Randall J. Hartman’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
I can honestly say that this is literally one of the most atmospheric crossword puzzles I’ve ever solved. Alas, I can’t say the same is true for its other aspects but, hey!, it’s just a modest Monday so one can’t expect fireworks.
Nevertheless, there is some playfulness to be had herein, and my favorite clue by far is one of those jokesters: 13d [Singer who doesn't want a hit?] RAT; the wordplay is doubly delicious.
On to the theme. Three quite long entries (12, 15, 12), each ending in a synonym for that which is above and surrounds us. For further cohesion, each metaphoric phrase begins with a cephalic body part, followed by IN THE.
- 20a. [Overhead security devices] EYES IN THE SKY. [Insert Alan Parsons Project link here]
- 37a. [Lack of contact with reality] HEAD IN THE CLOUDS.
- 52a. [Sign of haughtiness] NOSE IN THE AIR. Or perhaps merely hyperopia.
I for one appreciate these early week puzzles with “only” three theme answers. By not reaching for four or more, it allows the constructor to come up with something that doesn’t entail too many compromises elsewhere in the grid. I’d much rather have fewer themers and better overall fill.
The minimal theme entry count also allows for a couple more longer entries. Here’s the rundown for this puzzle: CAMERAMEN, STRATEGIC, and JANE EYRË, TRINIDAD. Spiffy!
Some other notes:
- ZAP! and BAM! (49a, 55d)
- KNUTE! and ROCKNE! (48d, 9d)
- Symmetrical pair CONNOR and PATTON closely resemble each other in latter pattern. (5d, 45d)
- Some clunky partials, for instance 6d A NOTE and 61a IS TO, but more or less PAR (23a) for the course.
- Rather difficult geography for a Monday: 41a ORAN, Algeria, and 64a CAEN, France.
- 30d JIHAD is indeed defined as a holy war, as per the clue, but I believe it’s more sympathetic/politically correct to characterize it by its more elemental meaning, that of a personal struggle, especially of the spiritual sort.
Very good, above-average puzzle.
Bernice Gordon’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review
I thought some bonus content might be uncovered as an informal revealer during the solve, IWO JIMA, because the theme is phrases of this form: S__ and S__. So you can see how a reference to the famous film The Sands of Iwo Jima would have been appropriate. Or maybe the erstwhile casino in that desert “oasis” of Las Vegas. Note: Am declining to include an image for the film because (a) I don’t really care for John Wayne, and (b) the posters (which I generally love to include in write-ups) are without exception garish, and not in a charming way. Instead, I’ll highlight 44d [Male offspring] SONS, because it’s a vertical entry that can be read as “S on S.” Very cryptic, eh?
- 17a. [Main idea, as of an argument] SUM AND SUBSTANCE.
- 25a. [Stick to a strict budget] SCRIMP AND SAVE. “Strict” doesn’t work for me as describing the answer, as a large and expansive budget can still be hewed to strictly. I’d prefer something like “penurious,” and no, I don’t feel it’s too difficult a word for a Monday clue.
- 42a. [To the point] SHORT AND SWEET.
- 56a. [Burnout cause] STRESS AND STRAIN.
All the phrases are solid, commonly heard expressions. If I had to assort them in terms of aptness in describing the puzzle, I’d go with [42, 17, 25, 56], though the last two are essentially a toss-up.
Nothing remarkable in the ballast fill, which is for the most part workmanlike. Minor flourishes with cross-referenced RAJA and RANI, the relative zip of ZANY/AZALEA. Un-Mondayish geography in TRURO, Massachusetts and PARMA, Italy.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Rest Areas”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Look carefully and you’ll see the word REST hidden in each of the four 15-letter entries in today’s crossword:
- 17-Across: The [Chophouse order, often] is a MEDIUM-RARE STEAK. Look, it’s even red in the middle!
- 24-Across: One who [Wins, in a way] CAPTURES THE FLAG. It’s better to employ this strategy in Stratego than in Battleship.
- 42-Across: One who [Is generous] is one who SHARES THE WEALTH, perhaps.
- 55-Across: HERE’S TO MANY MORE is one [Birthday toast]. “Quick, while there’s still time” is another.
Did you notice the grid had only 72 entries? That’s deep inside the Romulan freestyle zone and outside of Federation themed space. (Good grief, did I really just write that?) Back to my point: did you notice there were only eight three-letter entries? Martin is one of the few constructors that can pull off 60 theme squares in what could pass as a freestyle grid without having the clunky entries that trigger your Spidey sense. (Ack! Another explosion of nerdishness! Who knew I was capable of multiple geek-asms?) Bottom line: the grid is something to admire.
Favorite entry = TWIST TIE, the [Garbage bag fastener]. Favorite clue = [Heavy reading?] for a TOME.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Lots of work to get to, so quick post. Four stars!
JALISCO, QUVENZHANE crossing DENZEL, interesting D LEAGUE (my first guess was B League, which partnered with my wrong GRAMMA to make LAP DOG into LAMB**), the could-be-anyone-or-anyfood [Rice, famously] clue for RECEIVER (Jerry, not Condi or Susan or the grain), the super-fresh fill of PALEO DIET (which is not for me), JANE FONDA clued as [Actress who co-founded the Women's Media Center] (my first thought wasThe Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media), STALLONE beside CEREBRAL (what? he has been a screenwriter since the ’70s and has at least one script Oscar nom).
Never heard of 20a. ["Makes beef sing" brand], A-ONE. Oh! Wait. This is A-1 steak sauce. Man, that crossword convention of spelling out numbers can be awkward sometimes (see also: U-TWO, ONE-D).
Until next time—