Michael Hawkins’ New York Times crossword
Phrases with telephone connections are the name of the game:
- 18a. [Sound familiar], RING A BELL.
- 24a. ["Stop being such a pompous jerk!"], “DIAL IT DOWN!”
- 40a. ["Will you please hurry?"], “WHAT IS THE HANG-UP?” I disagree that “hang-up” is the same as “hold-up.” A hold-up is a delay. A hang-up is a personal problem.
- 52a. [Extremely cool, in slang], OFF THE HOOK. Would have been better to clue this with the “you don’t have to do it after all” sense, as my teen son informs me that nobody says “off the hook” in that slangy sense. Outdated.
- 61a. [Do a job with minimal effort], PHONE IT IN.
All right, so the theme 20% broken and 20% poorly clued, if you ask me. The other 60% is fine.
Do you see the hidden “so” in the top row?
Good gravy, is there ever some non-Monday fill in this Monday puzzle. 29a. [Russian city on the Ural], ORSK? I filled in OMSK, another Russian city that appears in crosswords about eight times more often than ORSK. Omsk is 4+ times the size of Orsk, but it’s in Siberia rather than straddling the Ural. Neither city is one that the average American will have heard of for any reason. EGAD, UNES, HIE, Lao-TZU, the SAGO palm, and perhaps ex-senator Jon KYL (currently working as a lobbyist, go figure) are also on my “Really? In a Monday puzzle?” list.
I was also taken aback by NYAH ([When repeated, a child's taunt])—but would you believe that’s a dictionary entry, with that exact spelling? The Oxford-branded dictionaries have it, though Merriam-Webster and American Heritage are silent on it. Have not pulled a giant unabridged dictionary out of the cabinet to check there. This answer, too, feels out of place in the crossword.
SYMBIOSIS, TATER TOTS, quaint ol’ DAPPER DAN, and COLOSSEUM are lovely to see, and the ICE BRIDGE was educational (11d. [Frozen structure that facilitates animal migration]). I don’t know how much a newbie solver will appreciate the long fill when there are those aforementioned trade-offs in the short range.
Speaking of COLOSSEUM: Someone please explain to me how it came to pass that both coliseum and colosseum are valid spellings for the same thing. If the “i” spelling is an alteration from the Latin “o” word, why did both spellings survive the centuries? I find this highly annoying, and I’m quite certain that some of you feel the same. Finally I have been able to unburden myself.
2.75 stars from me. Theme and fill problems make a deadly combination.
Kevin Christian’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme is strictly above the shoulders today:
- 20a. [Local area], NECK OF THE WOODS.
- 26a. [Hangover cure, so they say], HAIR OF THE DOG.
- 43a. [Way things are legally viewed], EYES OF THE LAW.
- 52a. [Valedictorian], HEAD OF THE CLASS.
All used non-literally in the theme phrases, all having the high-up body part as the first word. Good thematic consistency there. There’s no particular logical order that the parts should appear in, so while the order feels a little random, I don’t think another order would make more sense. Good Monday theme.
The fill is mostly good, with a Duke BLUE DEVIL, metaphorical HOT WATER, and a LOADED GUN raising the bar. There were perhaps a few more abbreviations (SRO, P.O. BOX with the unsightly clue [Mail dely. compartment], GSA, GOVT, ELEC) than are ideal for an easy puzzle, plus the quasi-crosswordese answers OLEO, OBIE, and OTOE. But the Roman numeral VIII is fine (anything found on a clock, I to XII, is easy), and it matches the only foreign word (OCHO—French and Spanish numbers up to 10 are generally fair game too).
