Keith Talon’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Despite the revealer in the lower right corner, this Monday offering tips its hand, so to speak, with a 1-across giveaway: [One of the "hands" in the command "shake hands"] PAW.
57d. [With 65-Across, comment that might be heard after the start of 17-, 28-, 45- or 59-Across] GOOD DOG!
- 17a. [Unused parts of a cell phone plan] ROLLOVER MINUTES.
- 28a. [Formal meal at a table] SIT-DOWN DINNER.
- 45a. [Question that's a classic pick-up line] COME HERE OFTEN?
- 59a. [Death row inmate's hope] STAY OF EXECUTION.
Good, lively phrases and a cute theme, but I have to quibble a little with the execution, so to speak (once more).
- I’d have preferred it if all of the phrases had the doggy command as a separate word. As it is, the final two are formed that way, while the first is part of a compound word and the second is the first part of a hyphenated word. The part-of-speech breakdown, in order, is adjective, adjective, verb, noun. That variation doesn’t bother me as much as the other inconsistency.
- 28a actually has two canine commands at its start: SIT and DOWN. Very problematic.
- 45a is a bit ambiguous in that both COME and COME HERE are common commands. Also problematic, but not as serious as the flaw in 28a.
As is usual in early week puzzles, the abbrevs. and partials are kept to a relative minimum, although there were slightly more than I’ve become accustomed to seeing. I was very surprised, however, to see a fair amount of crosswordese in the grid, words that might faze a newer solver, including OAST, ESSE, INGE, and -INES. ELAYNE Boosler and Rebecca DEMORNAY, despite providing interesting fill, feel outdated and minor as far as celebrities go. There was a little bit of vocabulary stretching as well, in both the clues and the answers; nothing wrong with that, but it makes the puzzle slightly more difficult than I’d expect for a Monday, specifically VITIATE (27d) and exigency (38d).
- Two [Verdi opera]s: OTELLO (6d) and AIDA (56d). ENCORE (33a)?
- 68a I do not consider -ADE to be a [Juice suffix]. So-called “ades” are highly diluted juices. If anything, it would be a fruit suffix. Lemonade, limeade, orangeade, cavalcade.
- With OAST and DRY cascading across the center of the grid, I couldn’t help but read PSI—next in sequence—and think psoriasis.
A relatively well-behaved puzzle, but I’ll need to dock it a few points for the impaired theme.
James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Nearly perfect Monday theme. Four familiar two-word phrases that fill up 15-letter spaces and begin with academic class years:
- 16a. [Newcomer to Capitol Hill] = FRESHMAN SENATOR
- 25a. [Promising rookies' doses of reality] = SOPHOMORE SLUMPS
- 41a. [Young company supervisor] = JUNIOR EXECUTIVE
- 56a. [Breaks for AARP members] = SENIOR DISCOUNTS
What knocks it down a notch from perfect is the inclusion of two plurals, but alas, you can’t lay out a symmetrical theme 15/14/15/14. All the phrases are familiar, though, they’re presented in proper order, each has two words, they’re all nouns, and there’s an even split between people and things.
Five more clues:
- 39a. [Writer Diamond or actor Leto] clues JARED. Jared Diamond writes those fascinating nonfiction science books. I haven’t actually read the books, but I’ve read lengthy excerpts and one of the books won a Pulitzer.
- 35a. ["Whatever shall I do?"] clues “AH, ME,” which nobody ever says or writes outside of crosswords, do they? If this weren’t a Monday puzzle, it would be easy to swap that answer out for ARCA or ARMA and have solid crossings, but nobody wants to see ARCA and ARMA in a Monday crossword. I don’t want to see AH ME in a puzzle any day of the week, mind you. Kill it!
- 11d. [Get ready for production] clues TOOL UP. Given my publishing predilection, I was thinking of editing and proofing rather than manufacturing.
- 46a. [Amerigo Vespucci, vis-à-vis America] is an EPONYM.
- 32a. [They may be locked in battle] clues HORNS. See also “The Lockhorns.” No, don’t; it’s a terrible and unfunny comic.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Clerical Error?” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Religion has never been my strong point (I think of it as my “holy wart”), so I struggled a little with the theme in today’s puzzle. Four churchy terms are used in place of their homophones in common expressions (well, three of them are common, anyway) to make some pretty decent puns:
- 20-Across: The [Text Nathan Hale used at church?] would be a PATRIOT MISSAL, a play on the “patriot missile.” I figured out the pun but had trouble sussing out the proper spelling. “Missle” and “missel” looked just as fine to me.
- 29-Across: The [Part of the church where administrative matters are handled?] is the BUSINESS APSE, which I’m guessing is a play on “business apps,” though I can’t say I have heard that term before.
- 46-Across: The [Romantic area of the church?] is the NAVE OF HEARTS, riffing on the “knave of hearts,” a jack-of-all-cards.
- 56-Across: The [Church figure who lives in the garret?] is the NUN OF THE ABOVE, a variation of “none of the above.”
While the theme was outside my wheelhouse, much of the fill was squarely within it, thank, er, God. I got KASHI as the [Brand with a "GOLEAN" line] because that has been my go-to cereal for the past six weeks on my new fitness regimen. And I knew VIA VENETO as [Rome's Rodeo Drive] from a former freestyle puzzle of my own. And though I may not always adhere to her advice, I’ve always liked EMILY POST, the [Famous etiquette doyenne]. Other goodies in the fill included PART-TIME, FROCKS, TOASTY, and seeing both BARE and BARRE in the same grid. It would have been fun to see a BARREL in there too.
Yet there was plenty to slow me down, too. I had the hardest time with the answer to [Flesh may cling to it]. I had the first letter, P, the C from CEO, and the ending -IT in place, but the answer kept eluding me. When I finally tumbled to the answer, PEACH PIT, I grinned. That’s a nice clue. It also took too long to get HEFLIN as the answer to [actor Van who starred in a "Stagecoach" remake]. For some reason Van Heflin is interchangeable in my mind with Van Helsing.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Lots of people in this one: Not just the names of J.C. WATTS, JIM BEAM (never knew there was a real person behind the name), LOUIS VI, Theo EPSTEIN, Emperor TITUS, wizard MERLIN, SEN. Les Paul (what? you think he wouldn’t have been better than Ron Paul?), and NORAH O’Donnell, but also the provide-your-own-example types of the NEATNIK and the COOT and THE OLDS (I am not telling my kid that one). Usually a puzzle that’s loaded with names has lots of short names—your UMAs and AGEEs—but BEQ gives us four 7-letter names. Better stuff.
Quite a bit easier than Brendan’s typical themelesses. Not a ton jumps out at me in terms of fill and clues, but did you notice Brendan’s twist on the sort of grid David Quarfoot used in his Saturday NYT? Instead of stacking three 7s in each direction to build each corner, he’s used a bunch of quad-stacked 7s. Lots of white space. Easy to forgive those two cheater squares that made a difficult-to-interlock 32 7s into a slightly more forgiving 30 7s and two 6s.
Four stars. Not the most memorable fill, but strikingly smooth for that much white space and a 66-word grid.