Angela Olson Halsted’s New York Times crossword — A Tag-Team Review by Doug Peterson and Sam Donaldson
This ain’t no ordinary Monday puzzle, people. It’s the solo construction debut of our good friend, PuzzleGirl! An occasion this momentous takes two reviewers to do it justice, so you’ll get the viewpoints of both Doug and me (Sam) today. Doug will be here any minute, I’m told, so while we wait for him, let’s talk about the theme.
Angela gives us four common expressions ending with a word that in another context would be synonymous with “quick,” like PuzzleGirl’s wit:
- 17-Across: LIPTON BRISK, the [Iced tea brand]. When you find yourself without the time to take the full Nestea Plunge, a Lipton Brisk will do the trick.
- 27-Across: THREE DAY FAST, the [Observance prescribed in the Book of Esther]. But Esther has issues with poor body image, so I can’t suggest following her advice.
- 47-Across: PACIFIC FLEET, about which I can now tell you: [It's headquartered at Naval Station Pearl Harbor].
- 62-Across: TAYLOR SWIFT, the [Country singer with the 2012 #1 hit "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"]. I’m a big fan of Taylor Sw…Yo, Sam, I’m really enjoying your write-up. Imma let you finish…but PuzzleGirl has constructed one of the best puzzles of all time…one of the best puzzles of all time!
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. I had to interrupt, because this puzzle is the bomb! Just look at that grid. Read those clues. This is one for the ages.
- 20-Across: BOOS [Greets the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, say]. PuzzleGirl and I have a lot in common. We both love crosswords. We both love the Yankees. And we both love wrestling. Well, I like “fake wrestling,” according to PuzzleGirl. You telling me “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Jake “The Snake” Roberts are fake? Sam’s a wrestling fan too. Ask him to show you his “Macho Man” Randy Savage tattoo if see him at the ACPT.
- 10-Down: ASK ["Don't ___, don't tell" (bygone military policy)]. ASK has appeared as answer in the NY Times 110 times under the editorship of Will Shortz. It’s one of those short words that’s difficult to clue in a fresh way. PuzzleGirl knocked it out the park with this clue.
- 43-Down: DIE HARD [Blockbuster Bruce Willis movie]. Yippie-ki-yay, mother… oookay, Doug–why don’t you take a seat for a minute? I’ve got this.
It’s me, Sam, again. I’m not usually the chaperone around here, but Amy’s always reminding me this is a family blog. So let’s maybe talk about some other items of note. I loved the long Downs here, especially WHATIFS, the [Hypotheticals]. There’s some RYE BEER, the [Hearty-flavored brew], to make me feel all MASCULINE–you know, [Like a he-man]. But we’ve also got [Mom's forte, in brief], TLC, along with RHEA Perlman and a couple of EDNAS. Jazzy and balanced–that’s what you want in your Monday puzzle fill.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that the clue for ASSN, [An "A" in N.C.A.A.: Abbr.], contains the answer to [E.g., e.g.], ABBR. Usually you don’t see grid entries in the clues. But as long as I’m being complete, I should also mention that I didn’t even notice this until reviewing the grid for this write-up. It’s hardly the END OF the world.
Finally, can we talk about A-CUP? At the risk of sounding like a boob, how is that a [Smallish bra size]? A-TEASPOON, sure. Maybe even A-TABLESPOON. But A-CUP? That seems pretty sizable to me, but I don’t keep abreast of these things. In terms of epic disasters, that clue just seems like the Tit…*Ahem* We’re almost out of time, so let me find another entry I like and wrap things up. How about EFFIE clued with a “The Hunger Games” reference? Love it! I hope Jennifer Lawrence wins an Oscar tonight for playing Katniss Everdeen. And for Best Supporting Actress, I’m going with Anne Hathaway. She was an awesome Catwoman. And I guess Hugh Jackman was nominated too. Was there a Wolverine movie last year? Can’t believe I missed that.
Many thanks to Pannonica for letting us take over her Monday slot. We’ll tidy up a bit before we leave. And huge congrats again to Angela! Woo hoo!
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
It’s a progression theme, but not a vowel- or letter-progression; more of a situation- or status-progression.
- 17a [Soft hit that barely makes it over the infield] BLOOP SINGLE.
- 28a [Archaeological age=determination process] CARBON DATING.
- 45a [Completely absorbed] FULLY ENGAGED.
- 59a [Sign in a limo that aptly concludes the sequence formed by the last words of 17-, 28- and 45-Across] JUST MARRIED.
Oh, it’s certainly a cute theme, likable and well carried out, but just for kicks I’m going to put on my pessimist’s hazmat suit and have some fun.
• BLOOP SINGLE – “Bloop” is not an appetizing word for an auspicious and hopefully happy relationship.
• CARBON DATING – How old is this couple?
• FULLY ENGAGED – Sort of like, one partner is completely engrossed in an activity that the other has no interest in?
• JUST MARRIED – It’s true, I often misspell it JUST MARRED.
Let’s continue! BRUISEs and SCRAPES? Dear me. MESSES, MIFF, IRES and RAGE?! Uh-oh. STRUCK OUT? FRAIL? And now we see a [Lawyer's customer] CLIENT and SUE? I worry for these people. Or perhaps I’m the one who should be worried over. After all, the grid is free of PRE-NUP, DIVORCE, WIDOW, WIDOWER, MARITICIDE, and UXORICIDE. (Hey! How come there’s no word that unequivocally means “the killing of a husband”?)
