Monday, January 22, 2024

BEQ 8:56 (Erin) 


LAT 2:11 (Stella) 


NYT 2:59 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 8:41 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (tk) 


WSJ 3:36 (Jim) 


Jake Halperin’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up

New York Times, 01 22 2024, By Jake Halperin

Theme: BIRDS AND BEES – each theme answer is a type of bird followed by a word beginning with B.

  • 20a [*British publishing house founded in 1935] – PENGUIN BOOKS
  • 39a [*Certain ice cream or soap product] – DOVE BAR
  • 11d [*Bodily response to something eerie] – GOOSEBUMPS
  • 29d [*Thanksgiving football game] – TURKEY BOWL
  • 56a [Subject of “the talk” about sex … or a hint to the answers to the four starred clues] – BIRDS AND BEES

Great theme! I liked the interpretation of both “birds” and “b’s” here. All four of the theme answers are fun phrases. I hadn’t heard of TURKEY BOWL specifically but it was easy enough to figure out given the prevalence of “bowl” names in football. Plus, the intersection of the theme answers is cool, and looks nice when highlighted in the NYT app.

The fill in general is pretty strong. PHENOMS, MEMENTO, and STYMIE are fun words. I have mixed feelings on the SW corner – I like seeing ADMIT IT and BLM, but the BIOTA/LOWIQ/MULTI stack feels a little rough/negative. I could also see the TEMPEH/HESSE stack being tricky for newer folks, but all the crosses are fair. I personally prefer the “noob” spelling to NEWB when used in a gamer context, but everything else looks good to me.

I did not know that the IPOD had been fully discontinued! Understandable, but kinda sad. How else am I supposed to listen to my OLDIES????

Happy Monday all!

Parikshit S. Bhat’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Withdrawal”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose first words can precede the word “track” to make other phrases. The revealer is BACKTRACK (66a, [Reverse a position, and a hint to what can follow the first words of the starred answers]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Withdrawal” · Parikshit S. Bhat · Mon., 1.22.24

  • 17a. [*Breadsticks at Pizza Hut, say] SIDE ORDER. Sidetrack.
  • 24a. [*Guffaw, perhaps] LAUGH OUT LOUD. Laugh track.
  • 41a. [*Situation in which every second counts] RACE AGAINST TIME. Racetrack.
  • 52a. [*Snapping a whip breaks it] SOUND BARRIER. Soundtrack.

Often when we see “back” in a revealer, something is going backwards in the the theme answers. But that’s not the case here. I guess we’re meant to interpret thusly: Each of the starting words in the the theme answers has “track” as its “back” (or subsequent) word. A little awkward, but I suppose it works. All the “track” phrases are solid as are the theme answers themselves.

WAITLISTS and SERENGETI are nice anchor points in the fill. OSIER stands out as an old bit of crosswordese that might give newer solvers a test, though the crosses are fair. I’m never a fan of ARTOO which exists in that form only in crosswords. Otherwise, the fill is quite smooth.

Clue of note: 10d. [College hopefuls may put their names on them]. WAITLISTS. From my daughter’s experience and from what I’ve read, it seems difficult to get off a waitlist once you’re on it. I’d be interested if anyone has stories to the contrary.

Solid puzzle all around. 3.25 stars.

Billy Ouska’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 1/22/2024 by Billy Ouska

Los Angeles Times 1/22/2024 by Billy Ouska

The revealer at 57A [Inauspicious beginning, or a feature of 17-, 24-, and 47-Across] is ROUGH START, in that each of the theme entries starts with a synonym for “rough”:

  • 17A [Artistic gymnastics event] is UNEVEN BARS.
  • 24A [Campy musical comedy starring Tim Curry, to fans] is ROCKY HORROR.
  • 47A [Cocktails with peach schnapps and orange juice] is FUZZY NAVELS. Please excuse me while I try to bleach my brain of how many of those I had in college.

This theme feels a little, dare I say it, rough? ROUGH has many definitions, and I found myself wishing that all three theme words were synonyms for the same definition of ROUGH. For example, you could say that UNEVEN and ROCKY are both synonymous for ROUGH in its “having a broken, uneven, or bumpy surface” definition, but I would argue that FUZZY in that case doesn’t feel quite right. You could say that UNEVEN and FUZZY could be like ROUGH in its “crude, unfinished” definition, but then ROCKY feels out of place.

I thought the fill was nice and evocative, with SONOGRAMZIP IT, and EXEMPTION (because it makes me think of Wie Is de Mol?) as some of my favorites.

Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Contraction Action” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 1/22/24 • Mon • “Contraction Action” • Coulter • solution • 20240122

The original versions of these phrases don’t have apostrophes, but in order for the hijinks here to work, we’re to read them as starting with contractions formed from personal pronouns plus the verb will.

  • 16a. [That woman will play esports?] SHE’LL GAME (shell game).
  • 27a. [You and I will enjoy some literature?] WE’LL READ (well-read).
  • 44a. [Yours truly will indulge?] I’LL HUMOR (ill humor).
  • 59a. [That guy will pester relentlessly?] HE’LL HOUND (hellhound).

10d [“No more takers?”] ANYONE ELSE?

There’s an argument to made that all of these clues duplicate the word will with elided versions in the answers, but it kind of flies under the radar. 15a [Underwater navigational aid] SONAR.

  • 13a [Capital of Norway] OSLO. 31a [Dramatist Ibsen] HENRIK.
  • 40a [Certain theater, for short] REPertory. Li’l bit tricky.
  • 4d [Turnpike barrier] TOLL BAR. Seems like a compromise for the grid.
  • 12d [Aphrodite’s son] EROS. In many but not all versions of Greek myths.
  • 55a [That certain something] AURA. As the late Prof. Peter Schickele was wont to say, “It don’t mean a thing if it doesn’t have that certain je nais se quoi.”

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

New Yorker crossword solution, 1/22/24 – Natan Last

Harder than usual for me, and I learned some things. The YELLOW SEA is [… so named for the silt-ridden discharges from nearby rivers]. There’s a ballplayer named ONEIL Cruz and a Go player named LEE Chang-ho. Baseball has a SMALL BALL [Strategy favoring steals and walks]. I’ve heard of the band NEON TREES, had no idea In-N-Out Burger signs had neon trees. [Like the poets Rainis and Aspazija] clues LATVIAN; Natan knows his poets. [Gen Z-ers with heart-shaped under-eye stamps, perhaps] are E-GIRLS? Here’s the Wiki. My Gen-Z offspring never taught me this one. YAEL [___ Braudo-Bahat, co-director of the Israeli organization Women Wage Peace] is probably timely, but I don’t know of the group.

Fave fill: SPANGLISH, MOUTHFEEL, HAVE IT ALL, “HELL NO,” “ALWAYS ON TIME” (thank you, WGCI, for overplaying this 22-year-old song), CHAPEL HILL (anyone else plug in the other Carolina’s CHARLESTON at first?), and EYEROLL.

Fave clues:

  • 30a. [Like many people displaced by Mormon settlers], UTE. We seldom get this sort of history, not in school and not in crosswords.
  • 31a. [Something picked up while putting food away?], MOUTHFEEL. Putting it away in your tummy, not storing leftovers in the fridge.
  • 33d. [Means of reaching for the stars?], FAN MAIL. Brilliant!

Four stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday Crossword – Erin’s writeup

BEQ solution, 1/22/24

BEQ solution, 1/22/24

Hello lovelies! It’s Erin Milligan-Milburn filling in for Matt today with a brief recap of Brendan’s latest themeless. There’s a ton of good stuff here; all the long entries are great. My favorite clues:

  • 25d. [Literature with a lot of holes in the plot?] EROTICA. One one hand, ew, but on the other hand, that’s pretty darn clever.
  • 51d. [Aerie measurement] CCUP. The aerie here is not a bird’s home, but the American Eagle activewear, underwear, and swim store.
  • 15d. [They have punchable faces] for EMOJI KEYBOARDS. What an amazing clue!
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20 Responses to Monday, January 22, 2024

  1. David L says:

    NYT: Clever theme and a good puzzle overall. I balked at WORKMAN (I put in MASSEUR initially) but nothing else caused a frown.

    TNY: Another Natan Last special. I managed to finish it; as always, it was a matter of getting some toeholds then guessing a slew of plausible-sounding names and titles and expressions and hoping they worked. The SE corner was the last to fall.

    I can’t say I get much enjoyment out of Last’s puzzles. Few of the names I didn’t know are likely to stick, and the chances of coming across them again are minimal.

  2. Henry T says:

    TNY: Way too many naticks for my taste.

  3. Dallas says:

    Fun Monday today! Loved having theme answers across and down.

  4. Gary R says:

    TNY: I liked this one – much more accessible (for me, at least) than most NL Mondays, but still a good challenge. There were certainly some names and some cultural entries that were new to me, but crosses were mostly fair and/or entries inferable. I thought there was also some good word play (14-A, 20-A, 31-A, 32-A, 52-A, 4-D, 23-D, 33-D).

