Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
5.1 surround theme, introducing the week with a FRESH START, 56a [New beginning … or what 16-, 23-, 31-, 38- and 75-Across each have?].
- 16a. [1970s comedian whom Time magazine dubbed TV’s First Black Superstar”] FLIP WILSON. Changing his name from CLEROW was undoubtedly a prudent move.
- 23a. [Clever person] SMART COOKIE.
- 31a. [Shampoo in a green bottle] PERT PLUS.
- 38a. [Type meant to stand out] BOLD TEXT. Or BOLD FACE.
- 45a. [Counterpart to a lateral] FORWARD PASS. Football.
All are synonymous with fresh in the fourth sense listed at m-w: “[probably by folk etymology from German frech] : disposed to take liberties : impudent <don’t get fresh with me>”. My handy-dandy (handlich-dandlich) German wörterbuch informs me that frech … means exactly that: impudent, insolent, cheeky, usw. It also includes this idiomatic phrase: frech wie Oskar, meaning “bold as brass”. One wonders about the origin, who Oskar was and what he did.
- 54d [Musial of Cardinals fame] STAN; 46d [Kukla, Fran and __ ] OLLIE.
- Gender equivocality! 14a [Right-hand man or woman] AIDE. Partially eroded ethnic slur! 27d [Police van] PADDY WAGON, which is nevertheless reasonably crunchy long fill …
- … as are SENIOR PROM, ERIE CANAL, and LEMON TART.
- Duplication! 63a [Poem of praise] ODE; 21d [Browning or Kipling] POET. “Do you like Browning?” “I don’t know. I’ve never browned.”
- 36a [Verbal thumbs-up] A-OK. ¡Hola, Ade!
- Oddest clue: 29a [Tiny nation surrounded by France and the Mediterranean] MONACO. “Surrounded” seems somehow off here, though it’s technically correct.
- I much prefer RISER and PARER to GOERS and RUER. Perhaps I’m misanthropic. (6d, 61a, 1a(!), 28a)
- 24d [Wearying journey] TREK. See also, 53a [Jean-__ Picard (U.S.S. Enterprise captain)] LUC. Yet ROBE and SPA are cross-referenced (60a & 58d). See also, the lame-o clue 33d [“__ the Force, Luke”] USE. See also … what? What kind of self-respecting crossword doesn’t have OBI in it?! Never mind.
- 55a [Smelting waste] SLAG. Factette: my computers’ “Recycle Bins” have been renamed either “Slag Heap” or “Dirty Laundry” since … for as long as I care to recall.
Clement McKay’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
No problems discerning the theme, nothing subtle about it!
- 17a. [Like the 1920s-’30s, economically] BOOM OR BUST. Ngram confirms my sense that boom and bust is more common, even seemingly specifically relating to that time period.
- 24a. [Excellent work] BANG-UP JOB.
- 35a. [Dramatic weight-loss program] CRASH DIET.
- 49a. [Deadeye with a rifle] CRACK SHOT.
- 59a. [Hectic pre-deadline period] CRUNCH TIME. See also 40d [Hardly roomy, as much airline seating] CRAMPED.
Pow, pow, pow. I’m mildly concerned that the first themer is too much of an inconsistent outlier. First, it’s three words rather than two. Second, another element of it—BUST—is arguably close enough in meaning to the crucial parts of the theme answers (SHOT, in 49a, is too distant). Perhaps BOOM TACKLE as an alternative?
- As you can see, this is a proper crossword puzzle, as it contains OBI (28a [Japanese sash]). See also, 56a [Watchful Japanese canines] AKITAS and 12d [Guard that barks] DOG. Also, may an OBI be worn on the BIAS (the crossing 24d)?
- 38a [Geek Squad member] TECHIE. It’s my understanding that they prefer to be called ‘techers”.
- 57a [Comet Hale-__ ] BOPP. Say, remember when it made IMPACT with Jupiter? No? Oh, that’s because it was Comet Shoemaker-Levy that did that over 20 years ago. Wikistronomia sez, “The estimated probability of [Hale-Bopp] impacting Earth in future passages through the inner Solar System is remote, about 2.5×10−9 per orbit. However, given that the comet nucleus is around 60 km in diameter, the consequences of such an impact would be apocalyptic. A calculation given by Weissman conservatively estimates the diameter at 35 km; an estimated density of 0.6 g/cm3 then gives a cometary mass of 1.3×1019 g. An impact velocity of 52.5 km/s yields an impact energy of 1.9×1032 ergs, or 4.4×109 megatons, about 44 times the estimated energy of the K-T impact event.” So that’s good.
