The Monday New York Times crossword by Edward Sessa includes circled letters to spotlight the theme: The NOTES OF THE SCALE appear, in pairs, in the four theme entries. DOG BREEDER contains DO and RE, MI and FA appear in the next Across theme entry, SOFT PALATE contains SO and LA in the Down entry that's higher up in the grid, and TI and DO appear in the other Down theme entry. (If you're about to interject that SO should be SOL, save your breath. SO has dictionary support as a variant and it's more widely used in American English. Plus, The Sound of Music didn't teach us "Sol/soul, offshoot of R and B," it was "So/sew, a needle pulling thread.") An affable theme, especially with [G.I. Joe, for one] being an ACTION DOLL. Yes, that's right—a doll. "Action figure" is merely a euphemism for man doll. Highlights in the fill: CHEESY (clued as [Shabby], which isn't exactly the sense I pick up from "cheesy") next to STEAMY, SARI crossing INDIA, and the prospect that one day, rapper EMINEM will be described as having DODDERED. "What's the etymology of dodder?" you ask. American Heritage defines it as "To shake or tremble, as from old age; totter.
To progress in a feeble, unsteady manner."—the root is [Alteration of Middle English daderen.] I'm so fond of words that have been in the English language for 500+ years.
The New York Sun puzzle is called "It's Your Move," and James Sajdak is the constructor. The theme...what is the theme? I finished without noticing any theme. Ah, games in which it's somebody's move: CHESS, CHECKERS, GO, and REVERSI, the latter serving as the beginning of REVERSIONIST and the other three doubling as the first word in a phrase. Delightfully Scrabbly fill, with XBOX and TAXIS and EXES and ESSEX (none of them intersecting at those Xs!) and QI GONG and KING-SIZE and WHEEZE (also standing apart). Not to mention longer fill like DASHIKIS and AS USUAL—overall, the fill is simply excellent.
You'll need some Tums after devouring the LA Times puzzle. Constructor Bill Ballard dishes out THREE BEAN SALAD, FOUR CHEESE PIZZA, and FIVE-ALARM CHILI with some nonthematic sides of SLAW and RIGATONI. My favorite crossword-bound title appears here, the [Turkish title] PASHA. Don't we all aspire to be a pasha at times? I picture more of an old-time sultan or emperor, which may be factually incorrect, but that's how we use "pasha" around this house.
Harvey Estes' CrosSynergy puzzle, "Contemplate Your Naval Battle," has a few layers. The theme is a quote with two alternate endings, and the anatomy conjured by the title also pops up in the fill. The start and middle of the two quotes is WE HAVE MET / THE ENEMY. The first ending was uttered by Commander Perry at LAKE ERIE during the War of 1812: AND THEY ARE OURS. The alternate ending comes from Walt Kelly, creator of the "Pogo" comic strip: AND HE IS US. Kelly used the phrase on a poster for Earth Day in 1970. So that's a naval battle, a fillip of environmentalism, and then, for good measure, an INNIE to contemplate in the fill.
September 09, 2007