Monday, February 4, 2013

NYT 3:12 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:15 (pannonica) 
BEQ 4:29 
CS 4:33 (Sam) 

Randall J. Hartman’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT • 2/4/13 • Mon • Hartman • 2 4 13 • solution

I can honestly say that this is literally one of the most atmospheric crossword puzzles I’ve ever solved. Alas, I can’t say the same is true for its other aspects but, hey!, it’s just a modest Monday so one can’t expect fireworks.

Nevertheless, there is some playfulness to be had herein, and my favorite clue by far is one of those jokesters: 13d [Singer who doesn’t want a hit?] RAT; the wordplay is doubly delicious.

On to the theme. Three quite long entries (12, 15, 12), each ending in a synonym for that which is above and surrounds us. For further cohesion, each metaphoric phrase begins with a cephalic body part, followed by IN THE.

  • 20a. [Overhead security devices] EYES IN THE SKY. [Insert Alan Parsons Project link here]
  • 37a. [Lack of contact with reality] HEAD IN THE CLOUDS.
  • 52a. [Sign of haughtiness] NOSE IN THE AIR. Or perhaps merely hyperopia.

I for one appreciate these early week puzzles with “only” three theme answers. By not reaching for four or more, it allows the constructor to come up with something that doesn’t entail too many compromises elsewhere in the grid. I’d much rather have fewer themers and better overall fill.

The minimal theme entry count also allows for a couple more longer entries. Here’s the rundown for this puzzle: CAMERAMEN, STRATEGICand JANE EYRË, TRINIDAD. Spiffy!

Some other notes:

  • ZAP! and BAM! (49a, 55d)
  • KNUTE! and ROCKNE! (48d, 9d)
  • Symmetrical pair CONNOR and PATTON closely resemble each other in latter pattern. (5d, 45d)
  • Some clunky partials, for instance 6d A NOTE and 61a IS TO, but more or less PAR (23a) for the course.
  • Rather difficult geography for a Monday: 41a ORAN, Algeria, and 64a CAEN, France.
  • 30d JIHAD is indeed defined as a holy war, as per the clue, but I believe it’s more sympathetic/politically correct to characterize it by its more elemental meaning, that of a personal struggle, especially of the spiritual sort.

Very good, above-average puzzle.

Bernice Gordon’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review

LAT • 2/4/13 • Mon • Gordon • solution

I thought some bonus content might be uncovered as an informal revealer during the solve, IWO JIMA, because the theme is phrases of this form: S__ and S__. So you can see how a reference to the famous film The Sands of Iwo Jima would  have been appropriate. Or maybe the erstwhile casino in that desert “oasis” of Las Vegas. Note: Am declining to include an image for the film because (a) I don’t really care for John Wayne, and (b) the posters (which I generally love to include in write-ups) are without exception garish, and not in a charming way. Instead, I’ll highlight 44d [Male offspring] SONS, because it’s a vertical entry that can be read as “S on S.” Very cryptic, eh?

  • 17a. [Main idea, as of an argument] SUM AND SUBSTANCE.
  • 25a. [Stick to a strict budget] SCRIMP AND SAVE. “Strict” doesn’t work for me as describing the answer, as a large and expansive budget can still be hewed to strictly. I’d prefer something like “penurious,” and no, I don’t feel it’s too difficult a word for a Monday clue.
  • 42a. [To the point] SHORT AND SWEET.
  • 56a. [Burnout cause] STRESS AND STRAIN.

All the phrases are solid, commonly heard expressions. If I had to assort them in terms of aptness in describing the puzzle, I’d go with [42, 17, 25, 56], though the last two are essentially a toss-up.

Nothing remarkable in the ballast fill, which is for the most part workmanlike. Minor flourishes with cross-referenced RAJA and RANI, the relative zip of ZANY/AZALEA. Un-Mondayish geography in TRURO, Massachusetts and PARMA, Italy.

Average puzzle.

Updated Monday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Rest Areas”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, February 4

Look carefully and you’ll see the word REST hidden in each of the four 15-letter entries in today’s crossword:

  • 17-Across: The [Chophouse order, often] is a MEDIUM-RARE STEAK. Look, it’s even red in the middle!
  • 24-Across: One who [Wins, in a wayCAPTURES THE FLAG. It’s better to employ this strategy in Stratego than in Battleship.
  • 42-Across: One who [Is generous] is one who SHARES THE WEALTH, perhaps.
  • 55-Across: HERE’S TO MANY MORE is one [Birthday toast]. “Quick, while there’s still time” is another.

