Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s write-up
Happy May, everyone! Okay, so the month started yesterday, but today’s the first Monday in May. So there.
Today’s NYT was an improvement for me over last Monday’s. Nothing too difficult (it’s Monday, after all), but a little boring, if I’m honest:
- 18A: 8:00-11:00 p.m., TV-wise — PRIME TIME
- 23A: ABAB in a poem, e.g. — RHYME SCHEME
- 56A: Greeting to a returning soldier, maybe — WELCOME HOME
- 62A: What a finger-pointer “plays” — BLAME GAME
- 41A: Copycat’s comment…or, phonetically, a hint to this puzzle’s theme — ME TOO
As suggested by 41A, each theme entry has two MEs in it. Pretty straightforward stuff.
- 28A: Superiors of sarges — LOOIES (this is the second time in the last few weeks I’ve seen this clue/answer pair, and I still don’t really like it. Can anyone confirm they’ve heard lieutenants referred to as looies? This may just be something outside my social bubble)
- 29A: Wildcat with tufted ears – LYNX (I initially thought CARACAL because its tufted ears featured prominently in the album art of the last Disclosure album, but alas, too many letters/too specific)
- 64A: Robbery at a police station, e.g. — IRONY (take note, Alanis)
- 52D: Cosmic order, in Buddhism — DHARMA (I had the DH confirmed and just filled in the rest here. It’s nice to know the actual clue was a Buddhist reference rather than a Chuck Lorre reference)
- 58D: Sandwich cookies now sold by Mondelez — OREOS (was there any questions with a clue that started with “sandwich cookies”? This is the first time I heard about Mondelez being a thing, though.)
Tracey Gordimer’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “You’re It!” — Jim’s review
I confess I’m just not getting this one. The revealer is at 64a: [What all of the theme answers have]. The answer is TAGS. The theme answers are GARAGE SALE ITEMS, BIRTHDAY GIFTS, NEW MATTRESSES, and GRAFFITI ARTISTS.
But what I’m just not getting is their clues. They are, respectively, [THEME ANSWER 1-4], effectively offering no help to the solver and making the puzzle significantly harder than a normal Monday. And I just don’t see any thematic reason for not having standard clues for these theme entries. It almost seems as if they were left unclued by accident, and the puzzle went live with just placeholder clues. But that just couldn’t be.
Is it some sort of meta-joke in that these generic clues are TAGS themselves? If so, I’m not feeling it. TAGS aren’t generic like that; that’s the point of them. They have specific information on them to identify and describe the tagged item.
Okay. Let’s try this:
“Here, I got you this theme entry. Read the TAG.”
“It just says [THEME ENTRY 3]. I wonder what it is.”
“Ohhh. Nice. Thanks!”
Okay. I can kind of see that. But only after some heavy thinking (or heavy drinking). But I certainly didn’t get that feeling while solving the puzzle.
Further, the choice of “things with TAGS” doesn’t make sense to me. Three of them have physical, paper tags, i.e. a label, but one refers to an artist’s signature. Either have four of the same type (i.e. paper labels) or have four different types of TAGS. You could include maybe a BASE RUNNER or a FACEBOOK POST. And since the theme entries aren’t in-the-language lexical phrases (e.g. NEW MATTRESSES), you have a lot of leeway.
As for fill, it’s mostly good with JOE SCHMO, LOW-LIFES, and OXEN FREE which seems like a long partial, but I like it. We get a few un-Monday-like proper names PIET Mondrian at 10a and Jack OAKIE at 15a as well as DORIS Lessing at 32a and Tom SEAVER at 4d.
I like the pairing of clues at 1a [Team discourager] for LOSS and 30a [Team encourager] for FAN, and my favorite clue is 63a‘s [You might get down from them] for GEESE.
But despite the good fill and some good clues, the puzzle is dominated by a perplexing lack of theme clues and inconsistent theme entries. If you’re seeing something I’m not, please let me know in the comments.
Jeff Stillman’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up
Another solid Monday puzzle from the LAT franchise. This one looks at things from both sides, now.
