Susan Gelfand’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Start the week. 34a ["Let's go!" … or a hint to the ends of 20-, 28-, 41- and 52-Across] IT’S TIME TO ROLL. The final word in each of those answers is something that can be rolled in one sense or another.
- 20a. [Food preparation cutting technique] SLICE AND DICE. Roll, or toss them.
- 28a. [School basics] THE THREE RS. Abstract item! Imaginative choice. The alveolar trill caused by labiodental vibration. Those “three Rs” are reading, writing, and arithmetic, which has always struck me as educationally inauspicious, considering the sloppiness. Not thrilled that the identical clue is used for non-theme material, ABCS (51d).
- 41a. [Look of infatuation] GOO-GOO EYES. Orbital rolling, in two senses.
- 52a. [Fancy dress affairs] COSTUME BALLS. Axial rotation.
Roll is a relatively expansive word, with a plethora of definitions in three parts of speech (noun, transitive verb, intransitive verb), so it’s a natural choice for this sort of theme. All verbs herein, though. For the record, using Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary, the appropriate senses for the five answers are:
- 20a – trans. v. 1a, (also, in a metaphorical sense, to assume a risk)
- 28a – trans. v. 5c, intrans. v. 6b
- 34a – intrans. v. 9a, 9b
- 41a – trans. v. 1c, possibly intrans. v. 2b
- 52a – trans. v. 1b, intrans. v. 1a
HAM can also be associated with a ROLL, but that isn’t pertinent here. More worrisome is 50a [Mexican dish sometimes described as "hot"] TAMALE; here’s the m-w.com definition of TAMALE: “a Mexican food that consists of seasoned ground meat or beans rolled in cornmeal, wrapped in a corn husk, and steamed” (emphasis mine). No problem obviously with 1a BRAD Pitt in any of his various ROLES, but I fear I may be getting carried away.
Roll out the barrel:
- Four meaty long answers in among the ballast, spiffy for a Monday: MEN’S ROOM, SORCERERS, STOOD OVER, VICE-VERSA.
- Un-Mondayish fill, in an unwelcome way: French river OISE, IMARET crossing IMAM (might prove an impediment for novice solvers), SOG [Soak, in dialect].
- Unnecessary cross-reference: 53d [Annapolis inst.] USNA, 48a [53-Down grad: Abbr.] ENS. Two abbrevs., to boot. Better to have clued the latter as the letters or perhaps the typographical dash size (though the plural is clunky there).
- Moving through the puzzle relatively quickly, I scanned 11d [Suffix with capital or Marx] improperly. My sweeping eyes pinged on -fix, capital, and Marx and automatically filled in DAS, as in Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, never mind that (1) das is a definite article, not an affix of any kind, and (2) “capital” is lowercase and begins with a c. The next-door DES Moines didn’t help my subconscious either.
- Oh, it was -ISM.
- 1d [Short-legged hound] BASSET, which comes from the French word for short, which in turn derives from one meaning low. Factette: breeders managed to develop the distinctively-shaped dog, for the purpose of hunting rabbits and hares, by essentially reducing the length of the leg bones (effectively localized dwarfism); however, it wasn’t a perfect job; there’s enough loose skin on each limb for that of a full-height dog.
Average puzzle. A few too many three-letter abbrevs. lower my estimation, while the standout “rolled Rs” elevates it back to the middle.
Jeff Stillman’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Forgive me for inflicting this upon you, but it simply must be done. There’s no avoiding it.
71-across, down in the lower left, plays revealer today: [Beginning for this puzzle's five endings] I AM …
Ironically, that’s most often clued in crosswords along the lines of [Cartesian conclusion] for his famous line, “I think, therefore I AM.” The Latin version is “Cogito ergo SUM,” so solvers can never be confident of filling in without crossings anything beyond the M. By the way, the original French version gets zero play: “Je pense, donc je SUIS.” Also, I promise the above link has nothing to do with will.i.am—I’m not that cruel.
