Ian C. Livengood’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Curious crossword this Monday. There’s an underlying significance to the theme, but I can’t characterize it.
- 17a. [Stogie holder] CIGAR CASE.
- 21a. [Florida City on the Gulf] CAPE CORAL.
- 27a. [What a TV host often reads from] CUE CARD.
- 33a. [Place to hang a jacket] COAT CLOSET.
- 43a. [Sign of alien life, some say] CROP CIRCLE.
- 49a. [Army do] CREW CUT.
- 59a. [Fessed up] CAME CLEAN.
- 66a. [The French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament played on this] CLAY COURT.
- 8d. [Bit of razzing] CAT CALL.
- 44d. [Auto maintenance] CAR CARE.
Clearly these ten entries, all of them rather short and many of them rather pedestrian (CUE CARD? CAR CARE? come, come!), each consist of two words, both beginning with the letter C. Most are nouns, but one is a verb phrase. Two themers contain words that start with a soft C, while the other eighteen begin with hard Cs. Four of the twenty are two-syllable words and the rest are one-syllable, not unexpected considering the overall shortness of the themers. Don’t misunderstand, these are not criticisms about inconsistency or discrepancy, just observations in an attempt to grasp a deeper meaning.
Of course, ten theme entries is a large number for a daily crossword, but it seems that with little effort another two could have been used at 3-down and 36-down, where the dashing RIGOLETTO and the double-consonanted SPACE SUIT reside. Also, the last across entry, though it isn’t tied to the theme in cluing, is TEN. I can only think of the 1970s band 10cc (read about the origin of the name for some naughtiness), but other than this puzzle’s date being 10 October (ten doubled), can’t see a connection.
Last, and strangest of all, why does constructor Livengood’s middle initial – C – appear in his byline for the first time in this, his thirteenth puzzle for the New York Times? Curiouser and curiouser. Completely confounding.
As for the rest of the puzzle, it’s clean, comfortable. The way a Monday solve should be. Perhaps a few more abbrevs, than I’d care to see, but they’re all well-known: SNL, HST, SPCA, SHO, AMC. The least likable entry, to me, was the partial [“Here __ Again” (1987 Whitesnake hit)] I GO; there’s just nothing good to say about it.
Because of the character concentration of the themers, this crossword’s constrained, with many Cs in the grid. Hence we more than the usual amount of C-words, especially those ending in the letter: ORC, BRAC, AVEC, ERIC, CHIC, AMC, TALC.
Case closed (except that it isn’t).
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Keep an Eye On” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Each of the four theme entries ends with a noun that can also be a verb synonymous with the puzzle’s title (“keep an eye on”):
- 18-Across: The [Secret competitor] is RIGHT GUARD. The last time I used Right Guard was when it was still sold only in aerosol cans. I’m more of a roll-on man, myself. TMI?
- 27-Across: A [Researcher’s attribute] is an INQUISITIVE MIND. Outside of academia, it can get a researcher into trouble.
- 50-Across: Really? A COMPUTER MONITOR is an [Apple product]? Does Apple sell monitors separately from their computers?
- 65-Across: The [First-rate ticker] is not a HEALTHY HEART but a ROLEX WATCH. As the owner of a Rolex watch that seems to spend more time in the repair shop than on my wrist, I can assure you that not every Rolex is first-rate.
With the exception of COMPUTER MONITOR, the theme entries are interesting (geez, that’s possibly two strikes against one answer—one on the entry itself and maybe one on the clue). A nice, pleasant theme for an easy puzzle.
There’s sure some neat fill here. I love TIP SHEET, the [Publication with the inside dope], YOU DA MAN (clued as [“Nice job, bro!”]), COP SHOP, and KING FU most. Regular solvers know OMOO, but my guess is that fewer of them know that TAHITI is the [Island in “Omoo”]. Did you notice that NOT DO sits symmetrically opposite from the eerily similar NOD TO?
But every rose has its thorn (so says Bret Michaels, anyway). STRS, clued desperately as [Violins and violas (abbr.)] is ghastly enough to have its own room in a Halloween haunted house. By comparison, the fuglies DREAR, A-TAT, and SOU look downright glamorous. Any one of these in isolation would be perfectly fine in the name of sparkly fill elsewhere (okay, STRS would still be pretty bad), but it feels like there’s one too many of them in this grid.
Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword
It seems weird to open with a 1970s Charlie’s Angels clue (1a. [Cheryl of “Charlie’s Angels”], LADD) that doesn’t specify the 1970s TV show. There’s a new C.A. series on TV now, plus the Barrymore/Liu/Diaz flicks.
The theme involves colorful phrases clued as it they pertain to certain professional athletes, with the colors connoting certain feelings. At first I thought it was going to be all animals, but then GREEN GIANT reared his envious head.
- 17a. [Terrified Detroit baseball player?] clues WHITE TIGER. “White with fear” is a standard phrase, but the WHITE seems a little lost without the words “with fear.” Does anyone use white = scared? Yellow is the word that works for that, but “yellow tiger” isn’t as common a phrase.
- 33a. [Embarrassed Carolina football player?] clues PINK PANTHER. I like a repurposing of the cartoon character’s name, but “red-faced” gets a lot more play in embarrassment circles than PINK does. Maybe the panther could have socialist tendencies instead—though that’s less a feeling than a political leaning.
- 39a. [Depressed Miami football player?] clues BLUE DOLPHIN. Yes, BLUE = sad.
- 58a. [Jealous San Francisco baseball player?] clues GREEN GIANT. I first considered GREEN NINER and GREEN PADRE (I know, wrong sport, wrong city). Like “white with fear,” GREEN feels naked without an accompanying “with envy.”
Interesting grid layout, with two non-theme answers that are 15 letters long and pass through theme entries. DRIVE-THRU WINDOW (3d. [Fast food pickup site]) and READS THE RIOT ACT (11d. [Reprimands]) are both terrific. The other long Downs are juicy, too: DOG PARK, LOWBROW, GOO-GOO EYES, and TAILOR-MADE. Three cheers for a tasty VATS clue, too: 5d, [Chocolate factory vessels]. Who needs dye or wine vats when there is chocolate to be had?
Most of the short fill is on the blah side, but the payoff is all those neat long answers. The theme doesn’t quite stick the landing, though, so points off for that. The DRIVE-THRU GOO-GOO RIOT ACT lifts the puzzle up to 3.5 stars despite the theme issues.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
I like solving Brendan’s puzzles in Crossword Solver, but (and I don’t know if there’s a more current version that doesn’t have this problem) it tells me “Congratulations!” when I fill in the last square even if I have a typo. Mistyped ISLANDER as ASLANDER (mind ruined by the crosser, ASLANT) and figured there was some brand of hipster or hip-hop jeans called SEAKOS. SEIKOS! Watches, not jeans.
Likes: SWAMP ASS, BRONX ZOO, BIRD CALL, WASH ME, RATBERT, “AND THEN,” overall Scrabbliness. The five double letters made by stacking STOLE under the last five letters of SYSTOLE are neat, too.
Dislikes: ELEAZAR, LADLEFUL, SLEETS as a plural noun (verb would be smoother), the didn’t-know-any-of-these-were-a-thing TIE LINES/WARP ZONE/ANT NESTS stack.