Monday, February 5, 2024

BEQ 6:56 (Matthew) 


LAT 1:52 (Stella) 


NYT 3:23 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 6:46 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (tk) 


WSJ 4:38 (Jim) 


Desirée Penner and Jeff Sinnock’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up

New York Times, 02 05 2024, Desirée Penner and Jeff Sinnock

Hi folks! Coming to you post-Boswords Winter Wondersolve, which was a great time as always. Today’s puzzle has big comic book energy: each theme answer contains a circled word that can be used in comic book fight scenes. Plus, if you solve in the NYT web app like I do, you get a cool visual once the puzzle is complete.

  • 18a [Underwater divers’ aids] – SCUBA MASKS
  • 23a [“When the moon hits your eye like a big ___, that’s amore” (Dean Martin lyric)] – PIZZA PIE
  • 55a [Influence through close contact] – RUB OFF ON
  • 61a [Weird Al Yankovic medley that features “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls] – POLKA POWER
  • 37a [“Wanna take this outside?,” e.g … or what are found four times in this puzzle’s circled letters] – FIGHTING WORDS

As hidden word themes go, this is a good one. POLKA POWER containing KAPOW was my favorite – the word is long, split across the phrase, and I love Weird Al! Even though I didn’t know the particular medley, knowing that he plays some polka music was enough to get it quickly. My only problem was RUB OFF ON, because, uh… a comic book sound is not the main definition of the word BOFF these days. Plus, the theme answer was the most boring/wordy.

Five theme answers on a Monday is a lot, but the rest of the puzzle doesn’t suffer…. for the most part INKWELLS, PICNIC, and DESTINED are all nice. A lot of golf going on with ONE IRON and EVEN PAR. ESTOP and RARA are both pretty rough, though, and there’s some old-school crosswordese in ODEON and NCO. I also hadn’t heard of MINOLTA so that crossed with ODEON could trip folks up.

Also, side note, the title of the Sunday puzzle this week was “Punchlines”, and that could be the title of today’s puzzle too! Fun synergy there. Does anyone else kind of wish the NYT gave more puzzles titles? Discuss!

Vasu Seralathan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “I Just Don’t See It”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases where one might encounter BLIND SPOTS (59a, [Areas about which one is uninformed, or something 17-, 25-, 34- and 51-Across collectively have?]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “I Just Don’t See It” · Vasu Seralathan · Mon., 2.5.24

  • 17a. [Site for a cat nap?] WINDOW SILL. That is, a “spot” where you might find “blinds.” I suppose that would technically make it a “blinds spot.”
  • 25a. [Site of hand-to-hand combat?] POKER TABLE. I’m not a poker player so this one went over my head. Look it up if you want. I suppose you’d say this was an area about which I am uninformed.
  • 34a. [Driving course?] TRAFFIC LANE. That blind spot over your shoulder in the lane next to you.
  • 51a. [Fiber important for vision?] OPTIC NERVE. Actual BLIND SPOTS in the eye. My wife suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, so we’re well aware of her BLIND SPOTS.

I’m not trying to be funny, but I’m not totally sure I’m seeing the whole theme here. Why the word “collectively” in the revealer clue? And the cluing on those first two entries is extraordinarily distracting with their similar structure. And then when we deviated from that structure in the third clue, I was thrown for a loop. Yet all the theme clues have unnecessary wordplay that have nothing to do with the theme. Unless there’s something I’m not seeing (HAHA), I’d say the clues are doing too much for what is a more straightforward theme.

Solid fill all around with HAD A BITE, TEST KITS, HIPSTER, TWO-TIME (as a verb), T-SHIRTS, WISTFUL, TENDRIL, RAT OUT, and POTTERY. Not keen on fake-sounding ABLARE, and ERSE and ADEN are tough for a Monday. We have a dupe in “SO WHAT? and “THAT SO?,” but to be fair, they’re about as far apart as they can get in the grid.

Clues of note:

  • Both NAAN and ROTI are in the grid and I like the comparison: [Leavened Indian bread] for the former and [Unleavened Indian bread] for the latter.
  • 39a. [Vincent Van Gogh’s brother]. THEO. I only know this from crosswords. Tough clue for newbies.
  • 8d. [Awesome, in slang]. KILLER. There are plenty of ways to clue this word, but I like this angle. Do kids these days still use it this way?
  • 12d. [Eaves droppers?]. ICICLES. Nice clue!

