Whoo! Nothing like a four-hour-plus power outage to make one appreciate electricity and all the nifty machines that run on it. Chicago and environs got smacked with some ferocious winds this afternoon—70 mph, I heard, and I believe it. Never have I seen so many trees broken or wholly uprooted. Alas, the mulberry tree on my block, a summertime snacking favorite, was yanked out of the earth. At least that one didn't end up in the street like plenty of other trees. A nearby highrise lost the roof over its (roughly) twentieth-floor swimming pool. The roof paid a visit to Lake Shore Drive, which mucked up traffic before and during rush hour. That highrise is next door to Ben's school, which saw two locust trees uprooted in one of its playgrounds. And a small picture window from the ninth floor of the building across the street from me somehow was yoinked out of its frame and dashed to the ground (fortunately missing people and property below). I am astonished that ComEd was able to restore electricity to my neighborhood so soon, given the widespread nature of downed trees and electrical lines.
Patrick Berry's New York Times puzzle is a themeless one with 68 answers. Lots of long phrases and a few long single-word answers (fairly low on the "roll your own" word quotient—UNCONSOLED and INARTISTIC are crafted with prefix action), a meaty chunk of white space in the middle of the grid with long answers radiating out from it, ambitious interlocking of long answers—and good clues for both long and short answers. Two IS_C guys in the grid: ISAAC HAYES, the [Soul singer who is also a coronated king of Ghana], and ISOCRATES, [One of the "10 Attic orators"]. (Quick! Name the other nine!).
Favorite clues: [Drop a few positions, maybe] for AUTOMATE, as in automating grocery store checkout and dropping employees; [Red line?] for ARTERY; [Overprotect] for COSSET, a word I should use more often (along with BEASTLY, clued here as [Very disagreeable]); [It was good for Sartre] is the French BON; [Bad time for a tropical vacation] is RAINY SEASON, though Hawaii, the Caribbean islands, and Mexico all remind us that hurricane season isn't so great for tourism either; the basketballish [Pass under the basket, maybe] for ASSIST; [It may be bid] for ADIEU; [Stocking stuffer] for SANTA
[Mystery author Dexter] is COLIN Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse mysteries, which I've heard of even though I didn't recall the author's name. Did you know [What stare decisis upholds the validity of]? It's CASE LAW. What [Dog in Disney's "Cinderella"] is BRUNO? I don't remember a dog. So, TOP GUN was the [Highest-grossing film of 1986]? That's a shame (never did see the movie); here are the movies it beat out. Two bits of educational trivia: TWEED is a [Fabric with the same name as a Scottish river], and BRIE is a [French district that lent its name to a foodstuff]. I'm not crazy about [Near the bottom of the drawers?] for INARTISTIC, though—it seems to overreach.
Other entries I liked: EAST GERMANY; the phrases HAS NO IDEA and RECONCILED TO; COMPANY MEN who don't necessarily work for SNAPPLE; CHERIE Blair. Not much Scrabbly vocabulary in this grid—as you'll see below, the other Patrick B. hogged up all the uncommon letters.
Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "The Dr. Is In," plays with that guy whose name is quite crossword-friendly: Dr. Dre. (Anyone else see that '93 movie, Who's the Man? Denis Leary's character, a cop, rags on Dre for calling himself a doctor without having gone to medical school, which...he's got a point. What are Dr. Pepper's credentials, anyway?) The theme entries incorporate an extra DRE, so the S.S. Minnow from Gilligan's Island becomes a DRESS MINNOW, a [Fish to wear to formal events?]. (Cute extra: Another small fish, a GUPPY, is right beneath that entry.) CLASSIFIED DREAD is clued as [Systematically categorized one's anxieties?], and [What people had to repeat to Freud?] is I DREAM, I SAID (playing on a Neil Diamond song.
Two corners contain bricks of 8-letter entries, such as CHIPOTLE, the LOG CABIN Republicans, AL CAPONE, and a SOREHEAD. Favorite clues: [Guy who cuts you off in traffic, e.g.] for A-HOLE; [Big wheels] for SEDAN (though a sedan isn't always big—Ford Focus, anyone?); [Crab in a can?] for OSCAR the Grouch from Sesame Street (the muppet I always identified with the most); [In need of relief, in a way] for GASSY; ["Your fly is open" noise] for AHEM; and [Word repeated after "here"] for KITTY. [Wireless carrier formed in 2005] is HELIO, which I've seen a magazine ad for but know nothing about. I didn't know that Kalpen MODI was Kal Penn's real name; he was one of the stars of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. (Sequel due out next year!) ALAS is clued as ["___, Babylon" (1959 post-apocalyptic novel)]; hey, I read the 1979 edition of that book during my adolescent sci-fi dalliance.
