Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Apologies in advance for a perfunctory write-up of a fine crossword. I’m on last-minute fill-in (so to speak) duty for Amy, and am rather sleepy.
First of all, considering all of the news regarding the 50th anniversary of the momentous civil rights march in Washington, DC, I was somewhat surprised that today’s puzzle hadn’t anticipated the occasion. Instead it’s yet another baseball-themed offering, one that involves BABE | RUTH – 1a [With 67-Across, man whose 1930 salary was $80,000]. Since the same fellow played a prominent role in a recent CRooked crossword by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, which I also covered, it was doubly tiring.
None of these factors should be taken as criticisms of the puzzle inandofitself—which is quite impressive with the amount of theme content and accessory fill—but the missed opportunity nevertheless feels a bit of a letdown, which is more of an editorial gripe.
The other elements of the theme are three fortuitous 15-letter spanners:
- 17a. [Nickname for 1-/67-Across] THE SULTAN OF SWAT.
- 38a. [Man whose 1930 salary was $75,000] PRESIDENT HOOVER.
- 60a. [Quote from 1-/67-Across on why he outearned 38-Across] “I HAD A BETTER YEAR“
It was the onset of the Great Depression, after all. And nowadays the difference between the salaries of top professional athletes and the US president dwarfs that quaint figure.
Good long material in HEARKENS, SERENITY, MAKE UP TO, with ENLISTED bringing up the rear.
- 31d [Rathskeller order] STEIN, 49a [Newcastle Brown and others] ALES. See also 3d ["Beauty is in the eye of the __ holder": Kinky Friedman] BEER. All three are crossword regulars, and not the only ones in the grid.
- 46d [Chestnut-colored flying mammal] RED BAT, which I reckon seems kind of random to the average solver (and incomplete to me). There are a few species of the vespetilionid Lasiurus with variations of this common name in North America: Eastern red bat, Western red bat, desert red bat, cinnamon red bat, big red bat, you get the idea.
- Clever clues: 28d [Units of brilliance?] A-TEAMS; 63a [It lights up when it's excited] ARGON; 23d [Gave up by giving up control] PUNTED; 4d [Bluegrass duo?] ESSES.
- Lst. fav. abbrev.: 55d [Lender's offering] MTGE, but at least I didn’t have to figure out how to shorten “bagel.” Most obscure answer: 58d [Mathematical physicist Peter who pioneered in knot theory] TAIT.
- Geography lesson: 29d [Its capital is Nuku'alofa] TONGA. Foreign language lesson: 39d [Vicina della Francia] ITALIA—vicina means “neighbor.”
Good puzzle, but a change-up for this unsuspecting solver.
Updated Wednesday morning…
Pancho Harrison’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s write-up
It’s unusual to see a letter addition theme on a Wednesday in the LA Times, but I understand why the decision was made with this particular case. Once I got the first theme answer, I went through all the long answers figuring two out with only a few crossing answers; DEBASEMETAL took a little more effort to puzzle out. Each answer has DE added to base phrases, in each case forming a (very rough) synonym, allowing all four answers to be clued as [Put down ___?] The neatness of this was very satisfying for me! For completeness’ sake the theme answers are:
- 17a, [Put down toddlers?], DECRYBABIES. BABIES = toddlers?
- 28a, [Put down formal education?], DEGRADESCHOOL
- 48a, [Put down thoroughfares?], DEMEANSTEETS
- 64a, [Put down a rock genre?], DEBASEMETAL
There’s not a lot going on outside of the excellent theme, it’s a very conservatively filled grid. That’s all very well, but it means I don’t have a lot to discuss! Mr. Harrison even managed to resist dropping 3 Q’s in each 4×3 corner, meaning nothing clunks there either. I personally know ASTA only from crosswords; it seems some people also only know SMEE from crosswords, but Peter Pan (or at least the Disney film version and its book derivative) were a big part of my early childhood so I find that position hard to relate to.
I can’t really find much more to discuss here: 4 Stars
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Middleman” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I enjoyed this puzzle from constructor Donna S. Levin in which four phrases have the letters MAN smack dab in the middle:
- Generally abbreviated when found in crosswords, the old chestnut [Charlemagne's domain] gets some more respectable treatment spelled out as HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE.
- [Pen name of etiquette doyenne Judith Martin] was MISS MANNERS – don’t you just love the title “etiquette doyenne”? Is there a degree in this?
- [Armored vehicle named for a Union general] was a SHERMAN TANK – I guess that’s the ultimate compliment bestowed on military personnel, to whit when they name a 66,800 pound armored vehicle with a rotating gun turret after you.
- A movie I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing, [Jennifer Lopez/Ralph Fiennes flick] clues MAID IN MANHATTAN – This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this 15-letter entry in a grid, I suppose its length and friendly vowel/consonant placement makes it very crossword-friendly. When Hollywood execs name movies, I wonder if this is one of their marketing considerations? If not, it should be!
Clever idea for a theme, and a nice execution. The mathematician in me really appreciated the fact that the operative word was in the exact middle, and not just somewhere between the beginning and end of these phrases. I balked a bit at [Rambler maker of yore] for NASH; without checking online, I was thinking of SUVs or trucks and the “Ram” part made me think of Dodge. Is Nash a person or company here? There’s Ogden Nash and John Forbes Nash, but I don’t think either of them were in the car manufacturing field. I’ll have to award my FAVE entry to the fully-spelled-out (see HRE above) ET CETERA for ["Yada yada yada"]. Love seeing what these common abbreviations really stand for. Second place goes to the juxtaposition of President OBAMA with Sasha Baron COHEN – do you think the latter may play the former in an upcoming biopic? And finally, I also enjoyed seeing DIET with the unusual clue, [Japan's legislature]. I wonder if all their legislators are svelte?
Ben Tausig’s Chicago Reader/Ink Well crossword, “Land Lines”
There are lots of specific terms for various expanses of land, based on their shape, topography, and vegetation. Five such terms double as non-land words used in phrases:
- 17a. [Staunch opponent of Burning Man's setting?], PLAYA HATER.
- 25a. [April payment in the place where crabs and herons live?], FLAT TAX. Usually it’s flats with an S.
- 35a. [Book about how it would be great to stop being nomadic and farm the prairie?], PLAIN TEXT. The (Great) Plains in America’s heartland usually take an S too.
- 52a. [Farmer who took a wife, in a song?], DELL GUY.
- 61a. ["Narrow land is grand" and "So what if it juts?"?], SPIT RHYMES.
- 1a. [What bread is stuffed with?], CARBS. Tasty, tasty carbs.
- 1d. [Technology that I guess has outed me as a robot because I always get it wrong], CAPTCHA.
- 5d. [Herb collection for baking?], STASH. Drug humor, not bread with rosemary. Mmm, bread.
- 49d. [GOP bogeymen], ELITES. Yes. Because everyone knows that most elected Republicans never went to college and certainly have no Ivy League education or highly placed allies.
- 55d. [Droppings from a butt], ASHES. Cigarette butt.
3.5 stars from me. I like the corner 7s and there are some fun clues, but the theme did not delight me.