Michael Barnhart’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
63-Across explains the theme. ["Good luck!" ...and a hint to 17-, 25-, 39- and 51-Across]. BREAK A LEG, revealing that those four answers have the letters L-E-G “broken” across two words of a familiar phrase.
- 17a. [Bonding material for bathroom floors] TILE GROUT.
- 25a. [Playground fixture] JUNGLE GYM.
- 39a. [Donations] CHARITABLE GIFTS.
- 51a. [Upholsterer's tool] STAPLE GUN.
Kind of a boring theme, with boring theme answers. This is always a danger with Monday puzzles; they tend to be… nice. Just, you know, nice. They aren’t challenging, they aren’t eccentric, they aren’t bad and they aren’t great. Nice.
When Amy made me sign my name in blood to the Fiend contract, I volunteered to write up the Monday Times puzzles because, honestly, I needed a reason to actually solve them, having long ago abstained from the Times week until Wednesdays. I’d grown weary of vanilla puzzles like this. And by vanilla, I don’t mean the totally artificial cheap ice cream with chunks of frozen water in it (you know which puzzles I’m talking about), nor the gourmet kind with flecks of real Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans. I mean the midrange offerings with decent creaminess and mouthfeel and some okay flavor. Maybe Edy’s.
Yes, it’s good to see fill like INFLUXES and AFTERGLOW, with a minimum of clunkers (I BE, ESAI, UNIV, et al.), but an early-week puzzle needs something extra to make it even marginally memorable fifteen minutes after solving. Really, the best Monday I’ve seen in a while was Ian Livengood’s from two weeks ago [review], which was comparatively exhilarating—and not simply because it had a ton of theme content.
Dan Schoenholz’s Los Angeles Times crossword
With the first two theme answers beginning with TWO and THREE, I figured that FOUR, FIVE, and SIX would follow. But no, that’s not mathy enough:
- 17a. [*Many a sports car, capacity-wise] is a TWO-SEATER.
- 23a. [*Genie's offering] is THREE WISHES.
- 39a. [*Eisenhower became one in 1944] clues a FIVE-STAR GENERAL.
- 49a. [*Slurpee seller] is, technically, 7-Eleven. But it’s spelled out as SEVEN-ELEVEN here.
- 61a. What do 2, 3, 5, and 7 have in common? They’re the first four prime numbers. Ergo, PRIME TIME is [When most top-rated shows are on, and a hint to the kind of numbers in the starred answers].
- 63a. ["Some people swallow the universe like __": Stevenson] clues the partial A PILL. Not me. I’m different. I swallow pills like they’re the universe. The universe definitely goes down easier when it’s gel-coated.
- 55a. [Dover's are white] refers to the WHITE Cliffs of Dover in England.
- 27d. Is ENVY really [Jealousy without resentment]? Not necessarily. The dictionary also talks up resentment in the ENVY definition.
- 22a. [Town square centerpiece] vexed me because I had the singular OASIS for 13d: [Where to find dates?]. Eventually I realized it had to be a STATUE and OASES. Man, STATUI was not looking good.
- 9d. [Like much politics] clues PARTISAN. Nice to see a couple 8s (also SEINFELD) in a Monday puzzle.
No reading on the Scowl-o-Meter, so a solid four stars. (Four’s not a prime number, you know.)
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Futility” – Sam Donaldson’s review
It’s quip time, as Keller offers an adage apt for many paper crossword solvers: TO WRITE WITH / A BROKEN PENCIL / IS POINTLESS. (For those who don’t get it, a broken pencil would lack a pointed tip and would, thus, be “pointless.”)
The theme occupies only 35 squares, low by contemporary standards that generally prefer at least 40 theme squares. That should leave plenty of room for sparkly fill, but there’s not much of that here. I like MIDWIFE, the [Childbirth assistant], and the nod to DAKOTA Fanning is nice. And to be sure, the stack of eight-letter entries sandwiching the center theme entry (EVANESCE and RESEARCH) is elegant. Beyond that, though, there’s not much to trumpet.
Triple-stacked six-letter entries in the corners normally would be cause for celebration, but not when the crossings are this ugly. Consider the northwest corner, for instance. The four short Across entries contain an abbreviation (LBS), a Roman numeral (CII), and a prefix (IDEO)–and I’m not that wild about the fourth one (HON), either. Any one of those is perfectly fine, and even two of them would be okay if the resulting long Downs were juicy. But three of them? And for L’CHAIM, BIONDI, and SINGED as the payoff? Ugh.
The southwest stack is no better, really. You have a partial (IS ON), an overused term (ERE), a crosswordese abbreviation (SLR), and another abbreviation (SYS). And here too the long Downs (ASSESS, HOURLY, and SNEERS) disappoint.
Fortunately, the clues are better than the fill. [It may be lost on purpose] is a nice clue for FAT, and I also liked [Amenity at many Starbucks] for WIFI, mostly because it tricked me into thinking of coffee-related perks first. I was sure there was an error with the clue [Small child] for TAD. “TOT, sure,” I figured, “but TAD? Was it supposed to be [Small amount]? Or [Short for Thaddeus]?” Fortunately, I consulted my dictionary before triumphantly declaring that I spotted an error, only to see the very first definition of the word was “a small boy.” So it’s legit, but I’d still like to see it in a sentence. “Have you seen my tad, Tad?”
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Highlights: SUGAR HIGH, NEW JERSEY DEVILS, YNGWIE Malmstein (though I wanted to see his full name in the grid), SCREECH, HINES WARD, IT’S PAT, HYUNDAI. Also, I like how ["Eugene __"], starts with ONE, had me wondering if someone wrote a “Eugene O’Neill” song. Nope, it’s the play Eugene ONEGIN.
Never heard of HOLY HAND GRENADE or the Book of Armaments. Sci-fi? Video games? Comics? No idea. Sounds like something Robin would have exclaimed to Batman.
Place I decided to GO WRONG: For the clue [Like Brussels sprouts, maybe], I thought Brendan was playing a geography game and put in BELGIAN, with “sprouts” meaning kids. Er, no. UNEATEN.