Yay! This week's New York Sun themeless is a Friday Weekend Warrior by all-star player Karen Tracey. Karen's got her trademark moves that are crowd-pleasers (or me-pleasers, anyway). There's the Scrabbly hit off the geography hookah—ORANJESTAD, Aruba—along with the geographic trivia—ANTARCTICA is the [McMurdo Station location]). There's the other Scrabbly business—BEN JONSON crossing JON BON JOVI (birth name John Bongiovi), Lisa Lisa's CULT JAM joining Bon Jovi to QUACK, and the meh FIRE HAZARD hooking up with ROZ at the Z. I love the ROZ clue: [Dispatcher in "Monsters, Inc."]. Why? Because I can do a kickass Roz impression. (And yes, I'm well aware that her voice in the movie was provided by a burly man.) Behold:
Favorite clues in Karen's puzzle: [Bar food?] for GRANOLA; [Perspicacity] for SHREWDNESS (I love perspicacity); [Deutschland city] for KOLN (Köln is what Germans call Cologne); [Back strokes?] for MASSAGE; and [Washington or Ford] for ACTOR (Denzel and Harrison, I presume, though Isaiah and Faith also work). DILLY-DALLY is as fun to say as perspicacity. We've had PROSY a couple times recently in the Times puzzle; it's here again, clued as [Tedious in speech]. So easy the third time around!
Is it just me, or is there a subtext in this puzzle that ties into all the recent stories of GOP politicians caught in hanky-panky? Flip-floppers change their STANCES just as Sen. Craig took a wide stance in the airport loo. That's right next to HID in the closet. MASSAGE (OK, Ted Haggard wasn't a pol) isn't far away. The all tried to keep things COVERED UP, but eventually had to COME CLEAN. Who is to blame? Could it be...SATAN?
All righty. I did the Sun puzzle late in the afternoon. Barry Silk's New York Times crossword waited until after I got tired...and slept for 45 minutes...and roused myself to shamble back to the computer. I want to watch The Office and 30 Rock before I go back to sleep, so I'll be quick(ish) here. Things that made me grumpy: SILEXES, [Materials used as inert paint fillers]; the verb phrase [Best people] used as a clue for WIN; ONE / STEP / AT A TIME split over three noncontiguous entries; [El relative] as a clue for LOS. Uncommon letter action I liked: [Fictional doctor] ZHIVAGO crossing ZILLION; the [Internet Explorer alternative FIREFOX (used by a quarter of Crossword Fiend readers!) crossing XEROXES; [Big name in credit reports] EQUIFAX. Musical numbers: FATS WALLER ([He had a hit with "The Joint Is Jumping"]); the [First #1 hit by the Beach Boys], I GET AROUND; the MONKEES, [Group that starred in the 1968 film "Head," with "the"]. Contiguous pairing that's especially apt: RENO NEVADA ([City on the Transcontinental Railroad]) above ELOPE, as crosswords have for years told people that Reno's a popular place to go for quickie marriages or divorces. Clues I liked: [Block head?] for AUCTIONEER; [Some people have it for life] for LUST; [Taylor of "Mystic Pizza"] for LILI (solely because a recent 30 Rock had a plot involving Jenna performing in the fictional "Mystic Pizza: The Musical" during summer hiatus and getting fat eating four slices of pizza per show); [Some cabbage] as money slang for FINS; and [Driver on a ranch] for a cattle PROD. Not sure how I feel about [Pitching] for TILTED; it;'s got me off balance. Clues that people may be Googling all day Friday and six weeks hence: [Succulent African shrub popular as a bonsai] for DESERT ROSE; [Year of St. Genevieve's death] for DXII; [It was first observed in 1846] for NEPTUNE.
The grid in Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle, "C'mon, Get Happy," has a left-right symmetry allowing a grinning jack-o-lantern image to be rendered by the black squares. The fill is themeless and as fresh as a crisp potato chip right out of the fryer: There's a timeless This Is Spinal Tap movie quote, THESE GO TO ELEVEN. There's an excerpt from Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Here we are now, ENTERTAIN US." There's a [Bewildered response] in colloquial English, YOU'VE LOST ME. Plenty of other pop culture in the puzzle, some music, some sports names, some brand names, and some plain ol' words, too. Fun themeless puzzle!
Patrick Berry edits himself in the 10/19 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Straight A's in History." As the title suggests, the theme entries are historical names that contain no vowel other than A. Good, smart puzzle. History quizzes are much easier when you know a lot of the letters in the answers!
Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword has four theme entries explained by the two short answers that cross in the center of the grid: SCOUT and SCOFF, as in the letter pair SC taken out or knocked off the original phrases. My favorite was [Bass in the tub?] for BATHROOM ALE. Other fun clues: [Gary old man, e.g.] for HOOSIER, playing on people from Indiana being Hoosiers and the "Who's yer old man?" jeer, with evocation of actor Gary Oldman for the hell of it; [One of the Nelsons] for WILLIE. For the latter, my head was stuck in the '50s Nelsons, Ozzie and Harriet and the boys. I like envisioning pot-smoking, long-haired Willie Nelson in Ozzie and Harriet's household.
Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "John Travolta Rejects," puns on titles of John Travolta movies. Travolta was in The Thin Red Line? Huh.
Pancho Harrison's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Crossing Guards," has six rebus squares that contain federal law enforcement or regulatory agencies. That may sound dull, but it was actually kinda fun to think of the full answer and then scan through the phrase mentally in search of a 3-letter string that could double as a government agency. It was only after I was done that I realized the rebus squares were in exactly symmetrical spots in the grid, so that was of no help while solving. (More fun to have no idea which square the rebus will be in!) My favorite crossing pair: the ATF lurking within NE[AT F]REAK and C[ATF]ISH HUNTER.
November 01, 2007