Jaime Hutchison and Victor Fleming’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Frankly, I’m a bit surprised by the revealer at the center; it seems a bit edgy for the NYT, even though I remember it from childhood slang in the 1970s (which means it’s at least a decade older than that). 35a [Common put-down that hints at the ends of 17-, 21-, 53- and 58-Across] WHAT A TOOL.
- 17a. [Info on a dashboard gauge] FUEL LEVEL.
- 21a. ["I, the Jury" detective] MIKE HAMMER.
- 53a. [Flier made from a do-it-yourself kit] MODEL PLANE.
- 58a. [Safety exercise prompted by an alarm] FIRE DRILL.
Okay, four implements favored by the DIY crowd, fine. But the medium-length (9–10 letter) phrases are severely blah, and one of them feels distinctly off; MODEL PLANE? No, it should be the more formal and
stilted flowing MODEL AIRPLANE, or even MODEL AEROPLANE. At least to my ears.
Sure, it’s spiffy that the four main theme answers overlap four letters each, but that isn’t enough to elevate this theme from lacklusterdom.
The longest downs, at eight-letters each, are all right; LOU RAWLS is much more appealing than its symmetrical partner ROLL OVER. The triple-seven vert stacks in the four corners are good, but not spectacular: DUMMY UP / APPEASE / STORMED, À LA MODE / REBOXES / ATE DIRT, INFESTS / MOUNTIE / PRETEEN, ONE LINE / KEILLOR / ESTELLE.
On the bright side, the CAP Quotient™ is low—which is practically de rigueur for a Monday offering—but it still isn’t enough to make this puzzle anything more than forgettable.
Not a bad one, just an uninteresting one.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Saddle for Sale”- Sam Donaldson’s review
I suppose “Here Come the Double-D’s” would have been a less elegant title for today’s puzzle. The theme involves adding two Ds to the middle of one word in a common two-word term so as to create a whimsical new one. See for yourself:
- 20-Across: “Mile marker” becomes MIDDLE MARKER, the [Belt that's way too tight?]. We’re off to a solid start here.
- 32-Across: Your ordinary “toy store” grows up into a TODDY STORE, a [Shop specializing in winter quaffs?]. I’m not into toddies, personally, but I like this theme entry.
- 42-Across: “Gross pay” becomes a GROSS PADDY, or a [Scuzzy-looking rice field?]. This one’s a winner just from the use of “scuzzy.”
- 52-Across: A “back-up file” becomes a livelier BACK-UP FIDDLE, the [Extra strings packed for a hoedown?].
That’s everything you can want from a simple letter-insertion theme: good theme entries, consistently executed. Gail makes this look way too simple. To show off, she adds some nice fill as icing on the cake: TAXIWAYS, ONE MORE, GRAPPAS, SKYPE, and PO-BOY are all terrific.
It helped to know my Florida geography what with both OCALA and TAMPA appearing here. The only clue that gave me pause was ["Sherry" or "Big Girls Don't Cry"] for OLDIE. Lordy, am I that old? I thought it was bad enough when I heard a Lady Gaga song as muzak on an elevator last week. At least I knew it was a Gaga song!
Favorite entry = OPEN LATE, my favorite sign at Taco Bell, clued here as [Serving until midnight, say]. Favorite clue = [Finished the course?] for ATE.
Joel Fagliano and Caleb Madison’s BEQ guest crossword, “Themeless Monday”
So, Brendan and his family were sick last week? If it was anything like my son’s gastric ailment, I have several bucketloads of empathy for the Quigley household.
Now, I love Brendan’s puzzles as much as anyone, but I am definitely open to seeing more guest slots on Mondays and Thursdays. How about you? When deadline madness descends, it could be handy to have some backup puzzlemakers. Plus, when the guest puzzles appear on bonus Fridays, sometimes my puzzle quota for the week is full up and I just can’t squeeze it in.
This one seemed a good bit easier than the typical BEQ “Themeless Monday.” I can barely finish a BEQ Thursday labeled “measium” in 4:04. Lovely fill: I’m partial to SHARK WEEK, OBAMACARE, Tolkien-nerd ROHAN, FREAK FLAG, EASTER EGG clued as a [DVD extra], VIDEOCHAT, A BUG’S LIFE, AFROMAN meets KANYE WEST, “HAVE WE MET?,” and STEVE NASH.
- 68a. [Occupy structures], TENTS.
- 55a. [Brown's town: Abbr.], CLE. As in the Cleveland Browns.
- 5d. [TV character who has seizures whenever he hears the voice of Mary Hart], KRAMER.
- 14d. [NBA star Kobe Bryant has nicknamed "Gatsby"], STEVE NASH. News to me.
- 33d. [Speak face-to-face?], VIDEOCHAT. Virtually.
Some of the 5-letter glue holding the puzzle together is “meh,” but not aggressively so. 4.25 stars. Fun puzzle, lots of zip to it.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Those days when the .puz file hasn’t been posted at Cruciverb yet? Blurgh. The Chicago Tribune’s Flash interface bugs me. If there’s a way to switch from an Across entry to the Down via the keyboard, please tell me—I’m a keyboard solver and don’t like having to use the mouse to navigate the puzzle. And can it be set to skip over filled-in squares?
Gareth’s theme is the MM MM GOOD, [Campbell's Soup slogan, and a hint to the puzzle theme found in 18-, 20-, 40- and 56-Across]: MAMMA MIA, SLAMMIN’ SAMMY Snead, COMMITTEE MEMBER, and MARINE MAMMAL. Now, Wikipedia tells me that “Mmm mmm good” has been the slogan since 1978, but this mug elides it to “M’m! M’m! Good!” with a trademark symbol. I wonder why the company opted for “m’m.” In any case, the puzzle is solid.
It’s a Monday puzzle, but you’ve got to get through UTA and LEE MARVIN. Yes, the latter was an [Oscar winner for "Cat Ballou"], but does he really still count as famous if you were too young to notice most of his career? And UTA Hagen is known to most of us solvers solely through crosswords.
Does amber really count as a gemstone? These [Orange-yellow gemstones], which I guess can be plausibly pluralized as AMBERS, are fossilized globs of resin rather than mineral crystals like most gemstones. Similarly, I don’t consider pearls to be gemstones, either. What say you?