Douglas Taillon’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Notice how the black squares in the center of the grid resemble the numeral 2 within a frame? Oh, that’s eminently intentional.
- 16a. [High-stakes wager] DOUBLE OR NOTHING.
- 59a. [Boeing 767, for one] TWIN-ENGINE PLANE.
- 13d. [More, at a meal] SECOND HELPING.
- 14d. [Someone who's so nice you almost want to smack him] GOODY TWO-SHOES.
But wait! That isn’t all! At either side of the first and last rows we have four-letter entries joining in the fun:
- 1a. [Couple] PAIR.
- 8d [Having a couple of elements] DUAL. Speaking of elements, mildly intriguing that the crossing 10d AT NO eschews the now-common crosswordese of atomic number sense for the fill-in-the-blank ["… __ cost to you!"].
- 66a. [Couple] DYAD.
- And last but not least, a two-part entry: 68a [One of a couple for the Roman god 28-Across] FACE. 28-across is, of course, JANUS, who among other things looked back on the old year and forward to the new one. See also: 12a [ __ Domini] ANNO, 34d [Future's opposite] PAST.
Enough conscious coupling for you? That’s all quite a lot of theme content. The central graphic element necessitates a two-across-and-two-down approach for the long themers (which intersect doubly). This is fortuitous, as it serves to inject greater vitality into a grid that might have groaned under the weight of two 15s and two 13s, aside from the other thematic material. Even the mid-length material is fairly strong: ANARCHY and SWOONED in the eighth row, and some sturdy six-letter answers sprinkled in where feasible.
- Since it’s me, a taxonomy observation is practically mandatory. I offer this: 64a [Canis, for dogs] GENUS. True, but incomplete, unless “dogs” is taken to mean “primarily domestic dogs.” Systematically speaking, the dog family is comprised of 12 extant genera.
- Not-really-bonus-theme-material: 39d [Split with an ax] CLEAVE. 35a [Female deer] DOE. 43a [One minus one] ZERO. 45a [One of a couple in a 767] AISLE (such unexpected but welcome playfulness in a Monday, dipping wings to both the theme and a particular theme clue!). 48a ["You are so-o-o funny"] HA HA (nb: clue is unrelated to 20a SOO Canals, which is not Monday-appropriate).
- Also probably not desired Monday fare: 58d [First Arabic letter] ALIF, 49d [Jordanian port] AQABA, 46d [Northern Scandinavian] LAPP, 2d [Actress Aimée] ANOUK. 31d APER and 51d MEESE aren’t so hot either. None of these of course are awful, just a little outside the zone, but completely acceptable in light of the crossword’s abundant virtues.
- 19a RUSTIC as a noun, 50d RUNIC unavoidably as an adjective.
- 42d RAH!
Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
A very Mondayish theme. Merely two-word phrases with the initials CF.
- 17a. [Takeout option] CHINESE FOOD.
- 27a. [Subject for a meteorologist] CLOUD FORMATION.
- 37a. [Look after] CARE FOR.
- 47a. [Bill Gates or Paul Allen, vis-à-vis Microsoft] COMPANY FOUNDER.
- 62a. [Summoned up] CALLED FORTH.
Well … oh wait! … there’s a revealer, and the theme is more expansive than I’d recognized. 68-across is [Exec. moneyman, and a hint to 17-, 27-, 37-, 47- and 62-Across] CFO, which is chief financial officer. Which means that the theme answers are C* FO*.
You know what else is in this grid? A lot of junky and/or non-Monday crosswordese. AS OF, GTE, AMIE, “NO I won’t be afraid”, REYS, Chicken À LA King, FLA., OATERS, ONE OF a kind, IDA. (and IDAHOAN?!), ERS, ISR., ESOS, shed A TEAR, LA RAM, plurals-plurals-plurals! and more. Too much.
Ostensibly hewing to Monday level in other aspects, the cluing is simple and not interesting, which does it no favors considering its other shortcomings.
A crossword that tried too hard, made too many compromises, was unpleasant to solve.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
This puzzle felt pulled in two directions to me. One angle was the “hey, that’s a cool entry” but the other (lesser) angle was “bleh, really?” The cool stuff was rampant, mind you: 8a. [First nation to have an openly gay leader] cluing ICELAND; tricky 15a. [Coast, e.g.] for BAR SOAP; TEXAS TWO-STEP; “OH, STOP”; SNAPS BACK; mathy SQUARE MATRIX; casual SKEETER and SNOOZES; HAN SOLO clued with 42d. [Sci-fi character who said, "Never tell me the odds"]; sporty/newish LOW POST (newish to me, anyway, and likely rather new to crosswords as well); OXYGEN BAR; and OPEN MIKE.
Never heard of BJ’s (regional?), so getting COSTCO (9d. [BJ's competitor]) meant working the crossings.
Three “I” sentences (I BET, I MUST, I SEE) were too much. Crosswordese ETAPE, the letters ENS, and Latin ORA palled. And while “a rollicking good time” is familiar language, the dictionary labels the verb ROLLICK as “rare.” I reckon this is the first time I’ve ever encountered the ing-less version of the word, in fact. I will grant you that the good stuff far outnumbers the blah stuff, but the crosswordese-type fill truly does distract me with negative thoughts while I’m solving. I used to just fill in the words and move on, but they bug me more now.
Sarah Keller’s Washington Post/CrosSynergy crossword, “All Eyes”
I feel like “all ears” is more familiar than “all eyes,” but today’s theme is five nouns that can all be clued [Eye]: SIGHT ORGAN, CBS LOGO, NEEDLE HOLE, POTATO BUD, and CUT OF BEEF. Sort of a clue/entry reversal theme, as the theme answers are generally the sorts of phrases that you’d expect to see in clues for EYE rather than vice versa. That’s a theme type that I don’t much care for; it’s right down there with quote themes.
Top fill: Deepak CHOPRA, EARSHOT, SCHNOOK.
Old fill, crosswordese-type stuff, foreign vocabulary, old names, and whatnot: APACE, OSAS, AAU, UNO, ABRAM, ELIHU, TECS, IOLE, RINSO, MOUE, THOLE, EELED. Would have been more fun to solve with fewer of these puppies in the grid.
2.75 stars from me. Adesina is in Nashville covering the NCAA women’s basketball extravaganza, but he’ll be here to share his thoughts on the puzzles before you know it!