On the brighter side as far as this imagined relationship goes, there are the components of the vertical stacked nines in the southwest and northeast. The former pairs the above-mentioned STRUCK OUT (let’s ignore that one for now) with the fairly positive GOAL LINES [Touchdowns require crossing them], while the latter has the more or less neutral NO-BRAINER and the elative (what? poetic license) CLOUD NINE. So that’s somewhere between 50% and 75% positive, which I understand would be a killer batting average. Take that, STRUCK OUT!
On the somewhat-less subjective downside, I list the distinctly non-Mondayish EDDAS [Icelandic sagas], the yicky abbrev. BRS [Apt. parts, in ads] for appearing at 1-across (in fact all four corner acrosses are abbrevs.: BRS, NCR, OTS, NOS.), ['90s cabinet member Federico] PEÑA (isn’t flamenco guitar master Paco Peña more well-known? not Monday level anyway).
A few other notes:
- For 31a [Texting units], I unsuccessfully tried LTRS (that ended up working at 56d [P.O. Box inserts], as well as CHRS (a lousy abbrev. for CHARacterS), and even SMSS before seeing the obvious MSGS.
- OKIE(lahomanie) followed by DEL(aware), at 54a and 55a).
- 50a KEYCASE crossing 44d ID CARD.
- 46d, 47d: [Ultimate application] END USE, [Big bomb trials] N TESTS. You know, those two have a kind of doomsday-like connotation, especially together like that. Damn, and I was trying to get away from the pessimism.
Ultimately, though, it’s a good puzzle, better than average. I just hope the kids will be okay.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A Foursquare Puzzle”- Sam Donaldson’s review
One day after receiving the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award Orca, Bob Klahn hits us with a rather challenging Monday morning wakeup call. And we wouldn’t want it any other way. The theme involves four 15-letter expressions, each starting with a word that can also precede “square:”
- 17-Across: The [Start of a nautical caveat] is RED SKY AT MORNING (Russia’s “Red Square”). Sailors take warning!
- 28-Across: A [Totally new face] is a PERFECT STRANGER (“perfect square”). If you’re a perfect stranger to perfect squares, here’s a quick and dirty guide: perfect squares are integers like 9 and 16 that are squares of other integers (3 and 4, in this case).
- 48-Across: The [1968 top-five Steppenwolf hit] is MAGIC CARPET RIDE (“magic square,” an arrangement of integers were every row, column, and disgonal adds to the same number). Any Seattle-based solvers think of former Sonics play-by-play announcer Kevin Calabro whenever you see this title?
- 62-Across: [Eons ago] clues TIMES IMMEMORIAL (New York’s “Times Square”). I only know the expression as “time immemorial”–I never realized it could be in plural form.
From the burgeoning Items I Didn’t Know Department comes LEHI, [Where Samson defeated the Philistines], DIB, which apparently means to [Fish with bobbing bait], the Tony-winning Tammy GRIMES, and LEONARD as [Chico Marx's real first name]. I would have guessed Karl.
Though my favorite clue is listed below, others I liked a lot included [Go out for a bit?] for NAP, [Ferry tail] for STERN, [It turns up at the end] for a SKI, [A question of success] for ANY LUCK, [Alley cat] (one hanging out in a bowling alley) for a KEGLER, and [First-rate straight] for a five-card straight that has an ACE HIGH.
Favorite entry = TEEN BEAT, the [1967-2007 magazine with idol covers]. I didn’t know Tiger Beat was out of circulation! Favorite clue = [Pointless jabber] for EPEE.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Congrats to Brendan on winning the Orca award for best freestyle puzzle! I think this is the first time I’ve been mentioned in anyone’s awards speech. Hard to believe, but none of the Oscar winners thanked me last night. Ingrates, all.
I was out all morning, so let’s get this done significantly faster than the Oscar telecast. Bulleted list!
- 1a. [Salary that the average crossword constructor makes annually, give or take, mostly take], BILLIONS. The newspaper crosswords get fact-checked but these indie ones don’t have the same level of rigor.
- 29a. [Language of Kuala Lumpur], MALAY. The word of the day from Visual Thesaurus comes from Malay: amok. In honor of that, I have sworn to walk amok all day today.
- 31a. ["Man up!"], QUIT COMPLAINING. I also like “Skirt up!” and “Grow a pair [of ovaries].”
- 43a. [Conference held at a hotel?], TRYST. That’s right, people: the crossword business’s annual conference, the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, will take place at a hotel.
- 55a. [It shouldn't be dropped in front of kids], THE F-WORD. Because my mom was visiting yesterday, I made sure to do some laundry. Sure enough, during dinner, the dryer buzzed when the clothes were dry. “[The F-word!],” my mother exclaimed, as is her wont. (Noises startle her.) My kid, who doesn’t swear, cracked up. His grammy is very predictable.
- 7d. They’re known for breaking things], NEWS TEAM. Brendan is using the plural “are” with the singular “team” because his English wife and a fondness for soccer have poisoned his mind.
- 8d. Modern-day mixtape], SPOTIFY PLAYLIST. I hear that musical artists generally make next to nothing from online streaming of their songs. Isn’t that a shame?
- 33d. Nervous post-blackout question], “I DID WHAT??” Hilarious. And sad.
- LIP-SYNCH, QUAALUDE, and WATER-SKI are also zippy fill.
Flaws in this 70-worder: REMOW and ADORER are as roll-your-own as that rolling PAPER at 38a, and nobody uses ORT outside of the crossword sphere.