Monday, August 21, 2023

BEQ tk (Matthew) 


LAT 1:50 (Stella) 


NYT 3:05 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker untimed (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (tk) 


WSJ 5:40 (Jim) 


Robert S. Gard’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A Matter of Degrees”—Jim’s review

Theme: Things that are “hot.” The revealer is HOT STUFF (61a, [1979 Donna Summer song, and a description of 17-, 23-, 31-, 43- and 49-Across]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “A Matter of Degrees” · Robert S. Gard · Mon., 8.21.23

  • 17a. [Climax of a film, perhaps?] SEX SCENE.
  • 23a. [One getting taken for a ride?] STOLEN CAR.
  • 31a. [Things often smoked in Mexico?] JALAPEÑOS.
  • 43a. [Newfound enthusiasm?] LATEST FAD.
  • 49a. [Spot for a sweater?] STEAM ROOM.

Nice. Each entry uses a slightly different meaning of the word “hot” and the entries make for a fun set. I’m not so sure we needed all the wordplay in the clues, though. It made the solve a lot tougher than is usual for a Monday, and it isn’t essential to the theme.

Along those lines, I had a number of rewrites in the fill which made everything take just a little bit longer. I tried EDITOR IN CHIEF then COPY WRITER then COPY EDITOR for what eventually became COPY CHIEF (a new-to-me term). I tried WISE GUY before WISE ASS and I needed all the crossings to get CHAMPED [Did some munching]. (We don’t usually see that word without a “bit” nearby.) I’m not really complaining, it’s just this was slightly more difficult than what I’ve come to expect from a Monday puzzle.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Mobile home, familiarly?]. BAMA. This set the tone for trickiness in the grid. I think I got this from the crosses without realizing this was about the city in Alabama.
  • 8a. [Eaves dripper]. ICICLE. Now this is a nice Monday clue. It’s playing with the word “eavesdropper” but without being tricky.
  • 7d. [Last letter in the Latin alphabet]. ZEE. Oh, that’s our alphabet. I tried ZED at first.

A nice puzzle. Maybe more apt for Tuesday or Wednesday as clued. But it got me to rewatch this scene from The Full Monty, so it’s all good. 3.75 stars.

Jennifer Nutt’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: phrases where the first word is the homophone of an ocean sound

New York Times, 08 21 2023, By Jennifer Nutt

    • 18a [Got hitched] – TIED THE KNOT
    • 24a [Not require fees to be paid] – WAIVE CHARGES
    • 52a [Fruity breakfast biscuit] – CURRANT SCONE
    • 62a [“Saturday Night Live” cast member from 1980 to 1984] – EDDIE MURPHY
    • 40a [Something you might hold to your ear in order to hear the first parts of 18-, 24-, 52- and 62-Across?] – SHELL

It’s a good thing the revealer for this puzzle is placed in the middle, because it was very useful for the final two theme answers! I like that all the theme words refer to specifically moving water, as that is what would be heard in a shell. I also think that the homophones as a concept relate neatly to the fact that you literally “hear” the sound of water in the shell even though it’s not actually there. TIED and WAIVE reminded me a little more of oceans than CURRANT and EDDIE did (I guess I think of those more as river words?)

Great bonus fill in ANYTIME NOW and MALODOROUS, although I misspelled the latter multiple times. The puzzle feels a little segmented into small sections, but the fill is for the most part very clean.

Random notes:

  • Was AURAL a secret extra theme answer??
  • Multiple biblical name clues in this puzzle, for ENOS and LEAH. Interesting to go in the same direction for both.
  • I’m sad the clue for SLIMES had no reference to Nickelodeon, kings of sliming.
  • I didn’t know EDDIE MURPHY was only on SNL for 4 years! Somehow I thought it was more. I was not alive for his tenure there, but I watched his hosting appearance from a few years ago, and yeah, I understood why he was such a star there.

Bill Thompson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 8/21/23 by Bill Thompson

Los Angeles Times 8/21/23 by Bill Thompson

Once again, the Monday theme is so simple that it could run in USA Today if the revealer were its title rather than embedded in the puzzle. 50D, [Cozy lodging hinted at by 18-, 23-, 36-, 50-, and 55-Across] is B AND B, because each theme entry is a two-word phrase in which both words start with a B:

  • 18A [Some barbecue ribs] is BABY BACKS.
  • 23A [Safest courses of action] is BEST BETS.
  • 36A [Star of classic TV’s “The Incredible Hulk”] is BILL BIXBY.
  • 50A [Nickname of boxer Ray Mancini] is BOOM BOOM.
  • 55A [Cartoon rabbit with a Brooklyn accent] is BUGS BUNNY.

This one wasn’t my favorite. I would’ve preferred, say, one fewer theme entry and have the themers both be longer and have more of that elusive “sparkle” — the three pop culture references are on the older side. BALANCE BEAM, BIG BROTHER, BO BURNHAM…there are tons of possibilities. Entries like BOBBY SOX and CLEM Kadiddlehopper definitely added to the musty feel.

