Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
What goes around comes around, to quote a clue from yesterday’s NYT puzzle. In this case, metaphorical locations are additionally supposed as real-world places where certain groups of people might gather. Double your pleasure?
- 17a. [Where sad trash collectors get together?] IN THE DUMPS.
- 28a. [Where future motorists get together?] DOWN THE ROAD.
- 49a. [Where elderly picnickers get together?] OVER THE HILL.
- 63a. [Where stranded canoeists get together?] UP THE CREEK.
The four themers integrate well with the rest of the fluid grid, which is Monday-smooth. Decidedly not Scrabbly, but par for the course early in the week. Eight letter double vertical stacks in the NW and SE are a mixed bag: SIN TAXES and YOGI BEAR are pleasing, while PLEASE DO and especially LET IT LIE are more blah. Two other vertical eights, TRIAL RUN and AIR BASES appear in the opposite quadrants; they’re pretty good.
We get a couple of venerable British actors in IAN McKellen and Peter O’TOOLE. Moving down the left edge, I might have liked if PAPA Smurf, following IDI Amin, had been clued referencing PAPA Doc Duvalier, onetime Haitian dictator. On the other hand, I commend the constructor and editor for not being tempted to cross-reference clues, as there are quite a number of entries that could be easily linked: NYPD, PATROL, NAB; NEIGH, MOO; THÉ, TEA BALL; even perhaps HTTP and .EDU. You get the idea. On the other, other hand, a puzzle of at least 15×15 letters is bound to have a number of clues in the same category. Maybe I shouldn’t have digressed, mused? To quote (47d) Mel BLANC (in character as Bugs Bunny), “Did I err?”
p.s. You don’t really want to know how the other three STANZAs (12d) of “The Star-Spangled Banner” go, do you? There was even a fifth, temporarily added during the Civil War.
Michael Wiesenberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Were the mid-1950s to mid-1960s the heyday of the rhyming pop song title? Four such songs make up the theme here:
- 18a. HANKY PANKY was a [1966 Tommy James and the Shondells hit]. Never heard of it (but my husband has).
- 26a. STUPID CUPID was a [1958 Connie Francis hit]. Never heard of this one, either.
- 44a. The [1956 Little Richard hit] TUTTI FRUTTI is, of course, a timeless classic.
- 56a. WOOLY BULLY, the [1965 Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs hit] is also a classic.
The fill is mostly super-friendly to the Monday solver, but there are a few words that beginning solvers might not have encountered much yet. There’s 16a: ROUE, a word meaning [Cad], that I don’t think I’ve seen outside of crosswords; I always want it to be RAKE so I don’t fill in the middle two letters without checking the crossings. 15a: ENURE, meaning [Accustom (to)], is more or less a regular word, but most of us are more familiar with the INURE spelling (and ENURE isn’t clued as a variant spelling). 9d: UEY (also spelled UIE) is slang for a U-turn, as in “Whoops, I was supposed to go that way—I’d better hang a UEY”; the clue, [Turn you hang, in slang], reads kinda funny. (Also? UEY and UIE drive some solvers bonkers. They’re fairly new as crossword fill.) 39d: [Hawaiian volcano] clues MAUNA LOA, but the extinct Mauna Kea is also legit. Usually we just need the second word, with a fill-in-the-blank [Mauna ___] clue that we never know how to complete without checking the crossings for the first two letters.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Thank You for Your Support” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Each of the four theme entries starts with a word that is also a form of support (which explains why Donna Levin is so thankful for all the support):
- 17-Across: ROD STEWART is the ["Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" singer]. Younger solvers will tell you he sounds just like James Blunt, but Hot Rod has been around much longer. If anything, James Blunt sounds like him.
- 26-Across: To [Play the peacock] is not to CON NBC or ACT LIKE A CLUE CHARACTER but to STRUT ONE’S STUFF. That’s a great theme entry.
- 43-Across: BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY is the [Apocryphal command from Captain Kirk]. “Apocryphal” is my favorite part of that whole clue-and-answer, mostly because it’s my view that most English speakers think the word’s synonymous with “apocalyptic.” Of course, you may doubt the authenticity of that last statement.
- 56-Across: The [Event when a boy becomes a man] has many answers, more than a few of which are not suitable for a mainstream crossword. In this case, it’s the BAR MITZVAH, a perfectly acceptable answer.
The only patch where I GOT LOST [Went astray] for a little while was at 1-Across, as for some reason I so wanted VANNA White as the [Host with vowels for sale] when of course the vowel-peddler on the show is Pat SAJAK. I guess it’s obvious which one is my favorite. UP NEXT, my three favorite parts of this puzzle, in no special order: (1) MR. SULU, the [U.S.S. Enterprise's helmsman], crossing BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY; (2) FRESCA, the delicious [Citrus soda] that happens to have no calories; and (3) the shout-out to the Pacific Northwest’s Tom FOLEY, the House [Speaker between Wright and Gingrich].
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Boy, I sure hit a lot of clues I didn’t know the answers to. QDOBA‘s motto, model DARIA Werbowy, what “turkey” was meant by [Turkey's three] (not the country, not the bird, but the bowling term for three strikes bowled in three straight FRAMES), who wrote Emperor and Galilean (IBSEN), the name of Paris Hilton’s dad (RICK), the existence of an NHL NETWORK and a MAO card game, that Modest Mouse is a SEXTET (DeadMau5, on the other hand, is a Canadian electronica musician who wears a mouse head, whereas Danger Mouse is an American musician best known for mash-ups and Gnarls Barkley), that ISIS‘s symbol is a sycamore tree, and where Shane took place (FARM).
Then there were the tough-to-interpret clues that weren’t looking for specific facts. Among my favorites:
- 4d. [It has a bit part] clues a BRIDLE.
- 29d. [Time to hustle?] is the DISCO ERA. If you’re not already hearing “The Hustle” in your head like the annoying earworm that it is, go have a listen.
- 10d. ["Word that can appear before the starts of A-, B- C-, D- and E-Across" crossword theme, e.g.] is a WARHORSE. This weekend on the Cruciverb-L mailing list, Joe DiPietro was kvetching about being tired of add/drop/change-a-letter(s) themes, which are also warhorse themes. And then the Sunday NYT puzzle was published … and it was Joe’s drop-two-letters theme. Warhorses wouldn’t be warhorses if they weren’t sturdy enough for frequent battle, right?
3.9 stars. Would be 4.0 if 44a: DRAWEE hadn’t made its appearance.