Taylor Johnson and Christina Iverson’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up
Hello all! Today’s revealer is PICKY PICKY PICKY, and the theme answers are all people that pick things:
- 17a [One growing asparagus, spinach, corn, etc.] – VEGETABLE FARMER
- 32a [Squad leader, in sports] – TEAM CAPTAIN
- 42a [Certain bluegrass musician] – BANJO PLAYER
- 61a [“So particular!” … or, in different senses, like 17-, 32- and 42-Across?] – PICKY PICKY PICKY.
I liked how the revealer had “picky” three times, once for each of the theme answers. BANJO PLAYER was my favorite of the answers by far, since it was an interesting twist on “picky” while still being an interesting phrase on its own. VEGETABLE FARMER is a neat grid spanner, but it feels less like a common stand-alone phrase. TEAM CAPTAIN kind of threw me for a bit – my first thought after solving was “don’t the coaches/managers for professional sports pick the teams?” But if you consider the context of a schoolyard pick, captains do pick their teams. Maybe the clue could have been changed to highlight that? I’m not sure. Overall it’s a solid Monday theme, plus, it reminded me of the Ramona Quimby books and her cat Picky-Picky, which is always welcome.
- Most of this puzzle felt pretty easy to me, even more so than a typical Monday. The part that held me up the most was remembering whether Papa or MAMA bear had the cold porridge.
- 66a [Julie ___ Moonves, “Big Brother” host] for CHEN – Big Brother will air its 25th season this summer, and Julie’s hosted them all. That’s over 850 episodes in total!
- I’m kind of surprised that PAGER and ALERT weren’t clued together, given that they are adjacent in the grid.
- All four of today’s long down answers, EYES ON ME, HEMINGWAY, ANGORA CAT, MAKE NICE, are great additions.
- New to me: [Togo’s capital] for LOME.
Joey Crumley’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Halfsies”—Jim’s review
Theme answers are familiar phrases whose final words are rough synonyms for “bisect.”
- 17a. [The Rocky Mountains] GREAT DIVIDE.
- 62a. [Fountain treat] BANANA SPLIT.
- 11d. [Go home on Friday, at Augusta’s Masters Tournament] MISS THE CUT.
- 29d. [Feature of some hairstyles] MIDDLE PART.
I glossed over the theme during the solve, especially since the theme answers are in a pinwheel pattern, and I couldn’t discern which answers were themed while trying to solve for time. But it’s a testament to the smoothness of the grid (suitable for a Monday) that I finished in pretty good time (for me) without figuring out what the theme was.
Nothing groundbreaking in the theme department here, but it’s plenty solid and makes for a nice grid. The pinwheel pattern doesn’t leave much room for long fill, but I liked MINORED, DIADEM, caveat EMPTOR, and the NIECE/UNCLE combo.
Clues fell squarely in the straightforward camp which made for a quick solve. About the only thing I had to write over was INC in place of LLC at 16a.
John Michael Currie’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Here we have Down themers, and the reason for that is revealed at 10D [Exceptional physical health, and a feature of the answer to each of this puzzle’s starred clues], which is TIP-TOP SHAPE. That is, each theme entry starts with a shape — and for the answer to be on TOP rather than at the LEFT or WEST or whatever, the themers need to be vertical.
- 6D [*West Wing workplace] is OVAL OFFICE. I recently learned while reading Robert Caro’s stupendous biography of LBJ that there has been an OVAL OFFICE in the White House only since the early 20th century, and the room that we think of as the OVAL OFFICE today has been in use only since FDR’s presidency.
- 14D [*Multilevel investment swindle] is a PYRAMID SCHEME.
- 24D [*Pet’s post-surgery device, facetiously] is a CONE OF SHAME. Try to put this entry in and not smile!
- 28D [*Two, to four, e.g.] is a SQUARE ROOT.
I could quibble with two of the theme entries referring to two-dimensional shapes (OVAL OFFICE, SQUARE ROOT) and two referring to 3D shapes (PYRAMID SCHEME, CONE OF SHAME), but this is a nice evocative set of entries. OORAH was the only hiccup for Monday fill IMO, and I enjoyed entries like YORKIPOO, SKIP ADS, LUDDITE, and ROAST HAM.
