Cool football theme from Larry Shearer in the New York Times. Dagnabbit, I should have broken the three-minute mark on this one, but I had a typo (the Z is right next to the X, and yes, I know there's no such thing as The Z-FILES, honest. Anyway: There are four theme entries comprising two NFL team names. The [Big spender's woe?] is a GIANT BILL, as in the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills. There's a COLT PACKER packing heat, a CARDINAL CHARGER ([MasterCard-carrying ecclesiastic?]), and [Peter?], the CHIEF SAINT. These pairings are tied together with the capper: the SUPER BOWL is [Where this puzzle's theme pairs would like to meet]. I checked Wikipedia and yes indeed, each pair includes one NFC and one AFC team. I also liked the density of names in the grid. Where else do [Missing Jimmy] HOFFA and Paula ABDUL share space? The [Reggie Jackson nickname] MR OCTOBER parties with the [1975 Barbra Streisand sequel] FUNNY LADY. The X-FILES, KAL-EL and VULCAN are sci-fi-ish. BUICK and ALERO are automotive. And those 5x5 corners are wide-open for a Tuesday puzzle.
David Kahn marks the recent passing of MARCEL MARCEAU with a meaty tribute puzzle in the New York Sun, :"The Quiet Man." Marceau was a PANTOMIME ARTIST. (Speaking of pantomime, are any of you familiar with the English pantomime shows? When I went to England last spring for my friend's wedding, she was marrying a guy who's an enthusiastic panto participant, putting on shows for kids each winter. His panto friends were a rowdy bunch—they sang a lot at their table at the wedding reception.) Marcel's classic character was BIP, who wore a RED FLOWER in his hat. One of his mime routines was called IN THE PARK. He had the only SPEAKING ROLE in SILENT MOVIE, and that word was NON. Favorite clues and fill: The Scrabbly double-Mexico hit of AZTEC and OAXACA; [Bart Simpson's middle name] is JOJO (how did I not know that?); "I'M UP," the [Comment after a shake in the morning?]; and the automotive action with the Toyota SOLARA and the ACURA TL, in which a driver may make a [Louie, so to speak], or LEFT turn. The most out-of-louie-field clue is [56 __ 5 = 1]; the answer, MOD, is ridiculously complex mathematically for a mere Tuesday crossword, even in the Sun. As Byron explains it, "It's the notation for modular arithmetic. The most direct way to read it is when you divide 56 by 5 you get remainder 1. (A more precise reading is that 56-1 is a multiple of 5.) Basic clock arithmetic is mod 12." That makes so much more sense than anything on the Wikipedia modulo page.
Ben Tausig goes geographic with this week's Chicago Reader/Ink Well crossword, "Land Locked." Five theme answers have countries embedded within them. My favorite examples: PYROMANIAC with Romania and MANGO LASSI with Angola. Good fill: WILD ABOUT (my grandma used to sing "I'm just wild about Harry"), SIMON SAYS, OFF-HANDED, AL GORE, and BACOS bacon bits. HONDA gets a new clue—["Punch Out!!" fighter Piston ___]. I have no idea what that means.
A delightful but sometimes offputting Onion A.V. Club crossword from Matt Jones this week. Delightful because of how the theme comes together—the O'Reillyesque NO-SPIN ZONE is what the other theme entries avoid because they've all got added SPIN. Al Gore gives way to SPINAL GORE, the gruesome spine-ripping violence from the video game, Mortal Kombat. The German exclamation, "Ach du lieber!" becomes SPINACH DU LIEBER. A Y chromosome carries a prickly trait if it's a SPINY CHROMOSOME. There's also an awful lot of ass in this crossword. The [Adult film store aisle] at 36-Across is ANAL, a Saturday Night Live pair of characters are A-HOLES, a Japanese candy is called ASSE, and I saw Pier PAOLO Pasolini's Canterbury Tales in college, and I believe 36-Across was depicted. Bonus points to Matt for the EASY BAKE Oven, Napoleon Dynamite's TATER TOT fixation, and the double cinematic clue for MYSTIC, with "River" and "Pizza."
Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy creation, "Keeping 41-Across," defines a central 5-letter entry with the other four longer theme entries, so it takes a while and a ton of crossings to uncover the theme.
David Cromer's LA Times puzzle has GAMES PEOPLE PLAY in the middle, but clued as a 1969 country song I never heard of rather than the 1980 Alan Parsons Project song I know. The other four theme entries end with words that can precede "games," such as (CALL) WAITING and (BRING TO) MIND. Aw, this would've been more fun with names of games rather than "___ games" phrases. Say, entries like CALCULATED RISK, I'M REALLY SORRY, or LOCKED UP FOR LIFE.
November 19, 2007