August 02, 2007

Friday, 8/3

NYT 7:05
Jonesin' 4:52
LAT 4:25
CHE 4:20
NYS 3:53
CS 3:13

WSJ delayed online

(updated at 11 a.m. Friday)

I fell asleep after the 9:00 crosswording session and alas, I do not find myself quite awake enough now to do any more crossword puzzles. The other puzzles will bide their time until morning.

Was I just tired, or did Charles Barasch's New York Times crossword really feel more like a harder Saturday puzzle? This 70-word crossword contained plenty of good fill, including the intersecting 15s, VOODOO ECONOMICS and FIBONACCI SERIES; the Scrabbly words with letters like Z, Q, X, J, and K; and lots of lively phrases, such as MAZEL TOV, I DUNNO, I NEVER, and the aghast IT'S ALIVE (most of these phrases demand an exclamation point). KOOKY sitting atop JAMMIES and next to XENA the Warrior Princess made for a lovely zone, too.

Tough stuff: [Two-time Nicaraguan president Chamorro] is EMILIANO, who was unknown to me, rather than the more recent leader Violeta Chamorro. The [Celebratory cry] of MAZEL TOV is 8 letters long, but all sorts of shorter options insisted on coming to mind: hurrah, hooray, huzzah, whoo-hoo (which I'd love to see in a grid some day). The ZINNIA is the [Flower named for a German botanist]; the dahlia's named after a Swedish botanist, the fuchsia after another German botanist—so the clue turns out to be less specific than it looks. I don't know the hackberry tree, so [Hackberry relative] and ELM weren't an obvious connection; that Wikipedia article says the hackberry's related to hemp. Never saw the word [Pseudologue] before; apparently it's a particular sort of LIAR. [Breakless, in a way], 6 letters, ending with ACT—must be INTACT, no? No! It's ONE-ACT, which wasn't my first thought. [Superman, for one], starting with ALI—must be Clark Kent's ALIAS, no? No! He was an ALIEN. [Salad bar binful], starting with SP—SPINACH, surely? No! SPROUTS. I don't know if these last three were conscious traps or not, but they proved to be devious for me. [Word before some animal names] is SHE (as in she-wolf, she-bear), but I really needed the crossings to get what was indicated here.

Clues I enjoyed that didn't stump me as much as those ones: [Beaucoup de Louises] for ROIS; [San Francisco mayor Newsom] for GAVIN; [Handicap, say] for EQUALIZE; [Undercover wear?] for JAMMIES; ["Soap" family] for TATES (the poor Campbells—less money, no suave butler, and a name less conducive to appearing in crosswords); [Dwarf], the verb, for MINIMIZE; [They might follow the drill] for FILLINGS; [Wobbly] for INSECURE; and YES WE ["___ have no ..."]. Can anyone explain why the song called "Yes, We Have No Bananas" is filed away in The Brady Bunch lobe of my brain?


Seth Abel's New York Sun Weekend Warrior felt much easier than the NYT crossword. One thing that made it flow smoothly was the Scrabbliness throughout—once you figure out that FT DIX NJ is sitting atop QUEER EYE, you can recognize that the constructor may have seeded the rest of the grid with uncommon letters. My favorite clues: [Very salty, say] for RATED R; [Stitch, e.g.] for PAIN; [Butters up?] for BASTES; [Spitball target?] is SUB (this one took me a while to parse properly—not a submarine, nor a sub sandwich, but rather, a substitute teacher!); the noun [Stinks] for FUSSES; [Behind] for PRO (as in "in favor of"); and, of course, [Congress is not allowed in it] for CELIBACY.

I like the vocabulary word clue [Cinereous] for ASHEN. I assumed that cinder was a direct cognate, but the etymology shows that it's a roundabout connection. I just learned from Charles Hodgson's new book, Carnal Knowledge: A Navel Gazer's Dictionary of Anatomy, Etymology, and Trivia, that Latinate words came to English in more than one way. Some were yoinked from Latin during the Renaissance (cinereous looks like it could be such a word) while many older words entered Old or Middle English via the French (see etymology for cinder), whose language is rooted in Latin. You can preorder the book, which will be released next week.

The theme in Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle consists of four 15-letter strings of words that fit the "hot ___" mold. Sure, you end up with long entries that look nonsensical, like HOUSE BOX HEAD ROD, but it makes sense while you're solving.

Donna Levin's LA Times crossword seems like it emerged from Pune—the theme entries are puns involving Indian words/names. There's the NEHRU MARGIN by which the politician wins, the DELHI COUNTER bean-counter, the mint's schedule on RUPEE TUESDAY, and AGRA CULTURE for the arts. Plenty of interesting fill and clues. Did you know ULNAE was [Latin for "elbows"]? (The Carnal Knowledge book tells me the "ell" portion of "elbow" is related to ulna.) ISHMAEL's clued via a Moby Dick quote, and elsewhere there's an OP-ED PAGE.

Frank Virzi's July 20 Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle (with a 15x16 grid), "Read Heads," features five past world leaders clued by the books they've written. They're a diverse group: RICHARD NIXON, NELSON MANDELA, MARGARET THATCHER, VLADIMIR LENIN, and JULIUS CAESAR. Lots of musical words here—ADAGIO crossing TACET, as well as an unfamiliar word, TENUTO, [Held to its full value, as a musical note]. I dispute that EDY'S is a [Ben & Jerry's alternative]; I liken Edy's and Breyer's, but Ben & Jerry's ice cream is on a par with Haagen Dazs, Dove, and the other brands sold in smaller containers. I liked [It may be suspended] for DISBELIEF. [There are two in Utah] = AREA CODES—wow, that's a small population. 2.2 million. Chicago and its suburbs are up to nine area codes now, with three more downstate.

Matt Jones' Jonesin' crossword is called "Encyclopedic Knowledge," and the theme entries are phrases that sound like they could be alphabetical-order labels for encyclopedia volumes; e.g., HARD TO HEAR. Favorite clues: [Like some justice] for KARMIC; [Zone named for Dr. Grafenberg] for G-SPOT; [Song with the lyric "she really shows you all she can"] for RIO by Duran Duran; [State lines?] for ACT; and [Jersey jersey wearers] for NETS. I'd never heard of [Jarvis of the Denver Broncos]/MOSS, and no wonder: he was just drafted and his signing deal is brand-new.