Peter A. Collins’ New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Oh look, it’s me. It seems there’s some outrageous outage in Chicago—or something—and Amy is unable to timely blog, so I get to ring in the new year hereabout.
As you can see by the accompanying (be thankful you didn’t see the three incremental misspellings of ‘accompanying’) ‘solution’ grid, something went awry in my solve. Aside from dysrebusia for the nexus entry, there was an Issue at 31-across, and by association 24-down. We’ll discuss those anon.
The gimmicky bit in this non-theme crossword is, naturally, in the central across spot. 37a [New Year's greeting] HAPPY 2014. The numerical crosses are:
- 27d [1971 #1 hit for Carole King] IT’S 2 (Too) LATE.
- 39d [Classic Stephen Foster song] 0 (Oh) SUSANNA.
- 24d [Achieved through difficulty] HARD 1 (won).
- 32d ["Try!"] GO 4 (for) IT.
Call me crazy, but … okay! stop that. don’t call me crazy, y’hear? — Anyway. I kind of like the wild, debauched inconsistency of the crossing words: none of them are correlates of the numerals, which is a kind of anti-consistency consistency, come to think of it.
As alluded to earlier, I had an error at 31a [Far sides of ranges], which is a decidedly oblique clue for TARGETS, and for which I imbibedly (did I mention this gig was unexpected?) answered with TANGETS, which seemed a fine spelling of TANGENTS to This Solver under These Circumstances. The vertical HAND 1 seemed … plausible for … something, too. At the time.
What else did I notice?
- 53a [People of Rwanda and Burundi] WATUTSI. Isn’t that a var.?
- Kicked myself for waiting so long to look at the longish 22d when there were few crossings, as it was a gimme. [Capital spanning the Danube] BUDAPEST, where one might spend a long weekend, possibly sampling Egri Bikavér or Tokaj.
- NEATEN and HOARSEN?!? (63a & 11d)
- 6d [Sample the hooch] TAKE A NIP. Had SIP first, of course.
- 17a [Tree with extra-large acorns] BUR OAK. What? I can’t hear you, I have an extra-large WHATTHEHELL in my ear.
- Was relieved to confirm that 65a [The White Stripes' genre] was simply ROCK and not PUNK, which would be WRONG.
- Liked the chewy corners, all four of them. Even the one with BUR OAK.
- 19a [NASA component: Abbr.] NATL. I experience an unpleasant metallic taste in my mouth when I see a clue with an acronym or abbreviation asking for an expanded abbreviation as an answer. Ptui!
- 1a [Frank's partner in the funnies] ERNEST. Ya, I don’t know what that is, or who they may be. Happy One-across!
Bottom line: very much liked the themey bit, was mildly discombobulated by the bulk of the crossword. Welcome.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s write-up
Whew! IMSOGLAD we got this puzzle and not a silly holiday puzzle! I don’t know about you, but I thought today featured an extremely clever gimmick: four pairs of S’s have a SILENTS (silent s) running both ways. It reminds me of another puzzle, I think it was a NY Sun / Fireball that did the same, but with an “é”. It would have been more elegant to have no other voiced S’s elsewhere in the grid, but the pay-off probably wasn’t worth the compromises to the grid that would result: S’s are very useful to glue a crossword together! The answers are:
- 17a, [*Sargent Shriver was its first director], PEACECORPS
- 36, 45a, [ Iowa's most populous city], DES/MOINES. Very nice touch having an example with two silent s’s!
- 37a, [Many Greta Garbo films, and what you'll find at the intersections of four pairs of answers to starred clues], SILENTS
- 60a, [*Aptly named New York region], LONGISLAND
- 8d, [*Rank below earl], VISCOUNT. I have been pronouncing this in the same way as “discount” for my entire life. This puzzle, corroborated by dictionaries, informs me that I am wrong. Feel free to snigger all you want.
- 10d, [*Driving hazard], ROADDEBRIS. I also didn’t know this was a thing, but apparently it is. I would’ve just called it “debris,” or “debris on the road.”
- 26d, [*Theater guide], AISLELIGHT
- 47d, [*We, to Monet], NOUS. I’m pretty sure the everyday English word for common sense has a voiced “S” though.