Confusing theme, mainly because of the clues. Too much wordplay distracted from what was the actual theme. Three stars. (But as always, please clue me in if I’m missing something.)

Aidan Brand & David Karp’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 2/5/24 by Aidan Brand & David Karp

Los Angeles Times 2/5/24 by Aidan Brand & David Karp

This appears to be a debut for Aidan Brand. Congratulations! This puzzle is unusual in a couple of ways: First, the svelte 14×15 grid (I thought I was extra fast in solving this one until I realized it has one fewer column than usual), and second, the theme, which combines Maura Jacobson-esque punnery with the consistency required by a modern-day revealer theme.

Said revealer at 52A [Allergy warning, and a description of 16-, 22-, 35-, and 43-Across?] is MAY CONTAIN NUTS. Each of the theme entries MAY CONTAIN NUTS in a different way:

  • 16A [Elements of a PG-rated outburst] is MILD EXPLETIVES. In this case the “nuts!” that “may be contained” is an exclamation.
  • 22A [Groups of groupies] is FAN CLUBS. “Nuts” are enthusiasts here.
  • 35A [Dessert served in a goblet] is ICE CREAM SUNDAE. This is the only theme entry in which the “nuts” have the same meaning as in the revealer’s common, literal meaning.
  • 43A [Common accessory at a construction site] is a TOOL BELT. Not being handy, I will take the constructor’s word for it that one carries nuts, as in hardware, in a belt.

Clever concept, lots of thematic material. Nice!

Trent H Evans’ Universal crossword, “Who?” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 2/5/24 • Mon • “Who?” • Evans • solution • 20240205

  • 20a. [Who cares what you think?] THOUGHT POLICE. Think/thought too close?
  • 32a. [Who can tell?] TATTLETALE.
  • 41a. [Who’s on first?] OPENING ACT.
  • 52a. [Who am I kidding?] BUTT OF THE JOKE.

These are basically rhetorical questions that have been given plausible answers. “Who’s on first?” seems a little more marginal than the others, but I’d posit that it’s usually uttered as an observation about confusion in communication, referencing the iconic Abbot & Costello skit.

  • 1d [They’re not wrong] FACTS. 34d [Blunt statement of 1-Down] TRUTH BOMB. 26d [Valid reasoning] LOGIC. 63a [Like an unimpaired driver] SOBER.
  • 5d [“I’m with you both!”] ME THREE. Can’t recall seeing this in a crossword before (but I don’t doubt that it’s appeared).
  • 27d [Throw out of an apartment] EVICT. 41d [Throw out of office] OUST.
  • 36d [Type of dancer or boot] GOGO, crossed by 36a [Supermodel Hadid] GIGI.
  • 47d [ __ : prevention :: pound : cure] OUNCE. Metaphorically.
  • 14a [Word said with a sigh] ALAS. My first filled entry, enabled by the clue specifying that it was a single word, eliminating AH ME or OH ME.
  • 46a [Rebounds, as sound] ECHOES.
  • 59a [Planets and peepers] ORBS. I feel the need to highlight this beneath that album art.

Overall, I liked this one.

Wyna Liu’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 2/5/24 – Liu

Lots of lively fill here. Faves: Twitteresque “BIG IF TRUE,” “THE THING IS …”, Star Trek MIND MELD, VAMPIRE BAT (shades of Olivia Rodrigo’s Grammys performance last night), SIDE PART, “I CAN DREAM,” SCRAM, TINA TURNER (a couple Grammys tributes to the late legend), STREET SMARTS, Game of ThronesHODOR, FRIDGE MAGNET, LED BULBS, Abraham MASLOW‘s hierarchy of needs, and SECRET CODE.

Two things:

  • 14a. [City known for its walls], AVILA. Did you know Manila has an old walled city within it, from Spanish colonizer days? My son, husband, and father-in-law just visited it today. There’s a church built in 1607. That’s what the US is missing: walled cities.
  • You know who’s a 10d. [Smith, e.g.], an ARTISAN? Wyna Liu. I still don’t quite grasp how the Tensegrity pieces work! The magnetic pieces and wooden waves make much more sense to me.

