Mike Buckley’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
A fount of coins!
- 20a. [Showtime series named after an old fiction genre] PENNY DREADFUL.
- 38a. [Charging for every little extra] NICKEL-AND-DIMING.
- 52a. [Mounts for cowboys] QUARTER HORSES. Answer does not relate to the coin, not even metaphorically, but to distance (quarter mile).
Those appear in increasing denominational order. Anomalous (and discontinued):
- 7d. [Lightest coins ever minted in the U.S., used in the late 19th century] THREE CENT PIECE. This ostensibly repeats—or at least—overlaps the PENNY of 20-across. Also, the only theme answer that consists of a coin’s name without ornament. But no doubt it’s a nice bonus to have in the puzzle, and it intersects all three of the other themers: three-cent piece indeed. Factette: they were also referred to as trimes.
Spiffy theme, and quite elegantly realized.
- 1a [Top of a wave] CREST. More than one of the coins above feature a CREST. though not of the kymatological variety.
- 35a [Early afternoon hour] ONE, 58a [Late afternoon hour] FOUR.
- 37a [Supreme Egyptian god] AMEN-RA, or Amun-Ra, or Amun-Re, or Amen-Re, or Amon-Ra, or Amon-Re, or Raymond J Johnson, Jr.
- Longdowns: EVIL GENIUS, TECHNIQUES. Nice ones.
- 31a [ __-Cola] COCA crossing 32d [Greeting in Rio] OLA.
- 47a [Three-time foe for Frazier] ALI. Clue dupes the THREE in themer 7-down. The first two bouts went to decision, in the last ALI won by TKO, so technically (or not) neither fighter was 39d [Floored, as a boxer] KO’D. Though, technically again (referring to the clue and not the answer), Frazier registered a knockdown of ALI at the beginning of the 15th round. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)
- Poetry! 56d [Poet pound] EZRA, 59d [Poem of praise] ODE, 4d [Section of a poem] STANZA, which visually rhymes with 61a [Mario with the 1951 #1 hit “Be My Love” ] LANZA.
- 54d [$2, for Mediterranean Avenue] RENT. In the board game Monopoly. Factette: there has never been a $2 US coin. The quarter eagle (1792–1929) comes closest. Australia and Canada both have coins in that denomination.
Time well spent.
Todd McClary’s Fireball crossword, “Into the Void”—Jenni’s write-up
Hey there! I’m Jenni. I was a denizen of the old NYT Forum and I’ve been a slavish follower of The Fiend since its inception. And here I am as a full-fledged (if part-time) member of Team Fiend! Thanks, Amy! I don’t usually time myself and I forgot to turn the timer on for this one. I think it took me about 15 minutes.
Todd’s puzzle is a contest puzzle. “What five-letter word, whose letters may or may not be found in the gird, is hinted at by this puzzle?” The title is “Into the Void”. Many many thanks to Amy for helping me sort out the contest. I am not very good at these – I’d probably get better at them if I did cryptics. But enough about me.
Theme answers are
- BARBER POLE (shop decoration with stripes)
- STEEL ROD (chef’s knife sharpener)
- STAFF SUPPORTERS (organizational volunteers)
- STATE BAR (American legal association)
- STICK IT OUT (refuse to give up)
All the themers are straightforward, and the connection is obvious. I’ve been told I have a dirty mind, and I did think of a five-letter word that is associated with POLE, ROD, STAFF, BAR and STICK…but Amy pointed out that the title is “Into the Void,” so we went looking for other possibilities. What else is notable about this? Well, there’s that awful crossing of AARNIO and AMEER. That’s pretty grim. Maybe it’s there for a reason? In that same quadrant of the puzzle, I wanted SIGNOR to be SIGNORI – oh! Both of those fit the clue (“masculine title for Italians”.) The word crosses a themer and there’s a black square below (a void! Aha!) Amy wondered why you’d need a filter for a SPA; I know some people call a hot tub a SPA, and you also need a filter for SPAM, crossing STAFF.
Back up top there’s TIL for “Up to, informally”, which could also be TILL (crossing POLE). “Excellent” works as a clue for SUPER and SUPERB, crossing BAR. That leaves STICK, and we have WACK for “Lunatic, slangily”, which could also be WACKO.
So, from top to bottom, the letters “in the void” give us L-I-M-B-O. Yay! The contest transforms a so-so straightforward puzzle with a nasty crossing into a fun, lively puzzle with a crossing that’s there for a reason. AARNIO would have been easier to get if the clue for AMEER referenced the variant spelling of EMIR rather than the MVP of the 2015 Senior Bowl. I guess that depends on whether you prefer crosswordese or sports trivia. In general, I’ll take trivia any day and since that crossing facilitates SIGNOR, which is a contest themer, I’m OK with it. I’m sure Peter and Todd are relieved to hear that.
