Monday, January 8, 2024

BEQ tk (Matthew) 


LAT 1:57 (Stella) 


NYT 3:30ish (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 4:48 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (tk) 


WSJ 4:22 (Jim) 


Nate Cardin’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up

Happy Monday all! Excited to share my thoughts on this week’s Monday, written by Team Fiend’s own Nate Cardin.

New York Times, 01 08 2024, By Nate Cardin

Today’s theme is all about the rodeo: each of the 5 (!!!) theme answers ends with a rodeo-related word, and there’s a revealer to boot (cowboy boot? ;) ). They are: SAN ANTONIO SPURS, PORK BARREL, RED BULLS, TED LASSO, CLASS CLOWN. The puzzle’s revealer is NOT MY FIRST RODEO, which is especially apt given that the rodeo words are the second part of each answer. PORK BARREL was new to me, I’m unfamiliar with that metaphor. Very familiar, on the other hand was TED LASSO – I put it in one of my own NYT puzzles, and it feels like it’s been popping up a lot given that “Ted” and “Lasso” on their own both include some common letters.

I’m very impressed with how clean the puzzle’s fill is, given that there are 6 thematic answers and two of them span the whole grid! Nate’s choice to put the line of black squares diagonally through the puzzle is smart – it makes the puzzle a bit more segmented, but it allows all of the answers to be well spaced out and minimized constraints that could have resulted in worse fill. This puzzle took only a little longer than average for me even though I solved it on my phone rather than a computer, so I’m curious if other folks also found it to be pretty easy.

Some favorite extra answers for me included POUTINE, SHOW DOG, and WHAT NOW. I also now know that “RESPECT” was ranked by Rolling Stone as the #1 song of all time – good for you, Aretha!

Baris Ragip Mutlu’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Backrooms”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar(ish) phrases whose final words can also be synonyms of “apartment.”

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Backrooms” · Baris Ragip Mutlu · Mon., 1.8.24

  • 17a. [Apartment for a dancer?] BALLET FLAT. Not a phrase I know. Ah, these aren’t ballet slippers, these are women’s shoes that resemble ballet slippers.
  • 24a. [Apartment for an astronaut?] LAUNCHING PAD.
  • 39a. [Apartment for a cartoonist?] ANIMATION STUDIO.
  • 51a. [Apartment for an economist?] MONETARY UNIT.
  • 63a. [Apartment for a musician?] CELLO SUITE.

Solid synonym theme. I balked at the first one, but that one’s on me since I simply had never heard the phrase. The rest work as expected.

In the fill I like the opposite entries CHARGED UP and RUN LOW as well as ACUMEN. Some tough-for-Monday entries include Jacques TATI and maybe OCALA.

Clue of note: 27d. [Shrinking Asian body of water]. ARAL. Doesn’t sound right without “sea,” but ASEA is nearby in the grid.

3.5 stars.

Paul Coulter’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

I would call this puzzle an old-school Monday, in that it has no revealer. Solving the puzzle itself is nice and easy, but a new solver might not catch the theme since there is no title or revealer. I’m all in favor of old-school some of the time, as having to come up with a revealer or title that both doesn’t sound contrived and, if a revealer, can be accommodated in the grid, means that lots of great themes become unworkable.

Los Angeles Times 1/8/24 by Paul Coulter

Los Angeles Times 1/8/24 by Paul Coulter

Anyway! In this theme, if you take the first words of the puzzle’s four longest Across answers, at 16A, 26A, 47A, and 62A, you get a progression: LINE, CHAPTER, PAGE, BOOK.

  • 16A [Activity at a country western bar] is LINE DANCING.
  • 26A [Error message that results from clicking a broken link] is PAGE NOT FOUND.
  • 47A [Fraternity building] is CHAPTER HOUSE.
  • 62A [“Hawaii Five-O” catchphrase] is BOOK ‘EM, DANNO.

The fill is fine; I didn’t find the long Downs STOOD UP TO or SET AT ODDS particularly interesting, but then there was Alex TREBEK and some ice cream goodness with OREO CONE and SUNDAE.

Larry Snyder and John Kugelman’s Universal crossword, “Technical Knowledge” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 1/8/24 • Mon “Technical Knowledge” • Snyder, Kugelman • solution • 20240108

The wordplay of the theme is self-evident:

  • 53aR [Artificial intelligence branch … or what 17-, 26- and 41-Across impart?] MACHINE LEARNING.
  • 17a. [Carpentry teacher, at times?] DRILL INSTRUCTOR.
  • 26a. [Sales rep who visits metal shops?] PRESS AGENTS. That’s a drill press, but the theme isn’t limited to boring devices …
  • 41a. [Engine work mentor?] MOTOR COACH, which in my experience is a hifalutin way of describing a bus.

