Monday, 5/30/11

LAT 3:10 


NYT 3:36 (pannonica)/2:33 (Amy) 


CS untimed (Sam) 


BEQ 6:47 


Michael Barnhart’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NY Times crossword answers • 5 30 11

63-Across explains the theme. [“Good luck!” …and a hint to 17-, 25-, 39- and 51-Across]. BREAK A LEG, revealing that those four answers have the letters L-E-G “broken” across two words of a familiar phrase.

  • 17a. [Bonding material for bathroom floors] TILE GROUT.
  • 25a. [Playground fixture] JUNGLE GYM.
  • 39a. [Donations] CHARITABLE GIFTS.
  • 51a. [Upholsterer’s tool] STAPLE GUN.

Kind of a boring theme, with boring theme answers. This is always a danger with Monday puzzles; they tend to be… nice. Just, you know, nice. They aren’t challenging, they aren’t eccentric, they aren’t bad and they aren’t great. Nice.

When Amy made me sign my name in blood to the Fiend contract, I volunteered to write up the Monday Times puzzles because, honestly, I needed a reason to actually solve them, having long ago abstained from the Times week until Wednesdays. I’d grown weary of vanilla puzzles like this. And by vanilla, I don’t mean the totally artificial cheap ice cream with chunks of frozen water in it (you know which puzzles I’m talking about), nor the gourmet kind with flecks of real Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans. I mean the midrange offerings with decent creaminess and mouthfeel and some okay flavor. Maybe Edy’s.

Yes, it’s good to see fill like INFLUXES and AFTERGLOW, with a minimum of clunkers (I BE, ESAI, UNIV, et al.), but an early-week puzzle needs something extra to make it even marginally memorable fifteen minutes after solving. Really, the best Monday I’ve seen in a while was Ian Livengood’s from two weeks ago [review], which was comparatively exhilarating—and not simply because it had a ton of theme content.


Dan Schoenholz’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 5 30 11

With the first two theme answers beginning with TWO and THREE, I figured that FOUR, FIVE, and SIX would follow. But no, that’s not mathy enough:

  • 17a. [*Many a sports car, capacity-wise] is a TWO-SEATER.
  • 23a. [*Genie’s offering] is THREE WISHES.
  • 39a. [*Eisenhower became one in 1944] clues a FIVE-STAR GENERAL.
  • 49a. [*Slurpee seller] is, technically, 7-Eleven. But it’s spelled out as SEVEN-ELEVEN here.
  • 61a. What do 2, 3, 5, and 7 have in common? They’re the first four prime numbers. Ergo, PRIME TIME is [When most top-rated shows are on, and a hint to the kind of numbers in the starred answers].

Five clues:

  • 63a. [“Some people swallow the universe like __”: Stevenson] clues the partial A PILL. Not me. I’m different. I swallow pills like they’re the universe. The universe definitely goes down easier when it’s gel-coated.
  • 55a. [Dover’s are white] refers to the WHITE Cliffs of Dover in England.
  • 27d. Is ENVY really [Jealousy without resentment]? Not necessarily. The dictionary also talks up resentment in the ENVY definition.
  • 22a. [Town square centerpiece] vexed me because I had the singular OASIS for 13d: [Where to find dates?]. Eventually I realized it had to be a STATUE and OASES. Man, STATUI was not looking good.
  • 9d. [Like much politics] clues PARTISAN. Nice to see a couple 8s (also SEINFELD) in a Monday puzzle.

No reading on the Scowl-o-Meter, so a solid four stars. (Four’s not a prime number, you know.)

Updated Monday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Futility” – Sam Donaldson’s review

It’s quip time, as Keller offers an adage apt for many paper crossword solvers: TO WRITE WITH / A BROKEN PENCIL / IS POINTLESS.  (For those who don’t get it, a broken pencil would lack a pointed tip and would, thus, be “pointless.”)

The theme occupies only 35 squares, low by contemporary standards that generally prefer at least 40 theme squares.  That should leave plenty of room for sparkly fill, but there’s not much of that here. I like MIDWIFE, the [Childbirth assistant], and the nod to DAKOTA Fanning is nice.  And to be sure, the stack of eight-letter entries sandwiching the center theme entry (EVANESCE and RESEARCH) is elegant.  Beyond that, though, there’s not much to trumpet.

Triple-stacked six-letter entries in the corners normally would be cause for celebration, but not when the crossings are this ugly.  Consider the northwest corner, for instance.  The four short Across entries contain an abbreviation (LBS), a Roman numeral (CII), and a prefix (IDEO)–and I’m not that wild about the fourth one (HON), either.  Any one of those is perfectly fine, and even two of them would be okay if the resulting long Downs were juicy.  But three of them?  And for L’CHAIM, BIONDI, and SINGED as the payoff?  Ugh.

That's one way to get the lead out.

