(updated at 10:55 a.m. Tuesday)
Just one more week until How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle comes out! The publicist from St. Martin's is contemplating some events at local bookstores, which is mildly discomfiting. I mean, eek! I've never done any such thing. I am having a momentary freak-out because while the Amazon page still doesn't have a picture of the book, the St. Martin's website shows a cover design other than the one I was told was final—and the cover design seen on the St. Martin's site omits my name completely. That had better be a placeholder image! [The actual cover has my name, I'm told. Whew!]
Kelsey Blakley's Sun crossword, "4x4," has nothing to do with four-wheel drive trucks. Rather, each of theme entries (clued straightforwardly) contains a repeated letter string. Each string is 4 letters long, and each is repeated immediately. And there are seven theme entries totalling a whopping 81 squares! (That's mighty fancy constructin' there.) What I like best are the two 8-letter phrases: HOTSHOTS, which looks like HOTS HOTS, and SHOWS HOW, which looks like SHOW SHOW. The duplications all tend to be subtle, the sort of thing nobody notices unless they're cruciverbally obsessed. ROMA TOMATOES contains two OMATs? Who knew? The non-theme fill is a bit less ICE-smooth than many Sun puzzles, but lacks any horrible compromises that call the theme's rightness into question. Clues and fill I liked: [Mother of Boeotus, in mythology] for ARNE (rather than the crossword habitué, composer Thomas Arne); SKOSH; a Pink album title I didn't know, I'M NOT DEAD; BEAT IT; ERIN MORAN with her full name (I wonder if the actress is aware just how often her name's in crosswords); and ["Twain," when repeated] for CHOO. As a theme entry, IS THIS THING ON? is terrific—a colorful phrase in and of itself, with a duplicated ISTH to boot.
The NYT crossword by Norma Johnson combines a clean and simple theme—three completely unrelated phrases that end with the synonymous QUICK, FAST, and SWIFT. The elegance comes from those three words all being used in non-speed contexts. I also liked the pervading sub-theme of internationalism. The RELIGIOUS FAST ties to ALLAH. Asia and the Pacific get TAO, OAHU, MAORIS, and the CASTE system. Europe gets the French AOUT and SEL, IRISH, the Scottish KILT and NAES, and an ALP. North America garners TEPEE and the NAACP. Nongeographic highlights include IN-JOKE, BLACK-TIE, Studs TERKEL, and QUAFF.
Ben Tausig doubles up this week with his Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword and the Onion A.V. Club puzzle. The Onion seasons soup with puns: there's NIELS BORSCHT (Bohr), for example, and GENGHIS CONSOMME (Khan), and ED MISO (Meese) soup. Favorite clues: [True dat, to Shakespeare] for 'TIS; [Makes the fridge stink, perhaps] for ROTS; and [Outstanding] for UNPAID. There's some Scrabbly fill to munch on, too. TRINI moves beyond Trini Lopez to be clued as slang for Trinidadian; I knew a guy in college who was from Trinidad. Tricky spot for non-NBA fans, where [Teammate of Yao, to fans] crosses either TIC or TAC; T-MAC (not T-MIC) is Tracy McGrady.
In Ben's Reader puzzle, "TVMDs," four TV doctors play a starring role. I was hoping puppy-dog-eyed DOUG ROSS would make the cut, but no. My second-favorite TV doc is here, though: GREGORY HOUSE, along with Alan Alda's HAWKEYE PIERCE, MEREDITH GREY of Grey's Anatomy (don't watch the show, have forgotten the actress's name), and Bill Cosby's CLIFF HUXTABLE. Other highlights, besides the lovely TV theme: The Live song I ALONE (video here if you're hankering to hear the song again); terrible AIR BUD; two [Revolutionary computer]s stacked up, the ENIAC and ATARI; SEPPUKU ([Final act for some samurais]); [Keys on the piano?] for ALICIA Keys (whereas [Key of "The Star-Spangled Banner"] is not Francis Scott, but B FLAT); and [Ganja] for HERB. Out of left field: the never-heard-of-it Saudi province ASIR.
It took some looking to identify the theme in Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's LA Times crossword: BOX OFFICE, SET AN EXAMPLE, TELLY SAVALAS, and TUBE SOCKS make a fun foursome, don't they? (Especially the last two!) I reckon they're all TV terms, though who calls a TV a BOX? There's a cable box, sure.
July 02, 2007