Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword — Matt’s review
Matt Gaffney here, filling in for pannonica.
Now, how hard was that? For two weeks in a row, the New York Times publishes a Monday puzzle justifying the public’s general perception of their crossword. Last week it was Jeff Chen and Angela Halsted’s above-average vowel progression theme; this week’s it’s Ian Livengood’s straightforward paean to the city of BOSTON with some subtle touches.
Again, this is straightforward, as the four pinwheel themers are:
17-a [Expensive neighborhood in 43-Across] = BEACON HILL
61-a [43-Across stadium] = FENWAY PARK
11-d [43-Across patriot who went on a "midnight ride"] = PAUL REVERE
29-a [Popular food in 43-Across] = BAKED BEANS
And then in the middle:
34-a [Nickname for 43-Across] = THE HUB
And then, in case you hadn’t guessed the revealer:
43-a [Theme of this puzzle] = BOSTON
And then the cute M-A circled squares for Massachusetts. I’m pretty anti-circle, but for some reason these work for me. Maybe it’s because the constructor just got married in the past month and I was fortunate enough to meet both him and his bride at Lollapuzzoola last year? Maybe.
Let’s look at the five toughest entries in this grid: OSSIE, HALER, THO, TRIB, SKAT. That’s about what you want first thing in the week. Compare them to the five toughest from the Monday, July 8th puzzle, which are: ELHI, LABAN, RUHR, BARA and ENZO. This set is way too tough for a Monday (and BARA/LABAN crossed at the second A) and would likely turn off a solver trying the New York Times puzzle for the first time. Today’s puzzle would make a new solver want to try Tuesday’s.
A lot of lively fill like: EXCUSE ME, ST. LUKE, HOBNOB, MOUSEPAD, FOXY, SAY AH, ACT NOW, STAN LEE and THEORY. And there’s not a single word where nobody in a group of 3 or 4 people will know it.
4.20 stars. Solid theme and fill go a long way for the easiest puzzle of the week, so, for the second week in a row, above-average Monday.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Call to Account” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Four phrases that end with a word that has something to do with money (but, significantly, not in the phrases chosen):
- [Bonus added to a lobbyist's account?] clues SPECIAL INTEREST – wouldn’t that be special interest’s interest?
- [Wealth accrued in a government account? clues STATE CAPITAL - the "-ol" spelling of "capitol" is the building, right?
- [Amount deposited in a student's account?] is COURSE CREDIT
- [Debt owed from an educator's account?] is SCHOOL PRINCIPAL – another oft-misspelled word with “-le” instead “-al” for “principal.”
I think more than the theme, I enjoyed the medium-length fill of I PROMISE, CROP UP and WORSE OFF. My biggest smile, though, was reserved for the pairing of [Body shape of the abdomen-heavy] for APPLE with [Body shape of the hip-heavy] for PEAR, so those would be my FAVEs today. The eyebrow-arching [Houston guy who plays the field] refers only to the MLB Houston ASTRO team. I’ll award my UNFAVE to the missed opportunity of cluing MANIAC as this song from Flashdance instead of [Wacko].
Billie Truitt’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
An unexpectedly interesting spin for this puzzle. Instead of the commonplace schtick of phrases beginning with a certain pair of letters, constructor Truitt has selected some that finish a particular way, and the revealer itself reflects—or more likely suggested—that approach. 38a [Some fight endings, and a hint to the word endings in 17-, 25-, 46- and 60-Across] KNOCK-OUT PUNCHES.
- 17a. [Genre with listener participation] TALK RADIO.
- 25a. [Homeric protagonist] GREEK HERO.
- 46a. [Three-time Masters winner] NICK FALDO. Despite his successes, I can’t say I’ve ever heard of him. But then again I can’t say I’m a golf fan.
- 60a. [Enter forcibly, as a home] BREAK INTO.
These are on the short and bland side, which undermines somewhat the freshness of the theme turnaround, as well as the stunning 15-letter revealer.
- Temporarily had REWORD for REWORK at 18d [Edit considerably], and thought to myself that that didn’t seem so drastic.
- Row 10: I’M A | BELL seems like an embodiment or response to the Frank Loesser standard, “If I Were a Bell.”
- Despite the relative brevity of the (across) theme answers, there isn’t any exceptionally long fill among the downs, just a few solid mid-length words: FOOTMAN, REWORK, BECAUSE. Oftentimes a crossword without flashiness will be dead-solid, really strong, throughout, but this one is pervaded by a middling, workmanlike aura. One of the reasons, no doubt, it’s a Monday offering.
- Appreciated the echo of 3d and 10d: [Place for a dental crown] MOLAR, [Incisor, for one] TOOTH. On the other hand, the explicit cross-reference of the flimsy 61d IT’S and the mundane partial A DATE does nothing to enhance either. 42a [Have a bite of] TRY and 58a [Have a bite] EAT fare better in lifting those unremarkable threes to a more interesting plane.
- Seemingly a lot of fills-in-the-blanks and partials.
IN ALL (62a), an average puzzle, not quite deserving of the quantity specified in the clue for 53-down.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
It’s got more good stuff than the usual 60-worder, but I definitely prefer the elevated liveliness of Brendan’s 68- to 72-worders to what you get in a low-word-count puzzle. The good stuff:
- 32a. [1986 R.E.M. hit with the prechorus line "And tell the sky and tell the sky"], FALL ON ME. Love that song. Instant gimme.
- 5d. ["That's never going to happen"], YOU’RE CRAZY.
- 37a. [Pop star who married Ryan Adams], MANDY MOORE.
- 9d. [Spots for needles], TONE ARMS.
- 23d. ["She's Not There" group], THE ZOMBIES.
- REMINI crossing DISCIPLE. Leah Remini just left the Church of Scientology.
- 42a. [Singer who did the theme for the Bond film "Thunderball"], TOM JONES.
- 16a. [Womanly], MATRONAL. Never seen this word form.
- 11d. [Fruit cup items], MELONS. The items in a fruit cup are melon balls or chunks of melon, no? Plus, I hate fruit cups with cantaloupe and honeydew.
- 39a. [Art of the playing field closest to the cameras], NEARSIDE. No idea what this means.
- 44a. [Bloop relative], BLEEDER. Again, no idea. Is this baseball?
- 29d. [Crown of light], AUREOLE. Not sure I’ve ever encountered this outside crosswords and Scrabble vowel dumps.
3.5 stars. Bring on the 72s!