Don’t miss Matt Gaffney’s Slate article about “the Shortz Factor,” which is a measure of crossword fame vs. real-world fame. Which people who are common crossword answers are more famous in crosswords than in the rest of the pages of the New York Times?
Francesco Trogu’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Usually Monday puzzles are so darn… nice… that I have little to say about them, except that I wish they had a little more spunk. Even then, that can be contraindicated for early-week dosage.
This puzzle—which I realize is a début by a sixteen-year-old constructor—gave me a scowl, but I level my gaze of scorn primarily at the editor (sorry, Will).
There’s a tripartite revealer, made up of little words:
- 66a. [Where 38-Across lay 1-Across … or a word hidden in 20-, 27-, 44- and 51-Across] NEST.
- 1a. [Chicks hatch from them] EGGS.
- 38a. [Layers of 1-Across] BIRDS.
And here are the four long themers:
- 20a. [Not-so-fancy places to stay] ONE-STAR HOTELS.
- 27a. [Maryland’s nickname] OLD LINE STATE. I assume this references the Mason-Dixon line?
- 44a. [Big Apple list] ITUNES TOP TEN.
- 51a. [Osteoporosis threatens it] BONE STRUCTURE.
First: my greatest complaint comes from an aspect that should have been avoided. 6-down [Food giant whose brands include Gerber and Goobers] NESTLÉ. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? Yep. Despite the fetching consonance in the clue, that answer has no business being in this puzzle, containing as it does the word “nest” in a supernumerary, non-thematic context. It even blatantly crosses Ts with a theme NEST! I don’t care that the word literally nestles in the themers.
Nest. Sorry, next: I don’t feel that the two extra components of the revealer at 1a and 38a across are welcome. They don’t add much cleverness to the theme, they’re short, and it isn’t important that they create and expand symmetry with the true revealer at 68 across. They merely create annoying cross-references. Even in an early-week offering they come across as an unwanted nuisance.
Last: the long theme entries themselves. Three of them break the same way (NE|ST) and one deviates (NES|T). It’s always better for the mechanics of the theme to be consistent, either by all being the same or all being different; unbalanced constructions are less desirable. In this case I’d have liked to have seen them all as NE|ST, or one N|EST, one NE|ST, one NES|T, and one |NEST| ensconced in a single, long word. Even 2 × NE|ST and 2 × NES|T would have been better. Also, aside from OLD LINE STATE, these theme entries are rather blah. ONE STAR HOTELS? Okay, I suppose. BONE STRUCTURE is a yawner, and how much of a “thing” is an ITUNES TOP TEN (despite its admirably misleading clue)? Ironically, perhaps, volant avifauna possess fascinating BONE STRUCTURE—including significant pneumatization—all to the effect of lightening the skeletal system.
Aside from these not-exactly-minor flaws, the puzzle hews to the early-week ethic of being a smooth solve with little or no crosswordese and other unwanted qualities.
- The feature non-theme long entries, the verticals GAG ORDER and BATTLE AXE, are both good fill.
- Interestingly, 25a [Collection of atoms: Abbr.] could work as a non-abbreviated answer as well, since MOL is an acceptable variation of mole, a standard measure in chemistry. [edit: To clarify, the intended answer is MOL., an abbreviation for molecule.]
- 13d [Untouchable tennis serves] ACES. Shouldn’t it be “unreturnable”?
- Why not have 60d [Badminton feature] NET re-use the clue for 28d [Tennis umpire’s cry] LET? If it had been decided to use a verb form of NET, I wouldn’t mention this, but as it is, it’s more than halfway there.
All told, this struck me as a subpar puzzle for the New York Times.
p.s. As I wrote this, I was listening to a radio programme (yes, the BBC) discussing what becomes of Olympic Games facilities after their featured débuts; it included discussion of the iconic Beijing National Stadium (aka “Bird’s Nest”) from the 2008 games.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Earth-shattering” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The “earth” part of this crossword’s title is easy enough to figure out” the four theme entries contain the letter sequence E-A-R-T-H. I guess the “shattering” part comes from the fact that the letter sequence spans two words (an accepted convention for hidden word gimmicks), so the “EARTH” gets “shattered” each time. So here are the theme entries:
The theme entries all work fine, though the middle two are, in my view, considerably livelier than the bookends. HEAT INDEX, the [Summer number provided by the National Weather Service], and CARGO SHIP, the [Boat with a boatload], are terrific long Downs. Other good entries included RED SEA, TAR PIT, NO WISER, and NACHO, though I admit I like the latter because of a snack food bias.
[Cut, as logs] was an unexpected clue for SAW UP. I would have expected something more along the lines of [Escorted from the lobby to the penthouse], but maybe I like that clue because it explains how I made money at the local hotel during college. My favorite clue was [Took stock?] for RUSTLED. If you have a beef with it, I would say hey, don’t have a cow.
Kevin Christian’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Three verbs that are also birds make up today’s theme, with all the theme answers being [verb + “one’s” + body part]:
- 20a. [DUCK], LOWER ONE’S HEAD.
- 41a. [CRANE], STRETCH ONE’S NECK.
- 60a. [QUAIL], LOSE ONE’S NERVE.
Simple and consistent. SELL ONE’S WARES would work clued with [HAWK], but WARES aren’t a body part. Are there other bird verbs that would fit the theme?
The three-piece theme occupies just 41 squares, which leaves wiggle room in the grid for a six-pack of good longer answers: I’M ALL EARS, TEETOTAL, MAJESTIC, EYETEETH, SEE STARS, and GET OVER IT. Plus NODOZ! Could do without some of today’s People of Crosswords: IAGO, OSSIE, TREVOR, IRMA, MEARA, ERROL, biblical SETH and LEAH, SILAS, LAHR, DANA, LEIF, KEATS, ESTEE, and MOE. Fifteen people is on the high side for a daily puzzle.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday #154”
I learned a new word from this puzzle: 15a: NONTROVERSY, [Argument that doesn’t exist until created for political gain, in modern slang]. Anyone got a good example of a nontroversy?
I solved this puzzle last week and told Brendan it killed me. He asked what needed to be eased up and you know what? The hardest clues were good and I didn’t want to see them go. Like these:
- 12d. [Do maintenance] for HAIRCARE. “Do” isn’t a verb here, it’s a noun (hairdo).
- 35a. [Donovan who was a long-time member of the Eagles] is football player MCNABB, not a confrere of Don Henley and Glenn Frey.
- 36d. [One way of coming out] is a C-SECTION, if you’re a brand-new baby making your debut.
- 6d, 8d. [Furniture store owned by Williams-Sonoma]—there are two? I pieced together POTTERY BARN without much difficulty but WEST ELM took more crossings.
- 21a. [Horse collarer?] is a NARCO, “horse” being slang for heroin.
- 1d. [Half pint] is ONE CUP, straight up. There’s no telling how much time I lost by filling in SHRIMP off the P here. I didn’t know the stadium name, and 22a: [Bing line?] was mystifying me (it’s a URL, Bing being a search engine).
Favorite fill: ONION POWDER, FAST CARS, “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC, CANDY STORES, MAGIC EYE, and the two home-furnishings stores.
I don’t care for the two math/sci clues, [Time constant symbol, in physics] for TAU and [Trigonometry lesson] for COSINE. Had no idea about the first one, and don’t get how the second one is a “lesson.”