Monday, November 25, 2013

NYT 3:31 (pannonica) 
LAT 2:45 (pannonica) 
BEQ 6:04 (Amy) 
CS 4:55 (Dave) 

Kevin G. Der’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 11/25/13 • Mon • Der • 11 25 13 • solution

You know what? I really like this theme. It’s almost too good for a Monday. It’s a rare theme that presents well-worn phrases in a new shape without resorting to strange distortions or tortured puns. Here we have an assortment of trite bumper sticker slogans with the key element omitted. The effect is quite striking.

  • 20a. [Start of a bumper sticker that may end with one’s favorite vacation spot] I’D RATHER BE IN
  • 29a. [Start of a bumper sticker that may end with one’s favorite hobby] HONK IF YOU LOVE
  • 45a. [Start of a bumper sticker that may end with one’s favorite (usually expensive) vehicle] MY OTHER CAR IS A
  • 54a. [Start of a bumper sticker that may end with one’s favorite attraction] WILL BRAKE FOR

Not sure about the clue for that last one. Anyway, I can’t help imagining recombining what’s on hand: I’d rather be in … My other car, and Honk if you love … Will

Unfortunately, there is a downside to such a splendid theme, and that’s the supporting fill. CAF, UNC, PLEB, PED, PSIS, CID, AVES are just not what I want to see in a Monday grid. Even the long fill is mostly sour. DNA SAMPLING, SIDE BENEFIT, BAD OMEN, IN HEAVEN, SAND PIT … these just don’t please, although TEA HOUSE, FUTURAMA, and EXPELLED are all right.

  • In the news: 19a [ __ Krabappel of “The Simpsons”] EDNA, voiced by Marcia Wallace, who died just a few weeks ago; the character has been retired from the show. 36d [Jewish turnover] KNISH; there was a factory fire at the establishment of the iconic Gabila’s.
  • Jelly double-play: 1d [Alternative to jelly] JAM, 61d [Jelly container] JAM. Sorry, JAR.
  • THAI (4d) needs to start being clued in some way other than “spicy” cuisine. It’s becoming ridiculous. Tie-in with 37d [4-Down skewered meat dish] SATAY.

Above average theme + below average surrounding fill = average puzzle.

Updated Monday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Hardly Total Recall” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Three grid-spanning entries all clued as [Lost, in a way]:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 11/25/13


Each of these describes how I increasing feel these days in my advancing years! Anyway, all three are pretty tight phrases that refer to the process of memory loss. Highlights of the rest of the fill were the yummy TIRAMISU (which comes from the Italian “pick me up”), BIG MAN, and SLAM-BANG. A couple of entries seemed very similar–AMOK and GROK and then ILSA and ILKA, the latter clued as the unfamiliar (to me anyway) [Chase of old game shows]. It’s funny that this page doesn’t appear to mention any game shows she was on, can anyone enlighten me here?

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 11 25 13 “Themeless Monday” solution

This 72-worder features a few terrific 11s:

  • 1a. [Guy Fawkes’s crime], LESE-MAJESTE. Insulting a ruler is not a crime in the US.
  • 17a. [Surface rival], GOOGLE NEXUS. Tablets.
  • 66a. [Protest big time], RAISE A STINK.
  • 68a. [Robertson family TV show], DUCK DYNASTY. Never seen it, didn’t know the surname involved, still love it as a crossword answer.

EXPLORATION is just a regular word, and I’ve never encountered OUT-AND-OUTER (62a. [Extremist])before; dictionary tells me it’s both informal and archaic.

Other likes:

  • 35a. [Connecticut location where Scrabble was invented], NEWTOWN. You can’t object to Scrabble trivia, even if the town isn’t so well-known otherwise.
  • 3d. [“Queer old dean” reverend], SPOONER. “Dear old queen,” unspoonerized.
  • 12d. [Often-plucked thing], EYEBROW.
  • 14d. [Maintenance], UPKEEP. Feel like this word doesn’t get much play in crosswords.
  • 36d. [Kumho product (admit it, you laughed at the brand name)], TIRE. True. I have been in tire stores and laughed at this brand name.
  • 44d. [Intestinal woe], COLITIS. Support the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America! I know several folks who cope with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
  • 46d. [Vegetarian’s option for this Thursday], TOFURKY. Never tried it myself.

Could always do without little-known Finnish actress Taina ELG.

Vocabulary word of the day: 8d. [Annual, as Mediterranean winds], ETESIAN. You might think this word derives from the French word for summer, été, but no. Éte comes from the Latin for “summer,” aestas, while ETESIAN comes from Latin and Greek etesius and etesios, meaning “annual.”

Did not know NORA, [Actress Swinburne]; she started in the theatre almost a century ago and retired from stage/film/TV in her 70s (and in the ’70s).

3.5 stars. The zippiness of the 11s wasn’t quite powerful enough to make me overlook ELG and a few other short blahs (abbreviations and whatnot).

Matt Skoczen’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 11/25/13 • Mon • Skoczen • solution

Not certain I understand the phrasing of the revealing clue, but the theme itself is easy enough to grasp.