- [“Fiddler on the Roof” song] = SUNRISE SUNSET
- [Like businesses specializing in international trade] = IMPORT EXPORT
- [Beatles hit that begins “You say yes, I say no”] = HELLO GOODBYE. Extra credit for the theme goodness in the clue
- [Like some government partnerships] = PUBLIC PRIVATE
The theme is consistent, pleasing, and accessible to newbie and early-week solvers. Nice.
A few other things:
- I parsed [Die-hard] at 9A as a noun; turns out it’s an adjective and the answer is AVID.
- We get a different feudal servant at 10D – not the usual esne or peon but a VASSAL.
- Classic crosswordese at 41D with ETUI. Must make sure the new generation knows at least some of the old words.
- Is SUET always sheep fat? I thought it was beef. The woodpeckers in our yard really don’t care.
- [Freeloaders] is a more polite clue for LEECHES than, say, “bloodsuckers.”
- Thanks to [Game of Thrones], OONA is now an up-to-date pop culture clue; we get the contemporary actress, not her grandmother.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that PepsiCo is the PARENT company of Quaker Oats.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”—Amy’s write-up
Solid puzzle, not too difficult, 66 words.
Highlights: “OH, BABY,” POVICH, CARSHARE (like Zipcar, different from rideshare services where someone else drives you), THE STRANGER, Pete SEEGER, HEAL UP, SAVE FACE, ETYMOLOGIST, TURF TOE, MICHENER.
Four more things:
- 6d. [Kingdom under Kublai Khan’s rule that lent itself to the name of a currency], YUAN, CHINA. Was that referred to this way, with “China”? I’m not convinced.
- 37a. [“Battle of the PBS Stars” show], SCTV. Ha! I don’t remember the sketch, but I like the concept. Battle of the Network Stars was a ’70s show with obstacle courses and races in which TV stars (many of them fit and athletic) competed. I like the “PBS Stars” idea. Henry Louis Gates, Alan Alda, Maggie Smith, Bob Ross, Susan and Bob from Sesame Street …
- 1d. [Awards won by Prince and Eminem], OSCARS. Both for music in quasi-biographical movies in which they starred. Prince’s was for Best Original Song Score (which hasn’t been awarded since 1984), Eminem’s for Best Original Song.
- 17d. [One with a rooting interest?], ETYMOLOGIST. Clue had me befuddled for a while.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Cube Stakes” —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everybody! Hope your first week of May gets off to a great start. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan, is more fun with anagrams, as the first four letters of the first three theme answers is an anagram of the word “dice.” The fourth theme entry, DICE ROLLS, acts as the reveal (59A: [Casino actions that also describe the first four letters of 17-, 24-, and 45-Across]).
- CIDER MILL (17A: [Apple-based beverage producer])
- DECIMAL SYSTEM (24A: [Base 10 notation scheme])
- EDICT OF NANTES (45A: [1598 document signed by France’s Henry IV])
Initially put in “end zones” instead of RED ZONES, though both make perfect sense (36D: [Areas adjoining goal lines]). For those not in the know, the red zone is the term for the area of the field between the 20-yard line and the goal line, especially when referencing the team on offense that’s getting ready to score. I know, I know…this isn’t the “sports…smarter” part of the blog! Well, the only thing else I’d like to point out is the time one of my great friends laughed at me when I said the word “SINGLETS” to describe an undershirt one time, as she found it funny to hear that word (38D: [Undershirts, to Brits]). I don’t think I’ve used the word after saying it in front of her, but it’s time to put it back in my vocabulary rotation!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HURDLE (21A: [Steeplechase obstacle]) – When did the Sports Illustrated cover jinx first start, or, at least, gain a lot of steam as an actual thing? Some say it kicked off in 1978, when then Major League Baseball player Clint HURDLE was on the cover of the publication while a member of the Kansas City Royals, with the headline reading “This Year’s Phenom.” Well, his playing career never took off, but he’s become one heck of a manager. In 2007, he led the Colorado Rockies to its one and only National League pennant, and he now has led the Pittsburgh Pirates to three consecutive postseason appearances. In 2013, Hurdle was named National League Manager of the Year. By the way, here’s that SI cover that I mentioned earlier…
Thank you for the time, and I’ll see you all tomorrow!