We'll be going to visit my in-laws next weekend instead of this weekend, so I got some Sunday puzzles out of the way on Saturday afternoon and will be free to spectate at the LaSalle Chicago Marathon on Sunday morning. (Why bother going downtown to the finish line when the runners will pass through my neighborhood? The best kind of sports viewing—the kind that takes little effort, costs nothing, and will involve warm sunshine. Too warm for distance runners, sure, but lovely for spectating!)
The New York Times crossword, "Political Positions," is a bipartisan effort from Nancy Salomon and Harvey Estes. Now, I tackled the next three puzzles this afternoon, but the NYT was an after-the-movies late-in-the-evening experience, so I will not go on and on (as is my wont) this time. The theme entries have American political rebus squares: four DEMs on the left, four REPs on the right, and an IND squarely in the middle, refusing to align with either party. Nice conceit, particularly the independent residing in DON'T M[IND] IF I DO and SAT[IN D]OLL. Favorite entries and clues: BALKY, clued as [Obstinate], though I like to think nonsentient things, like computers and jar lids, can be balky too; Little BO-PEEP; ONLOOKER; INTERNET, clued as [Kind of service offered at some cafes]; ACHENES, clued as [Sunflower seeds, botanically], because sometimes I'm fond of the words I learn from crosswords; and TUPPERWA[RE P]ARTY, [Event where there might be burping].
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword has a brilliantly executed theme: the "Seeing Double" theme entries include doubled digits, they're all absolutely legitimate phrases, they fit into symmetrical slots in the grid, and they cover 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, and 99. (As a small bonus, 77 crosses 007 to get the double zeroes into the puzzle, though those ones are really the letter O and not the number 0, based on the crossings.) For the non-zero doubles, the numerals in the theme answers cross pairs of answers that also include numerals. E.g., AIRPORT '77 crosses DEC. 7 and OO7. (Also, 22 and 44 are linked by 2OO4, with letter O's.) This gorgeous theme earns Merl's crossword a trip to my "great puzzles" folder.
Harvey Estes' Washington Post crossword, "'Round Hoops," hides the NBA within each of nine theme entries. No big surprises, tons of nice answers in the 6- to 9-letter category, and easy-peasy cluing. Good puzzle, but boy, I do like 'em tougher.
Henry Hook's online Boston Globe puzzle, "Let Me S-Q Something," is another take on a recent Patrick Blindauer theme—W words turn into SQU words in the theme entries. Best fill: OFFAL (I love that word!), BADA-BING, LAND LINE, and THE WIZ. Favorite theme clue: [Much of talk radio?] for SQUAWKING ON AIR. Most obscure: [City of Mayan ruins], PALENQUE. Clue most calculated to irk me: [Dormitory dwellers] for COEDS.
Rich Norris constructed today's syndicated LA Times puzzle under the pseudonym, Nora Pearlstone (anagram of "not a real person"). The title, "Four Is Enough," could be refashioned as "Four I's Are Enough"—each theme entry contains the letter I four times. (Most also have other vowels, though STRING BIKINI is all I's.) Fairly easy puzzle overall. My favorite clue here was [Beach attraction for some] for HUNK. It offsets the SWIMSUIT EDITION with a little something for the straight women and the gay men.
You know me—I always prefer wicked-hard clues for a themeless puzzle. But the fill's so nice in Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, I'll let it slide. Though it would have been good to be forced to spend more time puzzling it out—the rewards would've been sweeter that way. Favorite answers today: J.K. ROWLING, IRANIAN OIL, and MONTE CARLO in the big-money corner; the epithets TATTLETALE and SPEED DEMON right alongside one another; ARE WE THERE, though it's much whinier with a "yet" on the end; and ROOKIE YEAR, AIR JORDAN, GASBAG, and René MAGRITTE. The best clues: [Toot one's own horn] for the very literal HONK; [Frank] for WIENIE (not HONEST or CANDID); ["Cheers" call] for NORM; [Young rat?] for TATTLETALE; and [Looked like bad weather] for THREATENED. Most obscure entry (with eminently reasonable crossings): [Card trick expert John] SCARNE. I do not keep up with card trick experts these days.
October 06, 2007