(updated at 11:15 a.m. Monday)
All righty, I'm going to ease back into this nightly blogging thing without even checking to see if tomorrow's Sun puzzle has been posted. Why should I stay up until sunset just to blog? I've been up for nigh unto 17 hours already, and what the existence of the Playtex 18-Hour Bra has taught me is that really, an 18-hour day is much too long. If your day is 18 hours long, I certainly hope you're not stuck wearing a bra for all 18 of those hours.
My travels within England, by the way, presented me with many crossword stalwarts. The cathedrals had tall reredoses (is there a plural of reredos?), spacious naves and apses, and ample ogees. The Chester Zoo had okapis, coatis, emus, rheas, and a small herd of very fetching onagers; I did not see the anoa exhibit, but of course was delighted to see it on the map. Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey had authors whose names, initials, characters, and works find their way into crosswords often. I hope that my slightly improved recollection of English kings and queens will pay off somehow.
The only American crosswords I did during vacation were the two weeks of Sun puzzles I'd printed out. Most days, I worked on one or two British cryptics from the daily papers. Most American cryptics yield their secrets to me within 15 minutes; many of the English ones limited me to a couple answers every 15 minutes...if that. Here's a sample clue from a puzzle I brought back with me: [Satisfied to have queen back inside tower] (7). The clues tend to be a bit more opaque and less complete than American cryptic clues, which give you every piece pretty literally, plus the definition.
The Monday NYT crossword by Allan Parrish provides a straightforward theme: All four long entries end with words that can be followed by MARKETS: STOCK, BLACK, FLEA, and MEAT. Pluses (and here's where I'm wishing I already knew how to code for a fancy bulleted list layout): a Q, Z, J, X, and several Ks; good fill like NAYSAY, PEACHY, TOLD YA, JETSKI, and ED KOCH; and 10 people's names I knew. Minuses: 1-Across is a dead bridge columnist's first name? Okay, so ALAN Truscott wrote for the Times for 41 years; still never heard of him. (Bridge beats poker in my crossword dislikes.) But he was born in Brixton! That was just a few Tube stops southeast of our hotel. I wondered if two entries still existed: TABU fragrance is indeed still on the market, and there are still some TCBY locations out there. The suburban Milwaukee one my husband once worked at closed years ago, and the only branches within Chicago are all at O'Hare Airport. How long before they go the way of the dodo?
Brendan Emmett Quigley's Sun puzzle, "At the Snow Bank," has a teeny theme (two 12s and a 9) embedded in a delicious soup of a grid. Tons of Scrabbly entries, the Eastern vibe of FENG SHUI and WASABI, pop-culture trivia (the HOFFMAN clue, [Only last name shared by two different Best Actor Oscar winners], made me ponder who else besides Dustin for a couple minutes, when Philip Seymour finally came to mind). Do not like seeing my name in such close proximity to the word NEOCON, however! But my name does cross PLAN B, which is also the name of that emergency contraception. And right there below AMY sits REX.
Today's NYT constructor, Allan Parrish, also made the LA Times crossword. It took me a while to parse the theme entries, which are tied together by 61-Down, WORK. Ah, HEINZ FIELD, NAME CALLING, and the other two end with words that can mean "career" or "work." I see. Solid puzzle, but not my favorite type of theme. (On the Cruciverb-L mailing list, Nancy Salomon called for publicizing of the theme types that crossword editors want to see less of. I suspect quote puzzles are on that invisible list—would love to know what other themes are more likely to get a puzzle rejected.)
Fans of tough clues are generally Bob Klahn fans. A nice surprise to get a Klahn CrosSynergy puzzle on a Monday! "Take Five" has a theme a little harder than standard Monday fare, and the clues? Ahhh, good. If you appreciate crosswords that don't hand out too many gimmes, download this one. No spoilers!
May 20, 2007