Monday, January 13, 2014

NYT 3:13 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:31 (pannonica) 
BEQ 5:14* (Amy) 
CS 9:57 (Dave) 

Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 1/13/14 • Mon • Lempel • 1 13 14 • solution

Just a sober, stolid Monday here, with a tight theme and a good revealer.

  • 58a. [Everybody … or part of the contents of 18-, 25-, 36- and 50-Across] ONE AND ALL. And that just what’s going on—each of those answers contain the sequence O-N-E and then A-L-L.
  • 18a. [An operator may help place one] PHONE CALL. Uh-oh, “one” in the clue.
  • 25a. [Wine-producing area of SE France] RHÔNE VALLEY.
  • 36a. [Flown into a rage] GONE BALLISTIC, which sounds much less natural than GO or GOES, or more dependent, at least; in the present perfect tense it’s really crying out for a subject. Also, bit of a clue-dupe with 3d FLEW SOLO.
  • 50a. [Refused to cooperate] STONEWALLED.

There they are, all together. They’re all yawners, no? And with little zip in the ballast fill or clues, the supporting cast does little to enliven the solving experience. It’s simply a well-constructed early week offering with little to be faulted but also little to be lauded. In other words, an unintimidating puzzle perfect for novice solvers but jejune for those of even moderate experience.

Low CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials); lots of Ls, obviously and by necessity; niftiest bit is probably 48a FAMINE crossing IRISH in 39d IRISH SEA. Otherwise: dry, drier, driest.

Updated Monday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “It’s Outstanding!” – Dave Sullivan’s review

A quip that plays on a literal meaning of the word “delight” in a note from your power company.

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 01/13/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 01/13/14


Funny, I first parsed the beginning as an imperative: “Well, be delighted when…” so the quip didn’t make a heck of a lot of sense to me at first. Then I wondered if I was missing something at the end, i.e., “you will be” what? Now, I’m getting the we-you opposition and how “de-light” is taken to mean “take away lights from” at the end of the quip (and is implied). Again, we have trademark Bob Klahn cluing, such as the one-two punch of [“In the ___” (1990 Nixon memoir)] for ARENA juxtaposed to [1972 pact signed by Nixon and Brezhnev] for SALT I. Hands up if you, like me, plopped in AWES and then WOWS for [Blows away], when it ended up being the much more sinister OFFS. FAVE award to the entry TIME WAS for [“Used to be…”], but I’m less fond of the phrase LAYS FOR, clued as [Waits to attack] which sounds incomplete as a phrase. (I would say “lays in wait for,” or maybe “lies” if I’m particularly confused whether the protagonist is lying or laying.)

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 1 13 14 crossword answers

BEQ 1 13 14 crossword answers

I had SCREW CAPS instead of SCREW TOPS at 1-Across, and figured that I just had never heard of 6d. [“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” screenwriter Slessinger], CESS (it’s not like I’d heard of TESS Slessinger either). And 7d. [Classical?], ALD? Thought it was just weird, but I don’t think ALD is a word the way auld and OLD are. D’oh.

Top fill includes COACHELLA, LADYFINGER, DATA BREACH, SI FOR KIDS, VAMOOSE, I TOLD YA, LE CARRE, FANZINE, SAY HEY, BONE AGE, FTW (“for the win”), and DREIDEL. What is that, 11 answers I liked, plus the SCREW TOPS? Good stuff. Nice to have more than a handful of answers that rise above the chaff.

—Shoot, I got sidetracked by some work and forgot I was mid-post here.

Fave clue: 16a. [Embarrassing show turnout], NO ONE. Thanks to that local Crossword Fiend reader who showed up for the Barnes & Noble puzzle night I was asked to host last year—because while ONE is also an embarrassing turnout, NO ONE is worse.

3.9 stars from me.

Jeff Stillman’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 1/13/14 • Mon • Stillman • solution

LAT • 1/13/14 • Mon • Stillman • solution

With all the attendant stir, ado, brouhaha for the NYT puzzle write-up, I forgot that I’m responsible for the LAT today too! And now I’m going to do something questionable—use this write-up to make an explicit comparison between the two crosswords. I apologize in advance to the constructor, as it’s a slight of sorts.

