Ray Fontenot’s New York Times crossword puzzle — pannonica’s review
A theme on the move, as reinforced by the revealer at 7-across [With 58-Down, vehicle for people on the go? … or a hint to five strategically placed answers in this puzzle] MOVING | VAN. The second half is placed roughly symmetrically to the first; certainly well enough to counterbalance it. So, as implied, the letters V-A-N appear in across answers in locations that advance from left to right in the grid. first in columns 1–3, then 4–6, 7–9, 10–12, and finally 13–15. The locations are also evenly spaced along rows: 2, 5, 8, 11, 14.
- 13a. [Alternative to chocolate] VANILLA.
- 21a. [Sir Walter Scott novel] IVANHOE.
- 36a. [Native of Cuba’s capital] HAVANAN.
- 49a. [State of bliss] NIRVANA.
- 61a. [Desert procession] CARAVAN.
Furthermore, the letters V-A-N advance incrementally within each seven-letter answer, from positions 1–3 to 2–4, and so on through 5–7. This last touch is necessary by design, but still… that’s a lot of rigorous regularity!
The fill consistently felt more unusual and interesting than a typical Monday, and more than many a Tuesday. KNOW-IT-ALL, the snappy LOOK ALIVE and YOU SAID IT, the oh-so fun HOODWINK, the classical if not necessarily classy General OCTAVIAN, and that’s only the long verticals. Horizontally, stacked in corners with theme answers are ECONOMY and ATE DIRT. The other corners showcase the independent stacks RECITAL/ART DECO and LATVIAN/ARRANGE; not bad at all. Less common and distinctly un-Mondayish are Deanna DURBIN, DO-SI-DO, Mischa ELMAN, NACRE, and French ÎLES
Less thrilled with the partial I NEVER. ANI is clued with a Wheel Of Fortune reference rather than the übercrosswordese bird. Zinc’s AT NO. of 30 is an unaesthetic way to cap a puzzle in the lower right. Then again, the overrepresented ELK isn’t the freshest way to open one.
Nevertheless, the short length of the theme entries (the gimmick relies more on position and distribution) and the decision not to stretch for Scrabbly pangramatics (the grid lacks a J, Q, X, and Z) allow for a flowing and lively puzzle, despite the conventional Monday-level straitlaced cluing.
Theme: Luxury by the numbers
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Face Front” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Each of the four two-word theme entries starts with a word that can precede “face” to form a new two-word “expression:”
- 20-Across: [One born during a period of sharp increase in the birthrate] is a BABY BOOMER (baby face).
- 32-Across: The [Poacher’s nemesis] is a GAME WARDEN (game face).
- 43-Across: The [Foundation builder, perhaps] is a STONE MASON (stone face).
- 58-Across: The [Type of iced tea that packs a punch] is the LONG ISLAND iced tea (long face).
Let’s face it: you could easily make a Sunday-sized puzzle with this theme, as they are lots of faces in the crowd (about face, hatchet face, pizza face, open face, type face, scary face, et cetera). But for an accessible, the chosen entries here work well.
Some fun entries like MR. CLEAN (the [Magic Eraser touter]), SNEAKS IN, SAYONARA, NOT UP, and Captain Jack SPARROW give the puzzle a FRESH ([Hot off the press, figuratively]) feel. My favorite entry, though, is SO-AND-SO, ol’ [“What’s-his-name”].
It helps to know your vowel-steeped European rivers: the SAONE and the OISE make appearances here, and, speaking of Europe, so does TRE ([Three, in Trieste]). There’s even the A-heavy lineup of ASTA, ARIA, and ATRA. No love for ASIA or Alan ALDA?
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday #162”
Man, you should have seen the original version of this puzzle. I might’ve been a little tired when I test-solved it, but it took me almost 10 minutes. That’s like a super-killer Saturday NYT or Newsday puzzle. So Brendan, who is nothing if not a kind soul, eased up the clues so that you would not struggle as I struggled. Brendan does indeed excel at writing tricksy clues.
Brendan is also an ace at putting together a grid packed with good stuff. This is a 66-worder, not a 72, and he’s got W.C. FIELDS, “BEAT YA TO IT!” (BEQ’s boast when he’s the first constructor to use a new entry), FAD DIET (with a great clue, [It’s a losing strategy], that may well hold a double meaning), CLIP-ON TIES, the TASK BAR for various computer tools, a BIG TOE for the hell of it, Will Ferrell’s baby FUNNY OR DIE, BULLSEYES, “HOPE NOT,” and some FOAM RUBBER to cushion the puzzle’s blow.
Other favorite clues:
- 17a. ANNA STEN, [Silent film actress whose name anagrams to car radio parts]. Antennas! Unless you’re using satellite radio, I imagine.
- 23a. ROIS, [Eight Bourbons, e.g.].
- 39a. MENU, [Handout for the hungry?].
- 48a. ST. TERESA, [Patron of headache sufferers]. Guess I should’ve been praying to St. Teresa last week.
- 1d. WRAP, [Lunch option … or lunch litter].
- 9d. BULLSEYES, [Shots that are hard to come by in some bars] if you’re playing darts. Too busy to look up whether it’s “bull’s eyes” or “bullseyes.”
- 22d. ROADIES, [Queen’s attendants]. Not royalty, not queen bees, but the band Queen. I hear they’ve re-formed with Adam Lambert taking over vocals for the late Freddie Mercury.
- 40d. HIDE, [“He’s coming!”].
Liz Gorski’s Celebrity crossword, “Movie Monday”
Have you seen Act of Valor, that action movie that opened a month ago? This theme’s about it:
- 15a. NAVY SEALS, [Elite special operations force featured in 41-Across: 2 wds.]
- 21a. ACTION FILM, [Genre of 41-Across: 2 wds.]
- 41a. ACT OF VALOR, [Movie that premiered on February 24 and grossed over $24 million in its first weekend: 3 wds.]
- 50a. ANONYMOUS, [Unidentified, as the active-duty stars of 41-Across]
Yes, there were active-duty Navy SEALs in the movie, leaving the set whenever they had to head to an assignment in Afghanistan or wherever. And their names do not appear in the credits. I wonder if any of them have gotten good reviews for their acting and have been bitten by the Hollywood bug.
28d: BUSTS OUT is a kinda fun entry, no? Spring is busting out all over in Chicagoland. My lilac bush is covered with purple buds waiting for a warmer day to open.