BEQ’s Themeless Monday crossword — Jim Q’s write-up
Hi All! Jim Q here filling in for Jenni-
BEQ’s Themeless Mondays always give me something to look forward to on a day that typically gets a bad rap. And while I enjoyed today’s puzzle like I usually do, Yowza! It was tough stuff for me (and my seventh grade study hall). Not the kind of tough that makes it miserable though… rather, the kind that is wholly satisfying once it’s figured out.
I still don’t have a solving system. Sometimes I start in the NW like most people, but often I just look for a clue that catches my eye and build from there. Today was the latter. Tony-winning playwright Yasmina stood out, and I’m a big fan of hers (Art, Life x 3, God of Carnage… hoping she’s got another coming soon), so I started at 21-Across with REZA. From there, I flitted around and never really got a solid foothold until I reluctantly erased MENTHE and replaced it with MIDORI.
Hardest for me by far was the NE, especially being 100% confident with WETNAP instead of the correct WET ONE. Also, as I am unfamiliar with both RAMI Malek and Sheila Jackson LEE, this made ROAD TO BALI (another unfamiliar entry for me) tough to infer.
My class (let’s face it- seventh grade study halls in May are doing anything but studying, so why not project the crossword on the SmartBoard and solve it as a team?) dutifully chimed in on T-PAIN and RHIANNA (RIRI), and it was a truly teachable moment as I eloquently explained COURTESY FLUSH etiquette. Thanks BEQ.
Overall, a satisfying solve, but some vague cluing gave it a few more teeth than I’d prefer:
14-D: (Retiring): SHY. Ouch.
7-D: (Noted copier): APER. The “noted” part threw me off. Thought I was looking for a proper noun.
1-A: (“Dope”): DA BOMB. This received vocal disapproval from my class (“Who says that!?!”) but then I reminded them how much cooler they are than me and told them that the constructor plays in a typewriter band. This seemed to help them understand.
3-D: (Fly through) BOLT. I’m having a tough time replacing the phrase “fly through” with the word “bolt” in any context. Anyone else?
Gary Kennedy’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s write-up
The theme here is SWISS / ARMY / KNIFE, with four common Swiss Army knife tools appearing in the grid: CAN OPENER, CORKSCREW, SCISSORS, TWEEZERS. Now, I have an adorable Victorinox knife. It’s blue and it has a light, ballpoint pen, nail file/screwdriver, bottle opener/wire stripper/Phillips head, knife, and the all-important tiny scissors. No plastic toothpick or tweezers, no corkscrew or can opener (or saw, or fish scale tool) because this is a small Victorinox tool. It has been living on my desk for a couple months because if I’d put it in my purse after I bought it, I’d have forgotten to remove it before my assorted flights. (Having TSA confiscate your teeny little Swiss Army Knife is annoying as hell when it is so very tiny!) I will start using it after my Indie 500 trip.
- Least favorite fill, as clued: 59d. [Tehran native], IRANI. Can you find me an Iranian/Persian who actually uses IRANI as a generic term for anyone in Iran?
- 18a. [“S.N.L.” alum Cheri], OTERI. Constructors need to stop leaning on her so much. She’s not a household name anymore. (My NYT-crossword-newbie friend Julie has already sagely observed that Cheri Oteri’s career is mainly in crossword grids now.)
- 23a. [Double curves, as on highways], ESSES. Not the sort of answer that beginners are going to think of, really. Nobody calls it that. Maybe, just descriptively, an S-curve, but plural ESSES? No way. Would German city ESSEN crossing OWEN be better, worse … or equally mediocre?
- 8d. [Casting out of a demon], EXORCISM. A casually factual vibe to the clue. As if!
- 45d. [Refuge during the Great Flood], NOAH’S ARK. I can’t see this without hearing Merl Reagle in the Wordplay documentary saying the anagram, “No, a shark!”
- 2d. [King of the gods in Wagner’s “Ring” cycle], WOTAN. Germanic form of a Norse god’s name, yes? Maybe not so suited to a Monday grid.
- 5d. [All a tanker can hold], SHIPLOAD. This … is a word I have never had any need to use.
- The majority of reputable dictionaries close up coleslaw into a single word, and yet 46a. [Cole ___ (side dish)], SLAW will never die. The existence of broccoli slaw and so forth argues in favor of splitting the word, no?
3.25 stars from me.
David C. Duncan Dekker’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sound Effects” — Jim’s review
I’m not sure what the title is trying to convey, but how else are you going to title a vowel-run puzzle? We’re given five phrases in which the second word is P_T with the vowels going in the second position.
- 17a [Holds one’s ground] STANDS PAT.
- 24a [Gerbil or rat, say] POCKET PET
- 39a [Spot for stage diving] MOSH PIT
- 50a [Brewing vessel] COFFEE POT
- 61a [“Well said”] NICELY PUT
I wasn’t feeling very strongly either way with this puzzle for most of the solve. The theme isn’t exactly thrilling, but it is well executed and there isn’t too much kludgy fill.
But then I got down to the bottom and uncovered earwormy MANEATER (39d, [1982 Hall & Oates hit]) which is not the same as Nelly Furtado’s 2006 hit of the same name. This was followed quickly by scrabbly MUFFLER and quaint TARRY which, sadly, is not a word you hear much anymore. ON THE GO and WHITE HOT are nice, too.
And how can you knock a puzzle that has GILDA (48a, [Radner of “SNL”]) in it, one of the greatest SNL players?
Overall, a clean grid with some nice fill and a serviceable theme.
Let’s close out with a music video. No, not MANEATER. Get your Irish on with The Corrs & The Chieftains teaming up in “I Know My Love” which features the word TARRY at 2:27.
Jake Braun’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 69aR [Sports org. for the players that begin the answers to starred clues] MLB.
- 17a. [*Found middle ground] MET HALFWAY. New York Mets.
- 39a. [*Hockey rink divider] RED LINE. Cincinnati Reds. Here ends the things-in-the-middle red herring theme.
- 58a. [*Shaft from the sun] RAY OF LIGHT. Tampa Bay Rays, originally the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
- 10d. [*”Unforgettable” crooner] NAT KING COLE. Washington Nat[ional]s.
- 25d. [*Jimmy Olsen, notably] CUB REPORTER. Chicago Cubs.
- 26d. [*”The Tonight Show” host after Johnny Carson] JAY LENO. Toronto [Blue] Jays.
Quite a lot of theme content. Consistently three-letter (or four, depending on how you look at it) nicknames, though two rely on shortened versions. Consistently separate first words, which is why the unambiguous ice hockey term is used for 39a rather than, say, a tachometer or housing discrimination reference.
- 9a [Take ___: snooze] A NAP.
- 42a [69-Across list of games, briefly] SKED. Gratuitous immingling with theme stuff. I still don’t care for that sort of thing.
- 48a [Suffix with chlor-] -INE. Blech.
- 11d [Soviet cooperative] ARTEL. Whoa, completely missed this one during the solve. Doesn’t seem Mondayish. In addition to the clued and linked sense, it’s also a variant spelling of artal, which I’ve further learned is the plural of rotl, which may serve me well in Scrabble/Lexulous type games. Huzzah!
- 12d [Temporary stop] PAUSE, 56a [Temporary calm] LULL.