Dylan Schiff’s Universal crossword, “Interior Work” — pannonica’s write-up
Hidden words synonymous with ‘work’ or ‘effort’ comprise the theme material in this outing. The clues explicitly reference the letter sequence, but since my version had the relevant squares pre-circled, I’ll elide those directives here.
- 17a. [Sources of biodiesel] PLANT OILS (toil).
- 28a. [Varied fitness routine] CROSS-TRAINING (strain).
- 37a. [Eye on TV] CBS LOGO (slog).
- 47a. [In which you may (or may not) wear hot pants] SHORTS WEATHER (sweat). Kind of a wordplay/paradox clue.
- 64a. [What flows under the Brooklyn Bridge] EAST RIVER (strive).
Overall, the crossword didn’t put up much resistance and the solve was essentially like riding a raft down a river—just going with the flow, no rapids, rocks, or eddies. That said, I did have one misstep that needed to be corrected when all was (nearly) said and done: 7d [Gas gauge reading] FULL. Since I’d been treating the puzzle like a themeless and more or less ignored the long across entries, I didn’t notice the nonsense that FUEL produced for 17-across.
Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword — Jenni’s write-up
This was…not my favorite puzzle. I usually appreciate Liz’s vibe, especially on the harder puzzles. At least when they’re hard in a tricky and thus fair way. And I’m not a member of the grumble-about-the-New-Yorker chorus (why do you keep solving puzzles you don’t like? Really. Why?). This one felt unfair not because there were names but because there were two instances where names crossed each other and were not easy to infer.
- 30d [Singer with the 2015 hit “Sorry”] crossing 35a [“Pagliacci” protagonist]. BIEBER and CANIO. That would have been OK (marginally) except that the B in BIEBER comes from 28a [Fellas], which is BUBS. This is odd. My first answer was BUDS and since I didn’t expect to know a singer with a 2015 hit I didn’t realize what I’d one for a very long time. I do know Justin BIEBER – I have a kid who was born in 2000 – but I don’t know his song titles. So aargh.
- 47d [Spy-fiction author Steinhauer] crossing 52a [First American to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in boxing, in 2012 and 2016]. Never heard of either of them, and OLEN is an unusual name, to say the least. CLARESSA SHIELDS also has an unusual spelling but the crossing for the E in her first name was fair.
The puzzle wasn’t unrelievedly annoying. I liked the triple stacks plus the extra grid-spanner in the middle. Other things I enjoyed:
- 3d [Cutesy addition?] is POO. Cute! (sorry. I had to.)
- The juxtaposition of STROMBOLI and TANDOORI CHICKEN, although the former is clued as the island, not the food. And right underneath we have the BEER from BEERSHEBA. Dinner!
- [Duel-purpose items?] for EPEES. Love Liz’s puns.
- [One who helps care for the canines] for DENTAL ASSISTANT.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of HOOSIER HYSTERIA. And see above re: OLEN Steinhauer and CLARESSA SHIELDS.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — Matthew’s write-up
Fun long stuff here – NATIONAL THEATRE, MAGNET FISHING, DOORBELL CAMERAS. The particular highlight for me has been in the clues, almost top-to-bottom: I liked [Piece of the action?] and [Bubble up?] for FILM CLIP and LATHER as fun clues right off the bat. Otherwise, a bit more trivia/definitional clues than I think is usual from BEQ — KVASS, ISHTAR, AMMAN, TICOS, CASTRO — but hit a good note with me.
A few notes on tricky stuff:
- 15a [One of the Three Amigos] INARRITU. I was unfamiliar with this moniker for Mexican film directors Alejandro González Iñárritu, Guillermo del Toro, and Alfonso Cuarón, and wondered if SNL characters had last names somewhere. But it was simpler than that.
- 47a [Butler’s group] THE HEAT. Jimmy Butler is a star basketball player for the Miami Heat, who recently lost to Denver in this year’s NBA Finals
- 55a [Sides of a river] ARS. As in the letter -R-. You got Saturday Stumper in my Themeless Monday!
- 25d [Dinosaur with an elastic tongue] YOSHI. There’s a lot of available trivia for characters in the Mario universe that could pass over my head, but not this piece.
- 34d [San José residents, for short] TICOS. This is familiar to me as a soccer fan: Costa Rica’s national team is often called “the Ticos.” But today I finally look it up and see why: it is a reflection of usage of -tico/-tica as a diminutive, as opposed to the -ita in “senorita”