Monday, December 30, 2013

NYT 3:33 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:26 (pannonica) 
BEQ 4:42 (Amy) 
CS 5:01 (Dave) 

David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 12/30/13 • Mon • Steinberg • 12 30 13 • solution

NYT • 12/30/13 • Mon • Steinberg • 12 30 13 • solution

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.

artamus_minor
Entries such as SQUISH, VIAL, ENVY, slightly-crosswordy SKAT, PLASMA, FEZ/OZMA, and so on add, as mentioned before, some welcome zest.

Else:

  • 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

LAT • 12/30/13 • Mon • Lafargue • solution

LAT • 12/30/13 • Mon • Lafargue • solution

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.

Okay crossword.


Updated Monday morning:

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:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 12/30/13

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 12/30/13

  • [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”

BEQ "Themeless Monday" solution, 12 30 13

BEQ “Themeless Monday” solution, 12 30 13

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.

Favorite clues:

  • 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.

4.25 stars.

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21 Responses to Monday, December 30, 2013

  1. Evad says:

    1/2 star rating increments are now available! Let me know how it goes.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: I believe the puzzle was misplaced. Even though the vowel progression is Monday fare, the content is not–”Pont-l’Évêque” being a prime example.

    I felt that this puzzle reversed the usual pattern of sacrificing the fill for the theme. The fill had some fun stuff– “out there” “ziti” etc… The theme answer I really liked was ‘Pent up anger”. I rarely wear pant suits, but when I do I never think of myself as “pantsuited”. I guess it is a valid word. Am I also bloused and skirted? Makes you want to stick to dresses…

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      So, so much in this puzzle that isn’t pegged to the Monday level. Besides the French bridge … I mean, cheese … there’s OZMA, OPE, ATRA, ESTE, SKAT, ATCO, NEAP, IPANA, and RUBATO.

      This is also David Steinberg’s third puzzle in 19 days. Do his puzzles account for 15% of all publishable submissions? If they don’t, it would be nice if the Times spaced the bylines out a bit. Especially for the poor souls who find themselves constitutionally unable to solve any of David’s puzzles (which I don’t get—I think I’ve managed to solve every one of them in a standard amount of time).

      • Alan D. says:

        Over at xwords David says he aimed this puzzle for a Tuesday. Wonder why it wasn’t kept there? Also found it interesting that he says this was his 100th submission to the NYT yet it’s his 21st published puzzle. Glad to see not even David is perfect!

        • pannonica says:

          (number of submissions) – (number published) ≠ (number of rejections)

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Yes, there could be dozens of accepted puzzles in the pipeline. Maybe Will is saving some of them for an All David Steinberg All the Time month in 2014, which will cause Avg Solvr’s skull to implode.

  3. Brucenm says:

    Pannonica,

    Enjoyed your write-up (as always) of Merl’s animal puns yesterday. Has anyone pointed out, re “cast off your jackals” — the pun is on “cast off your shackles”? (If it was mentioned, I missed it.)

  4. Gareth says:

    The LAT theme was interesting… Longer synonym words that you typically get. I immediately decided I wouldn’t know the Monopoly square, because ours are all different (and the one I grew up with is completely different to the one now sold here too) – turns out the answer of “Free Parking” was one of the few squares that IS the same!

    • HH says:

      Considering that so many people have a “house rule” re the Free Parking space (i.e., all taxes & penalties are placed there & whoever lands there first gets all the $), I covered the Free Parking art with a big dollar sign and the word “Bailout”.

      • bob stigger says:

        You mean you didn’t start the free parking pot with $500? I’ll bet you didn’t award $400 for landing on Go either.

        • HH says:

          Way back when, when Atlantic City introduced casino gambling, a friend and I added a rule that a player with a hotel could pay the dollar value of two houses and convert the hotel to a casino, then anyone landing there had an option to gamble the rent.

  5. JohnV says:

    Just started doing BEQ on a regular basis and a) am getting the hang of his style and b) enjoying it. Thought this was pretty easy as far as themeless go. I mean, 11 stacks look intimidating, but they fell nicely.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Yes, this one was on the easier end of the BEQ themeless spectrum, I thought. Usually they take me about 25% longer.

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