Monday, June 3, 2024

BEQ tk (Matthew) 


LAT 2:50 (Stella) 


NYT 3:39 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 4:00 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (tk) 


WSJ 4:24 (Jim) 


Alana Platt’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: ON THE BOARD – things that are found on various literal boards.

New York Times, 06 03 2024, 2024

  • 17a [*King or queen, but not prince] – CHESS PIECE
  • 35a [*Artfully arranged meats] – CHARCUTERIE
  • 10d [*Texture in a cross section of timber] – WOOD GRAIN
  • 32d [*Cousin of a pushpin] – THUMBTACK
  • 56a [Helping to manage a nonprofit, say … or where to find the answers to the starred clues?] – ON THE BOARD
  • and also: 61a [Skater Tony who is also 56-Across?] – HAWK (skateboard!)

Nice theme! I liked all of the different “boards” mentioned. CHARCUTERIE and CHESS PIECE are the standouts for me. I kind of wish that ON THE BOARD was clued in its more “in the language” usage as getting points in a game, but I like how this clue introduces yet another “board” meaning.

Also, three of the answers interlock! That’s really cool given how tight the theme set manages to be. The NW and the SE are very segmented off (note how a single black square would completely separate them). I personally prefer to make grids that are a little more interconnected since they give solvers more ways to get into an area, but given the amount of thematic material here I’m not surprised this was the best layout.

The puzzle overall has a pretty fresh feeling for a Monday, where sometimes clues/answers can seem generic for the sake of being “easy”. COLD BREW, WALMART, HARD TIME,  STIR FRY are all standouts. Even some of the shorter fill shines, like GO OFF, TAMALE, and REVERB. Some of my fave clues were [“___ the Man” (2006 rom-com)] for SHE’S and [One of two for a female kangaroo, surprisingly] for UTERUS, which I did not know before solving this puzzle.

Congrats to Alana on a great debut!

Gary Cee’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Passing Comments”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that end in words that can also end the phrase, “Give me a ___.” The revealer is “GIVE IT TO ME!” (63a, [“I’ll take that!”…and what one can do with the ends of 17-, 25-, 39- and 54-Across]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Passing Comments” · Gary Cee · Mon., 6.3.24

  • 17a. [13 cards, in a trick-taking game] BRIDGE HAND. Give me a hand.
  • 25a. [Con quest, maybe?] PRISON BREAK. Give me a break.
  • 39a. [Shape of each streetlight in downtown Hershey, Pennsylvania] CHOCOLATE KISS. Give me a kiss.
  • 54a. [Time to take a bow] CURTAIN CALL. Give me a call.

Nice. I needed the revealer to make it all make sense, but I enjoyed the aha moment. My only nit is that BRIDGE HAND feels like green paint. SECOND HAND or MINUTE HAND would’ve been a stronger choice, IMO.

Another green painty entry is HAIR WAVE [Job for a curling iron], but it’s next to the lovely CLOUSEAU, so I wonder if the latter would’ve had to be sacrificed to get rid of the former. That section might also be tough due to proper names SWANN [Proust’s “___ in Love”] crossing  MCKEAN [Michael of “A Mighty Wind”].

Clue of note: 10d. [Bear the expense of]. AFFORD. This clue bothered me at first, because it reads as if payment has already occurred whereas being able to AFFORD something makes no implication that actual payment has taken place yet. But saying “I can ‘AFFORD'” a thing, is completely replaceable with the phrase “I can ‘bear the expense of'” that thing.

Enjoyable theme but maybe a few little speed bumps in the fill. 3.5 stars.

Ryan Mathiason’s Universal crossword, “Initial Descent” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 6/3/24 • Mon • “Initial Descent” • Mathiason • solution • 20240603

A breeze this early Monday morning.

  • 22dR [Piece of smack talk … or, read differently, a description of the starred clues’ answers] IT’S GOING DOWN. Id est, phrases with the initials IT appearing vertically.
  • 4d. [*Dog breed whose first club was formed in Dublin] IRISH TERRIER.
  • 8d. [*Bad spot to land on in Monopoly] INCOME TAX.
  • 33d. [*Lazy river inflatable] INNER TUBE.