Patrick Blindauer's New York Sun crossword offers anagrams of playing cards in a royal flush, ergo the title, "Shuffled Cards." You don't need to have a clue that anagrams are involved to finish the puzzle, though. ONE-STEP FADS comes from ten of spades; SAFE JOCK PADS, jack of spades; FED OPAQUENESS, queen of spades; FAKES DOPINGS, king of spades; and ESCAPED SOFA, ace of spades. If any of you figured out the anagram angle, do you feel that it sped your journey through the grid? Because while the theme entries are gettable based on the clues and the crossings, they're not remotely "in the language" phrases.
Lots of Scrabbly words in this puzzle (bonus points for that), but I'll have to dock Patrick 10 points for using one of those Xs in a Roman numeral. The construction, in which pairs of theme entries are mostly stacked together (staggered by a few letters), earns back a few bonus points. But then a few points are taken away for the abundance of 3-letter answers.
The only AMOS OZ (1-Down) novel I remember is the dismal epistolary novel, Black Box. I completely missed the existence of grunge band TAD (11-Down).
Favorite clues: [One out of 10?] for ZERO; [You might jump for it] for JOY (with the Y filled in, I first thought SKY...though really, who jumps for the sky? Reach for the sky, jump for the stars?); [Drop back?] for LET (as in droplet); [Noted trio member] for EGO (with id and superego); and [Also, archaically] for EKE (this may be etymologically related to the German auch, meaning "also").
It took me a while to figure out what Gary Steinmehl had done with the theme entries in his LA Times crossword. The hint at 1-Down was HAIR LOSS, but the theme entries didn't appear to be formed by zapping a HAIR from them. The first theme entry, though, loses an H (Broadway show becomes BROADWAY SOW, a [Performer in the stage version of "Babe"
?]), the second loses an A (weight gain becomes WEIGHT GIN), the third loses an I (street riot, STREET ROT), and the fourth, R (business trip, BUSINESS TIP). Good clues in this one. What's an [Osiris feature]? He's been depicted with a crazy BEARD. I've heard of bluesman Keb' Mo' and rapper Lil' Kim, but didn't know [Hip hop's ___ Mo], LIL' Mo (née Cynthia Loving). I also hadn't heard of the Maui tourist attraction, IAO Valley. Other clues I liked: A [Calculating endeavor] is ADDING; [Ideal enumeration] is WISH LIST (I can't believe nobody cleaned out my Amazon wish list for my birthday!); [Zig instead of zag?] is ERR; the [Kind of binding that allows a book to open flat] is WIRE EDGE, and it appears to be a handcrafting thing rather than an option commercial bookbinders use; [Unlike a picnic?] means HARD; and a [Hospital closing?] is a SUTURE.
In the August 10 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Conference Program," Leonard Williams plays around with alternate meanings of words in meeting phrases, so an [Arthroplasty conference?], about joint surgery, could be a JOINT DISCUSSION. Classical Greece gets a lot of play in the fill, with ILIAD, the island CHIOS, and ARGUS. ANDROS looks Greek too, but that's an the [Largest island in the Bahamas].
Lynn Lempel's CrosSynergy puzzle ("What a Hoot!") embeds an OWL (70-Across) in each of the five theme entries. Plenty of 7-letter answers in the fill, too.
Tracey Snyder's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Pluses and Minuses," pairs red (debt) and black (in the plus column) entities. Two movies, RED DRAGON and MEN IN BLACK; two bands, the BLACK CROWES and SIMPLY RED; two equine books, Steinbeck's THE RED PONY
and BLACK BEAUTY; and two ways to be treated, RED CARPET and BLACKBALL. TRIP UP, or [Expose in a blunder], is a nice entry, isn't it? The last square I filled in here was the A where MACLE, or [Twinned crystal], and DALASI, or [Gambia's unit of currency], crossed. Favorite clues: [Ride in the space shuttle] for SALLY; [Once-popular diet] for ATKINS (It's no longer popular? Good: I don't like people talking smack about my beloved carbs.); [Dish setting, maybe] for HOUSETOP (yesterday I saw one of those DirecTV satellite dishes on the ground—probably used to be atop a house or affixed to a side wall somewhere); [General delivery?] for ORDER; [Cat hangouts] for LAPS (though I do not want a cat on my lap, ever); [Maker of night flights] for BAT (if you'd like to have bats flying safely around you, visit the Twilight Zone at England's Chester Zoo).
August 23, 2007