Monday, February 17, 2014

NYT 3:24 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:25 (pannonica) 
BEQ 4:53 (Amy) 
CS 6:10 (Dave) 

David Gray’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 2/17/14 • Mon • Gray • 2 17 14 • solution

NYT • 2/17/14 • Mon • Gray • 2 17 14 • solution

Thirty-eight-across: [Paul McCartney/Michael Jackson hit … or a hint to the starts of 17-, 214-, 57- and 65-Across] SAY, SAY, SAY.


  • 17a. [1989 John Hughes movie starring John Candy] UNCLE BUCK. Ooh, the 80s vibe is killer.
  • 24a. [“There, there … stop crying”] NO MORE TEARS. [ed. – insert Monty Python clip here]
  • 57a. [Snack that leaves fingers orange] CHEESE CURLS. Only if you don’t use chopsticks like a civilized human being.
  • 65a. [“This is just ridiculous!”] WHAT A JOKE.

Am I too far through the looking glass? Does it bother anyone else that the revealer is in triplicate but there are four proper theme answers? A single SAY would be more apt, despite the cleverness of the reveal. Better yet, how about locating the revealer somewhere else and have just three long theme answers? Most impressive would be vertically down the center linking three theme answers in Rows 4, 8, and 12; next best would be crossing one in Row 8 with the others in 2 and 14.

Nevertheless, it’s three and four. Waltzing along AT A TROT (12d):

  • Stacked sevens in the northwest and southeast are pretty good—SLUSHES/LINKAGE/INCISOR and DAYTONA/E-TICKET/NEPHEWS, though they do make me hunger for the same in the other two corners, which contain paired sevens surmounted with two threes. Then again, seeing how the meh TAKES IT and the partial title LAST DON are pivotal, it’s obvious that the spots were tough to fill.
  • 71a [Boxer Spinks and others] LEONS; 54a [Spinks foe] ALI.
  • Less taken with the sodden cross-reference in 51a [The “L” in 5-Across] LOS, with the other being the UCLA Bruins.

There’s a preponderance of alphabet-block cluing, but then again it’s a Monday offering, geared to be welcoming to newer solvers, while hopefully achieving the delicate balance of not also alienating dab hands. Nevertheless I grew a bit weary under the onslaught: 40d [Calendar’s scope] YEAR, 41d [Buy’s opposite] SELL, 23a [Contains] HAS, 69a [“Mona __”] LISA, 64a [Vice __ ] VERSA, 45a [Letter after ess] TEE, and so on. This isn’t to say there aren’t more adventurous clues, but it would take some mighty powerful flapping to make this solver’s heart soar about this puzzle.

In the end, an adequate, more or less typical Monday offering, engendering few SCOWLS (53d).

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 2/17/14 • Mon • Burnikel • solution

LAT • 2/17/14 • Mon • Burnikel • solution

Two stalwarts of crosswords combine for a double-header. That’s right: “You got your US president in my baseball player!” “No, you got your baseball player in my US president!” Now if only Pee-Wee Herman would run for the highest office in the land…

Anyway, here’s the lineup:

  • 17a. [Favorite Hall of Famer of the 39th U.S. President?] GARY CARTER.
  • 24a. [Favorite Hall of Famer of the 7th U.S. President?] REGGIE JACKSON.
  • 44a. [Favorite Hall of Famer of the 17th and 36th U.S. presidents?] WALTER JOHNSON.
  • 55a. [Favorite Hall of Famer of the 38th U.S. President?] WHITEY FORD.

Wonder if there was something even tighter intended? Is there anyone named Nixon in the MLB Hall of Fame? Because we have the 36th, 38th, and 39th POTUSes in attendance. Answer: no.

In the stands, the remaining fill is Monday-typical, with some Scrabbly nuggets to juice things up. Line drives with 3d [Red planet explorer] MARS ROVER—which evokes last Friday’s CHE crossword—and 31d [Bubbly citrus drink] LEMON SODA. I’m a big fan of GuS ‘Dry Meyer Lemon.’ Elsewhere, the offsetting DARK AGES and SHARP WIT.

Very low CAP Quotient™ with only crosswordese ICER, SMEE and perhaps the variant HAJJ arousing notice. Smooth-flowing grid.

