Nancy Kavanaugh’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
A crossword for the discerning solver?
- 17a. [Negative reaction to failure] SOUR GRAPES.
- 23a. [Sort of words that sailors are famous for] SALTY LANGUAGE.
- 47a. [Feuding families, e.g.] BITTER ENEMIES.
- 57a. [Sugar craving] SWEET TOOTH.
I believe a few of these adjectives for taste apply in my reaction, because I don’t think it’s fair that umami is omitted here. Just because for quite a long time only the four were recognized (by Western science), it’s no reason to perpetuate a false representation, even in a Monday crossword. True, the only phrase I can come up with beginning with umami is Umami Burger, which seems to be a modest California chain. It isn’t as if the theme phrases are purely metaphorical. On the other hand, I would have appreciated a gesture of inclusion, perhaps in the five-letter central location, where B-SIDE resides?
Otherwise, I felt the puzzle had some chewy and tasteful fill, what with STYX, SANSKRIT, WINGSPAN, SPRITZ, CAPSIZE, and the like. Not quite Scrabbly (no Js, Qs, or Fs), and with some a-bit-rich-for-a-Monday crosswordese, abbrevs. and partials—the CAP Quotient™—(ERNS, EL-HI, KOR., SWE., A MOO, AS I). Makes for a sweet-and-sour, bittersweet solving experience. How meta!
Spinach in my teeth:
- 18d [Icy cold] GELID (unusual for an early-weeker) and 51a [Chilling, as Champagne] ON ICE: too redundant?
- Other long fill: POLISH OUT, SOUP SPOON.
- Full—sort of—name: T.S. ELIOT.
- 22a [Former congresswoman Bella] ABZUG. This felt like a very old clue; I would have preferred [70s congresswoman Bella]. “Former,” though technically unimpeachable, has a bit more of a “recent” connotation, and ABZUG served as a New York State representative to the US Congress from 1973–1977.
And now to brush!
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Very Funny” – Sam Donaldson’s review
31-Down, the central Down entry, tells us that LOL is both a [Texter's chuckle (and an opening to 17-, 34-, and 55-Across)]. Accordingly, those three Across answers start with each component of LOL:
- 17-Across: LAUGH TRACKS are [Sitcom sweeteners].
- 34-Across: OUT OF PROPORTION is one way to classify something [Not to scale].
- 55-Across: LOUD SPEAKER is a [Stereo part].
True to Ashwood-Smith form, the grid could pass as a freestyle puzzle. It has only 72 entries and 30 black squares. It has triple-stacked 8s in two corners and some non-theme 9s. I tend to like this ambitious style, but in this case it forced some noticeable compromises. Check out, for example, the sole white squares allowing ingress and egress from the northwest and southeast corners. I prefer having at least two white squares into every corner so it doesn’t seem so isolated from the rest of the puzzle.
Then there’s the over-inclusion of sub-optimal entries like IS AS, ARR, STER, AM ON, ENA, A TASTE, ATONER, HEHS, ASSN, ELIS, A RULE, and ARSENE. Any one of these (heck, any two or three or maybe even four) would not be cause for concern, but this grid feels like it has too many. Sure, the junky entries allow for some real gems like ROTH IRA, DR. DENTON, GOT MAD, TURN AWAY, URETHANE, and CALAMARI. But I’m not so sure that the sparkle outweighs the rust in this case.
My favorite clue was [Mass communication?] for SERMON, something many readers no doubt experienced yesterday. After seeing my absolute least favorite crossword entry–the abbreviation SER–way too many times, it was refreshing to see the full word for a change. The clever clue only enhanced the satisfaction.
Gerry Wildenberg’s Los Angeles Times Crossword – Jeffrey’s Review
17A. [Donald Duck's title adventures, in a '90s Disney series] – QUACK ATTACK
31A. [Retrace one's steps] – BACKTRACK
44A. [Lunch box pudding brand] – SNACK PACK
57A. [Expert] – CRACKER JACK. The Fiend Handbook to Crossword Blogging requires I point out the “ER” in CRACKER that doesn’t appear in the other theme answers. I am required to call this (a) inelegant, (b) flawed, (c) an affront to all crossword solvers since the beginning of time or (d) no big deal. Let’s choose… (d).
66A. ["__: rewind": VCR rental reminder] – BE KIND. You see kids, there was a time when movies could only be seen on things called tapes, that moved from reel to reel. And you couldn’t contact any of your friends from a VCR. It was a real pain carrying it on the bus to watch on the way to school.
28D. ["Casablanca" pianist] – SAM. I must remember this.
50D. [Three-time Masters winner Sam] – SNEAD. Timely clue with the Masters ending yesterday.
Lynn Lempel’s Celebrity crossword, “Movie Monday”
How fortuitous that a movie title and its star have the same number of letters, and that the name of the puzzle’s subject also splits into first and last names with the same letter counts.
- 15a. MARGARET, [With 50-Across, former English prime minister recently portrayed by 21-Across]
- 21a. MERYL STREEP, [Star who won the Best Actress Oscar for 40-Across]
- 40a. THE IRON LADY, [2011 biopic set in England]
- 50a. THATCHER, [See 15-Across]
Mea Culpa Department: When reviewing this puzzle during the editorial process, the clue for 1-Down felt a tad off to me, but not enough so that I changed it. Commenter Erik contacted me this morning to say that the clue seemed to have it backwards, and indeed it does: An ARM is not [Something filled by a shirt sleeve], it’s something that fills a shirt sleeve. A shirt sleeve might sort of fill a coat sleeve, but generally not without an accompanying arm.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Interesting story about this puzzle. Brendan sent me an earlier version to test-solve, which unfortunately had TANK at 7-Down, duplicating part of 43d: TANK TOP. I can rejigger a corner of a grid with shorter answers, but three 7s stacked atop a long answer? A daunting prospect. You know how long it took Brendan to get a better corner? I think it was 5, maybe 10 minutes of work. And the new northwest corner is better than the original one. I don’t know that Brendan would accept placement in the ranks of the Crossword Jesuses, but he’s definitely at least one of the top Crossword Apostles.
Best stuff in the grid: Fresh phrase NHL MOCK DRAFT (I don’t understand mock drafts at all), the TIME BOMB/GIGOLOS/X FACTORS progression, Scrabbly JANET JACKSON, EDAMAME, STICK TO IT, the three-3s term DVD BOX SET, and BON JOVI. The Conversation Department is staffed by “LEAVE IT” (which my sister says to her dogs all the time) and “WHAT FOR?” I also like LITANY and OUTFOX; both are great words.
Three Four fave clues:
- 1a. ATHEIST, [One who doesn't believe he's being watched?]
- 39a. FIE, ["Thou pribbling hasty-witted moldwarp!"]
- 7d. TOCK, [Second sound?]
- 41d. BON JOVI, [Band whose original name was Johnny Electric]