Monday, 11/14/11

BEQ 6:16 
NYT 3:41 (pannonica) 
LAT 2:45 
CS 11:23 (Sam) 

Mark Feldman’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT crossword • Monday 11/14/11 • Feldman • answers • 1114

A bowling theme! In a Monday puzzle! I can’t tell you how much this thrills me, because it thrills me not at all. Despite these unpromising handicaps, I more or less enjoyed the crossword because there was a good amount of sparkly, atypical early-week fill. A pair of 15-letter themers helped too.

  • 17a. [Acquire sudden riches] STRIKE GOLD. To which one apparently says, “Bonanza!”
  • 29a. [Help out a panhandler] SPARE SOME CHANGE.
  • 44a. [What multiple winners of a lottery must do] SPLIT THE JACKPOT.
  • 61a. [Absolutely amazed] BOWLED OVER.

One could almost stretch matters and posit an alternative theme, with a POT of GOLD SOMEwhere OVER the rainbow. A BOWL of Lucky Charms cereal?

The unusual fill? Glad you asked. How about SATRAP? A [Minor despot], derived ultimately from the Old Persian khshathrapāvan. DAMASK originally came from Syria. SILICONE OCARINAS, what else can be said? Slightly ahead of the season, we have [Christmas drinks] WASSAILS (from Middle English wæs hæil, washayl, from Old Norse ves heill be well, from ves (imperative singular of vera to be) + heill healthy — more at was, whole). And good old APPLE PIE.

There’s even a bit of sly misdirection, rarely seen in tame early-week environments: 43a [Greyhound, e.g.] is a BUS and not a DOG.

Least favorite clue: 23a [Slowing, in music: Abbr.] RIT, for ritardando. Runner-up: 53a AEC (Atomic Energy Commission).

Solid, integrated grid, a minimum of junk fill. It nearly makes up for the bowling theme.

Betty Keller’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 11 14 11

Shhh! Keep this under your hat, all right? Don’t tell a soul my deep, dark secret. Which is that those three words begin three of the theme answers:

  • 17a. [Big corporations, lawsuit-wise] have DEEP POCKETS.
  • 27a. [Godiva choice] is DARK CHOCOLATE. You know what’s wrong with Halloween candy? Too much milk chocolate, not enough dark.
  • 48a. An [Anonymous fan] is a SECRET ADMIRER.
  • 64a. [“For your ears only” … and a hint to first words of 17-, 27- and 48-Across] clues “MUM’S THE WORD.”

Hey! This puzzle is even a timely one. This is mid-November, and November’s flower is the chrysanthemum, or mum, for short. I don’t suppose that was at all a factor in Rich Norris’s scheduling.

It’s always nice to have a couple long Down answers to juice things up in a Monday puzzle. Here, we have TEARJERKER (11d. [Two-hanky film]) and RINGS A BELL (29d. [Sounds familiar]) each connecting theme answers and providing nice flow among sections. There’s also a little Scrabbly action crossing those 10s, with NAVAJOS (25a. [Native blanket makers]) and SPANDEX (52a. [Shapewear fabric]).

I’ll ding the puzzle a little for including the word IN in four separate answers: 1a: NOT IN, 15a: IN RED, 4d: IN PARK, and 51d: IN TWOS. Maybe the deep dark secret is that the code word is “in”?

Usually URI is clued as mentalist/purported spoon-bender Uri Geller or the William Tell’s home canton in Switzerland. When it does get clued as the University of Rhode Island, the most common clues are [Sch. with a Providence campus] and [Ocean State sch.]. I like the fresh approach of 32a: [Sch. in the smallest state]. We may never see it clued as a head cold (upper respiratory infection), but I learned that abbreviation working at a medical publisher.

3.75 stars. Decent Monday venture.

Updated Monday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “2 + 1 = 3 in a Row” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, November 14

It’s only November, but I moved as slowly as molasses in January on this one, both in solving it and in figuring out and fully appreciating the theme. I blame it on Monday.

The theme involves entries starting with three consecutive letters of the alphabet, but it’s more sophisticated than that. Each of the theme entries is a two-word answer, and the first word consists of two letters. So you have to take the 2 letters in the first word plus the 1 letter that starts the second word to get the three in a row. Clever, no? Here are the theme entries:

  • J. K. LASSER is apparently the [Author of best-selling tax guides], but the name is new to me and was the last part of the puzzle to fall. Yes, I teach tax law. No, I don’t use tax guides to stay up to date. Also, what makes for a best-selling tax guide? If it sells 15 copies, it’s probably on the “best-sellers in tax titles” list.
  • AB CRUNCHES are popular [Stomach strengtheners]. Since I never caught on to the theme until after I was done, I kept wanting a single word starting with ABC- for the answer. Needless to say, I couldn’t think of one. AB CRUNCHES may start with A-B-C, but they’re hardly as easy as A-B-C, 1-2-3, or do-re-mi.
  • NO PROMISES means the same as [“I can’t guarantee that”]. This and AB CRUNCHES are the two entries that sell me on this theme. I’m not especially fond of the other two. Speaking of which…
  • This may be the only crossword where ST. URSULA, the [British holy woman with a shrine in Cologne], is a theme entry, unless the theme is “Obscure Saints” (I call dibs on that one!).

