When I was in Hollywood for Merv Griffin's Crosswords, I didn't see a single movie star. I will, however, be having dinner Saturday with two stars—Al Sanders and Tyler Hinman from Wordplay. Al and his son are in town for a youth hockey tournament this weekend and Tyler lives about 12 blocks away from me, so we're all going out to eat. While I would, of course, be delighted to crush Tyler and Al at the crossword tournament, they're both uncommonly genial guys.
Hey, remember that song that played over the closing credits in Wordplay, "If You Don't Come Across (I'm Gonna Be Down)"? The guy who wrote that, Vic Fleming, is the constructor of the Saturday New York Times crossword. The highlight of the fill, for me, is MEL'S DINER, where the sitcom Alice took place ([1976-85 sitcom setting]). And a mini-theme (our second sports mini-theme in a row in the NYT) is always welcome—here it's the TOURING PROS ([Open competitors, often]) who may show up on the [Display at a golf tournament], or LEADERBOARD.
Favorite clues: A [Common bank deposit?] isn't silt or money, but O POSITIVE blood. TAVERNS are [Where things may be neatly ordered]; clunky wording for a mixed-drink reference, but necessary for the mislead (and I don't want anything to interfere with a good mislead!). CAROMS are [Results of some glances], as on a billiards table. [Drop off] is nice and vague—GO TO SLEEP. Two political bits, with a POWER BASE ([Source of political support]) and [Filibustered, say] for RAN ON. Are COLD SORES ready for prime time? [They may accompany fevers], sure, but the herpes virus doesn't get much play in the Times crossword. (Not that I object to such fill.) [They frequently become locked] clues HORNS. [Called for] sounds like a verb but isn't: it's NECESSARY.
In the "names you may or may not know" category: The ["Happy Days Are Here Again" composer] is Milton AGER; hmm, that doesn't ring a bell at all. I also didn't know [Israeli opera conductor Daniel] OREN. [Lash with a whip] is B-movie cowboy Lash LARUE. There are three jocks—Monica SELES is a [Three-time 1990s French Open winner], Hideo NOMO is the [Pitcher who was the 1995 N.L. Rookie of the Year], and the last name of [1980s-'90s N.B.A. star Danny] is AINGE. JARED Diamond is the [author of the 1998 Pulitzer-winning book, "Guns, Germs, and Steel"]—I've never read his books but enjoyed his magazine articles in Discover back in the day. Then there are five people clues in a row, 38- through 43-Down: David JANSSEN was the [Star of TV's "The Fugitive"], the [King of pop] is CAROLE King (love the clue!), O'HARA is the ["Ten North Frederick" novelist], REGAN is the [Duke of Cornwall's wife] in King Lear, and [Massey of film] is crosswordese ILONA.
Doug Peterson's Newsday Saturday Stumper has a good assortment of 9-letter answers—my favorites were OGDEN NASH and VEAL OSCAR, PISTACHIO and TRIPLE SEC. There's also a pair of 15s crossing in the middle: GREYHOUND RACING and (clued simply as [Free]) ALL EXPENSES PAID. While I'm particularly fond of wordy, question-marked Saturday clues, some of my favorite clues here were single words like the one I just mentioned: [Means] for AGENT; [News] for WORD; [Realizes] for EARNS; [Dump] for STY; [Flags] for STANDARDS; [Tendency] for TIDE; and [Braces] for PAIRS. In each case, either the clue has alternate meanings you're likely to think of, or the answer does. Longer clues I liked included [Margarita ingredient] for TRIPLE SEC (did I know this??); [Archer's partner] for SPADE; [Electric ___] for CAR (I was thinking EEL and EYE and liked the switch-up to CAR); [Think about] for ENTERTAIN; and [Oath starter] for SACRE ("Sacre bleu!"). [Cooper's spot] is CNN, Cooper meaning Anderson Cooper; here's a handsome portrait from Vanity Fair for the Coop fans out there.
James Sajdak's LA Times crossword has five Xs in the grid—one in each corner and one in the center square. I'll bet that was no mean feat, getting everything to flow together with those X entries locked into place. The first corner has XM RADIO ([Satellite service since 2001]) crossing X-RATED ([Blue]), and the upper right has a BASS SAX ([Big wind]) crossing X-RAY EYES ([Advantage for one gathering inside information?]). Boy, that last one took a long time to fall since I had LINEAR B instead of LINEAR A, and couldn't see what would start with XRBY. The center X holds THE BRONX BOMBERS ([Powerful sports sobriquet]) and a SAD EXCUSE ([Not the best of examples]). At the bottom, we have Dr. Seuss's THE LORAX crossing XS AND OS ([Features of some love letters]), and REANNEX crossing SUSSEX. Favorite non-X clues: [Literally, it means "lover"] for AMATEUR and [Tub contents] for BATH (not, thankfully, OLEO). Best non-X fill: INTAGLIOS ([Gems with sunken designs]) and MONTAIGNE ([French Renaissance essayist]).
Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy has a straightforward "4 Irons" theme—four theme entries beginning with kinds of irons. WAFFLE (WEAVE), FLAT (STOMACH), FIRE (BRIGADE), and LEG (EXERCISE). Wait, what's a fire iron? Any metal instrument for tending to a fire, such as a poker, fire tongs, etc.
November 23, 2007