Nina Rulon-Miller’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Not done kicking loose after a wild weekend? This puzzle keeps the party going by metaphorically putting a feather in its cap. The theme is cocktail garnishes:
- 17a. [Whiskey sour garnish] ORANGE SLICE.
- 27a. [Gibson garnish] PICKLED ONION.
- 47a. [Martini garnish] PIMENTO OLIVE.
- 62a. [Bloody Mary garnish] CELERY STALK.
Each of the four garnishes is iconic and distinct, so that’s in the puzzle’s favor. But of course I can find some things to quibble with.
- A gibson and a martini are essentially the same drink, the only difference being the garnish, which in the former is usually called a pearl onion. Curiously, the other common martini garnish—and the one that I prefer—a twist (strip of lemon peel), doesn’t merit a drink with its own name, so must always be specified.
- A whiskey sour usually contains two garnishes: the orange slice and a maraschino cherry.
It seems to me that in the vast universe of mixology—ugh! we really need a more elegant term to take hold—four wholly distinct cocktails with similarly distinct and unequivocal garnishes could have been found, even in a puzzle pitched for early-week solvers, requiring nothing too obscure.
As for the puzzle itself, it was a smooth solve, relatively free of crosswordese and the unsightly sort of abbrevs., as is usual for a Monday puzzle. On the other hand, it leaned a little too much on partials and fill-in-the-blank clues. I counted twelve blankers, three of which are also partials, which are admittedly usually in the form of fill-in-the-blank. Some crutch! Would also have preferred if two of those fill-in-the-blanks, 23a [“__ no evil…”] and 13d [“… __ no evil…”] didn’t use connected clues, as the answers are neither consecutive nor proximate in the grid.
Nice double-stacked nines in the northeast and southwest (AFFILIATE/SORE LOSER and SPLIT ENDS/PRIMROSES), though the puzzle would have been much more robust if the 4/4 entries (HEAR/NARY and ASAP/LIDO) at the edges could have been configured as third nines in each stack.
- 10d. [Big name in small swimwear] SPEEDO. Cute.
- 39d. [Title for Mike Huckabee: Abbr.] Had REP for a few moments before correcting it to REV.
- 58a. [Shower cap?] Relatively playful clue for a Monday. RAIN HAT.
- 45d constitutes a bit of a tie-in with the theme. [Couldn’t shpeak shtraight [hic]?] SLURRED (not shlurred).
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The LA Times puzzle follows a shrinkage pattern, regressing from GIANT down to WEE:
- 17a. [Winter Olympics event with gates] = GIANT SLALOM RACE. I feel like the word RACE is superfluous here.
- 23a. [One stalking lions or tigers] = BIG GAME HUNTER. Lively yet dismal phrase.
- 38a. [T-bone with a warm, red center] = MEDIUM-RARE STEAK.
- 48a. [Lass awed by the big city, maybe] = SMALL-TOWN GIRL. Yeah, but she’ll take the midnight train to anywhere.
- 58a. [He “runs through the town … in his nightgown”] = WEE WILLIE WINKIE.
Big theme for an easy Monday puzzle—three 15s plus two 13s equals 71 theme squares. So nearly all the rest of the grid is 3s, 4s, and 5s, and you’ve got ARLO and ALVA and AMATI, and the NEE/DEERE/LEER/LOIRE corner. My favorite fill is 16a: the TWIX candy bar ([Candy that comes in twos], yum). Favorite clue is 21a: [Place for inks or oinks]. Took me a moment to untangle my brain and think of an ink-filled PEN and a pig PEN. First I was thinking, “Tattoo inks in a pigsty?”
Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Bewitching” – Sam Donaldson’s review
It’s an ode in black and white to an old black-and-white film, Bell Book and Candle, starring 57-Across, JAMES STEWART, and Kim Novak. (Ms. Novak apparently declined Mr. Hinman’s several requests to appear in the grid.)
Kathy Yi offers the following summary of the film on imdb.com: “Gillian Holroyd is just your average, modern-day witch, living in a New York apartment with her Siamese familiar, Pyewacket. But one day a handsome publisher, Shep Henderson walks into her building and Gillian decides she wants him–especially as it turns out he’s marrying Merle Kittridge, an old poison penpal from Gillian’s college days. So, Gillian casts a spell over Shep. But her powers are in danger of being exorcised by something stronger than the bell-book-and-candle routine: Love.”
Today the film would star Katherine Heigl as Gillian and James Franco as Shep. (Unless it was produced for Lifetime, that is, in which case it would star Jennifer Love Hewitt and some no-name guy, and the plot would be changed to make Shep both a cheater and a serial killer. Hey, don’t mess with the Lifetime formula.)
I’ve seen a stage production of Bell, Book and Candle but not the film. But that’s okay, because this is a blog that reviews crosswords and not movies. Speaking of which, Hinman’s puzzle uses the three nouns in the movie’s title as the other three theme entries:
- 20-Across: BELL-BOTTOMED is indeed [Like some retro jeans]. Some of us are old enough to have owned a pair when they were first popular (and some of us happily unpacked them from the attic when they briefly became cool again a few years back).
- 32-Across: The [Version purchased by Oprah fans, often] is the BOOK CLUB EDITION. I’m not terribly wild about this theme entry, as it feels a tad forced. But Hinman needed something with 15 letters that starts with BOOK, and that can’t be easy to find.
- 41-Across: The [Tribute by Elton John] is CANDLE IN THE WIND. This simply had to be a theme entry. Name another entry of any length starting with CANDLE that isn’t lifeless (like CANDLE WAX). Yep, I’m pretty sure this was the only viable option.
It would have been nice to see some reference to Kim Novak or perhaps other elements of the film (WITCH, SPELL, ROM-COM, and so forth), but such is not the case. Still, there’s some great fill here. MUSIC VENUE is a nice long entry, and I dig the fusion of EATS in the south, with UDON noodles crossing carne ASADA. The center crossing of SIN and BIN allowed for the connected clue of [Penalty box, informally]. I didn’t know that a penalty box in hockey was a “sin bin,” but I like the term.
One has to be somewhat current on famous names to navigate through this puzzle. In addition to Mr. Stewart, there’s Irish poet SEAMUS Heaney, author Roald DAHL, the fictional Grace ADLER from Will & Grace, a random BECCA, playright Thomas KYD (not the rapper, Kyd Thomas), [Fitness guru Jack] LALANNE, NFL-er (just trying to introduce the word into conversations when I can) Jason ELAM, actor Robert URICH and [“60 Minutes” reporter Leslie] STAHL.
The northwest corner tripped me up, as I managed to fall into every trap Mr. Hinman set. Yep, I had OAKS as the answer to [Sherman ___] (though my first thought was Hemsley and the second one was Alexie), when it was supposed to be TANK, and TREY was my [Frequent deuce follower] (it turned out to be a tennis deuce, so the answer was AD IN). Well laid traps, indeed. My favorite clue from the puzzle was [Juice ingredient?] for the SILENT I required to spell and pronounce “juice” correctly.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Likes: CYBERSQUATTER, DEBT CEILING, SOUTH L.A., THE TROUBLES, GRUNGE, BUM RAPS, ST. KITTS, and PALE ALE clued as [Harpoon, e.g.].
Words least often used in the current ERA: OSTLER and REAVE.
Favorite food: I prefer NOUGAT over YAK’S MILK, I admit it.
Most questionable entry: RED DOT. Not so lexical-chunky, is it?