Patrick Blindauer’s New York Times crossword
Straight-up embedded word theme here: The word TEAR appears within five two-word phrases, spanning the two words. NET EARNINGS, the DEFINITE ARTICLE, WYATT EARP, and David Attenborough’s PLANET EARTH give me no trouble, but WASTE AREA doesn’t sound remotely familiar. I questioned the people in my living room about that one, and a friend declared, “That’s ludicrous. And on a Monday?” Indeed!
We don’t see much BREAST in the crossword, but here ’tis, clued as a [Suckling site]. That reminds me of a funny video I saw this morning for the first time: the “Bitty” scene from the Little Britain series. Don’t click through if crass humor offends you.
Two Teutonic answers loaded with E’s and S’s appear in the puzzle. There’s 19a: ESSEN, the [Industrial city of Germany] that probably shows up in crosswords more often than any other German city. Beware of EMDEN, though, which rears its head on occasion. We also have Hermann HESSE, the [German Hermann] who wrote Siddhartha. Did everyone else have that as assigned reading in high-school English class? I do appreciate that high-school “English” included plenty of works of literature that had to be translated into English, like Hesse and Dostoyevsky. College literature classes seem much more inclined to segregate books by the original language in which they were written.
Nothing too showy in this grid. Given Patrick Blindauer’s inventiveness, I can’t help wondering if there’s some other level to this puzzle that I’m missing. Anyone?
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Hoops Legend”—Evad’s review
If you didn’t know much about coach JOHN WOODEN (put yours truly in that category), this puzzle was quite a slog. Here’s what I didn’t know about him:
- His nickname was the WIZARD OF WESTWOOD. Westwood is a neighborhood of Los Angeles and the home of UCLA.
- I’m assuming as a coach, his teams have won TEN NCAA TITLES. Hard to see that initially with that double-A action in the center.
- He coached the UCLA BRUINS.
Without a solid hold on the theme entries, I struggled a bit with the fill. Here were my problem areas:
- Spaced out on “Photovoltaic device” putting in a PHOTO CELL before SOLAR CELL.
- Came up with the more common to xwords ESSO before ARCO as “Shell competitor.”
- Was thinking ASTI was nearer to Padua than ESTE. Este and Padua are in the NE of Italy (Veneto region), Asti’s in the NW (Piedmont).
- Appropriate to have sportscaster Jim NANTZ, who calls many of the “March Madness” games. Its symmetric partner is OF USE, which certainly may describe Coach Wooden, but doesn’t also appear to be an explicit theme entry.
- Some nice longer down entries: SCHMOOZE (“Work the room”), ANNE TYLER (“Breathing Lessons” author…is she any relation to Bonnie, Jeffrey?), and EASTSIDE (“Park Avenue area”).
So is there a particular reason for running this puzzle today? An anniversary or recent award? 17-Across mentions his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, but I see here that that was in 1960 as a player and 1972 as a coach. He also received the highest civilian award in the land, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, from George W. Bush in 2003. Finally, he passed away at the tender young age of 99 in June of this year, so a tribute at some time does seem appropriate.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme is “blank of the blank” phrases in which the final word progresses from a day to a year:
- 19a. [Restaurant special] is the SOUP OF THE DAY. Not a big soup fan, but that’s a good entry.
- 27a. ['60s ABC boxing show] clues FIGHT OF THE WEEK, which doesn’t resonate for me. Gareth says that was editor Rich Norris’s suggestion, replacing Gareth’s FREAK O.T.W., which I don’t know either. ABC was fond of its MOVIE OF THE WEEK, but that reference might be dated too.
- 41a. Before I read the clue, I saw that the OF THE MONTH answer needed a 4-letter noun in front. Oh, I so wanted it to be TIME OF THE MONTH! But you can’t order a period through the mail, and [Featured mail-order club offering] clues BOOK OF THE MONTH. Rock-solid, that.
- 47a. CAR OF THE YEAR is a noted [Motor Trend magazine award]. My car is the 2010 COTY, while the Chevrolet Volt has been selected for 2011.
Straightforward themes like this are perfectly suited to Mondays.
Seven more clues:
- 1a. GEEK [__ Squad: Best Buy service team].
- 33a. [Singer Chris or actor Stephen] REA leaves me half mystified. Turns out Chris Rea is a 59-year-old British singer-songwriter-bluesman.
- 38a. [Minute stake?] just means a small stake/bet, I guess: the initial ANTE to get into a card game.
- 56a. [Silents actress Theda] BARA is in the club with Virna Lisi and…goodness, I’m blanking on the other crosswordese movie stars of a bygone era. Mabel Normand…I know there are more.
- 25d. A REHASH is an [Uninspired new version] of something like a movie.
- 36d. When Gareth [Finished dealing with] this crossword, he PUT it TO BED.
- 39d. ["We Three Kings" adverb] clues AFAR.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
This puzzle’s mighty smooth for a 62-worder. I didn’t even notice the word count was so low while I was solving it, which is a coup for any crossword with such a low word count. It’s all too easy to populate the grid with prefixes and word endings that play well with other words. The worst transgressor here is the plural noun (?!) INERTS, and I’m not wild about SEE ALONE and SO DUMB. Oh, wait, and 32d: [Spindle: Var.]/MANDRIL, spelling mandrel weirdly. The good stuff outnumbers that, though. Highlights include these ones:
- Pop culture’s MACARENA, DRUMMOND (!), and J.J. ABRAMS/
- The lovely PLEIN-AIR and DISPIRIT (the latter is a depressing word, but isn’t it pretty?).
- PITBULLS meet PIÑATA. Merriment ensues.
- For 47a: ["Run to the Hills" metal band, among fans], knowing little about metal and seeing 6 letters starting with M, I considered MOTLEY Crue. No, it’s Iron MAIDEN, but MOTLEY popped up at 27a.
- Lively verb phrases: SLEPT IN, PASS TIME.
Fun clues, too:
- 7d. A LEASH is a [String on a toy] poodle.
- 12d. [Cozying up] clues NESTLED and it took me forever to reconcile the verb tenses. If you’re cozying up with your sweetie, you’re nestled with him or her.
- 27d. “MACARENA” is [VH1's #1 Greatest One-Hit Wonder of all Time]. Lotta competition for that honor, you know.
- 33d. [Bit of light reading?] clues the Amazon KINDLE, which is lightweight. If you want an e-book reader you can use in the dark, though, try an iPad.
- 35d. A PINATA is a [Big hit at birthday parties].