Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
A quintessential Monday theme: vowel progression. Phonetic. Long vowel sounds. Five. A through U, no Y. [For what reason?] (21a) – that’s just the way it goes, that’s WHY. In this iteration, they’re couched in phrases ending with FL*.
- 17a. [Celebrity chef and host of the Food Network’s “Boy Meets Grill”] BOBBY FLAY.
- 25a. [Theme music for TV’s “The Dating Game”] SPANISH FLEA. Oh, that’s so wry.
- 39a. [Insect that causes sleeping sickness] TSETSE FLY. If we take “cause” to mean “function as a biological vector for the protozoan organism that actually causes sleeping sickness (aka trypanosomiasis)”, then by all means. This is not just IMO (64d) but a description of a basic relationship.
- 55a. [It’s typically slow during rush hour] TRAFFIC FLOW.
- 66a. [Dismissive term for chronic fatigue syndrome] YUPPIE FLU. Whoa, this seems awfully obsolescent. Let’s take a peek at the trust Google Ngram viewscope … Hey, lookie there! Sure seems as if it’s a faddish appellation, peaking quickly and losing currency equally rapidly. Remember, the data set terminates in 2008, and the trend looks quite severe. Wonder how long this puzzle was in the queue?
So, industry-standard theme, adequately executed. Par.
Fla-wyes (oh, that’s another reason):
- 1d [Mummifies, e.g.] EMBALMS links to 56d [Burial vault] CRYPT. Ditto 23a [AOL or Earthlink: Abbr.] ISP and 65d [Internet connection inits.] DSL, which leads tangentially to 22d [Handbag monogram] YSL. See also 35a [Like a wet noodle] LIMP; 34d [Completely unlike a wet noodle] STIFF.
- Ratcheting it up, then: double-duty clue [Flower part] for 37d and 48d PETAL, COROLLA.
- Good vertical triple-seven stacks in each of the corners, with the exception of 43d SERENER.
- Forced following clue to themer 25-across. 30a [Majority of the contestants on “The Dating Game”] MEN.
Nothing far outside the ken for the typical early-week solver, with the possible exception of 42d OBTRUDE, but (1) it isn’t that obscure a word, and (2) the crossings are congenial.
About an average Monday.
Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Another venerable theme category from the West Coast: rhyming pairs. In this case, there was another SPECIFIC (40d) aspect that I didn’t appreciate (so it wasn’t necessarily explicit, as per that entry’s clue—a different sense of the word) until seeing the revealer at 52d [Wee hr., and a hint to a feature common to this puzzle’s four longest answers] TWO AM. To wit, each component of the pairs contains the bigram AM. This adds some depth to the theme, and also redeems a bit of blah fill.
- 17a. [Wishy-washy] NAMBY-PAMBY. An ablaut reduplication clues a rhyming reduplication!
- 62a. [Cookie brand] FAMOUS AMOS. Only one of the four themers that employs a spelling change for the rhyming segment.
- 11d. [Elite group of athletes] DREAM TEAM.
- 35d. [It’s “played” by finger -pointers] BLAME GAME.
Elsewise, the puzzle is well-pitched and enjoyable as an early-week offering.
- The Greek island SAMOS probably the most obscure answer. Further insular geography with ARUBA.
- Across in the center is SPRIG, clued a bit punningly as [Thyme piece]. “Thyme” can be thought of as a portmanteau of rhyme and time, and the oral pastime relative of this puzzle’s theme sometimes goes by that name: thyme time. I’ve also heard it called “stinky pinky.”
- A few stray AM appearances in the ballast fill: 2d OBAMA, 41a TAME, and the aforementioned SAMOS (44a). No big deal, but I have to find things to mention, you know.
- Gratuitous tobacco promotion at 7d and 42a, but it was probably unintentional. Even so, feh.
Smooth puzzle, good Monday.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Tennis Tips”—Ade’s write-up
Hello once again! Hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the last day of June!
