July 13, 2007

Saturday, 7/14

NYT 6:17
LAT 5:21
Newsday 5:20
CS 3:20

(updated at 9:30 a.m. Saturday)

I have some new hobbies now. I compulsively refresh the book's Amazon page: Where has its Amazon sales rank landed for this part of the day? Who is this schmo selling the book at a discount of 2¢ (just $3.99 shipping and handling—what a non-bargain!)? Will there ever be a customer review? How many stars? Will any nice reviews make it look like my friends and relatives are stacking the deck? The other hobbies involve checking the Borders and Barnes & Noble sites to see whether my local stores ever carry the book. "Not in stock," one says. "You can order it, you know, but no, it's not in stock," says the other. Okay, granted, this is no Harry Potter juggernaut involving hordes of customers expecting to find the book the instant the publication date arrives, and crossword books are probably a fairly sleepy corner of most bookstores, but still...it'd be nice to see the book parked in the store.

The Saturday NYT crossword was constructed by Vic Fleming. The 15-letter vertical entry down the middle demands to know, WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA? Well, there are a number of big ideas in this puzzle. ASIANS, clued as [Easterners]—there are billions of Asians. The BEATLES, with a curveball clue, [Former Shea players]. A FIREBOMB gets attention, too. Hardest clues/answers: MARANTA, [Plant of the arrowroot family] (click the link, and you'll probably recognize the plant in the photo); [Shucks, so to speak] for LIES TO (I'm guessing "shucks" here means "shuck 'n' jive"); the [Threaded holder] has nothing to do with sewing, but rather, a T-NUT; [Sigmoid curves] is OGEES, not ESSES; [Snow on an album cover] is the late country singer HANK Snow; the glassy combo of PRISMS clued as [Dispersion devices] and [Focus provider?] sounding lens-like but turning out to be the FORD Motor Company; [Curtain fabrics] for NINONS (I usually remember only that it's *I*ON, but forget the other letters); the PACER was an [Edsel model]; and [Thin] is RARE, but I still don't quite understand the connection.

Terry BRADSHAW at 1-Across wasn't as tough for me, but it was one of a number of answers I pieced together with the aid of the crossing words. Others included Aunt ELLER, Christopher Columbus the MARINER, and HIMSELF as a [Word in a documentary's credits] (here's Vic as Himself in Wordplay). Not to mention James ENSOR, ["Christ's Entry Into Brussels in 1889" painter]—the painting depicts Christ coming into Brussels in a Mardi Gras parade (!). There were plenty of other answers that had to be teased out.

Favorite bits: [San Francisco neighborhood, with "the"] for CASTRO; [Swiss multinational] for NESTLE (mmm, chocolate); [One along an autobahn?] for EIN (German "please," BITTE, also pops in); [High ones may produce a roar] for RPMS (does a stoned lion also roar?); Picasso's companion DORA MAAR; SNORKEL; [Return address abbr.?] for IRS; and B DALTON. Vic is a judge, so the legal slant to the puzzle is a fun bonus. SLOBS are [Folks guilty of disorderly conduct], we'll IMPANEL a jury, the HIREE is a [Fresh face at a firm], and VENICE is [Where Antonio and Shylock litigate].


Today's themed CrosSynergy puzzle is by Will Johnston puts the theme in the clues: the vowel series [HACK], [HECK], [HICK], [HOCK], and [HUCK]. Some excellent fill in there—STAGE MOM and TIME BOMB, poet NIKKI Giovanni and JAPANESE. Hey, if you aren't in the habit of fetching puzzles from Will's Puzzle Pointers site, you've been missing out. In addition to having handy links for the day's new puzzles from major venues, Puzzle Pointers also offers access to months of archived puzzles in many cases. Will is one of those altruistic citizens of Crosswordland who help others feed their crossword addiction.

Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's LA Times puzzle offers a twist on the triple-stack grid, with the top and bottom of the grid containing a 14-letter entry stacked outside a pair of 15s. The 14s make up a mini-theme: NATIONAL ANTHEM and LA MARSEILLAISE, celebrating Bastille Day today. Best misstep: Seeing that the beginning of the [Classic ultimatum] was LOVE ME, I filled in the rest of the line with LOVE MY DOG. Now, that's more of a proverb than an ultimatum, isn't it? It was supposed to be LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME.

This week's Newsday Saturday Stumper is by Merle Baker. The grid's anchored by a trellis of 15-letter entries. One of them was a gimme because it's practically a regular in themeless puzzles with 15s—[Masthead credit] means something editorial, and the 15-letter ASSISTANT EDITOR, with its super-common letters, has appeared in no fewer than six themeless puzzles since 2000. (The song A TEENAGER IN LOVE has also found its way into many a triple-stack, and constructors who use it from here on out will probably get made fun of in certain circles.) [Obama in '08] kept me guessing for a ridiculous amount of time—all sorts of possibilities were too long (DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE) or too short (PRESIDENT-ELECT), not to mention too prognosticatory for an '07 crossword clue. FRESHMAN SENATOR! Yes. In '08, he enters the second half of his first term in the Senate. My favorite part of this puzzle: [Former SNL regular], 6 letters. MURRAY, MURPHY, CURTIN, MORRIS, RADNER? No, it's claymation MR. BILL!