(updated at 10:50 a.m. Sunday)
You know, after I reviewed the galleys of How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle last spring, I figured the publisher would add the table of contents in the next stage. They didn't. I typed one up for myself today—will have to figure out if there's a way to upload a printable version here. In the meantime, if you'd like it in MS Word, feel free to e-mail me (orangexw is my gmail address).
The Sunday New York Times crossword this weekend is by Cathy Millhauser. The "Lightheaded" theme is signaled by TO THE MOON at 52-Down. The other theme entries all begin with words that can fill in the blank in "___ MOON": NEW AGE MOVEMENTS, HARVEST HOME, QUARTERSTAFF, BLUE LAGOON, PAPER TIGER, CRESCENT ROLL, WAXING SALON, FULL METAL JACKET, and (at 38-Down) HALF A LOAF. Hey, look who's down there in the right corner of the grid—EMILE, the ["South Pacific" role] played by Ezio Pinza. (Do remember these names, because you'll be seeing them again if you continue doing crosswords.)
There were a smattering of obscure words lurking in this puzzle (not counting words like ARIL and OONA that are familiar to longtime solvers). The ROWEL, a [Wheel on a spur], and the weapon, the QUARTERSTAFF, both date back to medieval England. Also in England, we have ENFIELD, the [Northernmost borough of London], where the Piccadilly Underground line terminates at Cockfosters and yes, I giggled when the train announcer said the train was going there. I didn't recognize the [Elongated marine fish] known as an EELPOUT—"Oh, don't pout, sweetie. You're not really an eel." The [Capital of France's Aube Department], TROYES, is where Louis the Stammerer received the imperial crown in the year 878. Crossing the Spanish border, there's also LEON, a [Province NW of Madrid].
There's plenty of skiing going on in this puzzle's moonlight: While living on MST (Mountain Standard Time), you and your SKIS might take the ROPE TOW to the top and SLALOM your way down. There's a double hit of Latin, with LATIN clued as [Exempli gratia, e.g.], and the Latin NOMEN ("name") clued as [The "Claudius" in Tiberius Claudius Nero]. Clues I liked: [Break-even enterprise] for WASH; [Root canal, in dentist-speak] for ENDO (always like it when dental and medical terminology pop up here); ["Ta-ta"] for TOODLE-OO; [Attorney William after whom a stadium is named] for SHEA (did not know that!); the groan-inducing [Burn at the end?] for CREMATE; and [Centaur's head?] for SOFT C.
Patrick Blindauer's Washington Post puzzle, "Patron Saints," pretends that various words and phrases that start with ST are saints. So the [Patron of drinking buds] is ST ALE MATE, and [Patron of young rhymers] is ST RAPPING LAD. The unwashed get ST ICKY FINGERS, and the conger catchers turn to ST EEL TRAP. Each theme entry is fun to figure out, and Patrick B2 has also wedged plenty of lively fill into his grid. There's a BIG MAC, some ROTH IRAS, KITSCHY, sweet RIESLING, ALRIGHT, PRIE-DIEU, SUSIE Q and the X-MEN, and a few other words containing a Q, Z, or X. Favorite clues: the great [Toonsmith?] for ANIMATOR; [Column part] for VERTEBRA; [Turkey toucher] for IRAQ; [Mandy's "Princess Bride" role] for INIGO (here's a video clip of Mr. Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, saying his famous line); [Don't sit] for ACT with [Stand] for GET UP; and [A concha tops it] for APSE (the concha is the half-dome seen here). Thanks for an entertaining crossword, Patrick (and editor Fred Piscop)!
Henry Hook's online Boston Globe crossword, "Take the Train," adds EL to certain phrases to generate the theme entries. Vows of silence become [One I and two Es?], or VOWELS OF SILENCE. Woman's Day magazine yields WOMAN'S DELAY, [Result of long restroom lines, traditionally?]. And the [Wearer of half an eagle?] is a SEMICOLONEL. Favorite clues: [My brothel's keeper?] for MADAM; the never-saw-it-before word [Famulus] for SECRETARY; [Pre-Copernican center] for EARTH; [Spot check?] for LEASH; [Cambrian] for WELSH; and [1955 newsmaking passenger] for Rosa PARKS.
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword is called "Baseballese." You know what? I've learned plenty of baseball from crosswords over the years, but most of what I've learned are shorter words. Merl's got 11 baseball terms, 10 to 15 letters apiece, and I've only heard of two of them. SHAKES OFF A SIGN is one I picked up from Bull Durham, and SUICIDE SQUEEZE, well, maybe I read that in crossword clues, or maybe I actually gleaned some actual baseball knowledge somewhere. The other nine phrases are a mystery to me. Well, baseball junkies are sure to love this puzzle.
Today's Universal puzzle by Ed Early is called "A Question of Love." Reader Kristi tipped me off to it—the theme entries read MY HEART IS YOURS, I'M CRAZY ABOUT YOU, WILL YOU MARRY ME, and SAY YES. Anyone know the story behind this proposal?
Robert Wolfe's syndicated LA Times crossword, "Doubles Match," is tougher than the day's other Sunday-sized puzzles because the eight theme entries have no apparent link when you study their clues, and having eight short answers clued [Word with 15-Down] or [Word with 23-Across], say, doesn't give away any other hints. Eventually, with the help of a zillion crossing answers, the theme emerges: phrases that follow the "___ AND ___" model, teamed with a short word that can go with both halves. Thus, 92-Down, BALL, is paired with 23-Across, HARD AND FAST (hardball, fastball). The other combos are FIRE AND RAIN with STORM; WATCH AND WAIT with LIST; BED AND BOARD with ROOM; NIGHT AND DAY with LIGHT; LAW AND ORDER with BOOK (book order? order book?); WAR AND PEACE with TIME; and BLACK AND BLUE with BIRD. I don't get a couple of the "doubles matches," but I like the intricacy of the theme. Eight longish theme entries linked to eight shorter theme entries, all obeying traditional symmetry rules, surrounded by fill that doesn't feel particularly forced. Favorite clues and entries, in no particular order: [HI his] for ALOHAS; the racehorse BARBARO; [King's realm] for CNN, home of Larry King's show, and [King of the stage] for LEAR; BAWDIER and HEINIE; [Season opener?] for PRE; and the inclusion of the [Goat god] PAN and those [Part-goat creatures], SATYRS, in the same corner.
Thomas Schier's themeless CrosSynergy crossword played like a Wednesday puzzle only without a theme—that is to say, pretty easy. One solitary Scrabbly letter, an X, amid fairly ordinary words. (Play this little game: Look for forms of REASSESS in the bottom row or rightmost column of crosswords. You won't see the word often in other parts of the grid, but all those Ss come in handy for the endings of the crossing words. Here, it's at the far right, but I know I've seen it parked in the bottom of plenty of other grids.) Playful clues: [Holdup man?] for ATLAS and [Curly poker?] for MOE of the Three Stooges.
August 11, 2007