Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Got MLK? This puzzle sure does. Timed for the federal holiday, the third Monday of the month, though the actual date of his birth is the 15th (way back on Wednesday).
- 38a. [Annual Jan. honoree] MLK, JR. That’s Martin Luther King, Jr. (18 letters).
- 17a. [Site of a 1963 speech by 38-Across] LINCOLN MEMORIAL.
- 30a. [Cause associated with 38-Across] CIVIL RIGHTS.
- 49a. [Repeated phrase in 38-Across's speech at the 17-Across] I HAVE A DREAM.
- 65a. [Famous closing words of the 49-Across speech] WE ARE FREE AT LAST.
Despite the ostensible cohesion of these main entries, centering on the famous speech delivered 50 years ago this past August, the theme still has a bit of a grab-bag feel to me. Especially with that rarely-seen version of his monogram + generational suffix.
The other thought I had, in fact the main one, while solving is that there is too much fill that seems out of the Monday 59d [Zone] AREA. Frans HALS at 1d was a gimme for me, but might be a bit daunting, especially early in the grid. 16a [Samoa's capital] APIA, 12d [Luxury watch brand] PIAGET (though their products are advertised quite a bit in the New York Times), 46a [Long narrative poem] EPOS, 68a ["Rule, Brittania" composer Thomas] ARNE, perhaps even 22a [George Eliot's "Adam __"] BEDE.
Appreciated the theme-sympathetic vibe of the answer to 29d [Get off the fence?] TAKE A STAND, though its symmetrical PAIRING(S) (21a) of UP IN THE AIR [Still undecided] (11d) strikes a depressingly cynical tone in that perceived context.
- Actresses ZOE Saldana and NIA Long.
- Clue with cleverness apt to be missed: 60d [College adviser] is a DEAN, who sort of advises the entire college.
- Not so thrilled about both IRANI and OMANI in the same grid, even if their locations are symmetrical. Even though it isn’t a particularly unusual demonymic suffix, it somehow has a whiff of gimmick to it.
- 61a [New arrangement of tracks on a recording] REMIX. Was going to decry this clue on the grounds of seeming as if it wants “sequencing” (nb: not electronic music sequencing), as in the arrangement of the songs on a recording such as a record, or album. But as I was writing, I realized that it must refer to the constituent recorded tracks (e.g., vocals, bass, keyboards, et cetera) for a particular song (or track, if you will). In this light, I deem the clue to be unintentionally ambiguous, but by definition not in a clever or playful manner; as such it’s far too tricky for a Monday offering.
- Did not know MIKA Brzezinski of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, but it was simple enough to get from the crossings.
As per most Mondays, nothing remarkably spiffy or zingy enough to get really KEEN (34a) over, so basically an average puzzle here.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “I Got You Babe” – Dave Sullivan’s review
This song is the inspiration for Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy puzzle today; the “babe” in this case is the singer CHER added to five theme phrases to comic effect:
- [Freeloading barnyard beast?] was a MOOCHER COW – when this fell, I was thinking the theme might be made-up phrases that begin with the sound the animal at the end of the phrase makes. NEIGHBORLY HORSE, anyone? Instead, it’s the singer inside the baby-talk “moo-cow.”
- [Putting pro] clued GREEN TEACHER – I would think “greens” sounds a bit more natural for what a putting pro is teaching–perhaps a reference to Sesame Street’s Kermit the Frog might’ve worked better as a clue? “Green tea” is the base phrase here.
- [Vessel passed around for the bar band] was a THE MONEY PITCHER – “The Money Pit” is a movie starring Tom Hanks I think.
- [Heated battle between rival linen services?] clued STARCHER WARS – I like the reference to “heated” in the clue as “starchers” are likely heating the linens they are ironing. Another movie, “Star Wars,” was the base phrase here.
- [Duncan executive who really gets things done?] clued YO-YO MACHER – I had to look up what a macher is, as I’m far from fluent in Yiddish. Duncan is a manufacturer of yo-yos; I was thinking of cake frosting at first. Yo-Yo Ma is a famous cellist.