The reflexive quotes that comprise the theme answers are:
- 17a. [Ending from Ali] … THE GREATEST.
- 21a. [Ending from Nixon] … NOT A CROOK.
- 39a. [Ending from the Elephant Man] … NOT AN ANIMAL. Would have preferred the clue to name Joseph Merrick.
- 57a. [Ending from Lennon and McCartney] … THE WALRUS.
- 64a. [Ending from Beyoncé] … SASHA FIERCE.
What else, what else? The paired longdowns FREEBORN and LANYARDS are unusual but welcome fill, nor do they seem out of place for an early-week offering. Uhm… 69a TIVOLI always sounded more Italian than Scandinavian to me, but eventually I was able to sort it all out in my mind; thanks to Fellini and De Toth for helping with the process. Erm… regrettably 4d SAGO will never in my lifetime be clued as [Flann O'Brien's "Slattery's __ Saga"]. Ah… 31d [ __ of mistaken identity] for A CASE—ick. Oo… 50d [Garam __: Indian spice mixture] MASALA; factette: it’s generic, not specific, though it typically includes cinnamon, cumin, peppercorns, clove, and cardamom. Eem… 23a [Civil War soldier] REB; see also 44d [Grant's opponent] LEE; not to be conflated with Grant Lee Buffalo.
Fine puzzle, strong theme.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Pro and Cannes” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I think this is my second quip puzzle since I reupped for the CS reviewer chair here Chez Fiend, and this one is a tribute to a famous French moviemaker:
- TO THE DÉVOTÉE
- OF FRENCH FILMS
- A TRUE FRIEND
- MAYBE A TRUFFAUT.
If it’s not obvious, faut (fault, or to be necessary, such as Il faut que…) in French, is pronounced like the English “foe,” so this phrase is playing on the friend/foe dichotomy. I at first bristled at the “a Truffaut” construction, but I guess we call films by a certain director “A [insert director's name here]” such as “A Spielberg” or “A Tarentino,” etc. Curious about the timing of this one, since the Cannes festival was in May this year and this director died in October almost 30 years ago. Got a tough start in the northwest–actress DEBI Mazar is obscure to me, I guess because I don’t watch the HBO series, Entourage. Speaking of things foreign, EIS for [Rink surface, in Munich] and IÇI for [Here, to Henri] might be a bit difficult for beginning solvers.
Nice longer fill here, though–I enjoyed LINEUPS, IN THE END, RED GIANT and my FAVE today, WINDFALLS. Not as big a fan of the abbreviated LIEUT and the unusual FLOURED, so those receive my UNFAVE award today.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
- 16a. “MY SHARONA,” because (a) The Knack and (b) my husband’s college band would play the opening notes and the crowd would get excited and then the band would stop and say, “You didn’t really want to hear that, did you?” Well, kinda sorta.
- 31a. THE IDIOT. Was Iggy Pop referring to Dostoevsky, by any chance? Please say yes.
- 36a. [Place where people tend to show up late?], MORGUE. Grim but clever.
- 38a. CUTIE PIE, cute.
- 44a. [Places where many get off: Abbr.], STNS. Plural abbrev = bad, but clue that gets dirty-minded people wondering what on earth the answer is = good.
- Full RICE-A-RONI, not just a partial ARONI or RONI answer.
- MATT DAMON, full name.
- 3d. [Flight simulation?], good clue for DISAPPEARING ACT. Just watched Now You See Me, the magician caper movie. Entertaining, didn’t see the twist coming.
- 12d. [NFL quarterback whose signature move is kissing his flexed bicep after scoring a touchdown], COLIN KAEPERNICK. He stole my move. I do that at the gym. (Does he do that after throwing a touchdown pass to a player who catches and runs with the ball, or only after entering the end zone himself?)
- 53d. [Reason for a relaunch from Venus?], LET. Tennis, not space. Great mislead.
3.75 stars. Deductions for STNS entry, OCHRES, ELIST.