July 21, 2007

Sunday, 7/22

Reagle 8:54
NYT 8:26
BG 8:26
WaPo 7:49
LAT 7:02
CS 3:53

(updated at noonish Sunday)

The Sunday New York Times puzzle this week is by David Levinson Wilk. His new book of puzzles came out this summer, and I have a copy of it, but I haven't cracked it open yet. Maybe after I finish Hook's book, I'll get to it.

Anyway, the NYT crossword's called "Worst Pickup Lines." Now, yesterday's puzzle had AMORIST clued as [Love lover]. I looked the word up (and linked to the page I consulted) because it really wasn't that familiar to me, and read the American Heritage Dictionary definition: 1. One dedicated to love, especially sexual love. 2. One who writes about love. Further down that page were some synonyms from the thesaurus, and those words had a different sense for "amorist": A man amorously attentive to women: Casanova, Don Juan, gallant, lady's man, Lothario, Romeo. Now I'm glad my eyeballs scanned that page because [Amorist] popped up as a clue in the Sunday puzzle, first letter R, and ROMEO came right to mind in a way it wouldn't if I'd only known the dictionary definition. I routinely look up words that aren't so familiar as they're used in a crossword, and it really does help cement those words and meanings in my head for the next time I encounter the word.

(Another example: Karen Tracey had the Tanzanian island of PEMBA in one of her puzzles this weekend, and I'd never heard of it before. Just today, I was checking the postage rates for international mail, and wouldn't you know it? There was Pemba, about 10 notches above the Philippines. Pemba's big enough for the USPS to include it separate from Tanzania—but, um, I didn't really read much of the Wikipedia article when I looked that one up for a link in my post the other day. I await Pemba's next intrusion into my consciousness.)

This crossword includes the dreadful punchlines of seven bad pickup lines, such as ["Even though we've never met, I'm sure your last name is Campbell. That's because..."] YOU'RE MMM, MMM, GOOD. Bundle these together in one place, and they're painfully entertaining. Outside of the funny theme, the puzzle's overall vibe has zing and zip. There's BOOTSY Collins, who can make Elton John's '70s style look tame; MARY ANN from Gilligan's Island; a TWO-FOOTER putt on the golf course; AKRON, OHIO beside SHRUGS OFF; [It gets a licking] for POPSICLE (now with exploding candy tip!); a SIX-string guitar; [Rich with humor] sounding like a description rather than Rich LITTLE; dancing the CHA CHA.

Wait a minute: Who is NPR's SCOTT Simon? Oh, he hosts Weekend Edition Saturday, which airs here between 7 and 9 a.m., when I don't have the radio on. Who the hell are LFO? Oh, they're also called Lyte Funky Ones, best known for their 1999 hit, "Summer Girls," which I've never heard of. Who's DEE DEE Bridgewater? A jazz singer, two-time Grammy winner, Tony winner (1975), and "the first American to be inducted to the Haut Conseil de la Francophonie."


Harvey Estes has two puzzles out today. The syndicated LA Times crossword, "Off to the Races," has a lively batch of theme entries, all of which begin with kinds of races: ROAD, FOOT, BARREL, HORSE, DRAG, THREE-LEGGED, ARMS, and the noncompetitive HUMAN race. My hunch is that the THREE-LEGGED STOOL/three-legged race combo was the seed for this theme. I like how the blissful ARMS OF MORPHEUS defang the ugly arms race. Overall, a fun crossword. Harvey also cosntructed the themeless CrosSynergy puzzle: Pretty grid, isn't it, with its four-way symmetry? Best entry: I HEARD THAT!

Merl Reagle marks the release of the seventh Harry Potter book with an encore presentation of "How Do You Spell Harry Potter?" The theme entries are phrases that sound like they could double as the results of magic spells. CAULIFLOWER EARS? TWO LEFT FEET? BUTTERFLIES / IN ONE'S STOMACH? All part of our whimsical language.

Henry Hook's Boston Globe crossword, "Not a Bit," is an anti-rebus puzzle: Each theme entry has had BIT removed from it, though it's clued with the intact phrase. The results are mighty dry, though—UMINOUS COAL? PHENOBARAL? OUARY COLUMNS? HOOP is clued as [Farthingale part]; a farthingale is a hoop skirt. (Who knew? Not I.) SAMP is clued as [Hominy cereal]; apparently the word goes back to colonial times. Speaking of corn products, I read [Corneal irritation] as [Cornmeal irritation].

Robert Wolfe's Washington Post crossword builds on sports terms, adding a few letters to the end to get somethign new: e.g., BASEBALL BATTLER, WRESTLING HOLDOUT.