Kenneth J. Berniker’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Vowel progression theme, each answer begins with N-x-T:
- 18a. ["Ramblin' Rose" singer, 1962] NAT KING COLE. Strange, a relatively obscure clue for a Monday puzzle. He’s had so many other well-known songs, roles, et cetera.
- 23a. [Earnings after expenses] NET PROFITS.
- 38a. [Knuckleheads] NITWITS.
- 49a. ["Fuhgeddaboudit!"] NOT ON A DARE. Is it just me, or does ‘fuhgeddaboudit’ written out (even with this accurate spelling) no longer feel fresh? What’s the sell-by on it?
- 56a. [Christmastime productions] NUTCRACKERS. And we end with a nod to the seasonal mania.
Alas, no sometimes-wye action for this NYT crossword. Solid, basic theme, well executed. Nice mix of the staid and the colloquial in those clues and answers, likewise an appealing variety of single-word and multiple-word answers. The rest of the fill is fairly strong, although there’s a deadly crosswordese blip at 44a and 45a: [Barristers' degs.] LLDS and [Sea eagles] ERNES.
- Longer ballast fill: LOOSE BALL (meh), SPINAL TAP (sorry, I can’t get the capital-n-with diaeresis character), ACCUSED, DE FACTO, and the fresh I’LL WAIT [Sarcastic, "Go ahead, keep talking"].
- Whenever I see BIG APE in crosswords, it looks like an aborted BIG APPLE, a nickname for which I have little love (even so, it’s much better than the phrase, “a New York Minute”).
- This being an early-week puzzle, it’s free of tricky clues, but there is a distinct edge to enough of them to make the proceedings interesting.
- I like the visual and aural echo of the southwest corner’s PLATO/REPOT.
- People! MAMIE Eisenhower, ARI Onassis, CYRUS the Great, ELSA Schiaparelli, PLATO, the name AIMEE, “Goodnight IRENE“, Georges BIZET, Roger O’NEIL, Peter LORRE, ETHAN Coen, rapper NAS, IAGO, LEDA.
Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Straightforward yet not trite theme: Three phrases end with synonymous words.
- 20a. [Notable 1900s anti-alcohol demonstrator] is CARRIE NATION.
- 38a. [The boondocks], the sticks, can be called GOD’S COUNTRY. Why does this put me in mind of a 1970s beer slogan?
- 57a. When you take stock of the [General situation], you figure out the LAY OF THE LAND. Would like that better with a leading THE.
2d is UP LATE, clued as [Studying into the wee hours, say]. It’s only 9:30 here, but I feel like I’m up too late and I want to be done blogging.
Best entries: FRENZY (the name of my son’s first fancy goldfish), REAL LIFE, a jolt of ESPRESSO, that sad sack of a donkey named EEYORE, and the ZANY RASCAL who TAUNTS.
Most unsavory answer: 46d: MOLEST, or [Harass]. Yes, the word also has that “pester or harass” meaning and it’s not always about sexual abuse, but it’s an unpleasant word.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Surfer’s Selection” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Here’s a puzzle right in this couch potato’s sweet spot. The three theme entries are two-word nouns linked by the fact that the last word in each is a synonym for where one would find a television program:
- 20-Across: The [Place with a gun-toting group] is not an NRA CONVENTION or a HILLBILLY REUNION but a POLICE STATION. Is a really good police department known as a “super-station?”
- 37-Across: A DRAINAGE CHANNEL is a [Ditch in a field]. On the new Drainage Channel, you can watch emptying tubs in varying parts of the world. Does water drain from an Australian tub in a different direction? You’ll have to tune in to find out!
- 56-Across: [Facebook, e.g.] refers to a SOCIAL NETWORK. Why wasn’t “social media” the word of 2011? I certainly heard that phrase a lot more than “tergiversate.” (I’ve never heard of “tergiversate.” Have I missed something important?)
I really liked the stacked 6s in the corners (STUPID sits at 1-Down–I told you this one was in my wheelhouse). HOT HEADS is a fun entry dressed with a good clue, [They have short fuses]. I liked that both ALOFT and ADRIFT found a home in the grid. I was a little disappointed in the clue for STD, [Part of PST (abbr.)]. But I realize that my personal preference (something like [The herp, e.g.]) doesn’t entirely comport with the breakfast test.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
I just made my annual donation to BEQ in appreciation for a year of themeless riches (including the jumbo themeless crossword that is Brendan’s improvement on the museum totebag donation premium), not to mention the themed Thursday puzzles and the entertaining blog posts. This is BEQ #390. Coming up on 400 crosswords here! And they’re fun because Brendan can stretch beyond the editorial constraints of the daily newspaper puzzle. Visit Brendan’s blog and click the donation link in the upper right if you can afford to.
Choice examples of “not from the daily paper” clues and answers:
- 48a. ["What's the __?"] HAPS means “What’s happening?”/”What’s going on?” My friend Kristin started using this phrase recently. (She is, of course, a business executive.) If you’re a grammar stickler, you can try “What are the haps?” but you may sound a mite affected.
- 22a. NOM, as in “nom nom nom,” is [When repeated, lolcats eating noise]. If this makes little sense to you, click through for an example.
- 61a. I don’t know about this one. Isn’t ["Whatevs"] more of a MEH than a FEH? Meh = whatevs, feh = ugh. Can I get a ruling?
- 8d. BELIEBER! Has this been in the NYT crossword yet? And what on earth is Whole Foods doing selling Bieber CDs at the checkout?
Fun/weird trivia clue for ANTWERP. Naming by giant?
Have never seen dal spelled as DAHL, but the dictionary tells me that dal, dhal, and dahl are all used. You really can’t declare any one spelling right or wrong when you’re transliterating the sounds from a different alphabet.
Other good fill: THE ABCS, WAR ROOM, SMILEYS, BOOBIRD, SPUMONI, POST-IT, CAR SHOW, and XHOSA (click!).
Four stars. There may have been things I didn’t like, but I solved the puzzle five hours ago and don’t remember.