(updated at 8:35 a.m. and 6:55 p.m. Thursday)
Mike Shenk has his own puzzle projects to keep him busy (Puzzability and editing the Wall Street Journal crossword), so we don't see his byline often elsewhere. So it was a welcome surprise to see his byline on Thursday's NYT puzzle. The theme entries redefine four names by adding an "I": Talia Shire is ITALIA SHIRE with a Godfather/Italy clue, for example. Two of the theme entry people were relatively "huh?" names for me—I'd never heard of Western writer Max Brand (IMAX BRAND)—a pseudonym of Frederick Schiller Faust, who apparently was one of the most prolific authors of all time. He wrote pulp fiction, so presumably the prolific pseudonymous Rex Parker knows all about him. And there was a baseball pitcher named Ron Darling (IRON DARLING), I gather. L.L. Bean (ILL BEAN), I know; in fact, I'm wearing this fleece top right now. Surrounding the theme entries are corners packed with 7-letter entries, which give those parts of the puzzle a mild themeless flavor (very mild—Wednesdayish, almost).
The Sun crossword, "±," is by Steve Picus. (Constructor debut? If so, certainly a showy one!) Low word count (tons of 8- and 9-letter entries), graphically impressive themed black squares (making two giant plus signs and two minuses), three theme entries (POSITIVE and NEGATIVE, BATTERY TERMINALS), interesting fill (DASTARDLY, BON VIVANT), and Thursdayish clues (on a Thursday!). Cool-looking crossword!
The theme in Mike Torch's LA Times puzzle relies on knowledge of pop culture and how various celebrities' last names (all pronounced "con") are spelled. The last names are swapped in at the beginning of words that begin with CON-. Sammy Cahn, Chaka Khan, Madeline Kahn, Didi Conn, and James Caan pop up, and the clues only give away two of those first names. Loved the theme! Hated [Bath speed measure] for KPH. Really? The Brits abbreviate km/hr as KPH? This is a clue I needed to see after my May trip to England. (And the crossing for the P relates to car racing, ick.)
This week's Jonesin' puzzle (which you can access in PDF form via Will Johnston's Puzzle Pointers page) by Matt Jones is called "Boardin' Boredom," and the theme was inspired by one of the least inspiring occasions known to modern humans: sitting in an airport. Four long and two short theme entries are things you might do in an airport if circumstances permit, entertainingly/depressingly clued; for example, [It's easy to do if you're hungry, hard to do if it's late and the shops have closed] clues GRAB A SNACK. Things I liked: I AM is clued ["___ Spartacus!"]; [One whose project may be a piece of cake] for the otherwise blah word ICER (although technically you ice a whole cake and not just a piece); TITUS clued as comedian Christopher (I actually watched his sitcom for the better part of a season...I have no reason for this) rather than Titus Andronicus; OH OK (["I sorta get it" response]); and THE EU. What I decidedly disliked: [Skanky streetwalkers] for HOS. Can we not cast aspersions on that group of women? It would've been easy enough to change ANGUS to ONCUE, crossing GOO, CIO, and HOE.
April 04, 2007