Must be comparatively brief in my blogging tonight, as I am trying to summon up the willpower to continue working on a freelance project when I would really like to retire to the sofa and veg out. My procrastinatorial skills are the stuff of legend, however, so we'll see how the evening plays out.
The New York Times crossword by David Levinson Wilk, "Flip-Flops," is not about footwear. Rather, the nine theme entries all take "X for Y" phrases and invert the X and Y. Thus, "bob for apples" becomes APPLES FOR BOB, [Dylan not liking Dell computers?]. [What scientists working for Gatorade have?] is a KNOWLEDGE FOR THIRST. Plenty of good fill seasons the grid: JUMBO-SIZE, UNKEMPT, JUGGLE, HENRY I, APARTHEID, and OOMPAH. Didn't really know that a PARTERRE is a [Rear seating section in a theater], or that PANAM was the airline involved in [The Beatles arrived in New York in 1964 on this]. [Develop anacusis] means GO DEAF. Did you know that [A bird flying by on the right, to the Greeks] was a GOOD OMEN? I didn't. DEBRIS is clued as [Ruins]; how come I never see it clued in relation to Mother's biscuits and debris?
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Pre-K Class," tacks a K onto the end of each theme entry. The funniest of these is ATTILA THE HUNK: [Story of a famous conqueror, Hollywood-style?]. Other morsels I enjoyed: STAN LEE, the U.S.S. IOWA, TAKE ILL, and a GAS BILL; the Charles in Charge two-fer of Willie AAMES and Scott BAIO; [The common type?] for ROMAN (as in not bold, not italics); and [Some kind of nerve] for OPTIC.
Jim Page's Washington Post crossword, "For the Birds," is laden with bird-related puns. Favorite bits: J.C. WATTS and BRUCE LEE as full-name entries; [Port, e.g.] for RED WINE; [Pontificate], the noun, for HOLY SEE; and the quaint DESCRIED ([Caught sight of]). Most confusing and then most alarming: [Like some ants] for ALATE. When I didn't have all the letters yet, I just couldn't see what it wanted to be. Then the crossings told me it was ALATE. ALATE? Oh, alate, as in "having wings." Ew! Flying ants! Hate those things.
Henry Hook's Boston Globe puzzle, "Mouthing Off," has a bunch of theme entries that pertain to smiles, with the :-D emoticon included in each of those clues. I don't quite know how I finished the puzzle as quickly as I did, given the number of letters I just plain guessed on. [Author de la Roche] is MAZO? Okay. [Spiritual powers] are CHARISMATA, crossing the COCOS, an [Indian Ocean island group] whose name wasn't coming readily to mind. OSH is a [Kyrgyzstan city]? Okay. That one's crossing the [Provincial ruler], an ETHNARCH, also not a word I've seen. [Plants adorning Corinthian columns] are ACANTHI; I've seen the singular acanthus, and didn't know of the plant's classical connection. [Louis' "That Old Black Magic" partner] is KEELY? Is that a first or last name? (One of the E's crosses the very small [Minnesota city], ELY, and the K crosses FSK, Francis Scott Key's initials). And there's a [River near Nairobi] called the ATHI? All righty. I'd Google these mystery words and provide links, but I'm trying not to procrastinate too much. In any event, the act of writing these down helps them find a crack in my brain to sneak into, so if they show up on a tournament crossword, I may be ready.
Ashish Vengsarkar shows that he's not limiting himself to making Sunday puzzles with never-before-seen themes, and he's willing to also make a crossword with an add-a-letter theme. In today's syndicated LA Times crossword, "Tee Time," he adds a T to the end of the first word in each multi-word phrase. Boy, I hope there was an alternate clue for CLOSET ENCOUNTERS, because [Fashion designers' secret meetings?] doesn't let that answer reach its full potential. I liked the [Eft?] graduating from fill to clue, for NEWT BEGINNING (efts being wee young salamanders, basically). Speaking of wee young things, the RUNT OF THE MILL is a [Tiny factory mascot?]. My enjoyment of the puzzle was dampened somewhat by a few out-there entries, but you know me—I see something that seems obscure, I make a note of it and try to remember it for future use. [One 60-trillionth of a minute] is a PSEC, presumably picosecond, displacing the more commonly seen (in crosswords) NSEC or nanosecond. I don't care for that one picowhit. ALOW sits atop NEVE, the granular snow, both crossing NOVI Sad. ORNITHIC ([Avian]) is inferrable, but not a form of the word I encounter. It crosses a T-SLOT, [Letter-shaped opening]. Throw in an ECU and AZO and ULLA, and...eh. On the bright side, [What cheese has that pâté doesn't?] actually managed to stump me for a bit—it's a SILENT E. And there's BONSOIR, THE STREET, the RAT PACK—good stuff.
Paula Gamache's themeless CrosSynergy doesn't have the funny/twisty sort of clues I love so much, but it does have terrific fill. Two long answers stacked atop DERANGEMENT are GENTLEMAN'S C (with that tricky ending) and "I'LL BE DAMNED," and that's a beautiful corner. The lower left corner has a BANANA SEAT. (Remember the Schwinns that were hot in the '70s? The Stingray for boys, the Fair Lady for my big sister, the Lil Chik for me—there's a secondhand bike shop in my neighborhood that specializes in vintage Schwinns, and I slow down and gaze every time I walk past the window.) At the lower right, a [Las Vegas winner] is MISS AMERICA, who's having ENDIVE SALAD and DESSERT WINE (I recommend a nice Moscato, personally). The upper right features the GLITTERATI and SWEETIE PIE crossing a POWER TIE. Good stuff.
September 22, 2007