Robert Seminara’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Before we go any farther, I’ll confess that I’m biased against the theme in this puzzle, but will make an effort to maintain equanimity, while still enumerating my grievances.
The themers are associated with the central across answer, 38a [Sweet treat] S’MORE. All right, though I’m the farthest thing from an aficionado of said treat, I am uncomfortable with the (back-formed?) singular incarnation of the name. In my mind it should be S’MORES, even if you’re talking about only one. Obviously the name is a contraction of “some more” but I like to think that that appellation was a but a transitory larval stage in the thing’s history and etymology (which I have no intention of investigating), quickly metamorphosing into the quirkier and more charming plural.
To fit symmetrically in the grid, an odd lettered entry was needed, hence a partial explanation for the version used here.
- 16a. [Original maker of a 38-Across] GIRL SCOUT. Part of the lore, which I’m sure is true.
- 26a. [Ingredients of a 38-Across] GRAHAM CRACKERS.
- 46a. [Ingredient in a 38-Across] HOT MARSHMALLOW. Unfortunate phrase, even if it’s more or less accurate. Was going to say unsavory, but marshmallows are so sickly sweet that that would be inappropriate.
- 63a. [Ingredient in a 38-Across] CHOCOLATE.
- 52d [Place to eat a 38-Across] CAMP. Oddly placed appendage.
Voilà, there it is in all its gooey glory. Surprisingly, 42a SMEAR is not a theme entry, nor is 5a BLOB. Both CHESTNUT and STANHOPE—at eight letters apiece—are nearly long enough to momentarily appear to be themers, especially since one of them is a food item (though it’s clued metaphorically, unlike the actual theme entries).
Elsewhere we have SMASH and BASH, CEDAR, ELMS and BANE (as well as the aforementioned CHESTNUT). RENEW [Extend, as a lease] and RELET [Found a new tenant for]. Appreciated the symmetrical RATTLE and PANICS.
Things that seem out of place for a Monday: ESSE at 1-across, first thing; GISMO-with-an-S, SAREE-with-a-double-E (hinted at by “ranee” in the clue); UTEP, and also STANHOPE.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Flame Game” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I first thought today’s theme would be about telling people off or blowing off some steam, which is always helpful when something upsets you. But that’s not the kind of flaming that constructor Patrick Jordan has in mind. Instead, we’re looking at three ways to start a fire (in order to roast marshmallows for s’mores, perhaps?):
- [Humorous aspect] is the LIGHTER SIDE – awww, we have to have a Monty Python moment here.
- The [Birthplace of General Motors] is FLINT, MICHIGAN – I see here that the city gets its name from the Flint River, which in turn was named from the Ojibwa word for “flinty” or Biiwaanagoonh-ziibi. Impress your friends and drop that term into a casual conversation, wouldja?
- To [Challenge intellectually] is to MATCH WITS WITH – who said “I won’t enter a battle of wits with someone who is unarmed?”
- And, wait for it, our revealer: [1984 Drew Barrymore movie, and a description of the first words of...] is FIRESTARTER – has she been in anything lately? I’m not familiar with the arc of her career after Boys on the Side and Charlie’s Angels.
Too bad there isn’t a common phrase that begins with TWO STICKS, but these three are serviceable enough. A little odd to have such long across entries that have nothing (at least I don’t think so) to do with the theme: SCANNABLE for [Like bar codes] and the [Lead singer for The Wailers], who was BOB MARLEY, although the latter did probably light some fires in his heyday. I’m a big fan of LEG OF LAMB ([Entree often accompanied by mint jelly]), so my FAVE would be that entry. Might be nice with a bottle of [Pine resin-based Greek wine] or RETSINA, huh? Continuing the food mini-theme, my UNFAVE is the unfamiliar BROCHETTE or [Broiling skewer]. I just call ‘em skewers myself.
Bruce Venzke and Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
An acute atmospheric offering here. 53-across informs the solver of a [Weather advisory, and a hint to the starts of the answers to the starred clues] STORM WARNING.
- 20a. [*Vice president's official entrance march] HAIL COLUMBIA. The president’s is “Hail to the Chief.”
- 28a. [*Anxiety-reducing meeting opener] ICEBREAKER.
- 34a. [*Hoffman's 1988 title savant] RAIN MAIN.
- 38a. [*Stir-fry veggie] SNOW PEA.
- 42a. [*Endurance-building full-speed run] WIND SPRINT. Wonder if this is so named because one runs like the wind, or because one rapidly becomes winded in the process.
Can’t for a moment imagine this theme hasn’t been produced before, but it’s so well executed here that, while it might not feel completely fresh, it was a pleasure to solve.
Unlike today’s NYT, the long acrosses at 18a and 56a—the excellent IDEALIZED and DUTCH DOOR—are unlikely to be even momentarily taken for theme answers despite being a mere one letter shy of a couple of actual themers. This is because (1) neither one’s content could be construed as having anything to do with the stated theme, and (2) they’re located at higher latitudes than (i.e., above and below, “outside”) the entirety of the theme material.
Sure, there’s a recurrence of the GISMO-with-an-S that I carped about in the other puzzle. And there are a handful of MEH partials, like ARE SO, AM NOT, and ON A. Yes, and more than one ABBR. I found tiresome (though not 19d, which I always appreciate for its self-referentiality). Nevertheless, these compromise were more than adequately counterbalanced by the overall virtuosity of the construction.
Very good Monday.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
My morning time slot for blogging coincided with a brief crosswordfiend.com server outage. Grr. So, in short:
Like OBAMAPHONE, PIZZA OVENS with misleading mob clue (the Godfather’s pizza chain, not a mafia godfather), JD POWER, the app SAY THE SAME THING, T MOBILE, TED CRUZ, Mickey DOLENZ, “USE THE FORCE, LUKE,” and SKID ROW. Enjoyed the clue [North West's uncle Lamar] for ODOM. Not too familiar with the term PAST MASTER ([Acknowledged expert]). The short fill lagged behind all the juicy long fill. 3.9 stars overall.