Daniel Landman’s New York Times crossword
I don’t know about you, but as a medical editor, I know the central theme revealer quite well. SI UNITS (38a. [Basic physical measures … or a hint to 17-, 27-, 48- and 63-Across]) come from Le Système International d’Unités, and pretty much the whole scientific world is on board with using SI units. The American Medical Association Manual of Style notes, “However, in the United States, most physicians and other health care professionals use conventional units for many common clinical measurements (eg, blood pressure), and many clinical laboratories report most laboratory values by means of conventional units. Accordingly, some biomedical publications, including JAMA and the Archives Journals, have adopted an approach for reporting units of measure that includes a combination of SI units and conventional units.” SI ≠ metric, as our standard blood pressure reading is in mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) and that’s metric, but not SI. (No idea what the SI version of a BP reading is.) If not for being a medical editor, though, I don’t know that I would ever have encountered the term prior to finding it in the middle of this Monday (!) puzzle.
So. The theme: Four phrases have S.I. initials, SEMINOLE INDIANS, STATEN ISLANDER, SECRET IDENTITY, and SPLIT INFINITIVE. I am here to tell you that you can blithely ignore the [Stickler’s grammatical no-no] rule. This is English, not Latin, and our finest writers have been splitting infinitives for centuries. (Also? You can start a sentence with “And” or “But,” you can end a sentence with a preposition, and no hellmouth will open up and swallow you if you should use the singular “they.”)
Not crazy about the fill in this grid. Too many “meh” bits like ARRS, STET, TRA, ECRU, RIGA, SSTS, RCPT, IGER, ILE, ELAN, ESSE, and RAN AT that are not really in common usage outside of crossword puzzles. And 8d: [Ruling house of Monaco], GRIMALDI—where did that come from? It’s surprising to see all of these populating a Monday grid. Working on the Daily Celebrity Crossword’s editorial team has attuned me so keenly to what “easy fill” really means … and this ain’t it.
2.75 stars from me. I’m okay with the SI UNITS theme idea, but I think I’m an outlier and that a great many very smart, well-read solvers will be looking askance at that and wondering if they’re the only ones who don’t know it. (They aren’t. They have lots of company.) The scientists among us will be all “Oh, of course, SI units, yes,” but most people aren’t scientists. The theme would go down easier if the fill had really sparkled, but the UPTURNED STARTUP didn’t bring quite enough zippy friends to the fill party.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Let Her In”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Oof, sluggish solving time this morning. I’d blame it on St. Patrick’s Day, but the closest I came to celebrating was having an extra Coke Zero and the closest I came to wearing green was spilling some salad on my shirt. I guess I’ll just chalk it up to a lethargic Monday morning start.
The theme involves inserting a HER into four common terms. It proved to be a bit tricky, however, because one never knew whether to expect the HER at the start of a word, the end of a word, or somewhere in the middle:
- 17-Across: “Spa treatment” becomes SHERPA TREATMENT, or [Physical therapy for a Himalayan guide?]. Fortunately, the typical sherpa doesn’t mind if the cost is high.
- 27-Across: “Wedding ring” expands to WEDDING HERRING, a [Pickled fish served at a bridal party?]. That theme entry’s reminiscent of one from a Fireball puzzle Doug Peterson and I made last year, HERRING MAJESTY. Trust me, it made sense in the context of that puzzle.
- 45-Across: A “cub reporter” becomes a CHERUB REPORTER, or a [Journalist who investigates little angels?].
- 60-Across: “Saturated fat” expands to SATURATED FATHER, a [Dad caught in a downpour?]. Saturated fat has this tendency to cause expansion, doesn’t it?
I knew I was having an off day right away in the northwest corner. Seeing four squares for [Wine choice], I went with REDS without hesitation. Alas, I was oh-for-four on those squares, as the answer proved to be PORT. I got a little closer with UH NO as the answer to [“That’s a negative”], but that turned out to be UH-UH. And RUER doesn’t exactly trip off this writer’s tongue as the answer to [One with qualms]. So yeah, that corner was a hot mess for me.
