September 27, 2007

Friday, 9/28

NYS 8:30 (a Sun PDF this time
NYT 5:56
LAT 5:23
9/14 CHE 5:15
CS 3:14
Jonesin' (untimed)

WSJ 6:38

When I solved Byron Walden's Friday New York Sun puzzle, "Joint Custody," the theme managed to elude me despite the title sending a clear message. Well, not so clear, because joint custody has nothing to do with anatomical joints, and the theme does, and yes, I admit to asking the constructor for a hint about what the theme was. The gimmick is that four answers travel clockwise around the grid's corners, and where the bend is, there's a joint embedded within the corner answer. So 22-Clockwise is a dog's TRAVEL BOWL, 5-Clockwise is STUCK NEEDLES IN, 43-Clockwise is SUSHI PLATTER, and 55-Clockwise is CRANK LETTERS. 20-Down offers a hint about the theme: in order to find the hidden joints, you must GO ON A BENDER. The rest of the puzzle has a themeless vibe to it—tough answers, tough clues. Favorite clues: [Hookers on the strip?] for VELCRO brand hook-and-loop fasteners; [Shift worker?] for MODISTE; [Dialed up?] for SOAPED; [It might carry rock and roll] for a mine TRAM; [Course pro?] for TUTOR; the unappetizing [Spotted dick ingredient] for SUET; [Correct beginning?] for HARD C and [Correct ending] for -IVE; and the aerobic CARDIO for [Spinning, e.g.].

Tough words: Well, for starters, there's TOUGHIE, clued as [It resists cracking]. [Place of confinement for the fire-breathing Typhon, in mythology] is the ever-popular Mt. ETNA. [Nursling] is an unfamiliar word for TOT or "carefully nurtured person or thing." TRETORN tennis shoes were popular among the preppy crowd in the '80s; I didn't know it was a [Swedish sneaker brand]. A [Meteoric stone that can be carbonaceous] is a CHONDRITE. Guess what? Four years ago, my hometown got walloped by incoming chondrites, some zooming through rooftops and windows but most landing on the ground harmlessly. A KILOCURIE is a [Unit of radioactivity]? I'm sure it is. ERBIUM is [Element #68], and I don't have a clue what it's good for.

Fun entries: the DIVINYLS, [Band with the 1991 hit "I Touch Myself"] (lyrics here, video here—I don't know this song because by 1991, I was three years past college and too cool for current pop music); EVAN BAYH getting promoted from last-name-that-helps-a-constructor-finish-the-corner to full name; the cross-referenced OBLADI and OBLADA.

(P.S. Did you happen to notice that the black squares in this 14x15 grid aren't placed symmetrically?)

Moving along to the unthemed New York Times crossword by Harvey Estes—A couple answers came extra quickly after they appeared in other crosswords this week: astrologer Sydney OMARR, whose column I read when I was a kid, and the [Pacer maker: Abbr.] of carmaker AMC. It took some time to piece together the two triple-stacks of 15-letter entries, even though LEAVES A BAD TASTE came to mind quickly—I blame 5-Down, [Large accounts?] I knew what the clue was getting at, but opted for SAGAS instead of EPICS and thus questioned my 1-Across ideas. The other long ones are ART APPRECIATION ([Class in which various schools are discussed]), BY TRIAL AND ERROR, the lovely ESCAPE MECHANISM ([Daydreaming, e.g.], DEAD AS A DOORNAIL, and (out of character with those five lively phrases) the blah ASSESSMENT ROLLS ([Records of interest to real estate agents]).

Toughest and/or most beloved clues (the two are often synonymous for me): [Distillation location] for LAB (I was thinking moonshine, as in BEAM, the [Bit of moonshine]). An [Adolescent outburst] may be ACNE. [Initials of a noted "Wizard"] means TAE, Thomas Alva Edison, the Wizard of Menlo Park (no known Harry Potter connection). [Go downhill] means ATROPHY (not SKI!). [Drive along leisurely] is TOOTLE (really!). The old word LEGIST means [Expert in ancient law]. A bed SHEET is a [Retiree's coverage?]. The automotive term for a bad [Front wheel divergence] is TOE-OUT. RICE is [Something needed for your sake]. An unfamiliar name is referenced for ERICAS: [Lois Lane player Durance and others]. From the original Superman show? Nope: From Smallville. I don't know about [Didn't paw] for FONDLED; unwelcome fondling would still be pawing, no?

Other worthy entries: ATTAGIRL; VARMINT; ["30 Rock" creator] TINA FEY (that was my favorite TV show last season—season 2 begins next Thursday night, and you can get caught up on last season via DVD); the [Emphatic turndown] I MEAN NO; and FRIEDA, the [Curly-haired "Peanuts" character].


By the way, I asked Byron to tell us a little about the construction of his oddball Sun puzzle. Watch for that later today in the comments.

Anthony Salvia's Sept. 14 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Arts Trek," presents four 15-letter works of art (a painting, symphony, novel, and play) that include parts of our solar system in the title. As with most CHE crosswords (deftly edited by Patrick Berry), the fill is interesting and the clues are smart—maybe a touch more literary and scientific literacy is called for, but there's still a smattering of pop culture. If you like tougher themed crosswords, you should make a point of solving this one each week. I download it on Fridays from, where the puzzle from two weeks before is posted. If you've missed some, Will Johnston's calendar page has all the Chronicle puzzles from 2007.

Donna Levin's LA Times puzzle is excellent, too. The theme entries include puns with Japanese words. [Boozy Japanese woodworker?] plays on Karen Carpenter and Kirin beer: KIRIN CARPENTER. A few favorite clues: [Baba not au rhum] for ALI Baba; [Four spot?] for a spot of TEA at 4:00; [It might land you in deep water] for DIVE; and [Newtonian fruit?] for FIG newtons.

Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle has four phrases starting with words that can follow MEAT. Meat MARKET ANALYST, fine. Meat LOAF OF BREAD and meat BALL BEARING, savory. Meat HOOK AND LADDER, though...I don't want to think about meat hooks!

The Matt Jones puzzle I solved last week, concurrent with the launch of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, is this week's Jonesin' puzzle, "In the Language." The theme entries are words that have been added to this new edition of the SOED. If you didn't make time for the puzzle last week, now's your chance!

Randolph Ross's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Launch Time," includes nine NASA missions in the theme entries. The resulting batch of phrases is crisp: FREDDIE MERCURY and JUPITER, FLORIDA share space with VIKING PRESS, for example. Easier than most WSJ puzzles, too—it can be fun to zip through a puzzle faster than you were expecting.