Four stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — Matthew’s write-up

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 2/5/2024

Bit of a toughy today with harder clues throughout. In theory the crossing spanners MINECRAFT SERVER [Host of a world for blockheads?] and ON AND OFF ROMANCE [Love that doesn’t last] would unlock a grid for a solver, but the difficulty was tuned up enough that they only helped so much for me.

Nice trap off the getgo with AMA for [Practice squad?: Abbr.] – I confidently dropped in ABA and needed to untwist myself. LIVENER and to a lesser extent RINSER are classic BEQ-making-the-more-open-grids-work words. How did you do with painter HARNETT [“The Artist’s Letter Rack” painter William Michael ___] and [Director Almodóvar] PEDRO right on top of each other? The former is new to me, and for the latter, I couldn’t remember between PEDRO and “Pablo” until I got the long crosser. I’ll need to do a Wiki dive on ULTRAMAN [Extreme multisport endurance race originally held annually in Hawaii], as I spent a while trying to make either IRON MAN or something “TRI” work. I’m sure they’re related in some way.

Really enjoyed the VITALOGY / ECOZONES / RENEGADE stack (and its crossings) in the SE corner. Hope your Monday is off to an okay start!

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37 Responses to Monday, February 5, 2024

  1. Martin says:

    Sorry in advance, but a major storm has caused a major power outage, so when the battery backup dies you’ll lose access to the WSj, Universal, Jonesin and WaPo puzzle .puz files.

  2. Dan says:

    LAT: The clue 56A for AIL is “Feel poorly”.

    I know some people say I “feel poorly” to mean they feel ill, but my high school English teacher made it quite clear that this is a phrase to be avoided.

    (I’d guess it’s an example of “hypercorrection”, where the added -ly may be thought to lend the phrase more authority, like “… between you and I”.)

    • Martin says:

      Your teacher was stricter than most authorities. The dictionaries I checked all label poorly, adj., as informal but not improper. “I feel poor” has quite a different connotation, as well.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      They go a step further over in the UK. “Poorly” over there means the same as our “sick,” as in, “I can’t take my daughter to school today; she’s poorly.”

      And of course “sick” means “vomit” or “to vomit,” as in, “I was sick all over the kitchen floor.”

  3. Tony says:

    I so wanted the NYT revealer to be about Batman.

  4. huda says:

    NYT: I agree with Sophia that the puzzle had a fun energy to it. It generally did well in terms of being Monday appropriate (no mean feat, actually). But I don’t think of BOFF in the same category as KAPOW, ZAP or BAM.
    I love the PIZZA PIE entry. That lyric is nonsensical yet so catchy, and so 1950’s…
    I happen to be in SoCal where it feels like a deluge, having left sunny skies in Michigan… Oh well. I’m going to stick around long enough for it to clear.

  5. Greg says:

    I had that feeling of frustration/despair when I started the New Yorker and got very little. But, in that strange, almost magical way, pieces and guesses began to fall into place and I eventually got it. An excellent Monday challenge!

    • Gary R says:

      Took me almost 40 minutes, and there was a lot of “pondering” in there – but a good Monday solving experience. Finished with an error at the crossing of 35-A and 26-D – neither entry was familiar, and I guessed wrong. Some good long entries (18-A was new to me, but inferable after several crosses) and not too heavy on pop culture, IMO.

    • steve says:

      exactly the same
      first time thru and i thought it was not gonna happen
      like you said, a piece at a time and voila!

      very satisfying when a puzzle that seems impossible is suddenly complete

      • mitch says:

        Agreed. To this 68 year-old it seemed at first like a puzzle that would require a lot pop culture knowledge. But was able to make it through, which is a testament to the care and skill of the constructor. Reminded me a bit of KAC, which is high praise, indeed.

    • Mhoonchild says:

      TNY I also started out slowly, but picked up speed as I found things I knew. Definitely a good, challenging puzzle.

      @Amy We visited my brother who lives south of Manila, and stayed in a hotel within the walls (Intramuros.) There’s an asterisk for the 1607 date for the church within the walls – it’s been destroyed by earthquakes and wars, and the current building (the eighth incarnation) was completed in 1958. The previous one was destroyed by bombs during the Battle of Liberation in 1945.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni … Boo-hiss to the clue for CADET (“Certain Annapolis student”). USNA students are generically referred to as midshipmen. USMA students are CADETs. Google informs me that Naval Academy students were originally referred to as “midshipman CADETs”, but CADET was dropped somewhere along the way. I think that both USNA and USMA freshmen may also be referred to as plebes.

