August 18, 2007

Sunday, 8/19

NYT 9:46
PI 8:48
LAT 8:33
WaPo 7:58
BG 7:08
CS 4:52

The Chicago Air and Water Show did not disappoint. This afternoon, we watched planes swoop about for an hour and a half in the rain. The rain didn't let up at all, though it may have let down, so we packed up and hopped on a bus. During the one-mile bus ride home, of course, the rain quit, and we stood at the end of our block watching the Air Force Thunderbirds perform their aerobatic marvels. A couple times, one of the jets swooped over our block, which was kinda cool. And when the show ended, why, look! We're just steps from home. Couldn't have planned it better.

In other Chicago news, apparently Will Shortz will be chatting with Nick Digilio on WGN Radio Sunday night at 11:00. (Thanks to Nancy Shack for the tip.)

Usually the nobody on the NYT “Today’s Puzzle” forum talks about the Times puzzle before it launches online. But this afternoon, a print newspaper subscriber (locals get the Magazine with Saturday's paper) raved about this Sunday's New York Times crossword by Liz Gorski. What's the big deal? Well, Liz has a knack for visually arresting gimmicks. In this puzzle with left/right symmetry, the "Buried Treasure" theme involves a rebus. There are 10 squares that contain [AU], the chemical symbol for gold, and if you play connect-the-dots, you get a heart of AU—as in the song BY NEIL YOUNG called HEART OF GOLD. The lyric that's included here is I'VE BEEN A MINER FOR A / HEART OF GOLD—I tried squeezing "keep me searching" in there, but instead, sadly, there's an accidental reminder of the Utah coal mine tragedy. Balancing BY NEIL YOUNG on the other side of the grid is gold's atomic number, SEVENTY-NINE. If you did the puzzle on the applet and you'd like to see where those [AU]s are, see below for an Across Lite screen capture (no guarantee that the rest of the grid's correct—I didn't check my work.)

Before venturing into the nitty-gritty of clues and fill, let me mention that the NYT applet keeps mangling letters with diacritical marks. At least some online solvers saw this: [___ Tom?], 3 letters, S_O. Seo Tom? Soo Tom? No! SAO Tomé. This technical glitch ought to be ironed out by now—it can be vexing.

There are some tough words in this puzzle. Here were my blind spots: 10-Down, [Bill who created the comic strip "Smokey Stover"] (crossing that [___ Tom?] spot, alas). He's Bill HOLMAN, apparently. The ["Baptism of Christ" painter ___ della Francesca] is PIERO. A [1954 Jean Simmons movie] is DESIREE. And who knew that [Mme. Tussaud]'s name was MARIE? BIENNIA, meaning [Two-year periods], was gettable with a few crossings, but it's not a familiar word. I've seen ISTLE, the [Basketry fiber], in other crosswords; but it's pretty darned obscure. Same with the [French department in Picardy], AISNE.

Favorite clues: [Music unlikely to be played at a party] for DIRGE; [Strands in a diner] for SPAGHETTI; [One who keeps a beat?] for PATROLMAN; [Victorians, e.g.] for [AU]SSIES (Victoria being a state in Australia); [It's often proud] for SPONSOR; [Jalapeño feature] for TILDE; [Facilitates] for GREASES; and [Mountain climbers?] for chair LIFTS. I also like the [March of ___] DIMES and IDES [___ of March] flip-flop, and the [Complete flip-flop] clue for U-TURN. And the video game ASTEROIDS: totally old-school! And the [Deep black garnets], MELANITES, which I've never seen but are indeed deep black, as the linked pictures show. (Surely I'm not the only one who loved books about minerals and gems when they were young?)

I like the 10 pairs of words that intersect at the [AU] rebus squares. TABLE[AU] and FR[AU], the writers [AU]STEN and [AU]DEN, the Bahamas capital NASS[AU], DE G[AU]LLE airport.

And? I've always liked that song. Here's a video of Neil Young in concert back in 1971, singing "Heart of Gold."


Okay, I went to the gym and the grocery store, and Dave Sullivan's been toiling away at upgrading my Blogger template, and it's taking a little work to get the HaloScan comments back in working order. So the Blogger comments are there now, and I don't like 'em. Don't get used to them. But they may be there until tonight (or longer) because I've got to go to a family party today. Given the time crunch, I'll be doing the crosswords before I go but giving the blogging short shrift.

The Boston Globe puzzle by Emily Cox/Henry Rathvon, "Flower-Filled Phrases"—loved it! I like flower themes, and this one was tasty. Short fill, a 4-letter word, [Like ___ on hot bricks], ending with T. Only one 4-letter word ending with T came to mind, and it was...a four-letter word. That'll be our new meaningless saying around the house. (The answer turned out to be A CAT, which does not make a phrase I know.)

Rich Norris made the themeless CrosSynergy puzzle. Interesting phrases, interesting clues, not too challenging but not too easy either. Hidden secret message: Rich Norris has NORRIS in the grid, as in Chuck Norris, directly opposite...DR RUTH.

James Sajdak's Washington Post puzzle, "Found Money," lists places you might hide your cash stash. Theme's okay, liked the fill and clues.

Liz Gorski's also got the syndicated LA Times crossword, "The Mercury Is Rising," with a summer/heat theme. It would be timely but for the cold and rainy spell we're having here. Hasn't even cracked the 70° mark this weekend! A few tricky crossings (BARR/ASTANA, CASSIE/CARA), but a good puzzle.

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle tells a story of a vacation through "The Great Outdoors," in which a family experiences things that sound like the great outdoors but aren't (like the movie GRAND CANYON). Punchline: [But what fun is a trip across America if we have to ___?] GET OUT OF THE SUV?