Only three theme answers (plus the revealer) makes for a smooth grid and a clean puzzle.

  • The long, non-theme acrosses are quite nice: 17a [Anxiety episode] PANIC ATTACK, 62a [Gentle runs?] BUNNY SLOPES.
  • 13a [They start in January] YEARS. 7d [They fall in the fall] LEAVES.
  • 33a [Light-colored beer, briefly] IPA. Right there in the name: India pale ale.
  • 57a [Most experienced in life] OLDEST. I’d prefer a ‘probably’ modifier in the clue.
  • 2d [In need of charging] DEAD. 25a [Cleaned out] EMPTIED.
  • 18d [Colony member?] ANT. The question mark usage is generous in this Monday offering; see also 62-across (above) and others.
  • 31d [Jolly fella] SANTA. Not sure why the clue opted for fella instead of fellow, except perhaps to subconsciously telegraph the -a ending? In the famous poem, his elfin belly shook like jelly (which puts me in mind of Jell-O …).
  • 40d [Kind of bug also called a May beetle] JUNE. Good timing.
  • 47d [Wake-up call?] MORNIN‘.
  • 49d [Soap opera genre] DRAMA, or more specifically, melodrama.
  • 50d [Lime green or peach] COLOR. The clue could have been more difficult by eliding ‘green’ but that isn’t what this puzzle is about.
  • 63d [“__-haw!”] YEE. Site of my only mis-fill, as I opted for HEE.

Renee Thomason & Zhouqin Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 6/3/24 by Renee Thomason & Zhouqin Burnikel

Los Angeles Times 6/3/24 by Renee Thomason & Zhouqin Burnikel

Wow, this is a Monday puzzle? Could’ve fooled me; my solve time was closer to what I often post for LAT on Saturdays. It’s not the fill; it’s the clues, at least with a first backward glance. Anyway, the theme is things that sound like they have physical, geometric shapes, but they don’t:

  • 18A [What sounds like a disk, but isn’t a disk?] is a FACT CHECKER, because a CHECKER is also a disk-shaped game piece.
  • 28A [What sounds like a cube, but isn’t a cube?] is WRITER’S BLOCK.
  • 49A [What sounds like a circle, but isn’t a circle?] is FAMILIAR RING. This one felt a bit green paint-y to me: Does one ever hear FAMILIAR RING by itself, and not as part of a longer phrase like “that has a FAMILIAR RING to it”?
  • 63A [What sounds like a sphere, but isn’t a sphere?] is CHARITY BALL.

Anyway, I can appreciate trying something different on Monday theme-wise, even if this one didn’t 100% land for me.

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

New Yorker crossword solution, 6/3/24 – Gorski

Markedly easier for me than expected for a Monday New Yorker puzzle. Except for VIRTUAL TOWN HALL and Christina AGUILERA, there was an overall vibe of the crosswords I did three decades ago. Things I learned from crosswords include Longfellow’s “The Bell of ATRI,” biblical ENOS, LESE-majeste, INRI, ALAMEDAS being [Tree-lined promenades], ROCS, ST. LEO, and the YSER River. Lots of proper nouns overall.

New to me: 56a. [Beat poet Kandel who wrote “The Love Book”], LENORE. Her pamphlet The Love Book was deemed obscene by the authorities because of the poem “To Fuck With Love.” The usual poetry sites don’t include her poems (possibly by her choice), but here are a few of them.

PLODDERS is awkward, no? Not a form of the word we encounter often. Plural REALTIES ([Lots to build on?]) also feels odd.

Where are (or were) SINGING WAITERS a thing? Is this an NYC, aspiring-Broadway-performers thing?

2.5 stars from me.

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19 Responses to Monday, June 3, 2024

  1. Ethan says:

    I am once again asking for the NYT editing team to stop putting words and phrases like “surprisingly”, “interestingly”, “(it’s true!)”, “(check it out!)”, etc. in their trivia clues. If the fact is truly surprising or interesting, then it will be so without the insistence of the clue. It does not give the puzzle extra personality, it does not help the solver, it is nothing but an annoyance.

