Monday, March 3, 2014

NYT 3:23 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:12 (pannonica) 
BEQ 7:11 (Amy) 
CS 5:16 (Dave) 

Andrea Carla Michaels and Michael Blake’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 3/3/14 • Mon • Michaels, Blake • 3 3 14 • solution

NYT • 3/3/14 • Mon • Michaels, Blake • 3 3 14 • solution

Two-part phrases that are identical except that the second part sheds a terminal N that appears in the first section. Alternatively (but incorrectly), as it sort of looks in-grid, twin words separated by a shortened, elided “and.” CURIOUSER ’N’ CURIOUSER.


  • 17a. [Operatic singer on a sofa?] DIVAN DIVA.
  • 28a. [Chitchat about a dressmaking template?] PATTERN PATTER.
  • 37a. [Complimentary road service in Sierra Leone’s capital?] FREETOWN FREE TOW.
  • 45a. [Egg-hunting time in the Orient?] EASTERN EASTER. I hear the egg rolling contest is not to be missed.
  • 63a. [Memorize lines for a Shakespearean king?] LEARN LEAR.

Nothing fancy, just a solid theme with a little bit of variation (the one-word-to-two of the central spanner) to break up the monotony.

    • Bit of a Monday curveball: 7d [Software platform suitable for Starbucks?] JAVA. Wonder if that will throw some solvers off? 36a [Set of keys] for PIANO is also refreshingly playful.
    • 38d [Hormone in the pill] ESTROGEN. Good fill, but I feel The Pill (or at least the Pill) still needs capitalization.
    • Fairly chewy northeast corner: SCANT/UH-HUH/BRAKE/IBEX with SUB/CHRISTIE/AHAB/NUKE/”THE X Factor”


  • Speaking of 10d [New Jersey governor whose first name starts his last name] CHRISTIE … You know, when he first came on the scene, my immediate (but joking) thought was the bully from the Woody Woodpecker cartoons, Buzz Buzzard. Sadly, the comparison was too true. Prophetic, even.
  • Countering the lively NE are two quite icky sections. First, the southeast corner featuring the atrocious EENY/NATL/ERSE coupled with some more palatable downs and across. Second, the crossing partials on the western flank: I BE/IF WE.
  • Favorite touch: NOBLER crossing the themer LEARN LEAR. Why? Because one of the most well-known appearances of NOBLER comes from Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy in Shakespeare’s masterpiece: “… Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune …”

Good puzzle.

David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 3/3/14 • Mon • Poole • solution

LAT • 3/3/14 • Mon • Poole • solution

What was I saying? Oh yes, synonyms for making words with one’s mouth, lungs, and vocal chords.

  • 18a. [Prohibition era saloon] SPEAKEASY.
  • 26a. [John Kerry’s domain] STATE DEPARTMENT. We would have also accepted bailiwick.
  • 43a. [Supermarket convenience] EXPRESS CHECKOUT.
  • 57a. [Complete ninny] UTTER FOOL.

No revealer present, no revealer necessary, not even for a Monday. “Just” four theme entries; two spanning the full 15 columns, two relatively short 9-letter ones. Nothing at all wrong with that array.

Speaking of Monday level qualities, surprised by the slight misdirection in one-across [Rosary counters] BEADS. That’s “counters” as objects counted with, not as someone or something that counts.

39d [“Ditto”] LIKEWISE, counterbalanced by 4d [Absolute ruler] DICTATOR, which contains “ditto” in order, interspersed with CAR. FEATURED and WASTEFUL also figure into the calculations, adding to the tally of long fill.

33a [Flirt with] HIT ON. Uhm, David? Rich? That isn’t flirting. (Not per se, anyway.) Negatively enhanced by crossing 28d [Wolfed down] ATE UP (though the down-up dichotomy is cute). See also, 64a [Lewd look] LEER.

53a [Put on an extra sweater, say] GET WARM. No guarantee. Maybe a different qualifier or conditional in the clue? Also, GET WARM isn’t quite standaloneworthy. Thankfully, no cross-reference between 7d [Psychic’s claim] ESP and 32d [Fortunetelling card] TAROT, but I would have preferred a clue-echo—seer, perhaps?

Low CAP Quotient™. Fair Monday fare.

