Stan Newman’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
“I got plenty o’ nothing, and nothing’s plenty for me…”
Perhaps “plenty” is overstating matters, but the three long themed answers, as 56-Down [Nothing … or a hint to what’s hidden in 20-, 35- and 52-Across]—ZIP—suggests, each contain the letters Z-E-R-O in sequence.
- 20a. [Buffalo wings or bruschetta, e.g.] clues APPETIZER ORDER, which seems a bit overly specific to me; “order” feels superfluous for regular speech.
- 35a. [Pittsburgh Pirates hero of the 1960 World Series] BILL MAZEROSKI. I’ve never heard of him, but that isn’t surprising in the least.
- 52a. [Music source on many an old fairground] WURLITZER ORGAN. Solid, takes the prize among the themers.
Straight-ahead theme. The only technical nit I could possibly pick is that the zero distribution is inconsistent. In the first and third entries it spans the two words of the phrase (in exactly the same way: ZER|O); in the middle one it’s contained entirely within the second word. (Somewhat interestingly, there was a New York radio and television sports personality named Bill Mazer but alas, any stray -oski is nowhere to be seen.) Unofficial crossword politesse would have the theme answers structured all the same, or each uniquely; the uneven distributions of distributions is second-tier.
Mini baseball theme surrounding BILL MAZEROSKI? 28a [“E” on a baseball scoreboard] ERRORS and, symmetrically, 44a [Swung and missed] FANNED.
Some elegant longer fill in the ballast, not necessarily common for a Monday puzzle: APERTURES, CALLS TIME (both 9 letters); the very nice and evocative symmetrical pairing PASTORAL, ORATORIO (8 letters each); the stacked eights of LIMERICK/SAM RAIMI and BOTSWANA/IMPOUNDS… quite wonderful.
Again—as is par for early-week puzzles—nothing obscure, esoteric, or otherwise ungettable, aside perhaps from that baseball guy and the crossing down [Jeff who founded Amazon.com] BEZOS; however, knowledge of the theme gimmick takes care of the possibly problematic Z. Smooth fill, no partials, few abbrevs. and acronyms, a handful of common prefixes, and a couple of very familiar foreign words that have been adopted into English.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “It’s in the Cards” — Sam Donaldson’s review
Before we get going, let’s extend warm birthday greetings to our fearless leader, Amy. It was two years ago today that I made my debut here on the Fiend, filling in for Amy when she took the day off to celebrate with friends and family. Since then, she’s been kind enough to give me many chances to redeem myself, and hopefully one day I will. In the meantime, I join everyone in thanking her for maintaining such a helpful forum for crossword construction and deconstruction, and wishing her a year of good health and much happiness.
Okay, back to the crossword. I really loved this theme! Orbach finds five two-word expressions where the last word is also the name of a card game, then clues the expression as if it was a variation of the card game:
- 17-Across: CANDY HEARTS becomes the [Card game at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory?]. In my last year of law school, some classmates started a year-long hearts tournament, with about two dozen of us participating. No joke, I think I played at least 200 games that year. And I was one of the studious ones. It remains perhaps my greatest memory from law school.
- 25-Across: The [Card game in old Mumbai?] is BOMBAY GIN. It’s more formally known as Bombay Sapphire Gin.
- 37-Across: COLD WAR is not only a term describing the prolonged hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union, it’s also a [Card game in a walk-in freezer?]. It was the shortest theme entry, but it was also my favorite.
- 51-Across: The [Card game at the hook and ladder?] is FIRE POKER. Beavis likes this game. (Yep, a Beavis reference.)
- 59-Across: PIZZERIA UNO is not only an overrated chain for Chicago-style pizza but also the [Card game at the local parlor?]. I wonder if this was the seed entry around which the puzzle’s theme was formed.