    In today’s instance, the word “surprisingly” implies that I had an expectation of how many uteruses a kangaroo has. I assure the NYT team that I have not paid the matter one thought in my life.

    • Martin says:

      It’s Monday, and the clue is giving the solver some additi0nal information. Since we’re mainly familiar with mammals who have one uterus, the clue is a helpful prod to think past the familiar paired appendages. I don’t see it as gratuitous.

      • Ethan says:

        If I may push back, I did a search for the word “surprisingly” in the xwordinfo clue database, and *unsurprisingly* two-thirds of the uses have come since 2015, (and most of the uses before 2015 were not trivia uses, e.g. “Surprisingly lively” for SPRY).

        And there are *plenty* of uses later in the week. Did you know a Friday solver in 2020 is expected to be surprised that an Asian country has never won a [men’s] World Cup? Did you know that a Saturday solver in 2017 would be surprised that a mantis has only one ear? I don’t really find either fact surprising.

        In today’s case, the clue already specifies a female kangaroo, so I’m going to be looking for a part of female mammalian anatomy. In fact, the specificity of kangaroo makes it pretty likely it isn’t something a human has two of. I would consider it playing very unfair if the answer was EAR or EYE.

        I really don’t think the explosion in surprisinglys has anything to do with helping the solver, it’s about making the clue slightly flashier so the NYT doesn’t seem as stodgy compared to the indies that started taking off in the previous decade. To me, it’s just a distraction. A Tuesday cross-reference clue informs us that RICHARD GERE has “surprisingly” never been nominated for an OSCAR. Okay? Does the clue become harder without the “surprisingly”? What other 5-letter thing might an actor be ‘nominated’ for? The insertion of “surprisingly” makes the clue a bizarre defense of Richard Gere’s acting talent. “What is the Academy thinking?!”

        All right, that’s the end of my rant. Good day, everyone.

    • Gary R says:

      “it does not help the solver …”

      Guess I’d have to disagree with that. The qualifier serves to rule out various things that the kangaroo “obviously” has two of – eyes, ears, forelimbs – whatever.

      And while I, like you, have never (before solving this puzzle) thought about how many uteruses a female kangaroo might have, if anyone had asked me, my guess would have been “one.” So the fact that they have two is surprising to me.

      In a Monday puzzle, this seems like an appropriate “helper.”

      ETA – yeah, what @Martin said while I was slowly typing my reply.

      • marciem says:

        … “A male echidna has 4, surprisingly!” (spoiler… UNsurprisingly, he has 4 legs).d Ever give thought to echidna anatomy? Know what an echidna is? :D (aka spiny anteater from Australia). They grow them strange down under (pun intended).

        The “surprisingly” helped me in this puzzle, I don’t think its a nit I would pick in a Monday puzzle.

  2. David L says:

    Nice NYT theme, although if I was going to be picky — and why else would I be here? — I would say that WOODGRAIN is IN THEBOARD rather than ON it.

    I finished with an error and at first suspected the SAMIRA/ITE cross, so tried different vowels there with no success. Then I found a silly typo elsewhere. Doh!

  3. Jose Madre says:

    TAMAL vs TAMALE for the singular TAMALES. American internet sites may have various opinions but it will always be TAMAL in my book.

    • Eric H says:

      Merriam-Webster dates TAMALE to 1854.

      Care for a panini?

    • Martin says:

      It’s very simple: “tamal” is Spanish; “tamale” is English.

      If we were around in the 17th century: “What’s with these morons calling a pease a pea? It’s ‘pease porridge hot,’ right? One pease, two peasen! Not one pea, two pease. Do not call it a ‘pea’!”

  4. DougC says:

    NYT: I, too, have my pet puzzle peeves, but, I’m happy to say, none of them were triggered by this particular puzzle.

