Alexandria Mason’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up
Theme: FINAL-IZE: Words/phrases with the “IZE” sound as their final syllable, spelled lots of different ways.
- 17a [Warmest figures in weather forecasts] – DAILY HIGHS
- 19a [Japanese warriors who rose to power in the 12th century] – SAMURAIS
- 25a [1971 hit from the Who that begins “No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man”] – BEHIND BLUE EYES
- 41a [By a very direct route, idiomatically] – AS THE CROW FLIES
- 49a [Wrap up … or a phonetic description of 17-, 19-, 25-, 41- and 54-Across] – FINALIZE
- 54a [Wearing a wig and sunglasses, say] – IN DISGUISE
Whoa, that’s a lot of theme answers! I’m not sure if there are any other spellings of the “IZE” sound, can anybody else think of one? I like all of the answers chosen today – DAILY HIGHS is a little blah, but the puzzle just gets better from there. SAMURAIS makes me think of this video, which I recommend to anyone who somehow hasn’t seen it before. I needed a *lot* of letters for BEHIND BLUE EYES, but according to my mom it was a gimme for her. It might have been more elegant for FINALIZE to be the last (final!) theme answer, but honestly I don’t mind it if this was the layout that gave better fill – again, there are 6 theme answers in this thing!!
Random thoughts on fill/clues:
- Not too much long non-theme fill today but SKI SLOPE is a standout. SLOUCHER is… fine… but I’m not sure it’s really a word anyone would say in real life.
- Lots of Disney content today – COCO, MOANA, technically LEIA as well.
- Two tricky clues (for a Monday): [Make-up artist?] for LIAR, and [Mole … or a rat, maybe] for SPY.
- I’m a *huge* Survivor fan so I loved the clue [“Survivor” immunity token] for IDOL. The show’s 45th season just started last week, if you can believe it.
- New to me: that the AKITA was designated a “natural monument” by the Japanese government.
Happy October all! And congrats to Alexandria on a great debut NYT.
Jeff Jerome & Andrea Carla Michaels’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Jumping the Queue”—Jim’s review
We have a debut today for ACMe’s co-constructor. Congrats!
Theme answers are names and phrases whose first few letters spell out a synonym of “cut.” The revealer is CUT IN FRONT OF (51a, [Annoy by jumping the queue, and a hint to the circled words]).
- 20a. [Harry Potter’s potions teacher] SEVERUS SNAPE.
- 29a. [Chinese-American dish that may not exist in China] CHOP SUEY.
- 35a. [Cliché] HACKNEYED PHRASE.
- 46a. [Mexican state or Southwestern desert] CLIP-CLOP.
The version of the puzzle I solved didn’t have circles, but the pdf on the WSJ website did.
Hopefully a fix for the online version will be out before too long. Looks like Martin manually added them to our version on the Today’s Puzzles page. Thanks, Martin!
A fairly standard synonym theme, but there are a few things that I felt were a little inelegant. First, I’m not a fan of preposition-ended phrases, unless they’re idiomatic (think “nip at” or “run at” although “get at” is okay). Sometimes, you can’t avoid them, but having one as the theme revealer is awkward, especially when the phrase works better without the preposition. CUT IN FRONT (sans OF) perfectly describes the theme, and (bonus!) it’s much easier to work with a 10-letter revealer than one that’s 12 letters long.
The second thing I noticed is that some “cut” words are parts of other words (SEVERUS, HACKNEYED) and some are their own words (CHOP, CLIP). Yes, it’s balanced, two and two, but it would have been nicer if they were all one or the other. CHOPPERS (helicopters) and CLIPPERS (basketball team) might’ve worked. (I admit those aren’t ideal and maybe there isn’t a better alternative.)
Lastly, HACKNEYED PHRASE just isn’t an in-the-language phrase while all the rest are. HACKENSACK would’ve been great, but it’s 10 letters. Actually, if you remove the OF from the revealer, then you could pair it with HACKENSACK (and put 7-letter SEVERUS in the middle). Basically, I guess I’m saying the theme set could use some re-working. (Ooh, I wonder if SLITHY TOVES could’ve been worked in.)
With five theme answers and all of them pushed into the center (due to the 12-letter revealer), there’s not a lot of sparkly long fill and there is some iffy crosswordese (lookin’ at partial A LOOP as well as TYRO and HICS). But I do like THE MASK, AIR FRY, and the lively “PIP PIP!” SONORA is nice as well and I even like a whiney “IT IS SO!”
Clues fell squarely on the straightforward side which accounts for my zippy (for me) solve time.
