Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
The central across entry in the grid is 40a [Elvis who was “all shook up”] PRESLEY. Useful to crossword constructors is that his middle name is ARON rather than the more traditional AARON (though this is subject to debate). This is all by way of obliquely introducing this particular puzzle’s theme: two-word phrases in which the first word ends in A while the second begins with that letter.
- 17a. [Songs for divas] OPERA ARIAS.
- 21a. [1997 Grammy-winning artist whose last name is a fruit] FIONA APPLE.
- 35a. [Tibetan watchdogs] LHASA APSOS.
- 45a. [Former “American Idol” judge] PAULA ABDUL.
- 54a. [Noted California horse-racing venue] SANTA ANITA.
The final theme answer is a revealer which relies on a very forced intentional mis-parsing: 64a [Moneymaking skill … or, when read as three words, what happens in 17-, 21-, 35-, 45- and 54-Across] MIDAS TOUCH, or mid-A’s touch. Not sure how much I feel such strained wordplay is worth, in this context.
But do check out the serious overlap among the six (!) themers. Five letters for each of the three pairs, and two of those pairs stack directly.
The long downs are fairly chewy, too: 11d [Ones providing backing for writers?] CLIPBOARDS, 28d [Body of water between France and Switzerland] LAKE GENEVA (in French, lac Léman, which gets a reasonable amount of crossword use).
- Looking at 26a [Pods of cotton] BOLLS and the aforementioned LAKE GENEVA (lac de Genève), I can’t help but think of a certain brand of Dutch style gin.
- 15a [Stately hardwoods] ELMS, 39a [Acorn producer] OAK, 63a [39-Across, e.g.] TREE.
- My least favorite fill-in-the-blank clue in a long while (and that’s saying quite a lot): 53d [“Now where __ I?”] WAS. It crosses 53a, which chooses an unexpected initialized approach for WEB (with another FITB): [Writer __ Du Bois].
- A smattering of playful clues dress up the proceedings, which early in the week have often tended to be DRAB (25a). 6a [Caesar dressing?’] TOGA, 32a [Union man?] GROOM, 1d [“24” or “48 Hours”] SHOW. Not that I think they’re great, but they help.
- Of course there is some less appealing fill, of the crosswordese and abbrev. variety, but I won’t list them this time. If you feel a need or compulsion, by all means have a go. They aren’t difficult to find.
Fairly solid crossword, but I’m not sold on the revealer. On the other hand, I might have complained that the theme was too insubstantial without a little something extra.
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Taking Flight” — Jim’s write-up
It’s the start of a new WSJ puzzle week, and Dan Fisher is leading it off with a light workout. Suit up; we’re hittin’ the stairs!
Our theme is: Staircases. Three phrases each end with a word that could be part of a staircase. The phrase is then clued normally except with [on a staircase?] tacked on to the end (much like you add “in bed” to the end of a fortune cookie fortune). Plus, grid art! Notice the two staircases in the middle of the grid. Very nice touch!
- 17A [Program for recovering addicts, on a staircase?] TWELVE STEPS. From Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery programs.
- 34A [Finish well, on a staircase?] STICK THE LANDING. From gymnastics.
- 53A [Ones getting up before dawn, on a staircase?] EARLY RISERS. From worm-getting-type people.
Pretty simple theme, but then, it is Monday. The theme phrases are all solid. I might’ve preferred some wackier cluing, but that might have proved too difficult and strange for a Monday. For example, try cluing EARLY RISERS as a literal phrase referring to part of a staircase. I don’t think I can come up with anything that has much surface sense.
With only three theme entries, there’s room for some nice long Downs. Highlights include ATLANTIC, EUPHORIA (saw this somewhere just recently) abutting ALSATIAN. Down below it’s even better with KNEE-DEEP next to TELLS ALL. Also, DISTASTE is not distasteful in my book. I also like HAUNTS, HOT SEAT, MOUNDS, and HAVARTI. Well, actually my mom really likes HAVARTI; I don’t care for it so much. But it’s nice to see the Danish cheese get some crossword love compared to Dutch mainstays EDAM and GOUDA.
Not too much crud otherwise; at least not enough to be distracting. HUNKS got a sexualized clue at 45D [Chick magnets]. Why not include it in the cheese mini-theme going on in the bottom half of the grid with HAVARTI and WEDGE at 61A [Piece cut from a cheese wheel]?
Clean grid and decent theme. The staircase grid art elevates it to 4 stars.
