Adam G. Perl’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
I like this theme. It could have been more mundane, but the author decided to employ a crucial bit of panache.
Marching across the center we have full name LOUISA MAY ALCOTT as revealer. 39a [Author who created the characters named by the starts of 17-, 24-, 49- and 61-Across]. ALCOTT—a cruciverbal staple—is most famously the author of Little Women and that’s the work in question here. A quartet of sisters, some who coincidentally have crossword presence on their own (e.g., BETH, JO as in JO’S BOYS), appear, as advertised, at the starts of the other four theme answers.
- 17a. [Isn't serious] JOKES AROUND (Jo).
- 24a. [Compute memory unit] MEGABYTE (Meg).
- 49a. [Maryland home of the Walter Reed Medical Center] BETHESDA (Beth).
- 61a. [Chemical compound in "poppers"] AMYL NITRATE (Amy).
While in and of themselves these answers may not be particularly exciting, especially the shorter pair, it’s in the treatment of the hidden theme names that they shine. They’re partials, unrelated to the overall meaning of the containing words. I believe it’s true for all of them, though I don’t know the ultimate etymology of Bethesda, (from the Presbyterian Bethesda Meeting House) which, as it was a religious institution might trace back to Hebrew, as does Elizabeth.
In any case, there’s certainly no immediate and close connection between the names and words, and that makes for a much more impressive presentation.
A quartet of long vertical non-theme entries flank the grid in pairs. Each in the 10-letter pair cross two theme answers, and the those in the 11-letter pair link three themers each. That’s a whole lot of interconnectedness. The Everly Brothers’ “BYE BYE LOVE“, a film’s SOUNDTRACK (though one could pedantically quibble over the clue), AMALGAMATED unions (see also 27d ACLU), and NESTING SITE are all solid fill.
What else? DID IN at 1-across is not a particularly charming way to greet solvers, and the quasi-redundant ALL IN—which I prefer as fill—at the bottom in this case serves as reminder to the awkward start. Oh, did I mention the partial “put IT IN writing”? That, too. Crosswordese ORONO, Maine and writer ADELA Rogers St. Johns are unwelcome in an early-week offering. Roman numeral CMVI crossing French abbr. MME also a bit clunky.
On the sunnier side, I really liked the redolent, resplendent, recitative 49d [Bit of grass] BLADE and 6a [Parsley bit] SPRIG. All right, that’s overselling it, but I’m trying to counter the negativity of the preceding paragraph.
Ultimately this crossword is weighed down by a few too many inelegances, perhaps borne of overambitiousness, which prevent the very good theme from bringing it to soaring heights. So, good puzzle.
Melanie Miller’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Smooth zipthrough on this one. 40-across lays it out: [Continue with the fun, and a hint to each part of the answers to starred clues] PARTY ON. In other words, you can add PARTY to the constituents.
- 20a. [*Powerful stratum of society] RULING CLASS (ruling party, class party).
- 58a. [*When brandy may be served] AFTER DINNER (after-party, dinner party).
- 11d. [*Picturesque spot for for a warm drink] TEA GARDEN (tea party, garden party).
- 35d. [*Place for changing out of a wet suit] POOL HOUSE (pool party, house party).
There simply weren’t any slow spots in this well-integrated grid. The longest non-theme answers were excellent: THESPIAN, PITFALLS. SAT HOME for [Didn't go out] wasn’t thrilling, and I first tried the equally flat (but too long) STAYED IN. Some angular K action with KODIAKS and KILOTON.
Least favorite fill: 17a [Teensy bit] A TAD; 36a [Bard's nightfall] E’EN (not to mention the clue needlessly echoing PITFALLS).
Decent crossword, typical Monday fare.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “I’ve Got You Covered” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Reading the title, I thought perhaps the letter U (homophone of You) would be replaced or “covered” in some way. Instead, we are treated to four theme phrases where the letters HMO can be found spanning the two words.
- The question mark of [Hair on a bald cypress?] had me thinking that my letter substitution theme would produce wacky phrases, but actually it’s just a pun on the word “bald,” or SPANISH MOSS – a beautiful sight on southern trees, but I sometimes worry that they’re hurting the trees in some way by taking moisture away from them.
- Another question-marked clue still had me on the letter substitution idea, [Low-cost lodging for travel bugs?] was a ROACH MOTEL – I’m guessing the clue is playing of “bugs” being someone who is bugged or obsessed by something?
- Sticking with question-marked clues, we have next [Meal-y moolah?] was LUNCH MONEY – here the pun is on “mealy.”
- Yep, the final one also has a question mark, [Poor example?] clued CHURCH MOUSE – this one plays off the idiom “poor as a church mouse.”
I’m used to having trouble with the fill in puzzles by this constructor, but assuming wordplay was going on in the themes made this one that much harder. A couple of head-scratchers included the entry JOHN STEED, whom I had to look up as a character in The Avengers. Also, even as a beekeeper, I’ve not heard of AHUM referring to [Buzzing], although it makes sense in retrospect. My FAVE clue of the bunch was probably [Jack in the bottle] (as opposed to “box”), referring to Jack DANIELS. So did this one take you to the cleaners as well, or did you find it about average difficulty for this constructor?