March 08, 2007

Friday, 3/9

NYS 8:11
2/23 CHE 6:37
NYT 6:09
LAT 5:05
CS 4:09

WSJ 7:03
Reagle 6:46

Randolph Ross's NYT crossword tossed some utterly unfamiliar things at me. First off, there's [Singer/film composer Jon], who turns out to be Jon BRION; the only project of his I'm at all familiar with is the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind score, but I can't say I remember the movie's music. The [1987 BP acquisition] is SOHIO; alas, gazing up at the skyward-bound granite-clad BP building overlooking Chicago's Millennium Park on Monday did not yield any SOHIO epiphanies. I'm not up on historical cattle-ranching legalities, so AGIST was also new to me; it's clued as [Feed for a fee, as cattle]. And BELL LAP is, apparently, the last lap in track events as well as [Climax at Daytona]. (Too bad that clue wasn't looking for a verb.) There were, fortunately, many more entries that I did know, and clues that I appreciated. I never read Malcolm Gladwell's THE TIPPING POINT, but (a) he has got one crazy head of hair, and (b) many of his writings are available at his website. SWISS BANKS are the [Secretive places]. [Like some fears] is the clue for IRRATIONAL, but I'd like to point out that many fears are quite rational; have you seen the horrible centipede-attacks-animal video? I haven't, but my husband saw it and now he understands my fear and loathing of centi- and millipedes. I liked GEORGIE Porgie, though he shouldn't go around kissing the girls without their consent, pudding and pie or no. I liked the FIRST FLOOR elevator stop, the MAZE that's [Hedge fun?], and [Jack's place] in the TRUNK of the car (if he didn't want to end up there, he shouldn't have double-crossed me). Also liked [Person of intelligence?] for WIRETAPPER, [Begin, say] for ISRAELI, [Body shops?] for SPAS (dangit, I started out with GYMS), and [Baseball, in slang] for POTATO (which reminds me, I should make mashed potatoes this weekend). [Dental routine] tricked me into taking the patient's point of view and trying ORAL CARE rather than the correct ORAL EXAM.

Beautiful theme in Dominick Talvacchio's 15x16 Sun crossword, "Self-Descriptors"—the answers to the five theme entries describe themselves. In three cases, they're straightforward—POLYSYLLABIC is indeed a polysyllabic word. It gets more fun with 10- and 39-Down, which exemplify the errors described by the words (MISPELLED is misspelled because an S is missing, and INCOMPLET is incomplete because the final E is missing). Favorite clues and answers: [Ground round opening?] for MANHOLE, [Beat it] for DRUM (though I'm not generally a fan of the "it" clues in which the answer substitutes for the "it" rather than the complete clue), [Comanche, e.g.] for JEEP, [Rose buds?] for THE REDS baseball team, [Relating to head cases?] for CRANIAL, [Tug on, as an ear] of corn for SHUCK, [Out-of-style do?] for DOST, [Start badly?] for HOTWIRE, and the retro TV flashback of Happy Days' ARNOLD'S crossing FLO.
I didn't know there was a Y-LEVEL tool, nor that there was a LESLEY University in Cambridge, MA. This puzzle complements the NYT's Menachem Begin appearance with GAMAL, EGYPT, and IRANI. Again, terrific and innovative theme, perfect for a Friday NY Sun puzzle.


The northwest corner of Patrick Berry's 2/23 Chronicle of Higher Ed crossword, "Celebrity Endowments," took me a loooong time, partly because I didn't know there was a poet named EUGENE FIELD. The Wikipedia article on him tells me he wrote "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod" and other children's poetry—and he once lived three blocks from where I sit right now! (Those Prairie-style houses on Hutchinson St. are gorgeous. If I won millions of dollars in the lottery I don't play, I would buy a house on that block as well as becoming a patron of the cruciverbal arts.) There's also a Chicago Park District park and fieldhouse named after him—the Field Fieldhouse? [Age of Discovery commodities] are SPICES, someone named PAULI [postulated the neutrino's existence], [Getting ready, in a way] is RIPENING ("I'll be ready to leave in about 15 minutes...I'm not quite ripe yet."), I don't always remember the Long Island town ISLIP, and it took me far too long to figure out that [Ultimate accolade?] meant EULOGY. Good clues, good crossword.

Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy offering, "A Sophomoric Puzzle," is fun. [Grumpy coworker] is another of Snow White's Seven Dwarves, [Wet bottom?] is SEABED, the phrases CHEWING OUT and DAWN ON cross each other, and OREO has a clue I haven't seen a zillion times before: [Each one has two colors and three layers].

Donna Levin's LA Times crossword adds a NO to each theme entry without negating anything—a [Dolphin rookie?], for example, is MIAMI NOVICE. SOMA (why, oh why can't I find any place that sells a blue plastic Soma cube like we had when I was a kid?) is clued with reference to Huxley's Brave New World. I haven't read any sci-fi since high schoolish, but I was reading a discussion of sci-fi at a feminist blog. Did you realize that there are no female Alphas in that book? And there's just one male Beta, apparently—and he works as a mechanic, because goodness knows an entire second-rate class of women couldn't be expected to use tools. No Alpha women! What kind of make-believe society is that?

Merl Reagle's "Do Your Duty" (his syndicated Sunday puzzle for this weekend) packs in 13 theme entries, and since they all have the initials KP, which makes it a lot easier to guess the answers. In addition to those 13 initial K's, there are a couple other K's plus a Q, X, and pair of Z's. Despite the lack of humor in the straightforward theme, it's still a fun crossword.

Manny Nosowsky's "No Big Deal" in the Wall Street Journal turns out to be almost as easy as Merl's puzzle—i.e., considerably easier than either of these venues typically are. I would suspect that my brainpower had blossomed today, but the NYT and Sun puzzles I did last night, and the CHE puzzle...not so easy. Anyway, Manny has seven theme entries surrounded by lots of expanses of white space. A quasi-themeless look to it, but not a quasi-themeless difficulty level.