Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
A relatively unusual—especially in an early-week offering—vertically oriented theme. The central spanner at 7-down lays it out, or throws it down: [Simple things to pick … or what 5-, 11-, 29- and 38-Down have?] LOW-HANGING FRUIT. Appropriately, those four vertical entries end in types of fruit.
- 5d. [Kingpin] TOP BANANA. I recently learned that you can slow the ripening of a banana by wrapping the stem in saran plastic.
- 11d. [Lump that moves when you swallow] ADAM’S APPLE.
- 29d. ["Colorful" city bordering Newark, N.J.] EAST ORANGE. Also the original home of the great and pioneering WFMU radio station. West Orange and South Orange are nearby, but there isn’t any “North Orange,” nor an “Orange.” Not even a Norange.
- 38d. [Dinner and a movie, say, with someone you don't know] BLIND DATE.
A baccate berry, a pome, a hesperide berry, and a drupe. Nice salad.
The long acrosses seem—or can be successfully willed—to comment on the theme material as well: 18a SWEET TALK [Wheedle], 63a CENTER CUT [Like some premium roasts].
- 23a [Course that's a cinch] EASY A, 59a [Pretty poor grade] D PLUS. Nods to 66a [Note an alto is unlikely to hit] HIGH C and 20a [Backup strategy] PLAN B. No idea what’s up with V-NECK (52d).
- Crosswordese HOF-ers: 48d [Mimicry pro] APER, Apis acolyte and [Title beekeeper in a 1997 film] ULEE (61a).
- Crossworddom needs a new depiction for the OTTER besides “playful stream denizen” and variants thereof. Today it’s [Riverbank frolicker] at 9-down.
Entertaining puzzle, and a refreshing change of pace for a an early-week entry.
Billie Truitt’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
The five long across answers—including a central spanner—all end in synonyms for the stuff below our feet. No twisty cluing or double meanings here, just straightahead listing, though most of the phrases have a metaphorical aspect.
- 17a. [Home country] NATIVE SOIL.
- 23a. [Out of touch with reality] IN LA-LA LAND.
- 37a. [Get one's head out of the clouds] COME DOWN TO EARTH. See also, cloud-cuckoo land.
- 47a. [Strike it rich] HIT PAY DIRT.
- 58a. [Position of moral authority] HIGH GROUND.
No revealer, and none necessary, as it’s quite evident to even a novice, early-week solver. Wait, I know what you’re thinking: why isn’t there an entry for REGOLITH? And no ALLUVIUM? I know, I know, shameful. Obviously there’s only so much space available and those simply couldn’t fit in the grid.
Good consistency in that all five have the theme element as a separate word, though I’ve sometimes seen paydirt rendered as a single entity.
Nothing particularly flashy in the non-theme material, though REDCOAT (30d) does look quite nice.
- 46d [Without a date] STAG, 44a [Fly alone] SOLO. Solo fits the definition of 46d, but the other exchange doesn’t work.
- Kind of interesting that OBOE—from the French hautbois (“high wood”)—appears alongside HIGH GROUND.
- 54d [Sandy slope] DUNE is sufficiently distinct from the five theme elements to not be an issue.
- Least staid clues (remember, it’s a Monday): 31a [Men of the future?] BOYS, the “spoken” 1a ["Pay attention!] FOCUS and 22d ["It's possible"] MAYBE SO.
- Cross-reference from 34-down to 35-down is innocuous, as they’re right next to each other, both in the grid and in the clue list. (PRAY, sermonETTE)
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Isle Be Seeing You” – Dave Sullivan’s review
When I read the title of this one, I thought it was pretty clever and was curious what the puzzle’s theme entries held in store. Would I find “Heel Have To Go” or “Wheel Be Seeing You”? Instead, I found the letters ISLE imbedded in three theme phrases:
- [Court session, of a sort] wants you to think of the legal arena, but instead, clues TENNIS LESSON
- We get a bit more obscure with ["Blue Velvet" star's full name] with DENNIS LEE HOPPER – I’ve never seen him credited on movie posters with his full name (see here, for example), so I wasn’t familiar with what his middle name was. Pretty easy to infer, though, given the theme and crossing entries.
- [Colorful clothing item] was a PAISLEY SHIRT – don’t see a lot of these these days; I think of them as more popular in Britain than here. Perhaps they are due for a comeback?
Given my original expectations of what the puzzle would be, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed when I saw the first imbedded ISLE phrase. I wonder too what the initial impetus was for the theme idea–I guess I was expecting some type of revealer that mentioned a “hidden isle” or “deserted island” or something like that. Finally, with these type of themes, I prefer to have the operative word split between the two words in different permutations (1/3, 2/2, 3/1) and never all within one of the two words, but the last entry doesn’t follow that pattern.
OTOH, I did find the 9-letter across entries–STRIKE ONE and OVERTAKES–sitting above and below the theme entries quite masterful. Funny to find my friend AKELA again, after just recently admitting that I first thought of the dog breed AKITA in an earlier puzzle earlier last week. At least I’m learning! I did struggle a bit at the crossing of the capital of Rwanda, KIGALI and baseball’s GIL Hodges at that G intersection; luckily, I was unable to unearth the ’50s first baseman’s name from some dark recess of my brain. My FAVE entry this morning was the fun NINJA for [Masked warrior], followed closely by including the entry ATOLL which crossed the first theme entry nicely.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Hey, what’s the big idea, Brendan, anchoring the grid with two 14s I’ve never heard of? 4d. ["Atomic" Gummi snacks whose second word is a portmanteau of their shape and how they "move"], NUCLEAR SQWORMS? 15d. [L.A. rapper whose father is South Africa's National Poet Laureate], EARL SWEATSHIRT? Neat to place AFRIKAANS beside the guy with the South African dad.
- 1d. [Deer stalkers], PUMAS. Not SHERLOCK HOLMES’ HATS.
- 2d. “This crossword is too damn hard”], I SUCK.
Favorite fill includes SPLENDA (though I will not ingest it outside of a crossword), HITMAKER, TAILSPINS as seen in Chicago’s recent air show, HAND-ME-UP, and SUNNY SIDE.
Not as many clues that really hit the sweet spot for me, and the 14s lacked resonance because I don’t follow Odd Future or gummy candy. 3.5 stars.