(updated at 9:30 a.m. Saturday)
When the caffeine and medication didn't knock out that headache, I took to the couch and napped all evening, and have just now gotten around to doing the Saturday Times crossword. Speaking of Timeses, I've solved about six months' worth of Harper's cryptics in the past few weeks, and read old posts at the NYT's "Cryptics by Maltby" forum. Somewhere in there, someone complained that Richard Maltby had credited "London Times" for one of the puzzle gimmicks, saying that it's always called "the Times of London." On NPR today, reporter Martin Fletcher was said to be "of the London Times," so apparently it's kosher to call it that. Am wondering if I will find the time and motivation to seek out the cryptic crossword in that newspaper when I'm in the U.K. Will I wish to forsake my beloved American-style crosswords? (Nah...)
So. The crossword. Sherry Blackard constructed the NYT puzzle, and the northwest corner of it stayed blank until the rest of the grid had been filled in—none of the clues shouted answers at me. The puzzle is anchored by a 13-letter entry across the center, IDENTITY THEFT, [Wallet loser's concern]. Off to the right, a clue's "loser" was dieting and forgoing DESSERT, which is a terrible shame. (Eat less of a lighter entree and save room for dessert! That's my policy.) [Ratatouille ingredient] answered the question I had in my head yesterday: It's got EGGPLANT (and CGI rats in France, at least in this summer's Pixar movie). Anyone else ponder whether SCAVENGE could be a noun meaning [Refuse]? (The answer's actually LEAVINGS.) A SLAP from a Thomas Paine quote joins ETHAN ALLEN in the American Revolution subtheme. Nice to see OBLAST promoted from obscure-Russian-geography cluing to crossword answer. Next to that is [Top in a closet?] for BLOUSE. The southeast corner crosses ENNOBLE and LAUDER, but here it's Harry Lauder rather than "one who lauds." Moving to the southwest, [Makes some lines disappear] is IRONS, but could also be BOTOX. ELKE Sommer crosses Olympian Karin ENKE in the battle of the E*KE women. For romance, I'M IN LOVE crosses RED ROSES. By the time I moseyed back up to the northwest quadrant, I decided that 5-Down had to be FRONT LINES (whoops—ENEMY LINES). Love the word ANONYM for [Unidentified person], and the evocation of the perpetrator of IDENTITY THEFT. I've only read the first Harry Potter book, so ROWENA Ravenclaw didn't come to mind readily, and I've never seen Porgy and Bess, so ditto on Catfish Row as a TENEMENT. I couldn't picture any sort of [Table saver] until I had most of the letters in TRIVET. [Powers that be]/REGIME and [One on a longship]/VIKING both kept me in the dark for far too long, too. For those who've forgotten their geometry (like me), an ISOGON is a polygon with equal angles; presumably an equilateral triangle and a regular pentagon fit the category as well as a [Rectangle or square] does? I think I would've opted to clue either TEAR AT or TORE INTO in terms of physical ripping, though, rather than cluing both in terms of heated emotions. One of my favorite clues was the one for EAR: [Sound system component?].
I'm not sure where Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's wavelength lies, but for their Saturday LA Times puzzle, it was miles away from the cruciverbal lobes of my brain. The top third of the grid (which features two triple-stacks of 15-letter entries plus two more single 15s) was particularly elusive for me. [Removed by melting] is ABLATED? Not so much in medicine, where ablation is more about scraping or carving than melting. With -ETTER at the end of [First-class traveler], I had jet-setters on my mind rather than first-class mail (CERTIFIED LETTER). [Epitome of rightness?] is RAIN, which refused to come to me for the longest time despite three days of rain; read about the phrase here. Down in the bottom of the grid, there's a partial entry: "Thy hair IS AS a flock of goats": Song of Solomon. Angora and cashmere be damned, telling someone their hair is as a flock of goats is not likely to endear you to them these days. In the middle is RUMPELSTILTSKIN, a terrific entry that hid from me behind his clue, [Noted spinner] (the clue put me in mind of disk jockeys).
Daniel Stark's Newsday Saturday Stumper yielded much more easily than the day's other themeless crosswords. Favorite morsels: [Land on the Pacific and Caribbean] for NICARAGUA (this map shows plenty of other countries that fit the bill); [B.B. King's guitar], LUCILLE; and [Go beyond embroidery] for LIE.
In Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy puzzle, trains were the last thing on my mind for the clue, [Local's opposite] (EXPRESS). I blame the CTA for switching to all-stops trains some years back.
April 27, 2007