WSJ – No puzzle due to holiday
David J. Kahn’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
A marginal Presidents Day theme here. We get a word ladder dibbling through the grid symmetrically. Starts in the top left with James POLK, the [President after Tyler], ends bottom right with Gerald FORD, the [President after Nixon]. Conscientiously includes
the remaining a third* holder of that office with a four-letter surname, William TAFT [President after Roosevelt]. And these fellows appear in correct chronological order.
(*see chris’ comment below)
Some, but not all, of the word ladder elements have a political and/or historical aspect, which is emphasized in the cluing.
Additionally, the four longest down answers—two stacks of ten-letter entries—are couched as best as possible in a presidential light: 2d [President’s workplace] OVAL OFFICE, 3d [Senator or representative] LEGISLATOR, 32d [President’s option for an unwanted bill] POCKET VETO, 33d [Participant in a presidential press conference, say] QUESTIONER.
But wait, there’s more! 14d [2-Down fixture] DESK, 38a [President-elect, e.g.] TITLE, 45a [Nominates] PICKS, 51a [“__ well” (George Washington’s last words] ’TIS. 54d [“Garfield” dog] ODIE, and so forth. Trust me, it goes on. Not a whole lot more, but yes, more.
By far the weakest spot in the entire grid is the crossing of 58d [A, in Arabic] ALIF and 65a [Roman road] ITER; way beyond the pale for a Monday. Aside from that, the only legitimate complaint could be for the alphabetic sequence PQR, which lacks the minimal qualification of being a telephone dial/keypad trio, or something one is likely to see anywhere as a grouping.
It’s different, I’ll give it that. To paraphrase Lou Grant, it’s got spunk.
Robert E. Lee Morris’ Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
In the old windmill pattern.
- R38a. [Pool diving area … and, literally, what the start of each answer to a starred clue can be] DEEP END.
- 17a. [*The president’s annual salary, e.g.] SIX FIGURES. Strained NOD (21a) to the holiday being observed today. There’s another crossing the O: Al GORE (18d).
- 11d. [*Sweet dreams] SLEEP TIGHT.
- 61a. [*Prince film featuring “When Doves Cry”] PURPLE RAIN.
- 29d. [*Scatterbrain] SPACE CADET.
Deep-six, deep sleep, Deep Purple, deep space. Deep Purple is probably best known as the rock band, but the phrase—as a standalone, rather than simply a descriptive phrase in, say, a naturalist’s notes—goes back at least through the popular 1930s song to a couple of silent films, and perhaps even farther.
Here’s a weird nugget of confluence from the above-linked Wikipedia page:
The Nino Tempo/April Stevens version [of ‘Deep Purple‘, 1963] was intended to be the flipside of a song called ‘I’ve Been Carrying A Torch For You So Long That It Burned A Great Big Hole In My Heart’. However, radio stations preferred ‘Deep Purple’. ‘I’ve Been Carrying A Torch …’ held the distinction of being the longest title (contains 67 letters and/or numbers) of a flipside of a Billboard number-one record, according to Bronson. The flip of Prince’s 1984 #1 hit ‘When Doves Cry‘, titled ’17 Days (the rain will come down, then U will have 2 choose, if U believe, look 2 the dawn and U shall never lose)’, is now the longest titled such flipside, with 85 letters and/or numbers.
- 42a [How some audiobooks are recorded] ON CD. That doesn’t seem right, at least not literally. They’d be recorded digitally, but not directly to compact disc, even though they may eventually be issued in that format.
- 30a [Prairie dog or squirrel] RODENT. Both happen to be from the same family (Sciuridae), while there are over 30 families in the order.
- 10a [“Kindly let us know,” on invites] RSVP, 10d [English translation of the start of 10-Across] RESPOND.
- Sketchy Monday fare: SEGO lily, Roger REES, EMIL Jannings. Not too bad a tally.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Quickly: I liked SPAWNS, WEBCOMICS, CITROEN, PORT-OF-SPAIN (know your world capitals!), cool CATARRH, CUE STICK, and “WHAT ELSE?” (You ever see that video that might no longer be on YouTube, where the guy in drag plays a mom on Mother’s Day who opens a gift and exclaims, “I love it! … What else?”)
Thanks to the low word count (60), there are lots of answers with -ING, -(E)S, UN-, RE-, -ED, -EST affixes, which dull the vibe. (Exception: OVERBEARING is a great adjective that is much zippier than the BEAR root would be.) The phrase IN YEARS felt awkward, and I give a little ding for plural ERICS. Most of the fill’s solid, but the affixes flattened out my solving experience.
