July 29, 2007

Sunday, 7/29

Reagle 10:04
BG 9:21
LAT 8:59
NYT 8:52
WaPo 8:12
CS 6:28

I had a great time during my 12 hours at the BlogHer conference yesterday. The keynoter was Elizabeth Edwards, who stuck around for the cocktail reception (where I snapped a photo of her with my phone). She's one of those articulate people who speaks in paragraphs—and given that the keynote event was in Q&A format, it's not as if those paragraphs were written in advance. Though I'm sure Edwards has had opportunities to address the public on many of the topics, when have you heard her talk about blogging or elder care? If you've never seen her, how tall do you think she is?

The other famous speaker at the conference was Amy Sedaris. She was a panelist at a craft blogging session, and crafts, really not my thing. I prefer my Sedari (is that not the plural of Sedaris?) to be entertaining me with their wit, but still, it was cool to be at the same party as someone I saw on Letterman recently.

The conference gave me some ideas about expanding my site, maybe during the coming year. The swag was decent—a messenger bag and a mini flash drive were the highlights. Also popcorn and cotton candy for an afternoon snack, and seas of free wine at the reception. I also picked up a brown Blogger-logo t-shirt, size XL, but jettisoned it when I realized I had absolutely no use for such a thing. The green tea "pillow mist" and affiliated lotions and whatnot, also no use. A pin advertising a brand of whole turkeys, no use. A giant ballpoint ben (about a foot long and an inch thick), no use—though now that I think of it, my son would've loved that! Oh, well.

In the "small world" category, I gave my pseudo business card to a woman who said, "A friend of mine writes crossword puzzles that have been in the New York Times." She knows Vic Fleming down in Little Rock! We talked about Vic (saying only nice things, of course), so his ears may have been burning around 8:00 last night.

Moving right along, it is possible that today's batch of crosswords is the single finest batch of crosswords ever published on the same day (pretending, for our purposes, that the Boston Globe puzzle available online wasn't published weeks ago). Congrats to all the constructors and editors for compiling such an entertaining set of puzzles! That I enjoyed their efforts despite a soupçon of hangover headache is to their credit.

Today's themeless CrosSynergy puzzle is by Bob Klahn, which means tough but spot-on clues and lively fill. What's good about the fill? Lots of combos that resonate, such as two first/last name entries, a few animals (including the [Honey badger], a.k.a. RATEL), pop culture, and a few phrases or words with Scrably letters. The clues offer some interesting trivia in addition to making you contemplate alternative meanings of the words Klahn uses.

This week's Across Lite offering from the Boston Globe is Henry Hook's "Solving for X." The answers to the puzzle-within-a-puzzle are prepositional phrases (or words/phrases that include a prepositiony component, like UNDERSTANDING) cleverly clued via sort of a rebus (using the standard idea of what a rebus is as opposed to the crossword-speak version): Solve for X in [CAXUSE], where the X is in the middle of cause, and the answer is WITHIN REASON. I love this sort of theme, and it's executed to perfection in this crossword. There's some sparkle in the surrounding fill to boot (PEEVISHLY, PATTYCAKE, POOL CUE). A bit of old-school crosswordese sneaks in, but with a clue that redeems it: ESNE is [A slave to puzzles?]. The only bit of mystery fill here, for me, was British actress LYSETTE Anthony, whose name I'm noting so I might remember it if she pops up in another puzzle some day. This crossword is going in my "great puzzles" folder.

I also enjoyed Elizabeth Gorski's Washington Post crossword, "White House Guest List," a lot. If you're up on your presidential middle name trivia, this one's for you. And if you're not up on the trivia, hey, this will teach you a bit. The clues throughout were fun—SODA is [Counter offer?], for example, and plenty of other short and ordinary words had light, fun clues. I learned a new vocabulary word, too: EMBROCATE means to rub with liniment or lotion, for medicinal or religious purposes. This winter, when my skin's dry, I expect to embrocate with shea butter or lotion more often than I do in the summer. And I hope I remember the word, because I've been embrocating for years without realizing that's what I was doing. Dry skin? Embrocate!

This is a fantastic day for crosswords. I'm writing about the puzzles in the order I'm solving them, and these first four have been right up my alley. The syndicated LA Times crossword is Rich Norris's "Taking Too Much." (The name in the byline, Nora Pearlstone, is an anagram of "not a real person.") The theme entries "take too much" by ODing, or adding OD somewhere in the base phrase. My favorites among the 10 theme entries were GODOT MILK, clued as [School cafeteria order that never gets filled] (playing on the ad slogan, "Got milk?"), and PODUNK ROCKER, [Rural resting place]. Good fill, good clues, fun theme—good puzzle!

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "One Fine Day at the Health Expo," nourishes with health-food puns. (And yes, aloe counts as a food because some people do eat it.) Two obscure geographic names here: EVORA is a small city in Portugal (rated the country's third most livable city!), and TETIAROA, which I've heard of, is the Tahitian atoll Marlon Brando bought. I'm not in a pun mood today, but this is a good crossword nonetheless.

Another eminently likeable puzzle in Brendan Emmett Quigley's New York Times crossword, "Th-Th-Th-That's All, Folks!" The theme entries all end with a TH tacked onto a base phrase, with spelling changes as needed to transform the last word into a real word. Not one's cup of tea thus becomes NOT ONE'S CUP OF TEETH (eww!). Great theme entries, and great fill, too. I liked getting started with PING PONG (the basis for Pong, which my family had as a retro hand-me-down when my friends' families had Atari or Colecovision consoles) atop EMOTICONS atop a theme entry. As in the Klahn CrosSynergy puzzle, there are plenty of entries that resonate with one another: MOOCOW and NO MEAT; MA AND PA, the MISSIS (also spelled missus), and the unwed POSSLQS; an athlete having an OFF YEAR (that one stands alone, but I like it anyway); Hugh JACKMAN and MEG RYAN in opposite corners, and Alfred MOLINA and Peter O'TOOLE in symmetrical spots; MY BAD and BEATS ME.