Benjamin Fink’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up
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]).
- 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!
Matthew Stock’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
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
- 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
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.