  • 64a. [Discussing the job with colleagues, and what the last words of the answers to the starred clues seem to be doing] TALKING SHOP.
  • 17a. [*Fluffy carnival treat] COTTON CANDY.
  • 23a. [*”West Side Story film actress] NATALIE WOOD.
  • 40a. [*”You first,” facetiously] AGE BEFORE BEAUTY.
  • 50a. [*Favorite in the classroom] TEACHER’S PET.

The terminal word of each can precede “shop” to create familiar places, but I fail to see how they “seem to be” TALKING SHOP as per the revealer. Three of the four compound answers are retail establishments, while the other (WOOD SHOP) is a place of typically nonremunerative activity. Would have been better to have either more consistency or more variety.

Basic theme, nothing exciting. Essentially what’s anticipated for a Monday, albeit not eagerly.

Rather a lot of crosswordese, abbrevs., and partials, possibly more than we like to see for supposed introductory, tyro-friendly puzzles.

Favorite clue, for its contemporary vibe, is 22d [Singsongy “This is an uncomfortable moment] AWKWARD. You know, like when your take on a crossword puzzle offends a bunch of other people, or something.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Monday, November 25, 2013

  1. Mike says:

    “Even the long fill is mostly sour.”

    What? You must be in a sour mood. Funny how UNC, PED and PSIS made it onto the undesirable Monday fill list, but ELI, ERGS and ASIA did not. Man, that’s a tough crowd. I, otoh, really enjoyed all aspects of Kevin’s puzzle.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: I really liked it. The theme was fresh and I thought some of the down fill was very cool. It felt like there was a remarkably large number of longish answers.

    I agree that THAI does not seem that unusually spicy to me (although the spices are very good), and there are other ways of describing that great cuisine.

  3. janie says:

    kevin der on a monday? sweet!


  4. Martin says:

    Ok, what makes IN HEAVEN “sour” fill? In my twenty plus years of crossword constructing, it’s just the kind of phrase/entry I would strive to put into a crossword.


    • Gareth says:

      Seconded. I also don’t see any reason to object to PLEB, PED, CAF, CID, DNASAMPLING, BADOMEN, or SANDPIT (although judging by other comments this may be a standard British/Commonwealth English word less commonly found in American English?)

  5. vijay says:

    “DNA SAMPLING, SIDE BENEFIT, BAD OMEN, IN HEAVEN, SAND PIT … these just don’t please”

    what are you talking about? every single one of those is great, especially on a Monday. The discussion of the long fill in this review is ridiculously off.

  6. Ethan says:

    Agree with the above re: those long fill words. All very good to excellent, in my opinion. I have no idea what would make somebody say that DNA SAMPLING and BAD OMEN are “sour” and FUTURAMA is just “all right.”

    But the thing that continues to rankle in these reviews is the “take the worst six or seven entries in the fill and call them out in one big list.” I have no problem with a reviewer who calls out an entry for being, in their opinion, egregiously bad or obscure or contrived. Nor do I have a problem with a reviewer who points to a corner or section where there is a lot of blandness or obscurity bunched together. But none of the “bad seven” (CAF, UNC, PLEB, PED, PSIS, CID, AVES) are really near each other. (Well, PSIS and PLEB cross. If you want to complain that that it a tough crossing for a Monday, I guess that’s a fair criticism. It’s not *that* hard, though.) Nor are any of them really bad in the sense that their presence should be ipso facto called out. I mean UNC is a pretty big university and their basketball team is on TV all the time. AVES is a commonly used abbreviation. CAF and PED could have been clued as “Lunchroom, slangily” and “Steroid, for example: Abbr.”, would have have made them more palatable? I just think that people have come to have unrealistic expectations for the grid. Guidelines like “don’t overdo it on partials and abbreviations” have become “any partials or abbreviations, no matter how well-known, need to be called out and subtracted from the puzzle’s overall worthiness.”
    Just a rant, have a nice day, everyone.

    • mitchs says:

      Perfectly stated and I completely agree.

    • Nick says:

      We definitely, at least for early week-days, need a reviewer who has the same philosophies as the editor – try to make all the clues easy, ix-nay on unfamiliar names, a few harder words are OK if the crossings are reasonable because solvers might like learning a new word or fact, etc. Will’s Monday shortage is never gonna fix itself if constructors feel pressured to make one as juicy as a later-weekday, because they’re often too juicy for him to put on Monday. I strongly suspect some constructors who would make more Mondays end up not solely because their puzzles are too “good”.

      Just my observations.

  7. Dan says:

    I have never heard the term side benefit. I’m not doubting its existence though.

    Futurama is uber sexy fill though. I really liked the puzzle.

  8. Brucenm says:

    Again from the contrarian wing — my favorite by far of yesterday’s Sunday-sized puzzles was the LAT (novel puns). NYT did nothing for me.

  9. Papa John says:

    How are you guys gettng BEQ’s Monday puzzle so early? It isn’t delivered to my Inbox until late afternoon or early evening?

