December 09, 2006

Sunday, 12/10

NYT 14:12 (about 9:30 plus 5 minutes of scrounging around for that one bad square)
LAT 9:00
WaPo 8:31
BG 8:29
CS 5:56

(post updated at 12:30 p.m. Sunday)

I greatly enjoyed how David Kahn worked the theme in his NYT crossword, "Putting on Heirs." My one least favorite entry looked so obviously right (despite one wrong letter) that I hadn't even checked the crossings, until finally hopscotching the down entries (tab, tab, tab, ad nauseam) took me to the Square of Pure Evil. And then I expunged the memory by heading to the kitchen to bake delectable oatmeal–chocolate chip–pecan–cranberry cookies (the Quaker oats recipe, minus raisins, plus goodness). I have et of the dough, I have et of the crispy cookies, and I am ready to blog.

So, what ailed me during my solving time earlier this evening? 'Twas SLATY, [Bluish gray]. Not SLATE, because, well, a [Yellow ball] could be a YOLK but not an EOLK. (In making cookies, you better believe I spanked those egg yolks hard.) Google has about 450,000 hits for slaty vs. 33,000,000 for slate. The former seems to like nature—the slaty-backed gull, the dragonflyish slaty skimmer, slaty cleavage of rocks. SLATY, you'll not vanquish me again! The theme adds a SON somewhere, to excellent effect; Virgin Mary becomes [Newly mortared bricks and stone], or VIRGIN MASONRY, the Hamletian WATCH YOUR STEPSON, and the [Old Roman's boast after a deer hunt?], VENISON VIDI VICI. I wonder which of the eight theme entries was the seed for this crossword. Another great touch is the 10-letter entries at 2- and 3-Down and their opposites across the grid—one of them is EARED SEALS, who've been promoted from being a clue for the crosswordese-ish OTARY. Some baseball stuff, including TWO ON ([Runners at the corners, say, in baseball]), but not [World Series game] (POKER). Other good clues: [Company on the move] for TROUPE, [Spoke in a poke?] for OINKED, and [Wedding band, maybe] for OCTET. Raise your hand if you knew that SAMOA is [Where "yes" is "ioe," pronounced in three syllables].


I have a new game I play with the CrosSynergy puzzles—waiting to see if the byline reads "Bob Klahn" and I'm in for an extra shot of challenge that day. Today's themeless Sunday Challenge is indeed a Klahn puzzle, though a bit easier than many of his monsters. Absolute favorite clue: [Luster, e.g.] for SINNER. Runner-up: [Beethoven in 1992, e.g.] for DOG STAR.

In his LA Times syndicated puzzle, "Jailbreak," Patrick Blindauer busts the CONs out of the joint, so that reunion concerts become [Mints at a homecoming?], or REUNION CERTS. And campsite tipplers go the the ALCOHOL TENT, of course. Minor quasi-nit and/or question: Can [Old VHS option] be BETA, or was that strictly an alternative to VHS, and an old VCR option? My in-laws were still hanging onto their Betamax machine as late as 1988 or '89—but they've actually got an HD TV set and a DVD player now.

Henry Hook's Boston Globe puzzle, "Election Results," features a cynical quip that's not too hard to get because the title helps the solver fill in the blanks—more so than with most quip/quote crosswords. Where Patrick Bl. used Lucretia MOTT, Henry H. uses LUCRETIA Mott. Go read about her and her efforts fighting against slavery and for the rights of blacks and women to vote.

I did like the fill in Patrick Berry's Washington Post crossword, "Bird Watching," and I do like birds (though my husband finds them untrustworthy and a bit creepy), but the theme entries stretched the bounds of sound-alike puns pretty far. Lots of pop culture in the fill, newer (Howard Stern's sidekick ARTIE, TV's [Movie Macabre" host] ELVIRA) and older (Renée ADOREE; HELEN KANE, the inspiration for Betty Boop) and in between (theme entries based on All in the Family and Welcome Back, Kotter and...wait a minute! Ah, the true elegance of the theme dawns on me only now. "Bird Watching" plunks in bird puns to alter the names of TV series. The plunking still seems a bit off to me, but I'll give Patrick B. props for the thematic consistency of TV shows.)