August 09, 2007

Friday, 8/10

NYS 7:26
NYT 6:24
Jonesin' 3:55
CHE, LAT, CS, WSJ, and Newsday—all done, but not timed

(updated at 12:30 p.m. Friday)

Ben and I spent the afternoon tanning (him) and freckling (me) in my sister's pool, and drove home as the sun set. We passed downtown Chicago on the way and grooved on the low clouds in the skyline. The top of the Aon Center (formerly the Amoco Building, née the Standard Oil Building) peeked out above the misty scarf of cloud wrapped around at about the 60th to 70th floors. About the top 20 floors of the Hancock building disappeared into the clouds, too.

So, we get home, and eventually I settle in for the evening's crosswords. Oy! Katie Hamill had already plowed through the New York Times puzzle by Patrick Berry in tiptop speed, so I think maybe the puzzle's not so hard...and then pow! The unbearable wrongness of guessing. My cruciverbal instincts lapsed. Let's see: Which of the 64 answers did I initially flub? 1-Across is supposed to be BANANA SPLIT, but I figured the [Oblong dessert], singular, was LADYFINGERS, plural. [Congressional output] was LAWS instead of ACTS. The long one at 6-Down I figured was ALEUTIAN something, crossing UNSALTED ([Suitable for hypertension sufferers]); eventually I realized it was ALASKAN crossing SALT-FREE; still later I removed that N for ALASKA PENINSULA. ["G'bye!"] had to be ADIOS, making 14-Across end in an A, so it be something-something-NBA—nope, it's SEE YA crossing BASKETBALL TEAMS. 25-Across, the [Kind of dish], was a mystery the whole time I thought ALASKAN belonged in the middle column; finally the SOAP dish washed out. Who's the [Early "astronaut"] at 29-Down? Obviously a non-human, LAIKA the dog—whoops, it's supposed to be a CHIMP. For 43-Down, [Highlands weapon], I put down SNEE rather than DIRK. The [Square dance partner] starting with G had to be GIRL...except that it was GENT. 44-Down's [Soft rock?] had to be TALC (or possibly LAVA)—whoops, no, it's SAND. If you managed to avoid all those wrong turns that sunk me, give yourself a cookie and a pat on the back.

My favorite clues tend to be the ones that stymie me the most, so I did enjoy most of those clues. I had recently looked up mushy PEAS, the [Mushy ___ (British dish)], to see if there was more to the goop than just mushed-up peas; apparently yes, there's...something else in there. I forget what. I don't like peas. Other good clues: [It reveals who's on first] for LINEUP; [Long known for playing football] for HOWIE Long; and [White sheets] for ICE FLOES. There's plenty to eat in this puzzle besides the BANANA SPLIT: CAKES AND ALE, GREEN TEA ice cream, SORBET, and BABKA, all close enough to SALT-FREE for the folks watching their blood pressure. Patrick's also assembled a beautiful grid, hasn't he? Sort of a big backwards S with chunky corners of white space firmly fixed to the stacked-up long answers at the top and bottom.

Jim Page's New York Sun puzzle probably isn't all that tough either, but I did it after blogging about the Times puzzle, and apparently freckling is hard work. I "rested my eyes" a few times while working through this crossword, so I haven't got much to say about it. The "Switcheroo" theme switches ER for OO and vice versa, so a tattooed lady is a TATTERED LADY and a herd mentality becomes a HOOD MENTALITY. Many delectable Xs in the grid—five in the top third, in fact.

In Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "The Most Evil" (which I did earlier) the theme entries begin with synonyms: LOW, BASE, WICKED, and ARCH (the latter in the ARCH DELUXE burger). The theme doesn't do much for me, but I like how Matt included eight 9-letter words and phrases in the fill, along with a good smattering of pop culture.


My son's done with day camp and doesn't go back to school until after Labor Day, and also is not fond of being neglected for hours while Mommy sits at the computer, solving crosswords and writing about them. So I printed a bunch out and sat on the couch with him.

Patrick Berry is all over the bylines today. The Wall Street Journal and the July 27 Chronicle of Higher Education crosswords are his. The WSJ theme has four pairs of "Name & Name" companies intersecting at the ampersand. They sort of seem like linked pairs, too: BRIGGS & STRATTON and BLACK & DECKER are both hardwarey, and MARKS & SPENCER and LORD & TAYLOR are clothing-heavy retailers. MARTINI & ROSSI and BAUSCH & LOMB both...sell things in bottles? That's pushing it a bit. And BARNES & NOBLE and CRABTREE & EVELYN are both...often found in the same malls? Hmm, maybe all they have in common is being companies named after "Business Partners." There's a [Green cheese in Switzerland] called SAPSAGO, apparently; looks like it's cheaper than Piave, my favorite other mystery cheese. Favorite clue in the WSJ crossword: [Show stopper?] for V-CHIP. My kid is not a fan.

Berry's CHE crossword, "Dubious Honors," features fairly heinous academia puns. Best clue: [Keeper of the children's quarters?] for ARCADE. Best fill: JOE PISCOPO, because it's fun to say, and COSSET, because it's a word I should use more often. Mystery answer: MICMAC, an Algonquian [First Nations tribe] of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Maine. Not to be confused with Melmac, the home planet for the '80s sitcom alien, Alf, the Big Mac, Tic-Tacs, or a mishmash.

Today's CrosSynergy puzzle is "Move Up the S," by Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke. An S moves from the beginning of the second word to the end, so Radio Shack becomes RADIO HACKS, [Cab drivers who love their Sirius?], and [Ambulatory pests?] are WALKING TICKS. Pretty Scrabbly fill, too.

James Sajdak's LA Times crossword plays with the Boston accent, eliding some R sounds to create theme entries like CROSSING GOD and an ANNIVERSARY COD. I didn't feel very wavelengthy while solving this puzzle, and it felt tough. Favorite clues: [Genesis creator] for video game company SEGA, and [It has banks in Switzerland] for the AARE River.

I don't usually write about the Newsday puzzle outside of Saturdays, but Merle Baker's Friday Newsday crossword, "The A List," has a gimmick with a fairly loose theme. It's the kind of gimmick I tend to like, though—letter restriction. The only vowel used is A. Also, every answer has at least one A, so there are no 3-letter abbreviations with only consonants. The theme entries are famous people with A-happy names, but they don't seem to be linked by anything but that orthographical happenstance.