Monday, 6/13/11

NYT 4:08 (pannonica) 


LAT 2:30 


CS 6:58 (Sam) 


BEQ 6:26 


Alex Vratsanos’ New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT crossword solution, 6/13/11

Vratsanos seems to be making a début today, and does so in style, with a solid, sure grid that felt like a themeless, primarily because I didn’t see either of the clues for the two-part reveal:

  • 23a (&57a). [With 57-Across, game that includes the starts of 17-, 29-, 48- and 64-Across] PING PONG.

  • 17a. [Laundry that’s often food-stained] TABLE LINEN. I had table cloth momentarily.
  • 29a. [How much you really earned] NET INCOME.
  • 48a. [Hoosier University] BALL STATE.
  • 64a. [Lakeshore rental, perhapsPADDLE BOAT.

That pretty much covers the necessities: table, ball, paddle(s), net. The four themers are strong entries and of decent length, nine and ten letters.

The puzzle also shines in its non-theme content: ROCKSTAR, ATHEISTS, IONIZER, STACCATO, CHLORIDE, ANECDOTE, SKELETON, MOSAICS are all good sevens and eights. TIC [ __-tac-toe] and EXES are neighbors, but they aren’t clued in relation to each other. Would have been happier if RETILE or RETAPE were absent; both of them are a bit much for me. CAP (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials) Quotient™ is low enough to escape nitpicking. Good mix of letters overall. Romperiffic.

Definitely looking forward to seeing more puzzles by Alex Vratsanos.

Updated Monday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A Really Big Shoe” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Veteran crossword solvers know that [Large shoe size] almost always clues EEE.  Here, Ross gives us a “really big shoe” by finding five terms that contain three consecutive Es:

  • 17-Across: The [Broadcaster behind the Iron Curtain] is RADIO FREE EUROPE.
  • 22-Across: The [Bird that consumes flying insects] is a BEE-EATER.  Not to be confused with the bird that serves on the queen’s royal guard, the beef-eater.
  • 37-Across: The [Hard copy of on-line material] is the DEAD TREE EDITION.  This theme entry felt the freshest to me.
  • 48-Across: For some reason I knew that LEE ELDER was the [First African-American to play at the Masters], but the first answer I wanted was Calvin Peete.
  • 55-Across: One possible [Explanation from an ump] is I CALL ‘EM AS I SEE ‘EM.  The expression that feels more common to me is “I call ’em like I see ’em,” but this seems fine to me too.

The theme works fine for me, but I’m a bigger fan of the fill.  We get off to a fun start with FILCH, then there’s ABU DHABI, PEPSI alongside TWEET, SEMI-PRO, and TOOL BELT.  That’s a lot of sparkle in a grid with five theme entries.  And my inner ten year-old liked HOOHAS, though the version clued ([Commotions]) is not how my inner ten year-old knows the term.

There are some less attractive entries too, like that whole cluster in the middle of SRAS, UEYS, BASSI, and the awkwardly plural RAYONS (it so looks like it’s missing a “C”).  And while I’m on the topic of underwhelming crosswordese, I’m quickly losing enthusiasm for MRE, [Today’s version of a K ration].  It just feels like I’ve seen a little too much of it lately.  But these are small points; overall I found the puzzle enjoyable.

Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LATimes crossword solution, 6 12 11

I didn’t look at the byline until halfway through the puzzle, when I wanted to know who deserved the credit for a fine, breezy puzzle. For my money, Jeff Chen’s one of the most consistently good new constructors being published in the LA Times.

Jeff’s theme is DOUBLE A’S, the batteries, writ large as four famous people with double A’s in their names. Two last names (JACK PAAR, JAMES CAAN) balanced by two first names (ISAAC ASIMOV, AARON BURR). Simple, solid, easy to figure out: perfect for Monday.


  • Those corners with the stacked 7’s and 8s. All six of those answers are good, especially the MACARONI with VELVEETA, and their crossings aren’t clunky.
  • 9d. CLOSE GAME, a [Nip and tuck contest]. Great answer phrase.
  • 19a. “HOLD ME“—cute! [“I need a hug“].
  • 48a. [Blue state?] clues a blue FUNK.
  • 8d/35a. The pallor pals, ASHEN and WAN.
  • 43d. [Polished part of a piggy?] is a painted TOENAIL.

A few of the shorter answers are blah, but I saw nothing in the realm of Unfair To Expect Monday Solvers To Know. So 4.5 stars, an excellent example of a Monday crossword.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 340 answers

Whoa! Three sets of triple-stacked 15’s, with every crossing and non-15 being 3, 4, or 5 letters long, and only a single trigger for the Scowl-o-Meter. That would be TRONA, a [Gray-white mineral] I’ve never heard of despite taking geology in college. A few abbrevs and semi-awkward little plurals, but overall this is a 99% smooth grid. There are even, surprisingly, some Scrabbly letters in the mix (two Q’s, two X’s, a Z, and a couple K’s).

And the 15’s! OPERATING MARGIN‘s on the dull side and TOASTMISTRESSES is a quintessential bottom-row answer with all the instances of S, T, R, and E in that word. But the other seven 15’s are fantastic.

I have no idea why AETNA is a [Tufts rival]. Is there a school by the name of Aetna?

Standard BEQ themeless difficulty, no real trouble spots but an abundance of clues that weren’t gimmes at all. 4¾ stars.

