November 13, 2007

Tuesday, 11/13

Tausig 4:43
Tues. NYS 4:31
Onion 4:22
CS 3:16
LAT 3:10
Mon. NYS 3:06
NYT 2:59

It is good to be back! I had a grand ol' time in California. Saturday and Sunday, I went out with a couple friends who are recent transplants to the greater L.A. area (which does indeed sprawl out massively, and where the air is brown even though the wildfires are over). Monday, of course, was Game Time. I left the hotel at 7 a.m. for the Merv Griffin's Crosswords studio. Everyone working on the show was great. The contestant producers, the show's producers, the hair-and-makeup people, even the standards-and-practices lawyer—they were all friendly and put the contestants at ease, and they were good at their jobs. The host, Ty Treadway, was genial and enthusiastic and chatty. My fellow contestants were all Midwesterners from the Chicago auditions, so we all traveled on MGC's dime.

I can't talk about any game play or results, of course. But I can tell you that the show I was on was the middle taping of the day, so I reached the airport in mid-afternoon and changed to an earlier flight. Yay! No dreaded redeye flight! And I had a couple hours to kill, so I and another woman from my episode parked ourselves at the bar across from our gate and relaxed with wine and good conversation. Thanks to the earlier departure, I was home by about 1 a.m.

The first season's taping wraps up in a week, but you can register as a potential contestant for season two. Do it! It's fun! But you've got to know crosswords, and you've got to be quick on your mental feet. (Contestants get a small number of seconds to decide to ring in, and a similarly small number of seconds to give an answer. Zoom, zoom!)

Getting back into the swing of things here—Fred Piscop's New York Times crossword features three phrases that end with words that mean business, or rather, are synonyms for "business." I find the theme to be dry, but there's some juicy fill: MISHMASH, the quaint old VARLET, TINY TIM, and jumbled together in the middle, Bob VILA, Jane PAULEY, JANET Jackson, and an ELF in an ORGY at JOE'S. (If someone ever Googles bob vila janet jackson orgy, I'm glad they'll find this, though regrettably I have no photos to post.)

Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle is gross. "Menu for an Insectivore" does not pass the Sunday breakfast test, nor the Tuesday midmorning snack test. LEECHES AND CREAM for dessert? CHICKEN AND LICE soup? (Shudder.)

Nancy Salomon and Harvey Estes' LA Times puzzle ends with HOLY to wrap up the allied theme answers: TOLEDO, OHIO; MACKEREL SKY (which looks cool); SMOKE SCREEN; and COW COLLEGE. My favorite "holy" is Chris Farley's "Holy schnike!"

Hey! California! It's the star of yesterday's New York Sun puzzle by Donna Levin, "Eureka." The state's name is split up among the theme entries, CAL RIPKEN, JR>, I REST MY CASE, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, and NIA VARDALOS, with each chunk of the state a standalone word. The the GOLDEN STATE nickname ties it all up in a bow, and the state's motto doubles as the puzzle's title. Plenty of great fill, too.

Alan Arbesfeld's Tuesday New York Sun puzzle is called "Daybreak," and I haven't yet figured out the theme. Ah, there it is. The seven theme answers are short (7 to 9 letters apiece) and somewhere in the middle, the phrase is "broken" by a day—that is, the common 3-letter abbreviations for the days of the week. Sun. is split into two parts in WES UNSELD. Mon. crosses GLOM ONTO. Tue. takes up residence inside STU ERWIN (promoted from crosswordeseish first-name-only status). Wed. is in the obscure '94 sci-fi movie, NEW EDEN. (It starred Stephen Baldwin and Lisa Bonet? Oy.) Thu. is in the zippy "THAT HURT!" Fri. is in the obscure sailing term, GAFF RIGS. And Sat. parks itself in SETS A TRAP.

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Onion A.V. Club crossword has a theme I do not get at all. No, wait. I think I get it now. (Today's overriding theme is "themes that I don't understand for a while.") The [Band at the beginning of the end of their career?] is FIVE FOR FIGHTING. (I have heard of them.) The middle theme entry's split into two pieces, BREAKING and BENJAMIN, clued as [With 42-Across, band just about finished?]. The word BREAKING appears two rows up from its counterpart. THE BANANA SPLITS (who?) are a [Band whose career is totally over?]. I think the trouble starts with fighting. The next thing you know, you're talking about breaking up. And then? It's splitsville. The relationship is over. The theme's a little arcane and roundabout for my taste, but I enjoyed the rest of the crossword.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle adds a PRO to the top three theme entries and a CON to the ones on the opposite side, with each pair of Down answers intersecting an Across answer. [Doctors on the lookout for male enlargements?] are the PROSTATE POLICE—that was the funniest of the six. Funniest clue (unless you catch one): [Things caught in the act?] for STDS. Runner-up: [Nipple ring?] for AREOLA. I do like the way the Onion and Reader puzzles don't shy away from the topics that the more delicate newspapers must avoid.