Ori Brian’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
I usually refrain from kibitzing about constructors’ names, but ORI simply can’t be ignored. It’s a crossword natural!
>ahem< Moving on.
So. Anatomy via prepositional phrases, each in an “X of the Y” construction.
- 20a. [One being laughed at] BUTT OF THE JOKE.
- 28a. [Where Mom or Dad sits at dinner] HEAD OF THE TABLE. Infringed on by 36a [Mama’s mate] PAPA.
- 47a. [Locale] NECK OF THE WOODS.
- 54a. [Where it’s calmest in a hurricane] EYE OF THE STORM.
Three above the shoulders, one from farther afield. Seems unbalanced—top heavy?—to me. Additional nitpicking (e.g., EYE is the only one that’s part of a pair) is possible, literal vs figurative phrases) is feasible but seems unwarranted.
Overall, the fill is clean and smooth (with the exception of the not-so-common DRU Hill at 52a), befitting a Monday. It skews short, with just a couple of vertical tens (HOVERBOARD, EXPECTEDLY), two eights, and another pair of sixes. Feels a bit atomized.
- 41a [When doubled, a Hawaiian fish] MAHI, crossed by 26d [Greetings in Honolulu] ALOHAS.
- Modest misdirection at 61a [Part of a bicycle or loom] PEDAL, not WHEEL.
- 62d [Corn unit] EAR. See also 3d [Filth] SMUT.
- Just registering my customary, pro forma negative reaction to disparaging, simplistic and overly anthropocentric characterizations such as 25a [Cheese-loving pest] RAT. Move along, nothing to see here.
- Favorite clue: 40d [Like some doughnuts and wigs] POWDERED.
Essentially a typical Monday.
Debbie Ellerin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Winging It” — Jim’s review
Not an original theme, this, but fairly cleanly done. It’s two-word phrases ending in a bird.
- 16a [Star in the courtroom] LEGAL EAGLE
- 23a [Snitch] STOOL PIGEON
- 35a [Epitome of youth] SPRING CHICKEN
- 50a [Easy mark] SITTING DUCK
- 59a [Ninny] SILLY GOOSE
Here’s John Guzzetta’s version from the NYT in January of last year. Very similar setup and layout, but it’s not uncommon for constructors to come up with the same theme, especially early in the week. Think “phrases with birds,” and you won’t produce a very long list.
Debbie uses three of the same entries as John but replaces OLD BUZZARD and BUDGET HAWK with STOOL PIGEON and SITTING DUCK. I like Debbie’s choices better. And so we get five rock-solid two-word bird phrases—which probably comprise the cleanest set possible, given the theme.
All of the phrases seem like they have obvious origins except for STOOL PIGEON. You can read about it here.
The rest of the grid is fairly standard but maybe a cut above average. We get nice entries NIGHTCAP, OUT COLD, TINTIN, BRANDO, and EVIL-DOER as well as two (maybe three) handfuls of 6-letter entries.
The NE corner was made more difficult with 12d [Moon of Saturn] being HELENE, and 15d [Playwright Pirandello] being LUIGI. (I’m more of a [Mario’s bro] kinda guy, especially on a Monday.) And in the SE there’s NOBU at 57d [Celebrity chef Matsuhisa, or his restaurant] crossing NURSE at 68a with the toughish clue [Patient tender] which could have multiple meanings.
Nice, though not original, theme. This would make a good entry-point for puzzle newcomers if not for a few difficult entries and clues.
Janice Luttrell’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
A ‘starter’ puzzle. 52-across [Classic “Saturday Night Live” family, with “the” … and, literally, what the starts of the answers to starred clues can be] CONEHEADS.
- 20a. [*Make easier to hear, as bad news] SUGARCOAT (sugar cone).
- 10d. [*Appliance that makes Eggos unnecessary] WAFFLE IRON (waffle cone).
INTERMISSION FOR ICE CREAM EDITORIALIZING
Either the sugar cone or waffle cone is infinitely superior to the wafer cone.
16-across [“__ we done here?”] ARE. We aren’t? Not yet? Write some more? *sigh* But what if I don’t have anything to— What? Well, what if there isn’t— just write something anyway? Okay.
- Dueling inventors! Crossing ones, fine. 7d [Sewing machine inventor Howe] ELIAS and 18a [Phonograph inventor] EDISON.
- 22a [Not as risky] SAFER. Recently deceased newsman.
- 32a [Unadulterated] PURE, 43a [Removes impurities from] REFINES.
- 47a [Manuscript insertion mark] CARET. Not to be confused with a circumflex, such as in 46a ÎLE [French cruise stops].
- DULL/non-Monday (54d) fill in the northwest corner: 3d [Kindle read, briefly] E-MAG, 14a [Champagne Tony of golf] LEMA.
- Do we call these sorts of things ‘green paint’ fill? 38d NINE-INCH [Like the width of many foot-long envelopes].
ARE we done here? Yes.
Oh: decent fill, okay theme, another Monday crossword.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”—Amy’s write-up
Brendan’s blog post mentioned that 45a was his favorite clue. That’s 45a. [Like a changed man?] for TRANS. I like it. “I feel like a new woman” is also in the language, but I’m not sure [Like a new woman] would work as well as a clue for TRANS(GENDER).
Unknown to me, but I could piece it together: 54a. [Inexpensive cut of lamb, usually from its neck], SCRAG END.
Notes on the fill: Like CRANIUM. Used to disdain LEMON BARs but have discovered their appeal. CAT FOOD? HELL, NO. I like ART HOUSES as both cinemas and crossword fill. Prefer the no-GH spelling of HIGH JINKS. Like the PET ROCK, verb phrase BAT NEXT (don’t think I’ve seen that in a puzzle before), EGYPTIAN, REFORM JUDAISM SHOSHONE, TUSSLED, and SENDAK. Don’t care for SAT IT (26a. [Parked]), which is an awkward phrase. GNAR and SMA and OTTO I could vanish from crosswords forever and I’d never miss them (unless I needed one to fill my own grid).
34d. [Play the piker], HOARD? I see a “stingy or cautious person” definition for piker, but hoarders aren’t innately stingy or cautious. Is “play the piker” some sort of distinct phrase?
2d. [Relating to the eye], RETINAL? No, sorry. That’s like cluing CARDIAC as [Relating to the chest]. The answer is much more specific than the clue.
3.9 stars from me.