Monday, September 18, 2023

BEQ  4:23 (Matthew) 


LAT 2:14 (Stella) 


NYT 2:38 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 4:17 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (tk) 


WSJ 4:50 (Jim) 


Kevin Christian and Andrea Carla Michaels’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Phrases in the form of [VERB] A [COLOR] [NOUN].

New York Times, 09 18 2023, By Kevin Christian and Andrea Carla Michaels

  • 17a [Blabber continuously] – TALK A BLUE STREAK
  • 27a [Harmlessly deceive] – TELL A WHITE LIE
  • 47a [Be cause for serious concern, say] – RAISE A RED FLAG
  • 62a [Broadcast booth analysis … or a hint to 17-, 27- and 47-Across] – COLOR COMMENTARY

This is a nice theme answer set, and all the words fit the pattern well… Assuming I’m understanding the pattern correctly, that is. I’m a little confused about how the revealer, COLOR COMMENTARY, fits into the theme. From the first two phrases, TALK A BLUE STREAK and TELL A WHITE LIE, I thought that the verb would always be a talking-related word, and that was what pulled in the word “commentary”. But RAISE A RED FLAG isn’t necessarily talking related. I usually love Kevin and Andrea’s puzzles, and I liked this one but I wanted a little *more* from it than just “phrases that are structured the same way”, especially given the potential in the revealer.

Great grid work as usual from these two. BUSY WORK, DARK MEAT, STENCH, and the “WHOSE Line…?” reference were the highlights for me. ROLLBACK is nice too, but because that word generally has a different meaning in my field of software development, it took me a while to get it from the clue of [Temporary price reduction to drive sales]. TITO Puente and Danny/Stubby KAYE were also new to me. I also (as a 90’s baby) didn’t know that folks were allowed to SMOKE on planes until 2000?? That’s wild to me.

Hope y’all had lovely weekends!

Gary Cee’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Gauging Interest”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases where both words start with NE–. The revealer is ANY TAKERS (37a, [“Who wants in?”…and a phonetic hint to 20-, 29-, 49- and 57-Across]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Gauging Interest” · Gary Cee · Mon., 9.18.23

  • 20a. [Constant worrier] NERVOUS NELLIE.
  • 29a. [Virginia city where Navy aircraft carriers are built] NEWPORT NEWS.
  • 49a. [Situation that’s more bad than good] NET NEGATIVE.
  • 57a. [Computer system modeled on the human brain] NEURAL NETWORK.

A solidly decent theme for a Monday. I can’t say I got excited about it, but that’s quite a nice theme set, given the restrictions.

HYGIENIST and RAIN DELAY make for enjoyable marquee fill entries. ZERO IN ON ain’t bad either.

What was unfortunate was the crossing of GUANACO (last letter) and OTERO (first letter). Couldn’t remember the last letter of the animal and I never heard of the Texas county, so I left it for the very last square. I resisted the O because I thought maybe I was being influenced by the name “Quantico,” so I went with GUANACA / ATERO. When that didn’t work, the O was quick to go in. But still, that’s a tough crossing any day of the week, but especially on a Monday.

The other eyebrow-raiser was DRC [Nation once named Zaire: Abbr.]. At least the crosses were fair, but I had to think about it for a few beats post-solve before I realized it’s the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I’d say it’s fair game for a crossword, but it was pretty unexpected since it’s only ever appeared one other time as noted in the Cruciverb database (from a LAT puzzle two years ago). It’s not often you see a new three-letter entry, but this might be one that we’ll see again in the future.

Clues played it straight so I’ll leave with some frolicking guanacos.

3.25 stars.

Drew Schmenner’s Universal crossword, “Double the Work” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/18/23 • Mon • Schmenner • “Double the Work” • solution • 20230918

The thematic content is located in the clues, where the TERSE (38a) but reduplicative prompts all lead to the names of jobs.

  • 17a. [Position position?] YOGA TEACHER.
  • 27a. [Pursuit pursuit?] BOUNTY HUNTER.
  • 43a. [Calling calling?] TELEMARKETER.
  • 58a. [Post post?] MAIL CARRIER.

Feels very much a Monday sort of affair.

  • 1a [Attention-getter in court] GAVEL. I’d confidently put in ORDER but was quickly disabused of that idea by 1d [Spanish painter Francisco] GOYA.
  • 11a [In __ We Trust] GOD; a sometime motto of the United States. 40a [“Shop __ you drop”] TIL; perhaps a more accurate one? Both leave a lot to be desired and reflect poorly on us as a people, eh?
  • 37a [“Asteroid City” director Anderson] WES. Saw this recently. My opinion of WES Anderson is unchanged. I’ve opined on this elsewhere.
  • 65a [Air, water and food] NEEDS. Maybe this needs a qualifier; isn’t shelter another?
  • 12d [Stench] ODOR. Yes, you know my opinion of this framing also.
  • 28d [Dance to bounce music] TWERK. 53d [“Gotta bounce!”] CIAO.
  • 29d [“You’re something __!”] ELSE. 38d [“How could one say such a thing?!”] THE NERVE.
  • 41d [It can get the knots out] MASSAGE. This was in my opinion the toughest clue, and it isn’t too tough. Monday!

