July 14, 2007

Sunday, 7/15

Reagle 9:29
NYT 8:30 to 9:00-ish
LAT 7:53
WaPo 7:23
BG 6:57
CS 3:32

(updated at 12:20 p.m. Sunday)

That crazy New York Times crossword applet went on the fritz shortly after I started solving Patrick Berry's puzzle, "In the Beginning." So I started over again in Across Lite. These things happen, eh?

Oh! Before I forget, there's another of George Bredehorn's Split Decisions puzzles as the Second Sunday NYT puzzle. I always enjoy those, though I confess that sometimes I get deeply mired in a few tricky spots.

One of the things I liked in the Berry crossword was the preponderance of perky 5-letter words, such as GLINT, SLINK, CRISP, DUMPS, EXCON...and smack-dab in the middle of the grid, BONGS! It's clued as [Water pipes], and Wikipedia says the word comes to us from Thai. (In my senior year of college, there was a freshman drug dealer across the hall. He had the unfortunate habit of dumping his bong water out in the nearby women's shower and not rinsing it down the drain. I learned that stale bong water really reeks.) Other great entries were GIVE A DARN, NAME DAY, and TV STARS, along with the medieval trio of RUNE, MEAD, and SAXON.

• The theme entries are phrases that have adopted an extra IN- at the beginning, changing their meaning. My favorites were the INVOICE OF DOOM, the Harry Potter slant of INVOCATIONAL SCHOOL, and the [Sharply focused Warsaw residents?], INTENT POLES.

• Head-scratcher clues/answers: [Basque novelist Pio] BAROJA (apparently an influence on Hemingway); [Ancient Greece's Seven ___] SAGES, "often regarded as the founders of Greek philosophy."

• Best clues: [It's often put on paper] for POST-IT; [One who's expected to deliver?] for MESSIAH; [All your work may go into it] for RESUME (here are some entertaining excerpts from résumés and cover letters); [Cod pieces?] for FINS; and [One who's done stretches?] for EXCON. ["Hellboy" star Ron] for PERLMAN reminds me: If you haven't seen Hellboy, you should—comic-book action + wry humor = a good time.


Randolph Ross's syndicated LA Times puzzle, "Or Else," adds an OR to the beginning of a word in each theme entry's base phrase. Hey, I liked this theme! I missed ever learning about the HYADES, [Rain-bringers of Greek myth], but the rest of the fill was words, names, and phrases I've seen before. Plenty of good clues. I liked the interplay between [Chard lover's prefix] for OENO (Chard being short for chardonnay) and the theme entry, SWISS ORCHARD, [Alpine apple site?], building on the leafy veggie Swiss chard.

I also really enjoyed Harvey Estes' Washington Post puzzle, "Bird Cages," in which the theme entries follow the "Before and After" format with the middle word being a bird. For example, [Saloon in a Western novel?] is LONESOME DOVE BAR (mmm, Dove bar...chocolate). Favorite clues: [He had a hunch] for IGOR (!); [Still yield] for MOONSHINE; [Biblical plot] for EDEN; and [Soft rock] for TALC. I missed the equivalence between "thin" and "rare" in Saturday's NYT crossword, but here's RARE clued as [Like mountain air]. Okay, then! I get it now.

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Apply Directly to Your (___)," anoints the solver with plenty of skin lotions and hair products. Some of the embedded goos are at the end of the theme entries, while others are in the middle. TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL parses as "Touched By an An" hair Gel; the subsequent theme entries contain SALVE, SPRAY, BALM, CREAM, BUTTER (I swear by shea butter for dry skin—this one's unscented and available in most malls), OIL, OINTMENT, and MOUSSE (in ENORMOUS SEEDPODS, which is not a phrase one encounters often!).

Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" is among the easier themeless puzzles I've seen. It probably helped that I had chicken CANNELLONI on Tuesday night, and that there was only one "Huh?" entry. That would be HARA, [Biblical place of exile]. I can't find anything via Google that makes this look like anything other than an obscure place name mentioned in the bible but of no import. Anyone know more about Hara as a place of exile? I enjoyed ORANGE TREE sitting in the same grid as FREE-RANGE—look at those chunks of letters they share. THE FONZ seems to be getting more play in crosswords these days, and I like clues that hark back to my TV-watching youth.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's online Boston Globe puzzle, "Pop Psychology," might have originally run on Father's Day last month—the theme's a [condensed quote by Frederic F. Van de Water] about fatherhood. Meh, quote puzzles. The quote itself wasn't particularly amusing. At least the non-theme clues were easy enough to make filling in the quote less of a slog. (There are those who peg quote puzzles as being unsatisfying because there's only a single "aha!" in the whole theme. I think they're onto something...)