The theme is very simple, and so obvious it doesn’t even need to be elucidated in-puzzle: phrases—two words each—for which the latter component is a synonym for “selection.”

  • 20a. [Noncash executive compensation] STOCK OPTION.
  • 27a. [Close boxing match outcome] SPLIT DECISION.
  • 50a. [Folgers competitor] TASTER’S CHOICE.
  • 58a. [Randomly determined NBA draft choice] LOTTERY PICK.

Just four theme answers, versus five (including a revealer) in the NYT. The breakdown of lengths is LAT : 2 × 11, 2 × 13 (mean 12, median 12); NYT : 2 × 9, 2 × 11, 1 × 13 (mean 10.6, median 11). Noticeable differences, and subconsciously visceral. Of course, size isn’t everything, but we as solvers tend to be impressed with, or at least have our opinions influenced by, length.

Disconcerting that two—that is, half—of them are about sports, which creates a discernible imbalance. Seems that it would have been possible to clue either SPLIT DECISION or LOTTERY PICK in a non-sportsian context. Failing that, how about replacing an answer altogether: e.g., COURT DECISION, JOINT DECISION, FINAL DECISION.

The long veticals aren’t so exciting—CINCINNATI and LEGITIMATE either in form or letter content. The sea of the grid is rife with choppiness; just look at those scattered whitecaps! Crosswordese! N-TEST, UKES. Abbrevs. ahoy! THD, INST. Partials galore! RAMA-Lama-Ding-Dong, Santa ANA, O’ER the fields, bok CHOY. Plus OH-SO, A BIT, AS AM I. And more whence those.

Strange clue: 5d [Teardrop-shaped nutlike sacs] for ALMONDS. What the hell is this? Now, almond can refer to the familiar nut, its surrounding fruit, and the tree itself. Though a nut is inandofitself nutlike, it is not a sac. Nor is the fleshy fruit encasing it. Is there some other, non-botanical thing called an almond? Not that I know of, anyway. Whether it’s some obscure object or a flat-out bizarre clue, it seems a wildly aberrant item for a Monday puzzle. Puzzling indeed! Further information: amygdalē/amygdala is the Greek/Latin root of the word, and is the name for the limbic structures in the brain, presumably for their shape.

Annoying clue: 73a [Dumbo’s wings] EARS. Desperately would have appreciated seeing wings in quotation marks here. See also, 19a [Addition to a school, say] ANNEX.

Favorite clue: 67a [Overflow with, as charm] OOZE. I can’t recall a single clue from today’s NYT that was as interesting as this.

Appreciated: The perhaps accidental, or simply fortunate, placement of [Gadget used on an apple] CORER vertically in the center of the grid. Additionally, a subtle misdirectional aspect, as IMAC [PC alternative is nearby at 36-down. Also enjoyed the Scrabbliness in the southeast corner—OOZE, CZAR, KEGS, SWAG—which does not seem at all gratuitous or compromising.

In sum, a problematic and objectively inferior puzzle to the NYT in both theme and fill, but the cluing was far more eccentric and engaging, and I actually enjoyed solving this crossword more than the other one.

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41 Responses to Monday, January 13, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    A textbook example of a clever, well-executed Monday puzzle!

    Just my opinion, but I thought the review was a bit on the “damning with faint praise” side.


  2. Sarah says:

    I only saw seven entries I would somewhat disapprove of: two major (FSTOP and ATONAL) 1 minor (OUZO) and 4 very minor (ACLU, VII, ESS + ELL). And I would’t even count the last four, really.

    The best part about clean everyday fill on a Monday is that you can make the clues just a little bit trickier, and it’ll be no more difficult than any other Monday. One reason why I believe it’s so important to have clean fill.

    With a solid theme to boot, I honestly can say I haven’t seen a better NYT Monday crossword…ever. I applaud the people involved in developing this puzzle.