Did you notice the grid had only 72 entries? That’s deep inside the Romulan freestyle zone and outside of Federation themed space. (Good grief, did I really just write that?) Back to my point: did you notice there were only eight three-letter entries? Martin is one of the few constructors that can pull off 60 theme squares in what could pass as a freestyle grid without having the clunky entries that trigger your Spidey sense. (Ack! Another explosion of nerdishness! Who knew I was capable of multiple geek-asms?) Bottom line: the grid is something to admire.

Favorite entry = TWIST TIE, the [Garbage bag fastener]. Favorite clue = [Heavy reading?] for a TOME. 

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 2 4 13 solution

Lots of work to get to, so quick post. Four stars!

Hot fill:

JALISCO, QUVENZHANE crossing DENZEL, interesting D LEAGUE (my first guess was B League, which partnered with my wrong GRAMMA to make LAP DOG into LAMB**), the could-be-anyone-or-anyfood [Rice, famously] clue for RECEIVER (Jerry, not Condi or Susan or the grain), the super-fresh fill of PALEO DIET (which is not for me), JANE FONDA clued as [Actress who co-founded the Women’s Media Center] (my first thought wasThe Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media), STALLONE beside CEREBRAL (what? he has been a screenwriter since the ’70s and has at least one script Oscar nom).

Never heard of 20a. [“Makes beef sing” brand], A-ONE. Oh! Wait. This is A-1 steak sauce. Man, that crossword convention of spelling out numbers can be awkward sometimes (see also: U-TWO, ONE-D).

Until next time—

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12 Responses to Monday, February 4, 2013

  1. Huda says:

    NYT, Pannonica, I agree with everything you’ve said, including the playfulness of the theme, and the meaning of Jihad.

    Very easy, very cute, very playful.

  2. sbmanion says:

    Excellent puzzle and excellent review. I solved it during the bizarre outage.

    Did anyone else have to Google “dongle”?

    I liked the Samsung ad and I think it is safe to say that black is beautiful.


  3. Evad says:

    I was going to mention Alan Parsons as well, P. One of the anthems of my college days at RPI. Of course, their “eye” was singular, unbounded as it was by the laws governing crossword symmetry.

  4. Tinbeni says:

    I always enjoy the puzzles constructed by 99 year old Bernice Gordon.
    More than the review by pannonica.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The ad hominem attack is really uncalled for, don’t you think?

      And good lord, you ought to enjoy a puzzle more than a review of it. The crossword constructor is getting paid to create it, and the publisher is making money selling more papers and syndicating it. When the review is more entertaining than the puzzle (or the movie—who doesn’t love the occasional zero-star Ebert review or Anthony Lane’s pans in the New Yorker?), it speaks poorly of the creative work.

    • john farmer says:

      This is not my fight, but Amy did mention Anthony Lane, a terrific writer and one of my favorites, whose review of “The Last Stand” I was reading this morning. The New Yorker is one of the premier publications for film criticism and I assume the pay provides Lane with a decent living. He had a few unkind comments about the film and its star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who took home a good chunk of the movie’s $45-million production budget. Who knows if Arnold reads Lane, or any critics — probably not — but whatever anybody says doesn’t really matter. Before a film is seen or reviewed, he has been richly rewarded.

      If only the crossword biz were like Hollywood. I realize Team Fiend puts in many hours without a dime to show for it. My hat’s off to all of you. I drop by fairly regularly and enjoy the discussion. In a more perfect world this would be more than just a labor of love.

      True, a constructor gets paid — if his or her spec work finds an editor who says yes — but I see the constructor as a lot more like the blogger than anyone Anthony Lane writes about. No fat checks. No limousines. No red carpet. With a few exceptions, the pay is peanuts, probably on par with a greeter’s at Walmart, except the work is less steady. For many who make puzzles, the reward is not financial but the satisfaction of having created something that may provide solvers with a few minutes of amusement. Sometimes the reward is reading comments on a blog.

      No great point here — no, I’m not saying people need to pull their punches. I just think it’s something worth keeping in mind.

  5. Ginbum says:

    SAE means Society of Automotive Engineers.

  6. jonesy says:

    LA times small typo in write-up – “sum and substance” not “style and substance”

  7. Meem says:

    Grinned as our favorite nonegenarian constructor took our fill from femme fatale and Euler to Twitter. You go girl!

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