Susan L. Stanislawski’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
All the NYT crosswords appearing this week débuted this past weekend at the Brown University Crossword Tournament, and all were constructed by current Brown students.
[edit: Just peeked at the NYT Wordplay blog and see that those puzzles start tomorrow.]
[double edit: The Mon-Thurs NYT puzzles this week appeared at six crossword tournaments last weekend. Tomorrow’s puzzle, by two Brown students, was the only imminent NYT puzzle at tournament #7, the Brown tournament—but the other puzzles there, all by Brown students, will appear in the Times later.—Amy]
28d. [Quaint lodging hinted at by the outsides of 18-, 20-, 28-, 42-, 51-, or 55-Across] is the crossword-familiar B AND B, bed and breakfast. See also, crossword favorites RANDR, PANDG, ET AL. (3d).
So, names and phrases beginning and ending with the letter B.
- 18a. [Group that includes North, South, East and West] BRIDGE CLUB.
- 20a. [Actor Thornton in “Sling Blade”] BILLY BOB. Aside: he was more than just an actor in that film; kind of like an auteur, mmm.
- 28a. [Chesapeake Bay delicacy] BLUE CRAB.
- 42a. [Activity a puppy loves] BELLY RUB.
- 51a. [Service provided at Meineke and Pep Boys] BRAKE JOB. Odd editorial choice to use “and” instead of “or” in the clue; the other shoe dropping from the revealer, where I would’ve expected “and” and not “or” (which wouldn’t have demanded BANDBS).
- 55a. [Sparring injury perhaps] BRUISED RIB.
Straightforward theme, with a healthy six entries—seven, including the revealer—of moderate length. This approach ensures that less compromise will be needed in the ballast fill, and indeed by virtue of shape and fill it’s a smooth solve, with little to induce frowns. A more rigorous constructing feat would have entailed eliminating Bs from the non-theme fill, but that kind of flourish surely would have led to the kind of fill that’d make this a non-Monday offering.
A few notes:
- 35a [Writer Ayn and others] RANDS. Almost wished this was clued as something like [Auto parts chain __ Strauss], but alas (1) it’s regional, and (2) they officially changed the name to Strauss Discount Auto in 1995.
- 31d [Like chicken breast cutlets] BONED, which of course means the same thing as deboned. Yay, English! I do, however, have something to pick with the clue for the crossing (37a) PLAIN: [Bare-bones], which unnecessarily repeats the down fill.
- 24d [Seventh heaven] BLISS. Nothing remarkable here, just a coincidence that it echoes one of the “infractional” themers from yesterday’s NYT.
- 27d [Old LPs and 45s] VINYL. No need for the “old” here.
- The two long verticals are good and interesting fill, WELL-READ and the colloquial “LISTEN UP!“
- Nice to see some playful clues in an early-week puzzle. My favorite is 10d [Something always sold in mint condition?] TIC-TAC.
Pretty much what one expects out of a Monday NYT: decent theme, good execution. My criticisms, which are mere quibbles, concern primarily some editing choices.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Who Do We Appreciate?” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Welcome (back?) to the CrosSynergy construction team, veteran puzzle-maker Alan Arbesfeld! Today’s puzzle is a homonym theme, as the first word in each theme entry sounds like an even number. From top to bottom, then, there’s 2-4-6-8:
- 20-Across: The [Broth spoiler, idiomatically] is TOO MANY COOKS. They may spoil a broth, but they sure make for a lively start to the puzzle.
- 28-Across: Another way to say [“You can quote me on this”] is FOR THE RECORD.
- 47-Across: One who [Incites Rover to attack] SICS THE DOG ON another. I’m not a fan of ending the entry with a preposition, even though it’s required to make the entry of even length with FOR THE RECORD. Call it an abundance of loyalty to the notion that prepositions are bad things to end sentences with. Would SICS THE DOG, paired with FOR THE BEST or FOR THE BOYS be better? Or is this just one of those entries that really needs the preposition to be complete?
- 55-Across: One who [Picked at one’s dinner] just ATE LIKE A BIRD. There’s a bird’s nest on the porch of my fiancee’s house, and the three baby chicks sitting in the nest seem to do a lot of eating, if you ask me. But you’re not going to get fat on regurgitated worms from mom, so I guess the simile remains valid.
