David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Vowel progression theme, typical DIETARY (12d) fare for a Monday offering. This one’s spiced up quite a bit with Scrabbly letters that thankfully aren’t deleterious or distracting to the overall feel and quality of the puzzle or solve.
- 18a. [In some common women's office attire] PANTSUITED. Awkward clue for an awkward entry, necessarily extended for length. And pantsuits are kind of awkward anyway.
- 24a. [What may lead to an emotional explosion] PENT-UP ANGER. Oh, that.
- 36a. [Half-quart container] PINT MEASURE.
- 51a. [Creamy French cheese] PONT L’ÉVÊQUE. Produced since at least the 12th century.
- 59a. [Gridiron runback] PUNT RETURN.
Slight irregularity in the independence of the P–NT entities, but not worth getting excited over.
- Hoariest/creakiest fill: good old IPANA toothpaste (6d). What, no AMANA appliances? Which reminds me of my least favorite fill, quite nearby: 3d [Refrain syllables] NA NA NA. No, no, no.
- SOAPER, ATRA, not quite as bad as above.
- Filled in a couple of missing letters at 40d without looking at the clue, which is how I came up with NEPTUNE for [Candidate for the Top 40]. Hmm, on what planet? That’ll be POP TUNE, if you please.
- Great, fun fill with 36d POWER NAP, 47d SQUISH, and 48d [Fluctuation of musical tempo] RUBATO.
- 11d [Highly unconventional] OUT THERE, which is OUTRÉ with a (THER) in there.
Good, but not great, Monday.
Joel D. Lafargue’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
A tale of two crosswords for me on this one. The theme is spot-on for a Monday: phrases beginning with a word meaning “unrestrained.” But the balance of the puzzle doesn’t hold up.
- 17a. [1965 Righteous Brothers hit repopulrized by its use in the 1990 film "Ghost"] UNCHAINED MELODY. Oh, I thought it was in “Dirty Dancing.” P Swayze was in that one too.
- 33a. [Scarily unpredictable type] LOOSE CANNON. Think M Gibson in those Lethal Weapon flicks.
- 41a. [Monopoly board corner] FREE PARKING. I recommend The King of Marvin Gardens and Atlantic City.
- 59a. [Pep that won't quit] BOUNDLESS ENERGY. I can’t recommend 1950s B-oater Texas Dynamo, because (a) I haven’t seen it, and (b) it’s probably awful anyway.
Decent material there, especially the 15s, augmented by longish fill such as SKINLESS and JOHN TESH though neither are appealing to me per se. In truth, the medium-to-long non-theme fill has few interesting letters.
Where the puzzle sours is having an abundance of subpar answers, likely to discourage novice solvers. I’m talking about starting off with C MAJ, ending with partial SWEE’ (never mind that it’s completed by PEA, which I’ll point out is smack dab in the center of the grid), RHINE and ROUEN, crosswordese LEA and TEC, T-NUTS, ARCO, ADM, UNSER, and Romnum CDI. It’s just too much. Less daunting to newcomers, but more annoying to veteran solvers, are the partials OR NOT and IS TO, A LOT, ALEE, ET AL.—oh, sorry, et al.
I did appreciate, however, the echoes with ALTOS and “tenor and bass” in the clue for VOICES, as well as coffee used in clues for both BREW and BRAUN. No standout clues, things are tame on that front.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Major League Moonlighters” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Professional sports players take up a new occupation in the off-season:
- [Cincinatti center fielder moonlighting as a photographer?] was RED SNAPPER. Appropriate that this crossed both [Mr. Met or Phillie Phanatic] (MASCOT) and [Ballpark arbiter] (UMP). That’s a lot of baseball packed into that area!
- [Philadelphia punter moonlighting as a talent finder?] clued EAGLE SCOUT. Not sure why it’s specifically a “punter” except for it being alliterative.
- [Winnipeg goalie moonlighting as a mercenary?] clued JET FIGHTER. Rex Ryan’s pro football team is more familiar to me, but perhaps we’re looking for a team in each of the major sports.
- [Milwaukee point guard moonlighting as a quarterback?] clued BUCK PASSER. I think I like an alternate idea with the point guard moonlighting as a streaker for BUCK NAKED.
So we do have each of the four sports–baseball, football, hockey and basketball–represented; however, I only think of baseball as “Major League” (from the title). Are pro footballers (and the other sports) considered this as well? RIPPLY, clued as [Like a pond's surface on a windy day], was a new word to me believe it or not. And is MATZOH the preferred spelling of the Jewish unleavened bread? (I believe I had an -AH suffix at first, since that’s how I pronounce it.) TOP DOGS and ATTACHÉS nicely rounded out the fill in the center section.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Brendan’s annual donation drive ends this Thursday—if you love his puzzles but haven’t already chipped in a few bucks, consider doing so. For $10 or more, you’ll get two plus-sized puzzles, one themeless and one themed. I am a sucker for Sunday-sized themeless puzzles, personally. (BEQ’s PayPal tip jar is here.)
Lovely puzzle today, no? This 68-worder is jam-packed with juicy fill. Consider COFFEE TABLE, ARIEL SHARON‘s full name, the bully’s “SAY IT TO MY FACE” (German word you may think of if you hear this: das Backpfeifengesicht, meaning “a face that badly needs to be slapped”), MICHELOB BEER (with a LOB crossing the LOB bit), ARMS EMBARGO, PRESS PASSES, SIN TAXES, THE RIALTO, SEMANTIC, and PAGE ONE.
Quigley rallying cry: 30d. [How the best crosswords are made (just sayin')], BY HAND. If you use Crossword Compiler’s auto-fill option, you damn well better pony up the bucks for the Professional Grid Filler option so you can pick the words that you’re putting into your puzzle piecemeal, and shape the puzzle intentionally. When you use plain auto-fill and decide that what the software put out is good enough for you, you know what? Discerning people can tell. When you have too many junky little answers in one section, it looks like you used auto-fill and didn’t care to make the fill any better. It doesn’t have to be that way.
- 1a. [Location for a book you're never going to read], COFFEE TABLE. “Leafing through it and looking at pictures” ≠ reading, right?
- 22a. [They can make you lose your balls], TILTS. In pinball.
- 29a. [City where Morse code was founded], BOSTON. Trivia I ditn’t know.
- 35a. [Ultra, e.g.], MICHELOB BEER. Michelob Ultra is a brand name of beer, but the clue is so misleadingly nonspecific.
- 38a. [Grumpy ___ (Internet meme)], CAT.
- 2d. [Where the x- and y-axes meet in math], ORIGIN. Mathy!
- 5d. [___ For Autism Golf Challenge (annual charity event)], ELS. Fresh Ernie ELS clue, and we also learn that he is a mensch.