Four stars. Not particularly exciting, no, but that’s not what Monday puzzles are about. Simple but not painfully obvious theme, solid fill? That’ll do.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
TypePad, Brendan’s blog platform, had a huge outage a few weeks ago, and it’s misbehaving again. Anyone have a recommendation for a blogging client that hosts HTML5 and allows posting of .puz files that are downloaded locally? It’s been quite a while (knock on wood!) since WordPress, my blogging platform, has had issues, but it’s horrid to rely on something that doesn’t always work. We all want uninterrupted access to our BEQ creations! #savetheBEQpuzzleblog
Moving on: Brendan goes the triple-stack route this week, and treats us to some nifty 15s:
- 1a. [Sharing of a cause among one's followers, in modern-day slang], HASHTAG ACTIVISM. See end of paragraph 1 for an example.
- 68a. [Broadway character who sings "Stars"], INSPECTOR JAVERT. Bad man.
- 69a. [Does it all], GOES THE DISTANCE.
Now, the downside of stacked 15s is that the short crossings typically involve some compromise. The not-overly-familiar names INES and ALEN are probably the worst here, but in a themeless that generally runs at about Saturday NYT difficulty, these are not beyond the pale. No tortured abbreviations or woeful obscurities to contend with.
We learned from Joon’s MGWCC post last week that two African countries have the same capital city name, but in two languages. Sierra Leone has Freetown, and GABON is [Libreville's nation]. Geotrivia!
Five more things:
- 36a. [Cassoulet de Toulousain restaurant] clues BRASSERIE, which comes from the French for “brewery.” So don’t order wine the next time you dine at a brasserie.
- 45a. [Bestseller that nobody reads], AUDIOBOOK. Great clue!
- 11d. ["Rocky IV" villain], IVAN DRAGO. In case you wondered if DRAGO was a cognate with Draco and dragon, I don’t think it is. Seems to relate to the Slavic for “precious” or “dear.”
- 35d. [Parliament output], SMOKE. I wanted ASH(ES), dang it.
- 46d. [Flaky pastry topped with syrup and nuts], BAKLAVA. Was picturing maple syrup and drawing a blank. Does baklava always have honey, or are there various syrup options?
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Sound and the Furry”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning/afternoon, and welcome to the new week!
The mice aren’t playing right now because the cats are definitely not away, especially in this puzzle offering from Mr. Patrick Jordan. The long theme answers, two across and two down, have sounds usually made by cats hidden in them. Four others clues make reference to the embedded sounds and having to fill them in the grid, standing alone.
- SPURRED ON: (17A: [Incentivized])- Hidden sound: PURR (47A: [Cat sound found in the answer at 17-Across])
- WOODSY OWL: (63A: [Forest Service mascot])- Hidden sound: YOWL (28A: [Cat sound found in the answer at 63-Across])
- HOMEOWNERS: (10D: [They have deeds to dwellings])- Hidden sound: MEOW (13D: [Cat sound found in the answer at 10-Down])
- THIS SIDE UP: (27A: [Phrase on some shipping crates])- Hidden sound: HISS (54D: [Cat sound found in the answer at 27-Down])
This was a smooth puzzle with no real wow factor in terms of fill. There are a couple of uncles featured in the cluing, with WANT (1A: [Verb on a classic Uncle Sam poster]) and REMUS (31D: [Uncle who spins Brer Rabbit’s tales]). There’s also a couple of words ending in “ly,” and they so happen to almost abut each other: UNDULY (6D: [Excessively]) and RICHLY (34A: [In an ample way]). With it being the morning here (at the time I’m typing this), it’s a perfect time for an OMELETTE (57A: [Brunch option, on many menus]). Also, if something that’s out of control is “cray, cray” in current slang (short for crazy), can a dock that’s also out of control be “quay QUAY” (5A: [Waterfront structure])? Again, a easy Monday stroll this puzzle was.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TERI (4D: [2005 Golden Globe honoree Hatcher]) and HOWIE (16A: [Mandel of “America’s Got Talent”])- This is somewhat of a stretch, but remember when Teri Hatcher and Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Howie Long starred in a series of commercials for Radio Shack in the mid 1990s? If not, here’s an example:
See you all tomorrow!