Oliver Hill’s New York Times crossword
Excellent example of what a Monday puzzle should be—a theme that’s basic but not lifeless, some lively fill, and some repeaters that new solvers can deal with thanks to uncomplicated crossings. The theme is DEEJAYS (25D), which crosses three (!) of the other five theme entries, all of which have, like DEEJAYS, a D.J. monogram:
- 17A. DIRTY JOKES are [Blue things that make some people turn red?]. My first answer here was DIRTY WORDS, long before the theme became apparent. DIRTY JOKES definitely works better with the clue.
- 25A. Many [Nine-to-five gigs, often] are DESK JOBS.
- 38A. A DON JUAN is a [Womanizer]. Why isn’t “manizer” a word?
- 48A. [Company with an industrial average] is DOW JONES.
- 61A. DENIM JEANS are a [Wrangler product], to name one brand.
These are among the finest parts of the fill:
- 41A. HEEHAW is a [Donkey’s sound].
- 11D. IMBROGLIOS are [Confused situations]. Definitely a word that merits wider use.
- 12D [Bill Clinton was the first one elected president] clues BABY BOOMER. I wonder if Obama is the last Boomer who will live in the White House. He’s on the tail end of the Baby Boom generation.
- 18D. JOE BLOW is an [Ordinary fellow].
- 28D. [One who mooches] is a FREELOADER.
29D. THREE WEEKS is [How long the NCAA basketball tournament lasts]. This one feels rather arbitrary to me as fill goes, but (a) it’s inferrable and (b) I like seeing bundled pairs of 10-letter answers classing up the joint. Also in the category of “meh” fill are the partials A TRY and A TRIP, but it’s so much better (if you ask me) to clue A TRIP as a two-word partial phrase than as that nautical single word.
Inching towards the crosswordese category are these answers:
- 16A. [“Amo, amas, ___…”] AMAT—introductory Latin and a classic crossword answer. “I love, you love, he/she/it loves.”
- 34A. [Tennis’s Nastase]’s first name is ILIE. He was big in the 1970s but doesn’t get talked about so much anymore.
- 13D. STYES are the #1 [Eye woes] in crosswordland. They’re more eyelid than eyeball problems.
- 39D. [Colorado tribe] clues UTE. The Utes are also associated with Utah, as you might have guessed.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Brief Scandinavian Tour”—Evad’s review
So are we going to get an insider’s look at the underclothes worn by Lapps and Finns? Well no, instead we get 4 phrases which begin with the common abbreviations for four Scandinavian countries (*see note below):
- NORFOLK VIRGINIA – Norway
- DENTAL FLOSS – Denmark
- SWEET POTATO – Sweden
- FINISHING SCHOOL -*There is a somewhat heated debate (well, as heated as cartographers can get) about whether Finland is technically part of Scandinavia. It and Iceland are strictly Nordic countries, but not necessarily Scandinavian.
Very smooth solve on this one; I can count on one hand how many daily puzzles I’m able to solve under four minutes. (Tip to aspiring speedsolvers, become a crossword blogger!) Though I digested it with dispatch, the puzzle was a bit heavy on the carbs: “Edible orange tuber” (the theme entry SWEET POTATO) crossed the “Hawaiian tuber” TARO.
I was somewhat SORRY (“Feeling regret”) to see so many partials: AM NOT, IS SHE, IT UP, OF ME and NOW I, but they passed quickly. And I’m always happy to rediscover my good friend HOOHA in the lower right as I finished up.
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Wow, it sure took me a while to understand how the theme entries related to birthday boy (he’s 80 today) CLINT EASTWOOD. Solving on-screen, one doesn’t always see the entirety of a long clue like 53a: [Born 5/31/1930, entertainer associated with the phrase formed by the starts of 20-, 31- and 41-Across]. Starts of the phrases—of course. Dirty Harry famously said, “Make my day”:
- 20a. To MAKE A COMEBACK is to [Rise from the ashes, so to speak].
- 31a. MY FAIR LADY is an adaptation, [“Pygmalion” on Broadway].
- 41a. A DAY-TRIPPER is a [Tourist who doesn’t stay overnight].
The highlights are the longer fill:
- 33d. FRUITCAKE, or [“Nutty” individual].
- 11d. [Discusses business], or TALKS SHOP.
- 5d. SLACKER, or [Goof-off].
- 42d. [Swipes], or RIPS OFF.
- 2d. [Oompah brass] clues TUBAS, which I like because my nephew is a hotshot tuba player. My sister doesn’t even mind hearing him practice at home.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Brendan ran this grid by his brain trust a couple weeks ago, wondering if he should run the puzzle on his blog, and I think the feedback was unanimous: “Do it!” I showed the puzzle on my monitor to my husband and son from across the room, and they both laughed—so the grid is an effective one from that standpoint. The black squares do not form a symmetrical pattern, which means Brendan was free to design a grid that contains unusual chunks of white space. Is the puzzle a success by crossword standards? I say yes (a qualified yes). I didn’t love the puzzle, but I liked it. There are 24 3-letter answers, many of them in the “meh” category—but some were key tools allowing me to break into the long fill. There was not a single long answer that was a gimme for me, so I needed the short crossers to get going.
My favorite answers are the full names: VANNA WHITE, LARS ULRICH, and JANE EYRE—together again.
And isn’t it a nice touch that the fill includes ENEMAS (10d. [Cleaning measures]) to bring out the black squares in the grid?