The Sunday New York Times crossword, "Talking Heads," is a good one. Ben Tausig is one of the most reliably prolific (or prolifically reliable) constructors working today—he's got a themed 15x15 every single week (the Chicago Reader/Ink Well puzzle he self-syndicates), he writes an Onion A.V. Club puzzle about every eight weeks, and every so often he graces us with an NYT crossword. I am rarely semi-disappointed by one of Ben's creations. In this Sunday-sized puzzle, the puns on "pundit" with PUNNED IT (84-Down) and the seven theme entries, each containing the name of a TV or radio political mouth. For the left, there's (Al) FRANKEN SENSE (a pun on frankincense) and (Phil) DONAHUE DARE ("don't you dare"). For the right, there's DO THE LIMBAUGH (Rush, limbo), YOU'RE GETTING COULTER (Ann, colder), and LIFE OF O'REILLY (life of Riley, Bill). WHY PAY MAHER (Bill, more) and [Don's parting words?], IMUS BE OFF NOW (Don, I must). Clever theme, finely wrought. Favorite fill: good ol' UTA HAGEN in full-named splendor; CALLER ID; the NAKED EYE; FOR SHAME; BINOCULAR vision; and the NORMAN / EMPIRE. Least favorite fill: FASCES. What is this [Roman symbol of power]? Read all about it here. Far-out clues: [Pedicab alternative] for CYCLO; [Mushroom with an umbrella cap] for AGARIC; [What Astrophysics and Advanced Calculus probably aren't] for EASY A'S. I'm too sleepy to think any more—those paragraphs down below? I wrote those segments last night.
Lynn Lempel's Washington Post puzzle's called "Extended Forecasts," and it extends two-word weather forecasts by tacking on another component that goes with the second word. Is that at all clear? No? It's cloudy? An example will help. A hot spell might be forecast, and a bit of [Stolen software] might be a HOT SPELL-CHECKER. Heavy snow + snowbird = [Rotund Florida visitor?], or HEAVY SNOWBIRD. (Hey, my in-laws have become snowbirds. That means we've got a place to visit in Florida all winter long!) I'd like to spotlight some terrific fill—LADY GODIVA (puts me in mind of imported chocolate...mmm, Godiva), I TOLD YOU SO, LIP-READS, PARSLEY, and an ALOHA SHIRT. The [Soap ingredient] is POTASH, and here's a little etymology I recently picked up—the word potash is a mashup of pot and ash, with the compound having been discovered in wood ash. The element potassium comes out of potash, both physically and etymologically. I don't know if my grandma was aware of the chemical and wordy link, but she always did mispronounce is "potashyum."
The Boston Globe crossword that's available in Across Lite this weekend is the one I wrote about roughly a month ago—it contained a marriage proposal theme in the service of an actual marriage proposal! Any oddball names you see in the puzzle are likely to be names of significance to the now-affianced couple.
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Horrors!", suggests screen names for local TV station horror-movie hosts. (Here in Chicago, I grew up with Son of Svengoolie. He predated Elvira.) As with last Sunday's Reagle crossword, I must issue a Heavy-Duty Puns alert: we are at code red.
Ooh, a lovely themeless CrosSynergy puzzle from Rich Norris! It's not too Scrabbly (a Q and five Ks) and the clues aren't too tough and the fill isn't aggressively showy, but there's much to admire here. Among my favorite clues and answers: [Catcher's position] for CROUCH (crouch is a kinda funny word); the vague [Give] for the idiomatic CRY UNCLE; [Buyer without warranty?] for EMPTOR (that's the emptor we're caveating in "let the buyer beware"); [Author honored in a Prague museum] for KAFKA (I thought of Karel Čapek first; I don't know if this museum was in Prague yet when I was there in '97); [Gloaming followers] for E'ENS; [Top of the Grampians] for TAM (the Grampians are mountains in Scotland, and their tops could be mountain tors or the hats that might be worn by Scottish visitors there); NO WONDER (["That explains it"]); the OSCARS; CHEAP SEATS; PILE IT ON; [Hollywood ending?] for THAT'S A WRAP; [It's an act] for a SKIT; and last but not least, the combo of a SEMICOLON clued with [It may be part of a long sentence] and the SPACE BAR, which [may be used often in a long sentence]. A smooth puzzle from start to finish!
Joy Frank's LA Times-syndicated puzzle, "Job Descriptions," splits out the meaning of a word or word fragment at the beginning of a job title to change the meaning. A psychotherapist is one thing, but a [Healer with issues?] might be a PSYCHO THERAPIST (still a therapist as before, but a psycho one). A used car salesman sells cars, but if she's an [Exploited dealership employee?], she may be a USED CAR SALESMAN whom everybody uses as a doormat. Cute theme, solid fill, and easyish clues.
October 28, 2007