April 10, 2007

Wednesday, 4/11

NYS 5:25
NYT 4:02
CS 3:47
LAT 3:20

(updated at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday)

We watched Tyler Hinman's appearance on Chicago Tonight. He solved the Tuesday NYT crossword in 2:50-something on paper, on video. No amazing new insights were elicited by Phil Ponce's questions, but it seemed like a more in-depth interview than the usual news feature on a crossword champ. Once again, Tyler passed up a chance to plug my book when asked how people can improve their crossword skills. (Sigh...)

Two very different crosswords from the Sun and the Times, but both fun. The Sun crossword, Alex Boisvert's "Capital Pun-ishment," has a not-so-easy-to-grasp theme and some knotty fill (plus some savory pop culture). Bruce Adams' NYT also had some knottiness to it.

In the NYT, I'm guessing a lot of people walked into a trap at 1-Across and had another couple entries that had to be pieced together, letter by letter. 1-Across is [Disney pup] SCAMP, son of Lady and the Tramp; and no, he wasn't named in the classic movie, but found his way into various spinoffs. Words like MAHAYANA (the [School of Buddhism]) and RATCH (apparently a variation on the more familiar ratchet) slowed me down. Zane GREY is the writer from Zanesville—he was named after town-founding ancestor Ebenezer Zane. The theme is A MATTER OF DEGREE, with three academic levels reflected in BACHELOR PARTIES, MASTER BEDROOM (clued cleverly as [Parents' retirement place?]), and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. (This theme reminds me of Trip Payne's puzzle from a year or two ago with degree-initials people like Ph.D. Phil Donahue and M.A. Maya Angelou; Trip got a copy of the puzzle autographed by Phil at the ACPT. But forget those spoilers—the puzzle will be included in my book, which I know you're all hankering to pre-order...) Stuff I liked, besides the theme: SEAN PENN, DOGFIGHT (though I'm not sure if [Ace versus ace] counts as a noun to correspond to the answer), [It may be set in Paris] for STYLE, and [Actors Hale Jr. and Hale Sr.] for ALANS (Jr. was the Skipper on Gilligan's Island, of course, while Sr. was in movies from 1911 through the '40s).

The Sun puzzle's dimensions are 15x16 squares, accommodating five vertical theme entries that stack up state capitals to generate puns. Near as I can figure, ANNAPOLIS ALBANY = "An apple is all, Bunny?"; BOSTON CONCORD = "bossed and conquered"; JUNEAU BOISE DOVER = "D'you know boys eat over?"; AUGUSTA ST. PAUL = "Augustus ain't Paul" McCartney; and MADISON CHEYENNE = "Matt is on shy Anne," maybe. How many hours would it take you to play around with the capital cities to see what puns you could extract? (Yikes.) One of my "Huh?" answers here was MONDO GRASS, which might not be considered part of the lily family, clue be DAMNed ([End of a famous Rhett Butler line]), but look at those amazingly blue berries. I didn't know miler EAMONN Coghlan, but when my husband saw that I had his Wikipedia page up, he commented that he was a miler and a noted indoor runner. KING OLIVER was also outside my ken, but he and crossword regular Kid Ory led a band together about 90 years ago. Plenty of pop culture here: ROD from The Simpsons, GENA Rowlands, MR T, director Mira NAIR, EEYORE, and Survivor's "Boston ROB" Mariano, the one who married fellow Survivor contestant Amber Brkich. Sports: DR J, Johnny UNITAS, Warren SAPP, and SE RI Pak. Other highlights: MOONPIE, ZIPLOC, [Follower of Big or Power] for MAC, and [Fish in "Finding Nemo" who thinks her reflection is her sister Flo] for DEB (get it? Deb and Flo? Ebb and flow?)


Karen Tracey's LA Times puzzle has a JV SQUAD theme: four people with J.V. initials and a slew of J's (11 of them) and V's (8) throughout the grid. Fun crossword!

Sarah Keller hides body parts in "No Evil," her CrosSynergy crossword. Depicted in this picture are, from top to bottom, BRITNEY SPEARS, ALAN KEYES, and STONE PHILLIPS. Charlotte RAE of Diff'rent Strokes and the spinoff, The Facts of Life, is in this puzzle. You know which famous actor and director was also on the latter show? IKE (Dwight D. Eisenhower) beat AES (Adlai E. Stevenson) in politics and in placement within the crossword grid—IKE's on top at 1-Down. This is the second puzzle I've seen in a few days that had the Fighting ILLINI of the University of Illinois. A month or two ago, the U of I finally decided to jettison "The Chief," the student-in-an-Indian-costume mascot. (The motivation? The NCAA wouldn't let them host major sporting events unless they dropped the mascot.) It's about time!