Monday, October 28, 2013

NYT 3:41 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:39 (pannonica) 
BEQ 5:34 (Amy) 
CS 6:15 (Dave) 

Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 10/28/13 • Mon • Sessa • 10 28 13 • solution

Two main components to this theme. First, spanners along the top and bottom sections read WHERE OH WERE HAS | MY LITTLE DOG GONE, clued in tandem as [ … question in a children's song] for 17a and 62a.

The other part is a cluster of four across answers in the middle section. Each is a name or phrase that ends in an archetypal dog’s name. The clues are marked with asterisks.

  • 30a. [*It's a happening place] IN SPOT.
  • 34a. [*Sophocles tragedy] OEDIPUS REX.
  • 43a. [*British luxury S.U.V.] RANGE ROVER.
  • 45a. [*Star-making title role for Mel Gibson] MAD MAX. It sort of feels that the rightful fourth member of this quartet should be FIDO, but good luck finding a phrase that will work here. MAX is an adequate stand-in, though.

Nice that the significance of the starred clues isn’t revealed overtly. Makes it a little more challenging for tyro solvers to understand what the crossword is all about.

Cluing feels slightly more difficult than a typical Monday NYT, more like a Tuesday or perhaps a Wednesday. For example: 13d ["Duck soup"] EASY,  51d [The "E" in EGBDF] EVERY, and 6d [Verbal feedback?] ECHO (although tricky, playful clues are generally few and far between but welcome early in the week, this feels uncalled for considering what’s listed in the next sentence).  Some fill, too, seems beyond the normal Monday ambit: PLENA, REATA, ALERO, OREM, CLU.

Orts:

  • Seasonal holiday touch (seems oxymoronic for Halloween to be called a holiday (holy day)): 36d [Messy Halloween missiles] EGGS, 9d ["The Raven" writer] POE.
  • 61d [Cuban money] PESO. In the news this past week.

That’s it. A nice change-up from the predictable Monday themes we normally see. Above-average offering.

Steve Blais’ Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

So… ah… um, that is… Well! Y’know, this crossword never felt “right.” A Monday offering with too much crosswordese (although secretly I wish more people knew some of those words) and a theme that lacks sufficient cohesion.


Run through it, run it through: 58-across informs the solver that a [Tense pre-deadline period … ] CRUNCH TIME, is also [ … when to eat the ends of 17-, 24-, 37- and 46-Across?]. For those we have CHIP, COOKIE, PEANUT, and CRACKER, à la:

  • 17a. [Computer storage medium] MEMORY CHIP.
  • 24a. [Quick-on-the-uptake type, in slang] SMART COOKIE.
  • 37a. [Carton-cushioning unit] STYROFOAM PEANUT.
  • 46a. [Showy authority figure] WHIP CRACKER.

I can see how a CHIP, COOKIE, or CRACKER will crunch when consumed—or how one can crunch chips, cookies, or crackers—but peanuts don’t seem to fit. The only association I can think of is the foodstuff called peanut crunch: peanuts agglomerated with sugar and/or honey, cousin to peanut brittle. Unless I’m missing something, it’s wildly anomalous compared to the other theme elements, which incidentally I’m not all that impressed with.

As for the fill that doesn’t seem Monday-appropriate, there’s SEVE Ballasteros, OEN-, DIDO clued as a [Mischievous trick], ISÈRE, IOS, and possibly CRU and OJO. On top of that, we see the unlovely abbrevs. AGR and HTS, as well as the Latin fatigue of ESSE and AMAS consecutively, plus STOA nearby.

On the positive side, THREEPEATS, SUBPOENAED, UNCOILING, SIMON SAYS, and COMPADRES are solid long fill. The sixth member, JAIL TERMS feels off to me, as I wanted JAIL TIMES (Google Ngram isn’t very strong on this, but seems to show “time” in the process of displacing “term”).

More:

  • Middle East vibe: SHAH, MECCA, EMIR, ISLAM.
  • That was all I could come up with.

Confusing, substandard puzzle.


Updated Monday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Repurposed Couples” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Ambitious theme–take the last names of (arguably) famous couples, put them together and reclue:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 10/28/13

  • [Job description for an armored car driver?] was Johnny CASH + June CARTER – “carter” as “one who carts” is a bit stretchy, imho.
  • [Landscaping employee who arranges the one-wheeled vehicles?] clued Clyde BARROW + Bonnie PARKER – certainly this couple is more well-known by their first instead of last names. Are wheelbarrows often referred to as “barrows”? “Parker” as “one who parks” works a bit better here.
  • [Luxury liner trip for fans of Sherlock?] was Katie HOLMES + Tom CRUISE – a couple no longer, I think. This one seem an outlier in that the first last name is used as a last name in the clued sense as well.
  • Finally, [New York City train station repairman?] was Sean PENN + Robin WRIGHT – I think they are also divorced, a “wright” is someone who makes something like a playwright or a wheelwright. Unusual to see it on its own.

