Ellen Leuschner’s New York Times crossword
Congrats to Ms. Leuschner on her constructing debut! Her first publication is a lovely Monday puzzle with a word-trivia theme: four two-word phrases that are internally redundant.
- 17a. SAFE HAVEN fits because there’s no such thing as a dangerous haven.
- 29a. A tundra’s subsoil is always frozen, so a FROZEN TUNDRA is fairly redundant. Now, I believe the surface can thaw in the summertime.
- 47a. BRIEF SUMMARY is officially redundant, but I have been guilty in the past of writing abstracts that are much longer than they ought to be.
- 64a. DOWN SOUTH is redundant only if you define south as “down” and north as “up.” Plenty of people do, though this is an unscientific thing.
Highlights in the fill:
- A BACKRUB crosses tasty BASIL, CHAOS, and a DORK.
- DIRIGIBLE is a weird word. “One nation, in dirigible, with helium and flotation for all.”
- BEANPOLE, “LEAN ON ME” (awesome song, and the Bill Withers version is less familiar to me than a bunch of covers are), and “I FORGOT” are great, too.
- Percussion time: we’ve got a SNARE DRUM as well as a HI-HAT.
- Never seen “UNO, DOS…” in a puzzle before, but it’s gettable.
Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Straightforward Monday theme with a nice punch line:
- 17a. [Rhetorical question on a sultry day] is “HOT ENOUGH FOR YOU?”
- 26a. [Shellfish order] clues STEAMED CLAMS.
- 38a. [Pitcher's malady] can be a SORE ARM.
- 48a. MAD AS A HATTER means [Off one's rocker].
- 63a. Mad, sore, steamed, and hot can all mean “irate.” Another synonym is cross, so a puzzle with all of these cross words is a CROSSWORD PUZZLE, or [What you're solving (in more ways than one, based on the starts of 17-, 26-, 38- and 48-Across)]
Great way to kick off a puzzle, with that seasonable HOT ENOUGH FOR YOU. Also good: Those little things we say. ALOHA! TA-DA! WOW! Not to mention a bunch of BAHS and DOHS.
Five toughest clues:
- 4d. [Class with flasks and beakers] isn’t chemistry but CHEM LAB.
- 7d. [Vet] isn’t a verb here, nor is it the noun referring to an animal doctor. It’s an EX-GI.
- 9d. [Having one flat, musically] clues IN F. Personally, I’d prefer that to be clued as an abbreviation for infinitive. Music is not my strong suit.
- 47d. “IT’S A ZOO out there!” ["What craziness!"]
- 60d. [Drug kingpin] clues CZAR. I’m not sure the “drug czar” responsible for the (failed) war on drugs can properly be called a “drug kingpin.” Wouldn’t that be like having a Pablo Escobar–type fox guarding the henhouse?
Four stars. Solid Monday offering.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Numbers at Your Convenience” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The first three long Across entries feature convenience store purchases that come in the form of NUMBER-MEASUREMENT-CONTAINER:
- 20-Across: The [Pasta purchase at the store] is a ONE-POUND BOX. If you buy it at Costco, the “pound” is replaced with “kiloton.”
- 27-Across: The [Soda purchase at the store] is a TWO-LITER BOTTLE. They’re the perfect size on a hot summer day.
- 49-Across: The [Beer purchase at the store] is a TWELVE-OUNCE CAN. Other purchases in twelve-ounce cans include soda pop and whoop-ass.
Where can you buy all of these goodies? At SEVEN-ELEVEN, of course, which happens to be sitting at 56-Across.
I have mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, the theme entries are tight, as all come in the aforementioned NUMBER-MEASUREMENT-CONTAINER form, and they proceed in order from smallest to largest. On the other hand, SEVEN-ELEVEN, the liveliest entry of the bunch, is a bit of an outlier. It doesn’t match the form of the other entries and, as the last entry, it is not the largest number (unless you generously add the two numbers together).
I can’t figure out why SEVEN-ELEVEN is included. It’s not like the numbers in the other three entries add to seven, or to eleven, or to eighteen (the sum of seven and eleven). If the intention was to tie in products for sale at 7-Eleven, I would have preferred product names to match the 7-Eleven brand name. COKE ZERO, FIBER ONE, or THREE MUSKETEERS, would have been more interesting than sizes of various containers. The best argument I can make for SEVEN-ELEVEN is that it too is a “container” of sorts.
On the plus side, though, I really like PIPE DOWN! (["Shush!"]), and the three X’s in the grid kept things lively. Every corner has at least one rare letter (and for those who care, we appear to be an F short of a pangram). I HOPE SO and OLD PAL are also among the highlights in the fill. My favorite clue was [Shirking working] for IDLE. [Its capital is Doha] meant nothing to me, but with UHURA, the [Crewmate of Spock], directly below, I took a chance on QATAR and got lucky.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Tough one this week, eh?
I love how GOOGLE+ is in here, crossing ZIP+4, which in turn crosses 4-H CLUB. Should’ve pieced those together a lot faster, because I definitely wanted GOOGLE + and 4-H CLUB in those spots. Just wasn’t sure if there’d be some weird rebus action—in a themeless, there shouldn’t be. Seeing the +4 in place would have brought out the ZIP.
Also like the center zone, with ATOMIC DOG atop a Wi-Fi HOT SPOT and NEWS CREWS.
You know what tied me up in knots more than the +4 business? The bottom right corner. I wanted the “poke” clue to be VEX rather than TEX (what, a cowpoke is “probably” called TEX? I don’t buy it). Tried OVERDOSING instead of KNEE DEEP IN. And I really don’t know my operas, so with my erroneous V in VEX, it was hard to tease out LA TRAVIATA. Never heard of ZUMBA, which didn’t help me a little higher in the grid. AZAN and JUMP BID were also not coming to mind at all.
Just saw LIANG, LAUTREC, and POSTDOC in other recent puzzles. Why are they haunting me?
Other good stuff: JAGGED EDGE (though I prefer “jaggies” in general), DAD-GUM, SEX GODDESS, the SCEPTER and ORBS combo, a SPRITZ of Aqua Net, and DRAMAS clued as Arthur [Miller's output].
Not in LOVE with the AUEL/UTNE and EOE/DLR sandwiches but really the fill is quite polished. 4.5 stars, with bonus points for the +4 action.