John Lieb’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
The notepad reads, “Although this puzzle can be solved in Across Lite, the print version contains elements that the software cannot reproduce.”
I compared the .pdf version to the .puz and could discern no structural or informational difference. Perhaps my mind is clouded.
It’s readily apparent that the grid is atypical. Instead of 15×15 squares we have 14×16.
There’s a revealer as the last long across entry. 60a [How an extreme underdog wins … or this puzzle?] AGAINST ALL ODDS.
The other five long acrosses count upwards by two, eliding the odd single-digit numbers.
- 16a. [Driving condition in a blizzard] ZERO VISIBILITY.
- 22a. [Approval from Siskel and Ebert] TWO THUMBS UP.
- 29a. [R&B group with the #1 hit “Reach Out I’ll Be There”] FOUR TOPS. Sometimes with a “The”, sometimes without, so this is fine here.
- 45a. [Amusement park with the Nitro roller coaster] SIX FLAGS. 48d [Made smile] AMUSED; made scowl.
- 50a. [1988 film about the Black Sox scandal] EIGHT MEN OUT.
I’m not appreciating the AGAINST ALL here, not beyond the -2-4-6-8, and of course the proportion thing. There are odd numbers everywhere in the grid. Two of the theme entries are odd-numbered, there are plenty of entries with an odd number of letters, et cetera.
- Longdowns: 10d [Traditional Christmas plants] POINSETTIAS, 27d [Blinkers] TURN SIGNALS, 4d [Michelin winter product] SNOW TIRE, 42d [Pop with no fizz] FLAT SODA.
- 11d [Heinz product] CATSUP. That particular company spells it KETCHUP.
- 41d [Times New Roman, e.g.]
- 47d [ __ Alley, shopping area for Harry Potter] DIAGON. Oh, that JK Rowling, she’s sooo clever with her names.
It’s tough for Monday puzzles. They have to be unintimidating for newer solvers, free from crosswordese, and can’t get too tricky or clever, yet still somehow be entertaining for solvers at all levels of experience. With rare exceptions, the best they can hope for is mediocrity. That’s why I can’t find anything positively remarkable about this one. Then again, I didn’t see what was lacking in the .puz version.
Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Go With the Flow” — Jim’s review
Good Monday morning to you. Today we’re given phrases in which one of the words is repurposed as being river-related.
- 17a [Defender of a river area?] MOUTH GUARD
- 27a [Position held by the supervisor of a river tributary?] BRANCH OFFICE
- 43a [Silt accumulation along the river’s?] BANK DEPOSITS
- 57a [Strength of the flow where the river empties into the sea?] DELTA FORCE
Perfectly adequate theme, but unfortunately for me, the first one I resolved was BRANCH OFFICE, whose clue seems unnecessarily confusing. That sort of soured me on the whole thing. MOUTH GUARD and DELTA FORCE are okay, I guess, but BANK DEPOSITS is rather obvious.
I do however love the long fill today, especially PLASTIQUE and BORN LOSER. But we also get OLD GLORY, GREEN DAY, AT HEART, and STRAFES.
KOKOMO, the [Indiana city] at 44d, is interesting. I’ve spent some time in Indiana, so I’d heard of the city and was therefore able to fill it in with just a few crossings, but I’m guessing most people won’t. Perhaps the Beach Boys #1 hit might be more familiar to solvers. I was going to embed the video here, but I’ll just link to it with a warning: it’s just awful. The puzzle was better, maybe that’s why we get the Indiana clue.
Agnes Davidson and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 62aR [Part of an Aretha Franklin refrain about fools … and a hint to the ends of 17-, 28- and 57-Across] CHAIN CHAIN CHAIN.
- 17a. [It’s “down at the end of Lonely Street,” in an Elvis hit] HEARTBREAK HOTEL (hotel chain).
- 28a. [Oil well output, in slang] BLACK GOLD (gold chain). Oh, I thought there was going to be a layer of coherence, with the clues all referencing hit songs. Well.
- 47a. [Miracle-Gro, e.g.] PLANT FOOD (food chain).
Three CHAINs, three places for them to be appended.
Ultimately it’s a modest theme, which I feel is fine for an early week offering. It should be deferent to the overall accessibility and smoothness of the fill. And with a few blips (e.g., AARE, , ROTI) that’s the case here. And there a few moderately playful/clever clues.
THEMELESS MONDAY #391 by Brendan Emmett Quigley
EMERGENZZZZ is the stunt answer in the grid. Aside from that, we have a sensible design, with medium-length stacks with scads of interesting answers. The difficulty was at Friday level, I think, though I’ve take a Sinutab, so I’m not sure; they don’t hit you the way Adcodol do though!
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Credibility Problem” —Ade’s write-up
Well, hello there! Remember me? I hope you’ve all been doing very well in my absence. My apologies once again, but, after a month of non-stop traveling and such, I hope I’m back here for good. I’m welcomed back with a quip as a theme, with the crossword brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke. I personally haven’t come across Big Foot, but I did recently just talk with someone who wears a size 18 basketball shoe. Is that close?
- BIG FOOT SAW ME BUT HE CAN’T GET ANYONE TO BELIEVE HIM (17A, 26A, 48A and 62A: [Part 1 of a quip involving Sasquatch], [Part 2 of the quip], [Part 3 of the quip], [End of the quip])
I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m no fan of quips and sayings as themes. I end up guessing at it more than anything, and that’s just a distraction while I’m solving. Funny payoff at the end, but still not the most comfortable of solves for me. For some reason, I thought that the 2008 Olympics were in London instead of CHINA and thought there might have been an error in the grid (30D: [2008 Summer Olympics host country]). You know you’re getting old when you start mixing up your Olympic cities and years. Anyone still say MY EYE these days (45D: [What a bunch of baloney!”]). At least I’ve caught myself saying YIPPEE in the not too recent past, so that word is still in style (56A: [Cry of delight]). Props for African geography in the grid with RWANDA as well (8D: [Neighbor of Tanzania]). Time ti split, but not before this…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: USFL (4D: [Failed 1980s gridiron org.]) – I don’t get political, but all I’m going to say is that I hope Donald Trump doesn’t run into the same fate running the United States like he did in running the New Jersey Generals of the USFL, where he almost singlehandedly engineered the league’s demise by convincing owners to move the league’s schedule from the spring to the fall, in direct competition with the National Football League. Let’s just say that I have my doubts.
Thank you so much for the time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!