Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Let’s call this one “off-kilter.” First off, it’s a puzzle with theme entries among the verticals, a rarity in and of itself. Second, the theme answers are kind of disappointing, because they truck in reduplication; once the solver recognizes this, so many of the squares are effectively pre-filled that it deflates the enjoyment. Third, the best and most interesting parts are overwhelmingly (overwhelmingly, not just a bit more) to be found among the non-theme material. It’s almost as if the theme were PERFUNCTORY (65a [Just going through the motions])—see what I’m talking about?
Nevertheless, here it is: 31d [Blackjack player’s option … or a description to the starred clues?] DOUBLE DOWN. Voilà, the raison d’être for the vertical theme. Wikicasinoa explains the ostensible meaning thusly: “the player is allowed to increase the initial bet by up to 100% in exchange for committing to stand after receiving exactly one more card. The additional bet is placed in the betting box next to the original bet. Some games do not permit the player to increase the bet by amounts other than 100%. Non-controlling players may double their wager or decline to do so, but they are bound by the controlling player’s decision to take only one card.” Somehow, I suspect it’s more comprehensible than this description makes it seem.
- 3d. [*Band with the 1983 hit "Hungry Like the Wolf"] DURAN DURAN. Named for a villain in the film Barbarella.
- 6d. [*Washington city near the Oregon border] WALLA WALLA.
- 9d. [*Affectedly virtuous] GOODY-GOODY.
- 27d. [*Hit song for the Kingsmen with famously unintelligible lyrics] LOUIE, LOUIE. Investigated by the FBI, dontcha know.
- 29d. [*Joke starter] KNOCK KNOCK.
So, six theme entries, five core and one revealer. A fair amount of theme content, especially for an early-week offering. A nice touch: all of them are ten letters long, very consistent. The downside, so to speak, is that once the solver catches on—which should happen after the first one—there are 20 “free” fills in the puzzle.
On to the really good stuff: the aforecited PERFUNCTORY, WELL-GROOMED, NEO-NOIR, TWELFTH, and the lesser-but-still-spiffy-enough THAT’S ALL, SPATIAL, and UNTENDED.
- Partial A TRUE? Gesundheit! Here, wipe that up. While you’re at it, please deal with these “Tears OF A Clown,” thank you.
- 46a [One a woman can't trust] CAD. Why the gendered clue?
- I see your A TRUE, and raise you a RECUE. Ew!
No real stinkers, which is to say that the puzzle has a low CAP Quotient™ and was neither a bear nor a bore to solve. But still, an odd duck.
Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
No-nonsense theme for this Monday offering. 67a [Like many a teen boy … and like the starts of the answers to starred clues?] GIRL CRAZY. Not sure what that phrase, taken as a whole, has to do with the other themers, but the gist of it as that “girl” can follow those starts to form familiar phrases.
- 17a. [*Sensitive spot on the elbow] FUNNY BONE. (Funny Girl).
- 39a. [*Conceal] COVER UP (cover girl, or Cover Girl if it’s the cosmetics company).
- 11d. [*1777–'78 Continental Army campsite] VALLEY FORGE (valley girl, or “Valley Girl” if it’s the song).
- 24d. [*Political head honcho] PARTY LEADER (party girl).
Not the most exciting theme, and a curiously unsatisfying revealer, but it’s “just” a Monday and what’s more critical here is how solvable the puzzle is, especially for newer solvers. On that score it does all right, though there was some fill that, while not quite screaming crosswordese, are much more common in this context than elsewhere.
To what am I referring? Let’s start at the very beginning. 1-across is [Stately shade trees]; anyone who’s solved more than a half-dozen crosswords knows that “tree” + “shade” = “elm” more than 99% of the time in this particular squarified universe, so it’s ELMS here, no need to verify. Next in sequence is 5-across, [Like tails in the dog park]; the slightly awkward construction practically yipyaps at a seasoned solver, “it’s an a-verb!” (especially because four letters is unlikely to provide for a an adverb) and dogs’ tails wag… ergo, AWAG. This overly-familiar vibe continued through the rest of the solve: (end of) AN ERA, [… wrong] ERRS, [Greenish …] AQUAS (so long as you can eliminate TEALS via crossings), [Mazda …] MIATA, [… "LA. Law"] DEY (CORBIN, ARNIE, and SMITS have either disappeared or moved on to greener clue-pastures), and of course ONO.
- 46a [Actor's nickname that sounds like a golf term] BOGIE, which leads nicely to 7d [Golfer Palmer, to friends] ARNIE (see “LA Law” mention, above).
- A couple of oopses in the lower right. With all but one letter in place and without reading the clue, wrote in OVERNIGHT at 33d, but that was ironically an OVERSIGHT on my part, ha-ha, oversight. Earlier, with the initial C installed, I figured 43d [Crouched in fear] was CRINGED rather than the more accurate COWERED; I was probably primed by the cr- of “crouched” in the clue.
So, an about-average Monday, good for newer solvers but a tad hoary for others.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Watch Your Mouth!” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Happy Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, as my parents used to call it. Though we think of our departed loved ones every day of the year, today is a particularly special day to recall how they have touched our lives and how much we miss them. My Dad passed away in my early 20′s, so it’s been over 30 years since he’s been with us and I still think of him often and how he has influenced my love of life in general and puzzles in particular.
Speaking of puzzles, constructor Donna S. Levin brings us four phrases which begin with a word that can be considered (in another context of course!) as a mild oath:
- [Lawman who killed Bill Doolin] is HECK THOMAS. What the heck? I don’t know either individual, but imagine we’re talking the Wild West era given the word “lawman.”
- [Entry on a laundry day chore list] is DARN STOCKINGS. Hand up if you would just buy a new pair instead. Welcome to the disposable society!
- [Preps Blue Points and Kumamotos, perhaps] is SHUCKS OYSTERS. Aw, shucks. I know of “Blue Points” but not the other variety. (Sounds like something Martin Herbach can help me out with.) There’s a great oyster farm in my old neighborhood of Duxbury, MA named Island Creek, and also some great ones from Wellfleet on the Cape. Yum!
- [Ice cream flavor with chocolate ripples] is FUDGE SWIRL. Boy, “fudge” is about as mild an oath as they come.
Cute theme, but “Shucks” seems a bit of an outlier in it not being something you say when you’re frustrated or upset. (Frankly, I don’t say the others in those kind of situations either, but I can at least imagine someone saying them.) My FAVE entry was seeing OBAMA clued as [Michelle with a "Let's Move" campaign]. Why shouldn’t she get some of the attention as well? My UNFAVE entry was the long down RENT STRIKE, clued as [Tenant group's weapon]. Do tenants really band together in a building and not pay their rent en masse? Perhaps in a business strip if maintenance on the property is not being done, but it seems a rather obscure concept.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Slept blissfully late, had a lazy morning (what was left of it, anyway), and want to head to the garden center to gather my back-porch herb crops for the season. So, short post.
These are a few of my favorite things:
- 15a. [Number of patients]= ANESTHESIA. Tricked me, dammit!
- 25a. STATE VISIT is nice.
- 45a. Trivia: SERBIA’s currency is the dinar. Either forgot that or didn’t know it.
- 54a. TEH AWESOME is teh awesome.
- 5d. [Where you might pay green fees?] = ATMS.
- 8d. ISHMAEL! Just started rereading Moby-Dick. Am about three chapters in and loving it.
- 9d. [A white one is little] = LIE. That clue could send your mind astray, couldn’t it?
- 26d. [Stick in the wilderness] = TWIG. Not a verb phrase.
- 55d. [Office suite section], EXCEL. Microsoft Office, not lowercase-o office.