Zachary David Levy’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up
Theme: TECH START-UP – each theme answer begins with the name of a tech company.
- 17a [Vast South American watershed] – AMAZON BASIN
- 26a [Hand bone] – METACARPAL
- 37a [Kitchen gadget] – APPLE PEELER
- 52a [Nietzsche’s superior man of the future] – UBERMENSCH
- 61a [Many a new venture in Silicon Valley … or a hint to 17-, 26-, 37- and 52-Across] – TECH START UP
Very apt for me to be the member of Team Fiend doing today’s write-up, since I work at a big tech company (that was left out of this puzzle, but I’ll try to not hold a grudge). This is a solid theme, with a simple play on words that should be easy enough for newer audiences to understand. UBERMENSCH is my favorite answer, not only because it’s fun but because Uber was the most recent start-up of the bunch. AMAZON BASIN took me a while – I had AMAZONxxxxx and eventually put in “river”.
Other random thoughts:
- Five theme answers puts a bit of strain on the puzzle, but there’s still lots of good fill! MEZCAL, NUDISM, and HANGOUT were standouts.
- There were, however, a few pieces of fill I thought negatively impacted the puzzle for a Monday audience. ELAN, ANNUM, and especially ILIAC could be tough for people.
- Besides “Amazon river”, my biggest hold up was putting in “puma” instead of LYNX for [Bobcat, by another name].
- How do folks feel about crosswords referencing crosswords within the clues? Here, we have [Doing a crossword every morning, for many] as the clue for RITUAL. It’s fun to be a little meta (haha, given the theme), but it can also feel a little self-congratulatory to me.
Congrats to fellow Fiend blogger ZDL on a great puzzle!
Zachary David Levy’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Headliners”—Jim’s review
Theme answers are idiomatic phrases whose first words are also parts of the face. The revealer is ABOUT FACE (64a, [Complete 180, or a terse description of this puzzle’s theme]).
- 17a. [Pitch that’s high and inside, in baseball parlance] CHIN MUSIC.
- 25a. [Words not backed by actions] LIP SERVICE.
- 39a. [Annoyingly memorable song] EARWORM.
- 41a. [Architectural monstrosity] EYESORE.
- 50a. [Official spokesperson] MOUTH PIECE.
Nice theme! Each phrase is solidly “in the language” yet not directly about any part of the face. The only thing missing is the nose. I wonder if “nosegay” got left on the cutting room floor.
Not a lot of room for long fun fill, but I do like the entries THUSLY, GO BIG, and OPEN BAR.
Only PINER [Heartsick person] made me wince a little bit. But on the plus side, it sent me down a wacky rabbit hole. I was wondering if that might be the name of the actor who portrayed the sergeant on CHiPs (you know, Jon and Ponch’s boss). But no, that was Robert Pine. Then I thought PINER is one letter away from Spiner, as in Brent Spiner who played Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Then I discovered that Michael Dorn’s (Lt. Worf on ST:TNG) first big acting gig was on, of all things, CHiPs! And then I discovered that Robert Pine is Chris Pine’s dad, the same Chris Pine who plays Capt. Kirk in the Star Trek reboot. Some weird and wild coincidences there. Sorry. Never mind.
Clue of note: 28a. [Trample, for example]. RHYME. I think I LOLed at this one.
Amanda Cook & Katie Hale’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Here’s a rarity: a Monday in which I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on with the theme here, but I’m not 100% sure:
- 17A [Potential March Madness bracket buster] is a SIXTEEN SEED.
- 25A [Hair coloring technique with an ombre effect] is SHADOW ROOT.
- 37A [Mind-body connector] is BRAIN STEM.
- 51A [Electrifying industrial facility] is a POWER PLANT.
- 60A [“Black Hole Sun” garage band] is SOUNDGARDEN.
No revealer to help us out, and it’s pretty clear that the second half of each theme word or phrase is gardening-related: SEED, ROOT, STEM, PLANT, GARDEN. The question is, are they in this order because the idea is that a SEED comes first, then a ROOT, then a STEM, then a PLANT, and finally a GARDEN? I think so, but if that’s true STEM feels a little out of place to me, since when it emerges you’d also say you have a whole PLANT.
I do like the theme entries taken individually: Very evocative, and SHADOW ROOT feels especially fresh. CORN DOG, BOX STEP, VINYL all felt fun within the fill.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
Today’s educational “did not know”: 57a. [Prolific director dubbed “the Black Pioneer of American film,” by J. Hoberman], OSCAR MICHEAUX. Micheaux’s life story is fascinating and I encourage you to read about him. Some say he was the first indie movie producer.
New to me: 12a. [What a preference for labels without labels might demonstrate], STEALTH WEALTH. “Labels without labels” is weird. Rich folks who want high-end brands but without visible labels to tell others that they’re using high-end brands?
Fave fill: SERVICE ECONOMY, SPIRAL NOTEBOOK (who among us doesn’t fondly recall back-to-school shopping for school supplies and having a stack of new folders and notebooks?), THIRST TRAP, STEWING, ARETHA, PANDA BEARS, UNORTHODOX.
Could’ve done without all the rough fill. Having ELLAS and YAPS AT in the top row sets the tone for B NEG; GRADE ONE (first grade!); partials TRY AS, O SAY; abbrevs SYSTS (LOL at a 5-letter plural abbreviation for a 7-letter plural), PST; foreign MER, ORO, ICI, ETRE; clunky I DIG, STIPES, ONS (who pluralizes adjectives this way outside of crosswords?), AEONS, SLO, NENE. Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of [Swedish poet ___ Axel Karlfeldt (posthumous recipient of the 1931 Nobel Prize in Literature)], ERIK.
2.75 stars from me.
Jake Halperin’s Universal crossword, “Activewear” — pannonica’s précis
Late today in getting to this, so just a brief description. Clues are articles of clothing—moving from top to bottom—that are interpreted as verbs.
- 17a. [*Cap] SET A LIMIT ON.
- 25a. [*Top] OUTSHINE.
- 37a. [*Slacks] LOUNGES.
- 49a. [*Socks] CLOBBERS.
- 56a. [*Boots] EIGHTY-SIXES.
Nice theme, liked it.
Cluing was on the vibrant side.
- 19a [Buttered __ paradox] CAT.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — Matthew’s write-up
A consistent grid with well-tuned difficulty throughout. Perhaps a bit tougher in the early going, with less familiar clues to common entries in ARAMIS, TIL, and ARUBA, not helped by me not remembering the male counterpart to the Lady of the Lake in Spamalot’s “The Song That Goes Like This.”
A few favorite clues: DOORNAIL from [Lifelessness comparison], [Car collectors?] for OIL PANS, [Self discipline?] for EGOTISM — play with the stress pattern on the clue if you can’t get it to click. Entry wise, THIRST TRAPS, SMASH BURGER, EWASTE, BONHOMIE and TELOMERE all felt fun. John MAHONEY as well — I’ve just started a rewatch of Frasier. A pretty solid and classic BEQ grid all told.
Might be missing something, but seemingly an editing error at 32a [Speak superfluously] for SMATTERS, unfortunately brought more to my attention as the crossing 13d [Blind] doesn’t quite work for EYELESS for me. I’m also not sure if RIZZ has jumped to a verb (a recent-ish development from “charisma,” RIZZ refers to someone’s skill in chatting up romantic partners — “game” might be a well-known synonym here), but I could be just behind the times there.