Bruce Venzke and Victor Fleming’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Six themers, four across and two down, in expected locations. The revealer, too, is situated conventionally as the final across answer. It says, [Binds … or a hint to the starts of the answers to the six starred clues] TIES.
- 17a. [*TV installation not requiring an antenna] CABLE OUTLET.
- 24a. [*Crime involving a Nigerian prince, maybe] WIRE FRAUD.
- 50a. [*Electric Slide or Cotton-Eyed Joe] LINE DANCE.
- 62a. [Tall, skinny sorts] STRING BEANS.
- 11d. [Signature Muhammad Ali ploy] ROPE-A-DOPE.
- 31d. [*Protective medieval gear] CHAIN MAIL.
Perhaps not all of these hold together with the revealer equally strongly, but it seems secure enough a theme, and probably one that’s been perpetrated before. More than once, I would think.
A quartet of seven-letter entries—row eight and column eight—crosshair the central block: EXHORTS, KNEEPAD, ART FILM, and ASCRIBE.
Just a few points, as I’m ailing this evening (it’s too soon in the season to get a cold!):
- 15a/57d [Nincompoops] MORONS, ASSES.
- 9d [Smallish computer storage unit, for short] ONE MEG. Random.
- 65a [Hag] OLD BAG. Unsavory.
- 44a [Three times, in a prescription] TER. Yuck fill. Its symmetrical partner FAM (for family) isn’t a whole lot better.
- 29a [Nafta, for one] PACT. Not all-caps for the acronym?
- Most surprising clue/answer (for an early-week offering): 51d [“The Faerie Queen” woman whose name means “peace”] IRENA.
- 66a [French girlfriend] AMIE, 25d [Pâté de __ gras] FOIE, 41d [Born: Fr.] NÉE, 4d [“Here’s to you!,” in Toulouse] SALUT. Not so much, that last one; more of a greeting. The cognates salud (Spanish) and salute (Italian) more typically serve as toasts. Santé is a French equivalent.
12d [French goodbye] ADIEU.
David Steinberg’s Buzzfeed crossword, “Zzz”—Andy’s review
Another Monday, another week of PuzzFeed to look forward to. It’s only been a week, but a lot has changed since last Monday. Caleb has definitely heard solvers’ feedback (based on comments he’s made here and here). The cluing has already changed since last week, though the voice is still thoroughly BuzzFeed-y. It’s awesome to have such a responsive editor.
This puzzle by David Steinberg is a lovely little Monday. It’s particularly interesting to me because the theme and grid could certainly have run in any other venue (unlike, say, the NETFLIX AND CHILL or “Which Disney Princess Are You?” puzzles from last week). It’s the cluing that makes this distinctively a BuzzFeed puzzle.
Four phrases are clued as [Buzz source]:
- 18a, BUMBLEBEE [Buzz source].
- 28a, GOSSIP WEBSITE [Buzz source].
- 44a, MORNING COFFEE [Buzz source].
- 57a, CELL PHONE [Buzz source].
The meaning of “buzz” changes slightly each time (except with BUMBLEBEE and CELL PHONE, though I wasn’t particularly bothered by that). With 78 words, an easy theme, and nothing particularly “new” to mainstream crosswords in the grid (with maybe the exception of ASUS), this is the ideal puzzle for a beginning solver. I’m a fan of these themes where the theme clue doesn’t change but the meaning changes, and I thought this was well done.
Like I said before, just looking at the grid and the theme, this could have been a puzzle from any venue. Not just that, but it could have gotten boring, straightforward clues and still been the best, cleanest Monday puzzle to run today. BRAINSTORM, END OF STORY, “SO THERE!”, OCELOT, THOR, and EFRON are all nice additions to the grid.
Instead, David and Caleb gave us fresh, interesting, young clues. Some of my favorites:
- 1a, ROBES [Dress code for Hogwarts students]. Right off the bat, we get away from the standard [Court attire] (which would be a decent, tricky clue] or [Judge’s vestments] or [Fluffy hotel amenities]. It’s a good way to start the puzzle.