    I agree — the Crossword Fiend’s reviewers ARE a tough crowd and seem to be getting tougher and tougher, especially on the puzzles in the early week. I recall an distant converstion about crosswordese and short, 3- or 4- letter fills that explained, to my satisfaction, that there simply aren’t enough short words availible. Ive come to except that fact and get on with it.

    To me, the puzzles reviewed here are like coffee — there’s no such thing as a bad cup of coffee, only better.

  10. pannonica says:

    Responding to some of the comments en masse, but first I will agree that I was a bit off in some of my reportage.

    Fill like IN HEAVEN doesn’t appeal to me because so many of these prepositional phrases are barely able to stand on their own, if at all. Is IN BED good? How about AT NOON? The only thing these fill have going for them that elevates them above dreck such as AT IT and IN IT is length and a couple of interesting letters. Such phrases are far more acceptable if they have additional context, such as being familiar titles: e.g., After Midnight, Before Sunrise, Til Tuesday.

    I rescind the objections to some of the longer fill. In the haste of solve and post, I failed to appreciate the phrase DNA SAMPLING as a verb or action and it seemed like a poor formation of DNA SAMPLE. In fact, it’s worse—I imagined a Whitman’s style DNA SAMPLER. Similarly, I misconceived SAND PIT because it didn’t seem to fit the clue [Hole dug on the beach], which seemed small and informal, something that a beachgoer would create, whereas a SAND PIT—if it is to have any sense—has more the feel of an engineering project.

    Both BAD OMEN and SIDE BENEFIT felt rather contrived and random to me, but I see that Google Ngram reveals a preference for BAD OMEN over ILL OMEN, the latter which to my mind sounds stronger. At least I wasn’t the only one who gave SIDE BENEFIT the fish-eye?

    The little fill. PSIS is better than ERGS because the latter, as a unit of energy, is more common as a plural than the name of a Greek letter (but not as much as I thought, as per Google Ngram again, although I’m not sure if those results include PSI as in “pounds per square inch”). ELI and ASIA are commonly seen names. PED and CAF are unsightly, unsavory shortenings. AVES I wouldn’t mind if it was clued as the taxonomic Class for birds rather than a plural abbreviation—no, I don’t think that’s asking too much from Monday solvers. CID is a minuscule fill-in-the-blank partial, UNC is just another university initialism, PLEB is much less familiar than the PLEBE spelling.

    Of course, some less appealing fill is a necessary commodity and none of those singled out above are horrific. My intention in listing them is a group was not to present them as singular offenders but to illustrate the flavor of the puzzle’s dregs. It would be pointless to editorialize on each and every one of them, just as it would be unenlightening to make a vague reference to short fill that in the main irked me without offering some illustrative examples; hence the list. Rest assured, if I had noticed a particularly egregious clumping of such entries it would have been mentioned, with umbrous overtones. But we have to write about something! Sometimes a quick run-down of elements, good or bad, is the best approach; and oftentimes, for the bad stuff, it’s the gentlest way.

    In conclusion, I was definitely off in my opinions, especially about some of the long non-theme fill. In my feeble defense, I’ll point out that the solve and write-up were turned around within a half-hour of the crossword’s availability (though of course at DOACF we never like to engage in slap-dash analysis).

    • pannonica says:

      Just did an Ngram search for HALF-CAF vs HAL CAFF. The former outpaces the latter by a wide margin, but I wonder if it’s due to expedience rather than aesthetics and adherence to etymology.

    • Martin says:

      I’m sorry, but the prepositional phrase IN HEAVEN can very easily stand on its own, which is precisely why it’s such good fill. It has a distinct idiomatic sense as well as a literal one.


      • Ethan says:

        “Fill like IN HEAVEN doesn’t appeal to me because so many of these prepositional phrases are barely able to stand on their own, if at all.”

        I don’t really understand the reasoning here. Because many prepositional phrases are contrived, all are? Regarding your examples, I would say IN BED is certainly fine. The fact that we no longer need a determiner before BED like “in his bed” or “in the bed” is pretty rock-solid evidence that this phrase has come to be in the language, isn’t it? We don’t say ON SOFA or IN KITCHEN.
        Now, AT NOON is not especially good, because the time is arbitrary, although if it’s absolutely necessary I think most editors would take it because some things in our culture happen at precisely noon (duels, inaugurations) so it’s cluable.
        IN HEAVEN is in the language, isn’t it? “Look at him, he’s in heaven” (pointing to a kid happily eating ice cream). I mean if IN HEAVEN isn’t an idiom in that phrase I’m not sure what else to call it.

  11. maikong says:

    Dave —

    I dimly remember Ilka from the Masquerade Party TV show. Bud Collyer’s era — the early 50’s.

    We got our first TV in 1949 – the early days! We saw mostly Westerns and local shows until NBC started using the coaxial cable. Wow!! The World was ours.

  12. Zulema says:

    The bumper stickers I have seen with I BREAK FOR are generally suburban and usually end with “Garage sales” or “Yard sales.” Sorry I did not come here sooner. I also agree with all the comments that liked the NYT crossword better than the reviewer, who actually started out liking it very much but then thought to second guess herself, I would venture to say.

Comments are closed.