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

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 9/18/2023

Tough one here – I had no footholds in the NW corner, and started on the right side before working counter clockwise. The completed grid doesn’t look as tough, but there’s a slightly tougher mix in the names in this puzzle, and GREEN ZEBRA [Tomato cultivar with distinctive stripes] is a classic 1-Across for a tougher themeless, but the clue helps out a bit, with “stripes.” I’m not sure how well-known the logic game STAR BATTLES is – I thiiiink when I first encountered it a few years ago, it was accompanied by a note from Will Shortz that he had recently learned the game from a Japanese source. But maybe I’m getting wires crossed.


  • 19a [Flock’s area] PARISH. This metaphor is a common misdirect in puzzles, and even so I liked this simple misdirect today.
  • 54a [Moreno who was the first Mexican-American to own a MLB team] ARTE. A name that I did ok with, but may be tough. Moreno owns the Los Angeles Angels.
  • 5d [Hockey Hall of Famer ___ Stewart] NELS. Playing career 1925-1940
  • 12d [Frequently] ON THE REG. I’ve seen this angle for REG here and there recently, but this I believe is the first time I’ve seen the whole phrase.
  • 29d [First name in auto racing] ARIE. This is in reference to ARIE Luyendyk, who won two Indianapolis 500s in the 1990s. Formula 1 and IndyCar are both seeing substantial viewership gains in the US market, so maybe we’ll have more current motorsports references in grids soon.
  • 35d [“A slow, enduring force straining to win the sky” per Antoine de Saint-Exupery] TREE. What a lovely quote! And a lovely use of a poetic quote to clue something other than “art” or “love” or whatever

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

New Yorker crossword solution, 9/18/23 – Gorski

I had a feeling of foreboding when the third Across answer was UNIVAC, and nothing really popped out to enchant me in the rest of the puzzle. With GIRDLE and EBAN, SUCRE and DOLOR, the crossword had an older-puzzle vibe.

The swirled diamond of open space in the center included three entirely unfamiliar entries, plus a common word with an uncommon clue that perplexed me. [Early Saka king] MAUES was Indo-Scythian, Wikipedia tells me, and thank goodness the Wiki has a map. I don’t recall ECCLES CAKES from Great British Bake Off; they’re also called squashed fly cakes, despite not being cakes at all. The [Irish Sea inlet that forms much of Wales’s west coast] is CARDIGAN BAY; one of the coastal villages is Cwmtydu (!). I think [Crystal forms] cluing BALLS is a geology thing? Maybe? Not really seeing any discrete balls made of mineral crystals. If this is about crystal balls, I don’t like the clue; so many “crystal balls” are made of glass, which isn’t a crystal.

Despite these rather obscure entries (plus RED BUCKEYES, RESINLIKE), odd word form INEBRIATING, I finished the puzzle more quickly than I’d expected. If you didn’t know those middle Acrosses either and struggled with the crossing Downs, it probably didn’t fall swiftly for you.

2.5 stars from me.

Dan Caprera’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 9/18/23 by Dan Caprera

Los Angeles Times 9/18/23 by Dan Caprera

Here’s what feels like a new spin on an old trope. I’ve seen quite a few puzzles themed around cards, specifically around KING, QUEEN, JACK, ACE, and sometimes TEN at the beginning or end of theme phrases. Here, the revealer at 59A [Prepare a deck before dealing, and what the answers to the starred clues literally do] is CUT THE CARDS, meaning that KING, QUEEN, JACK, and ACE are “cut” by the middles of their theme phrases:

  • 16A [*LGBT+ organization founded in 1990] is QUEER NATION, which splits QUEEN up. The name of the organization forces the awkward “LGBT+” rather than “LGBTQ” or “LGBTQIA+,” a small price to pay for this cool entry.
  • 24A [*”Chin up!”] is KEEP SMILING, which splits KING. I am the correct age to immediately think of “That’s What Friends Are For.”
  • 36A [*Musical film about a convict who learns to play the guitar in prison] is JAILHOUSE ROCK, which splits JACK.
  • 49A [*Completely unapproachable] is AS COLD AS ICE, which splits up ACE. I am also the correct age to think of the Foreigner song.

I thought some of the fill and clue choices were a bit more mid-week than Monday, such as MOT and VAMPIRIC (VAMPIRE, sure; the adjectival form seems tough) and cluing A LA MODE in the fashion sense rather than the ice cream sense.

