Monday, January 28, 2013

NYT 3:38 
LAT 3:23 (in icky Flash interface) 
BEQ 4:04 
CS 5:00 (Sam) 

Jaime Hutchison and Victor Fleming’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT • 1/28/13 • Mon • Hutchinson, Fleming • solution

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.

Updated Monday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Saddle for Sale”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, January 28

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”

BEQ Themeless Monday, 1 28 13 Fagliano/Madison

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.

Top clues:

  • 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

LA Times crossword solution, 1 28 13

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?

3.25 stars.

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19 Responses to Monday, January 28, 2013

  1. Travis says:

    I thought this was a mess for a Monday. Too many obscure names and random foreign words crossing each other. LEEZA/EZEK/LEVIN/MIKEHAMMER/STEUBEN/SENAT all runs together. SID, CAMPO, EDNA/EST[OA]S. IDEST/INREM[2 latin words crossing on a Monday?] and AIDA is obscure if you don’t know crosswordese. NOL. I really think random foreign words should count against CAP Quotient.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: The reveal made me chuckle. But the puzzle seems misplaced for a Monday. I agree with Travis re the inappropriate nature of the fill for this day of the week. There’s a possibility of a Natick or two for the Monday crowd.

    My other nit is that 3 of the 4 TOOLs have clearly alternate meanings within the theme phrase– i.e. LEVEL is height, PLANE is airplane and DRILL is practice, but they can all be re conceived as tools. HAMMER stands out as different. Just a last name but no alternate meaning.

    I know, who needs consistency… I seem to :)

  3. john farmer says:

    I don’t get the “edgy” and “inappropriate” comments for WHAT A TOOL. Yeah, “tool” can mean that, but as the Urban Dict. says, it also means “one who lacks the mental capacity to know he is being used.” Hard to see how that sense should offend anybody.

    • pannonica says:

      I see the two as still very much related, that they haven’t diverged enough yet in meaning, that I can’t see the one without thinking of the other. Perhaps it’s an idiosyncratic view? To clarify, I wasn’t offended, just surprised.

      Travis: I didn’t feel that any of those were particularly obscure for someone moderately acculturated, in the pop and so-called high spheres. But perhaps my calibrations were off.

      Forgot to mention that I thought the OB-LA partial was appalling.

  4. Evad says:

    I had ENTA before ENTO so was wondering who LAURA WLS might be. I thought this pretty good Monday fare and liked the middle revealer.

  5. Daniel says:

    Doesn’t PERUSE mean to read carefully?

  6. Jeff Chen says:

    Dang, Sam makes me laugh. Here come the double D’s, indeed.

    CAMPO, whoa.

  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    What does an Easter egg have to do with a DVD?
    What does “freak flag” mean?
    I suppose “Shark week” is self-explanatory.
    I guess if there’s a rapper called “Afroman” I can’t do anything about it. I keep thinking I will eventually have encountered every rapper in the universe in a crossword puzzle.

  8. Alex says:

    Hopefully you won’t have to use the flash interface that often, but I believe the space bar switches between across and down.

  9. Joan macon says:

    In regard to Gareth’s puzzle (I feel as if I know him, I see his name so often) I would like to offer two comments to respond to Amy’s questions:
    1. When I was a teenager my mother took me to see “Othello” with Paul Robeson, and Uta Hagen as Desdemona; it was great. At the time I think she was married to Jose Ferrer and he played Iago. I am probably one of the few people left in the world who saw that.
    2. When I was about 10 my grandmother gave me an amber necklace for Christmas and I still have it, and the amber looks pretty good to me.

    In five weeks when I get the NYT puzzle in the paper I will return to this edition and see if I agree with the comments for that one.

    Thanks to all!

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