Monday, July 8, 2024

BEQ tk (Matthew) 


LAT 1:55 (Stella) 


NYT 2:42 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 6:34 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (tk) 


WSJ 4:30 (Jim) 


Daniel Bodily and Andrea Carla Michaels’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Phrases where the second word can mean something to do with criminal activity.

New York Times, Monday July 8 2024, By Daniel Bodily and Andrea Carla Michaels

  • 17a [Decorator’s suggestion] – COLOR SCHEME
  • 25a [Gathering for superhero fans] – COMIC CON
  • 38a [Kickflip or heelflip, for example] – SKATEBOARD TRICK
  • 49a [Hazard near a hive] – BEE STING
  • 60a [“Boy, is that loud!” … or a hint to the ends of 17-, 25-, 38- and 49-Across] – WHAT A RACKET

A very solid Monday theme, and one that I caught onto quickly after COLOR SCHEME and COMIC CON. I don’t always love “wackiness” in puzzles, but it might have been fun to have the clues refer to the “racket” themselves… but maybe I just enjoy thinking about what a literal COLOR SCHEME or BEE STING would look like. All five of the answers including the revealer are nice, and even though I knew what the theme was the revealer was still a nice “aha” moment to tie everything together.

Very smooth fill overall, as expected from these two constructors. Some quick hits on the rest of the puzzle:

  • PEAK SEASON and CRUNCH TIME were fill highlights for me. SURPRISE and THAILAND too, I loved the clues of [Word yelled in unison by party guests] and [Where things can be bought with baht].
  • SMILE and CAMERA being clued together when they’re also located next to each other was cute.
  • I can never remember how to spell Seth ROGEN’s name, whether it has an E or an A! I’m sorry Seth.
  • [White House policy chief] for CZAR was new to me.
  • [Capital city of Western Australia] for PERTH was an instant gimme for me after watching this season of Jet Lag: The Game on YouTube, where they traveled around Australia. I’d strongly recommend this show to folks who are fans of The Amazing Race or other travel/strategy shows.

Happy Monday all!

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Shoplifting”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar words and phrases that hide the names of well-known American retailers going backward (upwards) within. The revealer is STORES UP (38d, [Squirrels away, and a hint to the circled letters]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Shoplifting” · Mike Shenk · Mon., 7.8.24

  • 3d. [Tree with peeling bark] SYCAMORE. Macy’s.
  • 6d. [Company reports analyzing potential losses] RISK ASSESSMENT. Sak’s.
  • 9d. [Combine into a whole] INTEGRATE. Target.
  • 32d. [Bubbly beverage] CHAMPAGNE. Gap.

Solid theme. I was most impressed with the six-letter store name (Target) and least impressed with the three-letter store name (Gap), but a quick look at the top 100 retailers shows there aren’t a lot of potential theme answers here.

I didn’t know TONE POEM [Musical composition with a narrative theme] in the fill, but the phrase has appeared multiple times in the NYT, so this is my own failing. Other colorful entries include HAVE-NOT, BUM RAP, ANAGRAMS, AT STAKE, and AVATARS. TORTONI [Frozen Italian dessert] is not a dessert I come across too often and it sounds like it could be just another PASTA, so I waited for all the crossings to come through on that one.

Clues of note:

  • 16a. [“___ bleu!” (French expression of surprise)]. SACRE. I wonder if members of the French RN party are using this phrase today. See also NON [French denial].
  • 25a. [Angered and enraged, e.g.]. ANAGRAMS. Sneaky clue. Lovely!

3.5 stars.

