December 20, 2006

Thursday, 12/21

NYS 5:09
NYT 5:06
CS 3:15
LAT 3:12

(post updated at 8:45 a.m. Thursday)

Yum, yum! Two gnarly Thursday puzzles to chew on, an NYT creation by Lynn Lempel and a Sun crossword by Donna S. Levin. They both had themes that turned out to be fairly straightforward—after the aha dawned. Before then? Gnarly. (Gnarly = challenging in a good way.)

Lynn's NYT puzzle made me work the crossings to tease out the first two theme entries, and the clues were hard enough that the first theme entry I filled in all the way was the third of five, but that gave away the theme. EMBOSS TWEED looked quite obviously like EM + BOSS TWEED. The explanatory fifth one, BRING 'EM ON, finally told me what I needed to piece together the other three. Didn't quite understand DEMON KING until I realized that EM-less, it's the great Don King. [Visine?] is red rover + EM = RED REMOVER. The [Idaho symbol?] is a TATER TOTEM. The very last square I filled in was the juncture between the tricky [It has its ups and downs] and [Takes to heart?]. I had THEDO and ran through the alphabet until the letter W sat up and waved at me (THE DOW, WEDS). I know some people grumble about entries that start with THE, but in this case, "the Dow" is so completely in the language, and nobody calls it just plain "Dow." Other clues I liked include [Goth subjugator] for HUN ("Oh, is that what the kids are calling a jock these days?"), [Professor's workload] for PAPERS, [One with a mission] for DIPLOMAT, and [Taurotragus oryx] for ELAND (does that mean bull-goat-oryx?). Didn't know ELSIE Janis, old comic actress, or lyricist NED Washington. Also liked seeing STREP and STREEP in opposite corners of the grid. Terrific crossword! Good and hard.

"Sounds Like Back Talk" is the title of the Sun puzzle. The theme entries have a couple things going on—"A of B" is flipped to a "B of A" order, and the A and B words are homophones of the originals. Thus, "sense of sight" becomes SITE OF CENTS; "chance of rain," REIGN OF CHANTS; "worst of times," THYMES OF WURST; and "vale of tears," TIERS OF VAIL. I can't imagine how long it took to come up with a suitable set of theme entries—can you think of other possibilities? I found plenty of clues to be tricky. [Opposite of on] for AGO (as in "from this day on" vs. "a day ago"), [It doesn't operate on Yom Kippur] for EL AL, and [Circus tent pole] for STILT. Great fill—TWISTY crossing TOPIARY crossing VIS A VIS, GET A RAISE. And look how the crosswordese [Erne] has been promoted to a position in the clues (SEA EAGLE). Never heard hopscotch called POTSY, but apparently it's an NYC regionalism. As I said about the NYT puzzle, terrific crossword! Good and hard.


Timothy Powell's LA Times puzzle puzzled me a bit—TAFT ERA seemed like a KINDA oddball answer. But then I realized that those 7-letter entries that cross in the center are theme entries, ERA being a DETERGENT. There hasn't been much filth in crosswords lately—two recent bar soap themes and now this laundry detergent theme.

Patrick Jordan packs his CrosSynergy grid with synonyms for suitcase, in a week when many people will be schlepping suitcases through airports.