Monday, July 31, 2023

BEQ 2:57 (Matthew) 


LAT 2:02 (Stella) 


NYT 2:55 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 5:04 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (tk) 


WSJ 4:09 (Jim) 


David Litman & Andrea Carla Michaels’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up

Theme answers:

New York Times, 07 31 2023, By David Litman and Andrea Carla Michaels

  • 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]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Craft Show” · Brian Callahan · Mon., 7.31.23

  • 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.

Nice puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Jolie L’Heureux and Alexander Liebeskind’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 7/31/23 by Julie L'Heureux and Alexander Liebeskind

Los Angeles Times 7/31/23 by Julie L’Heureux and Alexander Liebeskind

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

Universal • 7/31/23 • Mon • “The Plumber’s Lament” • Brown • solution • 20230731

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

New Yorker crossword solution, 7/31/23 – Shechtman

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

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 7/31/2023

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.

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26 Responses to Monday, July 31, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: One of my very fastest puzzles ever. I hadn’t looked at the constructors’ names but while doing it, I thought it might be something ACME was involved in. Very Monday smooth. I really liked the theme, and also the fact that the references range from classic actors (O’TOOLE) to very current ones (RAMI Malek– I too loved Oppenheimer’s cast).
    Echoing Sophia’s congratulations to both constructors!

    • Me says:

      I would have had a Monday personal best except I was rushing and put the same letter in two consecutive squares, then it took a while to figure out where the typo was when I didn’t get the music. Very Monday puzzle in all the best ways; it’s a nice puzzle for newer solvers.

  2. Steve says:

    NYT: Perfect Monday puzzle with a smooth theme and, as you note, very famous theme personalities (although Charles hasn’t been King or III for very long!). Just what many of us needed after losing our streaks yesterday.

    Anyone think that 31A was placed there just to stick it to the critics?

    • pannonica says:

      “Anyone think that 31A was placed there just to stick it to the critics?”


    • OaktownMike says:

      lol! I’d like to think it was put there on purpose… after losing my current streak as well I had an all-time best today of 3:30 (and did it only down clues to boot)!!!

  3. Dan says:

    LAT: I do not like seeing an ungrammatical answer like LAY LOW with no indication of its informality in the clue, or an answer like EAT OVER that nobody has ever said in the history of humanity.

    • Martin says:

      M-W has no indication that “lay low” is improper. We might not like a usage but with grammar, majority rules I’m afraid.

    • Margaret says:

      It’s me, hi, I’m the nobody, it’s me. “Mom, can Nate eat over?” is a totally normal phrase as far as I’m concerned.

    • Lois says:

      Dan, I’m so sympathetic. I hate LAY LOW. But I watch a lot of old movies, and the use of the phrase this way was fairly common back then too (not always, of course).

  4. Stephie says:

    I’m surprised that KARENS appeared in TNY. There was an excellent essay in The NY Times recently that made a good argument why that term should not ever be used.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I guess I don’t really understand what this internet-inspired neologism means. If a customer asks to talk to a manager because they think they’ve received poor service, that makes them a KAREN and therefore, a legitimate object of ridicule?

      • pannonica says:

        It’s more of a perennially aggrieved and haughty mentality.

        • Stephie says:

          Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s the impression of that mentality.
          Pamela Paul’s piece in the NYT is a worthwhile read.
          I saw a video yesterday of a supposed “Karen” complaining to a guy riding an e-bike on a bike path where those bikes are prohibited. The woman complaining was totally correct, but she is ridiculed as a Karen because she is white, a woman, over 30, and complaining.

    • JohnH says:

      I don’t often like a puzzle that defeated me with things I don’t know, but I found TNY rather nice in pulling off a real challenge without too many names and neologisms. But I did fail to finish where the Florida college and My Lai director crossed a Bulls player and KARENS. Maybe not marring the puzzle too badly, though, given the overall quality.

      Like San Fran, I mostly just didn’t get the idea of KARENS, out of touch as no doubt I am. I read Pamela Paul’s essay a couple of times and didn’t even see her as calling out the word as unacceptable, much as, I think, something that pejorative doesn’t belong in a puzzle without a qualificater. Rather she uses it in passing as if it’s too well known to talk about, and she seems less offended by it than by the thought that someone might apply it to someone she sides with!

      But maybe I’m misreading, in part because I’m not a fan of Paul, and in part because I can never, regardless of the final determination of fact, look at racial encounters without immediately worrying that black stereotypes come into play. Maybe it’s not just another replay of the birder encounter in Central Park, where even then I agreed with the birder that the woman’s loss of job was undue punishment. Still, in a case of contested fact and a case at which hateful stereotypes of everyone, both blacks and women, is involved, I wouldn’t be nearly as prone as Paul to look for a morality play.

    • Boston+Bob says:

      It’s always great to learn of a new thing I’m required to be offended by.

  5. dj says:

    NYT- am I nitpicking to point out that “in court” doesn’t really work for tennis?

    • David L says:

      It doesn’t really work for His Majesty either — hey, King Charlie, see you in court!

      But for a Monday theme I thought it was fine.

      • JohnH says:

        I thought it was fine, too. Indeed, while we talk about tennis as taking place on the court, not in court, the shift brought a smile.

  6. Stephie says:

    I thought BEQ was fun and easy today

    • Eric H says:

      I got slightly bogged down in the SE corner. The term LIKERT SCALE was new to me, as was the harness-racing horse. But there wasn’t anything that I couldn’t get fairly easily from the crosses.

  7. Gary R says:

    TNY: I enjoyed the puzzle, but it didn’t seem as challenging as the typical Monday puzzle – more like a Tuesday or Wednesday puzzle, I thought. There were, I think, five names I didn’t know, but crossings were fair. I thought the long fill was good, but I agree with Amy – OPEN SINCE doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

  8. Ed says:

    Not happy with the 43D/45A crossing

    • Gary R says:

      Which puzzle are you referring to? That crossing exists in the NYT puzzle, but that one seems pretty straightforward to me.

  9. Brenda Rose says:

    “Karen” is just like every slang/in the language word(s) that become ephemeral & fades in value over time. If you’re going to be *cute* the least you can do is be timely. Boo on the TNY.

Comments are closed.