Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Revealer at 58-across: [Popular children’s book series … whose protagonist is “hiding” in the circled letters] WHERE’S WALDO.
- 17a. [Expensive annual commercial] SUPERBOWL AD.
- 25a. [What may be poured on a bad idea] COLD WATER, foreshadowing my theme assessment.
- 36a. [New Jersey home to two New York teams] MEADOWLANDS.
- 49a. [Typical prom concluder] SLOW DANCE.
Okay, here’s the thing. The conceit of the Where’s Waldo books (Where’s Wally outside of the US and Canada; author Martin Handford is British) is that—no matter how overwhelming, overpopulated, or chaotic the scene—Waldo always maintains his integrity. He looks nearly exactly the same, all the time. Jumbling letters, as they are done here, is a conventional crossword idiom for ‘hiding’, but it violates the letter and the spirit of the books’ raison. In this sense, the theme is an utter failure.
Aside from that cosmic flaw, I liked this crossword a lot. The theme answers, per se, are decent and on the short side. The ballast fill is robust and lively. Significant stacking in the corners (including COVETOUS and MONOTONE), good flow and interconnectedness throughout the grid. A minimum of crosswordese, abbrevs., and partials. A few cross-references, but not enough to be remarkable either positively or negatively. The right amount of paired clues and fill (WAGNER and MAHLER, the chocolatey TWIX and CAROB, the Mrs Doubtfire and Tootsie clues, JFK the president and the airport).
Good crossword, misguided theme.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
PIZZA GREASE, blotted with a napkin! Yes. SLOW NEWS DAY in the opposite corner, another terrific entry. And the mini-theme of KATY PERRY and her LEFT SHARK dancer in the other corners. I didn’t see the actual dance routine so I confess I don’t know why people have been joking about the left shark.
- 17a. [Locomotive sent ahead of a train to ensure the track is clear], PILOT ENGINE. Never heard of this.
- 33a. [Beck song with the chorus “Na na na na na na na”], E-PRO. Never heard of this.
- 34a. [First name in bombs], ENOLA. No, that’s a first name in airplanes that are bombers. The bombs were Fat Man and Little Boy.
- 38a. [What an ass!], JENNY. Gender-neutral clue for female donkey. Works for me.
- 55a. [Often-retractable car part], AUTO ANTENNA. I’ve never included “auto” in describing that item. Maybe “car.” I wonder if car vs. auto has regional overtones.
- 1d. [Franciscan?], PAPAL. Pope Francis.
- 8d. [Athlete Eddie who is the only person to win a gold medal in summer and winter Olympics (boxing and four-man bobsled)], EAGAN. Never heard of him. More interesting than the Minneapolis suburb of that name.
- 12d and 13d both end in ON. Meh.
- 25d. [Popular perennials], VIOLETS. Are they popular or just impossible to get rid of?
- 30d. [Stir fry ingredient], GREEN BEAN. Yeah? Not snow peas?
- 38d. [Chicago Cubs general manager Hoyer], JED. I was guessing TED and NED. I should know this! (This is the 11th item in the list. But who’s counting?)
Not loving all the shorter fill in this 72-worder but overall, I liked the puzzle. 3.9 stars.
Joel Mackerry’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
This crossword offers up a Monday-typical follow-the-word theme. We learn that 60-across BLACK LIST is not only to [Ostracize …] but also that it is [ … what the first words of the answers to starred clues comprise].
- 17a. [*Handy tool to have when you’re out of loose-leaf paper] HOLE PUNCH.
- 29a. [*Amulet] MAGIC CHARM.
- 37a. [*Prime ballpark accommodation] BOX SEAT.
- 39a. [*Architectural style featuring geometric shapes] ART DECO.
- 44a. [*Stand-up venue] COMEDY CLUB.
Black hole, black magic, black box, black art, black comedy. Good group, my only quibble … turns out to be completely incorrect. I was going to say that ‘black arts’ is a more common formulation than ‘black art’, but a Google Ngram disproves that. I was also going to suggest that black art(s) and black magic are more or less synonymous, and that’s woefully incomplete.
It’s usually at least a little bit unsettling when non-theme entries are longer than themers. It’s more common for such fill to run in the opposite orientation to the theme answers, but this puzzle has longer entries in both directions. The excellent MNEMONIC and MR ROGERS—as well as LINING UP and PROPOSAL—at eight letters each, surpass the paired sevens in row 8. Further, the down contingent offers the nine-letter DESICCATE and SEED MONEY. It FAZES (55a [Flusters]) a solver somewhat. Incidentally, I added 10 seconds or more to my solve time by putting DAZES there.
A danger with Monday crosswords is that, in order not to alienate neophyte solvers, they can’t be intimidating or overly tricky and clever, either in theme or cluing. As a result, there’s a greater opportunity for its quality to be reduced rather than elevated. More simply stated, more often than not there’s no place to go but down from ‘average’. Unless it’s an exceptionally stellar puzzle. So it isn’t exactly surprising that there’s some unpleasantness in this grid: the letter runs ABCD, SML (1a, 35a)l the dupey abbrevs. SMU and URI (5d, 34a); the crosswordese EDAM, ORONO; the partials EN LAI, A RUG; and so on.
So. Decent theme, mixed bag of non-theme material, roughly average Monday.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Have a Seat”—Ade’s write-up
Welcome to another week of crosswords, everyone! For today’s crossword, brought to us by the heavy-lifting Ms. Lynn Lempel (who also has today’s New York Times crossword), we’re invited to have a seat, or at least asked to find where the seat is. Each of the four theme answers are multiple-word entries that happen to have the letters S-E-A-T appear consecutively, spanning two different words.
- LOTUS EATER (17A: [One of a flower-devouring people encountered by Odysseus])
- CLOSE ATTENTION (28A: [Careful scrutiny])
- SURPRISE ATTACK (46A: [Assault on Pearl Harbor, e.g.])
- SEA TURTLES (63A: [Swimmers for the last 100 million years or so)
How about some of the lively down answers in this grid, like LUNAR MONTH (29D: [Period between full moons]) and QUINNIPIAC (11D: [Connecticut university with an oft-quoted polling center])? If I remember correctly, the team name for Quinnipiac University used to be the Braves before that changed to what it is now, Bobcats. Very fun solve, and even the hangup I had not remembering CORFU immediately didn’t slow me down too much (28D: [Greek tourist island]). Now I’m going to be thinking of Saved by the Bell the rest of this blog after seeing PREPPIE, the nickname A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) kept using for Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) in the show (38A: [Boarding school student, perhaps]). I liked the show, yes, but even I had no idea what type of cult status the show would have in the following years!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ENRON (66A: [Energy company done in by fraud]) – To replace the Houston Astrodome in 2000, ENRON Field was built and opened to become the new home of the Houston Astros. After everything went down with Enron, the field in 2002 was renamed Astros Field for a few months in 2002 before Minute Maid bought the naming rights to the field (now called Minute Maid Park).
Have a good rest of your Monday and see you tomorrow!