I had no trouble with LEES as [Wranglers’ rivals] at 21-Across, but sure enough that step flummoxed me when I got to [Wrangler rival] at 55-Down. With an L in the first square, I was sure the answer had to be LEES again, and that just did not compute. I felt like Nomad on Star Trek. “Error! Error! Does not compute!” I left that section thinking it would make more sense upon my return, and it did–a minute or so later I saw the answer was LEVI.
Otherwise it was just a typical assortment of misfires. TALK instead of TELL for [Fail to zip your lip], FEAT instead of GEST as the [Daring exploit], and my personal favorite: CERBERUS instead of ST. PETER for [Gatekeeper addressed in “Sixteen Tons”]. I also kept wanting TEMPURA instead of TEMPERA as the [Poster paint]. Maybe I should get an early lunch….
Favorite entry = LOP-SIDED, something [Unevenly balanced]. Favorite clue = [Level or bevel] for TOOL.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
I missed my chance to meet 8d: OPHIRA EISENBERG at the ACPT because they forgot to call my name for the coveted “2nd Place Midwest” trophy, and she was the trophy dispenser and color co-commentator. (I was late to the event anyway, but she should have called my name and made people clap for me in my absence.) Anyway, the 15-letteredness of Eisenberg’s name was a topic of discussion in crossword circles, so here she is, felicitously crossing the brand-new GOOGLE GLASS.
- 2d. [City that is home to Africa’s largest ice rink], NAIROBI. Not a big ice hockey continent, I imagine.
- 12d. [One making a clean sweep], JANITOR. There should be a sports team called the Janitors, who would feel extra pressure to sweep all game series.
- 36d. [xkcd superfan, probably], GEEK. Have a look at xkcd if you’re new to it.
- 38d. [Puzzle-within-a-puzzle], META.
- 42d. [Flower that took its name from the French word for “tobacco”], PETUNIA. Did I know that? If I did, I quite forgot it.
- 50d. [Dirk DeJong’s nickname in a 1924 Pulitzer-winning novel], SO BIG. I just learned something about the Edna Ferber novel that I have known pretty much only through crosswords. Would not have guessed that the title was a character’s nickname.
I wasn’t particularly knocked out by this one. Making a mental note of 48a: [British chessmaster Raymond] KEENE, new to me but newer than Carolyn Keene. Not so pleased with plural PDRS (copies of the Physicians’ Desk Reference), ETES, ESAI, STET, RET, NCO, SRTA, UPI, PARD, ELL, and plural TETLEYS. 3.33 stars today.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Sorry the LAT review is late—pannonica was off for the day and I had two appointments. Man, it kills me when commenters complain that posts are “late.” The presence of three other puzzle reviews for the day means nothing, right? It’s hard out there for a
pimp volunteer crossword puzzle reviewer. (We appreciate your understanding when life gets between us and our crosswords.)
I wish 17a. [2012 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee] BARRY LARKIN had been the last theme answer because I had the more common STA instead of STN at 10d, and BARRY LARKIA was no more unfamiliar to me than BARRY LARKIN. (Who??) The other KINFOLK (people with KIN in their last names) were more familiar to me—ALAN ARKIN, Sen. TOM HARKIN, and ELLEN BARKIN. If I’d hit BARRY after those three and the KINFOLK revealer, boom, LARKIN, no problem. Sports fans were probably delighted by his prominent spot in the puzzle, but I really don’t think I’ve ever heard of him. Poet Philip Larkin, yes.
Love the elective 9s, IN A PICKLE, LOSES TIME (which makes me think of Edward Norton’s character in Primal Fear rather than timepieces), AER LINGUS, and HEAT WAVES. Heat! I miss it. Icy precip and temps in the 30s in Chicago today. Had to scrape ice off the car windows this morning. Spring break, take me away!
A lot of the fill had an older-puzzle feel to it. STENOS, SAL, CANA, YSER, OTIS, DICTA, EFT? Ooft. But “OH, ROB!” is decades old and still delicious, and I also liked the KAL-EL/CAPES superhero riff.