Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Nine theme entries; eight plus an explainer. Let’s work from the bottom up.
- 63a. [Roughhousing… or a hint to the ends of 17-, 21-, 26-, 33-, 40-, 43-, 47-, and 56-Across] HORSEPLAY, which means that each of those other answers end in a word that can be followed with “horse” to form a phrase or word.
- 56a. [Lift weights] PUMP IRON. (Iron horse)
- 47a. [Like the best straight in poker] ACE HIGH. (High horse)
- 43a. [Really dimwitted] BRAIN DEAD. (Dead horse)
- 40a. [Daily nine-to-five struggle] RAT RACE. (Racehorse)
- 33a. [In the evening] AFTER DARK. (Dark horse)
- 26a. [Advocating “Bring the troops home now!,” say] ANTI-WAR. (Warhorse)
- 21a. [Lumberjack’s tool] CHAINSAW. (Sawhorse)
- 17a. [Greece/Turkey separator] AEGEAN SEA. (Seahorse)
That’s a lot of theme content for a 15×15 grid; even though they’re all in the 7–9 letter range, they collectively occupy a sizeable amount of the real estate. Without the contortions often engendered by long entries, the fill is allowed to flow smoothly throughout and avoid the compromise of invoking too strongly the weird sisters Crosswordesia, Abbrev.a, and Partia.
This is what a Monday puzzle should be. Simple and solid theme, clean fill, with more than a few interesting words. One of those interesting words is right at 1a, SCRUM. We also get UTENSIL, CHIA PET, MEADOW, EUREKA, and RWANDA. Tying into the theme somewhat, (68a) [Jockey’s attire] is SILKS.
And there’s a bounty of coherent columns and rational rows: (C4) UTENSIL ICEPICK, (C4) RAIN GOD CHIA PET (would have been spiffier the other way around), (R7) COOL AFTER DARK, (R9) BRAIN DEAD…CAN’T. A little more flexibility and smuttiness will net you (R14) THICK OLE KEATS and, erm, (R1) SCRUM LEO ORALS. Perhaps those constitute a little too much imagery? Or perhaps a little too much imagination on my part.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Rec Center” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The theme consists of four two-word entries where the first word ends in -RE and the second word begins with C-. As a result, each entry has a “rec center.” Well, to be honest, only one of the four theme entries actually has the R-E-C sequence in the center. But since there’s such a thing as a “rec center” and no such thing as a “rec split” or “rec division,” I suppose we’re stuck with the awkwardness. Here are today’s theme entries:
- 17-Across: The [Beaver by birth] is one THEODORE CLEAVER. That’s the Beav’s name on “Leave It to Beaver.” I’ve never seen this show. I know there was a Beav, a Wally, a Ward, and a June. I’m guessing Ipana was one of the sponsors (thanks, crosswords). And thanks to 9-Down, I now know that one of the Beav’s catchphrases was “GOLLY GEE.” But beyond that, I know nothing.
- 25-Across: The [Panhandler’s pursuit] is not, alas, A BETTER JOB or even a LIFE COACH. It’s just SPARE CHANGE.
- 43-Across: The [Fictional character known for its mischievous grin] is the CHESHIRE CAT. Now there’s a good mascot for Ipana!
- 55-Across: The [1989 Matt Dillon film] is DRUGSTORE COWBOY. I haven’t seen this one, but I’ve always enjoyed the 1998 Matt Dillon films, WILD THINGS and THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY.
I spent a good chunk of this past weekend working on a PowerPoint presentation, so right now I can only think in bullet points. Hence the following:
- I was a little sad to see that the answer to [Glee club member] was ALTO and not PUCK, FINN, or TINA.
- Today’s highlight #1: [Dogs that don’t bark] as the clue for FEET.
- Today’s highlight #2: The long Downs, especially the aforementioned GOLLY GEE and the heretofore unmentioned BAD SEED, DR. RUTH, and NO-HITTER.
- Speaking of the NO-HITTER, it’s a bit baseball heavy in the southern hemisphere, with the Tampa Bay RAYS, OREL Hershiser and HOMERS all nearby. Is Peter Gordon or Barry Silk doing some editing for the CrosSynergy?
- Don’t know if this was intentional, but I like that WON appears so close to LOSE.
- I’m thinking I’ll make a puzzle with two-word phrases where the first word end in -T and the second word begins with UM-. You know, like BURNT UMBER. Then I can title the puzzle either “Upset Stomach” or, my personal favorite, “Wrecked Tum.”
Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword
5-minute blog post.
4 theme entries’ first words are ALL BARK, NO BITE. Not wild about BARK COLLARS as an entry, but the other…
3 (ALL-NIGHTER, NO DOUBT, BITE THE DUST) are really zippy, aren’t they?
2 be sure, the fill is great. Some of the short stuff is blah, but you’ve got DINGBAT, VIAGRA, PRAIRIE DOG, CROP CIRCLE, PIT BOSS, YUPPIE, and CAROUSE keeping things lively. Quite a lot of flavor for a Monday puzzle.
1 singular sensation. Lots of good clues here, too.
0…BLAST ([Turn way up, as the radio volume]) off. Gotta go! (Hope some of you caught the space shuttle launch this morning.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Love most of the the long answers and some of the medium answers, but have grievances with a number of the mediums and shorts.
- 17a. CROWD-SOURCE, awesome. Though I haven’t yet seen crowd-sourcing used to hire freelancers who are then paid—just “hey, let’s ask the people of the internet to give us ideas for free.”
- 35a. First time I’ve seen the stage show NUNSENSE in a crossword. Note that it could easily have been NONSENSE crossing SMOG, but NUNSENSE/SMUG packs more Quigleyan punch.
- 52a, 3d. SKO! A SKOSH and a tasty, delicious, wish-I-had-one-right-now-god-I-love-crunchy-toffee SKOR BAR.
- 63a. LIQUID LUNCH is a great seed entry.
- 67a. The AZTEC EMPIRE is a nice Scrabbly pedestal for LIQUID LUNCH.
- 12d. Goofy Star Trek ROMULAN is fun.
- 42d. GROUPON, super-fresh as well.
- 45d. Usually it’s Matt Gaffney who feeds us German words other than EIN/EINE/DER/HERR/FRAU. PFENNIG is a cognate of the word penny, which is in the clue, but this upsets me not. Those of us who took German appreciate a break from French/Spanish/Latin crossword answers.
- 53d. [Kosher for Ramadan] is a funny clue for HALAL.
LARRY SANGER? Who? I know who Jimmy Wales is, but have never heard of Larry Sanger before. I say boo on that. He’s not the one that Wikipedia places front and center.
Dislikes: WIRIER is hard to say and unlikely to be used. Same complaint about ACCRUER. “He’s a wirier accruer of books about low-fat diets and weight training, far wirier than I.” Never heard of a SWATHER, as I am not a grain farmer. And I’ve never seen the adjective SLUICY.
3.75 stars. I would be more inclined to look past those dislikes if the word count were lower, but in a 72-worder from someone as talented as Brendan, I set the bar higher. Is that fair?