As I said, the theme eluded me throughout the solve. When I read the title at the start of my solve, I fixated on the six triple-stacks along the grid’s perimeter, thinking they were somehow the “three in a row.” I never thought to look at the four longest Across entries, especially since they were only one or two letters longer than the words in the triple-stacks.

Highlights in all those stacks (and elsewhere) included UV WAVES, the [Sunburn cause, briefly], AT A HALT, SAT IN ON (clued as [Audited, as a class]), CARA MIA, the [Jay & the Americans hit], DOES TOO, ICES UP, and SMIRNOFF.

Some of the parts that slowed me down included EOCENE as the [Epoch when mammals emerged], Gwen VERDON of “Damn Yankees,” and RECOOK (eww) as the answer to [Heat up, as leftovers]. A couple years of blogging crosswords helped me get ITALO Calvino, ELIE Wiesel, and EERO Saarinen with no problems.

A clever theme + four triple-stacks of seven-letter answers + 2 more triple-stacks of six-letter answers = impressive. That’s a solid four-star puzzle right there.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 384 solution

No time for complete sentences!

Don’t get why SARDINIA is clued as a country rather than part of Italy. Didn’t know DEFARGE, ESTO, MOONEY, ANIME by clue, EMIL. Love WHERE DO I SIGN. Like JEB BUSH, DOGGONE IT, AFLAC DUCK, DRINK TICKETS for PILSNER, MRS. DASH, INDIE FOLK, and the deliciously handsome JESSE Martin. Not crazy about SMILER, DE LA, UTE, NEP. abbreviation. Never heard of ILE flottante (French dessert0, but will absolutely accept floating islands of pastry. Don’t understand “pulse” in clue for SOY at all.

3.75 stars.

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12 Responses to Monday, 11/14/11

  1. Tuning Spork says:

    What’s wrong with a bowling theme, Amy? Is it not up your alley? Is it outside of your frame of reference? Or did you roll ten gutter balls in a row as a kid and are scarred for life or something?

    Some un-Monday-like fill and a somewhat un-Monday-like 76-worder with stacked eights in two corners. Looks fine to me.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Yes, I liked both the NYT and the LAT — fresh and fun, and up my alley! Happy B-day to me, and MUM’S THE WORD on which one it is…

  3. pannonica says:

    Sam: CS: UV WAVES and DE FACTO are themers as well.

    Tuning Spork: That was my write-up, not Amy’s. Must have been the “sparkly” appropriation that misled you!

  4. Daniel Myers says:

    The etymological dive into WASSAILS fairly screams: Pannonica’s (much appreciated) Monday write-up!:-)

  5. JaxInL.A. says:

    Betty Keller’s LAT puzzle felt very fresh, with unusual words and nice long entries even in a Monday. And I always like to see women constructors. Thanks very much for a perfect Monday (those four INs don’t bother me).

    The NYT was fine for me, though I did think the theme would have something to do with money (CHANGE, JACKPOT, GOLD) but it doesn’t play out.

  6. David L says:

    BQ: pulses are certain leguminous seeds, such as beans and lentils. According to wikipedia, however, soybeans are not pulses but oilseeds, or so says the Food and Agricultural Organization.

  7. Jeff Chen says:

    What a nice LAT! It’s a challenge to create something interesting yet accessible enough (little to no crosswordese) for the most beginning of solvers. Nice work! I didn’t care for all the INs, but really liked the theme and the long downs.

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    I keep track of my solve times on 5 daily puzzles (NYT, LAT, CrosSynergy, Universal & USAToday). My times on the CrosSynergy puzzle have been noticably higher since around April of this year. I think that was around the time they changed the electronic format of their puzzles from .PUZ (i.e. compatible with AcrossLite) to whatever it is now. With the notable exception of Bob Klahn’s offerings, I used to almost always solve the CrosSynergy puzzle in under 6 minutes. I often still do but I now also run into more puzzles (like today’s) that take me longer … sometimes considerably so like today’s 9:30. I think part of it has to do with the crossword-compiler interface, which I find to be more clunky for speed-solving than AcrossLite (although the latter has its shortcomings as well). But it seems to me that the puzzles have also gotten more challenging over the past 6 months and as well as more variable in their degree of difficulty. Has anyone else noticed this? Just wondering.

  9. Cmm says:

    You do realize that DE FACTO and UVWAVES fit with the Washington Post’s theme as well… Great puzzle

  10. Cmm says:

    D’OH should have read the comments before leaving one…

  11. Sam Donaldson says:

    @pannonica and Cmm: If I too may quote Tuning Spork, “D’oh!” I hate when I miss theme entries. Now it’s an even more awesome puzzle.

    @sanfranman59: I have noticed the varying degrees of difficulty in the CS in the past couple of months especially. I like it!

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