Monday, November 13, 2023

BEQ tk (Matthew) 


LAT 1:48 (Stella) 


NYT 2:59 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 5:42 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (tk) 


WSJ 3:59 (Jim) 


Benjamin Fink’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up

New York Times, 11 13 2023, By Benjamin Fink

Happy Monday everyone! Today’s crossword deals with times that people might, uh, slightly exaggerate the truth:

  • 17a [“I will never raise your taxes!”] – CAMPAIGN PROMISE
  • 28a [“This product changed my life! Five stars!”] – CUSTOMER REVIEW
  • 44a [The dog ate it!”] – HOMEWORK EXCUSE
  • 57a [“Isn’t that mind-blowing?!” … or a question one might ask about the answers to the italicized clues] – CAN YOU BELIEVE IT

The theme itself is fine. I liked how the answers were clued with the most extreme versions of the claims. My biggest problem with the puzzle is that the theme answers themselves are kinda boring – I’m never going to be excited to see the phrase HOMEWORK EXCUSE in a puzzle. I did really like the revealer though. It’s too bad that CAN YOU BELIEVE IT has to carry all the sparkle for the theme.

There’s some nice stuff in the fill: I liked HAIRPIECES and Jennifer ANISTON especially, and having both ROM and COM. There were also a few things that I think are a little rough for a Monday, either because they are odd phrases or uncommon knowledge: LORRE, NO TAR, WON ONE, A MAJOR.

I solved this one at my parents’ house, and asked both of their opinions – My mom said that she liked the theme but had never heard the word EXOTICA before. She also liked that TROLLS was not clued via the upcoming movie. My dad said that he tried “yeah” and “blah” before YADA for [When tripled, “you get the idea”]. But overall they agreed with me that it was a solid Monday puzzle.

Congrats to Benjamin on a great NYT debut!

Peter Silsbee’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Nuclear Core”—Jim’s review

Each theme answer is a familiar phrase that hides a three-letter member of a family spanning both words. The revealer is FAMILY TIES (57a, [Kinship, and what holds this puzzle’s theme together]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Nuclear Core” · Peter Silsbee · Mon., 11.13.23

  • 17a. [Some cars at dealerships] DEMO MODELS.
  • 25a. [July 1 observation] CANADA DAY.
  • 37a. [Minnow’s beaching site] GILLIGAN’S ISLAND.
  • 45a. [Hearty cuts of beef] RIB ROASTS.

I’m going to give the puzzle the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s not saying that these are the requisite members that comprise a family. Just as not all families have sons or daughters (or brothers or sisters), not all families have moms or dads, and some have two moms or two dads. Instead, I’m guessing the puzzle is saying, “these are some family members you might find in any given family.”

Given that, I liked the theme, especially when I got to the revealer with its wordplay. There were probably a lot of potential theme answers since we’re only talking about hidden three-letter strings, but I like the choices here. GILLIGAN’S ISLAND makes for a fun grid-spanner. I didn’t know about CANADA DAY but I find that an interesting choice, especially given that well-known brand CANADA DRY would fit right in that same space. I don’t know that siblings ever call their brothers BRO (SIS, yes; BRO, doubtful), but I like the three-letter consistency.

I never watched an episode of the sitcom FAMILY TIES, but I know it had a big following. Left-wing parents and right-wing kids? I don’t know that it would work today.

What does work today is the long fill in this grid, especially the sci-fi duo of HOME WORLD and WARP DRIVE, as well as “YES, I KNOW,” and ODYSSEUS. Could’ve done without crosswordese ONEL, and plural ARPS is odd.

Clues of note:

  • 19a. [Some relatives (not, strictly speaking, part of the puzzle’s theme)]. SONS. I didn’t notice this entry until just now (must’ve got it off the crosses). Obviously it didn’t distract me, but it feels less elegant having it in there, even with clue telling you it’s not part of the theme. I’m thinking that corner could’ve been reworked to remove this entry.
  • 45d. [Noodles made with kansui]. RAMEN. Today I learned, RAMEN has a high alkalinity which makes it feel slippery. This alkalinity is the result of the addition of kansui which is a mixture of potassium carbonate and sodium carbonate. Thanks, Wikipedia!

Nice puzzle. 3.5 stars.

