Dave Sarpola’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Surely I’m not the only one who provisionally had a very different idea of what this puzzle’s theme is? I mean, honestly, what is one to think when the first two long acrosses begin with DUNG and GARBAGE? Anyway, if you want the real poop on what this crossword’s about, look no farther than 63-across (as if you could; it’s the final across word in the grid): [Skedaddles … or what 18-, 26-, 42-, and 53-Across all have] FLIES.
- 18a. [Casual pants] DUNGAREES. Of the zipper or button variety.
- 26a. [Vehicle with a compactor] GARBAGE TRUCK. Of the dipteran Order.
- 42a. [Where one might witness a hit and run?] BASEBALL GAME. Of the orbic and arced type.
- 53a. [Fishing gear holder] TACKLE BOX. Of the dipteran-emulating persuasion.
So, aside from two of the themers describing essentially the same thing in real and artificial flavors, a good theme. Interestingly, some fishing rods apparently have a fly (short for flywheel) style REEL (23a [Fishing line holder]); would such an item likely be found in a TACKLE BOX? Other flies as candidates for this theme include New Guinea’s Fly River (too obscure, but familiar to me), a tent fly (no good because it’s analogous to to a trouser’s fly), and the flies of a theater stage (used primarily (exclusively?) in the plural). Perhaps it would have been better to reduce the theme entries from four to three and use more elaborate (read: longer) versions?
Flitting about the rest of the grid:
- 48a [Winnie-the-__ ] POOH. What’s the real theme again?
- 35a & 36a BOOR and CRUDE. Par for the coarse?
- 40a [Rugmaking apparatus] LOOM, 59a [Made a rug, e.g.] WOVE. Put them together and you get 6a WOMB.
- Longdowns are ANN ARBOR and an IT-less HIGHTAIL (paging yesterday’s Hex/Hook…); honorable mentions to their lesser companions SOY BEAN and heinous partial A LOAD OF.
- Just deserts: 24d [Desertlike] ARID, 26d [Asian desert] GOBI, 47d [Desert plants[ CACTI. A TRIO (16a).
- A NOD, DAM UP, AIM AT, IS TO, with the already-mentioned A LOAD OF, is at least one too many.
To me, they were too many pesky annoyances buzzing around for this to be an enjoyable puzzle. Average at best.
Dave Sarpola’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Exhibit A: proof that a theme doesn’t have to be overly ambitious or flashy to contribute to an excellent puzzle. Only three theme entries, lengths 14-, 15-, and 14-letters. The mechanism? Very simple: nearly identical clues, with the key word replaced by homophonic doppelgängers.
- 20a. [It makes sense] COGENT ARGUMENT.
- 37a. [It makes cents] THE DENVER MINT.
- 53a. [It makes scents] PERFUME FACTORY.
That’s it. Elegance. Sure, the middle one ends up being a relatively vague clue for a specific answer, but that’s a small sacrifice for narrative consistency (the theme’s COGENT ARGUMENT?). Such modesty allows the constructor greater freedom in creating the rest of the fill, which—in skilled hands—in turn allows for significantly less junk.
True to this model, what I refer to as the CAP Quotient™ is extremely low. The worst offenders, I suppose, are the [Poland-Germany border river] ODER, [Shogun’s capital] EDO, ORTS [Uneaten morsels], and the partial AS I.
The grid isn’t a pangram and, lacking Js, Qs, and Zs, it won’t be confused with a Scrabbly affair, but there are still enough Xs, Vs, Ks, et al., to keep everything lively. The northwest and southeast corners feel pretty dense and chewy, with the vertically stacked MECCAS / EXHORT / APOGEE, and GROWER / AURORA / STYLUS. Briefly had GROWER as GROCER and jotted a mental note to gripe about it since the clue was [Produce producer]; now, had it been [Produce procurer], that would have been a different story, but I digress.
The level of cluing, too, was a little more interesting and engaging than typical Monday fare. In sum, a very enjoyable way to start the crossword week.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “IOUs” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Man, lately I have been unable to post a solving time under six minutes. I normally wouldn’t find myself plodding through a Lynn Lempel puzzle, looking all over to get a toe-hold, then finally inserting an answer that feeds into…nothing much.
The title was of no help to me at all while I was solving. It turns out that each of the four theme entries consists of three words. The only vowel in the first word is I, the only vowel in the second word is O, and the only vowel in the last word is U. In that sense, then, they are all “IOUs.” See for yourself:
- 17-Across: Something that’s [Almost at the breaking point] may be FIT TO BURST. Fit to be tied, yes. Fit to be square, sure–I like a good twist on a Huey Lewis tune. But fit to burst? Huh.
- 53-Across: The [Reassuring words from the doctor] are IT WON’T HURT. Since I never grasped the theme, I had IT WILL BE OK followed by IT WILL PASS before finally getting it. My solving confidence could use some reassuring words, that’s for sure.
- 11-Down: The [Trendy spot for dancing] is a HIP HOP CLUB. Smooth sailing here, which is odd given my lack of rhythm and general aversion to dancing.
- 28-Down: When I think of answers to [It will make your mouth water], I think of a juicy steak, the aroma of bread baking, or the sight of some other lascivious gastronomical indulgence. I don’t really think of a STICK OF GUM. But the clue has a point.
The grid itself is lovely, chock full of rare letters and interesting entries. You’ll see every letter represented in the grid, but it doesn’t seem forced or flashy–the rare letters simply add some flair, as it should be. Some of the more interesting entries include COIN-OP, JUNIORS, AFL-CIO (growing up I always remember it referred to as the AF OF L-CIO, but whatever), TRIX, FLOWERY, KNAVES, NO-NAME, SHOOT AT, SODOM, WUSS, and SACHET. That’s a lot of goodness woven into one grid. Would I prefer a second entrance into both the northwest and southeast corners? Sure. But I have no complaints about the elegance of this construction.
Favorite entry = ZOMBIE, [One of the undead]. Like a zombie, I feel I’m in need of brains. Make that braaaaaiiiiins. Favorite clue = [Permanent consequences?] for CURLS.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Good evening! I had a productive day of not blogging and here it is, almost bedtime and I’m just getting to the Quigley.
Six freshest answers:
- 40a. [Arena rock?], JOCK JAM. No idea what this means.
- 56a. [Gizmo], DINGUS. Excellent word, of course.
- 62a. [Bookstore section], NEW ARRIVALS. Ah, yes. I remember when How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle was on the New Nonfiction table at Barnes & Noble.
- 68a. [Fiscal event scheduled for January 1, 2013, colloquially], TAXMAGEDDON. This comes after you hit the fiscal cliff, right?
- 22d. [Hit a home run], WENT YARD. Boy, I needed a lot of crossings for this.
- 24d. [Throw back some beers through the back door], BUTT-CHUG. I just learned of this word last week thanks to the University of Tennessee frat boy’s lawyer’s press conference denying an alleged incident.
Note fresh clues for ETTA and UTA, not the usual suspects.