Updated Monday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Change of Clothes” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Theme phrases that end with a word that is also a type of clothing are clued sartorially:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 03/03/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 03/03/14


  • [Office worker’s underwear] clued DESK DRAWERS – unless that particular worker decided to go commando that day.
  • [Washington lobbyist’s shirt?] was a HILL TOP – “Hill” as in Capitol or Anita?
  • [Soda jerk’s dress-up attire?] clued COUNTER SUIT – are there really any “soda jerks” around these days?
  • [Preacher’s fashion accessory?] was a BIBLE BELT – we have friends who live in Raleigh, which is called the “buckle” of the southern bible belt.
  • [Neonatal nurse’s headgear?] was a BOTTLE CAP – so what’s the latest on the breastfeeding / bottle debate for neonatals?

This constructor does a great job of getting five theme entries in a grid without sacrificing the fill. We have the unusual (in a good way) BAD DEBTS, JIBES, and IRKSOME, along with the conversational “THAT’S IT!” for [“OK, I’m done”]. And that’s it for me today!

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 3/3/14 answers

BEQ 3/3/14 answers

Tough one this week, no? I had to fight my way through this puzzle. Couldn’t find a toehold in the upper left section and moved to the rest of the puzzle, eventually finishing up with ZION. I also misspelled the New York mayor as DI BLASIO (the spelling for a friend’s husband’s name) instead of DE BLASIO and thus erased the whole entry because the Godfather name couldn’t end with an I. D’oh!

Top fill: SNEEZE GUARD, OUTDOOR CAFE, TED RALL (my first answer in the grid … and I know the name mostly from indie crosswords), THE CW, MIRA SORVINO, WHATSAPP, AU POIVRE, IMPOSE ON (the rare +ON phrase that is truly a solid crossword entry), Judd APATOW, and DE BLASIO.

Favorite clues:

  • 12d. [Dead-set?], EMBALMED.
  • 53d. [They’ll feel you up before making a connection: Abbr.], TSA.

Not delighted with COM being clued as 40a. [Naval off.] … but the dictionary does indeed show that COM or Com. is an abbrev for “Commodore.” I was thinking “Commander” while solving. Anyway, not the usual COM clue here. Points for non-staleness.

3.75 stars.

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18 Responses to Monday, March 3, 2014

  1. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Call me fussy but I am surprised to see a Monday theme hinging on the capital of a tiny country and the rather old-fashioned word DIVAN. And I am beyond surprised to see what is passing for Monday fill here. AMATI, IBEX, GOA clued not as a partial ([__ long way] would be Monday-grade) but as the ex-Portuguese area of India, LAVE, ERSE, and ENOS all seem like difficult vocab for beginning solvers. I suspect that most of these could have been avoided if the constructors had not sought to “achieve” a pangram. Maybe a pangram pursuit makes a little sense in a themeless but I don’t get the appeal in a Monday puzzle, where I’ve always thought the preeminent goal was smooth, easy fill.

    • Davis says:

      Seconded. While the post highlights JAVA as a toughie, I think the items on Amy’s list are much trickier. Anyone who spends a lot of time browsing the web will encounter JAVA. On the flip side, I’m a pretty seasoned solver, and I still had to rely on crosses to get AMATI–that’s one of those bits of crosswordese I struggle to keep in my head because it’s relatively uncommon.

    • Andrea Carla Michaels says:

      Agree AMATI, LAVE , GOA ENOS are tough for a Monday but that had zero to do with a pangram. Zero.
      Look at the five themes THAT’S what dictated the fill…wish you could have gone positive and noticed the words that crossed two or three themes and then tell me that it’s not smooth all things considered.
      And ESTROGEN was just for you!

      • Bencoe says:

        I felt is was far more difficult than the typical Monday, but I say that the editor and paper decide what day which puzzle is printed. Not up to the constructor. But I also know that ACM is partial to pangrams…don’t deny it!

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Unfortunately, I cannot give extra credit for five theme answers when I value smooth fill over thematic density.

        For my work on the 13×13 Daily Celebrity Crossword, I’m responsible for accepting, tweaking, or rejecting theme queries. Given that our puzzles have three overriding goals—be easy, feature pop culture, be easy—I often find myself lopping off theme entries so that the grid has ample room for easy fill. Even with a modest theme, it’s not easy to ensure all easy fill—but with a big theme, even the best constructor is doomed to include hard words.

