August 17, 2007

Saturday, 8/18

NYT 5:15
LAT 5:14
Newsday 5:03
CS 3:25

(updated at 9:15 a.m. Saturday)

Last night, my husband and I watched Hot Fuzz, the British cop action/comedy starring the guys who were in Shaun of the Dead, the British zombie action/comedy. It was indeed quite funny. One bit towards the movie's beginning centers on a cryptic crossword. The star cop, Nicholas Angel, has been transferred to a small village. He's checking into a quaint hotel, and the proprietor behind the counter suddenly spits out, "Fascist!" Angel's taken aback, but she explains that it's the answer to 7-Across (or Down?) in the crossword she's doing. He corrects her, that the clue's looking for FASCISM with an M. They continue the check-in transaction, and then he bites out a "Hag!" What? He explains that's the answer she needs for 12-Down. It's a captivating exchange, of course.

Across the Atlantic we have our American crosswords, including Jim Page's New York Times puzzle. This themeless creation has a relatively low 64 words, so we can expect a few "roll your own" words that are seldom used, crafted by tacking on a prefix or suffix. For example, PRECOLOR, PERTER, RECARVE, and the plurals LEIFS and BORONS. This particular puzzle also has an editorial vibe to it, with EDITS, clued as [Applies polish to?]; DELETES, hiding behind the wonderfully easy-to-misinterpret [Strikes]; and STET (raise your hand if you suspected that [Galley countermand] had something to do with oars). And GRAF could have been clued in its newspaper-editing sense rather than [1988 tennis Grand Slam winner] Steffi.

Today's Magical Mystery Answers (i.e., things I didn't know): [Actress Pataky] is ELSA Pataky, the Spanish actress who was in Snakes on a Plane, which nobody I know saw. [Conductor Segerstam and novelist Enger] are LEIFS (hm, I only know Leif Garrett and Leif Ericson). [Some bygone roadsters] smacks of the Roaring Twenties, but the cars in question are just DATSUNS. [Face with stone] is REVET (you can read up on revetments here). [Waite ___, Hall-of-Fame Yankees pitcher] is HOYT; was Waite Hoyt ever white-hot? Why on earth is ALOE clued as a [Fragrant heartwood]? Because of the agarwood tree, also known as aloe wood or, in the Old Testament, aloes. The [Old washday choice] DUZ was before my time.

Favorite clues: [Who's a critic?] for EVERYONE; [Thighs may be displayed in it] for both EROTICA and the icky MEAT CASE; [It rises in the Black Forest] for DANUBE (mmm, Black Forest cake...); [Less like a yo-yo] for SANER; [Writ introduction?] for HABEAS; plain ol' [Out] for OBSOLETE; and the "Huh?" clue of [So as to avoid being shot] for OFF CAMERA. An AEROBAT is a [Blue Angels member], and this weekend is Chicago's big Air and Water Show, featuring the Air Force Thunderbirds (really, is there any difference between the two groups?). I'd like to thank the zillion crosswords of yore that clued MATA or HARI with reference to the Greta Garbo role, since it made the 8-letter [1932 Garbo title role] come to mind quickly. Other answers I liked: CRUSTACEA ([Water fleas, barnacles, etc.]), SAMISEN ([Banjolike Japanese instrument]), Dirty Harry CALLAHAN ([Eastwood played him in five films]). Wait, did someone say CRUSTACEA? That's my cue to provide a giant isopod link. Why? Why not?


Bob Peoples made today's themeless LA Times crossword. Plenty of goodies in here. [Banquet offering] is a brand-name TV DINNER, and [Square fare] is RAVIOLI. Speaking of brand names, there's also SUE Bee, a [Big name in honey], the [Hyundai model] ELANTRA, and CONICAL, clued as [Like Hershey's Kisses]. A SLED is a [Follower of dogs], which are also alluded to in [Regulation involving boxers] (LEASH LAW). Educational geography: the ZUIDER ZEE is [Literally, Dutch for "southern sea"]. LIMEADE is clued as [Tart quaff], while [Tart] clues MORDANT; isn't a mordant quaff refreshing? [Minor party candidate, often] is SPOILER (Nader!). [Charm] is about the most innocuous clue possible for FETISH. Who is ["Before You Sleep" novelist Ullmann]? LINN Ullmann is Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman's daughter; she turned out to be a terrible actress so she went into journalism and eventually fiction writing. Favorite entries: THE BLOB, [Film whose tagline ends "Nothing can stop it!"]; DEA AGENT, [Crack operative?]; and IMCLONE, [Drug company whose stock was the subject of Martha Stewart's conviction].

Merle Baker's 68-word themeless puzzle in Newsday wasn't too hard, wasn't too easy. Favorite clues and/or answers: [1 in 21] for UNITS DIGIT; the [Parish officer] called a BEADLE, because it's a silly-sounding title; [They're on stage at the Grammys] for STATUETTES; [Sound sound] (verb + adjective) for TALK SENSE; the verb [Contests] for LITIGATES; HOT SEATS and HOME RUN. [Play up] is the clue for UNDERSCORE. If you play something down, are you overscoring it? Speaking of overscoring, there's a neighborhood restaurant near me that has a front window packed with hand-lettered signs, one of which actually overscores a word for emphasis. (I think it's also painted in italics.) That sign's almost as awe-inspiring as the place that offers a "2 hot dog's with frie's" meal.

Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy crossword hides three SEAs with short names (RED, DEAD, ARAL) within the trio of theme entries. The puzzle contains a lot of names: ATLI, King of the Huns; Elvis ARON Presley; ALDEN and MURINE and HALAS and NAST and STEEN. ATLI, I think, is a name I learned via crosswords. I wasn't familiar with one of the theme entries: [Recipient's name and delivery details, on a business letter] is INSIDE ADDRESS? Ah, it's merely the address above "Dear ___" and below your own address or masthead. Never knew that had an official name!