Zachary David Levy’s Universal crossword, “It’s a Living” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 8/21/23 • Mon • “It’s a Living” • Levy • solution • 20230821

  • 33dR [Supposedly low-wage occupations … or, parsed another way, a clue to this puzzle’s theme] MCJOBS.
  • 16a. [Marketing position whose salary could be $72,000, per Glassdoor] MARKETING CONSULTANT.
  • 21d. [Postal position whose salary could be $42,000, per Glassdoor] MAIL CARRIER.
  • 24d. [Film position whose salary could be $63,000, per Glassdoor] MOVIE CRITIC.

These titles all have the initials MC.

  • 37a [Subgenre of a Jamaican music style] SKACORE, which I had not previously heard of.
  • 6d [Browser memories] CACHES. Not a user’s own memories, but an aspect of the storage function of the browser program.
  • 30d [Golf prop] TEE. Easy to misread as Golf pro, which amazingly I did not do during the solve.
  • 52d [Sch. groups] PTAS. 17d [Court org.] NBA. 10d [Court org.] ABA. Do these count as duplications, as in each instance, the ‘A’ stands for ‘Association’?

Solid crossword, okay theme. Kind of comes across as promotion of Glassdoor, but I understand the need for demonstrating a reference for these salary estimates.

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 8/19/23 – Natan Last

I’m always delighted when the Monday New Yorker byline is Natan Last. I know I’m in for a treat, and this one was no different. Wasn’t really timing myself, but it felt a lot more challenging than usual. The only entries that were unknown to me was the airline AVIANCA and [Jazz pianist Keiko] MATSUI (familiar with the surname from ex-MLB player Kazuo Matsui, though).

Raise your hand if you tried to get KADIR NELSON to fit for the painter at 29a. The most recent New Yorker issue to land in my mailbox had a Nelson painting on the cover. It’s the other famous K painter, KEHINDE WILEY.

Fave clue: [Place to take courses for a minor], KIDS’ TABLE. I wanted HIGHCHAIR, which would also work for this clever clue that’s not at all about college classes.

Was gonna list my fave fill too, but I’ve gotta run. Four stars from me, lots of good stuff here.

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27 Responses to Monday, August 21, 2023

  1. ZDL says:

    NYT: liked it but super hard for a Monday, finished at my Weds average!

    • PJ says:

      I enjoyed it as well even though I don’t think of sounds when I think of tides, currents, and eddies. The only ocean eddy I can think of was in an old movie about Odysseus.

      Currents are a big deal in the ocean. There are, of course, the major ones like the threatened Gulf Stream. I’ve been pushed around by smaller ones when snorkeling. I was once caught in a rip current along the northern Gulf Coast. Fortunately I knew what to do and swam parallel to the beach until I got out of it. There have been an alarming number of people drown in rip currents this summer even though the beaches have signs and warning flags. I don’t know what prompts someone to enter a rough ocean when two red flags are flying.

      • David L says:

        That’s a good point. It’s a nice set of theme answers but only one of them makes a characteristic sound. A better revealer might have been OCEAN instead of SHELL.

        This was one of my fastest Mondays, which goes to show … something or other.

        • DougC says:

          Agree. It was a nice set of themers, but the revealer didn’t make sense to me, because while waves make a characteristic sound, tides, currents and eddies do not.

          But still, I found this a very easy puzzle. Not quite a personal best, but close.

    • Eric H says:

      I thought that for a Monday puzzle, the NYT was average in terms of difficulty and slightly above average in terms of enjoyability.

      I’m a bit bummed that I got MALODOROUS entirely from the crosses and didn’t see it until I read the Wordplay column. It’s such a great replacement for “stinky” or “smelly.”

      It’s always nice to see one of my favorite national parks (ZION) in the grid. The Angel’s Landing hike is not for anyone with a fear of heights. I’m glad we did it, but I doubt we’ll ever do it again.

      Is it just me, or is WAIVE CHARGES kind of green painty?

      • Mutman says:

        I love Zion as well and the Angel’s Landing hike was awesome!

        I had the same Green Painty feeling about WAIVE CHARGES.

        • Eric H says:


          I’m glad I’m not the only one giving WAIVE CHARGES a bit of a side-eye.

          • Sophomoric Old Guy says:

            Typical Monday solve for me.

            In agreement re: WAIVECHARGES. More likely to hear WAIVETHECHARGES.

            When I think about putting my ear to shell, I think about hearing the ocean or roar of the waves, but not TIDE, EDDY or CURRENTS. IMO, TIDE doesn’t even make a noise. It’s strictly the rising and falling of the sea level during the day. Neither does a CURRENT.

            I did Angels Landing last year. Awesome!!!! In 2021/2022 they started controlling the number of people on the trail by requiring you to get a permit through the NPS lottery. From what I hear, I got to experience much less congestion on the cables than in the past.

            • Eric H says:

              We did Angel’s Landing probably 20 years ago (we’ve visited Utah so many times that I have trouble remembering when we did any particular hike). It was crowded in the chains section and at the top. I’m glad they instituted the lottery system.

