CS 12:22 (Sam)
Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword
You know what Monday-friendly theme you will see again and again? The four seasons. Lots of phrases start or end with WINTER, SPRING, SUMMER, and FALL, and it’s a natural foursome that’s easy for a new solver to catch onto quickly. So the basic theme concept is reworked pretty often. Gary finds a new (I think) riff by adding SEASON / FINALE in the middle to tie together his four phrases with various season “finales”:
- 17a. Be careful you don’t take a NASTY FALL.
- 24a. DONNA SUMMER sang the disco classic “Last Dance.”
- 50a. EDGAR WINTER is your [Albino rocker with a 1973 #3 hit]. I’m not sure he’s in the same category of broad Monday familiarity as the typical Monday theme answer, but the WINTER part is a gimme here.
- 63a. Have you ever gone swimming in a HOT SPRING? I did, in Colorado. Smelled like sulfur or whatnot, and you couldn’t see across the pool through all the steam on a cold day. Chicagoland has a complete lack of natural hot springs, sadly.
One does like to see a progression of the seasons in order, but it’s not as if the mixed-up order makes the puzzle that much harder. What does make it harder is some of the fill—words that a beginning solver might not instantly think of based on the clues include HASP, SKA, ELIDE, EPEES, ODER, UGLI, EGAL, and SAE.
My favorite answer is the delightful MOSEY ALONG. DR. OZ is a great entry, too.
Imagine if 1d: ACNE and 67a: TUSH had been cross-referenced in their clues.
3.5 stars. Works for Monday, so there you have it.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Admitting Kentucky” – Sam Donaldson’s review
On June 1, 1792, Kentucky became the fifteenth state to be admitted to the union. On December 26, 2011, Kentucky gets added (via its abbreviation, KY) to four familiar terms in a crossword puzzle so as to convert them into wacky new terms. The results look as follows:
- 17-Across: Add Kentucky to the end of “time span” and you can TIME SPANKY, or [Clock a Little Rascal?].
- 27-Across: [Printing?] is an INKY BUSINESS, the result of adding KY to “in business.”
- 45-Across: The [Words after a James Brown concert?] are IT’S BEEN FUNKY, a play on “it’s been fun.”
- 59-Across: The [Fancy-shmancy honky-tonk?] is a SWANKY DIVE, what one gets after adding Kentucky to “swan dive.” This is my favorite theme entry, but it may have more to do with the use of “fancy-shmancy” in the clue.
When will I ever remember how to spell SHIITAKE? Apparently I also need to ask myself when will I ever learn how to pronounce it correctly. In my world, SHIITAKE is a three-syllable word. But the clue says it’s a [Four-syllable fungus]. Is there a pause between the I’s, as if one is drawing out a cuss word? “Ah, man, that’s bull shiii-iii-ta-ke.”
And when will I ever stop talking myself out of correct first impressions? I thought of SNOW PEAS as the answer to [Pods in woks] (Having the -PEAS already in place by the time I got to the clue, mind you), but for whatever reason I was sure this puzzle would want SNAP PEAS (maybe because P is a more common letter than W so I thought it was the more likely answer?).
Favorite clues and answers (in no special order): (1) [Course planner] for CHEF (I tried MENU first); (2) [Out of sorts] for ALIBI (think of “out” as in “a way out of a bad situation,” in this case, an accusation); (3) [It can blow your mine] for TNT; (4) [Buster, bub, or buddy] for MAC (I can’t be the only one to try MAN, right?); and (5) [“Nae” sayer] for SCOT. Did you notice all the consecutive clues that were connected? There were four pairs by my count—my favorite was [Finish line feature] for TAPE at 65-Across followed by [Finish line?] for TA DA at 66-Across.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
In the season of holiday overeating, 15a: I ALREADY ATE is my favorite answer. There’s always room for another round of dessert, isn’t there?
Second favorite answer is the new verb TEBOWING. The clue—40a. [Act of instantaneous prayer, in modern-day jargon]—didn’t help me at all but it amused me when the crossings revealed the answer. (Note also GOD and “AMEN, AMEN” and the KNEE Tebow drops to.)
14d. [Like some families] clues ONE-PARENT. Special shout-out to all of you who are single moms or single dads—single parenting just might be the toughest job in the world. Well, aside from mining and commercial slaughterhouse operations. Except those aren’t 24-hour-a-day jobs and parenting is. Huge respect to all the single parents out there.
