John Lieb’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Bear with me, people. After my mistaken assessment of last week’s Monday NYT and my feigned bewilderment at Sunday’s CRooked puzzle (yes, it was a joke), I fear I may not be completely grasping this one.
12-down reads [Status-seeking sort … or a solver of this puzzle, initially?] NAME DROPPER. Appropriately, there are four other entries—comprising three names—that drop through the grid vertically:
- 5d/41d. [With 41-Down, title teen in a 2004 indie hit] NAPOLEON | DYNAMITE.
- 20d. [Amateur detective in 1967's "The Clue in the Crossword Cipher"] NANCY DREW.
- 24d. ["Song Sung Blue" singer] NEIL DIAMOND.
Obviously, they each possess the initials N.D. So I perceive the elements of the theme, but I can’t reconcile it well enough, especially with the revealer. Let’s revisit it. [Status-seeking sort … or a solver of this puzzle, initially?] NAME DROPPER. The first part clues the answer conventionally. The second part … uhhm, I’m not quite sure. As one solves the puzzle, the names can be said to be dropped down through the grid, so perhaps the qualifier in the clue should have been “literally”? Of course, that ignores the fact that NAME DROPPER shares the initials ND with the theme answers, but how does “initially” describe the “solver of this puzzle”? When you begin the solve, are you supposedly a “name dropper”? That makes no sense.
I feel as if I have all the parts but they don’t quite fit together; it’s like a jigsaw puzzle where the last piece is slightly mis-cut and simply won’t fit. Feel free to correct me in the comments.
Moving on, strong triple seven-stacks across in each corner: CASINOS / THE WAVE / RIP OPEN; LEBANON / ORIGAMI / BASEMEN; SNOOZED / TAN LINE / SADDLES; ARIZONA / LATERAL / PLEDGES. Quite a nice bunch, although the shorter crossings thereof aren’t anything to get excited about.
Despite the theme appearing vertically, the longest non-theme answers are also downs, and in fact run along the sides of the symmetrically split NAPOLEON DYNAMITE: OVEREAT and NATURAL.
Most interesting clue: 66a [A lifeguard's whistle might create one] TAN LINE. Factette: 53a [Sushi ingredient] RICE, which is called SHARI (take note, constructors).
A bit too many abbrevs. for my liking. Combined with the typically lusterless Tuesday cluing and the confusing (and let’s face it: not very interesting) theme, it adds up to a below-average solving experience.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Sound Off”
Matt combines two sound words and concocts a plausible definition for each combo:
- 17a. [How termites start on trees?], GOBBLE BARK. I don’t think of BARK as a sound so much as a verb for the making of a [yap/woof/arf] sound.
- 61a. [Modern mini-obituary?], CROAK TWEET. As seen in Twitter posts with the hashtag #rip.
- 11d. [Hype around a bad doctor?], QUACK BUZZ. Super-Scrabbly.
- 34d. [Lackey who hauls around seasonal marshmallows?], PEEP GRUNT. Gross. I can handle the grunts, but not Peeps.
- 19a. [Good last name for a veterinarian], KATT. Considered CATT and KATZ too. Meow?
- 31a. [Quiz site], PUB. Haven’t done pub quiz in eons. Miss it!
- 35a. [Make a remix for YouTube, often], AUTOTUNE. I have not seen any Auto-Tuned remixes of Charles Ramsey’s TV interviews and I’m not going to.
- 44a. [Ramona's sister, in the Beverly Cleary books], BEEZUS. Also the name of a friend’s band, back in the day.
- 59a. ["Bloom County" penguin], OPUS. Anyone else have the Opus baseball shirt? Penguin chic, represent!
- 64a. [Fallon's replacing him], LENO. I always enjoy a good replacement of Leno. Here’s hoping this one sticks.
- 7d. [Taco-like Taco Bell item], CHALUPA. Is this a real Spanish word?
- 52d. [Chick noise], CHEEP. Well, PEEP and TWEET were already ruled out by their appearances in theme answers.
My favorite entries include, in addition to the above-mentioned items, DEEP-SIX, SELTZER, ENTROPY, and the NAPOLEON complex (my husband’s 5’8″ and when I asked this guy who’s shorter how tall he was, he claimed 5’9″!).
Mystery item: 52a. [Maritime abbr. that predated SOS], CQD. No idea if that stood for something.
