Tom Pepper’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
This one couldn’t be anything else but a Monday. The theme is quickly grasped and once the solver sees it, he or she gets to enter four “free” letters per theme entry. It gives a lot away. The very fast (for me) time is about my lower limit; I just don’t type any more quickly.
Said theme is sartorial (as is the Monday LAT, which I’ve had the luxury of writing up in advance), framing plural nouns ending in -TIES as apropos punny neckwear, à la Tom Swifties.
- 20a. [Neckwear for princes?] are not the Royal Ascot and other tracks but ROYALTIES.
- 24a. [Neckwear for a full baseball team?] NINETIES. Even I know that aside from some sandlots and schoolyards more players than that comprise a team; “side” would have been a better choice.
- 32a. [Neckwear just right for the occasion?] PROPERTIES.
- 43a. [Neckwear for informal occasions?] CASUALTIES.
- 51a. [Neckwear for boyfriends?] BEAUTIES. There’s a real company with this unfortunate name.
- 58a. [Neckwear in a work of fiction?] NOVELTIES.
Six themers is significantly more than the average complement for a daily puzzle, but they’re relatively short, and the whole arrangement leads to an extremely smooth fill. A fairly low CAP Quotient™ greases the solving wheel further. The cluing is more engaging than a typical Monday, which prevents the rapid solve from feeling rote. Nice touch having OBI, another bit of knotted apparel, vertically at the center of the grid.
- TARSI, TORI, RANI, E. COLI, BAHAI.
- 14a [Lav] JOHN, 21d [Lav] LOO. 5a [Scribbled, say] WROTE, 50d [Scribbled (down)] JOTTED.
- Medium length non-theme fill, all rather nice: 26a [Alternative to “shape up”] SHIP OUT, SAN JOSE, WHAT’S UP, SAME DAY [Expeditious type of delivery], VEGETATE, SUBURBAN.
- Additional clothing items: 10a [One piece of a three-piece suit] VEST, 59d [Part of a bridal ensemble] VEIL, 47a [Top of a woman’s swimsuit] BRA, 22a [Jiggly dessert] JELL-O.
And the circumstance that adds most to your terror
Is that it’s all done with a mirror,
Because the dentist may be a bear, or as the Romans used to say, only they were referring to a feminine bear when they said it, an ursa,
But all the same how can you be sure when he takes his crowbar in one hand and mirror in the other he won’t get mixed up, the way you do when you try to tie a bow tie with the aid of a mirror, and forget that left is right and vice versa?
– excerpt from “This is Going to Hurt a Little Bit,” by OGDEN Nash (7d)
I rate this puzzle four-in-hands. Just kidding, I don’t do ratings.
Nancy Kavanaugh’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review
56-across is [Dry runs, and a hint to the starts of 17-, 26- and 43-Across] DRESS REHEARSALS. (1) That’s a great 15-letter entry. (2) The three cited answers all begin with styles of dresses.
- 17a. [Four-to-midnight production overseer, say] SHIFT SUPERVISOR. Shift: a simple unstructured dress shape that is fitted around the bust and has clean lines down to the knee.
- 26a. [Dead battery hookup] JUMPER CABLE. Jumper: a sleeveless, collarless dress intended to be worn over a blouse, shirt or sweater. In British English, a jumper is what we call a sweater, and what we call a jumper what they call a pinafore.
- 43a. [Encased dagger] SHEATH KNIFE. Sheath: a relatively unadorned, tightly fitting dress of moderate length.
Modest theme, just 3+1 entries, which is just dandy for a Monday. The three phrases are a bit on the frumpy, humdrum side. Further, I posit that the SHEATH of 43-across has essentially the same meaning for both the dress type and the fill phrase, whereas the other two are significantly different in their dual applications, regardless of shared etymology.
In this grid, the longest non-theme answers are, unusually, not among the downs but alongside the themers in the acrosses: ALL AT ONCE and TELEPATHS. The next-longest fill—APLENTY and SEA BASS—are also acrosses. All that horizontal action is not slimming at all. That’s right, I’m saying that they make this puzzle look fat.
- 14a [Earth Day sci.] ECOL., 52d [Earth sci.] GEOL. “OH MY” (51d). Insert George Takei link of your choice here. Also: 5a [Home with a domed roof] IGLOO, 47d [Alaskan native] ALEUT; 18d [Midafternoon hour] THREE, 49a [18-Down, on a sundial] III.
