Alex Vratsanos’ New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Vratsanos seems to be making a début today, and does so in style, with a solid, sure grid that felt like a themeless, primarily because I didn’t see either of the clues for the two-part reveal:
- 23a (&57a). [With 57-Across, game that includes the starts of 17-, 29-, 48- and 64-Across] PING PONG.
- 17a. [Laundry that's often food-stained] TABLE LINEN. I had table cloth momentarily.
- 29a. [How much you really earned] NET INCOME.
- 48a. [Hoosier University] BALL STATE.
- 64a. [Lakeshore rental, perhaps] PADDLE BOAT.
That pretty much covers the necessities: table, ball, paddle(s), net. The four themers are strong entries and of decent length, nine and ten letters.
The puzzle also shines in its non-theme content: ROCKSTAR, ATHEISTS, IONIZER, STACCATO, CHLORIDE, ANECDOTE, SKELETON, MOSAICS are all good sevens and eights. TIC [ __-tac-toe] and EXES are neighbors, but they aren’t clued in relation to each other. Would have been happier if RETILE or RETAPE were absent; both of them are a bit much for me. CAP (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials) Quotient™ is low enough to escape nitpicking. Good mix of letters overall. Romperiffic.
Definitely looking forward to seeing more puzzles by Alex Vratsanos.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A Really Big Shoe” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Veteran crossword solvers know that [Large shoe size] almost always clues EEE. Here, Ross gives us a “really big shoe” by finding five terms that contain three consecutive Es:
- 17-Across: The [Broadcaster behind the Iron Curtain] is RADIO FREE EUROPE.
- 22-Across: The [Bird that consumes flying insects] is a BEE-EATER. Not to be confused with the bird that serves on the queen’s royal guard, the beef-eater.
- 37-Across: The [Hard copy of on-line material] is the DEAD TREE EDITION. This theme entry felt the freshest to me.
- 48-Across: For some reason I knew that LEE ELDER was the [First African-American to play at the Masters], but the first answer I wanted was Calvin Peete.
- 55-Across: One possible [Explanation from an ump] is I CALL ‘EM AS I SEE ‘EM. The expression that feels more common to me is “I call ‘em like I see ‘em,” but this seems fine to me too.
The theme works fine for me, but I’m a bigger fan of the fill. We get off to a fun start with FILCH, then there’s ABU DHABI, PEPSI alongside TWEET, SEMI-PRO, and TOOL BELT. That’s a lot of sparkle in a grid with five theme entries. And my inner ten year-old liked HOOHAS, though the version clued ([Commotions]) is not how my inner ten year-old knows the term.
There are some less attractive entries too, like that whole cluster in the middle of SRAS, UEYS, BASSI, and the awkwardly plural RAYONS (it so looks like it’s missing a “C”). And while I’m on the topic of underwhelming crosswordese, I’m quickly losing enthusiasm for MRE, [Today's version of a K ration]. It just feels like I’ve seen a little too much of it lately. But these are small points; overall I found the puzzle enjoyable.
Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I didn’t look at the byline until halfway through the puzzle, when I wanted to know who deserved the credit for a fine, breezy puzzle. For my money, Jeff Chen’s one of the most consistently good new constructors being published in the LA Times.
Jeff’s theme is DOUBLE A’S, the batteries, writ large as four famous people with double A’s in their names. Two last names (JACK PAAR, JAMES CAAN) balanced by two first names (ISAAC ASIMOV, AARON BURR). Simple, solid, easy to figure out: perfect for Monday.
- Those corners with the stacked 7′s and 8s. All six of those answers are good, especially the MACARONI with VELVEETA, and their crossings aren’t clunky.
- 9d. CLOSE GAME, a [Nip and tuck contest]. Great answer phrase.
- 19a. “HOLD ME“—cute! ["I need a hug"].
- 48a. [Blue state?] clues a blue FUNK.
- 8d/35a. The pallor pals, ASHEN and WAN.
- 43d. [Polished part of a piggy?] is a painted TOENAIL.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Whoa! Three sets of triple-stacked 15′s, with every crossing and non-15 being 3, 4, or 5 letters long, and only a single trigger for the Scowl-o-Meter. That would be TRONA, a [Gray-white mineral] I’ve never heard of despite taking geology in college. A few abbrevs and semi-awkward little plurals, but overall this is a 99% smooth grid. There are even, surprisingly, some Scrabbly letters in the mix (two Q’s, two X’s, a Z, and a couple K’s).
And the 15′s! OPERATING MARGIN‘s on the dull side and TOASTMISTRESSES is a quintessential bottom-row answer with all the instances of S, T, R, and E in that word. But the other seven 15′s are fantastic.
I have no idea why AETNA is a [Tufts rival]. Is there a school by the name of Aetna?
Standard BEQ themeless difficulty, no real trouble spots but an abundance of clues that weren’t gimmes at all. 4¾ stars.