(updated at 9:40 a.m. Tuesday)
Chicago TV alert! Tyler Hinman will be performing live this evening on Channel 11's Chicago Tonight, 7 to 8 p.m. And by performing, I mean solving a crossword. And talking. If you're local, set your recordamajig so you don't miss it.
The Tuesday Sun crossword by Gary Steinmehl had a rather complex theme for so early in the week, whereas Kevan Choset's NYT had a more basic type of theme.
The Choset puzzle contains three [Fantastic!], [Excellent!], or [Stupendous!] entities, the INCREDIBLE HULK (following up yesterday's GREEN theme), the GREAT GATSBY, and the AMAZING KRESKIN. Here, BABEL is clued as the Brad Pitt movie (beefcake fans, click that link!) Is LOCKLET really a word? I entered RINGLET first. I don't feel like pulling out that giant unabridged dictionary to check (after 10 p.m., I limit my hoisting of weighty tomes), but Google shows locklet as mainly a misspelling of locket (it is almost painful to see so many search results that are so wrong!) or a surname. I know I usually say that minor duplications in crossword fill don't bother me, but this puzzle had IN E and IN ME and ON ME, as well as I THE, THE BEAR, and THE RIVIERA.
I had a sense of deja vu (insert your own accent marks as desired) with the Sun puzzle, "Upscale Wordplay." A few weeks ago, Ken Jennings had presented a little word game involving DO, RE, MI, and friends, and these theme entries move up a notch on the scale to make SPIN DOCTORS into SPIN RECTORS, for example. MI advances to FA, making FAXED DRINKS; SOL to LA makes PUZZLE LAVER; and TI to DO makes DOME BANDITS. I like these themes that make the solver (or Laver!) do a little work to figure out what's going on. Eight Scrabbly letters adorn the fill (X's, K's, and Z's). Favorite bits: [River of Cairo] for OHIO (that's Cairo, Illinois, pronounced "kay-ro," where the Mississippi meets the Ohio); BABYGAP and DOULA; the poet ANNE SEXTON's full name; AXE clued as [Deodorant brand] (if Axe's advertising has swayed you and you buy this product, your sales resistance could use some serious work); and the KIEV/UKRAINE combo.
By the way, I see that Don Christensen's 2007 tournament photos are posted at the ACPT site now.
Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Rated PG," gathers six two-word phrases that start with P and G. Today, apparently, is my day for noticing duplicated fill: here, PLAYING GOD crosses PLAYPEN. Am I the only one who thinks of copepod when CAPECOD loses the space between words in a crossword grid? Always nice to see my internist's surname in a crossword, though she doesn't overtly resemble a [13th-century invader].
See what I mean? In the LA Times puzzle by Lila Cherry ("really Rich" Norris), we see both ON A DARE and ON A DIET, plus two uncommon UN- words (UNSET, UNRIG). Not crazy about IF HE being clued with ["___ hollers, let..."] owing to the troubled American history of "eeny, meeny, miny, moe." The theme entries here are four types of PRIZE POSSESSIONs, the RIBBON, MEDAL, STAR, and CUP one might win in competition. (Does Tyler's ACPT trophy count as a CUP, or is it a festive bowl?) I don't much care for Ernie PYLE or Nellie BLY alone, but put them together in a crossword (crossing at the Y) and they dance beautifully. I'm not sure how many people my age know either name if they're not crossword buffs, but they're both gimmes for anyone who's been solving crosswords for years.
This week's Onion A.V. Club crossword comes from Matt Gaffney, who preps for April 15 with the theme BEFORE TAXES—four other phrases that start with words that may precede "taxes," such as LUXURY (FLAT). Some of the longer fill will probably irk those people who like to quibble over whether entries are "in the language" or "contrived." There's LET'S LEARN, which is clued as [First words in many language book titles]; the top Google hits are language-learning websites. The NEW MOTHER ([She just had a baby]) doesn't sound like something from the dictionary, but I'll bet most of us have used the phrase in speech. I do not tend to say IT'S SUPER, however; sounds more like something Big Gay Al says on South Park, though Google isn't confirming that sense. 1-Across is a great entry, the comic book (and movie) SIN CITY...but wait! The clue is followed by an asterisk, meaning that "sin tax" is part of the theme. But the entry in the opposite corner isn't part of the theme, so the theme entries are not symmetrical. Which is hilarious, because Matt and I just had an e-mail exchange in which he defended the very moral rightness of adhering to symmetry in crosswords! You are so busted, Matt.
Ben Tausig's Chicago Reader/Ink Well puzzle for the week is called "Water Supply," and the four theme entries all have HHO (H2O) embedded within them (e.g., BEACH HOUSE). Highlights: Two all-consonant 5-letter entries, MTV VJ and RSVPS; V-NECK plus V-SIX; [Drunk ___ (call smashed)] for DIAL; and the juvenile combo of [Crack house?] for ASS and [Feels relieved, in a way?] for PEES. Fun puzzle!
April 09, 2007