Gary Steinmehl's New York Times crossword messes around with homophones of scary noises. A humpback whale, Battle Creek, farm-grown, and the company, Bell and Howell, can be misspelled when a ghost MAKES A BOOBOO. The result is scary sounds like a HUMPBACK WAIL, BATTLE CREAK, FARM GROAN, and BELL AND HOWL. I'll bet you a dollar your last square was either the same as mine or right nearby: the crossing at the D of BELL AND HOWL and ARDEB. Bell + Howell seems to lack focus and a strong brand identity these days, judging from its website. And ARDEB...what can one say about ARDEB? It's popping its modern-day cruciverbal cherry today, as it has no prior appearances in Cruciverb.com-indexed crosswords. That [Egyptian dry measure equal to about five-and-a-half bushels] is actually 5.62 bushels or 198 liters, but you probably don't need to know that. (This World Bank document tells us that an ardeb of fenugreek weighs 155 kg. Also? A kentar of sugar cane weighs 45 kg, and a camel load of maize stalks weighs 250 kg. I am absolutely not kidding—camel load is a standardized unit of measure! I'm gonna start using it as a figure of speech. "I raked up a camel load of leaves today." "I ate a camel load of pizza.") Enough with the ARDEB. It did tough duty, hooking up three theme entries, and what else fits the A_D_B space? I think we just saw PROSY ([Tedious]) recently, and I don't care for the implicit criticism of prose embodied in that word. I far prefer prose to poetry, and where is my "poetryey" slur? All things considered, I think I'd rather this puzzle had dispensed with FARM GROAN, which doesn't play on a noun like the other theme entries do, and loosened up the fill a bit.
Robert Doll's New York Sun puzzle, "Ch-Changes," has nothing to do with the David Bowie song. (Which I love! I just this minute sprang from my chair to grab the Changesbowie CD so I can copy it to my hard drive.) There are six theme entries based on phrases that start with CH, but the CH changes to a plain ol' H. The Ben & Jerry's flavor Chunky Monkey becomes a [Macho macaque?], or HUNKY MONKEY. Now, that's just disturbing. I'm not crazy about HEAP TRICK and HICK FLICK, but I like to be reminded of Cheap Trick (here's a video of "I Want You to Want Me") and chick flicks. Speaking of retro music, we also get KIKI DEE here, and she dueted with Elton John on "Don't Go Breaking My Heart." Other fun fill: HOOHAH, PSHAW, UH-HUH, and George WENDT.
Fun theme in Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy puzzle—the "Hi, Mom!" theme entries begin with an added MA. There's the geologic MAKING OF THE HILL, MASONIC BOOMS down at the lodge, Hawaiian thanks in the MAHALO EFFECT, and a [Dormant virus?], MALADY IN WAITING.
Donna Levin's LA Times puzzle had a helper entry to explain the theme, fortunately, because the link between NEWSPAPER LAYOUT, IT'S NIP AND TUCK, and COME DOWN THE PIKE was lost on me. [The last words...are body positions in it]? That'd be DIVING. I did not know there was such a thing as a layout in diving; here's how to do it.
Byron Walden's Onion A.V. Club puzzle is the funniest crossword I've seen in a while. Having observed that ANDY RODDICK's surname comprises two separate euphemisms for "penis," he managed to build a whole theme around it. As the DOUBLE-HUNG window that serves as the puzzle's title suggests, each theme entry includes two such euphemisms. There's WEE WILLIE WINKIE, the PECKERWOOD plantation from Mame, JOHNSON & JOHNSON, and PETER O'TOOLE (that's 10 penises in all—possibly the most virile crossword ever). Add the fresh and Scrabbly fill and the playfully Waldenesque clues, and you've got yourself a good time. Best clues: [Play God?] for CREATE; ["Naked ___" (Oscar-nominated 1974 documentary)] for YOGA (NSFW warning: that link's not to the movie); [Super Bowl bowlful, familiarly] for GUAC (guacamole); [Castle unit, perhaps] for LEGO; [Spanish architect celebrated by the Alan Parsons Project's last album] for GAUDI; [Birth control superlative] for SAFEST; [Classic sour hard candy brand] for fizzy ZOTZ; [Homer Simpson mistook Tony Blair for him] for MR BEAN; and [Pointless player, perhaps] for LOSER. Shiniest fill: THE WIZ; AFC WEST; D-LEAGUE linked to the NBAERS who play in it; CARLS JR (with the porniest commercial ever starring Paris Hilton); and DODO EGG. I didn't know DR. G, the forensic expert from a Discovery Health series.
The title of Ben Tausig's Chicago Reader/Ink Well puzzle, "CD Exchange," doesn't seem quite right to me. Each theme entry's base phrase ends with a CE, which is traded in for a DS. Is it supposed to be a soft-C -CES becoming -DS? The original phrases all seem singular to me. Anyway: Putting aside the theme, which is small enough not to get in the way of great fill, I loved this puzzle—particularly the Down stuff. Favorite fill and clues: [Lonely Planet competitor] for LET'S GO; ["Don't Watch TV Tonight...Play It!" company] for ATARI; [Don Herbert's alias] for MR WIZARD; [A bag of pot, maybe] for EVIDENCE; [Small town?] for LILLIPUT; [NSA invasions] for WIRETAPS; the double slanginess of [Black gold] for TEXAS TEA (both meaning oil); [Invasive computer programs] for ADWARE; [Entertainer "the Entertainer"] for CEDRIC (here's a clip of Cedric the Entertainer semi-roasting Condoleezza Rice on C-Span, much to the Secretary of State's amusement); and [Online meeting spot that may be viewed in English or Hebrew] for JDATE.
October 29, 2007