Three more things:
- 30a. [Most snug], COSIEST. This needs a signal that it’s a British spelling, though Brendan is British by marital injection and may have limey spellings deeply implanted as normal by now.
- 7d. [Attention-getting word online], PING. I use “ping” as a verb rather than as an interjection/statement of its own. The only person I see using it as an interjection … is Brendan. I’m sure he’s not the only one out there.
- 14d. [Safety Berry and wide receiver Decker], ERICS. I was briefly intrigued by the concept of a Safety Berry™.
3.5 stars from me.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Go Ahead”—Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! I hope you’re all doing well to begin another week. Today’s offering, brought to us by Ms. Gail Grabowski, was a fun solve in which the first word in each of the four theme entries can also come after the word “Go.”
- BANANAS FOSTER (20A: [Flamed fruity desert served with ice cream]) – Have never had it before! I think I should change that soon!
- GREEN ONION (30A: [One might be sliced for a salad]) – Have had many a green onion before.
- BLANK VERSE (41A: [Frost’s “Mending Wall” is written in it]) – I haven’t written in blank verse, though I should write a sports story in it, just for kicks.
- DUTCH COLONIAL (52A: [Architectural style with gambrel roofs])
Looks like our constructor might have spent some time out on the links, with both SHANK (6D: [Straying stroke, on the links]) and GOLF TAN, something that I know that I’ve never gotten on all my times on the golf course (9D: [Souvenir from the links]). And by “all my times,” I mean one time. Though this wasn’t a pangram, there’s the presence of an “x” in TEXAS (7D: [Guadalupe Mountains National Park locale]) and “q” in IQS (51A: [Brightness stats]). More later, as I’m trying to beat the snow home.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ABATE (11D: [Taper off]) –Italian soccer player Ignazio ABATE (a-BAH-tay) plays as a defender on the Italian soccer giant AC Milan, as well as on the Italian national soccer team. He has played for the “Gli Azzuri” (nickname of the Italian national soccer team) 22 times, scoring his only goal in international play against Germany in 2013.
See you all tomorrow, everyone!
Alex Eaton-Salners’s BuzzFeed crossword, “I Puzzle You”—Andy’s review
Imagine you’re a food critic. You go out for a leisurely lunch and you order the special: avocado-wrapped ceviche with green chili foam. Unusual, but you figure you’ll give it a try. Surprisingly, it’s pretty good!
Then, for dinner, you’re on assignment. The waiter approaches the table and notes that the seafood special that night is avocado-wrapped ceviche with red chili foam. That’s an odd coincidence. Maybe the ingredients are in season, and chefs sometimes have similar ideas if they went to culinary school around the same time. Regardless, you just had it for lunch, so while you’ve gotten used to the idea of avocado-wrapped ceviche with chili foam, you might not be as enthusiastic about it as you otherwise would be. To make matters worse, this second batch of ceviche doesn’t quite sit right in your stomach.
Fast forward to the next night, when you’re on assignment at a cute little restaurant you love. You open the menu, and BAM! Looks like your appetizer course is avocado-wrapped ceviche with serrano foam. You certainly can’t blame the third chef–after all, how could they have possibly known you’d be having almost the exact same dish twice the previous day? And of course, you count yourself lucky to be able to eat avocado-wrapped ceviche at all, and more so to be able to review it. Yet once that plate of avocado-wrapped ceviche is sitting in front of you for the third time in two days, it’s hard for your first thought to be anything except, “This again?” Already, your standards for this ceviche are much higher than usual, since the novelty of such a dish, which might have added to the dining experience, has become its total opposite, triteness.
That’s why I’m pretty sure I can’t be objective about this puzzle. I’ve only solved three puzzles in the past two days, and it’s the third theme in a row that’s Valentine’s-adjacent with black squares forming a heart in the center of the grid. There are a few differences between this one and the previous two: (1) this puzzle’s heart is completely disconnected from the rest of the grid, while the first two had some white squares bridging it to the rest of the puzzle; (2) the others were 21×21 grids, which allowed the B-theme to nearly stand on its own, whereas in a 15×15 grid there’s not a lot of space to develop the B-theme; and (3) most notably, the B-theme in this one is “gifts traditionally given on Valentine’s,” while the others were a LOVE rebus and terms of endearment. Themers:
- 17a, ST. VALENTINE’S DAY [Theme of this puzzle, which happened on Feb. 14].