- Crosswordesish for a Monday: ERNE, RAMA, and perhaps the slightly odd ISSUER.
- Tangential to the theme: 11d [Is wearing] HAS ON. Tangential to the tangent: CHIC, SATIN, COIF. Tangential to th— I think I’ll stop there.
- Originally tried BURP for GLUG at 6d [Sound from a water cooler].
Good but not great puzzle, bolstered by the two 15-letter themers.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Middle Names” – Sam Donaldson’s review
In a Martin Ashwood-Smith puzzle, you come to expect stacked 15-letter answers. But you don’t expect them all to be theme entries, and you don’t expect to see five of them in one grid. That’s 75 theme squares, people! (As discussed below, it’s really 78 theme squares, making it just that much more impressive that the whole thing works without resorting to Welsh words in the fill.) You can rip on the stuff like IRAE, A RAT, TER, NUIT, LURER, SO AS, ESAS, LGE, OOLA, and ENERO if you want, but you have to give Martin props for pulling this one off.
The theme consists of five 15-letter entries with the letter sequence N-A-M-E buried within, showing off the fact that each has a “middle NAME,” so to speak:
- 17-Across: [Tony Bennett, for one] describes an ITALIAN-AMERICAN.
- 20-Across: Some [Decorative plants] include ORNAMENTAL TREES.
- 34-/35-Across: The [Pearl Harbor monument] is the U.S.S. ARIZONA MEMORIAL. You can choose either to be disgruntled about the fact that this one takes up two rows or, like me, you can choose to be gruntled. It’s no skin off my nose, although one could just as easily have included “(with U.S.S.)” in a clue to just ARIZONA MEMORIAL. I think I prefer the way it was done in this puzzle.
- 52-Across: The [Competitions with many drivers] are GOLF TOURNAMENTS. I’m not sure why this one gets a “cute” or “clever” clue when all the other theme entries have straightforward clues, but perhaps there’s a reason for it.
- 57-Across: The [1960s-’70s US foe] would be the NORTH VIETNAMESE. Given the clue’s wording, shouldn’t the answer be NORTH VIETNAM instead of the NORTH VIETNAMESE?
In fairness to other puzzles I have criticized for inconsistency in the “hidden word” gimmick, I should point out that sometimes NAME straddles two words, and other times it’s buried wholly within one word. I’ve stated many times that hidden words that span are a little more elegant in my book. But I’m more forgiving here, I think, because of Martin’s homage to the Greek god Testicles in his jamming five 15-letter theme answers (or four 15s and an 18, if you prefer) and stacking four of them to boot. Sometimes the art is in the guts of the design, even if it’s not as elegant in the finer points.
Favorite entry = PIMLICO, the [Maryland racing venue]. Favorite clue = [Makes the pot grow] for ANTE.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Some of you may know that I see the BEQ puzzles days in advance because of my work for the Facebook app Crosswords by PuzzleSocial. Oh! This puzzle. I did it Friday night, and it slayed me. And then the Saturday NYT crossword came out and I had to blog it. But the puzzle I wanted to blog was Brendan’s, because it was still bouncing around like a SuperBall in my brain.
This 72-worder brings the goods: “I’M BIG IN JAPAN,” t-shirt site ZAZZLE, TOOK A POP (which almost sounds like it contains “K-Pop,” the genre for 48a), global hit “GANGNAM STYLE,” LET ‘EM IN (v. McCartneyesque), a BEER CAN preceding a PILSNER, the PORN BIZ, and a cool old word derived from Old English, CUDGELS. Plus the central Down answer, JUMBOTRON. Echoing the Asian flair of symmetry buddies 15a and 48a, KIMONOS occupies the central Across slot.
The tradeoff for all the fun stuff is crossings like DCCI, ELAM, ENA, AMEER, and ENNS. In this instance, I was bedazzled by the juicy fill and failed to be bothered by the lesser bits.
Favorite clues: SHE is the [First word of “Billie Jean”], UMPIRED is clued with [Worked from home?], “YMCA” is [#7 on VH1’s list of The 100 Greatest Dance Songs of the 20th Century], and LAMAZE is [Labor management?]. Note that [TV overseer, perhaps] is not the FCC but MOM.