Patrick Merrell’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
I didn’t know that Monday was the day for “Must-Watch TV,” but that’s the idea in this puzzle. With one exception, each of the seven theme entries consists of two words, the first ending in T, the second beginning with V. 63-down spells it out: [Appliances hidden in seven answers in this puzzle] TVS.
- 20a. [Charleston is its capital] WEST VIRGINIA.
- 31a. [Trumpet’s saliva-draining key] SPIT VALVE. Yum.
- 48a. [Not a unanimous ruling] SPLIT VOTE.
- 60a. [Swedish liquor with memorable ads] ABSOLUT VODKA. Not only memorable, but influential, for good or ill. As such, they were ripe for parody from the start. There have been two lavish books on the subject, one published in 1996 and a sequel in 2005. Since vodka in general is a nondescript liquor driven almost entirely by advertising, I’ve always disdained the brand, silently furnishing an addendum beginning with “B” and loosely rhyming with “toolkit.” Why, yes, I do have an opinion about this.
- 5d. [Venomous snake] PIT VIPER. The nominal pits are structural and do not refer to the snake’s habitat.
- 42d. [Permit for leaving the country] EXIT VISA.
- 13d. Symmetrically opposite the revealer is [Off-road transport, briefly] ATV. This is the anomalous entry, because it’s the abbreviated version of a two-word phrase, in which the first word is hyphenated: all-terrain vehicle. The abbreviation isn’t A-TV or (AT)V, so it becomes a tripartite construction. If it had been me constructing the puzzle, I’d have scrapped the ATV—it’s only three measly letters—and put the TVS revealer in the center (either horizontally or vertically), so it wouldn’t require a themic counterweight.
The crossword is early-week smooth, with a minimum of Those Types of Things That I So Often Complain About. With such a high concentration of theme fill, there’s little room for attention-grabbing ballast, although DISHRAG, HANG-UPS, STILTED, GOOD OMEN, and BRAINIAC are fine medium-length entries.
In a brilliant bit of economy, constructor Merrell arranged the long down themers intersecting the across ones at the V. Otherwise the grid would have necessitated even more entries like MERV, IRV, and MARV (aka The Three Mavi).
As was pointed out to me by another solver, two clues reiterate the “west” from 20a. They are the obviously intentionally linked 12d [North, east, west or south: Abbr.] DIR. and 28d [What literally comes from the north, east, west and south?] NEWS. Either answer could have been clued differently, without “west.”
Three least favorites:
- 24a. [First part of a ski jump] INRUN. Ugh.
- 45a. [Author Asquith of children's books] ROS. Who?
- 47a. [511, in old Rome] DXI. At least it wasn’t muddied up with Roman numeral math, because that’s a farce-and-a-I/II.
The cluing is a little more playful than the average NYT Monday. Here are a couple of my favorites:
- 10a. [Talks like this in "Star Wars" films he does] YODA. As some comedian once quipped, 900 years old and he still can’t grasp basic syntax? Break me a f*ing give! (See, this is just to show you, after Thursday’s Tausigate, that I’m not at all prudish.)
- 18a. ["Fat chance, laddie"] Amusing way to clue the musty NAE.
- Also liked the paralleling of RIPPER and TALONS in the southeast, even if USER ID separates them.
Andrea Carla Michaels’ Los Angeles Times crossword
My mother recently handed me some pages torn from the Pencilwise Plus pages of a 1986 issue of Games magazine. The section featured puzzles and photos from the two crossword tournaments that year—the Stamford Marriott Crossword Tournament and the U.S. Open. (Mimi Raphael in middle age, Stan Newman and David Rosen decidedly pre-middle age!) Anyway, there was a quiz by Andrea, name the words that start with “tar.” When she says she and Will Shortz et al. have been friends since the early ’80s, she means it. (Team Fiend’s own pannonica was on the edges of the Games crowd in childhood, when her mom worked in the offices.)