As I’m typing this, I’m watching Wimbledon, so a very fitting way to spend my time as I’m reviewing this puzzle, authored by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld. In it, five common phrases/nouns are appended by adding a word at the end of that phrase that also happens to be a term used in tennis. And as we speak, there’s a chance for an EVEN SCORE at 4-4 with South African Kevin Anderson and defending Men’s Singles champion Andy Murray (32D: [Four-four, e.g.]). Please let that happen! If it does, how eerie would that be, given the clue and what I’m watching now?!?!
- OLD NAVY ACE: (17A: [Retired warship pilot?]) The pilot wore Old Navy jeans as he sailed the seven seas!
- MICROSOFT SERVE: (24A: [Very small ice cream order?]) – How fast can Bill Gates hit his first serve?
- GIVE A BIG HANDSET: (38A: [Buy a large phone as a present?]) – I would LOVE to get the Zack Morris phone as a gift!
- JUST SAY NO-FAULT: (63A: [Advice about what to tell the insurance adjuster?])
- RING OUTLET: (52A: [Diamond district?])
The first thing I want to point out in this grid is the return of MONDO to my consciousness (5A: [Huge, slangily]). I know I used that word a great deal between the ages of eight and 13, but totally shelved it once high school hit. Now I’ll have to use mondo at least twice this week. And immediately below it, I would hope never to be TREED at any point in my life (15A: [Cornered by a bear, perhaps]). From the food perspective, I’m not a RAGU person when it comes to spaghetti sauce, as I go with Francesco Rinaldi (50A: [Prego competitor]). Never had HI HO before, sadly, since I’m a serial consumer of crackers (41D: [Bygone Ritz rival]). Other fill that I liked in the grid included REDDI (3D: [_____-wip (dessert topping)]) and PYRITE (48D: [Fool’s gold]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MTV (5D: [“Jersey Shore” channel])– Back when MTV was still watchable, they put on a series of shows called MTV Rock N’ Jock, a ProAm event which featured celebrities in the music, acting and modeling scene playing sports with professional athletes. If I remember correctly, there was Rock N’ Jock softball, basketball and football. In the basketball one, they had a basket in which the rim was about 30 feet off the ground and making the shot was like worth 50 points, and Tim Hardaway made one of those shots. It was one of the best ProAms around, and it was around the time MTV was hitting its peak powers in terms of bridging the gap between its original viewers in the 1980s and the newer generation coming up in the early 1990s.
Have a great Monday, everyone, and see you all tomorrow! Oh, and Andy Murray held his service game, so it’s 5-3 in the first set. Rats!
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
It’s never satisfying to encounter a collision of “What the…?” answers. I had BRO**Y for 21d. [Stock character description?] and had no idea what that was supposed to be. Cattle stock? Dramatic characters? Stock car racing? Shares of stock? No, it’s soup stock, and the is-that-a-real-word BROTHY. The standard American dictionaries don’t list it. Hmph! Do not like it, especially when the crossings also perplexed me. I had no idea there was a Kindle model called the KINDLE FIRE HDX (33a. [Tablet that comes with a “Mayday” button]), and the HDX portion feels mighty random. And then there’s 32a. [Garbage time players], C-TEAM—I have never heard this (presumably) sports term of “garbage time,” and I don’t know how many teams truly have a C-team level that’s worse than their A and B squads. So I couldn’t muscle my way through those crossings.
Also in the cranky-making category: SCHOOL GAMES (never seen this term before as far as I can recall), the arbitrary THIRD OF JUNE, and the crosswordese of EFT, TSO, OSH, and LIANAS. I did like RENAISSANCE, GAMBLER, THE FOUR TOPS and MODEST MOUSE, KARENINA, IRANIANS instead of the crosswordese IRANIS, LOST SOUL, and GITMO.
Top clues: 10d. [Lock up in a bar room?], ENCAGE; 12d. [Got back on solid ground?], DEPLANED.
Questionable clues: 23a. [Hand-me-down wearer, probably], SIS. I would suspect that little brothers are even more likely to wear hand-me-down clothes than little sisters. 1d. [Actress whose real last name is Gummer], STREEP? Do we know for sure what her legal name is? Does she have her married surname on her driver’s license? It’s not as if “Meryl Streep” is a stage name—it’s her name at birth and her professional name for decades.
3.5 stars, plus a frowny face for the squares that vexed me.