Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Just a sober, stolid Monday here, with a tight theme and a good revealer.
- 58a. [Everybody … or part of the contents of 18-, 25-, 36- and 50-Across] ONE AND ALL. And that just what’s going on—each of those answers contain the sequence O-N-E and then A-L-L.
- 18a. [An operator may help place one] PHONE CALL. Uh-oh, “one” in the clue.
- 25a. [Wine-producing area of SE France] RHÔNE VALLEY.
- 36a. [Flown into a rage] GONE BALLISTIC, which sounds much less natural than GO or GOES, or more dependent, at least; in the present perfect tense it’s really crying out for a subject. Also, bit of a clue-dupe with 3d FLEW SOLO.
- 50a. [Refused to cooperate] STONEWALLED.
There they are, all together. They’re all yawners, no? And with little zip in the ballast fill or clues, the supporting cast does little to enliven the solving experience. It’s simply a well-constructed early week offering with little to be faulted but also little to be lauded. In other words, an unintimidating puzzle perfect for novice solvers but jejune for those of even moderate experience.
Low CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials); lots of Ls, obviously and by necessity; niftiest bit is probably 48a FAMINE crossing IRISH in 39d IRISH SEA. Otherwise: dry, drier, driest.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “It’s Outstanding!” – Dave Sullivan’s review
A quip that plays on a literal meaning of the word “delight” in a note from your power company.
- WE’LL BE DELIGHTED
- WHEN YOU MAKE YOUR
- PAYMENT, BUT IF YOU
- FAIL TO, YOU WILL BE
Funny, I first parsed the beginning as an imperative: “Well, be delighted when…” so the quip didn’t make a heck of a lot of sense to me at first. Then I wondered if I was missing something at the end, i.e., “you will be” what? Now, I’m getting the we-you opposition and how “de-light” is taken to mean “take away lights from” at the end of the quip (and is implied). Again, we have trademark Bob Klahn cluing, such as the one-two punch of ["In the ___" (1990 Nixon memoir)] for ARENA juxtaposed to [1972 pact signed by Nixon and Brezhnev] for SALT I. Hands up if you, like me, plopped in AWES and then WOWS for [Blows away], when it ended up being the much more sinister OFFS. FAVE award to the entry TIME WAS for ["Used to be..."], but I’m less fond of the phrase LAYS FOR, clued as [Waits to attack] which sounds incomplete as a phrase. (I would say “lays in wait for,” or maybe “lies” if I’m particularly confused whether the protagonist is lying or laying.)
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
I had SCREW CAPS instead of SCREW TOPS at 1-Across, and figured that I just had never heard of 6d. ["A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" screenwriter Slessinger], CESS (it’s not like I’d heard of TESS Slessinger either). And 7d. [Classical?], ALD? Thought it was just weird, but I don’t think ALD is a word the way auld and OLD are. D’oh.
Top fill includes COACHELLA, LADYFINGER, DATA BREACH, SI FOR KIDS, VAMOOSE, I TOLD YA, LE CARRE, FANZINE, SAY HEY, BONE AGE, FTW (“for the win”), and DREIDEL. What is that, 11 answers I liked, plus the SCREW TOPS? Good stuff. Nice to have more than a handful of answers that rise above the chaff.
—Shoot, I got sidetracked by some work and forgot I was mid-post here.
Fave clue: 16a. [Embarrassing show turnout], NO ONE. Thanks to that local Crossword Fiend reader who showed up for the Barnes & Noble puzzle night I was asked to host last year—because while ONE is also an embarrassing turnout, NO ONE is worse.
3.9 stars from me.
Jeff Stillman’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
With all the attendant stir, ado, brouhaha for the NYT puzzle write-up, I forgot that I’m responsible for the LAT today too! And now I’m going to do something questionable—use this write-up to make an explicit comparison between the two crosswords. I apologize in advance to the constructor, as it’s a slight of sorts.
The theme is very simple, and so obvious it doesn’t even need to be elucidated in-puzzle: phrases—two words each—for which the latter component is a synonym for “selection.”
- 20a. [Noncash executive compensation] STOCK OPTION.
- 27a. [Close boxing match outcome] SPLIT DECISION.
- 50a. [Folgers competitor] TASTER’S CHOICE.
- 58a. [Randomly determined NBA draft choice] LOTTERY PICK.
Just four theme answers, versus five (including a revealer) in the NYT. The breakdown of lengths is
LAT : 2 × 11, 2 × 13 (mean 12, median 12);
NYT : 2 × 9, 2 × 11, 1 × 13 (mean 10.6, median 11). Noticeable differences, and subconsciously visceral. Of course, size isn’t everything, but we as solvers tend to be impressed with, or at least have our opinions influenced by, length.
Disconcerting that two—that is, half—of them are about sports, which creates a discernible imbalance. Seems that it would have been possible to clue either SPLIT DECISION or LOTTERY PICK in a non-sportsian context. Failing that, how about replacing an answer altogether: e.g., COURT DECISION, JOINT DECISION, FINAL DECISION.
The long veticals aren’t so exciting—CINCINNATI and LEGITIMATE either in form or letter content. The sea of the grid is rife with choppiness; just look at those scattered whitecaps! Crosswordese! N-TEST, UKES. Abbrevs. ahoy! THD, INST. Partials galore! RAMA-Lama-Ding-Dong, Santa ANA, O’ER the fields, bok CHOY. Plus OH-SO, A BIT, AS AM I. And more whence those.
Strange clue: 5d [Teardrop-shaped nutlike sacs] for ALMONDS. What the hell is this? Now, almond can refer to the familiar nut, its surrounding fruit, and the tree itself. Though a nut is inandofitself nutlike, it is not a sac. Nor is the fleshy fruit encasing it. Is there some other, non-botanical thing called an almond? Not that I know of, anyway. Whether it’s some obscure object or a flat-out bizarre clue, it seems a wildly aberrant item for a Monday puzzle. Puzzling indeed! Further information: amygdalē/amygdala is the Greek/Latin root of the word, and is the name for the limbic structures in the brain, presumably for their shape.
Annoying clue: 73a [Dumbo's wings] EARS. Desperately would have appreciated seeing wings in quotation marks here. See also, 19a [Addition to a school, say] ANNEX.
Favorite clue: 67a [Overflow with, as charm] OOZE. I can’t recall a single clue from today’s NYT that was as interesting as this.
Appreciated: The perhaps accidental, or simply fortunate, placement of [Gadget used on an apple] CORER vertically in the center of the grid. Additionally, a subtle misdirectional aspect, as IMAC [PC alternative is nearby at 36-down. Also enjoyed the Scrabbliness in the southeast corner—OOZE, CZAR, KEGS, SWAG—which does not seem at all gratuitous or compromising.
In sum, a problematic and objectively inferior puzzle to the NYT in both theme and fill, but the cluing was far more eccentric and engaging, and I actually enjoyed solving this crossword more than the other one.