Joseph Samulak’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Today’s puzzle is another début.
Four theme answers arranged windmill style and a revealer in the center:
- 37a. [Homemade music compilation…or a hint to the circled letters] MIX TAPE. Straightforward enough, but two quibbles: First, I’d say it’s both a name and a hint, so and instead of or might be better. Second, considering the nearby clue for 32a [Excellent, in dated slang] PHAT, it makes one realize that mix tapes have similarly slipped into obsolescence. Yes, there’s a minor groundswell of resurgence (including virtual mixtapes), but it’s very much a niche thing, like a professed fetishization of vinyl records. Blame it on those damn
hippieshipsters, if you like. Reflecting this concession to accuracy would make the clue even longer, so perhaps the solution—if one is required—would be to alter the clue for 32a. Each of the arrayed themers contains the letters T-A-P-E in sequence, jumbled differently and circled (as is appropriate for a Monday level).
- 20a. [1990s runnings of the Bulls?] THREEPEATS. Yes, plural. They did it twice, winning the NBA championships six times between 1991 and 1998.
- 11d. [Groups battling big government] TEA PARTIES. The contemporary ones, especially.
- 29d. [Watch] KEEP TABS ON.
- 53a. [Some gymwear] SWEATPANTS.
Nice, simple theme, ably executed. Good variation in the locations of the letter strings. Nothing particularly clever about it or exciting about the answers, which means it’s typical fare for a Monday crossword. The puzzle itself is fluid and contains little off-putting fill.
- Double-duty clue [Manufacture] for 5a & 25a, MAKE & CREATE.
- If anyone is going to have trouble solving, it’ll most likely be in the NE corner, with [Brilliance] ECLAT, SHERE ([ __ Khan ("The Jungle Book" character)], [Allan-__ (Robin Hood compadre)] ADALE, ARTES [ __ liberales (studies at universidades)].
- 27a. [Kids' vehicles on tracks] GO-KARTS. Are they typically on hills or tracks? Guess it depends on whether they’re the motorized kind or gravity-propelled type. I’m not familiar enough with the culture to know whether this clue is cosher.
- 44a. [Sandwiches that may have sour cream and salsa] TACOS. “Sandwiches,” really? m-w.com says, 1a: two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between, 1b: one slice of bread covered with food.
- 49a. [Queen who financed Columbus, to the Spanish] ISABEL. A little tricky; English speakers call her Isabella.
- 46d. ["Sarah Palin's __" of 2010–11 MTV] ALASKA. Up-to-date cluing.
Always good to have another competent constructor in the field!
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Temp Assignment” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Blindauer goes all McD-L-T on us with a review of food and beverage items that start off sizzling hot only to leave us chillin’ by the end. More specifically (and less metaphorically), we have four phrases involving a temperature and a food or beverage:
- 18-Across: What are you gonna pick? Why it’s the [Microwaveable turnover brand], HOT POCKETS.
- 28-Across: The [Cure for insomnia, some say] is a WARM GLASS OF MILK. It may not help with the insomnia, but a warm cookie is a nice go-with. Notice we lose a little bit of heat from “hot” to “warm.”
- 48-Across: To be [Completely composed] is to be COOL AS A CUCUMBER. The cooling trend continues.
- 62-Across: [One way to quit] is COLD TURKEY. Cold turkeys are known for their collective willpower, while warm turkeys are famous for giving in to temptations.
I think I’m missing something, because the theme seems to have too many inconsistencies. The gradual chilling from top to bottom works elegantly, but the theme entries feature three foods and a single beverage. Why not all food, or two food items with two beverages? Moreover, the first two theme entries are clued directly as food/beverage items, but the last two switch to food as simile or metaphor. Why the switch? I can’t believe these inconsistencies were simply overlooked, so that’s why I think I’m missing something. Help!
Though the theme left me, um, cold, there was a lot I liked in the fill. SNOW PLOW, the [White stuff mover] is a great reminder of Mister Plow. The northwest triple-stack of THE LAW, the MODEL A, and ELIXIR looks terrific, and there are some gems in the shorter entries like BE NICE, WHAMO, K-MART, and the BRILLO pad.
Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme unifies three phrases that end with synonyms that are pretty much used in non-music contexts: GOES OFF THE AIR, FOR A SONG, and FINE-TUNE have air, song, and tune, and they’re sort of brought together by a Beach Boys song title I have never heard of, I CAN HEAR THE MUSIC. (It was a top-40 song, but peaked at #24.) And then there’s TEMPOS, which feels sort of clumsily tacked onto the theme as [Beats for this puzzle’s theme]. I would’ve reworked that section (RUMP/ITOO/NOMS could be REAP/ERNE/DOOR with 51a: MEMO changed to DEMO) to jettison the distraction of TEMPOS.
2.75 stars. The theme lost me with the unfamiliar song and that TEMPOS thing, and the fill had too much dross—three partials (TO DIE, IF AT, and I TOO), blah words (ALEE, STRO, EYER, OLIO, OLAFS, NERTS), and a not-so-familiar foreign word (Italian FIORI, [Flowers, in Florence]). At least that Italian answer wasn’t the word for rivers, with that nutty crossword usage of “flowers” to mean “things that flow.”
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Brendan jumped on the weekend news of Ron Artest’s legal application to change his name to METTA WORLD PEACE. Other eye-catching entries:
- DAGWOOD, Scrabbly JEWISH ORTHODOXY, AFTER ALL, MA BELL, colloquial HOT HAND, JAVA APPS, and ECOFREAK.
1a is a little blah: MAINSTEM is clued as a [River’s principal channel] (psst, Brendan: You have principle). I had no idea that was a river science term—I know the word from medical editing because we all have a pair of mainstem bronchi. Same general concept.
The fill in this 70-worder is brought down a bit with words like ERNES, LST, ESTE, and ESS.
My favorite clue is 5d, because I confidently filled in a completely wrong answer. [They’re caught by those who get around, briefly] is a perfect clue for CABS, except for that whole “briefly” issue. STDS! Although technically, an entirely monogamous person can catch a ton of STDs if his or her partner is stepping out.