    • Gareth says:

      I can’t think of a valid reason that anyone would disapprove of any of those answers… Common photography term; somewhat common classical music term; common name of a foreign alcohol; organisation that’s in the news ALL THE TIME; low Roman numeral that one sees in various settings like clocks (way different to those silly “Roman 459” numerals); legitimate, common suffix; okay ELL maybe, you’ve got a case for…

      Crosswords aren’t supposed to be about the lowest common denominator!!!

      • Sarah says:

        I’m afraid you’ve made an assumption. Your assumption is, “Sarah doesn’t like these answers because no one’s ever heard of them”. Which is utterly ridiculous…lots and lots of people have seen old clocks where 8 represents VIII.

        While I still protest that FSTOP, ATONAL and maybe OUZO may be somewhat unsuitable for a Monday, the other 4 are somewhat stale due to being used too often. ESS, ELL, VIII and ACLU tend to use the same clues over and over and over and over again…

        But ultimately, all those answers only mar my rating slightly. Still a 4.5+ star puzzle to me.

        • Gareth says:

          If an answer is three or four letters it will be used often. That is a basic fact of the mechanics of crossword construction. I’m in the “no such thing as an unsuitable answer for a Monday puzzle camp”. Fair crossings and fun answers are all that matter… So a person does a Monday crossword and doesn’t know an answer? What happens? (S)he learns something, hopefully looking it up afterward in a dictionary, on Wikipedia or some other way.

  3. Hawkins says:

    Is the criticism that STONEWALLED and GONEBALLISTIC are in past tense? Because no, those aren’t yawners at all. I feel like I’m reading another Michael Sharp review.

    • Ethan says:

      Yeah, I think STONEWALLED is pretty nice too. Also no mention of FOR A SONG. Apparently to be colorful an entry has to have been invented in the past month.

      • Bencoe says:

        I also liked RHONEVALLEY. Good Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre blends! Yum.

      • Lois says:

        I liked the NYT much more than pannonica did today, but in general I haven’t found her to be critical of clues and answers that hark back to the past.

    • Hawkins says:

      Scratch that. Rex gave this puzzle the review it deserved today. Also, I should have said “not in the present tense.”

  4. Ethan says:

    I think to be considered present perfect it has to be preceded by the auxiliary verb, which would be some present tense conjugation of ‘have’. What you’re seeing in GONE BALLISTIC is the past participle. At least you were closer than Rex, who called it the pluperfect.

    • Bencoe says:

      And he’s an English professor!

      • Bencoe says:

        Actually, there is no clear indication as to what tense this would have been in the context of a full sentence. It COULD be a pluperfect, as in, “They had GONE BALLISTIC when they discovered the house had been broken into.” Or a present perfect, as in, “He has GONE BALLISTIC when people have questioned his authority.”

      • JB says:

        No, he’s not.

  5. vijay says:

    A quintessential Monday puzzle. Like others have mentioned, the theme answers were not only not yawners, but quite nice. The theme is extremely tight, the short fill is solid, and the puzzle even had big splashy themeless corners in the NW and SE. A very bizarre, tone-deaf, and irrelevant review today.

  6. I’m with everyone else in commending the smoothness of this Monday and disapproving the review. It brought a smile to my face with the inappropriate touching goose instead of the fowl.

  7. Brucenm says:

    Is there a distinction to be made between disagreeing with a review and disapproving of it?

  8. pannonica says:

    Reactionary commenters:

    How disparaging is “tight theme with a good revealer” (first sentence)? How about “well-constructed with little to be faulted”?

    Hawkins: Where did I criticize STONEWALLED on tense grounds?

    Entries like PHONE CALL, STONEWALLED, and RHÔNE VALLEY aren’t bad per se, they simply aren’t that exciting. Hence, “yawners.” And if the ostensible marquee entry sounds unmistakably off or funny, it has trouble supporting its own weight, let alone that of its compatriots. And if the rest of the fill and especially the clues are not particularly interesting or memorable, they do little to elevate the puzzle. vijay: I don’t find two stacked 8s-plus-a-7 filled with middling letters to be remarkably “splashy themeless corners.”