- Most recondite fill: Somewhat archaic DESTINE (42d [Preordain]; little-known CHICOPEE (35d [Massachusetts city crossed by four Interstates]. I do see, however, that it’s the second-largest city in western Massachusetts. It’s postulated that the name means either “violent water” or “of cedar”. Those Interstates? 81, 90, 291, and 391. I-291 is one of those Interstates that doesn’t actually connect any states (though it also appears in CT), kind of like the ones in Hawai’i.
- TUTEE and HIREE? (Not to omit the already-mentioned CHICOPEE and IDÉE). Gee.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Ha! Dan Feyer, who solves way more crosswords than I do, reports that he did three consecutive indie puzzles today with DEFLATEGATE ([Pressure moment in the NFL?]) in them (this one, plus puzzles by Sam Ezersky and Tim Croce). It’s a fine, super-current entry, though I could have done without the echo in the GUARDS clue, [Gate posts?].
Goods: SELFIE STICK, UNION SQUARE, ROBIN TUNNEY, WELCH’S, ARCADE GAMES, and “THE TALK.”
Blahs: ENL, RAHS, ETSEQ, LIBELEE, SPELLER (it’s in the dictionary, but I’ve not encountered this term for an [Elementary school textbook]), ESTOP, singular DREG, STETS, boring word form ENACTOR, ungrammatical REAL MAD.
Four more things:
- 29a. [Ingredient in (good) biscuits], LARD? No way, man. People who don’t eat mammals find that butter is more than adequate in pastry.
- 61a. [Machines that let you die happy?], ARCADE GAMES. I don’t get it. You’re happy because you’re playing video games and don’t mind that you “died” in the game?
- 13d. [East Bumfuck’s location], NOWHERE. Pottymouthed clue, but fun.
- 42d. Dreaded conversation between parents and teenagers], THE TALK. The key is to start early and provide the birds and bees info all along, unabashedly using the real words for body parts.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Musical Questions”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there! Hope you had a good start to your week, and my apologies this review wasn’t up when it should have. Just had to batten down the hatches here at work and at home before the supposed “blizzard of the century” hits the NYC area (it’s snowing pretty hard as we speak). Anyways, here’s the puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Doug Peterson, and he produces another fun puzzle, as he takes titles of famous songs and creates puns out of them with the questions that he poses as clues. The artist of the song is in parenthesis in the clue.
- CAN I GET A WITNESS (17A: [District attorney’s musical question? (Marvin Gaye)])
- WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT? (35A: [With 45-Across, veterinarian’s musical question? (Tom Jones)])
- WOULDN’T IT BE NICE (63A: [Etiquette expert’s musical question? (The Beach Boys)])
In a few short hours, New York is going to look like ASPEN in the middle of ski season with all of the snow (54A: [Rocky mountain resort]). With the appearance of CHICO, I think the only Marx brother I haven’t seen in a crossword grid is Zeppo (28D: [A Marx brother]). Hope you all got what was referenced in the clue for NBA; the Oklahoma City professional basketball team (64D: [Thunder’s org.]). A lot of geography in the grid in the middle, with RUSSIAN (30A: [Like Lada cars and Stoli vodka]) intersecting with HAWAI’I (8D: [State where one might island-hop]), which is adjacent to THAI (7D: [Cuisine to enjoy with Singha beer]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: EARL (66A: [Husband of a countess]) – Our Super Bowl theme continues on here, as one of the star players you’ll see on Super Bowl Sunday is Seattle Seahawks safety EARL Thomas, a four-time All-Pro selection who might be the best safety in football. Thomas is part of a defensive secondary that calls itself the “Legion of Boom,” or L.O.B. for short. If you’re aware of this by now, you either think that’s real cool or the most annoying thing around – especially if you’re a New England Patriots fan having to hear about them in the buildup to the Big Game.
Have a good day, and I’ll see you tomorrow!