    I thought all the 9-letter acrosses were good, except for NEON TREES – have not heard of the band, and I’ve never been in an In-N-Out Burger (don’t think they exist in the Midwest), so I was at a loss until most of the crosses were in. Also liked clues for WAVE and BB GUN.

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT: Re TENDON clued as “Hamstring, for one”: It’s been a while since I took an anatomy class, but I think that hamstrings are groups of three muscles in the back of each leg, not tendons. The tendons that attach these muscles to bone are often pulled or torn, as are the muscles themselves occasionally. I think I’ve got this right, don’t I? Or are those tendons also referred to as hamstrings?

    Re BRED clued as “Raised, as horses”: I’m certainly no horse expert, but I think of horse-breeding and horse-raising as different things. I don’t doubt that horse breeders often also raise horses, but aren’t there also stud farms where horses just go to breed? Do people who raise horses necessarily breed them?

    • PJ says:

      I would have agreed with you on hamstring. After reading your post I did a little search and apparently hamstring tendon is a thing.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Thanks for chiming in, PJ. I also did some research before posting (as I almost always do), but I didn’t come away convinced that the clue is correct. It seems to me that the only reason those tendons might be referred to as “hamstring tendons” is because they happen to be attached to the hamstring muscles. I also would have balked at a clue like “Biceps, for one” (or “Triceps, for one” or “Quadriceps, for one”) with that answer, even though those muscles also have tendons that attach them to other skeletal parts.

    • Gary R says:

      Re: BRED – I grew up in farm country, and it’s common to hear someone say “I breed cattle” or “I breed horses” and it means they raise them.

      Maybe you’ve heard someone say “He was born and bred in San Francisco.” Clearly means raised there. (Well, it could mean something else, but I’m sticking with “raised.”)

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Good point, Gary. This wouldn’t be the first or last time that I’ve overthought a crossword clue

  6. Barbara Hampsey Calhoun says:

    In TNY, can anyone explain how “ese” is “Dude” relative in Spanish?

  7. DougC says:

    NYT: ” the intersection of the theme answers… looks nice when highlighted in the NYT app.” So the themers all lit up when you finished? That didn’t happen for me on the website. Oh, wait, if I click on the revealer, it does. Cool!

    A more-interesting-than-usual Monday, I thought, and a pleasantly gunk-free grid. Nice work, Mr. Halperin!

  8. Karen says:

    Thank you, Erin, nice to see BEQ’s puzzle written up for a change!

  9. Eric H. says:

    New Yorker: Oof. Might’ve been a Stumper, based on the time it took me. The center was particularly brutal, with SELF-RELIANCE crossing the vaguely familiar NEON TREES crossing the vaguely familiar PANTENE (I don’t give a fig about hair products and don’t really remember the ad campaign).

    On the other hand, unknowns like SMALL BALL were inferable given enough letters, and though I was sorely tempted to look *something* up, I managed to figure it all out on my own.

  10. Cameron Castle says:

    New Yorker Monday. I usually really like Natan Last’s puzzles. This has way too many proper nouns for it to be enjoyable. I like to be able to figure clues out. But if one doesn’t know Ja Rule’s big hit of 22 years ago, no amount of noodlin’ is going to get it. I am not up on Master Go players. Emerson’s essay sounds fabulous, but once again-never read it. I must have been busy in 1841. Now if the crosses would help fill it in and then I look it up, I will learn something. But if the crosses are for example “Mouthfeel” I ain’t getting there. Because NO ONE has ever said, “I worked all day on that casserole, how is your mouthfeel?” I fear I would be punched in my mouth. “In-N-Out burger? Wow, Let’s name our band . . . Neon Trees!” Why not Hide the Salami? I might be letting on to some idiocy, but how in the F*&^ are border lines Spanglish? What borders? Spain and England? I even saw the movie and this clue makes me want to set the paper on fire. Natan, you can make really hard puzzle that makes one think. I love those. Try again.

    • Eric H. says:

      I’ve heard MOUTHFEEL in the context of wine tasting. But it took me a long time to get that answer.

      I suspect SPANGLISH refers to lines along the US—Mexico border. But you probably knew that.

      • Cameron Castle says:

        That you got mouthfeel at all is impressive. I was going to continue my thoughts on spanglish, but am opting for a shot of tequila instead.

    • Here says:

      I agree with you that some of Lust’s clues may be too complex or confusing. For example, the “Mouthfeel” prompt is really not very good. This is too general and doesn’t give any specific clues.

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