September 05, 2007

Thursday, 9/6

NYS 5:19
NYT 4:37
LAT 4:04
CS 2:53

Two captivating crosswords from the Sun and Times for Thursday.

Daniel Bryant's New York Times puzzle has a theme of IT'S REVERSED, with IT reversed to TI in the theme entries. of the trio, I liked LANDING STIES the least and thought to myself, "Landing sites? How often do people actually use that term?" So I Googled landing site and got 31 million hits—and I'd like to change the clue from [Where porcine pilots arrive?] to [Where porcine astronauts arrive?]. [Wardrobe malfunction?] is a great clue for UNTIED FRONT, and I also liked MARTIAL BLISS, the highly elusive [Mood after a military victory?]. There are all sorts of excellent fill entries sitting in this grid, from the 7- and 9-letter words between the middle two theme entries (ENDEAVORS, INHUMAN) to the longer verticals (THANK YOUS, ANTONIONI, CINEPLEX, AGNOSTIC) to BABBLE and late political cartoonist Bill MAULDIN. (There are also plenty of blah shorter entries.)

Favorite clues: [Camel's end?] for ASH (cigarettes, ick); [Tries] for ENDEAVORS; [Nut just threaten] for SUE; [Threats to World War shipping] for U-BOATS (I just learned the other week at the expanded U-505 exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry that the German U-boats had sunk an awful lot of American and British merchant ships); the crazy [Over near] for OUT BY (as in "I think I left it out by the lawn chair"), even though the fill may be specious; [Artist Frank ___, pioneer in Minimalism] for painter Frank STELLA; [It has many pictures] for CINEPLEX; and [Certain notes] for the non-musical, non-currency THANK YOUS.

In the New York Sun, Patrick Blindauer's puzzle ("Hop To It!") is a tribute to the old video game, FROGGER. The theme entries are unrelated other than that they include (in the circled/shaded squares) the frog's obstacles, a CROC(odile), LOG, CAR, and TRUCK. (I think the Across Lite file's supposed to show TRUCK, not TRUC, in circles.) There are five evenly spaced squares in the top row of the grid that reflect the safe havens the frog can reach.

After you fill in the crossword, you're to take your invisible frog through the Frogger grid from the circled E at the bottom, moving upwards and left and right as needed through the letters contained in FROGGER, dodging the hazardous car and log and whatnot, to reach one of the safe havens. I got him to the R; same for you?

Two clues reminded my of my recent Florida vacation: [Merman's milieu] for SEA, though my husband plied his merman moves in a swimming pool; and [First name of the TV deputy of Hazzard County] for ENOS, because the guy who played Enos will be the celebrity guest at the Cooter Festival one town over from my in-laws'. Favorite clues: [Creature feature] for FUR; the vaguely misleading [Appropriate] for USURP; [Bolted down nuts, maybe] for ATE; and [Cubist of note] for ERNO RUBIK, getting promoted from crosswordese first name to his full name. DOLOMITE, the [Common translucent mineral], is not quite the same as the movie DOLEMITE, but picks up some cool vibes from it anyway.


David Kahn's LA Times crossword features a batch of NFL MERGERS joining two football teams into a single phrase starting with a possessive. [Corporate leader's flying fleet?] = CHIEF'S JETS, [Mogul's fancy cars?] = TITAN'S JAGUARS, [Cleric's golfing successes] = CARDINAL'S EAGLES, and [Plastic user's accumulation?] = CHARGER'S BILLS. The only mildly sour spot in the theme is that the Jets' name relates to jets used the same way, whereas the other teams aren't named after cars, golf coups, or credit card statements. But that's a minor, minor detraction from the theme's cohesiveness. Outside of the theme, eh, nothing so special. I wouldn't mind seeing another crossword someday that plays with combinations of team names, though—it's a fun game.

Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle's got a fairly straightforward theme that has a fresh feel nonetheless. The six theme entries in "Going to Seed" start with edible seeds (well, some people do eat APPLE seeds by eating the core—I knew a woman who ate apples that way and it always freaked me out a bit), so the seed for each theme entry's a seed. Ten bonus points for launching the theme with the '80s horror movie, PUMPKINHEAD, which sounds silly, not scary. Quaint old POPPYCOCK and MUSTARD PLASTER join the fun, along with potent APPLEJACK, the SUNFLOWER STATE, and the kiddie theme park, SESAME PLACE.