Monday, February 5, 2018

BEQ 9:08 (Laura) 


NYT 4:10 (Matt)  


LAT 2:59 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim)  


Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword—Matt’s write-up

Matt here, sitting in for Amy. Our constructor today is veteran Alan Arbesfeld, and his theme is phases of the moon:

18-A [Traditional night for partying] = NEW YEAR’S EVE. I haven’t made it to midnight for several years. Party while you can, kids.

29-A [Curved Pillsbury item] = CRESCENT ROLL. Mmm, buttery.

47-A [Ones calling the plays] = QUARTERBACKS. Did you catch tonight’s sports contest? It was rather remarkable. The unknown but crossword-friendly FOLES defeated the somewhat famous, many-ringed BRADY in an exceptionally entertaining matchup. Who will be the first constructor to put FOLES in a grid? I bet it will be this guy, and tomorrow, despite his being a Bostonian.

61-A [40-hour-a-week work] = FULL TIME JOB.

And the big reveal at 60-D:

[It has phases that are represented by the starts of 18-, 29-, 47- and 61-Across … and by 1-Down] = MOON. OK, I admit I missed the HALF one during the solve. Well, let’s go ahead and give a .5 ding for that since the HALF needs to be where SLEUTHS is to make sense. Unless there’s some clever reason for putting it at 1-D that I’m missing because this was a Bourbon Bowl for me. But I don’t think there is. Let me know in comments and I’ll reinstate the .5. UPDATE: OK, “half” would clearly need to be between “Quarter” and “Full” to make intuitive sense, not between “crescent” and “quarter.” I was fooled by it being in the center of the grid. See Jeff Chen’s explanation here, after which all may be clear (or not).

OK, apparently there’s something hinky going on with the moon’s phases. “Half-moon” is not what you think it would be, though even after Googling I don’t really get it. When the great Bob Klahn did this theme for CrosSynergy in 2008, he omitted half-moon/gibbous moon altogether. So there must be some logic to it if Bob did it, and I’ll let someone who understands this better than I explain it in comments, and sheepishly give back .25 of the .5 stars I dinged this one.

Anyway, the fill was solid and I didn’t cringe once during my solve. SID CAESAR, SEESAW, SLEUTHS, FACET, and ORANGE all stand out as fun.

To me, the weakness of early-week NYT puzzles continues to be dull cluing. So many one-word synonyms: LOSE is [Misplace], HAS is [Possesses], MERIT is [Deserve], [Uncooked] is RAW, [Kingdoms] is REALMS, [Detectives] is SLEUTHS, [Mix] is BLEND, etc. And then lots of dull two-word straight-up definitions as well. Not much zip.

Let’s (dis)prove my points by doing the five-worst-entries test (which I think it will pass with flying colors) and the five-best-clues test (which I think it will do poorly on):

Five worst entries: ARI, ARNE, ORO, ONE-EAR, and LIS. That’s not bad for a Monday.

Five best clues: 14-A [Man’s name that’s an investment spelled backward] = ARI, 58-A [“Piece of cake” or “easy as pie”] = IDIOM (for the pie + cake dichotomy], and I’m not trying to be obtuse but there aren’t really any other interesting clues. Prove me wrong in comments but the clues could use some verve in a bad way.

So, 3.50 stars. Reasonable though unexciting (and possibly flawed but still not sure) theme, professional fill, clues that could’ve benefited from some attention. The planets continue to circle the Sun, and we continue our attempts to beautify the world around us.

Greg Johnson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Movie Marathon” — Jim’s review

Grid-spanning film titles each include a different time of the day.

WSJ – Mon, 2.5.18 – “Movie Marathon” by Greg Johnson

  • 17a [1975 bank heist drama] DOG DAY AFTERNOON
  • 28a [1950 Hollywood-based drama] SUNSET BOULEVARD
  • 46a [1978 prison escape drama] MIDNIGHT EXPRESS
  • 58a [1986 murder thriller] THE MORNING AFTER

This is a gorgeous themeset! Each is a big-time Hollywood film, each is 15 letters, and each has a different part of the day included with no duplication (except maybe “after”). And they’re listed chronologically as if you started your marathon in the afternoon and went straight through until THE MORNING AFTER. Such a well-conceived theme executed equally well.

That being said, I believe I’ve heard of THE MORNING AFTER, but I couldn’t tell you what it’s about or who was in it. *Googles* Ah. Jane Fonda, Jeff Bridges, Raul Julia. Yup, that qualifies as big-time. Actually, each of the four films has at least one Oscar nomination (in various categories). Even more impressive.

Solid fill throughout as well: GROOMSMEN, TROT OUT, EGG HUNT, and TOOLBAR are the highlights.

