6/29 CHE 4:32
(updated at 1 p.m. Friday)
Oooh! Friday the 13th! It's not looking too unlucky, what with Friday crosswords—a themeless from Manny Nosowsky in the New York Times and a themed New York Sun crossword by Gary Steinmehl.
Steinmehl's Sun crossword, "Coast to Coast," has an intricate theme: Three 17-letter phrases that begin and end with letter pairs that double as state postal abbreviations, in geographic order. [WA]STE PRECIOUS TI[ME] has Washington and Maine in the northernmost corners of the West and East Coasts. The [OR]ANGE RIVER COLO[NY] (which I'd never heard of before) takes us down the coasts a bit to Oregon and New York. Farther south, we have California and Delaware in [CA]LLS A SPADE A SPA[DE]. I don't know how Steinmehl managed to come up with the idea and to find a trio of 17-letter phrases that would fit. And the fill surrounding these phrases is good, Scrabbly stuff, too—TUXEDO, CAJUN, KABUKI. Favorite clues: the gender-neutral [Wedding dress] for TUXEDO; [Scrabble], the verb, for CLAW; [It shouldn't be tried by people who aren't good at English] for the billiards shot called MASSE; [Turn over] for RESELL; [Roman goddess of the dead] for MANIA (really!); [No alternative] for KABUKI (No is another spelling for Noh); and [Coleus's cousin], an out-there clue for THYME. Fun to see Super Dave OSBORNE's name—his real name is Bob Einstein, and his brother, born Albert Einstein, is better known as comedian and actor Albert Brooks.
Now, wasn't I just saying last week that themeless puzzles packed with 7-letter answers tend to be so boring? Well, when half of them are phrases and the clues have some zip to them, the puzzle's quite likeable, and this explains why the phrase "a Manny Friday" brings happiness to many NYT solvers. The first five Across answers are fairly lively phrases: "BUT THEN," "the JIG IS UP," EN ROUTE, ON A ROLL, and SWING AT. The town of ENOLA, Pennsylvania, is awfully small, but if we have to have ENOLA, it's nice to have a switch from the Enola Gay. Le Bon Bock means "The Good Pint" and is a beer-themed painting by MANET. I don't think any local movie theater bills itself as a three-screen TRIPLEX. Clues I liked best: [Topless?] for BALD; [Spandex and Lurex] for TEXTILES; [Dog] for FLOP; [What you do if you can't beat the suckers] for JOIN 'EM; [What X + Y signifies] for MALE SEX; the doubled-up Mexico clues, [Mex. is in it] for NAFTA and [Neighbor of Mex.] for GUAT (-emala); [Very much] for BIG TIME as an adverb; and [7-up, e.g.] for a TIE score. Favorite entries: WALKMAN; ZOOT SUIT; XENIA (a friend of mine, our most frequent houseguest, says I am a most xenial hostess); and MELROSE Place. Least favorite bits: UNWEAVE (though the Minnesota highway folks have an Unweave the Weave initiative); ETHANES; LIE IDLE (though it Googles up OK); plural BEIGES; the ESSAYER who tries so hard to be a word that's actually used in English.
Elizabeth Gorski constructed this week's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Laboratory Chic." The theme entries are akin to Wheel of Fortune "Before and After" answers, but in each case, the "before" portion starts with a chemical element and the "after" answer is an item of apparel. Thus, the [Day-Glo accessories for Special Forces troops] are NEON GREEN BERETS. There are six of these entries, all bundled together under the rubric ELEMENTS OF STYLE, [Classic writer's manual, and an alternate title for this puzzle]. Liz is a musician, so the score directions allegro ASSAI and SUBITO show up here. Elsewhere in the grid, ICES UP crosses the partial IT UP and SPEED UP; if those little dupes irk you, I hope they didn't keep you from enjoying the wonderful clues, such as [Compact disc?] for MIRROR (as in a makeup compact); [Pocket protector?] for MISER; and [Ham's place, perhaps] for ON RYE (I was thinking STAGE and NOAH'S ARK). Fill highlights include ACTION HERO and CIGAR BUTT (ick, cigars). The flower BETONY was unfamiliar to me, so I read up on it in Wikipedia.
Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle, "What Happened?", rehashes the ending of The Sopranos, featuring lead character ANTHONY / SOPRANO: A JOURNEY song plays, followed by 11 seconds of SILENCE, and then, ROLL END / CREDITS. Great-looking grid with tons of longer fill. The risqué content comes in the form of [The feeling may be mutual], ORGASM; I like the words that cross that one, such as SCHOOLGIRL, TOSTADA, and MIASMAS.
Jim Leeds' Chronicle of Higher Ed crossword, "Snake Handling," features assorted herpetological puns. I wouldn't describe my reaction to these puns as FEH ([Yiddish expression of disgust]), but this puzzle seemed a little less rewardingly smart than many other CHE puzzles.
Thomas Schier melds state names in his CrosSynergy puzzle, "United States!" MAINEBRASKANSAS is a mash-up of Maine, Nebraska, and Kansas, for example. You know me and geography—I eat that stuff up.
Jack McInturff's LA Times puzzle excises an AL from each theme entry. [Danger for a shark under a boat?] is FIN JEOPARDY—funny, but when I think about sharks and jeopardy, I don't typically think of the dangers faced by the shark.
July 12, 2007