Jeffrey Harris’ New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
If I can finish this puzzle in about three minutes even, I fully expect a bunch of sub-two-minute times to be posted.
Happy to report that the theme is deeper than it first appeared. During the solve I thought they were simply the sort of things one might find being shuttled around on trays during a New Year’s Eve party, hors d’oeuvres, canapés, and the like. But 60-across explains that they are FINGER FOODS, [… literally and figuratively]. More on this after the obligatory listing.
- 17a. [Crisp, spicy cookies] GINGER SNAPS.
- 30a. [Triangular pieces of browned bread] TOAST POINTS.
- 45a. [Orange snacks] CHEESE CURLS.
All right, welcome back. First: yes, that would be a rather low-class shindig. I mean, cheese curls?! Second, the “literally” in the clue indicates what really ties these three items together; the second part of the name is something that a finger does—SNAPS, POINTS, CURLS. I definitely appreciate the cleverness of the theme, but even though those are actions that a finger performs, there is no way the answers are literally “finger foods.” Perhaps you can curl your finger around some of them, or point to others, but that isn’t what we’re talking about either. Bottom line, I like the extra dimension, just not how it’s explained.
The rest of the puzzle is zippy (Monday zippy, okay?), both in content and speed in writing in said content. Very low CAP Quotient™. The long downs are long indeed, as long as the across themers: GRAVEN IMAGE, THAT TEARS IT, both very strong.
Can’t come up with any more candidates: TOOTHPICKS isn’t long enough and are only ancillary to (some) foods, finger or not. Steeples? Crosses? Need two fingers for that one anyway. Waggles? And so on.
- Liked the cluing echo with 8d and 20a, EVAN and IAN, Welsh and Scottish versions of “John,” respectively.
- Less successful connection with overt cross-referencing of 19a [Orangutan, e.g.] APE and 5d [East Indies island famous for its 19-Acrosses] BORNEO.
- Crossing SURF and URL not conceptually linked, good change-up.
Fun, gentle puzzle that won’t put a kink in your New Year’s preparations.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Arranging a Date”- Sam Donaldson’s review
[The date], of course, is NEW YEAR’S EVE. 55-Across confirms what our calendars already tell us. Today’s puzzle from Bob Klahn anagrams (“arranges”) NEW YEAR’S EVE into three other whimsical entries:
- 17-Across: The first anagram is ANY EWE VERSE, clued here as ["Little Bo Peep," "Mary Had a Little Lamb," or the like].
- 27-Across: To ["Think big!"] is to NEVER SAY WEE, the best of the anagrams.
- 42-Across: A SWEENEY RAVE is an [All-night party celebrating Johnny Depp's 2008 Oscar nomination]. He was nominated for playing the title role in Sweeney Todd.
The top half fell much more quickly than the bottom half. I wanted some variation of FOOTBALL PRO as the answer to [Supreme Court Justice Byron White, early in his career]. I thought it might help to know of “Whizzer” White’s athletic past. Alas, the answer here proved to be (the more infer-able) LAW CLERK. Then I wanted something like DALAI LAMA for [He's a priest, not a beast]. But that’s because I’ve never heard Ogden Nash’s poem The Lama, which speaks of a ONE-L LAMA. It didn’t help that I was fairly sure the answer to [Strap, strip, or stripe] was VERB instead of BAND, and that CACHE was the [Political muscle] instead of CLOUT. Two other answers I struggled with: the ["Stormy" seabirds] are PETRELS, and [Glad rags] are FINERY. Perhaps the last two things I’ll learn in 2012!
Favorite entry = TRADE WAR, clued here as [Economic sanctions may lead to one], though I might have preferred [Event that precipitated Senator Palpatine's rise to power]. Favorite clue = [Get some eggs started?] for OVULATE.
Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review
The puzzle’s not yet available in Across Lite format, and from past experience I know that when this oversight occurs, it won’t be posted until late in the day. So this SOLVER (11d) was compelled to use the Java version at the newspaper’s site. Oh, oh, the humanity!
The obviously observable theme here is two-word phrases with each word beginning with O.
- 17a. [Now and again] ON OCCASION.
- 21a. [Quick look] ONCE OVER.
- 39a. [Lived in by the seller] OWNER-OCCUPIED.
- 58a. [Vinaigrette dressing ingredient] OLIVE OIL.
- 64a. [Presidential workplace] OVAL OFFICE.
In the corners, we find some good stacking: BE NICE TO/CROSSBOW, ELECTIVE/DUNCE CAP, and the complementary pair contain triple-sixes, but with mostly common letters: SOLVER/ELDEST/ALERTS, STOOGE/TILLER/ENIGMA.
- Kind of nifty to open the precedings with ABCS at 1-across.
- French crossing: 15a [Thérèse's thanks] MERCI, 6d [These, to Thérèse] CES. The latter is less well-known and seems tough for a Monday, but it’s difficult not to appreciate the resulting TRIO (7d) of Thérèse’s, Thérèse, and These.
- O, O. -AROO, MOODS, STOOGE.
- CAP Quotient™ felt a bit high for an early-week puzzle, notably with OTOS, ERAT, ACS, BOS., ANAT., AS IF, IS TO.
- Attentive editing, avoiding a dupe with 5a [When Juliet drinks the poison] ACT IV, and 37d [Play division] SCENE.
Ostensibly okay offering.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
It’s a New Year’s Eve grid! There’s a big ’13 (without the apostrophe) made of blocks, and 1-Across is 1a: [Britpop band with the album "13"], BLUR. So, wait. Is the small theme the year or the Blur album?
The rest of the puzzle is straight-up themeless, without thirteeniness. The smattering of black squares around the perimeter aren’t symmetrically placed. Now, I won’t ding the puzzle for its lack of symmetry because it doesn’t purport to break a record. I’m fine with a themeless puzzle with nifty fill straying from symmetry. In fact, I’m fine with impressive themed puzzles dropping symmetry, too; we’ve seen that from the AV Club puzzle, certainly. (I recall a Francis Heaney riff on Game of Thrones book titles.) But if the constructor is pursuing a structural record and the current record holder is symmetrical, then the new attempt ought to hew to the same constraints, no?
- 13a. [Having two-color patches], PIEBALD. That word is inordinately pleasing, is it not? It’s pie … and it’s bald. What’s not to love?
- 5d. [E.M. Forster book whose title came from "Leaves of Grass"], A PASSAGE TO INDIA. Learned something new here.
- 6d. Basketball player who was part of Time Magazine’s 2012 “Top 100 Most Influential People in the World”], Jeremy LIN. Wow. I will grant you that he goosed Taiwan’s interest in the NBA, but his season with the Rockets has been fairly quotidian, has it not?
- 9d. [It can hold its liquor], CASK. Gave a visiting friend a sip of my Spotted Cow, a cask-conditioned ale sold only in Wisconsin. (It is delicious.) She said she likes to visit England because of the three most beautiful words in the English language: “cask-conditioned ale.”
- 14d. [First AFL team to beat an NFL team], DENVER BRONCOS. I have no idea who is AFC vs. NFC, much less who was AFL vs. NFL back in the day. Almost built DALLAS COWBOYS off the D, and was glad not to have to put those hated losers into the grid.
Not much juice in the 13-constrained grid. Lots of blah little 3s (ARN! RIN! TKO! NEE! CST! REA!) to contend with, which lowered my enthusiasm level for this puzzle. Three stars.