Matthew Stock’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 11/13/23 by Matthew Stock

Los Angeles Times 11/13/23 by Matthew Stock

This is a really cute theme! The revealer at 50A [Success-versus-failure metaphor, and what can be found at the starts of the answers to the starred clues] is SINK OR SWIM. In addition to the revealer, the puzzle has four theme answers that alternate between starting with a synonym for SINK or with a type of SWIM stroke:

  • 15A [*Seasonal New England attraction], and a seasonally appropriate entry, is FALL LEAVES; FALL is a synonym for SINK.
  • 20A [*Show of affection made with fluttering eyelashes] is a BUTTERFLY KISS. This is a fine evocative entry that has the unfortunate association with an extremely cheesy ’90s song that fortunately did not catch on long-term as a father-daughter dance song at weddings. BUTTERFLY is also the swim stroke in which Caeleb Dressel took home 100m gold from the most recent Olympics.
  • 32A [*Big name in cloud storage] is DROPBOX. DROP is a synonym for SINK.
  • 44A [*Improvises over a beat] is FREESTYLE RAPS. I suppose it’s more correct to say that FREESTYLE is a swim event rather than a swim stroke; as I understand it, in a FREESTYLE event, you can swim whatever stroke you want. But because the front crawl is the most efficient swim stroke, FREESTYLE is also used to mean the front crawl stroke.

Some really fun surrounding fill like MOLLUSK, PUSS IN BOOTS, BECAUSE I CAN, PEPITAS, and KENTE. I like!

Jasmeet Arora’s Universal crossword, “Open Up!” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 11/13/23 • Mon • “Open Up!” • Arora • solution • 20231113

  • 17a. [*Critical decision point] DO-OR-DIE TIME.
  • 23a. [*Person prepping for the end] DOOMSAYER.
  • 35a. [*Work that is often underpaid, undervalued and performed by women] DOMESTIC LABOR. Those things are not unrelated.
  • 54a. [*Club’s main attraction, perhaps] DANCE FLOOR.
  • 59aR+ [*Space-efficient divider between rooms … or a hint to the word at the edges of the starred clues’ answers] SLIDING DOOR. This one functions as both revealer and concluding theme answer. The letters D-O-O-R incrementally shift from the front of the entries to the end.

Nicely done. Title’s weak, but the theme concept and execution are strong. I appreciate finding an alternative parsing in do-or-die.

  • 6d [Like a chai latte with espresso] DIRTY. News to me, and also—why would someone do this?
  • 36d [Like a movie about moviemaking] META. Not so uncommon, since many in the film business are enamored of themselves.
  • 44d [Cross-country romance, for example: Abbr.] LDR. Was just about to say that I had no idea what this meant, but then it hit me: long-distance romance.
  • 46d [Greek god of beauty] ADONIS. That isn’t correct. Adonis was a mortal who embodied male beauty.
  • 19a [Train track component] RAIL. Somehow I internalized that the clue specified a model train track, and so resisted RAIL.
  • 31a [Bridal lehenga color] RED.
  • 43a [Phone no.] TEL. To me, the clue seems more like it wants EXT.
  • 48a [Stuck, idiomatically] IN A BIND. Sometimes, as they say, when one door closes another opens.

(The entire composition is composed of sounds made by Bimstein’s creaky studio door.)

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 11/13/23 – Natan Last

This is among my faster Monday New Yorker solving times. I think I’m usually closer to 7 minutes on Natan’s Mondays, so I felt like I was flying through this one. Not that there weren’t things I didn’t know:

  • I’ve heard of 14a EXQUISITE CORPSE but I can’t say I really knew it was a [Collaborative drawing game invented by the Surrealists].
  • Poet Natan includes 13d BEN LERNER, [“Angle of Yaw” poet]. You can sample this book on its Amazon page and read a dozen or two poems.
  • 35d. [Juno ___ (goddess on some Roman coins)], MONETA. Related to monetary. The crossings were fair and I learned something interesting. (Not knowing MONETA, I’d have filled this spot with Norman MINETA crossing HILT/HIT IT.)

Fave fill: BAD DATE (absolutely a “thing”), CONTRANYM (word like cleave, which can mean both “split in two” and “join together”), TEACHERS’ LOUNGE (what a great clue: [Spaces used after a period?], as in a class period), TAQUITO, LIL NAS X (his full stage name doesn’t get a lot of play in crossword grids), INDIEWIRE, The TEMPTATIONS, AT SIGN.