    I found this to be clever, entertaining, well-executed, and a bit more challenging than most recent Mondays. An 11-letter themer splashed across the middle of the grid! Ten, count ’em, ten new-to-NYTXW entries! 4.5 themers plus a revealer, on a Monday! And I, for one, particularly loved the (yes, surprising!) science-y factoid clue for UTERUS. :)

    Brava on a sparkling NYT debut, Ms. Platt! I hope we’ll see more of your work!

  5. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: Once again, a nice puzzle that was on the easy side. I hadn’t heard of LENORE Kandel (or if I had, I’d forgotten her name), but everything was derivable without too much trouble.

  6. JohnH says:

    Singing waiters sure get lots of Google hits, so have to concede it’s totally legit NYT fill. As to whether it’s a NY thing, nope. Really an anti-NY thing, if you don’t mind a coinage. If I understand right, there were a small number of gimmicky places in the tackier but already tourist-ridden fringes of Times Square close to 100 years ago, and some tourist traps to this day try to coast on that reputation. An actual NYer may not be aware of them and wouldn’t go on a dare, much less consider it “genuine” NY.

    I’ll defend BRIDGE HAND in the WSJ as well.

    TNY was another step toward the dark side for Gorsky. Alas, I have to call myself no longer one of her big fans. Names, names, names, names. I got the center W even with the unfair crossing of three, but not the NW with a preposterous number in a small space.

    • Eric H says:

      Hmm. I’ve never been served by a SINGING WAITER and hadn’t thought of it as a NY thing. But it well could be, given the cliché of the Broadway performer/wannabe who waits tables to pay the rent.

      Proper names don’t bother me as long as I can figure them out. I have never seen a complete episode of “Friends” and had no idea that one of the characters had a twin. But when I saw that the name ended in-BE, some tiny corner of my brain came up with PHOEBE. (And as I thought, she was played by Lisa Kudrow, whom I have enjoyed seeing in other roles.)

      In the other hand, CARLA Tortelli was a gimme. I’m mildly curious to see how well “Cheers” has held up over the last 30 or 40 years, but part of me just wants to stick with my fond memories of how funny it was.

    • Gary R says:

      Back in the late 70’s, on a visit to NYC, my then-girlfriend and I had dinner at a place I believe was called Asti (maybe Asti’s). Some of the waiters were apparently opera singers and would somewhat randomly break into song. There was some participation by the patrons – I seem to recall a little parade through the dining room. And there were little routines where the waiters would toss around balls of pasta dough.

      No idea if the place still exists.

      Agree that there were a lot of names in this one, but many were familiar to me, so it wound up being a pretty easy solve – somewhere between a NYT Tuesday and Wednesday time for me.

      • Lester says:

        I believe the Victor (as in RCA) Cafe in Philadelphia still has wait staff who are opera singers and who put down the trays and belt out arias from time to time. I enjoyed them about 25 years ago, and if the interwebs are to be believed, they’re still at it.

        • Me says:

          I went to the Victor Cafe right before the pandemic, and they had the opera-singing waiters, which was a lot of fun.

          There’s a restaurant near the theater district in New York called Ellen’s Stardust Diner, which is well known for its Broadway-belting waitstaff who are waiting for their big break. Waiting tables is a good job for early-career actors because it’s mostly night work and has flexible hours, so they can go on auditions during the day.

  7. Anon says:

    NYT: I really enjoyed this Monday puzzle. Not too easy, not difficult. Took a little bit of deductive reasoning to complete. Which is a plus. Completed with 0 Errors so I feel good about this one. And I wont forget how to spell charcuterie ever again!

  8. DBG says:

    Re:singing waiters
    Ellen’s Stardust Diner is a restaurant on Broadway in the Times Square area in NYC. It’s a 50’s themed diner with tons of memorabilia and a perfect menu for our kids on trips into Manhattan. Our girls loved the singing waiters who sang mostly 50’s rock.
    My husband and I have been to the Italian restaurant in Philadelphia where the waiters sing opera. All a little cheesy? Yes, but still a lot of fun.

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