David Litman & Andrea Carla Michaels’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up
- 19a [Tennis great with a sister who’s also a tennis great] – VENUS WILLIAMS
- 24a [British royal crowned in May 2023] – KING CHARLES III
- 45a [First Latina justice, successor to David Souter] – SONIA SOTOMAYOR
- 51a [Words before legal action … or what one might exclaim to 19-, 24- and 45-Across?] – SEE YOU IN COURT
So, VENUS WILLIAMS is a star on the tennis court, KING CHARLES III rules the English court, and SONIA SOTOMAYOR is on the US supreme court – three different imaginings of the same word, I like it! Writing a Monday puzzle where the theme answers are all proper nouns can be tricky, but these ones are all *exceedingly* famous, and from different areas of knowledge to boot. The trickiest thing for me was figuring out which Williams sister, and remembering if Justice Sotomayor spells her first name with an I or a Y.
Quick thoughts on the rest of the puzzle:
- Good fill overall, highlights including EVIL EYES, CLOWN CAR, and CHIMES IN.
- I do however think the LEAR/OTOOLE crossing could potentially give some trouble.
- Loved the clue of [Emulates Snoop Dogg or Doja Cat] for RAPS, and [“It’s ___!” (classic “Frankenstein” line)] for ALIVE was also a fun reference point.
- I just saw RAMI Malek in Oppenheimer earlier today – he, and the rest of the movie’s cast, were all great!
Congrats to David on his first NYT puzzle, and Andrea Carla Michaels on her 82nd (!!!!)
Brian Callahan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Craft Show”—Jim’s review
Theme entries are familiar phrases whose first words are parts of a ship. The revealer is SHIP BUILDER (59a, [Professional who uses the first words of the starred answers]).
- 17a. [*Major mall tenant] ANCHOR STORE.
- 23a. [*Christmas carol with lots of la’s] DECK THE HALLS.
- 38a. [*Show respect, in a way] BOW DOWN.
- 49a. [*It may come with a pointed finger] STERN WARNING.
Nice. A simple theme, but smoothly and cleanly executed, even down to using a phrase that has the correct pronunciation of BOW (instead of something like BOW TIES). Just right for a Monday.
If I had a nit to pick, maybe it would be that “uses” might not be the best word in the revealer clue. Maybe “assembles” would be better.
Those long fill entries in the corner are impressive: PRE-ALGEBRA with DEVILED EGG and RAT CATCHER with ESCAPE ROOM. What’s not to like? Other niceties: FREEGAN, MOAB, MERKEL, RUPEE, OF AN AGE.
Clues of note:
- 28d. [The Pied Piper, for one]. RAT CATCHER. I don’t know. Do we know for sure he actually caught them, or did he just lead them away out of town?
- 29d. [Activity you might want to get out of?]. ESCAPE ROOM. This seems like an opportune moment to put in a plug for Francis Heaney’s ESCAPE ROOM Logic Puzzles book. The ESCAPE ROOM scenario is really more just the backdrop for some devilish logic puzzles, but it adds to the flavor. And when I say devilish, they’re like that from the first page. Good, meaty puzzles.
- 61d. [Naval vessel letters]. USS. Oh, a theme-adjacent entry and clue right at the end.
Jolie L’Heureux and Alexander Liebeskind’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Looks like this is a debut for one of this pair of constructors, and it’s a really fun one! The revealer at 57A [“I’ll tell you the rest another time,” and what can be said about the starts of 20-, 28-, 36-, and 49-Across] is IT’S A LONG STORY. That is, each theme entry starts with a word that might be a long story:
- 20A [Bank customer, e.g.] is an ACCOUNT HOLDER. An ACCOUNT need not be a long story, but I think it still works.
- 28A [Colorful and fuzzy street art] is the wonderfully evocative YARN BOMB. (Click the link. WOW!!!) A YARN is a rambling story, and I love that reviewing this puzzle has taught me that there are multiple knitting shops called “Yarn Story.”
- 36A [Innovative concept] is a NOVEL IDEA. Of course there are short NOVELs, but when one is telling a story in an email and it gets long, one can apologize with “sorry for the novel.” So it works!
