Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Phrases where the final word is something needed to write a story
- 17a [Alif, ba, ta or hamza] – ARABIC CHARACTER
- 23a [Math diagram with an array of dots] – SCATTER PLOT
- 37a [Color such as khaki or ocher] – EARTH TONE
- 55a [Preplanning activity] – GOAL SETTING
- 62a [“Care to fill me in?” … or a hint to 17-, 23-, 37- and 55-Across’s final words] – SO WHAT’S THE STORY
This is a classic, solid Lynn Lempel puzzle. The theme is pretty good – it’s been long enough since I’ve taken an English class that I don’t know if there are any other story elements that are glaring omissions. SCATTER PLOT and EARTH TONE are my favorite answers, but I wish that overall the theme cluing was a little… I’m not sure, jazzier. I mean [Preplanning activity] does nothing to elevate its answer, GOAL SETTING. Just because a puzzle needs to be Monday level doesn’t mean it needs to be boring!
For there being five theme answers, the fill is quite smooth. The 9-letter EARTH TONE needing to be in the center requires the puzzle to be broken up into larger corners. This means that the puzzle has a lot of 7 letter down answers, which can be broken into groups as follows:
- Fun answers that add to the puzzle: ORINOCO, PORSCHE, BABOONS
- Multi-word phrases that range from fine (ATE AWAY) to less fine (looking at you, AT A HALT)
- Words that I can’t spell and had to fix later: MINARET, INTERIM
But overall, a clean and solid Monday. I won’t go as far as saying the puzzle is UNHIP, but I do think that NSYNC might be the most modern reference in the puzzle. (Well, besides for the IPAD).
Happy Monday all!
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Look Sharp!”—Jim’s review
Theme answers are familiar phrases whose outer letters spell out a sharp implement. The revealer is CUTTING EDGE (58a, [State-of-the-art, and a clue to this puzzle’s circled letters]).
- 16a. [Song for which Beyoncé won her 28th Grammy] BLACK PARADE.
- 23a. [Weeps] SHEDS TEARS.
- 35a. [London street famed for its tailors] SAVILE ROW. I would have sword Savile had two Ls.
- 49a. [Trucker’s lubricant] AXLE GREASE.
A fine theme for a Monday though I pretty much ignored it during the solve. Good theme answers and consistent execution.
If you’ve never listened to BLACK PARADE, it’s definitely worth a listen. It was a response to George Floyd’s murder and was released on Juneteenth of 2020. It’s both a call to action and a celebration of Black history and African roots. You can definitely hear the African influences in there and can’t help but feel uplifted. (Plus, it’s the only Grammy-winning song with my last name in it: “Follow my
Peredo parade, oh!”)
Not much long fill due to the nine letter central entry. I liked seeing VERMEER and EGG CUP but had no idea who REX RYAN was.
Solid grid. Nothing flashy but it works. 3.5 stars.
Amie Walker’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
This is one of those themes that, as a constructor, you see and think, “I wish I’d noticed that!” The twin revealer answers at 62A and 63A [With 63-Across, 1970s nightclubs, or, in another sense, what 20-, 36-, and 47-Across are?] spell out DISCO BARS, and in the thematic sense that means “parts of a disco song” (think of “bars” as “musical measures”). The song in question is “Get Down Tonight” from KC & The Sunshine Band, and the entries at 20A, 36A, and 47A add up to the chorus of the song:
- 20A [Conga line?] is DO A LITTLE DANCE.
- 36A [Neck line?] is MAKE A LITTLE LOVE. (Get it? Necking?)
- 47A [Party line?] is GET DOWN TONIGHT.
So: Very cool that the lines of the chorus work out to be a symmetrical theme set like that! I would’ve liked to see this puzzle run on a Tuesday instead of a Monday, since there are some tough-for-beginners propers like TESH, LOEW, and TITUS, plus some clues like [Guitar player’s aid] for TABS that are harder than you’d expect on a Monday. But it’s still a lovely puzzle!
Brooke Husic’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
An extra-tough one for me this time. And probably for most solvers, given the assortment of names that I daresay few solvers were already familiar with. Among the entries that were new to me:
- 1a. [Direction toward the Kaaba], QIBLA. Basically, a collective term for whichever direction Mecca’s Kaaba is from where you are. I’m glad to learn the word. The clever crossing clue, 1d. [People taking fire-prevention measures?], did not speed things up for me–QUITTERS quit a job before they can be fired.