Newer solvers will see lots of Crosswordese in this grid–and newer solvers may wonder what the heck we mean by “Crosswordese.” To me, it refers to terms you see in puzzles much more often than you see in real life. Consider OBIS, BAA, RRR, ILIE Nastase, AGAR, DELE, MESON, EL ORO, and OLA. You don’t really hear these in many conversations, but you’ll see them more than a handful of times in your friendly neighborhood crosswords. We tend to accept Crosswordese begrudgingly. Sometimes it’s needed so the constructor can insert lively entries (like THREE AM, OWE TO, ON BOARD, YE OLDE, and WINE BARS in this puzzle), but no one feels uplifted by seeing them in puzzles. Puzzles that can give you the lively entries with a minimum amount of Crosswordese, then, tend to earn more kudos. But you might as well get to know these common crossword terms because they’re bound to come up in more puzzles down the road.
Final thought: You don’t see Jaromir JAGR in as many puzzles as ILIE Nastase, but it’s still a name worth knowing. That J is like a siren for many constructors, so there’s a great temptation to use a name like JAGR even though Bobby ORR remains the most famous hockey player in crosswords.
Kevin Christian’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review
- 20A. [Christian led by the Pope] – ROMAN CATHOLIC. Must be nice to have a last name you can sneak into a clue.
- 39A. [Equine that originated in Italy’s Campania region] – NEAPOLITAN HORSE. I’m guessing it is vanilla, chocolate and strawberry coloured.
- 55A. [Slatted window treatment] – VENETIAN BLIND
Three things named after Italian cities. I guess that’s a valid Monday theme.
Bonus Roman references:
- 30A. [300, to Caesar] – CCC
- 35A. [Road for Caesar] – ITER
Bonus non-Italian but starting with I geographic references:
- 16A. [Ireland’s best-selling solo artist] – ENYA
- 42A. [Iraqi currency] – DINAR
- 65A. [Machu Picchu resident] – INCA
So why is one a comedian and the other a comedienne department:
- 27D. [Comedian Sykes and a fish] – WANDAS
- 29D. [“Can We Talk?” comedienne] – JOAN RIVERS
Learn your E-A crosswordese:
- 34D. [Govt. antipollution org.] – EPA
- 36D. [Inbound flight approx.] – ETA
Happy Canadian Tax Day:
- 10A. [1040, for example] – FORM. That would be called a T-1 in Canada. Mail yours by midnight. I have already received my refund, and like any good Canadian, will be spending it by going to a crossword tournament in the United States.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Lots of long answers entangled in one another’s legs here, and Brendan tells us the NW and SE corners were tough to wrangle. Stacked 15s crossing 8s and 9s, and only two 3-letter answers in the entire grid? I believe it. But, like Patrick Berry, Brendan makes it look easy because he doesn’t lean on roll-your-own words and REASSESSED-type fill to pave the way. Yes, SUCCEEDER ([One who comes later, archaically]) is ugly and NARES is crosswordese, but MIXING METAPHORS (nice clue: [Saying “low rung on the totem pole”, e.g.]), ELIZABETH WARREN, KEPT THE DOOR OPEN (raise your hand for LEFT instead of KEPT), “I’VE SAID IT BEFORE,” SINGAPORE, SEND-OFFS, BIG BEN (with a “bongs” clue), and the game combo JENGA and JOTTO work well.
Brendan clues ASSNS as [NOW and others]. There’s a veritable (inter)national organization of women right here in the grid: ILENE Rosenzweig, ELIZABETH WARREN, LAUREN Conrad, Beverly SILLS, the two MELS from Spice Girls, ALLY Sheedy, SELA Ward, Auntie MAME, Rosa PARKS, that chick COREA, CONCHITA Martínez, BETSEY Johnson, La Femme AKITA, and NENA. Brava!
Bruce Venzke’s Celebrity crossword, “Movie Monday”
“I’ll take ‘Current Box Office Figures’ for $1,200, Alex.”
- 18a. MICHAEL EALY, [Star coupled with Taraji P. Henson in 30-Across: 2 wds.]
- 30a. THINK LIKE A MAN, [Movie that cost $13 million to make but earned $33 million in its first weekend, ousting “The Hunger Games” from the #1 spot at the box office: 4 wds.]
- 40a. STEVE HARVEY, [Author of the best-selling dating-advice book on which 30-Across is based: 2 wds.]
The movie’s second weekend is the one we just had, and Think Like a Man stayed on top of the box office for its second straight weekend, topping The Hunger Games and four new movies. Me, I’m skipping the movie for feminist reasons, but I love it when movies with largely African-American casts do well at the box office so studios will quit saying “We can’t market a niche movie like that.”