Brian Callahan & Amie Walker’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 7/8/24 by Brian Callahan & Amie Walker

Los Angeles Times 7/8/24 by Brian Callahan & Amie Walker

The saying about fruits and vegetables used to be “5 a day for better health,” and this puzzle will give you four out of five, which is plenty for one 15×15 grid. The revealer at 38A [Person who doesn’t eat meat, informally, and a feature of 17-, 25-, 51-, and 62-Across] is VEG HEAD, because each theme answer contains a vegetable at the beginning. It’s a little more subtle than just having the first word of each theme entry be a vegetable:

  • 17A [Anti-war demonstration] is PEACE MARCH, with PEA as the veggie.
  • 25A [Talks incessantly] is YAMMERS ON, with YAM up front.
  • 51A [Local watering hole] is CORNER BAR, with CORN at the beginning. Is corn a grain or a vegetable? USDA says both.
  • 62A [“The Big Bang Theory” actress who voices Harley Quinn] is KALEY CUOCO, with KALE.

I enjoyed the not-usually-seen-on-Mondays (yet totally appropriate for the difficulty level) longer Downs like AD CREEPSOPHOMORETOY POODLE, and BERMUDA.

George Jasper’s Universal crossword, “Aegean Sea” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 7/8/24 • Mon • Jasper • “Aegean Sea” • solution • 20240708

All set?

  • 66aR [Capital of Greece … and when parsed differently, a hint to the starred clues’ answers] ATHENS. A, then S. Those answers are two-word entities with the initials A.S. That’s it.
  • 17a. [*Sea captain’s final order] ABANDON SHIP.
  • 27a. [*Green Mexican dish] AVOCADO SALAD.
  • 45a. [*Metaphor for an abundance of acronyms] ALPHABET SOUP.
  • 60a. [*First American astronaut to travel in space] ALAN SHEPHARD.
  • 12d. [*Some jazz combo instruments] ALTO SAXES.
  • 33d. [*Plane passengers request, maybe] AISLE SEAT.

It’s rather meh as far as themes go. Even the title, which conforms to the conceit, is only one-dimensional.

The crossword itself is smooth and well-constructed, despite supporting six theme answers (plus revealer).

  • 15a [Cowboy of the South American pampas] GAUCHO. 40a [Took legal action] SUED.
  • 54a [Site of a baseball merger?] SEAM. The one playful clue in the puzzle. 1a [Puts in stitches] SEWS.

(sorry, best that I could find.)

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

New Yorker crossword solution, 7/8/24 – Natan Last

I liked this one, didn’t love it. I’m usually more enthusiastic about Natan’s themelesses.

Fave fill: SAILOR MOON (though I’m not into anime), POP-UP ADS. FLAT BROKE, SEA SHANTY (had CHANTY for a while, slowed down finding that crossing), on BAD TERMS, SO CLOSE, PRO TIPS, OZZFEST (Ozzy Osbourne was in Black Sabbath), LASER TAG, PASTRY CHEF, PULL-UP BARS, GEODUDE (a number of my friends were in NYC over the weekend for Pokemon Go Fest, totes jelly).

Did not know there was a James Brownian THE BOSS, and did not recall any MISS TORSO ([Epithet for the attractive dancer in “Rear Window”]). I also didn’t know activist Grace Lee BOGGS, nor British writer E. NESBIT.

LAB SITE, “OK, OK, I GET IT” and “I SEE NOW” don’t feel entirely idiomatic to me.

3.5 stars from me.


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14 Responses to Monday, July 8, 2024

  1. David L says:

    Well, ODOR was not explicitly clued as a bad smell, but it was implicit…

    Nice theme.

  2. Gary R says:

    TNY: Almost gave up after my first pass through the clues left me with only four or five answers I was confident in. But then a few things came together in the SE, and it spread from there. The last few letters in (in the N and NE) were educated guesses – but I wound up with a solving time that was pretty fast (for me) for a TNY Monday (and especially for a Natan Last Monday). Enjoyed it.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I had a very similar experience. I found the southern half of the puzzle to be much more do-able than the north. I couldn’t tell you a dang thing about SAILOR MOON, but it somehow came to me after staring at _A_LOR__ON for a while. That and erasing ‘erg’ from where OHM belonged were the linchpins to finishing up in the north, but not without some good/lucky guessing at PIMP, BOGGS, THE BOSS, LUM, MOI and GEODUDE. I’m pretty surprised that I completed this puzzle (a common feeling for me with Natan Last’s puzzles when I manage to finish them).

