November 11, 2006

Sunday, 11/12

NYT 12:16
WaPo 10:48
BG 8:40
LAT 8:16
CS 7:07

(post updated at 11:10 a.m. Sunday)

The Sunday NYT by Patrick Berry, "Look Inside," had this one vexing crossing in the northwest corner that led me to exclaim, "What the hell?!" But after I Googled the two entries in question, I felt much better...about one of the two, anyway. I'm really not up on my early Christian missionary history, so the city on Cyprus that was abandoned over 1,300 years ago, SALAMIS, remains a location non grata to me. Why not the plural of salami instead? C'mon, how many people reading the Times know Salamis? (Grr.) The crossing for that was ["Sixteen Tons" singer's workplace]. I'm not up on my 50-year-old (or current) country music, but I do know, it turns out, a line from the song: "Another day older and deeper in debt." The song's about coal mining (hence the answer is MINE) and the woes miners faced until unionization. (Just heard on NPR that nearly all the U.S. coal miner deaths in recent years resulted from code violations, and if the laws were actually enforced, those miners wouldn't have died. The execs say, "Accidents happen," but if they simply followed the law, their employees would be so much safer.) So, aside from those two words, what's in this crossword? A theme in which the circled letters within a theme entry reveal a key component of the longer phrase. Nifty! My favorite was PUNCHCARDS. My dad used to bring a bunch of IBM punchcards home from work and used them to jot down the grocery list each week. Ah, nostalgia. Low point: ALICE clued as [Role in Verdi's "Falstaff"]—aw, c'mon! With the various pop culture and literary options available for cluing? High point: ERUCT, with classical Latin roots. (Why can't I think of a Latin-based verb for the expulsion of flatus? Have you heard of the disposable Flatulence Deodorizer?) High point: BRUT aftershave; back in the punchcard era, my dad had the [Aftershave sold in green bottles] on his dresser. Medium point: As long as you're a crossword regular, the presence of ETUI as a crosser will help you piece together Poe's LIGEIA, which wasn't included in the Poe collection I have (gasp!). Low point: WASHATERIA, which is gettable but which I've never encountered in life; Chicago's a laundromat town, whereas washateria/washeteria seems to be a Texas/Southwestern thang.

That's quite enough rambling, no? In sum: Fairly tough puzzle, intriguing theme. Can anyone think of other possibilities for Patrick's theme?


My most favoritest crossword of the day is Lynn Lempel's Washington Post puzzle, entitled "Keep in Touch." I found the theme entries tricky to get, but so obvious once I figured them out. Many of the clues had a Friday/Saturday vibe to them, a mind-bending difficulty with cleverness to spare. Really a treat to solve. I still think Lynn's one of the very best Monday constructors working today, but she's also got the chops for themeless and Sunday puzzles—I hope she's got more in the pipeline at each level.

Bob Klahn goes old-school in his CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge with names from classic radio, combined with current pop culture, ordinary words, and fresh phrases. You should all be able to find something to stymie you!

Rich Norris goes undercover as Charlie Riley for today's LA Times–syndicated puzzle, "J as in José," changing a letter sound. In their three-week-old Boston Globe crossword, "W's Inaugural," Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon add a W to the start of each theme entry, offering a challenge similar to that in the LA Times puzzle.

By the way, if you haven't made a regular habit of Merl Reagle's syndicated Sunday puzzle, you should. From now on, only the four most recent puzzles will be available via Will Johnston's Puzzle Pointers, so get 'em while you can. If you're looking for more Merl puzzles, visit Merl's website to order his book collections.