August 07, 2007

Wednesday, 8/8

NYS 5:26
LAT 3:41
CS 3:36
NYT 3:13

(updated at 9:30 a.m. Thursday—whoops! A day late)

Kelsey Blakley's New York Sun crossword has one of those themes that must've taken a good long while to brainstorm. Sure, the first entry might leap to mind serendipitously, but how on earth did she accumulate four more? In "The First Shall Be Last," each theme entry takes the first letter of a phrase and relocates it to the end. Marc Antony becomes ARC ANTONYM, clued trickily and geometrically as [Straight line?]. An Easter hat lets a vowel in on the action, moving the E for ASTER HATE. {Aftermath of a sausage explosion?] is RAINING BRAT, built on a training bra. Track star becomes the torture-related RACK START, and a number line turns into UMBER LINEN. (That last one seemed off until I remembered the dark brown flannel sheets I own.) I do wish the clue for ATHEISM had been modernized from [Madalyn Murray O'Hair's belief]; what about Richard Dawkins? We can't have the [Leather leggings] called CHAPS without linking to a photo. Favorite clues: [Meter reader?] for POET crossing [Nonpoetic lines that scan well?] for UPC; [Stock quote?] for MOO and [Hog heaven sound?] for OINK; and [...] for ELLIPSIS. Extra bonus points for combining Keith RICHARDS and KARL ROVE in one crossword.

Donna Levin's New York Times puzzle brings some absentee fathers home by adding PA to the beginning of a word in each theme entry. Role reversal becomes PAROLE REVERSAL, rent strike becomes a PARENT STRIKE (is there a union to join?), circus tent gets a CIRCUS PATENT, and Buffalo wings turn into BUFFALO PAWINGS. Great-looking grid, with two wide-open corners and two corners accommodating 8-letter answers. Several terrific answers leapt out at me, too: AFROPOP music (no prior uses indexed in the Cruciverb database—and look at it here! It pops. It crosses two theme entries and three stacked 6-letter answers. You might expect a boring word like RETAINS here, but instead, AFROPOP!), "OH, DARN," DOOGIE Howser, and the horror movie THE FOG. Even SHA and TRA benefit from their close proximity: SHA Na Na and TRA la la harmonize nicely. How about PEDI, the prefix for -cure or -cab, parked aptly beneath AFOOT? A lot of the short 3- and 4-letter answers are blah, but you hardly notice those when they're used to build so many longer and livelier answers.


Rich Norris's CrosSynergy puzzle felt like it took me a much longer time to figure out than the clock would indicate. The subject of the puzzle is an actor who celebrated his 70th birthday on August 8, and four of his most critically acclaimed performances are included along with his name. It took a certain letter Z to point me in the right direction, and then the other theme entries all tumbled.

Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's LA Times puzzle has a series of five 15-letter entries that begin with the letter sequences BAN, BEN, BIN, BON, and BUN. That's a lot of theme density—good thing BY NOW, IT'S ALL OVER isn't remotely "in the language" or they might've been tempted to wedge six 15s in there...and that wouldn't have worked so well. It's nice of KABOB and BABAR to lend an assist in the first column with their Bs.