Moving right along. The theme is movie titles that include (at the end or in the middle) a body of water: ON GOLDEN POND won Oscars. THE LAKE HOUSE may have increased Kleenex sales. THE RIVER WILD might be the closest thing to an action/adventure film Meryl Streep’s made. BEYOND THE SEA is Kevin Spacey’s Bobby Darin biopic, and it has the same number of letters as THE SEA OF LOVE (but is a decade or two more current). MYSTIC RIVER would have been good to have, but its 11 letters don’t partner up with the other titles.
Zippiest fill: ORTHODOX, ZIPPIEST, PHISH, KIWI. I like the Scrabbliness of K’NEX (69a: [Tinkertoy alternative] but I’ve never bought or played with K’nex building sets. Less fond of LINE A, EIEIO, and the ERSE/EIRE Celtic combo.
Overall, pretty smooth and light fare: 3.5 stars.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sudden Departure” — Sam Donaldson’s review
This puzzle reminded me of the days I used to listen to Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40″ radio show. I remember finding other things to do when the “long-distance dedications” came on (hey, I was age eight or nine, and those kind of sappy things don’t generally appeal to boys that age), but I would always come back to find out what songs I was supposed to like, and in what order.
Kasem’s show comes to mind because today’s puzzle features a countdown theme:
- 17-Across: [Like some weekends] is the clue for THREE-DAY. What a coincidence—this is the tail end of a three-day weekend. Hope yours was fun and safe.
- 28-Across: You may be up on your TWO-STAR GENERALS trivia, but you probably still didn’t know that they are [Soldiers in an O-8 pay grade].
- 49-Across: [Vegas enticements] are ONE-ARMED BANDITS. Most slots don’t even come with arms anymore, so simply “bandits” might be a more appropriate term.
- 66-Across: This means the [Apt follow-up to the starts of 17-, 28-, and 49-Across] would be BLAST OFF. We have lift off!
I liked the theme for its simplicity and subtle consistency (note that the numbers are all parts of hyphenated phrases, “three-day,” “two-star,” “one-armed”). Some of the fill might trigger Amy’s patent-pending Scowl-O-Meter, like AAAA, A-RONI, SAR, and having both ERAS and EONS in the same grid. And then there’s PACA, the [Large South American rodent] that probably isn’t familiar to many people here in the Northern Hemisphere.
But the rest of the fill is smooth, albeit a bit bland. The only interesting long entry is SNAPS TO, clued as [Comes alive]. I didn’t know BEREA, the [Kentucky college town] (one dollar says Neville knows it), but the crossings made it easily gettable. Speaking of the crossings, can we all agree that TAE BO has officially reached “so five minutes ago” status? Is anyone still doing this workout? I’m just about to start the second month of the Insanity exercise program (check out this link if you want to see the hell I’m currently experiencing) with the hope of looking like most of the people in the “before” pictures. So far so good.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
I’ve never heard of 19-Across, nor was I familiar with his first or last name. So I had to wrestle with the clues for 1- through 14-Across, all of them needed to piece together NNAMDI ASOMUGHA. Who?? I needed Google to know where the split was between his first and last names (my first guess was Nnamdia Somugha), and glanced at his Wikipedia page. The guy just turned 30, and would you look at the neat philanthropic ventures he’s set up already? I’m impressed.
Other names in the puzzle include ABEL, ANITA, AMITY, EDSEL, NANCE (nice break from [John __ Garner]), ERTE, ELLA, and RYE. Not too bad. RERUN is clued as a Hulu offering rather than as a ’70s TV character; aww, he could’ve been a fun name.
This 70-worder has a dozen 7s stacked in the corners with smooth crossings (including two more 7s, and 8, and a 9 at the top and at the bottom), plus a smattering of longer answers. MADE FOR TV is the best, isn’t it?
I don’t know about the clue for 24d: BATHE. [Go jump in a lake?]? And get all those waterborne organisms on you?
I thought 25d: [Make with the Teletouch system] was looking for a verb and wondered what one might produce with said Teletouch system. But it’s a noun, a make of automobile: the EDSEL. The Teletouch was, Wikipedia explains, an “electro-mechanical push-button transmission system. Teletouch placed the transmission buttons in a ring within the center of the steering wheel.”