It’s always nice to see a 1-Across that’s longer than five letters, and a MIMOSA is indeed a nice way to get started. The triple 6s in the northeast and southwest corners are another lovely touch. Other highlights in the fill included ON A DATE, clued as [Out with hope of lip-puckering, perhaps] and TO BE SURE, clued as [“Without a doubt!”]. The lip-puckering reference in the clue for ON A DATE was a nice follow-up to the immediately preceding clue, [Lip-puckering] for SOUR. I also liked the clues for ZEROES, [Odometer readout on a new car], and DYE, [Turn red or green, perhaps].
Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review
It’s rhyme time! The four long theme entries end in a /ül/ sound, spelled differently each time. This sort of theme can be contentious, as regional variations in pronunciation are rampant, and sometimes unexpected.
- 17a. [1956 #1 hit for Elvis Presley] DON’T BE CRUEL. See? I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that more than a few people or populations articulate the ue dipthong less smoothly than others, teasing apart its constituent sounds.
- 27a. [Mr. T catch phrase] I PITY THE FOOL. Not that it affects solving, but I’ve most often seen catchphrase as a compound word.
- 47a. [Cornerstone principle of democracy] MAJORITY RULE. Democracy, from the Greek, means literally, “rule by the people.” More often than not, that’s the same as “majority rule,” but it isn’t necessarily the case. In this era of corporate personhood, the notion is even muddier.
- 61a. [Eight-time Best Actor nominee who never won] PETER O’TOOLE. That really is a shame. Perhaps, since he’s still alive, it might’ve been kinder—less cruel—to phrase the clue “…who hasn’t won yet”?
Easy-peasy Monday theme, to slide into the busy solving week. Relatively clean fill. The double-nine stacks (ROCK-SOLID/TREEHOUSE; LARA CROFT/TROJAN WAR) in the northeast and southwest are good but the desire for them to be triple-nines is nearly palpable; of course it’s exponentially more difficult to construct. That’s the very definition of tantalize (nine letters, incidentally).
Some distinct miniature narratives to be discovered within the grid:
- YUCKY and OUTCAST crossing dead center.
- CABAL and OCCULT crossing in the top center. Optional: political conspiracy theorists may add the crossing OBAMA.
- BARE ABUT in the same area?
- STAG and RAGED and EVADE in the bottom center.
- Is there a minor 1980s television theme with the Mr T themer, Lisa BONET, and URKEL?
Other notes: 1a is spelled KABOB, as opposed to the other variant, KEBAB, seen in Saturday’s Newsday stumper. Row 4 DREA SUET URKEL is viscerally unappealing, YUCKY. 56a [“Sesame Street” resident] ERNIE was in the news last week. Favorite clue and answer, for no particular reason: 46d [Out-of-the-office detective duty] LEGWORK.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
I waited all morning for the Birthday Fairy to blog this puzzle for me but it didn’t happen. (Thanks for the gift of blogging the LAT puzzle, pannonica! And thanks for the timely greetings, Sam and pannonica and dear readers!)
I’d been waiting for the WINKLEVOSS TWINS to make their appearance since Brendan posted on Facebook that he’d found a great 15 in a link. I still need to see The Social Network, don’t I?
I remembered SISSY BAR as the bar on the back of banana seats on Schwinn and Huffy bicycles when I was a kid. Let us not cast aspersions on the backrest! In fact, let’s put some solid passenger lumbar support on every motorcycle.
Likes: LAST.FM, DOOFUS, JEALOUS MISTRESS, NINE WEST (tried to get MANOLO, BLAHNIK, and LOUBOUTIN to be 8 letters long first), Star Trek‘s “HE’S DEAD, JIM,” FROZE UP, MAIN MAN, and MT. ST. HELENS. And who knew Pachelbel was German? The ZWEI clue stumped me.
Dislikes: Not sure who uses WISED OFF. Never encountered that OBER. NTS is an ugly abbreviation. And there’s a Word Ladder of Unfortunate Fill in III, INI, IN B.