        Now, the Monday NYT doesn’t need to be as easy as the DCC, but there is a huge gulf between what I consider “easy fill” and what routinely appears in the Monday NYT. It would appear that Will Shortz gives preference to theme density over fill smoothness. Certain solvers (in the Ashwood-Smith and Krasnick category) love that approach. I do not. So while I’m not going to cancel my NYT subscription over it, I’m also not going to rave about a puzzle that doesn’t provide the sort of solving experience I prefer.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          P.S. Thank you for the thoughtful gift of ESTROGEN, Andrea! I’m regifting it to someone who needs it more than I do—hope that is all right with you.

          • Huda says:

            Estrogen has been maligned at times, but it’s really good for the brain. Really. Progesterone, on the other hand– not so much.

            The fill vs. theme debate is interesting. I agree that a balance is needed although the exact tipping point is a matter of taste. To me as a solver, missing elements of the equation are: a) how gettable tough fill is from the crosses and b) how interesting the fill turns out to be if unfamiliar. If I did not know it, am I happy to have learned it and will it stick? LAVE, AMATI, GOA and ENOS are good to know in general. I also made a similar point about ATP. An abbreviation for a British medal? Not so much…

  2. I’d also ding it a tiny bit for the clue for 70A being “Art Deco, for one”, when ART is in the grid right next door at 64D. That one is so easily avoidable.

    Is there a name for that phenomenon, when a clue repeats an answer word?

  3. Martin says:

    Ok Amy, I’m calling you “fussy” :)


  4. Niemand says:

    Looks like getting that Z in there is the reason for the bad fill in the top left.

    Odd to tell someone “go positive” if you give them Lave Amie Amati in one corner on a Monday just for a Z

  5. S O B says:

    Most enjoyable Monday in a long time! Five Stars! Brilliant! Fabulous!

    (Disclaimer: Michael Blake is my little brother. And I love him.)

    • Lois says:

      I loved it too, though I’m not related. Don’t care about the pangram, though. I like theme density, especially with a good theme like this one. I guess Will Shortz thinks that the words were easy enough for a Monday, especially with the crosses, and so do I.

  6. Gareth says:

    NYT: FREETOWNFREETOW is a great answer! Grid has a surprising number of interesting answers despite the lack of longer fill. I must say that I’m amazed the top-right wasn’t sent in to be refilled: THEX is very awkward and there must’ve been another option in such a reworkable corner. BTW, when did world capitals stop being something that it is expected people have memorized?

    LAT: SPEAKEASY something of a weak link, as SPEAK is in no way repurposed… The other three were very carefully and cleverly chosen!

  7. Sarah says:

    I thought both the NYT/LAT were pretty bad today. The NYT had its share of non-Monday fill with a pangram that 99% of solvers won’t even notice…and many of the ones who do will say “So what?”

    The LAT, IMO, was worse though. Hundreds of seemingly viable grids, several ways to arrange the theme entries..and we still get things like ESME, APSES, ADOS, RELS and roll-your-own LASSOER. Not to mention the several non-Monday names where there are plenty of difficult crossings…ESSO/STERNOS, ERATO/NEHRU/REA/LAHR, TARA/ARS
    HAGLER/HAVRE/UTNE, and AILEY/RELS. Confident I could fill a puzzle around these theme entries without or barely even heading into my list of slightly questionable entries like ORE. Yea.

  8. Sarah says:

    Four things:

    1. ORE shows up in crosswords all the time (ERA, the entry that shows the most is at about 2500 right now, while ORE is at about 1900).

    2. It’s not scrabbly.

    3. A lot of people, if you asked them what ORE was (the unrefined rocks, not the U.S. state*), they wouldn’t know (M-W issue)

    4. Almost every different cluing avenue for it has already been done, and each one has probably been done several times. Surprisingly, ERA, IMO, has plenty of unique cluing potential left.

    * I don’t like ESSO because it’s a regional thing. I prefer my crosswords to have worldwide appeal. As for the state abbr. for ORE, I don’t like it as OR is far more commonly used, as well as being regional.

    This is all a tangent, of course.

  9. Martin says:

    Sarah writes”

    “I don’t like ESSO because it’s a regional thing.”

    If you consider most of the rest of the world (excluding the US) as regional… then I can’t argue with you.


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