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14 Responses to Monday, 6/13/11

  1. D_Blackwell says:

    The clue for SEXIST, “Putting women down, e.g.”, could be chided as womens’ propaganda. Some of them should check a mirror for things other than makeup and hair:))

  2. ArtLvr says:

    What fun! Will Shortz, famous PING-PONG player, probably has a signed and framed blow-up of this one on his wall? Another thought along personal lines, pannonica — does your nom-de-puzzledom relate to the patroness known as “Jazz Baroness”? Quite striking!

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    The NYT puzzle reminded me of the satirical puzzle by “Willy Shortz” at, crafted by constructor Francis Heaney and humor writer Tim Harrod—the one with a clue reading [Sport that I plan to spend all my time playing now that I don’t have to crank out this goddamn crossword every day].

    Rex Parker critiqued the clue for SEXIST as not matching the part of speech. Pretty sure most of us tried SEXISM before changing it to SEXIST. I can come up with a substitution-test sentence that uses “putting women down” and “sexist” in the same spot, but they’re playing different roles grammatically so I don’t understand why the clue is worded that way.

    @D_Blackwell, put down the crack pipe already. Your comment doesn’t even make sense and your emoticon has a double chin.

    I was surprised to find myself liking a puzzle with a “hidden EEE” theme, and yet Randy Ross’s CS puzzle was a solid Monday breeze of a puzzle. Fastest CS for me in ages—I’ve been solving the CS with the Crux app on my iPad and I’m slower on a touchscreen keyboard than a real one, so the CS usually takes me 4 1/2+ minutes, but today’s was 3:20.

  4. Zulema says:

    I believe, according to a recently published article in the NYT, that Will Shortz plays Table Tennis, not Ping Pong, though there was no reference to Will in the article at all. Besides Ping Pong being a registered trademark, there would seem to be actual differences in serving, stance, etc. Ping Pong, according to the article, is what kids play in their basements. Table Tennis is on a different level and it’s what serious practitioners play.

  5. pannonica says:

    I’ve no qualms with the validity of the SEXIST clue, but perhaps it turns out to be too ambiguous for a Monday.

    Another thumbs down for D_Blackwell’s bizarre statement.

    Ping-pong:table tennis :: pool:pocket billiards? Perhaps we can be subversive and start calling tennis “land ping-pong.” I’d also like to see ping-pong even more imitative: “paPING-paPONG.”

    ArtLvr: Yes, there is a nominal relationship.

  6. Daniel Myers says:

    Wavelengthing w/ nominally jazzy pannonica once again – aside from in a purely technical “gerund does not equal adjective” sense – I fail to see what the to-do about the SEXIST clue is all about. Even this technical sense of objection is rather daft. Gerunds are verbal nouns to which adjectives often attach. All to say that: “Putting down women is a SEXIST preoccupation.” was what occurred to me from the off, technicalities nothwithstanding. I think cruciverbalists become rather bored on Mondays, not to put them down, of course.

  7. Sam Donaldson says:

    “For my money, Jeff Chen’s one of the most consistently good new constructors being published in the LA Times.”

    Amen. And he’s a heckuva nice guy, to boot.

  8. sps says:

    @Amy, Re: BEQ’s puzzle Tufts/AETNA—we had Tufts health insurance for many years before switching to Blue Cross.

  9. Jeff Chen says:

    Where do I send the check, Sam?

  10. Not to be nit-picky (or pedantic), but…

    Growing up in the Bay Area, I was taught that it’s actually California sea lions, not the other pinnipeds we usually just call “seals” (aka “earless seals”), that can be trained to balance a beach ball on the nose. *Technically* a sea lion is a type of seal, so I can’t officially quibble with W-Shortz (not that his contact info is available anyway), but I still think the clue for 19-across in today’s Times puzzle could be considered a mistake.

  11. ArtLvr says:

    Thanks, pannonica… I wish I’d seen the film starring Helen Mirren as the Baroness! As for BEQ’s puz with self-rating of “hard”, this was one of the rare times I found it easy! ONCE IN A BLUE MOON, for sure.

  12. Karen says:

    I had trouble accepting Ball State as an answer. Apparently it was founded by the Ball brothers in Muncie IN.

    Also in BEQ, the insane clue for 39A had me scratching my head. I really wanted ABBRS but it wouldn’t fit.

  13. pannonica says:

    Michael Wolman: That’s “seals” aka “earless” seals aka “true” seals. You’re correct technically, however this is an instance where the vernacular probably wins out. I think it’s easier for the zoo- or circus-going public to exclaim, “Ooh! Look at the seals!” rather than “Ooh! Look at the sea lions!” It’s regrettable but not as egregiously transgressive as “koala bear.” It’s a can of worms. I mean, ant-lion? Flying lemur?

    ArtLvr: I’m not familiar with that performance, don’t even know which film it is. The only one I can think of that has her as character is Bird (1988); Charlie Parker died while at her apartments. Diane Salinger had the role. Nica de Koenigswarter herself appears in the excellent documentary Straight: No Chaser.

    update: BBC Four produced a documentary portrait, The Jazz Baroness, in 2009; HBO rebroadcast it the same year. From the BBC website: “Helen Mirren is the voice of ‘Nica’, while Sonny Rollins, TS Monk Jr, the Duchess of Devonshire, Quincy Jones, Lord Rothschild, Roy Haynes, Chico Hamilton and others appear as themselves.”

  14. Mel Park says:

    Amy, thanks for mentioning the Crux app for the iPod. I have been looking for a crossword app for that platform and could find nothing doing simple searches of the App Store.

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