Stanley Newman’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
This puzzle’s theme is the old vowel progression standby. Today it’s dressed up in phonic garb, as the final syllable of each entry, with a ‘W’ sound, or a DUBYA (66a), in front.
- 17a. [Wins a dispute] GETS ONE’S WAY.
- 26a. [Pompous pronoun] THE ROYAL ‘WE’.
- 37a. ["It's a mystery to me"] I CAN’T TELL YOU WHY.
- 50a. [Sob stories] TALES OF WOE.
- 59a. [In romantic pursuit] PITCHING WOO.
That’s A, E, I, O, U. Why no wye? Because, although sometimes it’s a vowel, its name always rhymes with I, aye. So a sixth theme entry in this puzzle would be redundant. The /’u:/ pronunciation of the vowel in WOO comprises a discrepant variation on the twenty-first letter, the standard pronunciation being /’ju:/, so I’ll call the entry questionable at best (not that I can think of a suitable substitute). It isn’t a compromise I’d be willing to make, and this would be another theme I’d abandon.
By the way, please notice that I didn’t include a link to the Eagles song with the same title as 37-across. You’re welcome.
The ballast fill is smooth, but feels burdened with an excess of acronyms, or more accurately, initialisms. In fact, three of them (two plurals!) are piled up together in the northeast: ETA, MDS, CPAS.
- Long non-theme fill includes USA TODAY and TRIOXIDE. Interesting middle length entries include vertical stacks TEMPLE/AT DAWN/BASSET and STOLID/CAVERN/ALASKA.
- NINJA crosses JESUS in the northwest. Hai! What, no zombie?
- FIT UP as the verb [Equip] seems a bit obscure for a Monday puzzle. Themer PITCHING WOO seems a bit antiquated, but there’s ample Googlevidence for its current USAGE (43a).
- 55a. If you’re going to stoop to using Roman numerals in a puzzle, don’t mess around with calculations or historical dates, just lay it out like this, [Numeral at the top of a grandfather clock] XIII.
Good crossword for a Monday, but I wouldn’t give it an A-PLUS (6a).
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Realty Reality Check” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Rats! I’ve been concocting a crossword with this very theme off-an-on for a while now. It’s not the first time I’ve been beaten to the punch, but it always feels like a small kick in the shins. Oh well. I guess I should look at it as though I have just saved a bunch of time.
I suppose it’s no surprise that I like the theme. Levin gets to the real meaning of some common expressions used in real estate ads:
- 17-Across: [If the ad says "cozy," it means] TOO TINY FOR WORDS. Wow, not even words can fit inside?
- 25-Across: [If the ad says "quaint charm," it means] NEEDS RENOVATION. I always thought the need for renovation was conveyed through terms like “looking for TLC,” “great for the DIY couple,” and “fixer.” To my ear, “quaint charm” means more like “old with a quirky layout or interior design.”
- 43-Across: [If the ad says "centrally located," it means] NOISY ALL THE TIME. That sounds about right.
- 57-Across: [If the ad says "the best of the best," it means] YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT. Amen, sister.
Part of the reason I worked on this theme idea only intermittently is because I’m not sure of the best way to present the punchlines. I really admire Levin’s effort, but I’m unsure whether expressions like “TOO TINY FOR WORDS” or “NOISY ALL THE TIME” are sufficiently “in-the-language” to work as the theme entries. Perhaps it would work better if the ad-speak was in the answers, like maybe using the clue ["It's so small your furniture won't fit," in real estate ad-speak] for something like COZY DWELLING. (COZY probably can’t be a theme entry by itself because it’s too short.) You see the problem. Ultimately, I think Levin may have pulled it off as well as it can be done.
Highlights in the fill include IN CARE OF, NO FUN, EEYORE, C-SPAN, GEICO, and HOOFER, the [Dancer, in theaterspeak]. Strange to see both OPAL, the [October birthstone], and OPEL, the [German car make] in the grid. I think my word of the day will be [Bishoprics], the clue for DIOCESES. Sounds like one is referring to two bishops named Rick, right?
Janie Smulyan’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I had Frosted Flakes for breakfast this morning but I should’ve had the Rice Krispies instead of just looking at the box. Today’s theme is SNAP, CRACKLE AND POP, the Rice Krispies elves:
- 17a. ["Get a grip!"] clues the snappy “SNAP OUT OF IT!”
- 37a. CRACKLE FINISH is a [Crafts technique for an old-fashioned look]. It’s also the finish on my husband’s new 50-year-old Gibson Melody Maker, but it comes by the crackling honestly.
- 60a. [Connector that completes a phrase made from the starts of the three longest across answers] is AND, and it aptly appears right before the final entry in the series.
- 61a. To POP A WHEELIE is to [Get the front of one's bike off the ground]. We just had a portion of this answer the other week in another puzzle; might’ve been POPA. The full phrase is, of course, best.
Highlights include the longer morsels like LEAP YEAR, HECKLE, a sarcastic BIG WOW, and MUDDLE. I filled in TAPAS for 4d: [Noshes in Nuevo Laredo] and was glad when the crossings worked out because I also considered TACOS, but then the TACOS showed up later as 35a: [Folded Mexican snacks]. I’m enjoying the veggie tacos at a new neighborhood joint that specializes in Mediterrannean and Mexican food (separate but equal, not fusion cuisine). I suspect the restaurateur wanted to serve falafel and shawarma and the like, but decided the hedge his bets by selling tacos and burritos too. Gotta love the “we have two distinct cuisines from different continents” restaurants.
Less fond of fill like ENA and OPAH (“Uma, Oprah. Oprah, Uma.”), DECA, A BELL, and French-on-a-Monday SALLE. And the corporate crossing between DOTCOM and clued-with-”telecom” MCI was slightly jarring.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Hmph! 1-Across is WEBKINZ, not NEOPETS? I don’t pay attention to the kid crazes that my own kid has no use for, and Neopets were fresh in my mind because when you start to Google my friend Patrice’s book, Negropedia, the first six letters make Google think you’re interested in necrophilia, necropsy, and perhaps necrophagia (!). Add the seventh letter and Google’s pretty sure you are all about the Neopets but really can’t spell.
8-Across is WAR PIGS? Don’t know it.
The WASABI really goes better with KARAOKE BARS than the KRAFT CHEESE does, don’t you think? I love a good BEAR PIT (though the term doesn’t ring a bell) since I tried to sneak into one when I was a toddler. Alas, I didn’t even make it to the moat before some dude fetched me and handed me back to my mother.
I’m not feeling very focused right now, at least not focused on this puzzle. (This bodes unwell for that stack of crosswords that await me and wish to be edited.) Smooth fill, four stars.