What happens when someone talks about crosswords in a venue that's usually about something completely different? At Kevin Drum's blog, Political Animal, he mentioned struggling with the Saturday puzzle, coming over here to see if it had also vexed me, and discovering that there is a new book that can give him the keys to the kingdom of crossword triumph (I paraphrase). Some of his commenters chatted about crosswords, and some of them were just haters. "Mellors," for example, wrote, "hard to think of anything more boringly inane than the deracinated associational fragments involved in Jeopardy or doing crosswords but comments here give slight insight into obsessional grey world fluctuating between alpha and beta brain waves in service of escapist mindful mindlessness. One more thing to do while waiting to die." (By George, I think he's got it!) '"desmoinesdem" says, "I hate crossword puzzles. I like cryptic crosswords better, because more of the information you need to solve the puzzle is right there in the clues. I like logic problems the best, because all of the info you need to solve them is right there." (Well, that's hardly sporting, expecting to be given all the information ahead of time.) A "Steve Paradis" writes this blasphemy: "Forget the help books, get a crossword dictionary." (Where's the fun in that?!? Once you learn to ride a bike without training wheels, you chuck the training wheels—you don't scrupulously avoid learning to balance.)
I think this is Elizabeth A. Long's NYT constructing debut (though Cruciverb shows a December 2005 LA Times puzzle with her byline), and it's pretty nifty for a Monday puzzle. (Congratulations!) The theme is HOW TO FIX / YOUR HAIR: SAGEBRUSH and HONEYCOMB it, STRIPTEASE it up just so, and OCEANSPRAY it into place. Six theme entries mean that every section of the puzzle shares space with a theme answer. In addition to all the standard Monday-type fill, this crossword's got some zippy longer fill, like Kevin COSTNER and GUILTY OF, as well as a couple X's and a Z.
The Monday Sun crossword's by Byron Walden, and that's not a name one associates with Monday puzzles. (Though a Monday Sun is more like a Wednesday Times, really.) Super-tight theme, this "Flight Manual"—the first word of each of the four theme entries rhymes with flight and the second word relates to the hands (manual = "of or relating to the hands"). We've got a LIGHT-FINGERED pickpocket, TIGHT-FISTED miser, RIGHT-HANDED non-lefty, and a WHITE-KNUCKLED scaredy-cat. Favorite entries: DOLLAR SIGN, SHOUT-OUT ([Public thanks]), and the square-dancing DO-SI-DO. Favorite clues: [Cold pad?] for IGLOO and [Synonymous rhyme for cache] for STASH. MADE EASY leads off the section that contains the Scrabbly crossing of AJAX and MAZE—perhaps Byron could write up a Crossword Construction Made Easy book. (Shout-out here to Patrick Berry, who's already written such a book, Crossword Puzzle Challenges for Dummies.)
July 15, 2007