Kenneth Cortes’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up
Theme: BRIGHT IDEAS – the majority of the grid is shaded grey. Each of the theme answers contains the string “idea”, which is not shaded, and thus “brighter” than the rest of the puzzle.
- 18a [Not difficult at all, in slang] – STUPID EASY
- 26a [Seeing Eye dog, e.g.] – GUIDE ANIMAL
- 44a [Game in which one might shout “Ready or not, here I come!”] – HIDE AND SEEK
- 56a [Stroke of genius … or the theme of this puzzle] – BRIGHT IDEA
The core of this puzzle is a tried and true type of theme, but I’ve never actually seen the all-shaded-squares gimmick before, so that was cool. I liked all the theme answers that Kenneth chose, and that the “idea” is split between each one. Are animals besides dogs GUIDE ANIMALS? I know lots of different types of animals can be service animals, but I’ve only ever heard “guide” specifically in relation to dogs. Whatever, it doesn’t matter overall.
I would not say that this puzzle was STUPID EASY (loved that answer, btw), but it was significantly faster than average for me. I’ll chock that up to there only being 4 theme answers (including the revealer, which I was able to drop in no crosses because of the previous answers), and that the fill is clued simply – interestingly, but simply. There were almost no moments where I had to slow down and think, my first thoughts were almost always correct.
Great long fill today, like SEA ANEMONE and IN MEMORIAM (even though I spelled that one wrong at first). There are also *so many* food answers, including MOCHA, TOSTONES, EGG YOLKS, SHISH kebab, UNAGI, garam MASALA, and SALSA DIP. (side note, is that a thing people say? I would just say salsa). The only thing that might hold new solvers up is MANSE, but all the crosses are fair.
Happy Halloweekend, all! Congrats to Kenneth on a great NYT debut.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Batty”—Jim’s review
Theme answers are common items whose first words are things that vampires traditionally hate.
- 17a. [Bad trattoria food for a vampire?] GARLIC BREAD. Not sure why I went with GARLIC FRIES at first.
- 21a. [Bad street features for a vampire?] CROSSWALKS.
- 37a. [Bad time indicator for a vampire?] SUNDIAL.
- 52a. [Bad disco decoration for a vampire?] MIRROR BALL.
- 60a. [Bad business participant for a vampire?] STAKEHOLDER. I like this one best. It can be read in two different ways.
Nice Monday theme on this All Hallow’s Eve eve. Straightforward but still enjoyable, especially with the wordplay on the last one.
Fill highlights: SMALL-SCALE, ALL-STAR, DIASPORA, UNDERTIP. I feel like I haven’t seen CZAR in a long time, unlike TSAR which is much more common in crosswords. This made that starting corning trickier than expected.
Clues of note: 26a. [Hearts, for example] followed by 29a. [Diamonds, for example]. Neither is about cards but ORGANS and STONES instead.
Glenn Cook’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Here’s a fun, wish-I’d-thought-of-it theme (but if I couldn’t have thought of it, how appropriate that the constructor’s last name is Cook!). The revealer, which is placed in the center of the grid at 33A, is clued as [Chef and cookbook writer whose four elements of cooking are the first words of the answers to 16-, 23-, 48-, and 56-Across]. The answer is SAMIN NOSRAT, and the revealer’s instructions are unusually literal, probably because the revealer entry itself isn’t actually the explanation. Anyway, you take the first word of each theme answer to get SALT FAT ACID HEAT, Nosrat’s popular 2017 cookbook turned Netflix series turned cultural phenomenon:
- 16A [“Push It” hip-hop trio] is SALT-N-PEPA. Nice!
- 23A [Mardi Gras] is FAT TUESDAY.
- 48A [Inclination to use biting sarcasm] is an ACID TONGUE.
- 56A [“Feels like” figure that combines temperature and humidity] is HEAT INDEX.
I suspect this puzzle will play harder than a normal Monday for many: The grid design almost looks like a puzzle you’d see on Friday or Saturday, with lots of longer words in the corners.
Ryan Mathiason’s Universal crossword, “Continue Along” — pannonica’s write-up
- 58aR [Quickly adapt … or a hint to the first 3-5 letters + 2 other letters in each starred clue’s answer] ROLL WITH IT.
- 17a. [*True crime watcher] EYEWITNESS (eye roll).
- 22a. [*Dame and knight] HONORARY TITLES (honor roll).
- 37a. [*Percussionist’s set] DRUM KIT (drum roll).
- 49a. [*Breakfast dish made without yolks] EGG-WHITE OMELET (egg roll).
This strikes me more as a sort-of interesting curiosity rather than a fun theme. This is in part evidenced by the necessarily clunky explanation in the revealer. Of lesser import is the title, which is lackluster. Three of the four roll combinators are either a separate word or a discrete element in a compound word, but the honor of honorary is a root with a suffix—that feels weird.
- 1d [Solid served in liquids] ICE. Was flummoxed by this one until the crossings worked it out for me.
- 12d [Name that doesn’t rhyme with “Rene,” oddly] IRENE. Why oddly? Also, René typically has an accent on the e.
- 13d [Rosa who stood up for herself by staying seated] PARKS. Nice turn of phrase, and somehow reminiscent of the framing in 1-down.
- 26d [Maui figurine] TIKI. Wikipedia sez: “The word appears as tiki in New Zealand Māori, Cook Islands Māori, Tuamotuan, and Marquesan; as tiʻi in Tahitian, and as kiʻi in Hawaiian. The word has not been recorded from the languages of Western Polynesia or in the Rapa Nui language.” (emphasis mine).
- 30d [Very well-done, but not done well] BURNT. Quite.
- 14a [Winter refreshment] COCOA. ‘Refreshment’? I think of those as cold drinks. What say you all?
- 56a [“That’s all false!”] LIES. Spot-on and evocative.
You were perhaps expecting Steve Winwood?
Will Nediger’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
My solving time hits right where I hope a Monday New Yorker puzzle will: harder than the typical Saturday NYT but not a grueling slog like the Newsday Saturday Stumper.
A few new-to-me things: The ENEMIES TO LOVERS trope in romcoms etc., MOON MOONS, the term IKEA EFFECT, SYLVIA MENDEZ (1946 civil rights case, whites-only schools in California, certainly a noteworthy piece of history to know). Not entirely convinced of the idiomaticness of “I MEAN, SURE.”
Fave fill: FRONT-LOAD, IMPROV SHOW, ZIP YOUR LIP, IMGUR (I assume it’s supposed to be pronounced “imager” but who knows), TREE-HUGGER, WORDLE CLONES (my favorite is speed-running Duotrigordle, the regular, sequence, and jumble versions where there are 32 five-letter words to figure out; I sometimes manage to solve all three versions within a 10-minute period and yes, that’s a brag), and PAID LEAVE.
Four stars from me,