Yay! Patrick Berry's New York Times puzzle has a shout-out to one of the most illustrious graduates of my alma mater, Carleton College—the mellifluously named Thorstein VEBLEN, the [Economist who wrote "The Theory of the Leisure Class"]. This crossword has a fairly low word count (64 answers) and hence not much in the way of Scrabbly fill. But still, there are plenty of words and phrases that don't get much action in crosswords. The DOLLAR TREE chain of dollar stores, for example. And PARTY FOUL, which is a [Gaffe at a social gathering, in modern lingo]—lingo so modern, it had not yet penetrated my ken! That one did not HIT HOME ([Seemed particularly relevant]) for me, but my son is an ONLY CHILD (like Eloise). We've got two Latin plurals here, MINUTIAE ([Details]) and ENCOMIA ([Laudations])—both words I like. I also like GENTEEL ([Refined]).
Favorite clues: [Small suit] for SPEEDO (here's a water polo Speedo suit with a "vibrant fun print"); ["The Outsiders" author] for HINTON (I read and loved all four of her '60s-'70s youth novels); [Result of a day at the beach?] for a PEEL of sunburned skin; ["Infidel" author Ayaan Hirsi ___] ALI (her book is a feminist critique of Islam); [Linguist Okrand who created the Klingon language] for MARC (my, that's an oddball Trekkie way to clue that name!); [It's "heavier freight for the shipper than it is for the consignee": Augustus Thomas] for HATRED; [Poem whose first, third, and seventh lines are identical] for RONDELET or roundelay; [It's cleared for a debriefing] for THROAT; [Pan American Games participant] for AMATEUR (I rather thought it'd be something like CHILEAN); [Typically green tube] for GARDEN HOSE; [Often-unanswered missive] for FAN LETTER; [Tough's partner] for MOLL (usually a Saturday clue's "partner" means a word that appears in tandem, not an actual human partner); and [Country of two million surrounded by a single other country] for LESOTHO, which is embedded within South Africa.
I liked the showbiz trivia in Doug Peterson's Newsday Saturday Stumper. What is the [Film role portrayed by Skippy]? Why, it's our favorite crosswordese cinematic pooch, ASTA! I thought [Premiere of 1989] was going to be a contemporary opera or something, but no: SEINFELD! Mickey ROONEY apparently has been a [Film actor in nine decades]. Favorite clues/answers: [They're in some jams] for CURRANTS; the verb [Shells] for SHOOTS AT; [Tiger's turf] for ASIA (tigers being native to Asia); [Scotch water] for a LOCH; DOMINEER coming right before Simon LEGREE; [Spode or Wedgwood] for JOSIAH (not FINE CHINA); [Plugging away] for HARD AT IT; and [One without a handicap] for SCRATCH GOLFER.
Joy Andrews' themeless LA Times offering includes a minitheme: a political OCTOBER SURPRISE that occurs AT THE LAST MINUTE. It's been a while since I've seen a minitheme, and it's always a welcome addition. Favorite fill: PETER BOYLE and PERRY MASON, the latter clued as [Street boss] because Della Street worked for him. Favorite clue: [Shaded area?] for EYELID. Most obscure: It's a tie between SEME, [Sown, on the Seine], and COYPU, [Rodent yielding the fur nutria].
Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy theme is puns using the names of classical goddesses. Why the title is "God Spell," I don't know—would be nice to have the title reflect the female power of those goddesses. [Grain goddess's fluctuations?] are OPS AND DOWNS, which doesn't quite parse—the plural ups is swapped for a singular name, and you wouldn't call fluctuations "Joseph and downs." [Adulation of the queen of gods?] is HERA WORSHIP—that works beautifully. [Goddess of parking, in Brooklyn?] is DEMETER-MAID, as the Brooklynites are supposed to pronounce the as de. [Athena's protectors?] are the PALLAS GUARD.
October 19, 2007