(updated at 10:40 a.m. Wednesday)
Our top story tonight: Guess whose birthday is the 15th? And guess who ate too much at a dinner out tonight (chocolate souffle cake, yum!) and had too great a volume of strawberry margarita?
In other news, Wordplay's broadcast television premiere is slated for October 16 on PBS, as part of the "Independent Lens" series. Check, as they say, your local listings.
The New York Sun crossword, "Animal Pairs," is by Mark Feldman. The theme entries are short—a 9, two 8s, and two 7s, all "animalistic" sound-alikes for words or phrases in which the resulting phrase is a pair of animals. Hair mousse becomes HARE MOOSE; the French wine Bourdeaux becomes BOAR DOE; an old movie I don't know, Dear Heart, becomes DEER HART. My favorite examples were the ones using animals the populate crossword grids: the GNU BEES (newbies) and EWE TERNS (U-turns). As a bonus, NOAH'S ARK is there—although Noah would have gotten in big trouble for pairing a ewe with a tern instead of bringing two of each. I liked [Heathcliff's creator] because it made me think, "Who on earth does that comic strip?" when I really just needed Emily BRONTE. (Wuthering Heights was her only novel—she died of tuberculosis at age 30.) The small theme allows for plenty of longish answers in the fill, though BOTULIN and ARSENITE poisoned the fill a bit with their relative obscurity.
From the New York Times we get Ray Fontenot's crossword. The first part of the quip is clued [Start of a newspaper headline about a workplace mishap], and it turns out to be a play on RECOVERED's double meaning, "healed" and "covered again, as with upholstery." I'm no fan of quip or quote themes, but this puzzle's elevated by the lengthening of the fill—there are fewer 3-letter words than usual. The most obscure word, [Close-fitting tartan pants], crossed the quip and I wonder how many people chose TRETS instead of the correct TREWS (either NOW or NOT could plausibly be part of the quip). What are TREWS? They're form-fitting Scottish men's pants that date back to the time of the Book of Kells—available in knee-length breeches or in, essentially, stirrup pants. Less old is Tycho BRAHE, the Danish astronomer who lost part of his nose in a duel (damn those sharp swords!). Words that may be unfamiliar to crossword newcomers include ESNE ([Feudal serf]); [Soviet news agency] TASS (as in ITAR-TASS); the top crossword neutral color, ECRU; and the old (but current Canadian) gas station, ESSO, with a shiny new clue here: [Brand name that's coincidentally Italian for "it"]. Does anyone much use ELAN, meaning [Panache] or brio, outside of crosswords? "The esne envied how his lord sported his trews with such elan." Favorite clues in this puzzle: [Ignore the alarm?] for OVERSLEEP; [I, in old Rome] for EGO; [Bubble source] for SOAP (and not, say, SPECULATION or POOR LENDING PRACTICES); and ["Go ahead, tell me"] for I GIVE UP.
Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy puzzle has CAKES and ICING and some '80s nostalgia (parts of the the "songs containing AIR, FIRE, EARTH, and WATER" theme, the BRAT PACK movies) to celebrate my birthday! I don't know about the clue for LATE SHOW, though: [TV program for insomniacs]? How many people are watching Letterman because they have insomnia? I'm thinking people stay up to watch The Late Show and its ilk and haven't even tried to go to sleep yet. Crappy infomercials are what's on tap in the wee hours for insomniacs.
Doug Peterson's LA Times crossword's theme entries are phrases that begin with PURSE, SACK, SATCHEL, and CASE. Hey, if you like cloth bags better than leather, or if you like the idea of choosing your own combination of fabrics for a one-of-a-kind bag, check out 1154 Lill Studio. I get a ton of compliments on my Lill bags, and I'll bet Linda does, too. Twisty clue: [Shot in the arm?] for AMMO, arm meaning a weapon rather than a limb here. One-letter-off trap: [Works like a dog] is MOILS, not TOILS, as a bad actor may HAM IT UP, but to my knowledge nobody has ever been said to HAT IT UP. [Sheen, to the Queen] made me think of Charlie Sheen and Martin Sheen, thanks to that capital S; turns out to be the British spelling, LUSTRE.
August 14, 2007