Andy Hinz’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 51aR [Common security device … or a feature of 20-, 33- or 38-Across] HIDDEN CAMERA.
- 20a. [“Keeping my fingers crossed!”] I CAN ONLY HOPE.
- 33a. [Exercise area for convicts] PRISON YARDS.
- 38a. [First satellite to orbit Earth] SPUTNIK ONE. First … ahem … human-made satellite. 9a [Moon-related] LUNAR,
Aside from it being a brand name bonanza—something I don’t care for as being an emphatic part of crosswords—this is a typical midlevel Monday. The ‘hidden’ camera companies are made more visible by means of circled squares.
The two longest down entries are seemingly connected, but have nothing to do with the theme. That’s neither good nor bad, just weird. 3d [Means of getaway] ESCAPE ROUTE, 25d [Something to look for in an emergency] NEAREST EXIT.
- 13a [Coin flipper at the Super Bowl, informally] REF. This year, I gather it was GHW & Barbara Bush. No idea how two people manage that. One tosses, one announces?
- Yeeksiest fill: 21d [Mil. training academy] OCS. Officer Comethingorother School. Command? Comprehensive? I’m not looking anything up. Except for the coin toss thing. I looked that up. Other fill seemed possibly beyond Monday-level: 4d [Loudly lamenting] KEENING, 55a [Edible mushroom[ MOREL. Also, an odd cluing choice for 10d UTTERLY as [Downright] which more naturally suggests UTTER, at least to me.
- 31d [Defeats] BESTS. Interesting how its seeming opposite, WORSTS, is a synonym. Is there a name for such a pairing, something along the lines of auto-antonyms (i.e., a word being its own opposite)?
- 29d [Actor Estrada and others] ERIKS, 49d [Brockovich and Burnett] ERINS. No, the maximum allowable amount for such entries in a crossword is one. One.
- 1d [Santa ___ (one of Columbus’s ships] MARIA, 42d [What Marie Antoinette supposedly said to “let them” do] EAT CAKE.
So that was mostly a collection of negative observations, minor though they may be. That isn’t entirely fair because overall the puzzle was rather good, just not super-exciting. Monday offerings rarely are.
Matt Skoczen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Catch My Drift?” — Jim’s review
This is a great example of why some puzzles need titles. Without the title, the gimmick just doesn’t work as well, and if you have to shoehorn the titular phrase into the grid, it messes up the theme. As it is, it’s just perfect.
Matt’s found phrases that all feature the word WOOD. He’s placed them in the grid (including 3 grid-spanners, mind you) in such a way that the WOOD “drifts” from left to right as you go down the grid.
- 17a [Greek ruse in the Trojan War] WOODEN HORSE
- 23a [Many-layered snack] DAGWOOD SANDWICH
- 38a [Paramount, for example] HOLLYWOOD STUDIO
- 49a [“Divergent” star] SHAILENE WOODLEY
- 60a [Words to avert bad luck] KNOCK ON WOOD
Those are some really nice theme entries, especially the three grid-spanners, and especially the young actress at 49a. That’s a nice find. I certainly didn’t know her name, but she’s garnered several awards and nominations for her various roles including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
You’ll notice the WOOD doesn’t move perfectly from left to right as it goes down the grid. There’s a slight hiccup in the third entry (the W is aligned with the second O of the previous entry; in all other cases, the W aligns with the D). That’s because it’s a four-letter word in a 15x grid. But here, I think it works even better as it gives the illusion of a piece of WOOD lazily drifting down river. Nice effect.
Because of the high amount of theme material and the constraints they cause, we do get a fair amount of crosswordese: ETCHA, EBON, ELS, EIS, and OSE among others. And AGORA stacked with GEORG is a tough start to a grid, especially on a Monday, but otherwise Matt did well to keep the fill relatively clean and still deliver a couple nice long Downs (PLATITUDE and PLOD ALONG).
Overall, the effect of the theme and the impressive theme choices overcome any detriments in the fill. Nice grid.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”—Jim Q’s write-up
Hi all! Jim Q here filling in for… someone. Gareth? Jenni? No matter. Happy to be writing about one of the few reasons I look forward to a Monday. I can usually count on BEQ to deliver a couple of chuckles, liven up my vocabulary, and provide some music trivia. Today was no exception. Plunked in MAD COW DISEASE as soon as I realized E COLI wasn’t going to fit, and I was off to the races. Only hiccup was the K in KOTTER. Thought it was a C. I’ll play the That-Was-Before-My-Time Card there. But KAREN CARPENTER came to the rescue (embarrassed to say I had no clue she was a drummer!).
Had the north and middle of the puzzle filled in under 5 minutes… which is very fast for me… but then came the south. Being unfamiliar with HITORIS, WCTU, POSTE RESTANTE, CORTESE, and the STREISAND EFFECT made for tough going. Had to run the alphabet more than once and eventually sussed it out. But as usual with BEQ’s puzzle, I’m glad I did. His marquee answers are often satisfying to infer and are welcome new phrases to my vocabulary.
- COURTED DISASTER (15A: Played with fire) I really wanted this to be FLIRTED WITH, but COURTED appeared instead after plunking in the downs. Not a phrase I’m overly familiar with, but it rings a bell…
- BONG (35A: Baker’s implement?) I hesitantly put in BING, thinking “… bing cherries are a baker’s implement? That’s weak!” I must have temporarily forgotten who authored the puzzle. BONG makes much more sense. That being said, I got HIGH TIMES immediately.
- AIR KISSES (34A: They’re blown to lovers) I thought was adorable until it crossed VIRULENT (29D: Highly contagious). Then it became a bit icky.
Overall, a satisfying solve. I forgot to contribute to the tip jar this year. I’ll get on that after work. Hope you will too!
Jake Braun’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 54aR [Virtually zero, and where the ends of 20-, 32- and 43-Across are literally situated] NEXT TO NOTHING.
- 20a. [Player who shoots par regularly] SCRATCH GOLFER.
- 32a. [Floppy disk backup device] ZIP DRIVE. Heyday of both are long gone.
- 43a. [Ballad for a valentine] LOVE SONG.
Scratch, zip, love. Zero, zilch, nada, nil, nix, naught, zippo, goose egg, doughnut, diddly, not a one …
I really like the NYT theme. It’s well done, and the revealer is excellent.
However, generally I like hidden word themes. I know some solvers don’t, but I think a lot of solvers do (based on feedback from some of my similar CS offerings… that aren’t as clever as this!).
IMO, it’s always interesting seeing hidden words (especially if they’re “whole”: similar to some cryptic crossword clues). I think presented this way, they provide a nice little “Aha” for the Monday solver.
So thumbs-up from me :)
Oh yes… props to the WSJ puzzle too.
How can I not like a puzzle theme that appears to have part of my surname (WOOD) hidden in the grid? However, it would have been perfect if “ASH” was also repeatedly hidden in other parts of the grid ;)
However, I strongly suspect that would have narrow theme-appeal. Except for three people: myself and my parents :)
NYT: OCS = Officer Candidate School. Creator of so-called “Ninety Day Wonders.”
That’s right. And I’ve looked it up in the past. Thanks.
I was preempted here, but the OCS is in Ft. Benning, Georgia, along with the paratrooper school. My father attended it when I was in the 1st grade, so I take mild issue with the “whatever.”
NYT: “Downright” is both an adjective and an adverb, so it can be a clue for either “utter” or “utterly.” I admit it was a little tricky, but that’s fine.
Precisely. I wasn’t clear enough in couching my complaint as the clue being too subtle for a Monday.