David Kwong's New York Sun crossword packs one of those juicy wordplay/geographical themes into its 15x16 grid. As the "United Nations" title hints, each theme entry consists of three overlapping ("united") country names. We get JAPANAMADAGASCAR, CUBAHRAINDONESIA, CHILESOTHONDURAS, and AZERBAIJANGOLAOS, and despite the seeming lack of any particular organization to the names (other than the overlapping letters), I love the theme. The first two letters in JAPAN cross two more countries, FIJI and IRAQ, just for the hell of it. Plenty of tough clues here: [Vanua Levu Island is part of it] for FIJI; [Grecian formula ingredient?] for ETA; [Mark Twain's celebrated frog] for DAN'L; [Insult subject] for YO MAMA; ["GoldenEye" villain Trevelyan] for ALEC; [Joneses] for YENS; [Harmoniphon soundalike] for OBOE; [Sweat spot] for AXILLA (that's the armpit in anatomical terms); [Eunuch flute's more common name] for KAZOO; and [Graceless] for STIFF. LAB RAT was nice fill, though it overlaps in part with the BIO clue, [Class with a lab].
Do you ever hesitate to click the "done" button in the New York Times crossword applet? When I filled in 59-Across in Patrick Blindauer's puzzle, I had to look at it a little longer because it looked so preposterously wrong to me. Patrick's theme consists of seven Latin phrases—only four of which were familiar to this solver. In English, [The die is cast] is familiar, but the Latin ALEA IACTA EST, with all those clumsy vowels bumping up against one another? Oy. SEMPER IDEM means [Always the same] thing. ECCE SIGNUM (as used in this Shakespeare/Henry IV quote) means [Behold the proof]. I'd wager the other four phrases—HABEAS CORPUS, TERRA FIRMA, AB OVO, and SINE QUA NON—are far more familiar to most solvers. Favorite clues: [Shout to a team, maybe] for MUSH (as in a team of sled dogs—and no, I'm not ready to contemplate the snowy season just yet); [They're rather pointless] for EPEES; [He said "Slump? I ain't in no slump. I just ain't hitting"] for Yogi BERRA; [Sport whose name means "gentle way"] for JUDO; and [Black lacquer] for JAPAN (japanning is something I learned about strictly from crossword puzzles). Favorite brand-name fill: NODOZ and BVDS.
Easy LA Times puzzle from John Greenman—idiomatic phrases placed in fairy tale settings. Favorite one: Goldilocks is LOADED FOR BEAR. Aw, and that fairy tale was never particularly violent—not like Little Red Riding Hood with all the carnage. I'd never heard of VALPARAISO, the seaport that's the sixth largest city in CHILE. I'm much more familiar with its Indiana namesake and the university there—but is that Valpo something known only to those in the Chicago and Indiana vicinity?
Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Right Between the I's," includes four phrases that start and end with I's. I like ISABELLE ADJANI and IRONCLAD ALIBI the best, I'M FROM MISSOURI and ITALIAN SALAMI a bit less.
October 23, 2007