The southwest stack is no better, really.  You have a partial (IS ON), an overused term (ERE), a crosswordese abbreviation (SLR), and another abbreviation (SYS).  And here too the long Downs (ASSESS, HOURLY, and SNEERS) disappoint.

Fortunately, the clues are better than the fill.  [It may be lost on purpose] is a nice clue for FAT, and I also liked [Amenity at many Starbucks] for WIFI, mostly because it tricked me into thinking of coffee-related perks first.  I was sure there was an error with the clue [Small child] for TAD. “TOT, sure,” I figured, “but TAD?  Was it supposed to be [Small amount]?  Or [Short for Thaddeus]?”  Fortunately, I consulted my dictionary before triumphantly declaring that I spotted an error, only to see the very first definition of the word was “a small boy.”  So it’s legit, but I’d still like to see it in a sentence.  “Have you seen my tad, Tad?”

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

Abbreviated holiday blogging schedule!

Highlights: SUGAR HIGH, NEW JERSEY DEVILS, YNGWIE Malmstein (though I wanted to see his full name in the grid), SCREECH, HINES WARD, IT’S PAT, HYUNDAI. Also, I like how [“Eugene __”], starts with ONE, had me wondering if someone wrote a “Eugene O’Neill” song. Nope, it’s the play Eugene ONEGIN.

Never heard of HOLY HAND GRENADE or the Book of Armaments. Sci-fi? Video games? Comics? No idea. Sounds like something Robin would have exclaimed to Batman.

Place I decided to GO WRONG: For the clue [Like Brussels sprouts, maybe], I thought Brendan was playing a geography game and put in BELGIAN, with “sprouts” meaning kids. Er, no. UNEATEN.

Four stars.

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27 Responses to Monday, 5/30/11

  1. D_Blackwell says:

    Yeah, I blew through it too, but the early week crosswords aren’t intended for me. I ‘could’ comment on today’s crossword in a fashion that would be appropriate and interesting for the target audience – but I don’t want to. (Nobody reads me, ha:))

    I noted elsewhere about today’s (Monday) crossword:

    “Not much to say. Mondays and Tuesdays are often too easy for me and I can only deduce the experience of a slower solver. The themes don’t mean much to me because I blast through the crosswords without even seeing them. A slower solver, that uses the theme as part of the experience, is going to get the most enjoyment from the early week puzzles.

    Similarly, my experience with the Friday and Saturday crosswords is much different than the experience of The Smart People. I am often happy to finish in any amount of time, and they are knocking them out in 5, 6, 7 minutes.”

    I have often wondered why the blogs don’t do more to target comments to the day, to the people that will really like the puzzle, as opposed to treating each day as the same.

    Bloggo Deb over at Wordplay, has, on occasion, dipped a toe into this issue with guest commentators. A few of them have been quite interesting. I’d like to see much more of that. There is an opportunity there to offer something that the other NYT blogs do not.

  2. Martin says:

    “Bloggo Deb”?

    By “bloggo” do you mean “blogger”? If so, where does the usage “bloggo” come from?


  3. joon says:

    i hope you’re not comparing deb to rod blagojevich. that would be a grievous insult to deb and an unforgivable one to deb’s hair.

  4. D_Blackwell says:

    LOL :)) No, but I grew up in Chicago. What has happened there that they now say corruption is a crime? If you can’t pay people off, how does anybody get anything done?

    As for Bloggo = Blogger — yes, but I don’t recall how I picked it up.

  5. Bruce S. says:


    Don’t forget that ELEVEN is the next prime number. Fun puzzle.

  6. Martin says:

    [Io] bloggo = I blog, in Italian. is the of Italy. But I don’t think Deb is Italian.

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Oh! 7-11, double prime. So mathy people are partial to Slurpees and disdain Icees?

    I’ll bet the readership is largely the same throughout the week at any given crossword blog. I don’t think a vast sea of Monday-to-Wednesday solvers emerges into the blogosphere early in the week and then goes into hiding. I certainly hope those folks stick around all week and use the blog as a learning tool, building their skills as many others have done.

    And then of course, Diary of a Crossword Fiend is mostly targeted at the people who do multiple good crosswords a day. Those, at least, are mainly who comments.

  8. Bruce S. says:

    As one whose skill is in the process of being built I agree with Amy. I do all the puzzles, come and read everyday, seven days a week.

  9. Pomeranian says:

    “And then of course, Diary of a Crossword Fiend is mostly targeted at the people who do multiple good crosswords a day. Those, at least, are mainly who comments.”


    Just a reminder to never judge an audience by who comments. It’s a well-known empirical fact that those who actually bother to comment are a very extreme segment of the site’s population. The majority of your audience are ‘lurkers’, who are probably very different from the commenters! You may or may not want to target your blog at this extreme segment, it’s up to you. On the one hand they are the most engaged members of your audience (but they will probably stay anyway), and on the other they are a small minority of your readers.