- 54a, FLOWERS [Scented gift option on 17-Across].
- 58a, CANDIES [Sweet gift option on 17-Across]. A slightly forced plural for symmetry’s sake, but it’s fine.
- 3d, LOVE LETTER [Poetic gift option on 17-Across].
- 11d, TEDDY BEARS [Soft gift option on 17-Across].
- 37a, COUPLES [Duos that might celebrate 17-Across together]. This one spans the length of the central heart…
- 41a, HOT DATE [Ideal activity on 17-Across]. …and so does this one. “Ideal” in this sense is relative. My ideal activity involved staying in and watching the NBA All-Star Game.
- 45a, HEART [Symbol of 17-Across visualized in the center of the puzzle]. It’s really cool that Alex was able to make a heart with central stacks of COUPLES, HOT DATE, and HEART (crossed by PDAS, no less!). Of course, the bottom of the heart ends up being ESE, but I assume that’s symbolic of the compromises you have to make with your significant other in order to secure their heart.
Also some mini-thematic fill, like 20a, EVE [Feb. 13, for 17-Across], 21a, DOZ [Common no. of roses to give to someone on 17-Across: Abbr.], and 62a, RARE [Like having a 17-Across that lives up to the expectation created by the culture industry’s image of romance] (Best Clue™ winner). There was also 1a/13a, GUY/GAL [Partner of 13-Down/1-Across, in an old-timey heteronormative romance] (Best Supporting Clue™ winner). I accidentally (Freudian-ly?) typed GUY and GAY for these as my first entries, which I thought you all might find entertaining. Nothing much to add; I have to say that all the excellent clues saved this puzzle for me.
Until next time! (Happy Presidents Day! Go eat some ceviche.)
NYT: I was surprised that the O in the second position disappeared, only to reappear again. I guess it’s because it wants TAFT in the middle. But to my mind, in a word ladder, you only change the letters that need to change, so this was a bit disorienting. I wonder if anyone else felt the same.
The “R” also disappeared briefly and then came back. Very odd.
agreed that the word ladder seemed weird given that most ladders don’t get rid of letters and then reuse them, but i didn’t mind. it was more like two ladders anyway.
also, as far as four letter presidents go…there’s BUSH, both of them, one of whom was name-checked somewhere in the clues, i think.
Somehow that slipped my mind.
The mischievous part of me really wanted 53A to be FART, but it’s a few notches short of a legal wrong, just a social faux pas.
PQR could have been clued as “S__, Latin tag for both classic and modern European city state.” SPQR is an initialism of a Latin phrase, Senātus Populusque Rōmānus (“The Roman Senate and People”; Classical Latin, referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic, and used as an official emblem of the modern-day commune (municipality) of Rome. It appears on coins…. etc. (see wiki). Anyone who took Latin in my high school in Oak Park, Illinois would fondly recall the classroom tiled with these letters, the club, and the engaging teacher, Mr. Baker. I can’t swear to it, but I think his first name was Felix, Latin for fortunate or happy!
But then you’ve got a partial fill-in-the-blank letter string, which pretty much spells death for the clue. At least the full ‘SPQR’ has liveliness and historical value, as acronyms go.
That’s one step removed from cluing ACOO as [Singer Rit___lidge]—and I have actually seen that sort of clue in a terrible, terrible crossword.
Same here. Someone actually gave me a book of puzzles with clues like that, as a gag gift.
NYT: This word ladder could’ve been accomplished in just four steps: POLK > PORK > FORK > FORD. We sure did it the hard way, probably just to get TAFT in there.
I was natick’ed on the BEQ and wouldn’t have known if I’d solved it on paper – (m)(d)istrusted crossing someone’s middle name. Sigh.
Re BEQ — As a fan of the UConn women’s basketball team, and of women’s basketball in general, Elena Delle Donne was a gimme for me. At first I didn’t understand what the issue was, but Delle is not her middle name; her surname is Delle Donne, though she pronounces it Della Don. I generally prefer women’s basketball to men’s because you don’t have many 7 footers turning the game into a boring jam fest, which I cannot stand, and basically can’t watch.
Ah. I really follow only one sport – baseball – although I paid a bit of attention to women’s hoops last year when Princeton went undefeated. Thanks for the education!
Jenni, me, too, exactly.
Re BEQ neglected to say that I found this one terrifically easy.