There is some crosswordese in RETOTAL, HIE, and ERNE, but those are aberrations in a very nice grid. Also, there are 27 three-letter words by my count, which is quite high (20 is often considered the informal upper limit). No doubt this is due to the four grid-spanners and the need to create some separation between them. For the most part, despite the sheer number, they don’t make their presence felt too badly.

A few more things:

    • Other Oscar-worthy films referenced in the grid: ARGO (14a), Norma RAE (62d), LARA (65a) of Doctor Zhivago, and TOTO (55d) of The Wizard of Oz. Non-Oscar-worthy films: ITT (33a) of The Addams Family, the film version of which also featured Raul Julia.
    • Best clue: [There’s a lot of interest in their work] tries to misdirect you, but you didn’t fall for it, did you? The answer of course is USURERS.
    • TAPS (67a) is clued [Tune played at twilight]. I’m more familiar with it being played at “lights out,” but it is also used to signal the end of the working day as well as at military funerals of course. If you have about 14 minutes and are interested in the history of the tune, give a listen to the NPR discussion linked below, which includes some poetic lyrics I’d never heard before.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s themeless Monday crossword — Laura’s Review

BEQ - 2.5.18 - Solution

BEQ – 2.5.18 – Solution

AVID READER [16a: Bookworm], here with a bullets-only writeup.

  • [36d: He had a supporting role alongside Hepburn in “Breakfast as Tiffany’s”]: Buddy EBSEN, better known to many as as Jed Clampett of The Beverly Hillbillies. He shows up toward the end of the film in a heartbreaking scene that always reminds me of the end of The Great Gatsby.
  • [24a: Grows old]: STALES. As a verb? “I wanted to eat that bread, but it staled. Instead, I’ll use it to make french toast next time there’s a snowstorm in New England.”
  • [17a: Historian ___ Irvin Painter]: NELL. Emerita Professor of History at Princeton, author of Creating Black Americans: African American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present (2006) and The History of White People (2010).
  • [37a: Sitcom about the Huang family]: FRESH OFF THE BOAT. Now in its fourth season, it’s the first prime-time show to star an Asian American family since my IDOL [12d: People look up to her] Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl in 1994.
  • [34d: #MeToo {my edit}]: SO DO I.
  • Nope, Matt — he didn’t put FOLES in the grid. [5a: “This is true”]: CAN CONFIRM.
  • [32d: “Tea for the Tillerman” singer-songwriter]: CAT STEVENS. Originally Steven Georgiou, then Cat Stevens, then Yusuf Islam in 1977 after he converted to Islam, then just Yusuf, and now recording and performing again as Cat Stevens. Here he is at 67 singing a song he wrote at 22:

Jeff Eddings’ Los Angeles Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 2 5 18

The theme is 59a. [Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb … and a hint to 17-, 25-, 38- and 46-Across], THE BEE GEES, with four themers having B.G. initials like the Brothers Gibb. BIKER GANGS, BOWL GAMES, BREEDING GROUNDS, and BOND GIRLS are all fairly lively as theme answers go.

Felt like there were an awful lot of Scowl-o-Meter triggers in this grid. Dull and/or difficult and/or relatively obscure words: RELINE ADES ARNETT SLOE FAKIR AER PLANBS (who pluralizes that??) ARIOSI LOESS ASHBIN MENA ESSES … that’s an unlucky 13. The Monday LAT is supposed to be pretty easy and accessible, no? I wouldn’t expect to see this quantity of tough entries in a Monday puzzle. This might be a debut puzzle—if it is, I encourage the constructor to ask a non-crosswording friend for feedback and work on smoothing out the fill in future puzzles that have straightforward (and thus easy) themes.

2.75 stars from me.

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2 Responses to Monday, February 5, 2018

  1. David says:

    moon – earth – sun
    the moon is fully shining with reflected sunlight = full moon (14 days old)
    earth – moon – sun
    the moon is not visible on earth because the sun is behind it = new moon (0 days old)

    halfway between the new and the full, half of the moon is shining = first quarter moon (7 days old)
    halfway between the full and new, half of the moon is shining = third quarter moon (21 days old)

    when half of the moon is shining, it is a quarter moon AND it is called a “half moon”

  2. scrivener says:

    NYT: Stuart Little is not a mouse. He’s a human who looks like a mouse, as E. B. White makes very clear in novel’s opening passage:

    “When Mrs. Frederick C. Little’s second son arrived, everybody noticed that he was not much bigger than a mouse. The truth of the matter was, the baby looked very much like a mouse in every way.

    “He was only about two inches high; and he had a mouse’s sharp nose, a
    mouse’s tail, a mouse’s whiskers, and the pleasant, shy manner of a mouse.
    Before he was many days old he was not only looking like a mouse but acting like
    one, too–wearing a gray hat and carrying a small cane.”

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