August 06, 2007

Tuesday, 8/7

Tausig 4:33
Onion 4:22
NYT 3:47 (minus 45 seconds of typo searching...honest)
NYS 3:32
CS 2:58
LAT 2:41

(updated at 9:20 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tuesday)

Patrick Blindauer shows off again in the New York Sun, with an unusual grid with left-right symmetry. It's rather obvious when you look at the pattern of black squares that there must be a reason for that extended chunk of black extending upwards from the bottom middle. When you fill in 17-Across, SWORD IN THE STONE, the picture gets its caption. The theme is further expanded with ARTHUR / PENDRAGON, the wizard of his acquaintance named MERLIN, and his sword, EXCALIBUR, which is represented by the black-squares sword-in-the-stone in the grid. (I saw the movie Excalibur in 8th or 9th grade...ah, youth. Things I liked here (besides the inventive white-and-black-squares theme): [Devil, e.g.] for NHLER, as in the New Jersey Devils; [Shot putter?] for SYRINGE; the linked 44- and 35-Across, a [stud's spot], a PIERCED...what?? Oh. Just an EAR. Goodness, I've left the semicoloned list and must return to it; UNSEALS clued with reference to indictments (more often, the word's clued with jars or mail, and who ever talks about unsealing those as opposed to opening them?); [Chocolate factory emissions] for AROMAS (I love the Blommer factory's chocoriffic air pollution); [Plum parts] for PITS, "plum" being the fruit rather than the adjective here; and [Former union members?] for EXES (not SSRS!). I didn't know anything about ADAM "Pacman" Jones of the Tennessee Titans. Go ahead and read the "Legal Troubles" section of that article and tell me if there's any reason he should have been suspended from playing football rather than just plain fired. Would you still have your job if you did what Jones has reportedly done? Hmph.

I have apparently lost the ability to complete a New York Times crossword on the applet without making a typo. This time, it took me 45 seconds to notice that I'd typed OMCE for ONCE. (And yesterday, I didn't mention it here, but yes, another typo. The civil rights march wasn't in SLEMA.) Daniel Kantor provides us with another Sopranos-linked crossword. (Will these continue beyond this year? I wonder.) Raise your hand if you managed to spell FUHGEDABOUDIT on the first pass, without checking a zillion crossing words to confirm the letters. (My hand remains unraised. I started with FUHGEDDA... and ran out of room, then FUHGEDABOUTIT, and eventually the right answer.) That phrase and two others are tied together as part of the MOB SCENE. Interesting clue: [First word of every Robert Ludlum title but one] for THE—here are the titles. And what's the [Army barber's specialty]? Why, it's a BUZZCUT. My son just got his first-ever super-short haircut:

It'll grow in.


Cute theme in Jack McInturff's LA Times crossword—you might CALL A DOCTOR who's one of the three famous fictional doctors who being the theme entries. Dr. HOUSE(-SITTER) is Hugh Laurie's TV character; Doctor DETROIT(, MICHIGAN) from the Dan Aykroyd character (not a physician); and NO MORE MR NICE GUY starts with James Bond's foe, Dr. NO. (Was he a physician?) I like the MR in the third theme entry echoing the absent DR.

Harvey Estes' CrosSynergy puzzle, "Where the Children Are Above Average," marks the 65th birthday of a certain writer with a tribute puzzle featuring the writer's name and three of his book titles. Left-right symmetry, rather than 180° symmetry, governs this grid.

And again:

I find that I approach Francis Heaney's crosswords with a degree of trepidation. There's going to be some extra mental effort needed to grasp some sort of unexpected twist. (And yes, there is such a thing as an expected twist in a crosswords, such as a regular Thursday rebus involving a short word.) Here, the twist is that the theme entries are all cross-referenced in the clues, meaning that you've got to figure out what the hell Francis is talking about in the clues in order to make good headway. The theme entries make up the key words in this paragraph: MARCEL DUCHAMP defaced a POSTCARD of the MONA / LISA, adding a MUSTACHE and a GOATEE, and called it L.H.O.O.Q. If you pronounce those individual letters aloud in FRENCH, it sounds kinda like the French equivalent of "SHE HAS A HOT ASS" (Elle a un haut cul?) This discussion of L.H.O.O.Q. has more on the artwork and its name.

I solved Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle, "Muscling In," after a workout at the gym. (No, not all of my workouts are mental.) Some of the muscles added to theme entries (at or near the beginning of the base phrases) were given due attention at the gym. I didn't do much for my abs, and I also don't understand the base phrase for RABBI BASEBALL. I know RBI means "runs batted in" in baseball, but what's RBI baseball? The king cobra gets a pec (who wouldn't like a kiss on the cheek from a PECKING COBRA?). Scarface beefs up the thighs with SQUAD CAR FACE, and a fine mess works its shoulders into a DELTA FINE MESS. Highlights in this puzzle: the TWERP and TWIT [Ninny] combo; the Scrabbliness of KINKOS, IRAQI, and NIX; O'REILLY clued with reference to the book reviewed here; a refreshing SMALL OJ, an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium; and the quaint freshness of BIBLE BELT and MOPSY Cottontail. Anyone think Canadian pop singer EMM Gryner is a name we'll see in more crosswords?