September 25, 2007

Wednesday, 9/26

NYS 4:34
NYT 3:31
LAT 3:25
CS 3:11

Lee Glickstein and Craig Kasper co-constructed the New York Times crossword, but it's hard for an online solver to know that when an unnecessary solving hint obliterates the byline. (The hint is: "Note: The 13 starred clues have something in common." Now, the fact that those clues are starred should be help enough, no? The "hint" adds nothing.) Anyway. The 13 theme entries, 4 to 8 letters apiece (79 letters in all for this theme), are all one-word Broadway musicals, I believe: OLIVER, OKLAHOMA, SPAMALOT, RENT, HAIR, CABARET, EVITA, CANDIDE (When was this on Broadway? Oh, Google tells me 1956, 1974, and 1997. Look for it again in another decade.), AIDA, FAME, CAROUSEL, SHOWBOAT, and KISMET—and none of them clued as musicals. A lovely Wednesday theme that flowed smoothly from start to finish. Some tough words: LAVALIER ([Bejeweled pendant]); COXES ([Regatta crew leaders]); OCULAR as a noun ([Eyepiece]); ALISO [Viejo (California city near Laguna Beach], which is utterly unfamiliar to me; KPAX, the [2001 film set in a mental institution] (Kevin Spacey as a purported alien); the [Ancient garland] called an ANADEM; the [Renaissance instrument] called a REBEC (which I first learned via a Frank Longo crossword); and DSC, because I seldom remember the [U.S. mil. medal] clues. These are a few of my favorite things: [1950s All-Star outfielder Minnie] MINOSO, because he lives four blocks away from me and has a garage parking space right next to my cousin's; the X/Z/K Scrabbly action; the intersection between NEONATAL, [Like some nursery care], and the LAMAZE [Kind of class] that might precede that stage; [Air ___] for JORDAN basketball shoes; and the automotive LYNX and CARAVAN.

Mark Feldman's New York Sun puzzle, "Backdrafts," made me thirsty after I figured out the theme. Having spent some time this afternoon in Crypticland, I was looking backwards within the theme entries for the theme—but really, it's just that a draft of cold beer can be found at the back end of each theme entry. STRIPED BASS goes with Bass Ale, which is (I just learned from Wikipedia) depicted in Manet's A Bar at the Folies Bergère (the bottle with the red triangle at right). I've never heard of the plant called DUSTY MILLER, but Miller beer is, alas, inescapable in America. ONCE IN A BLUE MOON...I once ordered a Blue Moon beer, unaware that it was a Belgian-style wheat beer, and I do not care for witbier, weissbier, or wheat beer. I hated Blue Moon until I added that orange slice, and then it was delicious. (Everything is better with Orange!) The AEOLIAN HARP links to Harp Lager, which is all right but I do prefer darker beers. The theme winds down on the sunny beach with SOLAR CORONA; among Mexican beers, I'll take the Negra Modelo, por favor. I don't know that I want to wash down my SNO-CAPS chocolate nonpareils with any of these libations, but I always like seeing SNO-CAPS on the candy shelf or in the crossword. Other tasty fill: LOWBALL, VAN BUREN, SNUGLI baby carriers, and IT'S PAT.


Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword has six kinds of WEIGHTS (or word components that can precede WEIGHT) at the beginning of the theme entries: FIGHTING, PAPER, FREE, DEAD, HEAVY, and COUNTER. Cool grid, with the 8-letter theme entries stacked (in part) parallel to the 11s and crossing the 10s. Between those and the central 7, every section of the puzzle is hooked to the theme entries. The only eyesore in the fill was [LPGA co-founder Marlene] HAGGE, whose name was unknown to me. Apparently she was a hotshot in her youth and won a Boys Junior title at age 10.

Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Tec Support," clues four fictional detectives by saying who helped them with their cases. Nice trivia twist on a category theme.