Let’s finish off with 30A CELIA [Cruz dubbed the Queen of Salsa] singing “Guantanamera”.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Alter Egos”—Andy’s review
This puzzle about alter egos is by Alex Eaton-Salners, just a mild-mannered crossword constructor… or is he?
Five alter egos have made their way into this puzzle:
- 23a, HANNAH MONTANA [Just a normal schoolgirl from Tennessee named Miley Stewart….or is she?]. Played by Miley Cyrus, Miley Stewart was a mild-mannered high-schooler by day, and a superstar recording artist named Hannah Montana by night. Hilarity ensued.
- 36a, HALF-BLOOD PRINCE [Just a normal Hogwarts potions professor named Severus Snape…or is he?]. Days without a Harry Potter reference: 0. This one was an odd answer out for me. The other four alter egos involved some kind of physical change or disguise, but this one’s merely a pen name.
- 49a, ZIGGY STARDUST [Just a normal rock star named David Bowie…or is he?]. Another odd one out, but in a different way. The other four answers are alter egos of fictional characters, but this one’s an alter ego of a real person.
- 4d, BATMAN [Billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne…or is he?]. Not sure why this clue wasn’t [Just a billionaire playboy named Bruce Wayne…or is he?] to preserve the parallelism throughout the theme clues.
- 48d, MR. HYDE [Just a normal British scientist named Henry Jekyll…or is he?]. From The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Jekyll/Hyde was an Oscar-winning role for Fredric March in 1931.
This is a very basic list theme, punched up a bit by the clues. Definitely easy enough for a Monday, but not particularly clever.
Given the lengths and placement of the theme answers, there’s not a lot of constraint on the rest of the fill. Alex does a really good job with it here. Quite a few long non-theme answers of interest, highlighted by AL-JAZEERA, INFINITI, and FETISHES [Objects of one’s affection?]. If there’s a lowlight, it’s RMN, but that’s pretty nitpicky.
I don’t know if this will be fixed in the version you see, but in my slightly advance copy, my clue for MUJER is [Lady, en Espa] [sic]. That should obviously read “España,” but occasionally special characters aren’t preserved when exporting files from Crossword Compiler. The section with AH, ME and MUJER could prove a little tough for the Monday crowd, but I think it’s pretty fair.
Never thought I’d hear DELIS referred to as [Jewish bodegas]. And speaking of Kosher, is it kosher to use “tbt” (throwback Thursday) on a non-Thursday? [Garden where it all began, tbt] = EDEN. I also have to admit that the novelty of clues like 30a, AHA [“Now I see what a great song ‘Take On Me’ is!!!”] (with the double meaning overtly embedded into the clue) is starting to wear off on me. Not that they’re bad clues, just that I’ve come to expect two of them in every PuzzFeed.
Happy Monday. Go watch The SANTA Clause.
Don Rosenthal’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Starting the week off with a hint-to-the-starts-of theme. 58-across [Taken away in handcuffs … and a hint to the starts of 17-, 28- and 44-Across] UNDER ARREST.
- 17a. [Started to sneeze and cough, say] CAUGHT A COLD.
- 28a. [Really worked hard] BUSTED ONE’S CHOPS. The clue comes across as reflexive, but the answer is something I associate with a transitive construction. Also, the common complaint regarding the cruciverbal one’s.
- 44a. [Paid for everyone’s dinner] PICKED UP THE BILL.
Caught, busted, picked up.
Long stuff is: 11d [In the year of the Lord, in dates] ANNO DOMINI, 30d [Like earthquake damage] STRUCTURAL, 4d [Wounds from an aggressive pooch] DOG BITES, 40d [Nursery furniture with bars] BABY CRIB. That last, I believe, is unrelated to the theme.
- 34a [Critter that sleeps floating on its back] OTTER. Really, this is only one species among 13 in the otter subfamily, the very distinct sea otter (Enhydra lutris), whose genus is monospecific.
- 19a [Org. promoting hunter safety] NRA. This ostensibly honorable pursuit has become greatly eclipsed by the group’s aggressive, hypocritical, and frankly ugly lobbying promoting gun ownership at all costs, under the veneer of Constitutional freedom. A direct and massive contributor to this country’s—and the world’s—epidemic of gun violence. All right, getting off the soapbox before I go postal. Can’t decide if it’s a good thing to see the organization clued in a different way, though.
