I tucked my son into bed and dozed off myself. The sound of gentle snoring woke me. (I suspect it was my own, though the kid snores too.) Good thing, because it was crossword time. I roused my brain and was rewarded with two puzzles with some uncommonly good fill, both by three-named constructors—Brendan Emmett Quigley's "Themeless Thursday" from the Sun and Susan Harrington Smith's quote theme in the Times. Imagine that: a quote theme with juicy fill!
Smith holds the record for the most uses of the letter Y in a 2003 NYT crossword, in a puzzle with 16 short rhyming theme entries including HOOEY, PTUI, BUOY, and CHEWY. That's completely irrelevant to this crossword, yes, but I Googled her name and that's what came up, so I took a look at the puzzle and thought it had a zippy theme.
Smith's Thursday New York Times puzzle includes an ITALIAN / PROVERB, TO TRUST IS GOOD / NOT TO / TRUST IS BETTER. Eh, most quote themes do nothing for me. But the fill that proverb is planted in blossoms madly with cool answers. INTAGLIO ([Incised printing method]), a PIPE DREAM ([Bit of wishful thinking]), a Cadillac DEVILLE crossing Greta Garbo's classic "I VANT to be alone," NONSTICK Teflon, an ALIQUOT ([Exact proper divisor, in math], or a portion of a whole taken for analysis in chemistry), PRATTLE ON ([Talk, talk, talk]), JOUNCES (a little-heard late Middle English word, clued as [Bumps on a ride]), DIGITALIS ([Medicinal cardiac stimulant]), a DIXIE cup crossing Pope Paul the SIXTH—I liked all of those. I even learned some more geography, with the [Pacific islands in W.W. II fighting] being the GILBERTS. What are they? The Gilbert Islands are now known as the nation of Kiribati, which is how the Gilbertese pronounced "Gilbert," apparently. Tarawa, home of a W.W. II battle, is part of the Gilberts. If that's too obscure for you, just be thankful that the clue wasn't [The centimeter-gram-second electromagnetic unit of magnetomotive force, equal to 10/4π ampere-turn.]!
Moving along to (rich, chocolaty) dessert, BEQ's themeless New York Sun puzzle has got some of the zippiest fill I've seen in ages. Crikey! You've got the crazily spelled ANDRUW JONES, [Youngest person to hit a home run in a World Series]. The [Office services giant], FEDEX KINKO'S, has that groovy XK combo in the middle. NETIZENS ([Wiki writers, e.g.] crosses TANZANIA—and how did I not know that [Dodoma is its capital]? Ah: The capital was moved from Dar es Salaam in 1996. And did you know that Tanzania's name is a mashup of mainland Tanganyika and the Zanzibar Islands? True story. The crazy RAELIAN sect! You must marvel at the design of their home page. NEAL gets a contemporary clue, ["Alternadad" author Pollack]. A friend of mine blogs at the hip parenting site Offsprung, and so does Pollack. Toss in the IRAQ WAR (clued as [2008 presidential debate subject], and would you believe I had *RACKER for a while? Yep.), EVA LONGORIA, and a great word like RODOMONTADE ([Hot air]), and the fill just gets better and better. And Paul TSONGAS ([Presidental candidate who wrote "A Call to Economic Arms"] when he was up against Clinton for the 1992 nomination) beside ARSENIO Hall, not far from MAALOX and across the grid from the lovely word SMITTEN ([In love]). I even liked the partial IS UP, as in ["The jig ___!"]—I like to say that whenever I have occasion to, which is not nearly often enough. Oh, and ELMO is clued as [Pal of Mr. Noodle]; I was partial to the late Mr. Noodle's brother, Mr. Noodle. For the top-notch answers in this baby, I'll toss it in the ol' "great puzzles" folder.
Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy crossword, "2006 Movie Remakes," clusters four movies that came out last year and were remakes of movies from 32 to 47 years ago. What else do these remakes have in common? They all stunk. PINK PANTHER, 24% Tomatometer rating at RottenTomatoes.com. The "family movie" THE SHAGGY DOG, 28%. The horror film, BLACK CHRISTMAS, 17%. The suspense movie, THE WICKER MAN, 15%. For comparison, Bewitched, the 2005 movie remake of a TV show: 25%. 2004's The Stepford Wives: 26%. This month's Sleuth: 41%. I don't think any of these movies have done any better at the box office than in critics' estimation, and yet the studios keep cranking out the remakes. Creatively bankrupt? Too chicken to bet on interesting scripts from unknowns when a remake must be a sure thing? A sure flop, it appears.
Robert Wolfe's LA Times crossword also does movies. It presents five movie titles that consist of the same word multiple times, but without repeating any words. Thus, Elvis Presley's Girls! Girls! Girls! is rendered as GIRLS THRICE, and Jim Carrey's Liar, Liar is LIAR DOUBLED.
October 24, 2007