  • 6d:  Fun, colloquial PARK IT, clued as [“Sit!”].
  • 42d [Tried to hit in paintball] SHOT AT isn’t as successful.
  • 18d [Animal houses] CAGES. Really? Really?
  • Uhm.
  • Oh, it’s starting to rain …

… so I’ll have to wrap things up here. Solidpuzzlenotthemostexcitingtheme.

Updated Monday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Presidential Monograms” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Three word phrases begin with the initials of past presidents:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 02/17/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 02/17/14

  • [Quick way to get from Tokyo to Osaka (#33)] clued HIGH SPEED TRAIN – Harry S Truman, and what does that S stand for, anyway?
  • [On a lark (#35)] was JUST FOR KICKS – John F. Kennedy
  • [They’re sometimes arranged for DC visitors (#27)] was WHITE HOUSE TOURS – William Howard Taft, whose 3-letter monogram doesn’t seem as famous to me as the others, although I do like the White House tie-in to the theme here.
  • [Warns about (#38)] was GETS READY FOR – Gerald R. Ford, the R. standing for Rudolph.
  • [Glenn Miller hit (#36)] clued LITTLE BROWN JUG – Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Fun theme, can you come up with your FAVEs for the more recent GWB, WJC or BHO? How about this song? I was surprised when doing the write-up on this on that there were five theme entries, given the smoothness of the fill. With the HE in place for [Not a bit cautious], I really wanted HELL-BENT, but it was the blander HEEDLESS instead. Afraid TOO SWEET for [Overly rich for some tastes] doesn’t pass the lexical chunk test, unless we want to allow any entry of TOO + adjective (exception for anything clued to Little Red Riding Hood notwithstanding). Nice to see a non-Progressive Insurance clue for FLO, even if it goes back to [Andy Capp’s wife]. She really jumped the shark a very long time ago–almost any show you watch on TV features either her or the GEICO gecko at station breaks.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 2 17 14 "Themeless Monday" solution

BEQ 2 17 14 “Themeless Monday” solution

There’s no overriding vibe in this 72-worder, no “Wow, that’s a hot new coupla entries!” Mind you, the standards for a BEQ themeless are different than for newspaper themelesses, and a newspaper puzzle would stand out for having THE YIPS, ELLIOTT SMITH, CONTRANYM, WOLVERINE, and the insane SKYY VODKA (which may be a debut—we’ve seen SKYY by itself a number of times), but these are more ordinary sorts of things in BEQland.

I would ding a newspaper puzzle for including ENOL and ERAT and maybe ITT ([Big name in defense contracts]) but I’m really seeing nothing else dingable in this grid, so on second thought, this puzzle has a good five zippy long answers and a teeny number of dull short answers, which is A-OK. The worst mid-range fill is the uncommon HOSIER and the unfamiliar 47d. [“Mixed Marriage” playwright Saint John ___] ERVINE (he was Irish, St. John Greer Ervine). The +ING, +S, and +ED 7s are entirely natural and don’t stick out because they’re not clunky or forced or overused; nothing in the “REAMUSERS” category. Could do without HORATIO clued by way of CSI: Miami when MIAMI is at 42a, though.

Top clues:

  • 32a. [“There is a very fine line between loving life and being ___ for it” (Maya Angelou)], GREEDY. Not sure what she means here. Is it bad to be greedy for life? Thoughts?
  • 49a. [Weavers and carpenters], ANTS. So craftsy.
  • 14d. [It covers up gaping plot holes], SOD.

What do you think of 26d. [“Ouch! You stepped on me!”], “MY TOES!”? Good or contrived (or both)?

I wasn’t really into the puzzle while solving it, but it holds up under scrutiny. 3.9 stars (would be 4 without the MIAMI issue).

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18 Responses to Monday, February 17, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    Nice Monday grid with good central reveal. I originally put in YAP for YIP which meant I was staring for a moment or two at ETACKIT.

    One small quibble is that this exact theme (word for word) was found by archeologists etched in stone (in
    hieroglyphics) in the Valley of the Kings Egypt.

    It now resides in the Egyptian Room of the British Museum… not on display, but a curator may show it to you if you have the right authority (which only takes 3-4 years to apply for).