  10. Deb Amlen says:

    Actually, I was given the nickname Bloggo after losing a drinking game to Arthur Sulzberger, who had noticed my resemblance to a certain Marx Brother. I’m not Italian, unless of course I lose another game to Punch.

    Joon, thanks for the kind words about my hair. :)

  11. Martin says:

    Ioblobbo? Looks like I lost a drinking game with myself.

    Deb, Pinch, Jr. should be an easier opponent. I understand he’s a vegan, and has to be easy to take down.

  12. ArtLvr says:

    LOL with your first pick to note on the LAT — A PILL. I didn’t even see that one when doing the puzzle, it went so fast! Funny clue…

  13. joon says:

    amy, you obviously didn’t watch this video the last time i linked it here, which was only last week, but here’s the holy hand grenade for you.

    the CS seemed like a flimsy raison d’être for a puzzle. i once clued DOODLING as {Using a pencil without a point}, and that’s pretty much the entire joke, except it was just one clue for one word, not an entire puzzle. the iffy fill didn’t really help, either.

  14. pannonica says:

    Judging by the number of (non-duplicate, from my understanding) daily ratings—especially for the NYT puzzle—the knowledge that some regular commenters don’t vote and that some people neither vote nor comment, Pomeranian’s assessment seems accurate. (I’m not privy to sitemeter statistics here.) I picture an Oort cloud of lurkers. Maybe that’d be a good collective noun: an oort of lurkers? Makes me think of a skulk of foxes. But I digress.

    On the other hand, I tend to avoid patronizing lessons and never “talk down” to children or others, assuming they’ll either “get it” or feel comfortable asking questions because I’m so non-threatening (I hope). This may not be the best strategy, but it hasn’t been horrendous.

  15. pannonica says:

    caption: “That’s one way to get the lead out.”

    …or be lead astray. (Apologies to Matt Gaffney.)

  16. Jeff L says:

    In the CS, isn’t the “Capital of Yemen” clue just flat-out wrong?

  17. pannonica says:

    Bruce S.: So what’s your assessment of the level, tone, and helpfulness of the write-ups through the week?

    Jeff L: Wow, yes, isn’t it Sana’a?

  18. Erik says:

    Clearly, Ms. Keller is a People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen secessionist. Or she became comatose pre-1990 and her family is trying to “Goodbye, Lenin” her.

  19. sbmanion says:


    I am more inclined to think of a murder of crows or an exaltation of larks depending on the puzzle.

  20. Bruce S. says:


    I find all the writeups to be entertaining, helpful and very welcoming. I haven’t even felt “spoken down to”. I have always felt comfortable enough to comment or just read the writeups each day. I come here everyday and read all the writeups once I have done the puzzles. I used to go to Ryan and Brian’s site everyday and comment there, I usually do a quick read at Rex Parkers, and LA Confidential. From my experience everyone has been more than nice and willing to clarify a point if asked. If you want to read about puzzles there are many places to go, but I always enjoy the variety of styles and writeups at Orange’s site. Thanks to all who make this site what it is, hosts, writers and commenters alike.

  21. john farmer says:

    Suggestion. If Monday puzzles are too boring for you, when Amy asks you to blog, just say no. No one is forcing you, really. It’s a holiday, after all. Take the day off.

    I thought the puzzle today was just fine. Zippy, and a little more going on than many early-week themes. Nice work, Michael B.

    Have a great Memorial Day, all.

  22. Martin says:

    The ADEN clue is ok by the “implied ‘former'” rule. This is why IBM still makes ThinkPads and PCs in crosswords even though Lenovo bought that business in 2004. Nobody objects to Brando being an “actor,” not a “late actor,” and that concept is stretched mightily by editors.

    Aden was a capital until 1990. A 1997 NYT puzze clues it as “Yemeni capital,” although it’s been “Former capital” more recently. The bottom line seems to be that you can’t call a clue for confusing past and present.

  23. Ladel says:

    Unrealistic expectations lead to disappointments, ultimately enlightenment if you are aware and diligent. The puzzles are supposed to be easy early in the week–for oh so many reasons–so don’t come to them expecting more than a light romp. It’s really hard to make an interesting easy puzzle easy, redundancy intended, and for the most part the constructors get it right. See john farmer supra.

  24. pannonica says:

    My praise may have been faint, but it wasn’t damning.

  25. arabica says:

    Re Sarah Keller’s Futility: Aden has not been the capital of South Yemen for two decades!

  26. Meem says:

    John Farmer has it right. Ending a review with the word “yawn” is not faint praise. Ladel is also correct about early week romps. And that is exactly what we solved today. Michael Barnhart deserves a smile, not a frown. And Will Shortz understands his audience on a Monday holiday.

  27. Jan (danjan) says:

    I hold my hand up as a daily reader who comments occasionally, but doesn’t rate the puzzles. I enjoy each of them, and am appreciative of the efforts of all the constructors who enable me to have a daily fix of mind exercise, whether easy or hard.

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