Very fun theme nicely played. Five theme entries is a lot to pack into a puzzle, and I thought Tony did a nice job of not making that obvious with the fill. I enjoyed particularly the clue [A pop] repeated twice in a row, both for PER and EACH. DAUNT for [Dishearten] is another unusual find, which also heartened me. The long CATCH A SHOW and FLEA MARKET are spiffy as well. My only knock is on the word SICKO, clued as [Nutcase], which feels like it belongs in a less informed, more judgmental era to me. Perhaps I’m a bit sensitive since I skied yesterday at Sugarbush and saw the great work that Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports was doing, introducing the sport to the mentally and physically handicapped. Keep up the great work!
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Brendan cleverly planted his #1 fresh entry/funny clue right at 1-Across: 1a. [Signal that one's eggs are done?], HOT FLASH. I don’t know about you, but I tend to be cold. This menopause business sounds awesome. Bring it on.
Runner-up in the “A Newspaper Crossword Would Be Afraid to Use This” sweepstakes: 32a. ["Did I do the job?"], “WAS IT GOOD FOR YOU?”
Other bright spots:
- 56a. [They let you talk over music], VOCODERS. I don’t really know what those things are. Someone will surely explain this to me?
- 8d. [Pertaining to the straight and narrow world?], HETERONORMATIVE.
- 11d. [Wood used in cabinetry], MAHOGANY. Also a Diana Ross movie in the ’70s with a hit song from the soundtrack, ”Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To).” The “To” is grammatically unnecessary, but it’s there for the rhyme: “Do you know where you’re going to? / Do you like the things that life is showin’ you?”
- 13d. [Dessert made with mascarpone], TIRAMISU. You don’t often get a U in the last square of crossing entries.
- 32d. [Sad horn sound, in memes], WOMP WOMP. Roughly equivalent to “sad trombone.”
- 34d. [For The Love of Beer beer], SAM ADAMS.
- 35d. [Enormous book, so to speak], DOORSTOP. Good clue.
- 46a. [Pigeon english], COOS. Deliberately not “pidgin.”
- 31d. [Clinton's group, for short], P-FUNK. Not Bill, not Hillary, but George of Parliament Funkadelic.
Didn’t know the songs “SCENARIO” or “I’M ONE.” Was also mentally appending the tele- prefix to “evangelist” in this clue: 44a. [Evangelist whose symbol is a winged lion]. It’s ST. MARK of the New Testament and not a TV proselytizer.
Four stars from me.
Matt Skoczen’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
• OYEZ! OYEZ! [Bailiff's repeated cry]
• [Got to one's feet] ROSE. “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” (from “Sacred Emily,” Gertrude Stein, 1912). (1a, 68a)
Rhetorical repetitions are the order of the day in the theme answers. First things first; the run-down:
- 17a. [Gradually and steadily] STEP BY STEP.
- 26a. [Like a private tutoring session] ONE-ON-ONE.
- 39a. [Back up talk with action] WALK THE WALK.
- 52a. [Considering everything] ALL IN ALL.
- 64a. [In person] FACE TO FACE.
I’m not sure how to label this type of locution. Perhaps diacope is the most appropriate, but this would be a restricted subcategory, with only a single connecting word between the repeated single word. Many sources indicate diacope is simply a synonym for tmesis, but Wikipedia and others say otherwise. There are quite a number of these out there in the wild, so I’m a bit disappointed vis-à-vis consistency and imbalance that 26a and 64a occupy the same conceptual space, as does crossword partial fodder tête-à-tête. 39-across qualifies as what William Safire called a tautophrase.
Just imagine I’ve linked to, oh, a few thousand songs with titles and/or lyrics like these, in this paragraph … Oh, what the hell, I’ll put one in. Let’s let bygones be bygones.
The longish fill are not verticals but acrosses, and stack significantly with one or more theme answers. BRETHREN, LAMP OIL, RESTORE, OBLIVION. It adds strength to the grid, brick by brick.
By the by, here are a few more notes, though they in no way constitute a complete blow-by-blow of the crossword:
- 23a [2000s White House nickname] DUBYA; 31d ["W" on a light bulb] WATT.
- Not Preferred Monday Fill: OTOE, TYPEE, PART I, MHO, SRTA.
- Bedfellows: AVAST above SALTY; SABERS alongside CLAMOR (alas, RATTLE wouldn’t work). (5a & 15a, 46d & 47d)
All in all, not the usual type of theme we see week after week, and while not an out-and-out home run, pound for pound it could go mano a mano with most Mondays.