(updated at 11:30 am Tuesday)
Cha-ching! Ring up another Patrick Blindauer deposit into my "great puzzles" stash, this time the Tuesday Sun. I'm not sure why it's a Tuesday puzzle, even in the tougher-than-the-Times Sun, but there you have it. It's got a Friday-tough kick to it, plus something extra. So put on your thinking fez and and match wits with Patrick B2 before you read about the puzzle below.
The New York Times crossword by C.W. Stewart hits the thesaurus for a colorful theme of [Doofus] synonyms. I know the NUMSKULL, DUMBBELL, and BIRDBRAIN, the NINCOMPOOP and DINGALING—but NOODLEHEAD? I can't say I've heard that one. If you use your noodle or use your head, you're no doofus, but if you combine the two, somehow your cognitive skills dwindle? Nice swaths of 7-letter Down answers in the grid to show that C.W. Stewart is no noodlehead. The crowning grace of the puzzle is that YOU is clued as [A person who is not a doofus]. Old-school crossword answers for newbies to make note of: ARETES are [Craggy mountain ridges]; ETD is an [Airport stat.], estimated time of departure; an ALB is a [Priestly vestment]; [Wry Bombeck] is ERMA, and while I read her books when I was a kid, I suspect she's not well-known among younger folks; an ERG is a [Work unit] in physics; and ADAR is a [Hebrew month].
Okay, moving along to Patrick B2's New York Sun puzzle: Patrick rarely makes a crossword without some sort of twist to it. His first Sun puzzle had a connect-the-dots star in the grid, and this 15x16 grid contains a WORD SEARCH PUZZLE. The words that are hidden are made up of DOWN CLUE STARTERS, or the first letters of each down clue. Reading down the list of clues, we see "Find these six words: TIME, STORY, TREE, HOT, FOUL, ASSEMBLY." Sure enough, after you fill in the crossword, you can find those words in the grid, word-search style: TIME goes up inside 11-Down, STORY goes up diagonally from the bottom right corner, TREE is inside 30-Across, HOT's in 64-Across, FOUL heads up at an angle from within 69-Across, and ASSEMBLY climbs up from 47-Down. The puzzle's title, "Go to the Head of the Line," ties the word-search words together: assembly line, timeline, etc. (What? No conga or telephone line?) So the gimmick's awfully nifty, and the restrictions on what each down clue could start with produced some interesting clues. [Opposite of bianca] is NERA, Italian for black (as used to describe pope-picking black and white smoke—I heard about this smoke during the last papa go-round but didn't learn the Italian terms for it). CPR is [Hospital administration?]. ["Two Girls at the Piano" and others] = RENOIRS and ["Farewell to Thee" is its translated title] = ALOHA OE. [One involved in match play?] is a PYRO. [Lisa Simpson, to Patty and Selma Bouvier] = NIECE. From th Across clues: George Bernard SHAW won an Oscar for Pygmalion and a Nobel prize for literature. [Eton john] (for LOO) evokes Elton John. I think I've seen [It may bring out the kid in you] before as a clue for CESAREAN, but I still like it.
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Q and A," has four Q.A. entries, excluding quality assurance, which is one letter too long. My favorite theme entry is the colloquial, quasi-Brit QUITE ALRIGHT, and I do like the Q action. Favorite clues: [Place to score, if you're not out] for HOME; [Noted krautrock group] for FAUST, a German rock band I've never heard of; [Collective with turf] for GANG (hmm, I suppose the Gangster Disciples might be considered a collective); and [Caesarean section?] for I CAME.
Tyler Hinman's Onion A.V. Club crossword tells a traveler's tale of woe with a whopping five 15-letter entries. His flight was DELAYED TWO HOURS, assorted other indignities transpired, and eventually he said, "Forget flying, I'm HITCHHIKING HOME." There are some very good answers and clues in this puzzle. I like "YOU SWEAR?" and the five-sixths consonants SCHISM, AXE deodorant body spray "cutting through" ODOR, and the assortment of pop culture. Two words that don't usually make it into daily crosswords: ANAL, clued as [Micromanaging, say], and NAUSEA, [Roller coaster upshot, possibly]. My favorite clues: [Bugs, for one] for TOON; [Ball ___] for HOG; [Weird Al's "Yoda" parodies it] for LOLA (that link is a clip of Weird Al performing the song live); and ["You are the ___" (phrase often heard on Maury] for FATHER (Maury Povich's show does big business in paternity testing).
Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy theme has probably been done before in some form, but it's done well here. Five theme entries offer methods of "Going Up" that hinge on words that mean "a thing you use to go up": ESCALATOR CLAUSE, ELEVATOR SHOES, SPIRAL STAIRCASE, CAN I GET A LIFT, and CORPORATE LADDER. Granted, the only upward movement involved in getting a lift is stepping from the pavement to the car, and elevator shoes don't hoist you too far, but that's close enough for me. I like the double "Going Up" sense the theme entries offer. Each of the 9-letter Down answers links three theme entries together, too.
Jack McInturff's LA Times crossword groups four 15-letter phrases that end with words that fit into ___way, WAY being the defining entry at 73-Across; e.g., CANDLESTICK PARK and parkway. The other ways are beltway, roadway, and freeway.
August 13, 2007