- 37a, THOR [Avenger who talks like a Shakespeare character]. Spoken like someone who’s actually seen the movies.
- 38a, BERET [Hat for someone who is very pre-French-ious (a word I just made up)]. “Pre-French-ious” captures the spirit of the beret in a way “arty” no longer does. Something else I’ve noticed quite a lot of in this past week of PuzzFeed is a lot of first-person cluing (that is, using “I” as a way to speak directly to the solver). Generally, I think this gives the puzzle a much-needed dose of familiarity. One of the reasons this hasn’t been done as much in the past in mainstream puzzles is because the editor and the constructor are usually two different people, so it’s unclear who the “I” is. I hope that, if Caleb is inserting these “I”s, he’s clearing it with the constructors whose names are attached to them.
- 53a, SITH [“Only the ___ deal in absolutes”]. This one took me a while, since I’m not a Star Wars buff, but it was oddly satisfying once I figured it out.
I suspect some people will find the clue for 1d, RACK [Medieval torture device where they slowly stretch you apart] to be a violation of the Breakfast Test. I liked it, but it did make my joints hurt a little. If I have to nitpick, I was a little squicked out by 26d, ABLE [Ending to fashion or fuck]. In a vacuum, the word “fuckable” gives me the value-judgment/male gaze heebie-jeebies (although admittedly Amy Schumer gave it some very humorous context). It probably goes without saying, but LANGUAGE WARNING for that clip.
Alrighty. To sum up: Really good stuff, looking forward to more in this vein. Until next time!
Damien Peterson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Body Count” — Jim’s write-up
Damien Peterson is our constructor today. We’ve seen his byline before—twice in the WSJ and once in the LAT. It appears to be yet another pseudonym for editor Mike Shenk. It anagrams to EDITOR’S PEN NAME which would be quite the coincidence if it was a real name.
But on to today’s theme: Batman! No, not really, but you’ll see why I said that in a minute. We have three familiar phrases whose first word is a sequence (ONE, TWO, THREE) and the second word is a body part (hence the title, “Body Count”).
- 17A [Money machines at the Mirage] ONE-ARMED BANDITS
- 32A [Duplicitous scoundrels] TWO-FACED LIARS
- 50A [Popular picnic contest] THREE-LEGGED RACE
This is not a novel theme nor is it even a novel use of these theme answers. According to Cruciverb, these exact theme entries were used in 2002 in the New York Sun by Robert Ward. While I’m not claiming the puzzle was out-and-out copied, it does go to show that crosswording minds think alike, and it’s not unusual for common themes or even common theme entries to appear. I think it is unusual that our editor would re-hash a puzzle with the exact theme entries (either knowingly or unknowingly—it was pretty easy for me to look up and find in just a few minutes). But I suppose enough time has passed and the theme entries are rock-solid. (Interestingly, both puzzles have ORACLE in them and in the exact same place on the grid!)
This grid is slightly superior to that 2002 grid, with every section smooth and clean. Those NE and SW corners are especially nice with LOITERER, ARTISANS, and RESCIND in the NE and SHEATHE, THATCHER, and WISTERIA in the SW. We also get OPERATIC and DOTING ON. Even the shorter stuff is nice with HOT AIR, BLOOP, and RIGBY. Also MAMAS with the a propos clue at 24D [Half of the “Monday Monday” singers].
My favorite entry is BAG END. I thought it should be SHIRE at first, but BAG END came to mind shortly thereafter. I was surprised to see it in a Monday puzzle, and I suspect a lot of solvers won’t know it, but the crossers are mostly fair.
So, summing up, we get a clean grid with a solid, though familiar theme. I’ll take it on a Monday!
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
36a reveals an [Anonymous writer, maybe, and a hint to the devotee hidden in 17-, 25-, 50- and 60-Across] SECRET ADMIRER. So, what SPANS (52d) across words in those long answers? FAN, of course.
- 17a. [President’s last days, e.g.] END OF AN ERA.
- 25a. [Pre-cable reception aid] ROOF ANTENNA.
- 50a. [Commentator dissecting chips and putts] GOLF ANALYST. 18d [Links warning] FORE.
