October 07, 2007

Monday, 10/8

CS 3:06
LAT 3:02
NYS 2:59
NYT 2:33

I've been thinking of late of a metallic musicians crossword theme, with possibilities like Silverchair, Nickelback, Golden Earring, Steeleye Span, Led Zeppelin, Freddie Mercury, and Iron Maiden. So I was pleased to see the Monday New York Times puzzle by Steve Kahn, with metallic body parts: James Bond villain GOLDFINGER, a SILVERBACK gorilla, a STEELHEAD trout, and bluesman LEADBELLY (who actually spells the LEAD part right, making him well-suited to a metallic musicians crossword). One nonthematic plus here is that chunky block of white space in the middle of the grid. Another plus: fill like DVORAK, a BEANBAG chair, SHRUG, and RHO atop ROW, along with a relative dearth of super-common crosswordy fill in the 3- and 4-letter range. The biggest plus: Zippy clues. [Gerund, e.g.] is, grammatically speaking, a NOUN. OWED gets a question-marked clue, [Saw red?]. [Woods or Irons] is a playfully golfy clue for ACTOR. [Crips or Bloods] means a GANG, and how often are street gangs referenced in the Times crossword? A [Faux 'fro?] is a WIG. [Work up] is gently vague for AROUSE. [Consumed heartily] means DOWNED. Childhood games show up with TAGS ([Makes "it"]) and the RULES you'll find packaged with a board game ([Game sheet]). A crackerjack Monday puzzle!


Lynn Lempel's Monday New York Sun crossword, "Middleweights," has a theme that's subtle enough, I hadn't identified it before finishing the puzzle. Five theme entries (including one of those shorter stealth theme entries) have units of weight embedded within them: COMPOUNDING, BOUNCED, RIGHT ON TIME, BOCA RATON, and MIGRAINES. I love the inclusion of teeny units of measure like CARAT and GRAIN, which very few of us can measure at home. Well, okay, a bathroom scale and postal scale don't measure tons, but people can envision tons by looking at automobiles. I suspect the average person has no idea how much a grain is. What is a grain, anyway? About 65 milligrams, which means it's bigger than I would've thought.

Don Gagliardo's LA Times puzzle is chock full o' theme entries that contain O' in the middle. I like the upper right corner, where Sherman HEMSLEY crosses the JET SET and BEELZEBUB.

Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Lop Top" (Why not "Crop Top"? Maybe CROPDUSTER had been an earlier theme entry), runs its five theme entries vertically. Each one begins with four letters that double as a verb meaning "lop," and in each case, they're used in non-cutting contexts within the theme entries. Anything that gets HACKNEYED PHRASE into a puzzle is much appreciated (it's joined by CHOPSTICKS, CUTTLEFISH, CLIPBOARD, and SNIPPIEST), and it's good to see DRIZZLE with its double Z, too.