    • JohnH says:

      For me, it was a typically miserable Natan Last Monday. PIMP? LIMP? SAILOR MOON? TAILOR MOON? Who knows? Who cares. I never made sense of “Solos at parties” even with crossings or the entire NW.

      It’s Last and TNY, meaning you know it or you don’t, so one should only expect wildly divergent responses, with more positives here in comments but a preponderance of 1’s in the ratings. Oh well. He doesn’t pretend to be writing to challenge the likes of me. At least now I’m curious about BOGGS.

      • Eric H. says:

        Solo is a brand of disposable plastic cups. I believe they’re the preferred target for beer pong.

        • JohnH says:

          That’s what I found after the fact, online. Can’t say I feel dumb for not having known that, but then that’s my whole point: Nathan Last puzzles are all about what you know, preferably the people he admires. Thankfully, I knew Baraka and Adderly.

      • Gary R says:

        @JohnH –

        I am forever at a loss to understand your running complaint about “you know it or you don’t.” Doesn’t that describe almost everything in the world – you either know it, or you don’t? But part of the fun of a crossword is figuring out, one way or another, those things you don’t know.

        Looking at only the “across” entries, here are things I didn’t know in today’s puzzle: PAIN, PIMP, BOGGS, SAILOR MOON, THE BOSS, LUM, MISS TORSO, ALP, RYE, and TATE. But I was able to come up with all of these answers through crosses and a modest amount of inference/intuition/common sense. So, does that make this a bad puzle?

        It’s possible the “challenging” TNY puzzles are just beyond your capabilities as a solver – nothing wrong with that. I struggle with the “Hard” Sudoku puzzles in the NYT, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad puzzles – just outside my range.

        • JohnH says:

          Well, no. A typical Friday or Saturday NYT is all about what you can figure out. It takes ingenuity, and to my own surprise I pretty much always complete it. If I wanted to play trivia night, I’d go to a bar and not a puzzle. At least that way I’d be drunk.

          • Gary R says:

            Well, no. Today’s TNY was all about what I could figure out. It took some knowledge, some common sense and, yes – some ingenuity to complete it. It was harder than a NYT Friday (for me) but no harder than a good NYT Saturday.

            You seem to want to disparage any cluing that involves factual knowledge you’re not familiar with as “trivia.” I suppose the factual stuff you do know is “common knowledge.” Maybe you should consider the possibility that there are solvers out there with different backgrounds, experiences, interests who view NL’s puzzles differently.

            NL’s TNY puzzles usually stretch my capabilities as a crossword solver – and sometimes I fail. But I don’t see that as a failure on the constructor’s part.

        • Eric H. says:

          “[P]art of the fun of a crossword is figuring out, one way or another, those things you don’t know.”

          Nicely said. That’s what I enjoy about crosswords — digging some half-remembered name or word out of the crevices of my brain, and finding some new stuff to shoehorn in. I know very little about SAILOR MOON, but almost all of it is stuff I picked up from a crossword.

      • Seattle DB says:

        JohnH made some very nice points that I agree with, but then everyone else who commented thereafter made good points too. I like the respectful banter between the regular commenters on this site.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: It’s a classic Monday– smooth, accessible, playful and fun. I really appreciate those. There are many times when I think a puzzle is lovely but not Monday appropriate, but this one feels like it is.

  4. Eric H. says:

    New Yorker: I got to 27A POP-UP ADS before I found something I was even a little confident about.

    After that, it was fairly smooth going despite a lot of unknowns (BOGGS, SAILOR MOON as clued, NESBIT). I was pleased to remember PLOTZ but chagrined to have needed too many crosses to get MISS TORSO, because “Rear Window” is my favorite Hitchcock movie.

    All in all, it was the kind of puzzle I most enjoy. I never got stuck anywhere and I was able to figure all the answers out without them being too easy.

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