Theme works.

  • 19d [Knocks, as a raven might] RAPS. Poetic, and/or Poesque.
  • 28d [When they roll, it’s time to leave] END CREDITS. I’m a stay-to-the-end-of-the-credits moviegoer.
  • 39d [Talladega warmup circuit] PACE LAP. Was thinking that it would be a different racetrack.
  • 24a [Hold back, as the tide] STEM.
  • 47a [Cork beverage?] IRISH ALE. Nice.
  • 58a [Jazz singer James] ETTA. She dabbled in jazz latterly, but was principally an R&B figure.

Solid puzzle, unchallenging as befits an early-week offering (but I still don’t know if Universals are of increasing difficulty).

Liz Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 1/8/24 – Gorski

Quite a bit easier than I was expecting on a Monday.


Among the toughest clues:

  • 52a. [He published hundreds of thousands of words about Moses], Robert CARO. That’s New Yorker Robert Moses, and that 1974 biography is far less famous than Caro’s 4-volume, 30-year series of LBJ biographies. Meh.
  • 14a. [Nescient], UNAWARE. We all know omniscient, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen this negation of knowing.

3.5 stars from me.

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15 Responses to Monday, January 8, 2024

  1. huda says:

    NYT: One of my fastest Mondays, and a lot of fun!!! LOVE the revealer.

    • DougC says:

      Also an uncommonly smooth, clean grid. And a very Monday-appropriate theme.

      But the easiest cluing in ages, which makes me wonder how much they were edited by the NYTXW crew. This would’ve been a personal best time for me, except that I lost precious seconds searching for and correcting a typo.

  2. GlennP says:

    The WSJ puzzle is getting a 404 error today.

  3. Hazmat says:

    New Yorker: 1A clue soooo good!

    • Eric H. says:

      If it was intended to misdirect us, it didn’t work, at least for me — I saw right away that the “Chrysler” in question was an actual vehicle. I needed a few crosses to get REPO MAN, though.

      The Chrysler Building is a tower, but it’s always called the Chrysler Building.

  4. JT says:

    NYT – fun puzzle and theme, my only knock is having the suddenly-common PSST right next to another common APP, I could use less of each of them in general.

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni … re “I still don’t know if Universals are of increasing difficulty” … FWIW, I’ve recorded solve time for the Universal daily puzzle since 1/1/2019 (around the time that David Steinberg took over as editor there) and overall, my average solve time has not varied much at all by day of week. But since about mid-2022, my Saturday and Sunday solve times have averaged about 10-15% higher than Monday through Friday. I have no idea if that’s intentional on David’s part or not.

  6. Gary R says:

    TNY: Enjoyed the solve, but it felt “Tuesday-ish” to me (will we get slammed tomorrow?). It seemed like there was a little less pop culture than usual on Monday, and what there was, I could generally infer from a few crosses (except CARO, which required all the crosses).

    I thought there was some entertaining wordplay. The puzzle might have played more like a typical Monday if the question marks were eliminated from the clues.

    • JohnH says:

      Actually, it played like a proper Monday to me, with interesting challenges and, sure, some proper names but not the usual pointless onslaught.

      I caught onto the clue at 1A right away, but failed to come up with the answer till the very end. I could see that AAA wasn’t going to fit, but what would? Rather nice.

  7. Mhoonchild says:

    TNY: The clue for Caro was a gimme for me, as I’ve been working on the Robert Moses book for a while now (I can’t read a 1000+ page book in the three weeks I can check it out from the library, and there’s a waiting list, so I can’t renew it. So I return the book and add myself to the end of the waiting list again.) I thought the “Chrysler tower” clue was cute, but baffling without all the crosses.

    • Eric H. says:

      I forget how long it took me to read “The Power Broker.” It’s a fascinating book — the part about the building of the Cross-Bronx Expressway made me think of I-35 through Austin, which is about a quarter mile from my house — but I found it slow going at times.

      Amy’s comment that “The Power Broker” is less famous than Caro’s LBJ biography May no longer be true. I remember reading a NYT article a few years ago about how every political/policy expert TV shows had on was interviewed at home because of COVID — and how a copy of “The Power Broker” was always in the background, to give the expert gravitas.

  8. Eric H. says:

    New Yorker: Nice puzzle, if not as challenging as many of their Monday puzzles. I’m lucky, though, that my original answer to 35A — roller coasters — didn’t fit, because having a wrong answer that long and in the middle of the grid would have really slowed me down.

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