  7. Eric H. says:

    New Yorker: Unlike Greg and some of the other commenters, I started quickly and didn’t get into much trouble until I was down to nine squares in the center top. I know many of the “King Lear” characters’ names, but I don’t know them well enough to know which character in “Ran” represents REGAN. I’ve not heard BIG IF TRUE and originally tried “sad . . . .” “Cabaret Voltaire” sort of sounds familiar, but I might have gotten DADAISTS more quickly with a different clue.

    After about five minutes of staring at those unfilled squares, I finally realized that “Mac alternative’ had nothing to do with computers. Luckily, I tried BUB instead of “pal”; that gave me BARF and UBER and that was it.

    Nice puzzle. Yes, Wyna Liu is an artisan; the breadth of the cultural references is really nice. There was at least one gimme for almost everyone.

    • JohnH says:

      Sorry, to me it was just another TNY style puzzle, meaning You Know It or You Don’t. But true, Last and some others are far worse, and I too had the hardest time in top center, where most of my guesses were wrong. REGAN wasn’t a problem for me, though. While it’s not the only 5-letter character in Lear, it appears so often, presumably for setter-friendly letters compared to Edgar, say, that I gambled on it. But I was still left stumped in the SW by STEP as a fraternity performance and DARE as a prank call. I suppose the fraternity must break out in a dance or something, but the prank call is beyond me.

      • Gary R says:

        I think the idea is that a prank call may be made “on a DARE.”

        Re: your broader comment – I’d appreciate it if you could point me to a “challenging” standard (not “cryptic”) crossword that meets your standard for interesting wordplay and is not “You Know It or You Don’t.”

        I see this complaint from you repeatedly, and I guess I don’t really know what you’re looking for. I don’t mean this offensively, but I just can’t come up with examples of challenging (for experienced solvers) puzzles that don’t involve some “trivia” or “knowledge of facts,” whether historical, cultural, scientific, artistic, or whatever. And some of that is inevitably going to be “You Know It or You Don’t” for some solvers. So, what is the “sweet spot” you’re looking for?

        • JohnH says:

          TNY is unique, in requiring you to know their references and vocabulary. And others, too, complain about it here, especially with Last puzzles. But I praise NYT Friday and Saturday puzzles pretty much every single time.

          • JohnH says:

            It’s not at all about difficulty. Really. Oh, and I’ve even defended Berry and Gorsky with early-week TNY puzzles (although she’s been going over a bit to the dark side the last couple of times, so maybe they’ve been telling her she’s not their style enough).

            • Gary R says:

              But it DOES seem to be about difficulty, because your complaint boils down to “I have a difficult time solving these puzzles.” And you often seem to ascribe that difficulty to “too much trivia” or “too much pop culture.”

              I find the early-week TNY puzzles difficult, too – in part because the trivia/culture/fact-based clues are often outside my knowledge-base. Does that mean the puzzles aren’t “fair,” or does it mean that I’m too old, too parochial, or insufficiently erudite to get it?

              Whatever, I enjoy the challenge. I learn some things along the way – maybe they’re worth learning, maybe not.

        • Lester says:

          I want the names to be fairly crossed. Unlike, say, RAN crossing QUAVO and HODOR crossing OEO — both of which I just left blank.

  8. Martin says:

    Power out again. There are hundreds of separate outages in this area, totaling hundreds of thousands of homes. What a mess.

  9. Seattle DB says:

    Big “Yay” to Martin for getting his crossword puzzle server back up and running again! I was able to get the Jonesin’ puzzle downloaded just now after jonesin’ for it for hours!

  10. Seattle DB says:

    LAT: I had to give this a 4-star rating because I’m a “nut” for funny and punny puzzles!

  11. Eric H. says:

    BEQ: PEDRO Almodóvar was one of my favorite directors in the 1990s, so that was a gimme. HARTNETT? Not so much.

    Fun puzzle, the weird stuff like LIVENER notwithstanding.

  12. Joseph Appel says:

    Professional poker games have blinds. I don’t know exactly what they are, but they have to do with the betting.

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