Monday, 12/12/11

BEQ 6:45 (1 error) 
NYT 3:43 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:05 
CS 12:04 (Sam) 

Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT crossword 12/12/11 • Cee • Mon • solution • 1212

Gossamer theme, but essentially done well. 37-across [Hosp. parts … or what the answers to the six starred clues each have twice]: ERS. Kind of an ugly clue for a centrally located revealer, but there it is.

  • 17a. [*One who's an empty threat] PAPER TIGER.
  • 29a. [*Willie Mays, positionally] CENTER FIELDER.
  • 45a. [*What the waiter may be holding when he says "Say when"] PEPPER GRINDER.
  • 59a. [*Lawn-Boy or Toro product] POWER MOWER.
  • 10d. [*Enclosure with a manuscript or résumé] COVER LETTER.
  • 23d. [*Spider-Man's alter ego] PETER PARKER.

68 squares—or 71, I suppose—is quite a lot of theme content for a 15×15 grid, especially for an early-week puzzle. Yet the whole thing is admirably smooth, as we expect from such an offering. Nice that all six of the themers are two-word phrases, each word two syllables, and each word ending in the requisite -ER. It would have been better if -ers had been avoided in the rest of the fill, or at least from the ends of entries (so 34a SWERVE and 47d DERMAL are not so bad); however, there’s LEER, SNEER and, worse, OILER, ALTER, AVER, RARER and EVER. STILLERS is not so hot in context, either. You can see how difficult it is to construct a puzzle without this feature so common to our vocabulary.

Two proper-name entries strike me as difficult for a Monday puzzle: 39a [Dutch painter Jan] STEEN, and 62a [Actor/songwriter Novello] IVOR. As the latter crosses the ambiguous 54d ["Victory is mine!"], which can be I WIN or I WON, it was a little tricky. IVOR seemed more likely than IVIR.

Good puzzle, solid Monday.

Mel Rosen’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 12 12 11

Imagine my surprise when the first theme entry turned out to be EYE STRAIN! Why, I was in no mood to do the crossword (much less blog it) because of the eye strain. So let’s be brief.

  • 7d. [Doctor's self-employment, and a hint to the starts of the five longest across answers] is PRIVATE PRACTICE.
  • 17a. [Downside of reading in poor light] is EYE STRAIN. Shopping in ample light, that’s what did me in. A private eye’s a detective type.
  • 24a. CAR WASHES are [Drive-thru cleanings]. And a private car is…I don’t know what “private car” means. Is this a train car? An automobile?
  • 39a. ROOM TEMPERATURE is the [Range for indoor comfort]. A private room is what, exactly? Oh, a private room in a hospital?
  • 49a. [Staunch political group member] is a PARTY HACK. “Sorry, we’re closed for a private party today.”
  • 62a. A LINE DRIVE is a [Solid baseball hit]. Private line is a phone line, yes? Now that party lines don’t (as far as I know) exist anymore, is there anything that doesn’t qualify as a private line? Or is this about fashion?

As you might guess from the number of questions I had about the theme answers, this theme didn’t quite jell for me. It’s nice that the Down 15 intersects the other five theme answers, but the “private __” phrases didn’t click for me.

The two longest Down answers aside from 7d are SAFE AREA and TEN YARDS, neither of which feels particularly lexical-chunky to me tonight. A bit more crosswordese fill than one expects to see on a Monday, too—AAR, ROK, AGA, ELAND? A couple pairs felt mildly duplicative too: SRTAS (oof! foreign + abbreviation + plural?) and SEÑOR, Nellie BLY and NELL.

2.75 stars.

Updated Monday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Just For Youse” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, December 12

If you’re here because you don’t get the theme of today’s Bob Klahn workout, see if this hint helps you: say the puzzle’s title aloud. Then check out the theme entries:

  • 20-Across: E PLURIBUS UNUM can be thought of as a [Coined phrase?] because it it’s stamped on every United States coin. IN GOD WE TRUST is another viable answer for this clue, but here it has too few letters and doesn’t really work with this puzzles’ theme.
  • 30-Across: UNSCRUPULOUSLY is [How double-dealers deal]. I suppose DISINGENUOUSLY has the same number of letters, but it certainly doesn’t work for this puzzle’s theme.
  • 38-Across: A [Consumed consumer of the arts] is a CULTURE VULTURE. “Consumed” as in “engrossed” and not as in “eaten” or “used up.”
  • 53-Across: The [Bluffer's ultimatum] is PUT UP OR SHUT UP. It’s short for “If you wanna see my cards, you’ll have to call my bet, because that’s the only way I’m required to show you what I have.”

Still stumped by the theme? Okay, here it is: each theme answer has four U’s (“just for youse” = “all there is to the theme is four U’s per theme entry”). I like how the clever title makes the theme so much more interesting. “Here’s four entries that have four U’s in them” would be much duller, no?