    So I’ve just recapitulated my “damning” write-up, for better or worse, or no effect at all. Perhaps the inclusion of “jejune” had an outsize influence on people’s reactions? It’s one of those words whose bark is often worse than its bite, depending on the audience.

    • Hawkins says:

      4th attempt to post, so if they all spam through at the same time I apologize.

      In the Saturday Jan 4th NYT STONEWALL was top fill, so I was attempting to figure out why it would be dull now, that’s all. Tense was the only thing I could figure, but it’s just comes down to a matter of opinion. Your opinion of this puzzle is an outlier, which is fine; I’ve been underwhelmed by puzzles that seemingly everyone else loved too (the bumper sticker NYT, for example).

      • pannonica says:

        Different blogger, and also STONEWALL in that puzzle wasn’t a theme entry. These are both relevant factors.

  9. Daniel Myers says:

    Dear me.

    1.) Thanks, Bencoe, for nicely clearing up the grammar of GONE BALLISTIC.

    2.) Sarah – “4 very minor (ACLU, VII, ESS + ELL). And I would’t even count the last four, really.” Yes, and you didn’t count, in Roman numerals.

    3.) Others: Why does well-nigh everybody, time and again, like some cruciverbal crowd run amok, go after this particular contributor when she expresses her opinion so deftly, succinctly and without Rex’s rancour or Amy’s sometime snarkiness? What is it that so bedevils you lot? I’m truly curious.

    • Papa John says:

      Re “3.)” — Good question…

      • Huda says:

        Here’s my attempt at answering #3, which has independently occurred to me as well:

        I think Panonica has a very interesting mind that appreciates complexity. She also has a wonderful and wry sense of humor. I thought her comments a couple of days ago at the end of our discussion involving Shanana and belly dancers were perfect… As I read them, I was laughing out loud and drawing strange looks from fellow passengers on the plane.

        So, when she reviews Mondays, which are intrinsically not complex, she often seems to find them two-dimensional (so to speak), and that comes across in the review and often triggers various reactions. So, my hypothesis is that the reference points are a little different. Some people want Mondays to be clean, smooth and lack crosswordese to be close to perfect. Pannonica’s review recognizes and commends all of that in this puzzle. But it also implies another criterion of spiciness or dimensionality to be deemed noteworthy.

        To me, this little twist was provided by the fact that I was expecting the commonality of the “ONE” but had not noticed the “ALL” until the revealer. So, not a lot of zing, but a cute enough twist to elevate the puzzle. It’s again a matter of expectation. I think setting high expectations, even for an easy day, is a great ideal.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Daniel, pannonica and I are both mortally offended. You’re calling me snarky while failing to note her occasional snarkiness?

      • Daniel Myers says:


        Excellent analysis (Perhaps some would call too nuanced and reflective for a Monday?). I fully concur with your conclusion. I don’t think you were contributing here when there was a full broadside 24 hour attack on pannonica for merely being alive. In any event, very well put.


        LOL- My sincerest apologies for any mortal offence I’ve caused. I hereby promote you from “sometime snarkiness” to full snarkhood, and, moreover, grant pannonica whatever degree of snarksomeness to which she wishes to lay claim. Furthermore, and with the greatest sense of relief, I relinquish my title of cruciverbal snark hunter, and return to the reading of Lewis Carroll, with the proviso that you take it under due consideration to install an anonymous Snark-O-Meter at the top of your page.

        Sans Snark,


  10. Jeff M says:

    Think there might be something wrong with the site. Trying to give BEQ a rating and it’s taking me back to 1/1/14. Not sure how someone rated it a 1.0; I think it’s one of the better themelesses I’ve seen in a while.


    • pannonica says:

      Should work now. Just a pesky missing character in the codey thing.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I saw that 1-star rating before 8 am Central … and I think that’s when Brendan’s puzzle posts go live. Presumably a mistake or a vandal.

  11. JFC says:

    Aside from the insightful comments on the puzzle, I learned today that pannonica is female. But I should have known.