A big theme! In common with most “big themes” the rest of the puzzle is mostly just there, trying to be as inoffensive as possible. When the big theme is clever and fun like this one though, it works wonderfully!
[Lauderdale neighbor] is a neat way to avoid a FITB clue. 55a, NUTBAR is a [Crunchy snack] as well as a crunchy answer! I’m willing to bet that the second letter of 64a, [Sicilian resort], ENNA will be a T on many people’s grids; it’s an old trap, but a dangerous one!
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “New Year’s Babies” – Dave Sullivan’s review
We start the new year with four personalities (known, at least to me, in widely varying degrees) who were born on 1/1:
- [Spanish-American bandleader once married to Abbe Lane born on 1/1/1900] was XAVIER CUGAT. The only Xavier I am familiar with; but I thought his last name was spelled COUGAT like the animal. Though he’s a bit obscure and passé, how can you not like a theme entry that begins with X?
- [Patriot in the American Revolution known for a midnight ride born on 1/1/1735] clued PAUL REVERE. Was this the one born in Boston or Britain? ;)
- ["The Catcher in the Rye" author born on 1/1/1919] was J.D. SALINGER. J.D. = Jerome David.
- [Mini-Me portrayer in the Austin Powers movies born on 1/1/1969] clued VERNE TROYER. Though I know the character, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen this actor’s name.
À la my comments of yesterday, I’m not a big fan of theme entries that are related by trivia alone, I guess I’m a sucker for wordplay instead. Verne is definitely the outlier in this group, followed closely by Xavier who would be 114 today if he were still alive. It’s hard to believe the constructor didn’t intentionally put in the crossing JEROME for J.D. SALINGER, but he was clued to ["Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" composer Kern] instead. Some nice mid-length fill here: ENVIOUS, LOVINGLY, HOT DATE and UNSWAYED are all good. The Scowl-O-Meter did register an uptick with I SEE A, ETDS, TADAS and the uncommon LGE, which I’ve never seen on a tag for an article of clothing.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Bring in the New Year”
Roman numeral years are inserted into familiar phrases to make plausibly clueable goofy phrases:
- 17a. ["Sleepless in Seattle II: We Need to Get to the Hospital Now"? (Happy New Year to baby Hildegard of Bingen!)] EMERGENCY ROM-COM. That’s MC, or 1100, inserted into “emergency room.” Hildegard was born in 1098.
- 25a. [Thanksgiving? (Happy New Year to President-elect George W. Bush!)], FAT TUMMIES DAY. Fat Tuesday + MMI, or 2001, when Dubya was about to be inaugurated. Also? “Fat Tummies Day” is a terrific theme answer.
- 44a. [Sequel to a 2013 3D film in which Manny Pacquiao spars in space? (Happy New Year to adolescent Jesus!)], GRAVITY BOXING. XI is the year 11, when Jesus was a tween. (Have the words “when Jesus was a tween” ever been writ?) I had to Google to confirm that “gravity bong” is a thing. (It is.)
- 57a. [Off-the-cuff riffs about old-timey clothes-cleaning devices? (Happy New Year to Emperor Justinian I!)]. WASHBOARD AD-LIBS. DLI is 551, and Justinian the Great was the Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. It is not known whether he had washboard abs, as we lack a shirtless image.
Highlights in the fill include DR. RUTH, MASALA, GANJA, KNEE-HIGH, WOE IS ME, X-FILES, and MAGPIE (like many of us, magpies are attracted to shiny things).
- 5a. [Load separate from colors], WHITES. It would be darkly funny if a laundromat had a dedicated Whites Only machine in which it was fine to use tons of bleach, wouldn’t it? (Too soon? I am not condoning Jim Crow, just laundry sorting.)
- 35d. [Up the ying ___] YANG.
- 6d. [Like one who has to manage a large staff?], HUNG. Your lewd clue of the week.
- 39d. [Appeared positively postcoital], GLOWED. [Appeared negatively postcoital] would clue GLOWERED.
- 54d. [Its Egyptian name simply means "river"], NILE. Trivia!
- 58d. [Cry for Argentina, perhaps], OLE. Futbol!
Weak spots: ADIA parked at 1-Across, although at least it’s been updated with an Avril Lavigne citation; RBH (Rutherford B. Hayes’ initials); crosswordese aria ERI TU; var. DJIN.