Katherine Baicker & Laura Dershewitz’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
As the weather gets colder, here’s a puzzle about one way to stay warm. The revealer at 54A [Jack London short story set in harsh winter conditions, and what the ends of 20-, 28-, and 47-Across can be used for] is TO BUILD A FIRE. The last words in each theme phrase are things needed to start a fire:
- 20A [Talks things out to relieve tension] is CLEARS THE AIR. Oxygen in AIR is needed for combustion.
- 28A [Slumbers soundly] is SLEEPS LIKE A LOG. The LOG is fuel.
- 47A [Applies more pressure] is TURNS UP THE HEAT. I guess so? I would’ve liked a SPARK or FLINT themer here rather than a HEAT one.
This wasn’t my favorite theme. Googling “to build a fire” and “Jack London” together yields 350K hits, which I would interpret as this story not being particularly well known. The theme therefore feels a bit contrived to me — like the constructors needed a revealer and finally found this one rather than having the theme grow out of an in-the-language phrase or a title that’s common knowledge.
Dylan Schiff’s Universal crossword, “Something’s Up” — pannonica’s write-up
I didn’t fully appreciate the theme until reaching the revealer.
- 57aR [“I’m all ears!”… or a tip for entering 17-, 26- or 43-Across] LAY IT ON ME. I’d seen the elevated IT part, but not that that bigram was always perched upon the letters M-E.
- 17a. [Colorful and healthy dessert] FRUIT⁄MEDLEY.
- 26a. [Conscious and intentional recall of information] EXPLICIT⁄MEMORY. Not a term I’ve encountered before.
- 43a. [Gatherings for heads of state] SUMIT⁄MEETINGS.
Consistency in that the IT–ME pairings occur across the space in the two-word phrases.
- 10d [Manhattan neighborhood that had a renaissance] HARLEM. 41a [1926 work by Langston Hughes] I, TOO.
- 24d [Kitchenware brand] OXO. Factettes: The name was chosen because it’s an ambigram; further, not only can the logotype be read rotated 180° but also when it’s rotated 90° or 270°. The founder of the company, Samuel Farber, was the nephew of Simon Farber, who founded Farberware.
- 15a [Promising answer?] I DO. Relatively fresh take on common crossword fill.
- 22a [Ones place?] WALLET. Definitely needed some crossings. 60a [Change for a ten] FIVES.
- 50a [Pandemonium] BEDLAM. Origin: “Bedlam, popular name for the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem, London, an asylum for the mentally ill, from Middle English Bedlem Bethlehem” (m-w.com)
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
The puzzle didn’t take me as long as many Natan Mondays do, and yet it did feel tough. Both of the 15s were new to me:
- 17a. [Fred Moten and Stefano Harney book subtitled “Fugitive Planning & Black Study”], THE UNDERCOMMONS. It’s a 2013 book of essays whose description perplexes me (for starters, “undercommons”?). You can read the open-access book here.
- 56a. [“Splay Anthem” poet], NATHANIEL MACKEY. This 2006 poetry book is, we’re told, “part antiphonal rant, part rhythmic whisper.” Brief bio and links to a few of his poems here.
- Not a 15, but another name that suggests I’m a philistine for not recognizing: [Pulitzer-winning architecture critic Saffron], INGA.
Fave fill: WISPY and PERKY, HOTEL CASINO, EGGCORN, “I’M NOT A ROBOT,” TODDLE, “SPEED IT UP,” PLUS-ONES, CELTIC SEA, ON THE DL. New to me, but gettable: MOMBIE, half mom, half zombie. Or five-sixths zombie?
3.5 stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — Matt’s write-up
Very Tim Croce-esque grid from BEQ today, in the corner stacks, the long conversational phrase in the middle, and oblique but fair cluing that’s a touch more difficult than Brendan’s usual upper limit. I loved it.
URANIUM ORE and CIVIL COURT [It’s not criminal] were early highlights for me — I particularly appreciate the lack of a ? on the clue, which would have otherwise telegraphed the answer IMO. I also found a lot of refreshing variety and color in the lower half of the grid, and struggled to finish off in the upper right, even though we just saw APERCU in some puzzle over the weekend. I don’t buy “STOLE ON” ([Gained an advantage, as a base runner]) very much at all, and less so for the clue, as I suppose you can “steal on” a pitcher, but the verb requires an object, no?
I was going to also highlight [Battle of the network stars?] for ESPORTS as a little fuzzy, but now I realize the network in question is a LAN network, or whatever. Complete 180, very excellent clue.
Very quick hitting note: RAVIOLIS, yea or nay? It’s not *not* used, I suppose. Jamaal WILKES; stellar career, still a deep cut for me. GMT’s [Zero-deg. setting] clue is a longitude thing. CLAUDIA Kincaid is a throwback to kid-lit “From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” that I’d very much forgotten.