Tom McCoy’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Nicely placed revealer, dead set in the center: 37a [Classical musical group … or what the four sets of circled letters make up?] is not a specific group such as the New York Philharmonic or Chanticleer or the Dufay Collective, but a more generalized term, STRING QUARTET. Such as the Kronos Quartet or the Emerson Quartet.
The traditional makeup is two violins, a viola, and a cello, but those aren’t to be found in the circled squares. No, the puzzle takes a different tack, ostensibly naming less rarefied types of strings, rather than string(ed instrument)s.
- 17a. [Chance of an impossibility] ZERO PERCENT.
- 30a.[Nickelodeon show whose protagonist has a football-shaped head] HEY ARNOLD.
- 44a. [For even a second more] ANY LONGER.
- 59a. [Component of a language class, informally] VOCAB LESSON. Didn’t read the end of the clue, was thus mystified for some time trying to complete VOCABLE x.
So which of these things is not like the other? Rope, yarn, nylon, cable. Indeed, nylon is a constituent material of many kinds of strings but does not describe a type of string. In fact, there are nylon ropes, nylon yarns, and nylon cables, which is sort of interesting inandofitself, but not relevant to the theme here. I’ve confirmed with both m-w.com and Wikipedia that there isn’t any recondite sense I’m unaware of—the only sense of ‘nylon’ not describing the polymer itself that is also not a proper noun (such as the magazine, various musical groups (ironically), and a curious portmanteau) is that of hosiery: stockings, pantyhose, and tights.
This is quite an unfortunate snag for the puzzle.
It may even be considered a stretch to consider cable to be something as thin as what we usually think of a string, but there’s enough slack in the definition of string to encompass cable. Not a big issue. Interesting (and sinister?) trivia at 19-across, [666, for the numbers on a roulette wheel] SUM. Unexpected, but welcome, in a Monday puzzle. More playfulness with 49d [Kidman who is neither a kid nor a man] NICOLE.
- Double-stacked eights vertically in the northeast and southwest; triple-stacked sixes in the complementary corners. Speaking of VOCAB LESSONs, 37d [Grew old] SENESCED seems as if it might be beyond the ken of casual early-week solvers. Perhaps also ADÉLIE penguins.
- 41a [Yank] JERK. No politics here, I assume.
- New-to-me term: 38d [Those who put a lot of effort into social climbing, in modern lingo] TRY-HARDS, presumably punning on die-hards.
In general, okay puzzle without much junk and a few welcome surprises but GUILTY (27a [Innocent's opposite]) of possessing a fatal flaw, unravelling the theme in a serious way.
D. Scott Nichols and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Tidy Monday-appropriate theme. Revealer in the typical location, last long across entry. 58a [Friendly greeting, and a hint to the starts of 17-, 25- and 47-Across] HELLO THERE. As you can surmise, the first words of those theme entries follow the word HELLO in other phrases.
- 17a. [Nautically themed boy's outfit] SAILOR SUIT.
- 25a. ["9 to 5" singer] DOLLY PARTON.
- 47a. [Filler for Tabby's box] KITTY LITTER.
That’s it. Three solid themers plus a good revealer. A handful of longish answers, no pangramatic ambitions, no(t too much) non-Monday fill. (I’m looking at you, ELIA aka Charles Lamb, and of course always an askance glare for you, ESAI Morales, but that’s a more personal peeve. EERO? You I like.)
- 9d [Refuses to make changes] SITS PAT. The version with “stand” is more natural in my lexicon, and Google Ngram supports that notion.
- One mis-fill: SCARCE before the more accurate SPARSE at 22a [Thinly distributed].
- 33a. [Green __, Wisc.] BAY. Why the abbrev.? Makes it trickier than it should be, early-week.
- More Ngram hijinks. 36a [Overplay on stage] HAM UP. Versus HAM IT UP. >cough<
- 54a [Pre-riot state] UNREST. Slightly awkward but effectively evocative clue.
- 1d [Stun gun kin] TASER, 63a [Eye surgery tool] LASER.
- 42d ["It's ___ and a bag of chips"] ALL THAT seems a bit passé if not moldy. Why not a fill-in-the-blank with Robert Graves’ memoir? Better than Charles Lamb, right?
Good Monday offering.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Bird Songs”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning everybody!
Today’s crossword, authored by Mr. Tony Orbach, is one that’s for the birds…literally. In it, famous song titles are altered by replacing one of the words with a similar-sounding one that also happens to be a type of bird.
- AGAINST OWL ODDS: (20A: [Song about a big-eyed bird's unlikely triumphs?]) – From “Against All Odds,” a.k.a. The Tootsie Pop owl, Mr. Owl, that sounds like Phil Collins.
- CALIFORNIA GULLS: (41A: Song about some West Coast beach birds?]) – From “California Girls,” a.k.a. Chekhov’s sequel to The Seagull.
- A TANAGER IN LOVE: (57A: [Song about a scarlet bird with a crush?]) – From “A Teenager in Love.” Nope, have no witty remarks i involving tanagers. Sorry…
This theme was SAGELY put together, and a fun one to solve (47A: [In a wise way]). The symmetrical clues of PIRATE FLAG (3D: [Jolly Roger]) and GOLDILOCKS (32D: [Human in a tale of anthropomorphic bears]) were fun to look at. How about this idea: Goldilocks and the Three Pirates?!?! Someone make that happen! Here and there, I’ll find myself watching the Turner Classic Movies channel (TCM) hours at a time, and finally saw the FILM NOIR classic Double Indemnity (42D: ["Double Indemnity" or "The Big Sleep"]). Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck) is so alluringly evil! Need to catch The Big Sleep soon now that I’m reading this, and hoping that someone out there who has watched that movie can tell me how good (or not so good) it is! As I’ve said before, when it comes to spaghetti sauce, I’m loyal to Francesco Rinaldi, so that means “no” to PREGO (64A: [Pasta sauce brand]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SNL (38D: ["Weekend Update" show, for short]) and JOE (25A: [Java])- One of the funniest skits, or at least one of the funniest endings of a skit, that I can remember on SNL was when the show was hosted by four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback JOE Montana. What makes the sketch are two things: 1) anything that Phil Hartman does, and 2) making the best of Montana’s usually cardboard personality and turning it into something hilarious! It took a long while to find the video, but here it is, on the Rolling Stone web site. I hope you enjoy!
Have a great day, and we’ll see you on Tuesday!
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Lots of goodies in this grid, and very little dross holding it all together. A solid 72-worder always pleases me, especially when there are zippy fillips like IGGY AZALEA, DRAMA COACH, “AMAZEBALLS!,” DAME EDNA, TRUE STORIES, and ALICE COOPER. Not to mention the flavorful JOUNCE and BOGUS.
I could’ve done without the awkward PRERENT (26a. [Lease in advance]), but it was very gettable and the crossings are all good things. Latin ESSE is meh, but the assorted 3- and 4-letter abbreviations didn’t irk me.
Did not know:
- 48d. ["Criminal Minds" actress Glaudini], LOLA.
- 44d. [Hank's partner in "Breaking Bad"], GOMEZ. One of these years, I’ll catch up on this show.
Toughest to assemble: 39d. [Hack it?], HOP A CAB. The taxi usage of “hack” is not, I don’t think, in the Chicago vernacular, and even when I had the CAB portion, I wasn’t sure where we were going. Personally, I hop in a cab.