June 06, 2007

Thursday, 6/7

Onion 5:38
NYS 5:31
NYT 5:21
CS 3:45
LAT 3:43
Tausig tba (?)

(updated at 9:40 a.m. Thursday)

Soon I will tie a yellow ribbon 'round the old oak tree, and I will not remove it until the Tausig and Onion puzzles are e-mailed out in Across Lite form. The vigil ends its second day. [Okay, the Onion puzzle is available via guest editor Francis Heaney. Thanks, Francis!]

Moving along to the crosswords that are available to me, Jack McInturff's Sun crossword is called "Puzzle Tov!" Who doesn't love a good set of Jewish puns? Especially when that nice Jewish boy, JESUS, also drops by the crossword. I think HORA STORY works the best because it sounds a little New York–accenty, doesn't it? I wasn't familiar with SUKKAH (from SUKKAH PUNCH); it turns out that the Sukkot festival, which I have heard of, draws its name from the plural of sukkah; a sukkah is the temporary booth observant Jews may live in during Sukkot, as I understand it. The name AMY appears in the grid (citing Madonna's storybook—hey, wasn't she Jesus's mom?) beneath MASHERS, which is an odd-looking word, but I happen to love my potato masher and the mashed potatoes that result from its use. (I don't stint on the butter, milk, or sour cream; rosemary's a nice addition.) This Jewish puzzle isn't all Madonna and JESUS, though; the MOSLEMS and ASIA in general all get a little play. An ecumenical crossword! Plus three X's in the grid, catering to Scrabble worshippers. The Hitchcockian clue for BIRDS is godawful—I made the mistake of watching The Birds by myself late at night in the basement when I was a teenager, and it absolutely freaked me out. In general I like birds, but my husband views The Birds as documentarian in nature and has an abiding mistrust of avian motives. Regardless of whether birds are malevolent descendants of carnivorous dinosaurs, this crossword was delightful.

You may be thinking to yourself, "Self, it looks like she's drunk-blogging about crosswords again." Au contraire! I am merely stoked on IHOP's tasty corn cakes, and I had quite a pleasant day today overall. Have you ever been photographed at the lakefront while doing a crossword (a Sunday NYT by Manny Nosowsky in a "Shortz's Favorites" book) in the rain? I recommend it highly.

The preceding paragraphs were written before I fell asleep in my kid's room, and it took me a while to rouse my cruciverbal brain from inside the "must sleep" brain in order to tackle the Thursday NYT by Nancy Salomon. At least it didn't take me long to figure out the first rebus square, where C[LAM]MING UP meets BED[LAM]. What took longer was finding the other rebus squares and finding out if they contained [LAM] or other letters. The core of the puzzle is the Del Shannon song title, MY LITTLE RUNAWAY, with being on the lam meaning running away—but alas, I've never heard of the song. And the rebus squares are contained within six of the longest entries, with those answers in symmetrical positions, except there's also the spot near the middle where the short [LAM]ED crosses C[LAM]OR and A[LAM]OS/A[LAM]EDA in the upper right, just to shake things up a bit. And the clue for C[LAM]OR is [Hubbub]—with four boxes, I'll bet I wasn't the only one who quickly filled in the crosswordy STIR. The rebused entries are a lively bunch, with DON'T B[LAM]E ME, FLIMF[LAM]MERY, CA[LAM]ITY JANE, and PIE A [LA M]ODE. Elsewhere in the fill, it's nice to have NORMA RAE rather than ["Norma ___"]. For richer analysis, I defer to you—this homeostatic drive for sleep will not be denied.


Dan Naddor's LA Times puzzle has five unlabeled theme entries that begin with successive letter pairs. That is, CD-ROM, E.F. HUTTON, UV PROTECTION, VW BEETLE, and XY CHROMOSOME. No AB-NEGATIVE blood type, J.K. ROWLING, NO SYNTHASE (obscure, but it's in a paper I'm editing this week), or S-T INTERVAL (sorry, more medical terminology) here, but I do like the theme. Bonus points for having both DODO and BOZOS in the puzzle.

Matt Gaffney's Onion A.V. Club crossword, "Read That Article Again," plays around with the aural confusion between A + an N word and AN + a vowel word. Thus, the brown pigment lottery involves picking A NUMBER or AN UMBER AT RANDOM. Long vertical entries bind together three of the four 15-letter theme entries, so the construction is ambitious. Two things I didn't like: XANDO, the [Coffee chain that merged with Cosi in 1999] (never heard of it during the several years the name was in use), and [She gives Woody a woody] for SOON-YI (because technically, we don't know that he's not impotent, do we? Plus, she might be getting a little old for his taste.).

Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy has an unusual type of theme—five pairs of 5-letter words that intersect at vowels in their middles. The pairs appear in vowel-alphabetical order, from BRAIN / DRAIN down to SOUND / TRUCK. The fill includes several Scrabbly letters (J, X, Q), but overall seemed a little dry, with words llike MANDREL, ALIENEE, and CHINSTRAP taking up some real estate. I suppose the five criss-crossed theme pairs constrain the rest of the fill more than traditional all-horizontal theme entries?