  2. Vespa Guy says:

    Re: LA Times. I note that the theme is also a vowel progression, with only the applicable vowel in the theme entry. That put some restrictions on possible entries.

  3. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: Just a little over 19 minutes, which isn’t too bad for me on a Natan Last puzzle. The NW and SE corners filled pretty quickly. I don’t know much about golf, but MASHIE fits the first rule of crossword answers: It’s full of common letters.

    I had to chip away at the rest of the grid. Having FIsh STORIES for a long while slowed me down.

    KEHINDE WILEY was familiar enough that I could guess at his first name, but I couldn’t remember his last name. (I thought I had seen his Obama portrait, but it wasn’t at the National Portrait Gallery when I visited there.) Once I got that, it was much easier.

    I liked seeing KID’S TABLE and LAME DUCK. The clues for BABY FAT and DORM ROOM are pretty good.

    • David L says:

      I found this one very easy by Natan Last’s usual standards. The only slowdown was in the SE corner, with MODELUN crossing MATSUI the last square that I filled. I didn’t know what I.R. is, as a college major (International Relations, maybe?) and MODEL_N didn’t seem promising until I remembered that Model U.N. is a thing for some students (not me).

      I didn’t like OVAL, as clued. Oval is not a precise term, generally speaking, but it’s usually regarded as distinct from an ellipse.

      • PJ says:

        I paused at OVAL as well for the reason you give. Kepler would not approve

      • Eric H says:

        I also guessed International Relations for I.R. I had no idea what that clue referred to and needed several crosses to get MODEL UN.

        I’m patting myself on the back for getting OMAKASE as easily as I did. I’ve eaten sushi once, 30 years ago, but I’ve picked up some of the vocabulary from crossword puzzles. Sometimes I even remember it.

        Keiko MATSUI is the kind of New Yorker puzzle name that usually prompts me to say “Who?’’ At least MATSUI was relatively easy to figure out. (I’m listening to one her songs now; I can’t say that it appeals much to me.)

      • JohnH says:

        IR is indeed international relations, and it’s a common way of referring to the course, although I realize laypeople rarely find a need to do so. (I edited a couple of IR texts and rarely if ever spelled it out in speech.) I did think of Model UN as for younger students, but that’s no doubt just me.

        I also think of “oval” as a lay term for pretty much any, oh, failed circle, ellipse included, and RHUD leads with “oval” as an adjective, defined as (among other things) “ellipsoidal,” and MW11C has “elliptical.” More than good enough for me, and I know quite well the equation for an ellipse.

        My first thought was that the only rendering of Napoleon crossing the alps (although without any visible troops) other than J.-L. David’s is the play on it by Wiley, but I didn’t expect TNY to feature it, so good for them, even if I myself don’t like it. It had a show to itself at the Brooklyn Museum and has been hanging in the lobby ever since.

        Seemed like a typical Last puzzle to me, with a painfully slow solve and many, many things I didn’t know. Several crossings were mere guesses, unpleasantly so. One was OMAKASE, which I knew but not how to spell it, so I had an I for the second letter in BADU.

        • David L says:

          The clue for OVAL is defensible — but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. :)

        • JohnH says:

          Oh, and in that corner I didn’t know MATSUI either, so it was tough, if deducible.

          And you know, while I’m not sure what the objection is, if it’s that an oval must be less symmetric, more tear-drop or egg shaped, I’m not sure dictionaries or common usage will support that insistence.

          • David L says:

            I spent most of my working life as a writer and editor for science-related materials, so I’m fussy about definitions. And it bugs me that while crossword clues are generally pretty good, when it comes to math or science loosey-goosey is often good enough. I suppose my objection is a case of déformation professionnelle, if you want to be fancy about it.

  4. david says:

    BEQ: 36D: Simple Simon met a pieman – he wasn’t one himself, no?

    • PJ says:

      Yeah, I entered SIMPLE first. Tried to make ARTE L’ART but I knew that was silly. And I couldn’t come up with a S__ dog. I’ve found this type of mistake in BEQ’s puzzles for a couple of years now. I’ve gotten to where I overlook them because the puzzles as a whole are pretty darn good.

    • RCook says:

      Another type of mistake BEQ has made before is that FTP is not a secure method of file transfer. It’s totally unencrypted unless you use it inside another secure protocol.

  5. Zev Farkas says:

    Zachary David Levy’s Universal crossword, “It’s a Living” — pannonica’s write-up

    Typo in 16a. [Marketing position whose salary could be $72,000, per Glassdoor] MARKETING CONSULTANT. – should be MEDIA CONSULTANT.

    10d [Court org.] ABA. – is that American Bar Association, or American Basketball Association (anyone else remember that?)? ;)

    • Eric H says:

      I think 10D is whichever ABA you want it to be.

      Yep, I’m old enough to remember the American Basketball Association.

  6. DRC says:

    WSJ: I’m originally from Alabama and I’ve NEVER heard the state called Bama.

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