Repeat announcement from Sunday’s post: Teen constructor Erik Agard has a website where you can download 14 of his crosswords. Anoa Place … check it out.
C.W. Stewart’s New York Times crossword
Someday I will open a restaurant and I will call it Topaz Okapi.
Crisp Monday theme: LAW STUDENT, BANK DEPOSIT, NEWS COMMENTATOR, RECORD LABEL, and ICE MACHINE all start with things you can BREAK. “Breaking the LAW, breaking the law” (Judas Priest, with bonus Beavis & Butthead appeal) is illegal. Breaking the BANK is coming into a ton of money, though I’m not sure how the phrase came about. Break the NEWS … gently. (Evad just got the good news that his first puzzle construction in a few years will run on some future Wednesday in the New York Times! Yay! He ran the theme by me and you’re gonna like it. Really neat theme.) Break a RECORD and solve a Monday crossword more slowly than anyone has ever done it—just keep solving continuously but very slowly. Could you stretch it to 48 hours? Break the ICE: “Hi, I’m Amy, pleasure to meet you. What an interesting name you have; what does it mean?”
I zipped through the puzzle at a good clip but spotted some entries that might be unfamiliar to crossword newbies. Here’s a primer:
- 10a. [Writer James] AGEE won the Pulitzer for his novel A Death in the Family, wrote film criticism. I always think he’s African-American because all the other Agees I’ve known are black.
- 14a. [Relative of a giraffe], OKAPI. It’s got a shorter neck and looks more like a zebra.
- 62a. [Art Deco artist], ERTÉ. Real name Romain de Tirtoff. The initials R.T. are pronounced “air tay” in French, hence his adopted name of Erté.
- 63a. [Kind of tide], NEAP. “A tide just after the first or third quarters of the moon when there is the least difference between high and low water.”
- 64a. [Western, in old slang], OATER. As in a movie in the Western genre.
- 4d. [Cathedral area], APSE. Cathedral area, 4 letters? It’ll be either NAVE or APSE so you can fill in the E and check the crossings to determine the rest.
- 18d. [Russia's ___ Mountains], URAL. Home of the dividing line between the European and Asian continents. I went to school with a boy named Ural.
- 34d. [Poi source], TARO. Taro is a root vegetable, poi is a starchy Hawaiian food made from it. I think.
- 56d. [Prime draft classification], ONE-A. Really 1-A. From back when the U.S. military had a draft, 1-A meant you were good material for the service, physically and mentally fit.
Four stars. Maybe a bit heavy on the APSE/URAL business for noobs but it didn’t slow me down. The theme is so smooth, it buys forgiveness on the fill front. And OUTDRINK, GUESS? jeans, and GETS EVEN were sweet.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Farmer Brown” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle tells the tale of Farmer Brown through expressions that start with the names of farm animals:
- 17-Across: [Farmer Brown’s farm was in a] COW TOWN.
- 18-Across: […and embellished with] DOGWOOD [trees].
- 28-Across: [Farmer Brown’s income was] CHICKEN FEED.
- 47-Across: […but he spent his time watching] HORSE OPERAS.
- 60-Across: […and taking] CAT NAPS.
- 63-Across: [As for hard work, he said] HOGWASH!
It doesn’t exactly give one a favorable impression of Farmer Brown, but it’s hardly a TALE OF WOE, the [Sob story] at 37-Down. I liked how some of the fill echoed the rural theme, with Li’l ABNER, the Hatfield-McCoy FEUD, and some HAM on the side. But I think we can all agree that the puzzle would have been better off without the HOR in the middle (though Inner Beavis finds it oddly amusing that the clue is [Level with the ground (abbr.)]).
The triple 7s in two corners add some flair, though ENNOBLE is one of those words you’ll only see in a crossword grid. This didn’t feel “Lempel-ian” in its smoothness (one doesn’t expect to see IWO, EST, and TWI together in a Lynn Lempel puzzle), but that’s a very high standard. At first I thought it was because of the theme’s density, but there’s only 50 total theme squares. While that’s certainly above average, it’s short of the usual range where one starts to see compromises in the grid in order to make everything work. So in the end we have a good puzzle, just one that’s not quite on par with most Lynn Lempel offerings.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
No .puz file out there today so I solved online. C.C.’s theme is LOCO: Four phrases beginning with LO- and CO- words.
- 18a. [Area's distinguishing qualities], LOCAL COLOR. Great phrase.
- 29a. [Bud Abbott's partner], LOU COSTELLO.
- 48a. [Fly off the handle], LOSE CONTROL.
- 59a. [Jurisdiction whose decisions may be appealed], LOWER COURT.
- 68a. [Off one's rocker, and a hint to what the four longest puzzle answers have in common], LOCO.
Solid twist on the “phrase initials” theme by going with letter pairs instead of single letters.
The dozen 7-letter answers class up the fill with corners that are fit for a themeless puzzle (though the overall word count is 76, a standard themed-puzzle word count). SOAP BOX is Scrabbly, LUMP SUM has two “UM”s, SILENT E is always fun (my peers likely remember the Electric Company skit featuring the powerful Silent E character), PANDORA is classic and modern (it’s also an online music service), and ARAPAHO POTOMAC cries out for a third word. “Arapaho hippopotamus Potomac” is actually not a tongue twister, though. RED BULL is fresh fill, too.
Now, I think C.C. is roughly my age peer, but she came to the U.S. from China as an adult if I recall correctly. It always blows my mind when someone for whom English is not a first language masters the art of crossword construction. It’s impressive enough that my mother-in-law loves to do crosswords despite growing up speaking a language entirely unrelated to English, but more mind-boggling that Michael Shteyman could quickly move from speaking Russian to making crosswords in English, and for C.C. (Xhouqin) to be solving puzzles, blogging them (L.A. Times Crossword Corner is her site), and constructing prolifically for the L.A. Times.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Okay, it’s Monday evening already. I worked, I ran errands, I cooked dinner, and here we are at 8:09 pm. Quick blog!
Like RAP-ROCK (the answer, not the genre), TEAM USA beside ALL-STAR, the zippy HATERADE, the dreaded ROBOCALL, “YEESH,” PAISLEY, and two language clues, KOREANS who use the Hangul alphabet and the ESPANOL of telenovelas. Never heard of TUNEYARDS (one of BEQ’s germinal entries) or SLYDINI, but grant you that SLYDINI is a fun magician name. Bored by EDUCE, ORONO, EER. Dislike RWE, ENA, EAGAN, IN A MIST. (IN A MIST would be better if it appeared right with NIAGARA, no? Feels sort of awkward to me but waterfall proximity might’ve sold it.) Amused that Brendan explained ITCHY LEGS in his post as a Byron Waldenesque move. I note that the Y could be blacked out to make ITCH and LEGS, perfectly ordinary, crossing TUNE and medical acronym ARDS (acute/adult respiratory distress syndrome), but then Brendan would lose his TUNEYARDS, whatever that may be.