Hello! It’s good to be back home, where the weather is bitterly cold but at least there are fleece sheets on the bed. Many thanks to Jeffrey, Joon, Janie, Angela, and Sam for keeping the blog fires burning!
Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword
Super-short blogging tonight, as I am indisposed due to foot pain. The theme is phrases that BEAR FRUIT: SOUR GRAPES, TOP BANANA, LEMON LAWS, and CHERRY-PICK all contain fruits. Lotsa 7-letter answers in the fill to spice things up a bit (HOLY COW! a HAMSTER!), but mostly accessibly Monday-friendly fare. (If you’re new to crosswords, take note of Melville’s OMOO—it shows up every so often in the puzzle.)
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Speed Traps”—Janie’s review
17A. SEVENTH SYMPHONY [Beethoven's is in A major]. Love that 2nd movement especially. The New York Philharmonic played this symphony (and Mozart’s “Jupiter”) in one of its “Concerts in the Parks” programs this past summer. Made for one beautiful evening for being outdoors.
37A. PLACE EMPHASIS ON [Stress]. “Stress” is a verb and not a noun here…
56A. TRIUMPHAL ARCHES [Some parades pass under them]. Paris, of course, has its iconic (and massive) Arc de Triomphe which honors France’s war-dead (especially those who died in the Napoleonic Wars); NYC’s (smaller by nearly half…) arch at Washington Square is one of many triumphal arches in the world.
As always, Martin can proudly TAKE CREDIT [Be recognized (for)] creating a puzzle with great APPEAL [Attractiveness]–from the lively theme fill to the strong non-themed entries. Loved seeing SHOPAHOLIC [Compulsive buyer] in the mix; ditto SPICIER [More piquant] and ELECTRIC [Like some catfish or eels]. Never knew there were electric catfish, but apparently, it’s so.
[Gary's place] is a geographical clue and takes us to INDIANA. This is the town that Meredith Willson put on the (musical theatre) map in the song… “Gary, Indiana” from The Music Man. Beyond those “76 Trombones,” Prof. Harold Hill must have promised at least one of those budding musicians that he could master the (reed) instrument created by ADOLPHE SAX [He had a whole family of musical instruments named after him]. No, I’m not gonna spell it out. You know the answer.
And while we’re in the country’s heartland, hello to the [Home of Elvis], MEMPHIS, Tennessee, and the Texas twins: [Houston ballplayer]/ASTRO and [Lone Star State sch.]/UTEP (University of Texas–El Paso).
I question some of the cluing that simply feels arbitrary. Why is HEM a [Mini-feature?]? A “mini” has a short hemline, but just about any garment can lay claim to having a hem… Then there’s [Jack or ten] for CARD. Is there something unique to those two that makes them the best choices for this clue? And while I like paired clues, I’m not sold on today’s [Fraternity letter] and [Sorority letter] for RHO and PHI. Again—I see nothing that makes these letters unique to their clues. Anyone else care to chime in—or play devil’s advocate?
On the other hand, EEYORE and EMENDS certainly make for euphonious neighbors. But I’d be careful about letting that TOM CAT get any closer to the PEA HEN. All of that euphony could quickly turn into cacophony!
Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 17A. COMMON SENSE, common law.
- 36A. When cops have a sick-out, it’s called the BLUE FLU. It’s blue laws that keep Illinois car dealerships closed on Sunday and make it impossible to pick up some wine on a Sunday morning grocery run. Blue laws are silly.
- 58A. [Karate and aikido] are MARTIAL ARTS. My son starts his first martial arts class on Friday. He’s so unenthused about it. We’re making him give it a try anyway. It’s better than martial law, right?
- 11D. LEMON PEEL is less appealing than, say, LEMON ZEST or LEMON TWIST (or LIZ LEMON). Lemon laws give you an out when you buy a lousy car.
- 31D. An [Analytical write-up] is a CASE STUDY or case report. Case law is that stuff that lawyers and judges need to know all about.
The fill and clues have an appealing freshness to them, despite JAM-PACK being the only Scrabbly bit—familiar language with minimal reliance on crosswordese. The type of theme is nothing fancy, but the execution’s good and the phrases all Monday-friendly. I put Gail Grabowski up there with Lynn Lempel as a prolific creator of particularly smooth crosswords at the Monday end of the spectrum.
Favorite clue: ED ASNER is ['70s Mary Tyler Moore costar] rather than Roots Oscar winner or Up star. Yes, the clue is older, but in Asner’s eventual obituary, that Lou Grant characterization will probably make the first paragraph.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Highlights: A Twitter HASHTAG, a Facebook UNFRIEND, a football HAND-OFF, a geographic SURINAM, a Scrabbly name WOZNIAK, and a medical terminology SACCADE.
I quibble with the clue for ECZEMA, [Spotty problem]. Spots are smaller than patches of eczema, no? Also with the clue for TESSERA, [Fancy bathroom floor, perhaps]. It ain’t fancy to have just one little marble tile on your bathroom floor. (Plural is tesserae.)
Never heard of [Fashion model Chanel ___] IMAN, a model born in 1989. Birth name is Chanel Iman Robinson. She was destined to work in fashion with a name like that, wasn’t she? (She’d like to design, too.) She’s from Atlanta and she’s of African-American and Korean parentage.