    MAS – You either quoted Rex or think like him today. Didn’t read pannonica as damning with faint praise, only praising with faint praise.

    There is no real snark on this site. Amy is sweet and pannonica is demurring. Faux snark, maybe, but no genuine snark. Real snark is reserved to Rex. Caveat: Outside of Rex I wouldn’t recognize snark if I were guilty of it.

  12. Martin says:

    JFC: I didn’t quote Rex. My comment was posted a couple of hours at least before Rex’s review.


    • JFC says:

      MAS – I see that. I meant no ill will. Frankly, it wouldn’t bother me if you had. That wouldn’t rise to the level of Joe Biden’s plagiarism in law school. I was merely pointing out the similarity in choice of words. Rex was more succinct (“Textbook Monday”) and complimentary as you were. So you too were on the same wavelength on this one (I dislike any inference Rex was quoting you). I thought the puzzle was very smooth as Mondays should be. My only quibble is that I think the grid, especially in the center, is choppy, a minor aesthetic point

      Keep up the stacked quads. The exchanges between Rex and you on your last two were almost worth the price of admission.

  13. Martin says:

    JFC: it’s ok, I wasn’t annoyed in anyway by your post. I just wanted to let you know who posted first. Incidentally, phrases like “textbook—” are very common, so I’m sure it’s just a minor coincidence.

    Glad you enjoyed the quadstacks and all the related “entertainment” they seem to bring. When I first started making them I was initially a bit dismayed by some of the blogosphere reactions. But now there seems to be quite a lot of debate that makes the blogosphere lots of fun on quadstack nights!


  14. pannonica says:

    Pointing out that Lynn Lempel, in the Constructor’s Notes at the Wordplay blog, states that RHÔNE VALLEY “admittedly rates rather low on the ‘fun’ scale.” Further—and more significantly—she mentions that Will Shortz “changed quite a few of the clues, generally making them more straightforward.” My chief complaint of this crossword was the dryness of the cluing, even considering that it’s a Monday; I thus posit that his editorial hand swung the pendulum too far.

  15. Martin says:

    Speaking of who did the first Rebus maybe David Steinberg can sort this out. I remember reading that Margaret Farrar said that the first rebus was by Francis Hansen in a Sunday puzzle called “Scrambling Around” (with an egg rebus for Easter). She said she got tons of mail about it, including being summoned by a senior editor to explain herself. Of course, she could have easily forgotten Bernice’s puzzle having edited so many,

    Anyway, both wonderful constructors, regardless of who’s first,

    On a personal note I had the good fortune of meeting Francis Hansen at the ACPT in 98.

    And before I forget, happy 100th to Bernice Gordon. I’ve solved so many of her puzzles over my formative years. Thank you, thank you for all the great solving Bernice :)

    -Martin Ashwood-Smith

  16. Pete says:


    I just want to thank you so much for your service to the Cross Word Community. Without this site, where else could we debate as to whether Rex’s being a faculty member of the English department makes him an English Professor or not? Whether he’s vitriolic or snarky? Whether he plagarized MAS or vice Versa?

    Your work here is priceless.

    • pannonica says:

      Snark? Smarm? Shill?

      addendum: After looking at Pete’s earlier comments here, it seems I’d mistaken his motive; I think the intent is humor.

  17. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Pleasant Monday theme and puzzle in the NYTimes puzzle. (Back in the late Maleska era there was a Sunday grid with a much harder “one for all and all for one” theme, as in Line from “The Ancient Mariner” = ALALLALALLONEONEALALL.) Yes, nice to see those NW and SE stacks with Monday-easy entries. It’s just a bit inelegant that the string ALL occurs once in a non-theme entry (11D:ORALLY); I wonder if this could be avoided while retaining the theme entries and Monday difficulty.

  18. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Correction: it’s not “late” Maleska, being from 1984, not 1994 as I hastily misread. (Not too surprisingly there was a phONEcALLs among its theme entries too, though entered as phALLcONEs.) I’m surprised that I remember a puzzle from almost 30 years ago, and amazed that it’s so easily findable online now!

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