Aimee Lucido’s New York Times crossword
The daily-sized puzzles in the NYT this week were all made by students at Brown University. Some of the names in the bylines will be familiar and some, like today’s, belong to debut constructors. It’s particularly cool to see crosswords by young women, after too many years in which all the teen/young adult constructors were male. According to Jim Horne’s Wordplay interview with Aimee, her crossword mentor is Andrea Carla Michaels—I know from experience that working with more experienced constructors is a wonderful way to learn the craft of puzzlemaking. If you’re a young wannabe constructor but you don’t have the support of a college crossword club or a mentor, join Cruciverb-L and make personal connections with constructors via the crossword blogs, and you can find a mentor of your own.
Fittingly for Brown Week, today’s theme is tied together by the word BROWN: The sprightly phrases BEAR WITH ME, SUGAR DADDY, BETTY BOOP, and NOSE DIVES all begin with words that can follow BROWN. (And to answer Jim H’s question: I don’t have a problem with BROWN-NOSE being evoked in the crossword. I’ve used the word since high school in the ’80s, if not earlier, and though I know the ass-kissing derivation of the term, I feel it has moved well past any sphincteric connotations and is simply a useful term relating to obsequious behavior.)
The fill is fun: EPSOM salts and EPSON printers, the BLACK SOX crossing BROWN, the paleontologist’s SKELETON and DINOSAUR, and Homer Simpson’s PORK CHOP are especially good.
Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Dang, would you look at that? Four 15-letter theme entries plus a 7-letter one in the middle means an ambitious 67 theme squares in a Monday puzzle. The grid pattern provides only a skinny space in the middle (at DNA) connecting the upper and lower halves, which potentially could slow a solver down. But the theme and overalll cluing are, I think, so accessible that the center squeeze shouldn’t be much of a problem.
The theme entries finish their run with BED AND BREAKFAST, which is commonly abbreviated as “b. & b.” The other four theme answers follow the same structure, B__ AND B__:
- 17a. BUMPS AND BRUISES are [Consequences of a minor accident, perhaps].
- 22a. BARNUM AND BAILEY are ["The Greatest Show on Earth" promoters] in circus history.
- 35a. [Before long] clues BY AND BY.
- 46a. [Product improvement slogan] clues BIGGER AND BETTER.
- 53a. A BED AND BREAKFAST is a [Cozy inn whose abbreviation is a hint to this puzzle's theme].
It felt a little awkward to me to have EASES BY (43a. [Gently slips past]) and EDGE IN (43d. [Enter stealthily]) together, especially with BY AND BY so close to EASES BY. So often the EDGE and EASE verbs are clued in similar ways and they both start with E, leaving me in a “What do the crossings say?” situation.
Bright spots in the fill include the BAWDY BABEL BARB BEAST BRIBE, the U.S. ARMY, and a HISSY fit. Not much else of note, which isn’t unexpected when a dense theme constrains the fill.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “An Outside Chance”—Janie’s review
Today Lynn gives us four solid and sparkly theme phrases all of which come wrapped in the letters of the word “chance.” Two come in a package of ch + ance, one as cha + nce, and one as chan + ce. See if you don’t agree about the quality of the theme fill. There’s:
- 17A. CHAIN OF EVIDENCE [Courtroom trail proving guilt or innocence]. This and “blood trail” feel very Law & Order to me. Lynn makes reference to a different kind of “court,” however, when she gives us the clue [Civil rights promoter with lots of court experience] for tennis court star Arthur ASHE.
- 28A. CHANGE OF PACE [Welcome shift in routine]. Like a vacation. Hiking… Or being by the sea… Taking some time for yourself can really take the edge off the same-old same-old.
- 50A. CHICKEN DANCE [Musical activity with clapping and flapping]. A change of pace on the dance floor, although to judge from the Lawrence Welk version, a rather tame one… Not to be confused with the, well, more expressive dance step from the late ’50s known as “The Chicken.” Nice how Lynn also finds a place in the grid for the chicken‘s mom, the HEN, a [Cooped-up female?].
- 64A. CHERBOURG, FRANCE [English Channel port near Le Havre]. As in The Umbrellas of…, Catherine Deneuve and “I Will Wait for You.”
The smooth way this puzzle fell was not something that happened by “chance”. Making puzzles that cohere is something for which Lynn is known to EXCEL [Do really well (at)]. Here’re some examples of tied-in fill:
- If you’re in need of retail therapy, you can ["Shop] TIL [you drop"]; perhaps buy a TEXT [Start-of-semester purchase]; and never leave home, because the goods you want you [Shop for on-line, maybe] ORDER.
- I was a little surprised that [Cousteau family's milieu] gave us OCEAN and not LA MER, but either way, that fill makes for the literal counterpart to the metaphorical AT SEA [In deep water?].
- A range of mental/cognitive processes are represented by way of NOTION [Belief], then [Wishful thinking?] for ENVY, then MENSA for [Bunch of wise guys?]. My first response to that last one was MAFIA (with MAGES as a possible second…)—making TAPE that (not-so-essential) [Start-of-semester purchase]. Wrong.
- While we want someone who’s a CRITIC [Book or movie reviewer] to be fair-handed, many’s the time they’re known to [Show disdain] SNIFF at works that might warrant kinder, gentler treatment. Fortunately, many creative folks are familiar with the statement attributed to composer Max Reger: “I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me.“
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Brendan claimed last Thursday’s themed puzzle was easy and that today’s themeless is hard. My solving time on this one is 8 seconds slower than on the “easy” one. I hereby declare that both of these puzzles are of medium difficulty.
Hey! Look at 5d. [Sporcle offering] is, of course, a TRIVIA QUIZ. I just sent @sporcle a tweet to let them know (with a link to Brendan’s site). Will they retweet it to their 4,462 followers? I hope so.
Pretty smooth fill for a 64-worder. Wondering what ESTOPS, ESTEE, ASLOPE, and JILTER were doing there? Getting all the superior stuff to fit, that’s what. They’re not sought-after fill, no, but they’re acceptable.
Highlights in the grid:
- PABST and PAPA DOC, together again.
- The old RADIO ERA atop DOUG E. FRESH. Do you know I was this close to claiming last weekend’s Newsday “Saturday Stumper” was by Doug “E. Fresh” Peterson? True story.
- Have you ever had KIPPERED NACHOS? They’re delicious.
- MAUNDY Thursday has the best name of any sort of holy day, doesn’t it? It’s the MAUNDY. Looks like an adjective, but has no apparent use aside from that one Thursday. I dunno. I’m in kind of a maundy mood this morning.
- DR. PEPPER, CASH BAR, LIFE OF EASE, and JULIENNE are also bright spots in the fill.
- 25a. [Feature in a rainbow and a cake] is the LONG A sound.
- 25d. [Flâneur's experience] is a LIFE OF EASE. Anyone else find themselves thinking that F word is the last name of the guy from They Might Be Giants? (He’s Flansburgh.)
- 43d. DESI [___ food (chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, et al.)] is a great non-Arnaz clue for DESI. A desi is a person of Indian, Bangladeshi, or Pakistani descent who lives abroad. If it weren’t for desis, I would have no idea that samosas and channa masala existed, and that would be a damn shame.