Mike Nothnagel’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
62-across [Children's game hinted at by the circled letters] is the, erm, revealer: HIDE AND SEEK. The circled letters in the four other “theme” entries read “READY OR NOT, HERE I COME,” the traditional declaration by the player designated “it” at the onset of the searching.
- 17a. [Hirsute carnival attraction] BEARDED LADY.
- 24a. [Trying to make sense of] SORTING OUT.
- 37a. [Hit HBO series set in Baltimore] THE WIRE.
- 51a. [Eleventh hour] NICK OF TIME.
All right, the entries have nothing in common other than rather compactly providing a home for the letters of the spoken phrase. Said letters are sequential, but not consecutive, although they frequently clump in pairs, and once in a triplet. This struck me as kind of weak as far as theme content goes, but then (with the benefit of discussion with another solver), I pictured the hidden letters as being analogous to the hiding participants. As I’m sure most of us have experienced, players hide in pairs or small groups as often as they do singly. With that in mind, I cast my
GIMLI gimlet eye a little more benevolently over the puzzle.
The longer non-theme fill has some winners: ESPRESSO, HERESIES (which I had first as HERETICS), RED RIVER, HALF MILE, DEN MOTHER, KING COBRA. The last is clued [World's longest venomous snake], which it is, and I can attest to their fearsomeness, having encountered one while I was alone during some field work. Fortunately, the beastie slithered away, completely uninterested in me.
There felt to be some staleness among the remainder of the fill, starting most notably with crossword stalwarts [Writer Anaïs] NIN and ELO ["Evil Woman" rock grp.], as well as DARER and the like . Then there were all the partials and tepid phrases: I BET, ARE SO, ODDS-ON, I’M EASY, I GIVE, I HEAR, SEE IN, ASK TO. A little fresher, but still less-than-ideal are OH OK, GUN IT, and perhaps even AT ISSUE. CARRY ME and TRY ONE feel much more self-contained.
Some repetition, as RETRY, clued by [Hear again, as a case] crosses the aforementioned I HEAR at 53d.
Where I was briefly tripped up: SATCH, not SATCHMO, at one-across left me nonplussed at the outset, wondering if there was some sort of atypical-for-a-Monday-puzzle trickery afoot. Also, filling in AGRI- for AGRO- gave me pause when it came to OH, OK. Then there was HERESIES, which I’ve already discussed. Last, and by far my favorite part of the entire puzzle, was 48d [One in a pit at a concert]. With a few letters down, I was certain it should be MAESTRO, which didn’t fit. I wondered if it might be MASTER, but it turned out to be the surprising MOSHER. Very fun, and refreshingly tricky.
So, my overall impression the puzzle and the solve were slightly less-than-average. But as has been discussed, it’s no mean feat to construct these early-week offerings, which must be easy enough for neophytes to finish, robust enough to please more experienced solvers, and hopefully with an interesting theme.
Tony Orbach’s Celebrity crossword, “Movie Monday”
This puzzle features last weekend’s Oscars:
- 15a. DIRECTING, [Category for which 21-Across won the Academy Award for 44-Across last Sunday]
- 21a. HAZANAVICIUS, [Michel who also wrote 44-Across]
- 35a. JEAN DUJARDIN, [He won the Best Actor Academy Award for 44-Across last Sunday: 2 wds.]
- 44a. THE ARTIST, [French film that won the Best Picture Academy Award last Sunday: 2 wds.]
I like to say “Hazanavicius” out loud. Good, solid Lithuanian name. And everyone loves to say “Jean DujarDIN,” too, in their best French accent. Have you seen The Artist? My husband and I forced our kid to see it on Christmas afternoon (since we somehow had no family plans that afternoon, we celebrated Jewish Christmas by going out for Peking duck and a movie). He predicted that he would be so bored he’d fall asleep, and yet his final review of the movie (which he stayed awake through) was “It’s okay.” That right there is a rave review for an 11-year-old’s first B/W silent film. Too bad the movie wasn’t filmed in 3-D, eh?
I’m sorry, where was I? We were talking about a crossword? Yes. 20a is SRO, clued as [Box office sign that means "no seats left"]. I hear that Broadway theaters no longer use this convention; I don’t know whether theaters in other cities still post “standing room only” signs. SRO remains a frequent crossword answer, pretty much always clued as a theater sign for a sold-out show. City dwellers also know SRO as “single-room occupancy,” used to describe residential buildings with cheap, small apartments–sometimes called “transient hotels.” We almost never see crossword clues referencing this SRO meaning, however.