- 60a. [Usual sitcom length (including ads)] HALF AN HOUR. A clue designed to discourage pedantry, obviously.
Neither a particularly imaginative theme nor an exciting batch of theme entries. But then, it’s ‘just’ a Monday crossword.
- Unannounced brand names: 5d [Pipe clog dissolver] DRĀNO, 22d [Vodka order, familiarly] STOLI (Stolichnaya, Столи́чная).
- 2d [Typically 18-inch-long baseball collectibles] MINI BATS. Not to be confused with microbats.
- 63a [First chip in a pot] ANTE. Sounds like the clue at 50-across.
- Favorite clue: 26d [Memorial column, for short] OBIT.
- 7d [Prez on a penny] ABE. As well as on a fin, or a five-spot. Alex Hamilton appears on TEN | SPOTS (47a, 48a).
- Three-letter TRIumvirate (33a) of female entertainers near the center: 34a Rapper LIL’ Kim, comedic AMY Schumer crossing Tina FEY (35d, 42a).
- Quite a lot of fill-in-the-blanks, abbrevs., and prefixes. Bit off-putting.
In sum, an average, workmanlike crossword.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
PASTICHE, which is a great word and the name of a restaurant I liked about 20 years ago. Recent pop hit CHEERLEADER—provided the Jamaican singer OMI has subsequent hits, prepare to see OMI (nickname for Omar, his given name) in crosswords forever. RAE SREMMURD, a duo whose name is wordplay (ear and drummers backwards). JUMPER CABLE, solid 11. RAN OUT ON, colorful verb phrase. CONGOLESE and PIERRE, SD, geo terms that aren’t in many crosswords. SOULMATE, always lovely. SHORT HAUL, solid. “GOD, NO,” unexpected; have you seen the Steve Carell clip from The Office featuring a flip of that phrase? “SHEESH,” I like.
Blah stuff: NINE TO, blah by itself and further dented by the appearance of NINTH in the same grid. YSER and ISTLES, crosswordese. Plural KORANS, is that halal? SWAT AT, probably not what anyone hitting a piñata says they’re doing. ERG would be blah but it’s clued as [Indoor rower, slangily], which salvages it.
3.85 stars from me.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Nitty-Gritty”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, crossword savants! I hope you’re doing well to begin your week. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan, includes four theme answers – two across and two down – in which common phrases are altered by changing the first letter of “N” and replacing it a “GR.” I was going to come up with a sly clue in which the answer would change from “neat freak” to “great freak,” but my mind isn’t firing on all cylinders at the moment, so I’ll leave that up to you to come up with that clue.
- GRAIL FILE (17A: [Chalice-smoothing tool?]) – From “nail file.”
- GRAVY SEAL (63A: [Closure on a jar of savory sauce?]) – From “Navy Seal.”
- GROVEL IDEA (10D: [Notion to show subservience?]) – From “novel idea.”
- GRANNY GOAT (27D: [Kid’s elderly relative?]) – From “nanny goat.”
Pretty easy going of the grid, and even remembered PRIG after not seeing it in a puzzle in a pretty long time (54D: [Stuck-up sort]). I’m sure others would have looked at that and jokingly said that the entry is one letter short, leave the first three letters alone and then adding the abbreviation/monogram of the company Calvin Klein. I can’t say that I SWAM naked anytime recently, or at all, and this time of the year is definitely not the time for that (1A: [Went skinny-dipping]). And no, I’m also not planning on doing one of those Polar Bear Plunges during the winter as well. Didn’t really get the gist of the clue for ZINE (23A: [Mag for devotees]), but was on the wavelength that the abbreviation of “magazine” might be what was needed. Definitely don’t mind the earworm given to me now with DEVO (41A: “Whip It” band]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: EAVES (53D: [Common sights for Christmas lights]) – Professional hockey player Patrick EAVES is currently playing forward for the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League. Eaves’ best season to date might have very well been his rookie season, in 2005-06, when he scored a career-best 20 goals for the Ottawa Senators. Though born in Calgary, Eaves has played internationally for the United States in junior tournaments, and also played his college hockey at Boston College.
Thank you for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!