The sleep I missed last night owing to trivia night asserted itself tonight, and I just had a two-hour nap that has left me woozy. So we'll see how lucid a post I am able to cobble together before I go back to bed.
Lucy Gardner Anderson's New York Times crossword includes a 13-letter title for the puzzle across the middle of the grid, SIDE-SPLITTING, explaining the splitting of the side dishes throughout the grid: FRENCH and FRIES, BAKED and POTATO, COLE and SLAW, ONION and RINGS. (FETID and MEAL are not clued in relation to the theme, fortunately.) Sorta lively twist on theme layout here. Highlights in the fill: our TOP STORY tonight, IN SECRET, and HERCULES (I Netflixed the animated Hercules for my kid, who never wanted to watch it. I put the DVD on this afternoon, he paid it no mind, and the songs got on my nerves. Yoink! Back in the red envelope it goes.) BION, [One of a series of joint Soviet/U.S. space satellites], leapt out at me as a possibly obscure word I did not know. Why not swap out the O for and E and make it BIEN crossing ENT? Because then that ENT would cross a crossing ENT, and that's too many ENTs for one crossword. Tight spot, what with two theme entries involved. Surprising to have a rap song, the crunk tune GET LOW, in the grid (clued as [2003 #2 hit for Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz]); I'd link to the video but I don't care for its objectification of women. Plus, what he's had his dentist do alarms me.
Ashish Vengsarkar once again one-ups the quote theme concept. Last year, he made one of my favorite Sunday puzzles, in which [Part 3 of quote] clued a phrase synonymous with the third letter of the word quote (O, or OPRAH WINFREY'S MAGAZINE). His Thursday New York Sun crossword, "A Solution to the Question," spells out "an easy question" in the theme quote: FROM ONE TO / NINE HUNDRED / NINETY-NINE, WHICH / VOWEL IS USED / ZERO TIMES? The answer is right there in the title, as A is the answer to the question. (I did not know this trivia factoid! Those pub quiz people should ask this one now that I know it.) What elevates this quote theme is that the letter A is also used zero times in the grid. (In fact, every letter of the alphabet save A makes an appearance.) Favorite clues: [Winning word at the 1984 National Spelling Bee] for LUGE (were all the winning words that easy back in the '80s, or was that one an exception from the norm?); [Dove home] for both the noun NEST and the baseball verb SLID; [Ends of some close NFL games] for both OTS (overtimes) and FGS (field goals); and [Stable fellows?] for LIVERY MEN (my grandmother's grandfather ran a livery stable back in Chicago's horse-and-carriage days)
The NYT clued CLEAN as [Drug-free], and the Sun has [Not clean] cluing DOPED (hello, Tour de France!). I did not know that OBP means on base percentage (hence [OBP part] is PCT). I also didn't know that ZEN was a [Movement with mondos.
Rich Norris's themed CrosSynergy puzzle, "Gorillas in the Midst," has a vaguely themeless vibe, even in the theme entries. The phrases that contain a hidden APE would all be at home in a themeless puzzle, and would stand out to me as good entries: "NOT A PEEP," RHEA PERLMAN and the fictional EMMA PEEL, IN A PERFECT WORLD and ON A PEDESTAL. The freshness is further...freshened by the inclusion of 16 longish (6 to 8 letters) answers in the non-theme fill. Fill highlights: ST NICK, RUNS AMOK, HIAWATHA.
David Kahn's LA Times crossword is loaded with theme squares: the uniifying THINGS WITH HOLES along with pairs of 13- and 9-letter entries. In each case, the things with holes are literal reinterpretations of the last word of each phrase—RIGHT ON THE NOSE doesn't refer to a particular nose, you can't wear the WHEAT BELT, you tipple rather than tootling on a CHAMPAGNE FLUTE, and a HOT-BUTTON issue won't fit into any buttonhole. Favorite clues and answers: HOLY GRAIL and ILL-SUITED; [Kind of dog] for the non-canine CHILI dog; [Keeping quiet] in a transitive-verb sense, SEDATING; and [Oldman or Newman] for ACTOR.
October 17, 2007