Wordplay was showing at 10:00 in Chicago, but I was out. Yes! On a school night! Pub trivia night with Tyler Hinman and a couple of his friends—and I don't know where the hell they came up with those horrible questions, because too many of them landed outside our foursome's sweet spots. Next week! Next week will surely be better. And now we will not speak of this.
Peter A. Collins' New York Sun puzzle, "Class Divisions," had a great theme together with some excellent fill and clues. The theme entries are all two-word phrases or names that split the name of a high-school class between them. For example, ANGER MANAGEMENT has a language class, and ZIGGY MARLEY has P.E.
Paula Gamache's New York Times puzzle appends an -ILE to the first word of each theme entry, altering the phrase's sense. I like Miss Universe turning into MISSILE UNIVERSE, but some of the other theme entries felt a tad dry. Who doesn't like a spare MUSK OX roaming the grid, though? Am proud of myself for summoning up NOVUM as the answer to ["___ Organum" (1620 Francis Bacon work)].
Deb Amlen's Onion A.V. Club puzzle takes six phrases that end with words that are also magazine titles and reinterprets them. [Cheat a pop culture weekly?], for example, is SHORT PEOPLE. (Here's a clip of Randy Newman singing his '78 hit, "Short People," the irony of which was lost on my fellow sixth-graders, who sang the chorus at me as an insult. And no, it didn't scar me for life and make me want to wear high heels.) Good theme! Time, Slate, Mix, Vibe, and Money also get their due from Deb. Crunchiest new fill: WIIMOTES at 36-Across. (The [Avatar created using 36-Across] is called MII.) [Old photo color] is SEPIA; read about the word's Farsi/Greek/Latin etymology and cephalopod connection here and admire the high-octane punning in the comments. Toughest word for me: the [Flowering shrub] SPIRAEA; I think spirea is the more familiar non-genus spelling, but then, I don't hang out in plant nurseries much, so what do I know?
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle, "Pieces of Axe," includes GUITAR PARTS at the end of the other theme entries. Here's a diagram that shows the HEAD, BODY, FRET, and PICKUP—I didn't know those thingies were called pickups. Favorite fill entries: DAYDREAM, WET MOP, BEAM ME UP, LAND LINE, FATIGUES, and AKIMBO. Did not know that ELO was a [Chess skill rating system]—but I just downloaded a ringtone to my cell phone (first time!) and chose an ELO song. Crossword cred plus a suitable instruction to all callers: "Don't bring me down." Not that they'll hear the song unless they're calling me when we're in the same room, but still.
Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy puzzle's got a quote from Robin Williams, while Alan Olschwang's LA Times puzzle embeds STORY synonyms in the theme entries (e.g., GUESS AGAIN). Both crosswords seemed to have an awful lot of the words I've been seeing in crosswords for decades—here an ESSE and AMAT, there a SMEE and RAJAS.
October 16, 2007