Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Let’s call this theme “Organic Insults”. Here we have four less-than charitable personality descriptions that end in a body part. Well, an adjectival form of a body part anyway.
- 17a. [Easily offended] is THIN-SKINNED.
- 28a. [Inclined to mince words] translates to MEALY-MOUTHED.
- 46a. [Lacking courage] is FAINT-HEARTED.
- 62a. [Cowardly] makes for LILY-LIVERED.
Good theme, but not without fault. For one, a mouth isn’t an organ, it’s a structure. On the other hand, since I’m the one—not the constructor or editor—who saddled the puzzle with the “organ” label, this criticism doesn’t carry much weight. Second, and more valid, the third and fourth themers [Lacking courage/Cowardly] are essentially the same in spirit, if not in body [part]. This might be acceptable in a larger puzzle with more theme entries, but when there are only four and it constitutes half of the theme, it seems as if it should have been avoidable.
Not sure if the central down answer, YENTA, is supposed to comment on the theme because it’s clued as [Busybody] (emphasis mine); I’m inclined to think it’s a coincidence. While we’re looking at the center, I quibble with the entry at 38-Across: CYNIC is clued as [One with a negative outlook on life]. I’d call that sort of person a pessimist, while a cynic’s view is realistic.
The rest of the puzzle is varied and smooth, with a minimum of dross and frass. Low on drass and fross, too! Some lovely longer vertical entries—MOTOR HOME, INSIDE JOB, WETLAND, MATINEE—add sparkle. The cruciverbal stalwarts SMEE and AGA might be outside the ken of crossword neophytes. Rompadelic.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Ending Leaves Me Cold” – Sam Donaldson’s review
A chill is in the air, as Keller gives us four phrases ending with words that can follow the word “cold:”
- 20-Across: The [Often carried-on bag] is an OVERNIGHT CASE. For the traveling investigator, it may hold files from a “cold case.”
- 28-Across: [Neon tetras and mollies] are TROPICAL FISH. Not being especially social, they’re known as “cold fish.”
- 49-Across: The SOFT SHOULDER is [Where one may be pulled over]. A helpful tip: don’t give the police officer the “cold shoulder.”
- 59-Across: The [Item in a strawberry shortcake recipe] would be the worst ingredient of all, WHIPPING CREAM. The strawberries and the cake are just fine by themselves, thank you, though I will concede that whipping cream would be better than “cold cream,” even if it doesn’t moisturize as well.
You can’t get much simpler, as themes go. Three highlights from the grid:
- [Groggy, perhaps] is the clue for the nicest entry, HALF AWAKE. This is what many of my students call “full attention.” (The shout-out to SEA-TAC, the [Airport in Wash. State], is also appreciated.)
- There’s a nice assortment of chewy rare letters in the center, with SQUAB, PDQ, ISUZU, and ZOOM.
- Today’s featured performers on Radio Station WTF? include Laura NYRO and the [Icelandic epic], EDDA.
One final note: I continue to dislike PR MEN, as there are many women [Spin docs] too. I get why it continues to come up in grids (PR MEN is shorter than PR WOMEN and PR PEOPLE), but I’m entitled to dislike it.
Kelly Clark’s Los Angeles Times crossword
It took me a while to discern the theme—not until after I had finished the puzzle. If you’re gonna have violence for your crossword theme, this is the way to do it: subtle. Five answers begin with rough (!) synonyms:
- 1a. Because it’s Monday, you get a free hint to the theme. OUCH means ["Yipe!" (or an apt title for this puzzle?)].
- 17a. [It's roughly between a batter's chest and knees] clues the STRIKE ZONE.
- 39a. [Maynard G. Krebs of old TV, notably] was a BEATNIK. My son recently asked me what a BEATNIK is. Kinda hard to explain.
- 64a. HIT THE ROAD means [Begin traveling].
- 11d. [Whence fruity drinks are ladled] is the PUNCH BOWL. Gotta love a good “whence” usage.
- 34d. [Pie-throwing comedy] is SLAPSTICK.
I like that the hitting words don’t involve inflicting pain in the theme answers. (A slapstick was used to make a gentle thwack sound much harder.)
The fill’s slightly heavy on the crosswordese names and things front. HEDDA, ETNA, APSE, ENZO, OTT, EDDA, ASE, ESTES, and EMIR? Oh, yes. And the word SEEABLE has dictionary legitimacy but is seldom used (which is weird—why is the word with the Old English root less common than its Latinate cousin, visible?).
We’ve got double Lionel action in two adjacent clues. There’s ["Hello" singer Lionel] RICHIE beside the TRAINS that are [Lionels under the tree]. (Though I bet there have been plenty of Jewish kids with Lionel train sets who didn’t get their trains as Christmas gifts.)
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
I like the Manny Nosowsky-inspired grid design. Lots of long answers with a ton of easy flow throughout the matrix.
Loved the clue for PIGLET. Never really thought of his outfit as a “magenta jumper.” Like ATTILA with a comic-strip clue since I just saw a new bakery in Chicago called Sweet Attila’s (it’s named after a rabbit, Sweet Attila the Honey Bunny). Liked being duped by the “football” clue that meant soccer, right on the heels of American football’s DETROIT LIONS. Also liked HONEY MUSTARD, didn’t-know-it-but-like-it GUY NOIR, SUN HAT beside ECLIPSED, three-S CHESS SET, and SHARON STONE.
Favorite clue: [Frank and beans?] for CHILI DOG, because There’s Something About Mary has ruined the phrase “franks and beans” for me forever.