(updating Tuesday in dribs and drabs...okay, done at 1:30 p.m.)
You know how vexing it is when you accidentally put the wrong letter into a crossword square, but that wrong letter masks itself by forming a familiar crossword answer in the crossing? And you scan every Across entry looking for something amiss, eventually finding the outlier in the 12th column of Down answers? My, that's bothersome.
Crossword constructor and illustrator Patrick Merrell has launched a blog, Pat Tricks. The highlight thus far is the debut of a weekly comic strip, "Squares," starring a black square and a white square talking smack about life in the grid. Coffee fiends, take note: Pat's next book is Coffee Time, featuring trivia and puzzles about that hot caffeinated concoction.
Bruce Adams' New York Times puzzle has four long theme entries that change a 4-letter plural into what sounds like its nickname. Thus, White Sox fans turn into WHITE SOX FANNIES perched on the bench, and [Angry rabbits in August] are HOT CROSS BUNNIES. (If you ask me, hot + cross is a feeling that deserves its own adjective, along the lines of hungry + cranky = hangry. I get ornery when it's too warm in the house, and dangit, I need an adjective! Suggestions?) The highlight of this puzzle, for me, was the pair of quasi-themeless corners with 9-letter entries stacked alongside a 15-letter theme entry. Did you know that ESPERANTO is a [Language in which plurals are formed by adding -oj]? I did not. (And apparently there are hundreds of "native speakers" who learned Esperanto from their parents!) Oh, that typo I had? Somehow ABBE found its way into the grid as EBBE, crossing _LBA and looking awfully plausible. Alas, the isle of Elba was not called for, but the Duchess of ALBA was.
In his 15x16 New York Sun crossword grid, Barry Silk tacks on an -ING to rework a movie title. The best of the three theme entries in "Filming Retakes" is THE RIGHT STUFFING. Me, I always like to see ORANGE in the crossword grid, even if it must be sandwiched between CAVIAR and TIN GOD. Seeing EMILIO clued as [Actor Estevez] reminds me of a wee in-joke in the cartoon, Jimmy Neutron. Scientific genius boy Jimmy has a pal named Sheen Estevez—Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez being two of Martin Sheen's four actor sons.
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Curses," has just three theme entries, FOUR-LETTER WORDS and a pair of phrases made of nonprofane four-letter words. These are supplemented by an FCUK at 1-Across, as in French Connection UK and its logo tees.Favorite clues: [Sue, e.g.] for T. REX; [Bender for one hoping to get married?] for KNEE; [Pittsburgh, Akron, et al.] for RUST BELT; [Upper] for STIMULANT; and [Stick in a certain body canal] (!) for Q-TIP. I never heard of the [Swiss cheese plant, e.g.], but last weekend I went to the Garfield Park Conservatory and visited the AROID Room. PTL is clued with reference to Jim and Tammy Faye; Tammy Faye Bakker Messner died last week. (I heard a replay of her Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross yesterday—I hadn't known that Tammy Faye embraced people with AIDS when many others shunned them.) [Like much of the crowd at Star Gaze] must be a reference to this Andersonville restaurant and dance club, Andersonville being WOMEN's answer to Boystown. Two phone answers in this puzzle: the terrific Internet telephony service SKYPE and PAY PHONES, clued as [Outmoded communication devices]. I'm a little surprised by the number of pay phones that remain in my Chicago neighborhood, but hey, not everyone can afford a cell phone.
This week's Onion A.V. Club crossword is by Byron Walden. Byron pulls out five rhymes for booze; e.g., [Intoxicant discussed online] is BLOGGER LAGER. (Though this blogger much prefers ale and will discuss no lager online.) Favorite fill entries: MMM BOP (What on earth were the Village Voice critics thinking, picking that as best single of '97?), CHINA SEA, HIGHER-UP, PATSIES, and CLIP ART. Boring old ENID, Oklahoma, gets a breath of fresh air with a Jurassic Park III quote in the clue. '70s nostalgia pops up in a couple spots. The clue for CPO references the '70s Don Rickles sitcom, C.P.O. Sharkey, which I actually watched. And then there's the original host of Soul Train, DON Cornelius—Soul Train was originally a Chicago show aired on a local UHF station. The puzzle goes juvenile with [Kindergarten whiz?] for PEEPEE, but skews "adult" with [Hot times for stags?] for RUTS. Romanian-born actress ELINA Löwensohn has a crossword-friendly first name, but didn't recognize her name or her movie, Nadja—a "postmodern vampire tale," apparently. ALI moves beyond boxers and actress McGraw and Ali Baba to cite actress [Larter of "Heroes"]. Was anyone else disappointed that [Exerts dominance over, in slang] was OWNS rather than PWNS?
Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's LA Times crossword is a little buggy, with four theme entries that end with types of ANT. Who doesn't love the KAREN CARPENTER ant? By the way, if you ever get a chance to catch the cable documentary about the siafu ants that can eat animals and attack people, don't miss it! Unless it sounds like it might give you nightmares, in which case, pretend I never said anything, okay?
I call foul on a crossing in Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle. Crossing an abbreviation for football positions with a football player I never heard of. Sammy BAUGH apparently peaked as a player during World War II. Hey, could someone provide a list of all the football position abbreviations? Other than QBS, they tend to look like random letters. All right, what else about this puzzle? It's a quote puzzle, CHARLES DICKENS slamming lawyers. Meh.
July 23, 2007