Zhouquin Burnikel and D Scott Nichols’ New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
This theme’s so in-your-face that I doubt any solver would look at the longest across entries and see them as ENIGMAS, which as it so happens is the symmetrical partner to the revealer at 43d: [Annual tournaments … or a description of the starts of 16-, 20-, 37-, 53- and 60-Across?] US OPENS. All of those phrases begin with the letters US, but in a non-Unitedstatesian sense. Personally, I’d rather the clue add the qualifier “some” for the annual tournaments and dispensed with the question mark.
- 16a. [Jamaican sprinter nicknamed "The Fastest Man on Earth"] USAIN BOLT.
- 20a. [Nothing daring in terms of offerings] USUAL FARE.
- 37a. [PC outlet] USB PORT, in which USB stands for universal serial bus.
- 53a. [Service charges] USERS FEES. Though it may be more grammatically accurate, it feels less common a plural than user fees, which you could say is the usual fare.
- 60a. [Heralded, as a new era] USHERED IN.
( 5+1) mid-length themers is quite a lot, especially for a Monday crossword, yet the surrounding fill isn’t compromised and there is a goodly amount of exciting non-theme material: PIANO BARS, TALK RADIO, and MALL RAT. The corners aren’t exactly packed with scrabbly superstars, but they function and don’t drag the puzzle down.
- Double-double-oh-seven with SPY and Roger MOORE. (31d, 51a)
- Nice bit, symmetrical pairing of two French rivers: 11d LOIRE and 49d ISÈRE. No other river was seen.
- Least favorite areas: all four of the small clusters at the compass points: little words with common letters.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Quickly, as I’ve got an appointment: 3.75 stars.
Likes: The colloquial language of “WAIT, WHAT?,” “I’M SO HIGH,” LARRUPS, RARES UP, “TALK TO ME,” and “I SMELL A RAT.” THE CARS with a cover band clue (8d. [Group whom the tribute bands Drive and Candy-O cover]). Full name JON HAMM with a trivia clue (47a. [TV actor whose first role was Winnie-the-Pooh in first grade]). Pretty WAXES POETIC. Crisp INSIDE JOKE.
Speaking of YOUR MAJESTY, did you know that one of Jermaine Jackson’s kids is named Jermajesty? I don’t know how a kid doesn’t develop a spoiled-royalty habit always being addressed as Jermajesty.
Uncommon words: Scouting CAMPOREE, FORETIME ([Past]).
Did not know: 48d. [WWE star Randy] ORTON.
1d. [Lammas celebrant], WICCA. Can this word now be used to refer to a single practitioner of Wicca? I’ve only seen Wiccan for the individual before, but language changes and perhaps the word WICCA has expanded its referents.
Enjoy your Monday, folks.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Wow, I just keep bumping into Ms Burnikel: Friday’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, today’s New York Times, and now the Los Angeles times too!
As in the NYT, there are an elevated number of theme entries—five, including the revealer. It wasn’t all that long ago that three was the norm. These five aren’t very expansive (three are “only” nine letters) but the grid is balanced well with good themers and ballast.
- 66a [Retrace one's steps, and what ends of 17-, 25-, 38- and 56-Across can literally have] BACKTRACKS. The implication is that the final (i.e., second) word in each theme answer can be backed (i.e., followed) by “track.
- 17a. [Long-running musical variety show] SOUL TRAIN (train track). Apparently, “Questlove” from the musical group the Roots is some sort of Soul Train savant, intimately familiar with episode details, set specifics, sound cues, you name it. He’s recently authored a book all about the show.
- 25a. [Pre-playoffs baseball drama] PENNANT RACE. (Racetrack).
- 38a. [Final triumph after an apparent failure] LAST LAUGH (laugh track).
- 56a. [Offensive in the First Gulf War] STORM TRACK (storm track).
I get the conceit of the theme, but somehow it feels not completely settled, and only partially by the (to me) ambiguous use of “literally.” As a result, the puzzle too left me feeling a bit unsettled. By choosing to see it as a themeless crossword instead, I found I liked it much better. Odd, because I wouldn’t exactly say that it’s a weak theme.
The dense, mid-length verticals in the corners are appealing, with only a few marginal clunkers among the crossing horizontal entries, the worst offender being S-STAR [Relatively cool heavenly body] at 9-across in the first row.
Higher CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials) than I prefer to see in an early-week offering.
Final observation: 18d [AutoCorrect target] TYPO. I don’t have much personal experience with smartphones and heavy texting thereon, but what I’ve seen of communications (e-mails, facebook comments, et cetera) sent from mobiles, it seems that clue is overly optimistic, or at least insufficiently cynical. Not to mention the proliferation of websites dedicated to “autocorrect fails.”
About average puzzle, again.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy crossword “Made in the Shade” — Gareth’s write-up
An interesting concept: adjectives that are part of colour names occur as adjectives in other phrases, but are clued as though they’re colour names. You have to mentally add the rest of the colour names for the answers to make sense. It’s a bit fiddly, but it sort of works.
- [Dark gray piece of evidence for a tracker?], CARBON (GREY) FOOTPRINT. Never heard of a colour called carbon grey but Google suggests it exists.
- [Dark black environment?], JET (BLACK) SETTING.
- [Deep blue Rolex?], ROYAL (BLUE) WATCH. I have no idea what a ROYALWATCH. Google is torn between the vacuous watching for the royal baby and some sort of watch brand. I have never seen the point in paying more than equivalent of around $3 for a watch so I don’t know my Veblen watch brands…
- [Dark green hair scrunchies?], HUNTER (GREEN) GATHERERS. The gatherer to scrunchie link is a bit tenuous.
Mr. Orbach has clearly spent considerable effort including jazzy fill without resorting to a compromised grid. I liked the answers RUGRATS (next to TOON), NESTEGG, IGGYPOP, and PASTRAMI. Not so sold on SEABEAST, but again Google seems to suggest people do uses this term. Similarly, I think have occasionally heard people calling blowpipes BLOWGUNs.
- ["The Simpsons" character whose favorite baseball squadron is the "Nye Mets"], APU. Extra-effort clue!
- ["Jaywalking" guy], LENO. I could be wrong, but in the more recent incarnation he no longer “Jaywalks”?
- [Hawaiian island 98% of which is owned by Larry Ellison], LANAI. He’s the owner of Oracle – another extra-effort trivia clue.
The theme was a bit messy, but the grid was on the lively side: 3 1/3 stars.