Theme: 71A. [Name associated with the start of 17-, 39- or 63-Across] – MINNIE
- 17A. [Click-and-drag tool] – MOUSE BUTTON
- 39A. [Learner's permit prerequisite, often] – DRIVER EDUCATION. Shouldn’t that be driver’s education?
- 63A. [Memorable surprise attack site] – PEARL HARBOR
- 14A. [__ pork: Chinese dish with pancakes] – MOO SHU
- 16A. [Betty Crocker product] – MIX
- 22A. [Enjoyed, as a lollipop] – LICKED
- 56A. [Samples a bit of] – TASTES
- 70A. [Egg foo __] – YUNG
- 23D. [Animals, casually] – CRITTERS
- 32D. ["Famous" cookie guy] – AMOS
- 54D. ["The San Francisco Treat" suffix] – ARONI
- 69A. [Fruit drink ending] – ADE
- 12D. [Rosé or Cabernet] – WINE
Doug P shout-outs:
- 4D. [Superman's monogram] – ESS
- 9D. [Very productive] – PROLIFIC
- 49D. ["O Canada," e.g.] – ANTHEM
Just a simple theme to start off the week. *** stars.
Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Double Letters” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Tyler Hinman is back with his usual liveliness in both fill and clues. The theme ain’t too shabby either. It’s what the Cruciverb theme list calls a “definitions” theme–you’re given the term and you have to determine a particular definition. Tyler had to do that here because all of the terms have the same “double letter” pattern:
- 17-Across: A [B&B] is a COZY PLACE TO STAY.
- 28-Across: Any self-respecting (or recovering) geek will tell you that [D&D] is a ROLE-PLAYING GAME.
- 42-Across: An [M&M] is a CHOCOLATE MORSEL.
- 54-Across: [R&R] is a VACATION BENEFIT often given to members of the military, for example.
Even if you’re not a fan of the “definitions” theme (I don’t mind them myself, but I know other Fiend-sters aren’t especially fond), I think you have to admire the execution here. All of the definitions are 15 letters long, so with 60 theme squares you’d expect some mediocre fill. Instead we get treats like EEYORE, LYING TO, TESTS FOR, IN DEEP, LA-DI-DA, ONE CUP, MAZATLAN, C TEAM, I PASS, DINE AT, LAND HO, and my favorite, the [Urging at a birthday party]: OPEN IT! That’s a lot of sparkle in a grid with 60 theme squares.
There were certainly entries that slowed me down. Take, for instance, PICT, the [Ancient Brit]. According to the experts at Wikipedia, the Picts were “a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland.” Is that a valid spelling of Medieval?
But there’s more. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a MELODICA, the [Wind instrument with a keyboard]. Wikipedia says it’s also known as a “blow-organ.” (Inner Beavis thinks Tyler missed the gimme clue for that one.) Speaking of Inner Beavis, he liked REAMER, though Outer Sam had trouble realizing it was the [Metalworking tool]. I also struggled with the clues for both OPTIMA and DIADEM, [Ideals] and [Crown], respectively. And foolish me insisted on KATY as the answer to [Singer Perry] instead of COMO. Sometimes it hurts to be hip.
My favorite clues, besides the aforementioned one for OPEN IT, were [Have a fight agin] for RASSLE and ["___ Ng" (early They Might Be Giants song)] for ANA. That last one is just too cool for school.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday #159″
Smooth puzzle with lots of good stuff.
- JOHN ADAMS and MICHAEL MCDONALD‘s full names.
- A Duke BLUE DEVIL.
- ADBUSTERS with an Occupy Wall Street clue.
- Roberta Flack and the Fugees’ “KILLING ME SOFTLY With His Song.” The song title is incomplete in the grid, but doesn’t everyone just call it “Killing Me Softly”?
- BAD FORM.
- The KISS ARMY.
- KEEP CALM!
- 18a. [Slices of a Greek pizza?] are ZETAS, Greek letter Z’s.
- CHIcago Cubs legend ERNIE Banks always said, “Let’s play TWO.” Banks played shortstop, so 2d: ONE-HOP relates too.
- [Ben Jonson vis-a-vis Gabriel Spenser, e.g.] was a DUELLER, which runs through the answer to 52a: [Runs through], or PIERCE. Jonson stabbed Spenser to death in that duel.
Blah bits include the word combos SPA TUB and LOGE SEAT, IRANI, EATS A LOT, IN A SNARL, and little homelies like ANDS, RET, SSS, ALAR, ATNO, ENOL, OPA, and the ECO-/SCI-/GEO- prefixapalooza.