Richard Chisholm’s New York Times crossword
We don’t usually see this type of theme on Mondays, do we? While the theme’s intricate and quite well-executed, though, the puzzle remains Monday-easy. 59A: TWO HANDS ties the theme together because each of the other four theme answers is a compound word or two-word phrase in which both halves can precede the word HAND:
- 17a. OFFSTAGE gets handy with offhand and a stagehand.
- 25a. The gloves come off BEFORE LONG and reveal beforehand and longhand.
- 35a. Secondhand (meaning “used,” not the second hand on a clock) and a helping hand come from SECOND HELPING.
- 50a. RIGHT FIELD, the [Position for Babe Ruth], gives you your right hand and a field hand.
None of those components is at all iffy. Well played.
Now, in the fill, there are some gems and some relative stinkers. Gems include SQUIRREL, the FLAMBÉ PIGPEN, a solid THUMP, P.J.’S, a FISHEYE lens, a little SOFT-SHOE, “NOT FOR ME,” and NINTENDO (who knew they were the [Video game maker that owns the Seattle Mariners]?) Less savory are answers like -ETH, WOOER, A SORE, TAL, DEO, TSETSE, ESTO, OTOS, E-CASH, SITU, SROS, TREAS., APER, AH SO, M.A.’S, and RETAGS.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Family Comes First”—Janie’s review
With this puzzle, Gail puts us “in the family way” so to speak, as the first three letters of each of the theme phrases spell out a casual name to each member of the traditional nuclear family. That would account for:
20A. SISTINE CHAPEL [Where “The Last Judgment” was painted]. While there are several chapels in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, this one—primarily because of Michelangelo’s frescoes—is considered by most to be the proverbial jewel in the crown.
31A. BRONZE STAR [Military decoration]. The Bronze Star Medal, given for “heroic or meritorious achievement or service” has been around since 1944 (retroactively awarded back to 12/7/41) and is one notch higher than the Purple Heart.
41A. DADE COUNTY [Miami’s administrative territory]. Given today’s theme, seems appropriate to note Dade County‘s (a/k/a Miami-Dade) sister cities.
54A. MOMENT OF TRUTH [Decisive time]. Great base phrase here.
So we’ve sis, bro, pop and mom; and then, although it doesn’t do so within another phrase, we get a little bonus fill by way of NIECE, another [Family tree member]. The etymology’s a bit fuzzy, but there’s also BUBBA [Stereotypical good ol’ boy], purportedly derived from “brother” (saith Wiki…). And if we’re gettin’ really stretchy, there’s also THE SIS. No, wait… that’s THESIS [Postgraduate’s project]. Never mind.
But do take a look at the fine ‘n’ lively fill we get with ON THE MOVE, NAIL SALON (wittily clued as [Place with lots of polish]), BAR NONE and CATFISH [Bottom feeders with barbels]. “Barbels” are those whisker-like organs that catfish have. Of course, I looked at the clue and saw “barbells.” Really? I’m lookin’ for a word that means “weight-lifting bottom feeders”? Once again: never mind.
There’s a small quantity of small quantities today with both a [Smidgen] and a [Smidgen in the kitchen] for TAD and DASH; and there’s also [Very little] cluing TEENY. This word can describe a size or an amount.
[Jelly container, maybe] is not GLASS but DONUT. Those confections aren’t unique to “do-nut shops” but can also be found in some bakeries. Today’s [Bakery offerings] however are RYES.
Gail’s knack for cluing extends refreshingly to shorter fill—which tends to add to the puzzle’s attractiveness. The oft-seen ANTS sound almost charming clued as [Critters on a hill]; and what is it that’s […all over the main drag]? Is is the latest gossip? No. We’re talkin’ paving process here, so it’s TAR. “OH, YES!” [“But of course!”].
p.s. On a non-puzzle front—if you ever have the opportunity to visit Yosemite, “run, don’t walk.” Actually, make that “walk, don’t run” as it’s more of a hiker’s paradise than a runner’s. Regardless—however you experience it—foot, bike, car, tram, bus—it’s sure to impress. I didn’t love having to leave it, but am so glad I got to visit!
James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I was rolling my eyes through the first three theme entries—three unrelated phrases beginning with men’s nicknames, how flavorless—when bam! the fourth theme entry whapped me upside the head. JACK, BOBBY, and TEDDY all hung out at the KENNEDY COMPOUND. Now, that’s an “aha” moment with oomph. Here’s the theme:
- 20a. [Mister Fixit] is a JACK OF ALL TRADES.
- 30a. [Footwear often turned down at the ankle] are BOBBY SOCKS.
- 41a. [Tots’ furry sleeping companions] are TEDDY BEARS.
- 54a. And the KENNEDY COMPOUND is the [Hyannis Port site where the starts of 20-, 30- and 41-Across were often found].
Did you notice the names were the Kennedy brothers before reaching 54a?
If you’re thirsting for discussion of the non-theme fill, swing by L.A. Crossword Confidential for PuzzleGirl’s thoughts.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
I bet FAUX CHATEAU was one of the first entries Brendan placed into this grid. The term is only faintly familiar to me, though. I usually stick with “McMansion” and add a note of disdain for the ridiculous A/C bills those houses must run up. (My electric bill for last month was almost $100, which is probably an all-time high for me. It was a hot month.)
- 1a. HIGH-LOW JACK is a [Game also known as Pitch]. I suspect this is a card game but have never heard of it.
- 17a. [Crow] and RODOMONTADE don’t seem equivalent to me. “Crow” as a noun (“she gave a crow of triumph”) doesn’t equate to “rodomontade,” which isn’t a single unit of boasting. And “rodomontade” as a verb is archaic.
- 35a. [Burrito request] is all wrong. NO CHEESE? Why would I ask for that? I wanted it to be NO ONIONS.
- 8d. [One with a Mark Sanchez jersey, probably]? I needed the crossings to tell me which team. JETS FAN.
- SARA TERI DARA IMOGENE? Four names I didn’t know. That’s a lot for one puzzle. I nailed the other proper nouns (NESTLE, ANI, LEMA, AVA, TROP, AC/DC, ST. LOUIS, ULM, YALU, ENID), luckily. But four mystery names is more than I usually encounter in one puzzle—names are my sweet spot. There are easier ways to clue SARA, TERI, DARA, and IMOGENE, but then it’d be a much easier puzzle. And who wants that?