Fans of knotty clues have much to appreciate here. Here were my favorites, in no special order: (1) [Mammoth things] for the TUSKS of a woolly mammoth; (2) [Likely to spoil?] for DOTING; (3) [Slip eponym] for FREUD; and (4) [Bug zappers?] for TECHS.

Some of the fill felt a little awkward to me (AGER, TALE BEARER, SOU, ASE’S, URU) and the long Downs (COMMISSAR and NULLIPARA) felt more like a vocabulary test than entertainment, but I liked ROSE IS ROSE, [Pat Brady's upbeat comic strip], and any grid with POOH can’t be all bad, right?

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 392 solution

I like how “Brendan Emmett Quigley” is only 3 letters shorter than the names of all three of today’s other constructors combined.

So, I had a BIG MISTAKE in this puzzle aside from the one at 1-Across. In square 41, I had a P for wild POKER (what? there could certainly be poker lingo I don’t know) and P-SCHOOL (what? there could certainly be baseball lingo I don’t know). Except it’s a JOKER that’s wild and the cubs are cub reporters who go to J-SCHOOL. D’joh!

Love having SPANDAU / BALLET in the puzzle. I was a sucker for pretty male New Wave singers in the early ’80s.

My neighborhood has awesome Salvation Army BELL RINGERS. I don’t think they’re volunteers, though. I think they’re ON SALARY. The folks at the nearby Salvation Army College for Officer Training all seem to be white, whereas the bell ringers are African-American and bring both singing and panache to their job. I’ll bet they’re more effective fundraisers than those who just stand there and ring that tinny bell.

Anyone else try GOTH for [One who gets into old clothes] before MOTH?

Never heard of Michael PEÑA. The only thing I’ve seen from his filmography was made in 2000, and it was probably a small part. Slowed myself down by putting CENA here, though it’s John C. and not Michael C.

Boo to the TARRER and the OPINER. And I’m not sure how ["You can count on me"] and I TRY equate.

3.5 stars.

 

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10 Responses to Monday, 12/12/11

  1. janie says:

    impressive interlock of the theme fill, too, in the nyt — with the two verticals crossing two horizontals.

    ;-)

  2. pannonica says:

    janie: Yes, that’s how he was able to fit so much theme content into the grid so smoothly. I should have been more explicit about that!

  3. Niemand says:

    Roger Federer is an -er -erer. So is Werner Klemperer. He’s almost an -erer -erer.

  4. john farmer says:

    Reminds me of one of my favorite movie reviews (though I forget whose it was) for “The Horse Whisperer”: “I wish it were betterer.”

    Nice clue for the Stiller boys, and good Monday puzzle.

  5. Gareth says:

    Is there any reason the top-right and bottom-left in the LAT are so junky except for the gratuitous X and Q??? The 3s of a 3X5 shouldn’t have to go QUA/URI/AAR/BLY they just shouldn’t. The tree design was admirably handled in the rest of the puzzle, so why so careless in the two quiet bits? Is it – no tell me it isn’t – a p-word? Private line: “Ma’am yes ma’am!”

  6. ArtLvr says:

    I don’t agree that the SQUAB and MIXEs corners are junky in the LAT, Gareth. URI might have been Geller or something besides a school, but that’s a clue problem. I do think it’s worth noting that ROOM TEMPERATURE is rather an oxymoron with regard to the clued “comfort”, as that can be a major bone of contention for roomies — The phrase applies more often to food, as in letting ingredients like raw eggs, melted chocolate, etc. warm or cool to room temperature.

  7. pannonica says:

    re: BEQ: I had trouble at the _SCHOOL/_OKER intersection too, but guessed correctly even though I never properly appreciated the clever cub clue. Another raised eyebrow for I TRY.

    BELL RINGERS can also refer to people who ring actual church bells. Earlier this year I read an interesting speculative near-future novel by that title, by Henry Porter. Was quite good.

  8. AV says:

    @Artlvr: I am with Gareth on the NE corner; no reason to have QUA, URI, AAR, BLY in a Monday. Definitely the p-word in mind, further demonstrated by the X in the SW, J in the NW and the Z in the SE (although those corners don’t stick out).

  9. Jeff Chen says:

    Interesting debate re: the LAT corners; I fall somewhere in the middle. It’s always nice to get some high-Scrabble value letters and I do like QUA / SQUAB / MIXES / WAX… but not at the cost of AAR, ENE, and FEM.

    To each their own, yes?

  10. ant says:

    The theme to the CS puzzle was easy to grasp – but what made this puzzle brilliant was not in its theme, but in its overall cluing. Absolutely fantastic, and a blast to read! I can see why it took Sam 12 minutes to do this puzzle. He probably took the extra time to read each clue 4 or 5 times – not because he didn’t get them, but because they were fun to say aloud. Tongue twisters, rhymes and alliteration galore – and the echo cluing (such as 15A/16A and 57D/58D) was clever. And calc. calc.? Ha!
    Way to go, Bob!

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