Wait! My other first or second favorite answer is GREEN CHEESE.
The only “bleh” spot in the grid is SERER. RIN looks “bleh” until you see the clue: [Letters after Senator Dick Lugar’s name], R-IN, Republican of Indiana. Never heard of the [Peg solitaire game] called HI-Q, but I’ve certainly seen the game and played it. I have fond childhood memories of the triangular version seen in this video.
I like the grid layout, 70 words with four corners filled with long answers. Four stars.
Victor Barocas’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 20a. [2010 Best Picture about a stammering royal] is THE KING’S SPEECH.
- 35a. [United Nations budget overseer] is the GENERAL ASSEMBLY. Never really thought of them as the “budget overseer,” so the clue may be on the tough side.
- 41a. [Gospel classic] is “OLD-TIME RELIGION.” That’s a gimme.
- 52a. [Where the freedoms that end 20-, 35- and 41-Across are found] is the FIRST AMENDMENT to the Constitution: freedom of speech, assembly, and religion.
Three more clues:
- 16a. [Verdi aria that means “It was you”] is ERI TU. Is there an aria that translates to “It Had to Be You”?
- 25a. [Followers of els] are EMS, as M follows L in the alphabet. I have recently been converted to Merl Reagle’s belief that these “spelled-out letter” crossword entries are horrible. Now, EMS is fine with me if you clue it as emergency medical services, and there’s Ernie Els and the Els that run on train tracks above Chicago. Buzzing bee, Ruby Dee, “eff off,” “aw, gee,” Jay Leno, the name Kay, Ens. as the abbreviation for “ensign,” pee the liquid, a golf tee or tee-shirt. But until crossword constructor Gary Cee gets more famous, I could do without CEE. (Wait! Gareth reminded me about Cee Lo Green. I wish Mr. Green—of “Forget You” fame—many decades of success in the music business!) And ESS, ick; a feminizing suffix, perhaps. But plural ESSES—who actually uses this word outside of crosswords? Or any of the other spelled-out letter names? (And yes, I see that this EMS isn’t clued as E.M.S. because E.M.T. appears just to its southeast, and you wouldn’t want to duplicate the E.M. part. I might’ve changed EMT to ENT crossing GRIN and clued the EMS as ambulance letters.
- 52d. [PR tax with a Medicare component] clues FICA. What the heck is “PR”? Is that short for “payroll”? If so, it’s an abbreviation I’ve never encountered before. Usually it’s public relations or Puerto Rico.
This puzzle has rather more “mostly seen in crosswords” stuff than I’d expect in a Monday puzzle. Not just those EMS, but also ERI TU, ENID, NEE, AES, I-BAR, and IRED. But the theme is classy and elevates the enterprise. It averages out to three stars.
Best wishes to ETTA James, who has been hospitalized for terminal leukemia. Thanks for the music and the crossword clues.
If it was the Onion and not CS it could have been called “Lubing Up.” Lucky I put Banff in one of my own puzzles, and, on consulting wikipedia, wrote the same clue! Found the two isolated corners, topleft and bottomright, very tough but satisfying nuts to crack.
When I saw Sam’s analysis of SHIITAKE, I thought the word was a cousin of SPITTAKE.
That is all.
I’m happy someone gave today’s NYT 5 stars, though it wasn’t me. I thought it was a really nice, chewy puzzle for Monday, not too easy but easy enough for Monday and enjoyable. For me the theme was not thrilling, but the revealer was nice.
Was I the only one who found the CS at a slightly higher than Monday level?
No, you’re not the only one. Looks like Wednesday/Thursday times all around.
@Jeff: Whenever the CrosSynergy puzzle is by Bob Klahn, expect to have your brain pushed harder. Bob enjoys writing tough clues—so much so that there’s a book compilation of his puzzles (highly recommended!) called The Wrath of Klahn.
Also crossynergy doesn’t differ in difficulty according to weekday. Mostly at a Tuesday level, I find a few constructors markedly easier, eg MAS and Lempel and, although Klahn’s are the hardest, I also find Hinman and Blindauer often harder than others.
I really love crosswordpuzzles, and your site too. Why? Because it helps me learning your language. So, thank you for not posting shit-takes ;-) Danny from http://los-angeles-kalifornien.de