Richard Chisholm’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Looking at the central across entry, STEPS, one might think the theme would turn out to be a step-quote or some sort of phonetic progression. Turns out that it has no relation to the theme, which is homophonic in nature: four different ways of spelling \ˈwē \ start off each of the themers.
- 18a. [Young girls in Glasgow] WEE LASSIES. They’re Glaswegians.
- 26a. [First words of the Constitution] WE, THE PEOPLE…
- 43a. [Polite assent in Paris] OUI, MONSIEUR.
- 54a. [Piece of Nintendo game equipment] WII CONSOLE.
Korean-American golfer Michelle WIE provides a fifth spelling, but of course there’s no good way to have the last name come first. WHEE Radio, an AM station in Martinsville, Virginia doesn’t cut it, either. Anyway, I have the sense of seeing this theme before, within the last six months. Not possessing the galvanized steel-trap mind of some other solvers and reviewers (and not knowing which database sites to check), I can’t easily verify this hunch.
The modestly-sized themers—and that there are just four of them—helps the grid have a wide-open, flowing feel. It also makes room for some longer ballast fill, including the admirable GIVE IT A TRY and PORK CHOP, as well as the pretty good FAN LETTERS, NOTEPADS, CONDONE, and NO SIREE.
- I see a lot of rhyming EEs in the grid: NO SIREE, GEESE, ALLEE, MEET ME. I won’t mention all the other \ ē \ sounds spelled differently because they’re so common and unremarkable.
- 31d. Nice to see a clue for Ed ASNER not referencing Pixar’s 2009 film Up. Is that trend ending at last?
- How does everyone feel about ADIEU crossing …MONSIEUR? Too similar with the Francophone I-E-U? A French cluster there, with ALLEE also intersecting, as well as ÉTÉS in the section above.
Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Super-simple Monday theme that seems utterly obvious as a concept, and yet I don’t recall seeing it before:
- 17a. WI-FI ACCESS is a [Service available at hotspots]. WI-FI HOTSPOT would be a neater answer, but…
- 39a. [Place to see droids or tribbles] managed to confuse me terribly before I understood the theme and had enough crossings. For “droids,” I thought of Droid phones rather than Star Wars droids, and for “tribbles,” I was positive the answer would be specifically Star Trekkish in nature, “droid” be damned. SCI-FI CONVENTION? Okay, that works, though
- 64a. And the other “_i-fi” piece is a HI-FI SYSTEM, or [Home theater component]. Also a mildly clunky-sounding answer. Who calls it that anymore?
I’m not into the particular phrases that found their way into this theme, but I do like the WI-FI/SCI-FI/HI-FI triad.
Highlights in the fill: The chatty “I DO, TOO,” “PSST!” and “HOW SAD,” the PASSPORT to ISTANBUL, and THE MET. And TEA LEONI gets her full name in the grid—how terrific for crossword constructors that she’s in a current hit movie (11d: ["Tower Heist" actress]), because her common letters get her into puzzles more than into hit movies. It gets stale to see actors and singers clued by some thing they were in eons ago that not so many people saw/heard in the first place, no?
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Famous Fake Foodies” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s fun offering from Sarah Keller reacquaints us with five famous names from the grocery store. The common theme? None of them is a real person:
- 18-Across: The [Potato pundit] is HUNGRY JACK. Indeed, Mr. (or Ms.) Jack is also a well-regarded pundit in the field of pancake mix. Here‘s the Hungry Jack commercial I remember from my childhood. This one just seems all kinds of wrong–I’m not sure if it’s the belly tattoos or the sound effect for “singing the hungries” that sounds more like diarrhea.
- 24-Across: LITTLE CAESAR is the Pizza [Pizza pro]. So many bad commercials from which to choose, but this one is probably the, um, cheesiest.
- 39-Across: Up in the valley is this [Vegetable veteran] called the JOLLY GREEN GIANT. This ad explains how he keeps his own niblets crisper. Why are you looking at me like that? (P.S. Have you ever seen an uglier rag doll?)
- 53-Across: The [Cake connoisseur] is none other than that sweet talker, BETTY CROCKER. Look, it’s Betty herself! I can’t wait to share the honey spice cake with my bridge club. I love how the ad starts: “I guess every family has its own kind of problems, but certainly baking a cake doesn’t have to be one of them.” If cake-baking is making the list of your family’s problems, you’ve got it pretty good.
- 65-Across: DINTY MOORE is the [Stew savant]. This ad‘s not to bad–the very end is kinda funny. But maybe my standards have dropped after seeing the other commercials.
It’s a nice touch that all of the theme entries have alliterative clues. I liked this trip down the memory aisle of the grocery store, even if the only brand I still use from time to time is Betty Crocker (though I’m more of a Duncan Hines fan, truth be told).
There’s a nice mix of retro and cutting edge in the fill. The ICEMAN, a [One-time home deliverer] cometh at 49-Down, together with SISSY, the [Family nickname] that may not get as much mileage in the current century. But there’s also the KINDLE e-book reader, the [Nook's competition], and [Taiwanese-American film director] ANG LEE getting the full name treatment. The most prominent Crosswordese was probably ALAE, the [Wings, in Latin] (also the clue for PAULUS McCARTNEYUM BANDATA), and STR, a f-ugly abbreviation for the “strings,” the [Orch, section]. My favorite clue was [Kind of face] for POKER. Sometimes it’s the easy stuff that entertains most.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Discovered this was a 64-worder when I read Brendan’s blog post after solving. Whoa! It’s pretty smooth for that word count. ATEETER, ENURES, and IN AREA were the only things that prompted faint scowling, and there’s plenty of good stuff to offset a modicum of blah. SUGAR SPOON, POLO TEAM, THE NRA, NICKI MINAJ, REDDIT, MITT ROMNEY (with a funny Colbert clue), TOY STORE, and WIRED MONEY are all nice.
I didn’t realize Minaj was a rapper rather than a singer. I know her sartorial and tonsorial wizardry from Go Fug Yourself far better than I know her music.
Lots of good clues. Busy day so I gotta run. Discuss amongst yourselves.