Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
If this puzzle had a title it might very well be “Griddle Me This” (I’m not really in the “ree” camp, though it’s useful for crosswords).
The theme is simple: three long answers clued simply with a battered (see 27-down) preparation seen on, say, a diner or coffee shop menu, Needless to say, the fill uses alternate definitions.
Hence 20a [Pancakes] is FLATTENS OUT, 41a [Waffles] is BLOWS HOT AND COLD, and 59a [French toast] is À VOTRE SANTÉ—my favorite.
It’s a great theme, wonderfully executed and so elegantly minimal.
52a [Large amounts of bacon] SLABS. On the
one handfork side, I appreciate how bacon often accompanies those griddle creations, but on the other handknife side (a) SLABS of bacon are generally not found on served plates, and (b) the symmetrical partner is SNAIL clued as [Escargot], which—especially considering the French of 59-across—is not an appetizing side dish for the clued entrées.
- Long verticals: you may be TWO-TIMED by a SCALAWAG (great word, that); SECOND RATE echoes that TWO-TIMED, PHONE BOOKS [Obsolescent directories]. Excellent word choice (versus “obsolete”) in that last clue. IDLE RICH and NONSENSE too. Longish non-theme acrosses: DEMEANS and TIE GAME. That’s a great bunch of supplemental fill.
- 27a [Wee-hour periods, for short] AMS, 70a [Bordeaux buddies] AMIS, 7d [Not quite right] AMISS. [" __ my brother's keeper?"] wanted for questioning.
- 69a [F sharp and others] KEYS. Do you know how nice it is to see this type of thing in the clue rather than the fill? Very nice.
- Favorite extrathemic clue: [Give everyone a hand] DEAL. 67a
- Crosswordesey stuff: [Algerian port] ORAN, OONA (O’Neill) Chaplin, and then there’s a dollop of abbrevs. and partials, but not enough to raise a hue and cry.
Excellent Monday offering.
C.C. Burnikel and Scott Nichols’ Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Every theme entry ends in a four-letter word with the echolalic pattern –U–U.
- 17a. [Mischievous girl in classic comics] LITTLE LULU.
- 31a. [Jack LaLanne, for one] FITNESS GURU.
- 47a. [1984 South African Peace Nobelist] DESMOND TUTU.
- 64a. ["Star Trek" role for George Takei] HIKARU SULU.
Short, sharp, sweet. Just the sort of theme for a Monday puzzle. I was distracted by 35-across GOES SOLO, which at first blush looks as if it could be a theme entry, as it’s in a typical location for one and it has a similar letter pattern. Since its symmetrical partner is INACTIVE, there’s no doubt that it’s just coincidence. A further distraction with this bit of fill is that the clue, [Tries to make it alone] essentially duplicates its cohort immediately below it: LONE [Unaccompanied]. That’s sloppy.
Speaking of sloppy, I kind of wish the constructors had made the extra effort to eliminate Us from the non-theme parts of the grid. There are only two instances: ACLU / UNVEIL (the former strongly echoes the LULU entry that it crosses) and DOLL UP / PUSS.
- Ooh, ooh! LOO, ROONE Arledge, TO-DO, ACLU, TUNIS, USTED,
- Dig the stacked -LES / -LES in the lower east side.
- 46d [Figures made with scissors] CUTOUTS crosses two themers at the Us, very nifty. The espionage fan in me would’ve preferred a different clue, though.
- Longdowns: TAG! YOU’RE IT (cross-referenced to the dupey 32d NOT IT), LENDS A HAND.
- Lttr plps: INSP., ST LÔ, ACRO- (but strangely not ACRE), ORL., NO TV.
- EE! EELS, Amanda PEET, ESTÉE Lauder, BEET, Christopher REEVE, SEE ME, beekeeper ULEE Jackson.
Okay Monday with a few demerits.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Combining Spaces”- Sam Donaldson’s review
The five theme entries are common two-word terms, but what’s cool about them is that the word SPACE can follow each word:
- 17-Across: The [Google or Dropbox offering] is FREE STORAGE (“free space” on a bingo card, “storage space” for your junk).
- 24-Across: The [Valet’s temporary option] is DOUBLE PARKING (“double space” your manuscript, and good luck finding a “parking space” at the mall between now and Christmas).
- 39-Across: The [Broadcaster’s cardinal sin] is DEAD AIR (“dead space” you can’t hit because of obstacles, flying over restricted “air space”).
- 51-Across: The [Meditative practice] is DEEP BREATHING (“deep space” nine, gimme some “breathing space”).
- 62-Across: The [Reception area] is an OUTER OFFICE (“outer space,” and the great film Office Space).
At first I thought 3-Down was a theme entry too: to [Provide opportunities (for)] is to OPEN DOORS. “Open space” certainly works, but “doors space” doesn’t. Then there’s the fact that the symmetrically opposite entry is NICE GOING, a terrific entry but entirely unrelated to the “space” theme. So I’m sticking with the assertion that there are “only” five theme entries here.
I dig themes like this because they make you think of simple expressions in entirely different ways. And though the grid contains HO-HUM, the fill is anything but. Yeah, there’s ESE, ADM, TYR, IER, and III, but we also get WHORL, SENT FOR, BBC ONE, JET LI, DON HO, and N’SYNC. Plus five theme entries. That’s some mighty-fine constructin’ there.
Favorite entry = HOE-DOWN, the [Barn dance]. Favorite clue = [Quarter past on a typical Cartier Tank watch for III. Now that’s how you dress up some otherwise unsightly fill!
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Lotsa goodies in this grid: RATBERT, SAUSAGE PARTY (though I prefer “fest” to “party”), IZZY Stradlin, AFRO clued by way of Redfoo (you know who he is—that’s SkyBlu’s uncle), SEE ALSO cross-reference, FISHTAIL, Manchester United’s shortened MAN U, RIO DE JANEIRO (instead of the usual just li’l RIO), the INDY CAR series, and PIZZA FACE (which is forever in my mind Bill Murray’s SNL character Todd, as seen in this sketch with the late, great Gilda Radner).
RIO DE JANEIRO isn’t the only entry we usually see only a little bit of in other puzzles—there’s also ARAL SEA, FROM A TO Z, and ART DECO.
New names in the puzzle: PAULA Broadwell, ZOE Kazan, Jeremy LIN, JOAN Blades. Had you heard of any of them before 2012? Had you heard of Blades before doing this puzzle? I know MoveOn.org, but the names I associate with it are the people the cofounders hired to lead it. Blades and her husband made their fortune with Berkeley Systems. The After Dark screensaver featuring Flying Toasters and the game You Don’t Know Jack? These people are brilliant. I love them.
Thanks for sending me off to watch Gilda Radner on Hulu and the Flying Toasters karaoke version on YouTube, Brendan. 3.75 stars.