I also noticed:
- Lincoln had a dog named FIDO. Who knew?
- I associate CLEAVE TO with old marriage vows -“cleave only unto him”.
- Loved the clue for TISSUE – “Word with typing and paper”.
- Musical theater! I DO, I DO! (“Together Forever” musical). I saw the musical, but I don’t remember that song, and the earworm it prompted is from Grease.
All in all a zippy, satisfying solve.
Brock Wilson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Rather minimalist theme—at least in execution—this time around. 59-across has [Art form in which the ends of 17-, 26- and 43-Across may be used] SCULPTURE.
- 17a. [In a precarious situation] ON THIN ICE.
- 26a. [Like a lake during a dead clam] SMOOTH AS GLASS.
- 45a. [Permanent] CARVED IN STONE.
Admittedly, the revealing clue offers no pretensions to completeness or archetype, but it still comes across as curiously insubstantial. On this category page, Wikipedia lists quite a number of materials (and I notice some are absent, such as light). And on the page for the subject, the classic materials given their own sections are stone, metal, glass, pottery, and wood. And glass seems a pretender there, if you ask me.
- Solid longdowns: WATERSKIER, APPLESAUCE, HANDS OFF, ARTICLE V. Last one’s not so hot.
- Themer dupe: 54d [Mix in a glass] STIR.
- Letter pile-ups owing to a surfeit of abbrevs.: ON KP, MDSE, HDTV, UCLA, SCH, R AND B, IMHO, USNA.
- Gratuitous abbrev.: 40a [State south of Wash.] ORE.
- In a Monday? 27d [Fearful] TREPID.
Neither here nor there:
- 31d [Perform a ballad] SING. No, far from necessarily.
Okay crossword, but underwhelming even for a Monday.
Judith Seretto’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Letter Openers” — Jim’s write-up
Today’s WSJ offering comes from Judith Seretto which anagrams to Just The Editor. So, it’s another Mike Shenk creation.
Let’s get to it. Our theme consists of phrases using the first four letters of the Greek alphabet. Theme entries start with these letters (thus, “Letter Openers”). We have:
- 17A [Top tech experts] ALPHA GEEKS. I’ve never heard this phrase, but it looks legit enough. Seems like ALPHA MALES would be a more recognizable phrase.
- 28A [Prerelease software trials] BETA TESTS.
- 42A [They made Bruce Banner into the Hulk] GAMMA RAYS.
- 56A [Elite Army unit specializing in rescues] DELTA FORCE.
There’s a lot of testosterone in this puzzle! We have the Hulk, DELTA FORCE (which makes me think of Chuck Norris), and ALPHA GEEKS, which, while not necessarily male-centric, sounds like ALPHA MALES which is. (Maybe that’s why our constructor opted for GEEKS.)
While solving, I had thought, “Surely this theme’s been done before.” Checking cruciverb, I found two instances of this exact theme from Norma Steinberg in 2001 and Joy C Frank 2002.
Quite the coincidence that today’s NYT (see above) and the WSJ are both re-hashed versions of previous puzzles. (Mondays may not be the best place to find originality.) However, if a constructor can improve upon a theme or add something new or at the very least, do it better and more cleanly, then I’m all for it. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Anyhoo, our puzzle is very clean with good non-theme material (BEST CASE, LEAD ROLE, WARMED UP, DEAR ME, ADHESIVE, PETER PAN). Not a lot of drivel besides. This would make a very good introductory puzzle for newbies, which seems to be a goal for the WSJ early in the week.
Straightforward and easy, but clean and well-constructed. Nothing to make me angry. Which is good because…you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”—Amy’s write-up
Going to the transplant clinic an hour later than usual, so I have time for a quick review of the BEQ before I go. Solid 66-worder, though I prefer themeless puzzles that spotlight longer fill. The highlights here are PUNSTER, UTOPIAN (great clue: 19a. [One with perfect vision?]), the one-two hit of SEX UP and GO ROGUE, DEEP-SIX, and new unneeded app PEEPLE. And I like FUGLY!
At least the chunks of 7s aren’t packed with boring words, as is sometimes seen in similar grids. Some of the little stuff is blah—SONE, TUNS, POI, Spanish OLAS, awkward IT’S I—but the 7s aren’t larded with prefixes and suffixes or unnatural verb + preposition phrases we seldom use.
Don’t know PEPPA PIG, haven’t seen the phrase UP AND IN before. Not sure if plural LOSINGS is actually used in gambling circles as the counterpart to winnings.
I had only the E in place when I reached the clue, 57a. [Cocktail named after part of an insect]. My first guess was FORELEG. Please suggest the mixologist’s recipe for a drink called the Foreleg—and make it tasty.
3.9 stars from me.