MONDAY PUZZLE – Bear with us for a few days, solver, eh Rachel Fabi Pedal through a sane part of New York State. And congratulations to Phoebe Gordon on making her crossword debut in The New York Times with a light and beautiful theme on a clean Monday grid.
As usual, don’t be intimidated if the first few clues are challenging or entries span the entire puzzle! It took me several intersecting letters from entries below in the top third to get the first of three span-themed entries, which happens to be a puzzle debut.
There’s a nice interplay in the fill today, several clever puns, and a nice assortment of trivia that’s derivable but not immediately retrievable (at least for this solver).
10 A. This is a perfect clue for his “Playful Fun” entry. A bunch of words ran through my head — “mock,” “gibe,” “jeer” — but they were all meaner than RAZZ, like the kind of “raspberry” you blow when delivering a Bronx cheer . (On 13D I initially had “Peel” instead of ZEST, which slowed me down and made me briefly consider “Carp” for that spot.)
36A. One would hope that of all the possible answers for “you might run over her near traffic lights” the only thing that hits any of us is BRAKES.
51A. This “muse of history” is also a crossword – those two vowels at the end of CLIO are useful for constructors. You will see her sisters Erato and Thalia quite often; Tragically, Melpomene has only been in one puzzle so far.
69A. This is a kitchen pun that Deb Amlen would recognize right away (she almost – nearly – eased my fear of botulism.) “Glass heads?” are US Marines, idiomatic, but more simply put, they’re just LIDS.
8D That reference is so specific — “Coming-of-age film of 2017 that earned Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress nominations” — but 2017 feels oddly long gone and it took me a few crosses to turn to remember the solution. The movie itself, LADYBIRD, is set in 2002 – talk ancient history!
37D. Because they are living fossils that were cool before chlorophyll, pollination, and seeds evolved, the “reproductive cell of a fungus” is a Spore.
39D. I love the “modern” component of this note: “Modern comfort in many cinemas”. The fourth dimension? Screens the size of skyscrapers? No, the humble CUPHOLDER (I remember strapless seats in the movies, but I’m not sure what century that was.) This entry combined with 4D, SPIT TAKES, makes me think of the dentist.
Today there are three topic entries, all idioms with a relevant profession. Although they are all familiar; two are more common, I think, and each one made me wonder where it really came from.
The top topic entry is the least known in my opinion. 17-Across, “In a state of confusion, like in math class?” resolves to a numeric proverb: AT SIX AND SEVEN. I’d heard that expression but never used it, and I was surprised that it dates back to the 13th century (talk about ancient history!). Originally, the numbers were an indication of a risky decision in a high-stakes craps game; Over time, they meant a more general back and forth between non-numeric options.
The middle topic entry, 40-Across, is annotated with a dance reference: “Very fast, like in a ballet studio?” The answer certainly sounds like it refers to jetés and assembles: LEAPS AND BOUNDS. This idiom also goes way back and can refer to any type of surprisingly rapid progression, such as: B. the growth of corn in the summer or a puppy. An early appearance is found in a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Metrical Feet”, describing staccato “anapests” (coincidentally like “assemblé”).
The last topic entry at 63-Across is “Like in limbo in a tailor shop?”, which resolves to a great phrase. Reading ON PINS AND NEEDLES I can practically feel the tingling sensation of a limb regaining circulation, perhaps after too long a period of tense silence.
Sign up for the games newsletter
If you’re interested in getting puzzles, brain teasers, walkthroughs, and more in your inbox each week, sign up for the new Gameplay Newsletter.