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19 Responses to Monday, September 18, 2023

  1. David L says:

    NYT was a nice Monday but the clue for ROLLBACK puzzled me too. Having spent many years in the DC area the first meaning that came to my mind was a reversal of policy or an undoing of legal restrictions.

    • Eric H says:

      Having spent many years working for the Texas legislature, ROLLBACK suggests to me a reduction in property tax rates. In Texas, if a school district raises it property tax rate by too much from one year to the next, the voters can force an election to roll the rate back to where it was. It’s a complicated and contentious issue that I’m really glad I don’t have to deal with anymore.

    • DougC says:

      “We’re rolling back prices!” is a pretty common TV ad refrain.

      This was a cute theme, but (continuing a trend) seemed really easy, even for a Monday. I only needed about half the clues to finish.

    • JT says:

      Walmart has for years had signs everywhere advertising rollback prices in red, the first google suggestion for “rollback prices” adds “walmart,” so it immediately came to my mind even though I’m not a fan of WM. If you’re not that familiar with their marketing, I can see how it can be a blind spot type of clue.

    • Mutman says:

      DB2 rollbacks are essential, especially when the midtier inevitably writes bad code, and we have to preserve our data on the mainframe!

  2. steve says:

    i thought it was monday, but when i zoomed thru the new yorker puzzle i had to check

    half my “normal” time
    and gorski is never an easy task for me

    • Eric H says:

      Amy wrote, “If you didn’t know those middle Acrosses either and struggled with the crossing Downs, it probably didn’t fall swiftly for you.”

      I didn’t know ECCLES CAKES or CARDIGAN BAY, but both were evident given enough crosses. TRUE VALUE might’ve been a gimme, but by the time I read the clue, I had enough letters that it couldn’t have been anything else.

      A few minor snags: I hEAr for I READ; THC for CBD. Nothing too bad.

      Despite a fair number of unknowns, including RED BUCKEYES and AFROPOP (as clued), it went quickly — under 10 minutes, which is about half what the Monday New Yorker typically takes me.

    • David L says:

      I found it pretty straightforward too, especially since ECCLESCAKES was a gimme for me. I agree with Amy’s assessment that the fill had a musty air about it, and also that ‘crystal forms’ for BALLS doesn’t make any kind of sense.

      • JohnH says:

        I suppose it’s a jokey reference to crystal balls (as in reading the future), but I’m on the side of those Amy anticipated. I found this one a killer, especially in the name-driven center, but also the NE, where I’m still stuck. Gorski is not usually so far from my wavelength, but she’s entitled.

        • Eric H says:

          “Gorski is not usually so far from my wavelength, but she’s entitled.”

          Is that last word an autocorrect error?

          If not, can you please elaborate? Thanks.

        • Gary R says:

          Pretty sure you’re right about crystal balls. In retrospect, it seems like a decent clue, but I got the answer entirely from crosses.

          I’m surprised the NE is giving you trouble. That was the first section of the puzzle to be completely filled for me. No names, other than the country/lake at 31-A, and fairly straightforward cluing, I thought. I needed a lot of crosses to recognize the tree at 9-D, but it is something I’ve heard of. I don’t really get “Judicial” in the clue for 27-A.

          • Eric H says:

            Bolivia has two capitals: Sucre (sometimes called the constitutional capital) and La Paz, which is the seat of government.

            I know this only from crossword puzzles.

            • Gary R says:

              Ha – I was confused in two ways! I was thinking it was capital as in “currency.” And I was confusing Bolivia with Ecuador, which apparently stopped using the sucre twenty-some years ago.

  3. JT says:

    NYT – I liked today’s puzzle, devoid of cheap fill, the theme wasn’t intrusive or confusing once the crosses started coming in, no problematic intersections. The very first line of across felt pretty flat, but it picked up very quickly afterwards.

    There was so much flow that I flat out missed reading clues that were interesting until I went back to find a misspell (38A/39D, the closest thing to problematic if you don’t have an ALDERMAN and blankly put an E at the start).

  4. Seattle DB says:

    WSJ: Puzzle titled “Gauging Interest” and the theme answers all begin with “Ne—“. The revealer is “Any Takers”, as in “NE Takers”. But I don’t get it. Any help? Thx!

    • Eric H says:

      “N-E” would be a homophone of “any,” right?

      • Seattle DB says:

        Thx for the reply Eric, but how does the puzzle title “Gauging Interest” refer to “NE Takers” or “Any Takers”? What is being “gauged” and what is being “taken”? (Argh!)

        • Seattle DB says:

          Maybe the obvious answer is that if you’re “Gauging Interest”, you’re asking “Any Takers”. Is it that simple? (Gah, lol!)

          • Eric H says:

            That would be my guess, though I’d flip it around: Saying “Any takers?” is just one way you might gauge people’s interest.

            Sorry I misunderstood your question.

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