Mark Diehl's Saturday New York Times crossword nudged me off to a good start. 1-Across, [Mad magazine feature], too long to be "foldout"...must be SPY VS SPY because that would make a stellar 1-Across. The Y at the end launched the 15-letter [Daredevil's creed], which had to be YOU...YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE. The rest of it unrolled gradually from those entries, though it was the whole SPY VS SPY corner that I finished last. That 15-letter answer sprawling down the center was just too tempting a starting point for me to stay in the upper left. There were a few other gimmes: COCCI are [Spherical bacteria] (the name's derived from the Greek for "berries" because, well, look at 'em); ["Happy Days" catchphrase] is SIT ON IT ("Up your nose with a rubber hose," of course, was the catchphrase from Welcome Back, Kotter); ["The Partridge Family" actress], 3 letters, gotta be Susan DEY; [Dobby or Winky, in Harry Potter] is ELF (I don't know Winky, but Dobby's a house elf); and [Source of lecithin] is SOYBEAN (approximately eight gazillion ingredient labels list "soya lecithin"). My best wrong answer: deciding that [Providers of peer review?] meant EYETEETH rather than EYE TESTS.
What answers and clues did I like best? What ones led me astray? I'll tell you. First, the Acrosses. THE NATION has been a [Weekly since 1865]. [Martin of Hollywood] isn't Steve or Short or Mull or Landau or Mary, but PAMELA SUE (Nancy Drew of '70s TV!); mmm, love the '70s TV pop culture (see SIT ON IT, above, and the General LEE from Dukes of Hazzard). [Falls apart] is TANKS, while military vehicles are summoned up more directly with [Hum follower?], VEE. I was just musing to myself about what middle initial [1990 N.F.L. running back Curtis] ENIS might have: his middle name is Paul! Yes, I giggled when I saw that. [Keep in order] is POLICE, but first I tried POLISH, which just won't work. Many deplore the "Kind of ___" variety of clue (as in "Kind of anemone" for SEA—there's such a thing as a sea anemone, but a sea is not a kind of anemone). This puzzle's got [Kind of state] as a clue for SATELLITE, and here it works perfectly—while satellite state is a familiar term, one of the definitions of satellite is "a nation dominated politically and economically by another nation." [Rest stops] are SANATORIUMS; the difference between sanatorium and sanitarium is those two vowels, but the meaning is the same and I'm guessing somebody misspelled it eons ago and both spellings stuck. A single BISCOTTO (singular of biscotti) is [One use for anise], but I happen to think anise should have no uses. [Mountain climber's need] makes you think you need to remember arcane equipment names, but no: it's just ENDURANCE.
Moving to the Downs: ST PETER is indeed a [Figure in many jokes]. Love the word PHALANX ([Troup group]). [London's Covent Garden and others: Abbr.] = STAS, and that was the first Underground station I ever ascended from (by elevator, or rather, lift...you can take the stairs but must climb 193 of them). CBS SPORTS is another terrific entry—look, only one vowel in the whole thing! Between that and SPY VS SPY, Mark Diehl is showing off a little. Ooh, CRAPPIE! The [Small sunfish]. It's pronounced "croppy," my dad always said. New word for me: [Cantillates] means INTONES (like a cantor?). Fun clue: [When the kids are out] is NAPTIME. I was thinking of fast food for [Old drive-in fare], but needed to think movies: an OATER. [Chooses] is nicely vague as a clue for ANOINTS. NEWSDAY is [Part of the Tribune Company], apparently—it was part of Times-Mirror when I worked for a subsidiary, but later Tribune bought the LA Times and its sister properties, as I recall. Oceanic [Current events around Christmas] are EL NINOS (which can be plural because these weather phenomena occur every year or two, don't they?). Another funny clue: [Kind of crystals] sounds geologic or chemical, but it's those damned FOLGERS coffee "crystals." What are those, the product of ground coffee geodes rather than beans? My kid just got a handout at school that indicated the editing symbols like the CARET ([Addition sign]), triple-underline for uppercase, slash for lowercase, the dele mark—I say second grade is the perfect time to introduce these things. [It's hard to walk on] goes podiatric with CORN.
Today's CrosSynergy crossword by Bob Klahn, "Heap of Trouble," features a 75-letter "observation"—five 15-letter chunks of a quote occupying a full third of the grid. Classically deft Klahn cluing plus a quip/observation I haven't seen before make for a nice, knotty solve that gave my mind a good morning workout.
In their themeless LA Times puzzle, Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke layer the grid with five 15-letter entries. The first and last Across answers are fun ones—a LAVA LAMP and a [Sly comment?] (as in Sly Stallone), YO ADRIAN. Good puzzle here.
Dan Stark's Newsday puzzle, a 72-worder, is pretty easy for a themeless crossword. Pretty straightforward clues, no answers longer than 8 letters, lots of answers that are ordinary words rather than colloquial phrases.
September 21, 2007