- 33a. [___ Sjöberg (songwriting pseudonym for Taylor Swift)], NILS. Well! I’m not a Swiftie and this feels like Swifties-only trivia. The tricky clue at 21d. [Baby step?], didn’t speed my discovery of NILS. The introduction of SOLID FOOD is a step in a baby’s development. Putting that together was rendered a little tougher by a second “Huh!?” crossing, 55a. [“Star Trek: Discovery” character ___ Tal], ADIRA. If you don’t subscribe to Paramount+ and you haven’t watched seasons 3-4 of this current series, good luck to ya on guessing ADIRA. The role is played by nonbinary actor Blu del Barrio, whose name is supervocalic (containing each vowel precisely once).
- 58a. [Jessie who won a Tony for playing Carole King in “Beautiful”], MUELLER crosses 47d. [“The Collected Schizophrenias” author ___ Weijun Wang], ESME. Dang. Both names entirely new to me, and I know names!
- 38a. [“One Piece” manga artist Eiichiro], ODA. A third unfamiliar-to-me-and-maybe-you name crossing SOLID FOOD.
Fave fill: INUPIAQ, YOOHOO, INNER SELF, QUEEN OF HEARTS, QUEER PLATONIC, QUEBECOIS.
I did finish the puzzle without googling anything, so I can’t declare the puzzle to be patently unfair … but I won’t pooh-pooh anyone who complains about their DNF today. 3.25 stars from me. Would have felt like a fairer challenge with a more straightforward SOLID FOOD clue, given those three names that gave me pause.
Dan Friese and Andrew J Ries’ Universal crossword, “Frame Job” — pannonica’s write-up
- 62aR [“Old” metal-clad warship … or what the first word of 17-, 24-, 37- or 52-Across has?] IRONSIDES. In the thematic two-word phrases, the first word has been bracketed by the letters FE, which constitute the chemical symbol for iron.
- 17a. [Nonmainstream genre of catchy tunes?] FRINGE POP (Ring Pop).
- 24a. [Heavenly dish that’s on fire?] FLAMBÉ OF GOD (Lamb of God).
- 37a. [Path of the past?] FOREGONE TRAIL (Oregon Trail).
- 52a. [Detergent component that prevents washout?] FADE BLOCKER (ad blocker).
It isn’t lost on me that the names of the co-constructors of this puzzle—Ries and Friese—follow this pattern as well. I have no idea whether Dan Friese is a real person, but the name is new to FiendCo’s tag list. Dan also happens to be an anagram of and, the first half of Andrew.
As for the title, “Frame Job” describes and exemplifies the bracketing action of the letters FE, but alas ram job, to my knowledge, is not a thing.
- 68a [Bottom lines?] X-AXES. Only if the graph has no negative values.
That’s all I’ve got, since the general fill is solid but unexceptional and it’s already a bit late in the day to be posting.
Brendan Emmett Quigleys’s Themeless Monday crossword — Matt G’s write-up
Tough one today, with a couple places that I got impatient with and decided to check rather than fight through, one where I guessed correctly, and one where I guessed wrong several times before calling it quits.
If you squint, there’s a center stack of sorts of SHOWER BEER, AREA CODE, OLD FLAMES, OZMA OF OZ, and SWEET WINES. The first three in particular come with clues that really tickled the right spot for me, and digging OZMA OF OZ was a fun mental excursion as well. SWEET WINES, a bit more of a gimme, but still an asset to my experience. MOUNTWEAZEL [Fictitious entry in a dictionary to prevent piracy] was lovely. I knew the concept, which I have read about also being used in road atlases, without knowing the term. I see that “Mountweazel” was one such in an encyclopedia that has grown to a blanket catch-all usage.
Trouble with the MATSU [East China Sea island] / ELSA [___ Bloodstone (monster hunter in the MCU)] crossing, but a successful guess with LAY/AGELAST, a usage in the former and a word in the latter I’ve never come across before. I also had trouble parsing CHAFFINCHES, uncertain or wrong in consecutive crosses: between EEN or EER in the poetic 25d clue, getting horse-blindered on LED instead of LCD screens, and not being sure of [Cartoonist William] HANNA (which now I feel real silly about, having Googled him). Certainly an area I could have had a little more patience in.