- 49A [Big-time letdown] is an EPIC FAIL, and an EPIC is the longest of stories.
There are more medium-length (6-9 letters) entries than is typical for a Monday, and many of these are fun: TOTORO (always here for a Miyazaki reference!), COLD CASE, MASCARA, I’M STUMPED.
I do think this puzzle could’ve been helped by a couple of things: 1) running it on a Tuesday (for example, I do love “My Neighbor TOTORO,” but I also recognize that it’s not exactly Monday-easy) and 2) starring the theme clues. It’s quite tough to identify the two 8-letter theme entries as such otherwise — yes, they’re named in the revealer, but I think it would be a nice bone to throw to Monday solvers to know what the themers are before you get to the revealer. But these are quibbles, and nothing to do with the puzzle’s construction itself, which is great!
Geoff Brown’s Universal crossword, “The Plumber’s Lament” — pannonica’s write-up
Puns related to—you guessed it—plumbing.
- 16a. [The plumber’s client wanted to add more spigots to the tub, which could only be seen as …] SPOUTS NONSENSE.
- 24a. [The client also demanded a change to their Jacuzzi’s …] JET SETTING.
- 36a. [The plumber tried to contain his costs by setting a …] SHOWER CAP. Duplicates “setting” from the preceding themer.
- 52a. [Due to the stress, the plumber began losing sleep and having …] PIPE DREAMS.
- 59a. [The client also demanded the most expensive countertops in a fit of …] BATHROOM VANITY.
I wasn’t wowed by this set. They didn’t strike me as either too amusing or too superficially distant from the target to feel incisive. Doesn’t help that it ends with the weakest one of all.
- 3d [“Is this a good idea?”] SHOULD I. 9d [“__ you sure?”] ARE. 8d [More impulsive] RASHER.
- 8a [Lighthearted growl] RAWR. 48d [Vowelless 2022 Lizzo song title] GRRRLS.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
Lots of appealing fill in this one. The top stack with TOGA PARTY, BANANA CAKE, and FAST FASHION sparkles. Also liked a knee’s MENISCUS, the GIFT ECONOMY I wasn’t familiar with (fascinating topic with many layers and angles—have a look yourself), JAMBALAYA, SCOTTIE Pippen (#33, as The Bear reminds us), KARENS (sorry to the nice Karens out there!), and TEXTSPEAK. UNPIN is also a solid modern usage, for unpinning a blog post, tweet, etc., from the top of your page.
Less keen on TOD, EPI-, GARS, ERENOW, and the “is this really a stand-alone phrase?” OPEN SINCE.
Learned of [“The Sound of the Violin in My Lai” director ___ Văn Thủy], TRAN. My Lai and the letters with diacritics connote Vietnam, and TRAN is such a common Vietnamese name (26th most common in California) that this wasn’t hard to guess with just the T in place. Apparently he’s a noted documentarian.
3.5 stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — Matthew’s write-up
Quicker today. Perhaps it’s a bit easier, perhaps I was on the wavelength of some of the more twisty clues, perhaps the grid is a bit smoother than we’re used to on BEQ Mondays. I quite like the symmetry of ORANGE JUICE [4d Garibaldi ingredient] and JACK AND COKE [21d Drink with two ingredients].
Other highlights: [Server’s tool] for RACKET, DUNGAREE, GLENN clued to OITNB actor Kimiko Glenn, [Cries when the lights turn on?] for EUREKAS.
Your mileage may vary, but I was also tickled to see the poet PINDAR and have to pull DAN PATCH from memory. Certainly not the most current entry, but the racehorse was a megacelebrity in the early 1900s who among other things, makes an appearance in the lyrics of The Music Man.
LIKERT SCALE [Grading system employed in research surveys] is new-ish to me (it looks more familiar the more I look at it). With a quick Google, I see I’m very familiar; it’s that 5- or 7-step format of survey responses that range from “completely disagree” to “completely agree” with “Neither agree nor disagree” in the middle. Cool entry.