Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Had some technical problems with the on-line version of the puzzle, so my time is approximate (and average for me).
The spanning central across entry explains the key letters in the theme entries: 38a [H.G. Wells novel … with a hint to this puzzle's circled words] THE INVISIBLE MAN. Note that it specifies “hint,” because the synonyms for “man” are not exactly invisible, just hidden.
- 17a. [Equipment to help a patient breathe] OXYGEN TANK.
- 25a. ["Sorry to hear that"] SUCH A PITY.
- 49a. [Went to pieces] FELL APART.
- 61a. [Vishnu or Shiva] HINDU DEITY.
All span more than one word, all are in-the-language phrases, and all are solid synonyms. Pitched right for an early week puzzle. Did you notice how ABIDE is crossing near DUDE? Wells’ colleague across the Channel Jules VERNE is there at 22a, and not cross-referenced at 69a NEMO, though both clues invoke Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (in-line editing process there). KEATS and ODES at 52a and 66a are, however, cross-referenced.
The marquee long entries among the downs are the WORRISOME | RED PLANET of 11d & 33d. ack! ack, ack!
Some other notable entries are 48d STODGY [Hardly hip], 10d ACCEPT [Say yes to] which could have been ASSENT until some crossings were in place, and the possible narrative between the neighboring TOTEM and SAY SO (low man on the totem pole needing everyone else’s approval?).
Least favorite entry: the awkward singular [Breath mint in a roll, informally] CERT at 28-across (the viable alternatives are abbrevs. or a Dick Francis partial title).
Overall, good flow through the grid and a smooth solve. Somewhat above-average puzzle.
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Odd little theme. A regular progression (or in this case, regression) sequence with a flourish that feels more like an afterthought. The clue 69-across reads [London lav (Diagonally from square 69 to square 45) What happens after the starts of 21-, 29-, 48- and 56-Across]. I expect that the print version will be formatted slightly differently since it won’t be constrained by Across Lite’s limitations. I’ve circled the relevant letters in my grid.
- 21a. [They start with "hip hip"] THREE CHEERS.
- 29a. [Closely related duo] TWO OF A KIND.
- 48a. [Single file] ONE AT A TIME.
- 56a. [Weightless state] ZERO GRAVITY.
The diagonal fill rising northeast from the L in LOO is LIFT OFF. Let me just say right away that it probably isn’t a good idea to connect the idea of visiting the bathroom with the notion of an explosive event.
Next quibble: in general, a countdown goes “… 3, 2, 1, lift off” or, less commonly, “… 3, 2, 1, 0.” It would be highly unusual to have both zero and lift off in the sequence. Perhaps that’s the way it was done back in 0 BC?
Final theme-related quibble: the OFF in the diagonal (diagonal?) LIFT OFF intersects 44a OFFS [Snuffs out, mob-style]. Kinda sorta duplicative.
Admirable triple-seven vertical stacks in each corner, though they’re for the most part composed of common letters (40d WOOZIER 46d FIANCÉE are modest exceptions). The rather nice SINCERITY [Candor] occupies pride of place in the center across slot.
The rest of the puzzle is on-target for early week fill and cluing. Nothing jaw-dropping, nothing awful, nothing too tricky. Most unusual answer is probably 50d TEASEL [Prickly-leaved plant], also spelled teazel and teazle.
So, average puzzle with a theme that’s a little… off.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “23 Skidoo” – Sam Donaldson’s review
How fun (and fitting) to have a puzzle about everyone’s favorite ninth prime, the number 23. Each of the five theme entries makes reference to the number:
- 20-Across: MAX HEADROOM is the [1980s TV series set at Network 23]. Boy did I need a lot of crossings for that one! I forgot that Max Headroom wasn’t just an advertising gimmick but also a short-lived TV show (like the Geico cavemen).
- 40-Across: The YANKEES [retired Don Mattingly's jersey #23].
- 59-Across: SWITZERLAND is the [Country of 23 cantons], just as the grocery’s dairy aisle is the home of 23 cartons and the salad I ate yesterday was the spot of 23 croutons.
- 11-Down: JIM CARREY is the [Star of "The Number 23"]. Would the sequel be titled The Number 23 II? The Number 24? Or maybe The Number 17, a prequel?
- 35-Down: What’s that, you say? [The "Appassionata" was his 23rd piano sonata] refers to BEETHOVEN? Okay, sure.
Appropriately, there’s a higher concentration of W’s in this grid than usual (W is the 23rd letter, after all, and yes, four W’s is unusually high). Beyond that, I don’t see any more obvious allusions to the number 23 in this puzzle. Are there others?
Even if you’re not much into the number 23, there’s lots here to like. Take, for instance, the appearance of AJAR and AJAX in opposite corners. Or lively stuff like ON THE GO, ESCHEWED, GOT LOST, NECCO, CASANOVA, SLURPS, and UMAMI (the word I nearly always confuse with UNAGI).
Stuff I didn’t know included ["In Her Skin" actress Miranda] OTTO, a 1960 movie called “The World of Suzie WONG”, and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, or SEATO, a [Defense gp. of 1954-'77].
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
I’m torn about the middle Across answer here. [Trashed from overuse], THE WORSE FOR WEAR? It feels like it’s not an actual phrase without “none” at the beginning. Are things affirmatively “the worse for wear,” or only “none the worse for wear”?
Overall, this 70-word pinwheel crossword is solid. Most enjoyable bits:
- “IN A WORLD…” is indeed a phrase at the beginning of many a movie trailer. I might have preferred IN A WORLD WHERE, but only marginally so.
- PARANOIA clued as a [Common Philip K. Dick theme] taught me something. Don’t think I’ve ever read any of his books.
- 25a. FRAN [Lebowitz who said "Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he's buying"]—ha! Over the weekend, PuzzleGirl and I shared tales of being away from home and still getting texts from our sons asking “What’s for dinner?” When we’re home, of course, the same question is spoken aloud. Incessantly. And sometimes an hour and a half after dinner.
- 53a. [Death personified], THANATOS. Looking at it in the grid now, it keeps looking like “Tha NATOs.” Rap supergroup made of North American and Western European diplomats?
- 54a. [Upper limit], THE MAX. Take it thereto.
- 8d. [His first comedy album was "I Am Not Homer"], DAN CASTELLANETA. He had a comedy album? And more than one? Huh. Am I the only one who always wants to spell it CastellanAta?
- 14d. NO WONDER! Great entry.
- 29d. ["Man, I Feel Like a Woman" singer (hate me later for giving you the earworm)], Shania TWAIN. No earworm for me, as I don’t know the song. Before I pieced together 31a, I had enough crossings to make me think the answer was T-PAIN. Maybe I didn’t actually read the song title in the clue?
- 34d. [Toothbrush or pencil alternative], FU MANCHU mustache. Great answer. Even better clue.
No grievous fill, plenty of good fill, and a slew of good clues? 3.75 stars.