Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Ahoy! Nautical theme this Monday. 1a [With 69-Across, where to find the ends of 17-, 22-, 32-, 43-, 54-, and 61-Across] HIGH | SEAS.
- 17a. [Q-Tip, e.g.] COTTON SWAB. Not “rapper.”
- 22a. [It points to the minutes] BIG HAND. Minute, big.
- 32a. [Presidential candidate's #2] RUNNING MATE.
- 43a. [Excellent, slangily] CRACKERJACK. Not in any contemporary slang that I’m aware of.
- 54a. [Sticky stuff on a baseball bat] PINE TAR.
- 61a. [Condiment that's O.K. for observant Jews] KOSHER SALT. See how the “O.K.” subliminally prompted the K-O of kosher? That’s Monday writing at work.
So, not only are all six of these—swab, hand, mate, jack, tar, salt—to be found on the high seas, but they are all synonyms for a ship’s crewman, although “jack” was not really known to me, in my…er…wheelhouse, as it were. Not in this context anyway. There’s a blatant bonus entry at 50a [Tire-changing group at a Nascar race] PIT CREW, which I feel should have been (1) balanced with another tie-in at 24a, or (2) placed vertically and centrally, where TIME COP is now (of course it doesn’t jibe with the crossing central themers and would entail significant reworking), or (3) eliminated from the grid.
Even though the puzzle fill is more or less early-week smooth, with a low CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials), it never wowed me and I found myself being irked by little things which normally shouldn’t be irksome:
- 6d & 21a, nearly touching, [Piece of French writing] ESSAI & [French notions] IDÉES.
- Tired fill, which I believe are called repeaters, such as ONE-A, CEE, Cheri OTERI, ARLO Guthrie, NSW, GTOS.
Moving on from uncharitableness, the two longest non-theme answers felt pretty good, GET TO KNOW and PLANE FARE. I especially enjoyed the subtlety of 31d [Suffix with Rock] for ETTE; using the capital R was inspired. And how can you not love the meta and self-referential 10a [ __-in-the-blank] FILL?
Janie Smulyan’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Well! Janie’s an old hand at this now, having had her NYT debut yesterday followed by her first LA Times publication today. Three oldies with “Me” in their titles are clued as if they’re songs by egotists:
- 20a. [Polite egotist's musical request? (Beatles)] clues PLEASE PLEASE ME.
- 36a. [Adamant egotist's musical request? (Doris Day)] clues LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME. Never heard of this song.
- 47a. [Needy egotist's musical request? (Supremes)] clues COME SEE ABOUT ME. Don’t know this one, either. And someone feeling needy would say “come see about me”? Maybe that would make sense if I knew the song.
- The theme’s only got three entries, so there’s wiggle room for a couple 10s: REASSURING and a tasty CREAM SAUCE.
- 37d. [Convenience for Northeastern toll-paying drivers] is the EZ-PASS. Still waiting for Illinois’s I-Pass to make it into a crossword (without being clued as the pronoun + verb phrase).
- The Z words ZEAL and ZANY.
- The COVEN (26d: [Group of witches]) isn’t linked to SALEM (21d: [Oregon's capital]), but we know what’s what, don’t we?
- Of course Janie would plant CORNY right in the middle of her grid (28d. [Groanworthy, as a joke]). Janie does like her groanworthy humor!
3.25 stars. I wish the song titles chosen were more familiar to my generation.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Good Riddance” – Sam Donaldson’s review
I got off to a flying start on this one, allowing myself to think for just a moment that I could be in for a personal best time. Then Karma huffed and puffed at my door, and before I knew it I was in a fog that slowed my progress sufficiently to give me a slightly slow solving time. Them’s the breaks, I guess.
The five theme entries are two-word expressions, each beginning with a word that can also serve as a verb meaning “to discard:”
- 17-Across: The [Employee with a pick and shovel] is a DITCH DIGGER.
- 40-Across: [Even bets] are TOSS-UPS.x
- 64-Across: The [Cowhands' chow suppliers] are CHUCK WAGONS.
- 11-Down: [Disparaging language] is TRASH TALK.
- 35-Down: [Like a starless night, perhaps] is PITCH DARK. For some reason, this was the hardest one for me to suss out. It didn’t help that I couldn’t figure out GAP as the [Orthodontist's concern] or SET AT as the answer to [Tuned to, as a radio station]. I even thought the puzzle wanted a more modern answer to [Big hit with video gamers], but it turned out to be the early-80′s fad, PAC-MAN. So that was a nasty little section.
I might have preferred clues that would kick the theme up a notch, like [Lose the guy with the shovel?] for DITCH DIGGER and [Lose the Radio Flyers?] for CHUCK WAGONS. But that might have the puzzle falling on the “too hard” side.
A PIT SAW, the [Tool for a pair of timber cutters], was new to me, and I grew up on a Christmas tree farm very close to timber country. The PITSAW sat close to the other Region of Doom, the southeast corner. It took a long time to figure out HELGA, the [Frequent Andrew Wyeth model], and more time than it should have to find Alfred ADLER, the guy [...who broke with Freud to focus on "individual psychology"]. The ego of that guy! And for whatever reason, I had GALL as the trait of [Indomitable fortitude]–and that’s especially sad since I finally watched the Coen brothers’ version of True GRIT just last night. Oops.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Dang (“OH, NO!” “BLAST IT!”), it took forever to make headway in the northwest territory of this puzzle. Everything else was much more pliable, I found. Anyone else figure that 1d had to be either DE NIRO or BRANDO? Turned out to be b, the other famous 6-letter actor ending in O. Don’t really know what PARADE LAP is (is this an Indy 500 thing?), and have never encountered the term COUGAR BAR. Plus my French education didn’t get as far as conjugating ETRE to fusses. What is that, subjunctive Gallic pluperfect?
I like the consonant pile-up where M.L.K., JR. meets J.M. BARRIE, K-RATIONS, and M.F.A.’S.
Never heard of CASA LOMA until about a week ago, when I bought a Toronto travel guide. Is this a must-see tourist destination, or can I skip it?
Ugliest combo: NETFUL beside WEENA. WEENA is what, one of the Eloi, or an Eloi predator? Ugliest partial: MADE A booboo. I went with HAVE A, and MADEA could easily be clued as the divisive Tyler Perry character.
Brendan is likely the first person to make a standard crossword with SPOTIFY in it. YOGA CLASS makes for a great crossword answer, too. And I like TOSS TO, the news anchor lingo.
Also cute: The AMATI clue telling you those violins can run $600,000, and the YO-YO MA clue telling you he’s got a cello named Petunia. (What Brendan doesn’t mention is that Petunia is valued at $2.5 million.)
Didn’t know CHAFFS also had a [Teases in a playful way] meaning. CHAFF is also a noun meaning “light-hearted banter,” not just grain husks.