I have to give Tony credit for trying out such an ambitious theme, but I think it was a bit too ambitious, as the resulting couple names don’t seem to all work to the same degree. Above par fill around them, though; I especially enjoyed the longer GUESS WHO?BROOMSTICK and TUPPERWARE. Not such a fan of partials like AS MAD, its close cousin AS A, and E FOR, the latter clued as [Get an ___ for effort], which is what I would award this outing.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ “Themeless Monday” answers, 10 28 13

Lots to like in this 68-worder, in terms of both fill and cluing:

  • 15a. [First name in brewing], ANHEUSER. First in Anheuser-Busch, not a given name.
  • 24a. [Gossip], DISH THE DIRT.
  • 29a. [Swiss shop], DELI. Where you can get Swiss cheese.
  • 47a. ["Personal Jesus" band], DEPECHE MODE. Not the only band in the puzzle. Who’s your personal Crossword Jesus?
  • 50a. [Bills deeds: Abbr.], TDS. Buffalo Bills football team.
  • 54a. [New Jersey senator-elect Cory], BOOKER. Is this going to make him boring?
  • 59a. [Obamacare rollout scapegoat], SEBELIUS, Kathleen.
  • 9d. [Three's sound], SWISH. When a three-pointer goes through the basketball hoop.
  • 11d. [Band with the 2013 album "Reflektor"], ARCADE FIRE. Band #2.
  • 12d. [Sprint rival], T-MOBILE.
  • 25d. [Food whose name literally means "twig bean"], EDAMAME. Food etymology.
  • 27d. [N00b's package], STARTER KIT. Those are zeroes, not the letter O, in “n00b.”
  • 33d. ["Finest Worksong" band], REM. Band #3.
  • 41d. [Someone wise beyond their years], OLD SOUL. Great term.

Note that 53a. [Chelsea FC coach Mourinho], JOSE, is a deliberate futbol inclusion. In addition to a bland “no way, ___” clue option, that J could also have been a D or R quite easily. But if you can add the Scrabbly letter to no detriment, you do it. (And the second it begins to impede smooth fill, if the constructor doesn’t backpedal, it turns into Scrabble-%#$&ing.)

24d. [Devotee of the politician Howard], DEANIAC? I thought he had faded into private life, but apparently he was just on TV chiming in on the Obamacare rollout. Does this mean he’s still a public figure? And do the Deaniacs (not a term I recall from 2004) still claim an allegiance or have they forgotten him too?

Four stars.

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9 Responses to Monday, October 28, 2013

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: Nice puzzle but misplaced on a Monday..

  2. John says:

    Yeah, this one made me feel stupid – I solved it in about double my normal Monday time. I liked the theme, but on xwordinfo it says the middle of the grid is supposed to be a kennel with the dogs on “leashes.” Not sure I see it.

  3. Bencoe says:

    To me, it feels natural to say “jail time” but not “jail times”.

  4. Gareth says:

    NYT: I’ve contemplated dog (and cat and cow) names as a theme but never came up with something that satisfied me. Kudos to Dr. Sessa for coming up with this puzzle, which worked well, and especially for a surprising 30-letter revealer! I must say the most common dog names I encounter are Blackie, Brownie, Spottie (rarely Spot), Danger and yes Rex. I realise this is a regional phenomenon.

    LAT: Agree there were far too many stale answers (so not much crunch there) but I loved the theme: worked perfectly for me.

    • Jeff Chen says:

      Danger? People are strange. =]

      Really enjoyed the NYT today. And liked the LAT; I’m in agreement with Gareth. Review seemed awfully harsh.

  5. RK says:

    How about a constructor make a theme puzzle where black squares represent words. You could have answers like “down the rabbit hole,” or “shot in the dark” where “hole” and “dark” are black squares. Or you can have black squares illustrate a phrase such as “jump the gap” with a black square between “jump” and “the gap.” A final idea would be to string an answer or answers through many black squares as if it were a quilt, tunnel system, soccer ball, chess board, etc.

    Thought I’d throw this out there for constructors to think about.

  6. Lois says:

    NYT: Funny about PLENA on a Monday. I believe a lot of tyro crossword solvers are retired international civil servants, who still often retire early (that’s slowly changing). This word might have come up often for them. But although I encountered plenary meetings galore in such service, I don’t recall “plena.” I could figure it out, though.

  7. Adam N says:

    NYT: For Fido, it’s not EXTREMELY hard if you expand the count: FIFI D’ORSAY, DON’T MIND IF I DO (used in NY Times puzzle, Wed, Nov 01, 2000 with exact same theme) or BUT IF I DO (song rhyme). If one of those happened the pairers would be SPOT WELDERS, PULL INTO A SPOT (start to park) or UNSPOTTED (never been in a NYT crossword before, weird). But now after writing that down it seems still like un-Monday-ish fill.

    LAT: CRU’s in two different Monday crosswords on the SAME DAY? WHAAAaaaaa…..

    And as well, I’m assuming Matt wrote that last review

  8. Mona Evans says:

    What happened to this site? No puzzle answers have been posted since 10/28/13.

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