October 24, 2006

Wednesday, 10/25

NYS 4:36
LAT 4:14
NYT 3:58
CS 2:49

Don't miss Jeffrey Harris's Sun crossword, "Celebrity Swifties." It's all too seldom that theme entries actually make me laugh aloud (albeit quietly), and three of the five here amused me.

The NYT by Adam Perl is a quip puzzle. Maybe I should start a glossary with made-up terms, like DQP for "dreaded quip puzzle." I know quips have many partisans, but in this climate of bipartisan divisiveness, I come down squarely on the side of wishing quip puzzles appeared much less often. Obligatory anti-DQP grumble out of the way, let's talk turkey: There's some good fill here, like MOSH and SNIVELS, and the theme occupies four 15-letter entries. In the upper center section, there may be a secret moral lesson posed by JAILS crossing LUST, IDLE, and SPITES—how many of those are among the seven deadly sins? I fell into the HOTCAKE trap for [Brisk seller] before switching to HOT ITEM, which crosses
TAPIR, and seeing that word never fails to remind me of the time my husband and I saw a tapir with an erection at the zoo (that is one fearsome phallus, let me assure you). We've got a new-wave HARD C—[Croc's head or tail?]—balancing out the old-school entries like ELBA and ISTLE. I'm curious to know what aspects of this crossword gave trouble to some of the seasoned solvers whose applet times weren't at their usual stellar level tonight.

Jeffrey's Sun puzzle has some great fill—OXYMORON and (the unrelated) BUTTHEAD, XERXES I, KAPUT. There's a 7-letter entry I'd never heard of—EL GALLO demonstrates the gaping abysses in my knowledge of musical theater. Funny clue for BACON: [Strips in a club?]. And the theme! A fresh twist on Tom Swifties, using five famous people whose last names sound like adverbs. My favorite three were ["I think about quitting every time I can't stand the Heat," quipped ___] PAT RILEY (wryly), ["I'm not ashamed of my association with Gene Simmons," admitted ___] ACE FREHLEY (freely), and ["I have no doubt in my dancing ability," stated ___] MICHAEL FLATLEY (flatly).


Len Elliott's LA Times puzzle features pairs of bran, ban, band, and Rand names. You might say, "Aha! No brand names!"—but actually, DRANO and VESPA are elsewhere in the fill. I wasn't familiar with one of the theme components, BURN ban. Google tells me governments mandate burn bans (fireplaces, outdoor fires) when there's a risk of fires or a pollution-trapping air inversion. The Chicago area doesn't use these—but parts of the collar counties do seem to permit outdoor burning of leaves and yard waste, which means some suburbs are stinky and make me grumble.

I knew all the famous names in the Sun puzzle, but Randall Hartman included an actress I didn't know in his CrosSynergy puzzle, "Hollywood Shorts." Ruth ROMAN got her start as TV's Jungle Queen, moved on to Hitchcock, and finished up with Murder, She Wrote.