Unsavory answers: that CQD, XCI, RIS, EDO, ENOLA, XEN-, -EROO.
The unsavories were rather more prevalent than I’d like, and the theme did not do much for me. Three stars.
Michael Dewey’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I think I aged a half a year while doing this puzzle. I caught myself making so many dismayed frowny faces, the Scowl-o-Meter™ overheated a little. But first, the theme: Five phrases that end with words meaning “rupture”—
- 17a. [14th/15th-century period of papal uncertainty], GREAT SCHISM. Scholarly! I learned about this in a high school honors class so I decree that it is fair game for a Tuesday. No, wait. The term covers two things, and the one I learned about was the East-West Schism splitting Roman Catholic from Eastern Orthodox. The other Great Schism was the Western Schism in which the cardinals appointed two different popes at the same time.
- 38a. [Fruity ice cream dessert], BANANA SPLIT. Note that this answer intersects the two Down theme answers.
- 59a. [When collegians descend on Cancún], SPRING BREAK.
- 11d. [Osteoporosis concern], HIP FRACTURE.
- 25d. [Tennis server's setback], DOUBLE FAULT. Aww, too bad.
The theme’s quite nice. It would be a little tighter if all of them used a breakage aspect, like the SCHISM and FRACTURE do; SPRING BREAK is a split in the school calendar, and a BANANA SPLIT has a sliced banana, but tennis’s DOUBLE FAULT has nothing to do with earthquake faults. Not a big concern for a theme entry, though.
The Scowl-o-Meter was triggered by a crosswordese parade that included EDO, AFTA, EMEER with nary a “Var.” tag, ESTES, ENURE, DSC, PERLE, AER-, and KTS. Nine words that wrinkle my nose is too many for a single 15×15.
Surprise Third Reich appearance: 40d. [Feared "Hogan's Heroes" group] clues GESTAPO. TV shows set in wars used to be so popular, but have we had anything, really, since China Beach? I can’t think of any series set in the Gulf War or the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
42a. [Defeated incumbent] clues LAME DUCK, but it bears noting that the term also applies to an incumbent who has chosen not to run again (or who is subject to term limits that preclude her running again), not just one who ran for reelection and lost.
Most high-end vocabulary: 23a. [Elaborate solo passage], CADENZA. Musical terminology is something I’ve learned almost exclusively from crosswords, so I couldn’t tell you what this means.
2.9 stars. The fill distracted me from the theme.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “D.C. United” – Dave Sullivan’s review
US Major League Soccer fans (or should that be singular?) will recognize the title of today’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle–it’s the name of the professional Washington, D.C. team, styled after the English Premier League powerhouse Manchester United I’m guessing. When we lived in the Boston area, I actually bought season tickets to the local New England Revolution games, which were sparsely attended at best, and this was during a World Cup year. Americans, generally speaking of course, don’t seem to appreciate a sport that doesn’t feature a lot of scoring. 14-year-old phenom Freddy Adu first played for D.C. United, and all crossworders should know that name, even if they don’t follow the sport.
Anyway, I digress. To today’s puzzle! There are four theme entries in which the letters DC can be found “united” between the end of the first word and the beginning of the second. Drum roll please…
- WORLD CLASS – our constructor Tony is a world class guy, whom I’ve met at several ACPTs.
- ALMOND COOKIE – would one find a fortune inside one of these or are they a different Chinese confection?
- SECOND COMING – does “Advent” actually imply “second”? I know it’s a Christian reference, but I believe the word in other contexts is just a regular arrival, such as the advent of the computer era.
- GRAND CANAL – have been to Venice, but never in a gondola.
Thumbs up on the theme, and I’m feeling better about my theme-grokking skills in general after a few in a row where I’ve felt a bit lost. Perhaps this daily blogging gig is helping me out! My FAVE entry was the soccer tie-in of MARTA for [Brazilian soccer star, nicknamed "Pelé with skirts"]. (I enjoy the mental image of a professional soccer player running down the pitch in a skirt.) Small demerit with the entry HULA SKIRT already in the puzzle, though that doesn’t seem to trouble some crossword editors out there as it does me as a solver. My UNFAVE entry was the pluralized PTAS, it just looks all kind of wrong to me, but I know it’s one of those go-to entries when nothing else will work.