October 02, 2007

Wednesday, 10/3

NYS 4:37
LAT 3:43
CS 3:26
NYT 3:20

Wow, Steven Leckart's Cool Tools recommendation of my book really goosed the book's sales at Amazon today. How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle climbed up to become the second best selling title in the Crosswords category. (Curse you, People Puzzler, for hogging #1!)

Matt Ginsberg gets a little possessive in his New York Sun crossword, "Hey! That's Mine!" The 10 theme entries aren't labeled as such, but they're essentially fill-in-the-blank clues that are missing the "___'s" part—[Web] is CHARLOTTE, as in Charlotte's Web, and [Ark] clues NOAH, for example. The possessive phrases included run the gamut from pop culture (GILLIGAN's Island, PRIZZI's Honor, and more) to geography (MARTHA's Vineyard) to literature (UNCLE TOM's Cabin and other books) to business (VICTORIA's Secret) to anatomy (ADAM's apple). I do like names in crosswords, and this puzzle's got a slew of names both in and out of the theme. Good fun!

Robert Dillman's New York Times has a theme that is entirely out of sync with my interests. [Call in roulette], [Call in blackjack], [Call in many a betting game], [Call in draw poker], and [Call in craps]? I say "bleah" to all five! The answer phrases are fresh enough, I suppose (well, FOURTEEN RED doesn't make my cruciverbal heart go pit-a-pat), but most of theme didn't leap into the forefront of my mind when I read the clues. "Hit me," yes, but HIT ME AGAIN, less so. I have grumbled before about poker themes, but I will now expand my Meh List to include craps, blackjack, and roulette themes.


Rich Norris's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Rated PG," features six 8- to 10-letter theme entries with a PG in the middle. Favorite of those: LIP GLOSS, a [Cosmetic that may be flavored]. How well I remember junior high and Bonne Bell Lip Smackers and their other super-sticky lip gloss, available in flavors like watermelon, strawberry, and root beer. (Ew.) And [Chicago pro] is CUB—ah, the Cubbies. They'll lose in the first round of the playoffs, I reckon. They like to do just well enough to get long-suffering fans' hopes up, and then they dash those hopes. Hakuna matata, baby. Hakuna matata. Hate, hate, hate one clue/answer combo here: [Sorority members] for COEDS. If you simply can't fill your grid without the noun COEDS, for Pete's sake, why not clue it as an [Outmoded term for college women]? Actually, that's incorrect. It's not outmoded at all. Heavens, no. If you Google "coeds," you'll find more hardcore porn sites than you can shake a stick at. That's how the word's being used today. So let's look at the case for COEDS: It's a pre-feminist term that marginalizes women in college, and it's popular in porn? This word hates women. Constructors and editors, please keep it out of my crossword puzzles, or clue it in a way that shows you're not (a) living in the 1950s or (b) really into porn. Please.

As it turns out, it would have been pretty easy to get COEDS out of this puzzle and avoid my wrath. Change POP to ALP, OKED to OKRA, and FOPS to FOOT, thereby substituting AERO for PEEP and CLEAT for COEDS, et voilĂ .

Thomas Heilman's LA Times crossword works out the mental muscles with phrases that end with exercises: CYBERSQUATTING (for the legs and butt), NUMBER CRUNCHING (abs), and TONGUE TWISTING (obliques). I like the theme, but I love a lot of the fill. Three fictional names—CORLEONE, MR. SULU, and BANQUO. A dessert—TIRAMISU. Mississippi's state tree, the MAGNOLIA. Writer Margaret ATWOOD. That's great stuff, all of it. My favorite clue: [Cultured fare] for YOGURT (I wanted it to be some sort of ART, but no).