September 28, 2007

Saturday, 9/29

LAT 5:29
NYT 5:10
Newsday 5:07
CS 3:10

Last week on September 19, the New York Sun published a special puzzle, a plus-sized themeless Whopping Weekend Warrior by Henry Hook that editor Peter Gordon has made available to online crossword junkies. It's two to three times larger than the standard 15x15 crossword, and took me about two to three times as long as the typical Friday NYT puzzle, so it's hard, but not dauntingly so. Enjoy!

The Saturday New York Times puzzle by Robert Wolfe is anchored by three lively 15-letter phrases: THAT'S RIDICULOUS! (Which is referenced in the clue for PSHAW at 44-Down.) Then there's HEY, DON'T LOOK AT ME! And in the middle, items of a SENSITIVE NATURE ([Delicacy]). One particularly vexatious little crossing: the [Ring of anatomy] crossing [Land of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"]. Some references suggest that AREOLE means a cactus bud that spawns a spine, while the areola is the anatomical ring (around a nipple or the pupil of the eye). So, is it A or E? Don't know any Jules Verne lands called NED or NAD, but there are plenty of other NEDs out there, so it must be NAD, right? Wrong. It's the non-nipple AREOLE crossing the character NED Land. Icky crossing there. (20,000 Leagues isn't the only '50s Disney live-action movie referenced in this puzzle. Apparently SAL MINEO was a ["Tonka" star, 1958]. Before my time! As was Mort SAHL, [Joke writer for many Kennedy speeches], but at least Sahl comes up in crosswords more than Tonka or Ned Land.)

Favorite and/or toughest clues/answers: [Slip covers?] means BLEEPS. [Boy in the "Rose Is Rose" comic strip] for CLEM (who?). Today's ERICA isn't an actress but rather, [African evergreen shrub]. What's [Like VCRs in the 1970s]? They were NEW then. [Lead, e.g.] is ROLE—I like clues with ambiguous words like lead, which can be a noun, a metal, a verb, and an adjective. [Boring people] are those who bore holes: DRILLERS. (Who are these drillers? Technically, there are well drillers and whatnot—but also minor-league football and baseball teams from oil country.) [Some husk contents] clues the uncommon singular OAT. What the heck's an E-BOAT? Apparently the Germans called it an S-boot or Schnellboot, meaning fast boat, but the WWII Allies called it an E-boat, possibly E for "enemy." I like the cross-reference between DIVAS and OPERA; wonder how many people had DIVAS first and followed their crossword instincts to ARIAS instead of OPERA. I don't know ["Piece of My Heart" singer Franklin], ERMA, but Wikipedia tells me she was Aretha's sister. Oh! Not a fan of the spelling TEENTSY (though I like how it's clued with the adjective [Minute])—I prefer teensy. Last, there's the [Comment before turning in]: I'M TIRED. And so to bed.


I enjoyed Doug Peterson's Newsday themeless—I think he constructs about one Saturday Stumper a month, but I wouldn't mind seeing more than that. Sterling fill—RAPUNZEL, LEE J. COBB, PAPYRUS, phrases such as ON IN YEARS, EASED IN, ADDED ONTO, and LEERING AT. Favorite clues: [King or Queen] for NOVELIST (I started with ROYALIST, which shares five letters); [Clear drifts] for PLOW (I was reading "clear" as an adjective, not verb); [Cant] for JARGON; [Blissful] for ELYSIAN; [Most letters, in DC] for STS (streets in our capital); [Crack] for SUPER; [Shark territory] for WEST SIDE (from West Side Story, not Discovery Channel's Shark Week); [Part of a trailer] for a movie SCENE; [Equation element] for the nonspecific SYMBOL; [Auto debut of '86] for ACURA (I guessed crosswords' favorite Olds, ALERO); and [Like crazy] for A LOT. I like EGADS—and now my son does, too, having encountered "Egads!" and "Gadzooks!" in a graphic novel for kids.

Another Robert Wolfe puzzle today, in the LA Times. As was mentioned at the NYT forum, both of his themeless crosswords today use the same grid, but the fill is entirely different. One answer did pop out faster thanks to my post-solving Googling of stuff in the NYT puzzle. Last night, I saw that Jules Verne published his Twenty Thousand Leagues book in 1870, so with a few crossing letters, VERNE worked for [Author of "Paris in the 20th Century," an 1863 novel first published in 1994]. That book is a dystopian look at future Paris from the 1863 vantage point; the main character "graduates with a major in literature and the classics, but finds they have been forgotten in a futuristic world where only technological writing is valued." The trio of 15s in this puzzle are OBEDIENCE LESSON ([Opportunity to learn to speak]), STOOD ON CEREMONY ([Demanded formality]), and ROTTEN TO THE CORE ([All bad]). a [Heck of a person] is a GEM; this makes me think, "Brownie, you're a gem." [Dangerous carrier] is the TSETSE fly; would an airline sue if its name were clued that way? Too bad GO BY is a two-word phrase ([Pass]), when we have the fish called GOBY, complete with a sucker fin. [Sites of small mirrors] means VISORS, as in the car, not PURSES or DENTIST'S OFFICES. [Do a makeup job?] is ATONE. Here, [Tiny] is MICRO (which I like better than TEENTSY in the NYT). ERSE is a [Language heard on Cape Breton Island], which is...where, exactly? It's part of Nova Scotia, and plenty of people there are of Scottish descent, hence the Gaelic or ERSE. Anyone else get slowed down by answering [Loses it all] with GOES NUTS rather than the correct GOES BUST?

Easy CrosSynergy puzzle from Mel Rosen—"Rail Splitting" splits the R from the AIL with intervening letters in four phrases. That's not a theme type that does much for me. I guess it's helpful if you're trying to make an easy crossword—if the solver figures out how the theme works, she can fill in at least the first and last letters of each theme entry. But such themes lack surprise or wit, no?