Here's a crossword comedy interlude for you. This guy oughta write a how-to book!
The New York Times crossword by Joe Krozel looks markedly different in the online forms vs. the Thursday paper. The Across Lite Notepad—alluded to in the applet but inaccessible there—says "The clues in the print version of this puzzle appear in a single list, combining Across and Down. Where two answers share a number, the unclued Down answer is a homophone of the corresponding Across answer." In the online versions, the clues are split into standard Across and Down lists, with dashes in lieu of clues for those number-sharing northwest corners of the various grid sections. As a bonus, all of the affected word pairs start with the same letter.
The thematic pairs are (1) BOULDER/BOLDER, (8) BARRED/BARD, (24) BASED/BASTE, (27) BODE/BOWED, (37) BALE/BAIL, (38) BORDER/BOARDER, (54) BEAT/BEET, and (56) BEAR/BARE. They're not laid out symmetrically by virtue of the inherent northwest-cornerocity of the theme/gimmick. I suspect other Western languages couldn't be used to assemble a list of eight pairs of homophonic words starting with one letter—English's orthographical oddities mean the same sounds can be spelled many different ways and, let me tell you, kids just learning to write really don't appreciate that.
Favorite clues: [Party of the first part and party of the second part, e.g.] for LEGALESE; [Tailors] for SEWERS ("ones who sew," as opposed to the storm sewers? C'mon, sewers filled with rainwater pass the Sunday morning breakfast test, don't they?), not far from ALTERS with a misleading tailoring clue, [Lowers the cuffs on, maybe]; and [Country named for its location on the globe] for ECUADOR. I don't care for [Point to] as the clue for BODE; given that each theme clue has to pull double duty, a clearer clue would have helped here. That was the last square I filled in, after contemplating the other options (CODE, MODE, RODE...) that might fit there. And OVA as [Donations at some clinics]—well, that clue makes egg donation sound so much simpler than it really is.
It's been a while since I've seen Frank Longo's byline in a newspaper puzzle, but he constructed the 68-word "Themeless Thursday" in the New York Sun. Pop culture stuff I enjoyed: MURTAUGH, Danny Glover's character in the Lethal Weapon franchise; the fairly entertaining Brad Pitt/Julia Roberts movie, THE MEXICAN; the penguin cartoon, HAPPY FEET; and the comic strip ARLO AND JANIS. I liked the corner where, in an I/T/L party, TITTLE and TRITT cross A LITTLE BIT and a TITLE TRACK, the latter clued as [Biggest cut, often]. [You definitely don't want them to drop by your house] is a creepily surreal clue for ATOM BOMBS; I don't like it. While GLAD-HANDS is a verb I've used, have you ever heard of it used as a noun, as in [Warm welcomes]? WIRE RODS is rather dull, as are ESSENE and EVENER and AGER. I hadn't heard of NO-GO AREAS. I do like BIPARTITE, clued here as [Joint], because I have bipartite sesamoid bones, which is really hard to say out loud without it turning into a tongue twister that mangles the -oid and -ite endings. (If you can say it, my hat is off to you.) Also good: CHEESINESS, which is mostly boring letters but a great word nonetheless; the phrase SWEAR BY; and that glut of consonants in the middle of the TUNGSTEN LAMP.
Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Front Flips," inverts the short first names of the four theme people. [Show no respect to "Show of Shows" star?] is DIS CAESAR (Sid Caesar), for example. Easy enough. The clues had some zip to them—favorites include [Fabulous writer?] for AESOP; [Abba's roots] for SWEDEN (crosswords have trained me to think of Abba Eban from Israel, another 6-letter country); [Hook, line, and sinker?] for GEAR; [Stop sign?] for RED (as in red light); and [Cutting class?] for BIOLOGY (ew, dissection).
The duo of Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke constructed today's LA Times crossword. The theme entries are all clued [DOWN]: DRINK QUICKLY (with CHUG in the same corner), FEELING BLUE (crossing BLAH), SOUTH ON A MAP (below [East ender?], ERN), and FOOTBALL PLAY (well...I don't see anything quasi-related to that, but OPERA and OPRY do intersect elsewhere). Favorite clues: [Respond to cuteness] for MELT; [Not-so-friendly look] for LEER (it's not often enough that clues for OGLE and LEER highlight unwelcomeness rather than lasciviousness); and [It covers all the bases] for TARP.
August 22, 2007