    So I’m shocked, shocked I tell you that neither the constructor nor Will did not check this out beforehand. It certainly ruined the puzzle for me, and the 3 other assistant curators of the Egyptian Room of the British Museum. (They were understandably upset
    but nothing that a nice hot cup of tea
    couldn’t cure)


  2. Martin says:

    snake–vulture–mouth–double reed · leaf–mouth–quail chick–vulture !

    You seen it, then :)


  3. Sarah says:

    A prime example of a theme gone too far. Remove UNCLE BUCK or WHAT A JOKE, go with 4 theme entries, clean up the fill, add some great long downs and Voila, you’ve probably have a 4+ star puzzle easily.

  4. Ethan says:

    Yeah I think WHAT A JOKE is kind of dispensable here. First off, the phrase itself is not especially idiomatic. It could have as easily been WHAT A DORK or WHAT A RUSH or WHAT A TRIP or many other things. Also “Say what??” is just a variation on “What??’ and as such I don’t think it’s in a class with “say uncle” or “say no more” or “say cheese” which really depend on the “say” to yield a very precise idiomatic meaning.

    There does seem to be a kind of Monday inflation going on… looking back at the last ten Mondays all have had either five theme entries or four theme entries with a revealer, sometimes a long revealer. When I play the “classic” puzzle, I see that Mondays used to normally be three entries.

    • Ethan says:

      I would add that this may be a function of Will S. being constantly short of Monday puzzles. I bet the constructors of all of the past ten Mondays were thinking “Tuesday” when they submitted. If you think of a completely novice solver who doesn’t know anything about themes, attempting today’s puzzle because it’s a Monday, it’s easy to imagine that such a solver would not grasp what the theme is, or how the center answer is a hint. What happened to the Monday themes that were like, “Dessert option #1, dessert option #2, dessert option #3”?

      • Huda says:

        NYT: I too thought that the 3 SAYs needed 3 theme answers… But I like “SAY WHAT?” It has a particular vibe to it. Goes with “SAY NO MORE”. Meanwhile SAY CHEESE and SAY UNCLE hang together on a somewhat different wave length.

        There were, however 12 3-letter words surrounding the central reveal, which itself is made up of an additional set of 3, 3 letter words… felt a little too much.

  5. Ethan says:

    Judy Johnson and Travis Jackson are in the Hall of Fame too. As are Presidential name-sharers Hack Wilson and Jud Wilson.

  6. bob stigger says:

    Could have avoided the whole 3/4 thing by choosing something like Joe Simon’s “Say”. Which is a way better track to boot.

  7. Gareth says:

    NYT: Very easy, even for a Monday, but then I’ve made the exact theme in Sunday size (apart from revealer) for the LA Times. I’m not sure what @Sara is on about, the non-theme fill struck as a lot punchier than most Monday’s and most recent NYT’s….

    LAT: Much chewier as a puzzle, at least until I realised I was supposed to solve downwards and ignore the theme! Was I the only one who had ACNE before ACHE for [Back woe]?

  8. Martin says:

    My last entry in BEQ’s themeless was “Word that has two diametrically opposed meanings.” I don’t know how long I spent searching my brain for a contranym that would fit. I even thought “all the contranyms I can think of are shorter than nine letters.”

    I hate when that happens.

    • David L says:

      I struggled with that one too. Eventually I filled in CONTRANYM and thought, wait a minute, that clue’s wrong! Contranym isn’t a contranym!

  9. Tracy B says:

    Commenters named “Martin” are making me smile today.

  10. pannonica says:

    BEQ: 49a. [Weavers and carpenters], ANTS. So craftsy.

    Also musical.

  11. ahimsa says:

    NYT: Cute! I didn’t mind the mismatch between three SAYs and four theme entries that much. And SAY WHAT seems fine to me but SAY WHEN might have been more fun (e.g., used when filling someone’s glass).

    Does anyone really use the phrase SAY UNCLE anymore? Even as a kid I thought that was pretty old fashioned. I don’t remember hearing it in person. I only learned it from old movies. Maybe it is a regional thing?

    I enjoyed the CrossSynergy theme with the presidential initials. I can’t even explain why that one tickled me so much but it did.

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