Another clue I liked: 37d. [Kings or Queens], COUNTY. Homes to the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, respectively.

Four stars from me.

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21 Responses to Monday, November 13, 2023

  1. Me says:

    NYT: I would add SOU and NEAP to the list of answers that are harder than the usual Monday. Although there are a bunch of comments on Wordplay that this was extremely easy for some non-veteran solvers, probably because the 14- or 15-letter theme answers are so easy to get.

  2. David L says:

    TNY: Natan Last again. I was cruising through this one surprisingly quickly — a couple of cultural references from my era (i.e. old) were helpful.

    But it was a DNF anyway. I finished with an error that I couldn’t track down. Turned out to be the cross at 1A/1D.

    • pannonica says:

      I had to hunt that one up too, but I figured it out based on the down entry.

    • JohnH says:

      I figured out the T, too, although I had “taquita,” which seemed most plausible, and a blank at the end of USPN. And that was my only good quadrant. Sorry, but for me this was a typical Natan Last puzzle: ingenuity not required; you know it or you don’t. Fortunately, in time the Surrealist game and the book about the OED came to mind, since I was no closer than where I began to figuring them out, and pretty much the rest of the puzzle for me is a sea of white.

      On top of his usual overwhelming number of names, like the long and adjacent 13D, 15D, and 25D, none of which I know, I have, say, CO * YM and it’s not triggering a word at all. I gambled on LINE ITEMS, but it could have been practically anything. I just don’t know how anyone likes these puzzles. I guess it’s all what you know.

      • David L says:

        There’s always stuff I don’t know in Last’s puzzles. A certain amount of guesswork is required (LINEITEMS was something I put it to see how it would work out, after I’d changed SEGA to SNES, both of which I know only from crosswords).

        I didn’t know BENLERNER at all. INDIEWIRE was vaguely familiar, since my brain came up with it when I’d got about half the crosses. I’m surprised, though, that you didn’t know The Temptations, although the song in the clue is not one I recognized.

        • Eric says:

          Your unknowns, David, are pretty much the same ones I had.

          I also struggled with Sega in my grid, until I realized that if a word ends in YM, and it’s a word about words, the antepenultimate letter almost has to be N.

          I made fairly decent time for a Natan Last grid, but ended up with typos in TAQUITO and CONTRANYM.

          Why does anyone do these puzzles? When was the last time you saw “foreplay” in a NYT clue? LAP DANCE as an answer?

  3. steve says:

    ORCA clue of the year nom from BEQ:

    They introduce new movements :)

  4. JT says:

    NYT – I hadn’t finished yesterday’s puzzle until this morning, so I was really astonished to see AMEX, EPIC and ANISTON repeated today. I’m also getting tired of seeing ETSY every week.

    Other than that, it was an alright enough puzzle, some stuff I hadn’t heard before like NEAP and SOU but enough crossings to complete it.

  5. dh says:

    WSJ – I don’t think the benefit of the doubt is necessary here, especially given the title of the puzzle. A nuclear family is a defined thing – and refers to a core family of parents and children. While I don’t like to cite Wikipedia as a reference, that take is:

    “family group consisting of parents and their children (one or more), typically living in one home residence. It is in contrast to a single-parent family, a larger extended family, or a family with more than two parents. Nuclear families typically center on a married couple which may have any number of children.”

    There is no value judgement here that I can see. A nuclear family may be no better or worse than a single parent family, an extended family, a non-traditional family, a poly-amorous family or any other kind of family, it just refers to a particular definition.

  6. David Roll says:

    WSJ–could someone please explain “home world” for 3D? Thanks.

  7. Dallas says:

    Cute Monday; I enjoyed the theme, and all filled in very smoothly. And today marks the 365th day of my streak… I’m planning to keep up through the rest of the year, too… and maybe beyond that ;-) I also figured out how to pull down more data from the NYT website so I’ll see if I can make some plots to quantify my improvement, and perhaps determine how many decades would be necessary for me to get to a sub-4 minute Saturday time ;-)

  8. Sophomoric Old Guy says:

    To Sophia’s comment about the the NYT themes being a little boring. IMO the editors have on numerous occasions lowered their standards for new constructors, when they “want” someone to have their first puzzle. Just a topic for discussion.

    Also, tired of “Not worth a SOU”. Who even knows what a sou is anymore?

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