July 30, 2007

Tuesday, 7/31

Onion 4:34
Tausig 4:02
NYS 3:43
LAT 2:59
NYT 2:53
CS 2:44

(updated at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday)

I tackled two extra puzzles today. The first is Patrick Merrell's "Special Delivery." This is reminiscent of last Friday's remarkable NY Sun crossword (in which Francis Heaney and Patrick Blindauer used the letters in the numbered squares to fill in the theme clues, acrostic-style), only more so! It's not a spoiler to reveal that every single white square in the puzzle is numbered, and every single letter's used once in an acrostic. You get a few clunky, obscure words, but hey, every single letter has to work in the Across and Down answers as well as in the acrostic. Bravo, Patrick! (If you want to hear how Patrick went about making this puzzle, read his making-of post.)

I also did Fred Piscop's 'Tour de France" puzzle at the NYT site (the monthly free bonus puzzle). I thought it would have a cycling theme (and my husband's a cycling fan—difficult though that is in these doping-crazed days!). It turned out to have a pervasive French theme—names and words that have a French connection; e.g., [Fictional French musketeer], [French's condiment]. Easy, but fun to have that sort of overriding theme sans a set of long theme answers.

Last weekend's NYT Second Sunday puzzle was a diagramless crossword by Byron Walden. I haven't done this one yet, but wanted to remind you—me, I often forget about the Second Sunday puzzle until I see a mention of it in the NYT forum or blog comments. I don't mind the biweekly acrostics, but I have a soft spot for the other assorted puzzle types that fill that spot during the acrostic's off weeks. If you usually avoid diagramless puzzles because the lack of black squares seems insurmountable, remember that there are two shortcuts: You can look up the starting square of 1-Across (as I usually do) to get a little boost, or you can convert the Across Lite puzzle and have it fill in all the black squares for you so you can solve it regularly. Sure, it's easier if you use one of those shortcuts, but there's no law against it!

The New York Times daily puzzle for Tuesday was constructed by Allan Parrish. The theme entries occupy four long slots in the corners as well as two entries that intersect in the center of the grid. One of the central answers is WALKS, and the other theme entries end with things that can precede that word. Too bad ROMERO is clued with reference to Cesar Romero who played the Joker rather than George Romero, the director of HORROR movies like Night of the Living Dead. Instead, HORROR pairs up with its opposite in the grid, POTPIE. I think that's apt. There's a bit of a sporty vibe in this puzzle, with SAMPRAS, CHAMP, and OLYMPIC—and APLOMB sort of ties into that. This crossword's also got a slew of people's names (about 20 of them), plus a couple car models, a ship, and a place. Some people grumble about that, but I enjoy name-dense crosswords.

Randall Hartman's New York Sun crossword's called "Ch-Ch-Changes." Each of the four theme entries is a phrase or compound word with two 3-letter halves, with a CH added to both the beginning and the end. So Ang Lee becomes CHANG LEECH, [One who sponges off Eng's twin?]; the [Merit badge for paying off debts], CHITS PATCH, plays off "It's Pat"; an armpit becomes the singles bar CHARM PITCH; and Airbus grows into CHAIR BUSCH, the weakest of the quartet. This puzzle was jam-packed with fun clues and zippy entries. There's TED NUGENT, who may THROW A FIT, LOWCUT jeans, plus two Zs and an X (in REX, [King, in Latin]). Cluewise, the goodies include [Stick up at sea?] for MAST; [What you might do while dropping acid] for ETCH; [Dis subject, perhaps] for YO MAMA; and [Long-term appeal] for LEGS.


Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle, "Seesaw Snacks," revisits familiar ground: Palindromes that fit into a crossword grid. (Patrick Blindauer had one some months back, and someone else had one around the same time.) I feel like I've seen EVIL OLIVE (clued here as [Fiend in a martini?]) before, but I'm not sure if it was in a crossword. My favorite of Ben's batch is KLIMT MILK, with a side of UFO TOFU. Entries I liked: MALWARE, NEW KID on the Block, NAUSEA (does that one typically violate the "Sunday-morning breakfast test"?), CUTESY [Like www.catsinsinks.com], and SCRAWL. Favorite clues: [Pirate speech disfluencies] for ARS; [One with galangal in the fridge, perhaps] for LAOTIAN; and the two Joycean tidbits, [Last word in "Ulysses"] for YES and [Bloomsday beverage] for ALE.

This week's Onion A.V. Club crossword comes from Matt Gaffney. There are six 6-letter theme entries, each one a name with a 2-letter and a 4-letter part. They're grouped together by an odd central entry, THE TWO FOUR SIX. The names are a groovy group, though, representing pop culture (JA RULE, BO BICE, ED WOOD, AL GORE), sports (TY COBB), and '90s world leaders (LI PENG and AL GORE). (If you've never seen Ed Wood, rent it. Johnny Depp is terrific in it.) Best fill entries: ISAO AOKI with that clot of vowels in the middle; FEEL ME from Tommy; SHARIA law; and LOOK BAD. As a fan of Pee-Wee's Playhouse, I like to see Miss YVONNE. Female anatomy shows up: CERVIX and BOOBS and, if you're juvenile enough, TITIAN. Plenty of longish answers in the fill and fresh cluing combine to make this a fun and somewhat challenging puzzle.