(updated at 8:25 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday)
First things first: Those two completely-out-of-left-field, that-can't-be-right answers in Charles Deber's Sunday NYT crossword, "Making Amends"—yes, there is an ELITCH Gardens amusement park in Denver, and yes, the [French Bluebeard] was named Henri LANDRU. (Bluebeard sounds like a charming pirate name, but no.) Yay. Serial killers get their due now! Looking forward to seeing GACY and DAHMER in the grid next month.
Those two entries were utterly unfamiliar to me, as I suspect they are to those of you aren't from Colorado and aren't true-crime buffs. Putting aside that pair of answers, I admired the theme, in which each phrase gets an A tacked onto one word to drastically change the meaning. The result is great entries like CHECKERED PASTA and BOTTOMLESS PITA, plus six others. A RIVERA RUNS THROUGH IT would be more fun if Geraldo were, say, crashing through a wall rather than rehearsing his show. I don't know that I'd trust MENSA-WEAR DEPARTMENTS to have chic styles. Trouble spots for me included [Iowa and Missouri] for SIOUANS; the [Eponymous physicist] crossing the ["Drink to me only with thine eyes" poet], and guessing BOYLE for the first (wasn't he a chemist?) instead of JOULE kept JONSON from emerging, which further impeded 69-Down's O RARE; I guessed PUSSERS for [Mugs] at the bottom instead of KISSERS, which got in the way of Heyerdahl's RAI and [Aaron Burr's birthplace], NEWARK. Up at 18-Across is FAN WAVE, and I swear I have never seen these things waggling in car windows, much less heard that they're called "fan waves." Y'all go ahead and cite your favorite parts of this puzzle—I've gotta run now.
Via the Times' crossword service comes a bonus celebrity puzzle (available here, but I don't know if you have to be a subscriber to access it): Cathy Millhauser constructed the "Twistin' the Oldies" puzzle and former President Bill Clinton wrote the clues. Will Shortz's note above the puzzle warns that the clues are a little more playful than those in standard crosswords—in my favorite cryptic-inflected examples, [It's just short of a clue] is the clue for ACLU, and [Running shoes almost for the birds?] clues AVIA. VEL could be clued as an abbreviation for "velocity," but isn't it more fun to go with [How Kissinger would say he feels?]? The theme was a little tough for me because a few of the song titles were just outside my ken, making the plays on those titles more elusive. The fast-and-loose clues also take a little longer to suss out just because they're not what I'm accustomed to.
I don't recall seeing a themed puzzle by young Will Nediger before, but here he is with "Floating Capitals" in the Washington Post. A world capital is lurking within each of the seven theme entries (Hooray! Geography theme! Hmm? Yes, I suppose I am a bit of a nerd, Why do you ask?), straddling two words. My favorite is THE TEFLON DON holding LONDON. Will peppers the grid with some Scrabbly fill, such as SPHINX, Derek JACOBI, and the RIOT SQUAD. Good puzzle!
Martin Ashwood-Smith's themeless CrosSynergy puzzle was among the easier ones I've seen. I liked that BRIDESMAID crossed MADE ALTERATIONS, because I'll be a bridesmaid at a wedding at Peckforton Castle next weekend, and those dress alterations weren't cheap. In the crossword, plenty of lively and interesting fill, but with easy clues.
Speaking of England, Byron Walden ranked his favorite newspapers for British cryptics, so I'll be checking out the Times of London and maybe the Independent and Guardian. Am looking forward to struggling mightily—hard cryptics with British rules and references, without ready access to Google? Ouch.
Henry Hook's "Get on Board" crossword for the Boston Globe uses MONOPOLY TOKENs as clues for the theme entries. I don't remember there being a battleship—is that one new since the 1970s? Absolute favorite clue: [They're in the mail] for KNIGHTS.
I also liked Rich Norris's syndicated LA Times puzzle (credited to Nora Pearlstone, an anagram of "not a real person"), "Our Puzzle." The theme entries include an extra WE, changing the meaning of the base phrase. My favorites were LOWEST IN THOUGHT and SWEET IN ONE'S WAYS, but they all worked.
Okay! I'm done with blogging for two weeks! I hope going cold turkey doesn't give me the cruciverbal DTs. Enjoy the middle of May, everyone! And enjoy the esteemed guest bloggers' fresh perspectives, too.
May 05, 2007