- Too much dumpy little fill, I feel, for a Monday, notably with abbrevs. RNS, Gen-XERS, URU, EUR, STL, NEUR-, DBA, RSA.
- 36a [Kitten cry] MEW. (Crossing 32d [Foot-operated lever] PEDAL.) In case you missed this from a week or two ago:
(The original audio source is here.)
- B-TEAM, -XERS, F-STOP, SIDE A. (6a, 37a, 38a, 64a)
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
I just caught my first bug (a cold) since I had my transplant, so you’ll excuse me if I phone it in here.
Love CHRISTMAS CREEP, NATIVE SON. Have no idea who 11d. [Youngest female Tony winner] EAGAN is (Googling … Daisy, 1991). Do know who Jane PRATT is—she founded Jane after Sassy, and later created the website xoJane.com. PLAYGOER feels less common than theatergoer. The “blah” category holds H-TEST, SLUES, ENE, and IPANA. “HAVE A DRINK ON ME” feels contrived to me. DRINKS ARE ON ME would be much better.
3.4 stars from me for this 66-worder.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Ten After”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone! Hope you’re well and that you’re over your food comas during the Thanksgiving weekend. Today’s crossword, brought to you by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, takes common phrases and tacks on the word “TEN” to the end of those phrases.
- GO OVER THE TOP TEN (17A: [Review a Letterman segment?])
- TALKING BIG TEN (38A: [Discussing a sports conference featuring Badgers and Wolverines?])
- PITCH PERFECT TEN (61A: [Throw a full game plus an extra inning without a runner reach base?]) – This reminds me of the Harvey Haddix accomplishment on May 26, 1959, when the Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher threw twelve perfect innings against the Milwaukee Braves before losing the perfecto – and the game – in the 13th inning. An error by his third baseman ended the gem to start the inning, and then three batters later, Joe Adcock hit a three-run homer to end the game. Later, the home run was changed to a double as Hank Aaron – the runner on first base at the time of the homer – was passed on the base paths by Adcock, causing Aaron, by rule, to be out. Instead of a 3-0 win for the Braves, it went down in the record books as a 1-0 win.
How about the shoutout to the universities with unique mascots, ANTEATER (39D: [University of California, Irvine mascot]) and ANTELOPE (11D: [Grand Canyon University mascot])? Did I not know that O’TOOLE never won an Oscar (2D: [Eight-time Oscar nominee who never won])? I thought I did, but wasn’t 100 percent sure before today’s grid. Next to him in the grid was another actor, HAGMAN (1D: [Larry of “I dream of Jeannie”]). Really was thrown off with the clue for WANT AD, but definitely appreciated it once I finally got that down (48D: [Sun spot?]). Totally forgot for a while that Sun is one of those words usually associated with a publication, like Times, Post, Daily, etc. It’s almost as if you see a commercial for a generic university; the school is usually State, Tech or A&M. Tougher grid than it should have been for me, and I blame that on just coming back to New York from the DC area and still being in a travel fog.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PITCH PERFECT TEN (Throw a full game plus an extra inning without a runner reach base?]) – See note at “Pitch Perfect Ten.”
Thank you for the time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
Reminded me of 2012’s MID-ASS TOUCH.
The NYT theme didn’t do much for me. It was one of those that doesn’t help with the solve, and doesn’t seem to have much entertainment value (no humor, no clever word play), so what’s the point?
Overall though, I enjoyed the puzzle and thought the fill was solid. The theme answers were all good, with the possible exception of OPERA ARIAS – is that something anyone actually says? I know that “aria” is not exclusively an operatic term, but still … Seems a little like “football touchdown.”
I thought the NYT was okay for a Monday — MID A’s TOUCH was amusing, punny!
A valid point – my “entertainment value” comment was too harsh.
The NYT was a delightful place to start the week. Clever construction. Fill that crosses more than one themer. And a reveal that made me laugh out loud. Hat tip to Ian.
Agreed. If only all Monday puzzles were this good.
Pannonica, the less said about the theme, the better, though the fill was very solid. What I would like to know is where I can get that certain kind of Dutch style gin which no one seems to know anything about in the liquor stores I frequent. When I was in Berlin three years ago, I had hoped but NO.
I’ve seen it on shelves, most often that particular brand (though there are others that are imported, as well as at least one domestic version). If you have a decent relationship with any of the stores that you frequent, you should definitely ask them to stock it, or at least special-order it for you.
Pannonica, thank you for your advice.I suppose I should look farther downtown.