or siblings, which they weren’t aware of early in the franchise. I had to guess at the crossing you mentioned, but “D” seemed more likely than “S.”

    • Eric H. says:

      The D in HAD A/AMIDALA?

      That doesn’t seem particularly ambiguous to me (though I admit I got the “Star Wars” name easily).

      I don’t the Stevie Wonder song. “Never Had a Dream Come True” is kinda depressing, but “. . . Never Has . . .” sounds really cynical.

      The puzzle on the whole was pretty smooth. The stuff I didn’t know was easy to get from the crosses.

    • JohnH says:

      Not being into the Star Wars mythology, that was a lousy crossing for me, too. I had S instead of D. Obviously LEIA wasn’t going to fit (and she’s become a bit of crosswordese herself). But still.

      • JohnH says:

        But I should say it’s really a wonderful grid, without even piling on three-letter words to make the long ones possible. A reasonable challenge, too, for a Monday without TNY style obstacles. So sure, fine puzzle indeed.

  4. dh says:

    NYT – at first I didn’t realize that all the names had the initials “A.S.” and I thought the theme was a very brazen commentary on pop culture icons. But there was one “S” missing from that interpretation.

    • JohnH says:

      I’d the same reaction. For a long time all I could think of was, well, is having four TV personalities really a theme, even if I’d known the half of them? I’m not sure it’s that much better.

  5. Eric H. says:

    BEQ: I had much more trouble with this than I usually do with BEQ’s stuff. ORCHESTRA HIT, PETFLUENCER (ugh), TUDYK, LAURA Kelly, and TORR were all new to me. (Well, now that I have looked up Mr. TUDYK, he’s vaguely familiar-looking, and I did see “Rogue One,” so he’s not completely new to me. But he’s never been in a mainstream crossword puzzle.)

    • damefox says:

      Alan TUDYK will no doubt be spared the fate of becoming crosswordese because, unlike his fellow Alan, Mr. Alda, his last name does not lend itself to frequent crossword usage. He is pretty well-known though — I know of him from “Firefly,” which aired more than 20 years ago, and he’s done a ton of voice-acting — so while it’s not shocking (because of that unfortunate -DYK combo), it is a little surprising that he’s so absent from mainstream crosswords.

      • Eric H. says:

        That’s a valid point about the grid-unfriendliness of his surname.

        I didn’t mean to imply that Alan TUDYK shouldn’t be in a crossword puzzle, mainstream or indie. My unfamiliarity with the name and a few other entries in the bottom third of the puzzle made it more challenging for me than most BEQ puzzles.

    • Seattle DB says:

      BEQ (Be Evermore Quirky) is a renegade who is not as cruel — but way cooler than Stan Newman (Mr. “definition-bending” Stumper). And just like reviewer Matt Forest, I failed to complete the east-central part of the puzzle.

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