November 13, 2007

Wednesday, 11/14

NYS 4:21
LAT 4:09
NYT 3:34
CS 2:44

Jim Page's New York Times puzzle plays around with JUST SAY NO, Nancy Reagan's advice to teens re: drugs. As you may recall, that was widely mocked. But you know what? I'll bet it was no less effective than abstinence education is these days. The theme entries have all lost their NO, because the solver should JUST SAY NO when writing them. Insert a no before HOLDS BARRED, BRAINER, GOODNIK, HIT GAME, FLY ZONE, and GREAT SHAKES in order to make them match up with their clues—there's no such thing as a goodnik, after all. Now, as an '80s teenager who mocked Nancy Reagan, I had a very specific reaction to [Dental device] for DAM. It was only years later that I learned how a dental dam was used in dental treatment—before that, I knew of it only as the thing recommended for safer sex. So that raised an eyebrow while I was solving (not that I object to the occasional lofting of an eyebrow). I liked the theme after I saw what was going on—for a while, I was sort of vaguely wondering how "in the language" GOODNIK and FLY ZONE were, but with the no added, they're great phrases. Especially no GREAT SHAKES—chocolate shakes are great. Also great: "OH, ROB!" from The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Tyler Moore's classic line.

Lee Glickstein and Patrick Blindauer's New York Sun crossword, "Throw in the Towel," repurposes the rather stale clue, [Towel inscription]. How often have you seen a clue like that and checked to see if it's 3 letters (and thus HIS) or 4 (HERS)? In this puzzle, the theme entries have HIS or HERS inserted into an existing phrase and reclued. [Presidente supporter's wear?] is a HISPANIC BUTTON, and a coxswain picks up a HIS to become a CHI SOX SWAIN. In the other half of the grid, heydays becomes HERSHEY DAYS and vampire bat transmutes into VAMPIRE BATHERS. Favorite clues: For 5-Down, the clue [Suomi, in 5-Down] reference itself (Suomi's FINNISH for Finnish). [Where you might go when you're very sick?] is a BEDPAN. MOE'S is a [Simpsonian institution]. And Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth double up in [Baseball commissioner after Bowie[ (PETER) and [Baseball commissioner before Ueberroth] for KUHN. The MOLAR is [One of a dozen in a set of 32]. Favorite fill: L'CHAIM, WHAMO, and the YUCATAN.


Nancy Salomon's CrosSynergy puzzle is called "Snack Pack," and the theme entries end with snacky treats in inedible contexts. Hmm, suddenly I have a hankering for CRACKERS, COOKIES, NUTS, and CHIPS. Not much to say about this easy crossword, except to ask: SMART COOKIES is clued as [Sharpies], but I have never used the word that way. Is "sharpie" tied to a particular age group, perhaps? If you've used the word yourself, are you older than I?

The theme in Dan Naddor's LA Times puzzle kept itself hidden from me for a while. It's adjacent opposites in the middle of each made-up phrase. LAUGH IN OUTTAKES has in/out, a DAY-OLD NEWBORN has old/new, RED-HOT COLD CREAM is hot/cold, and HANOVER UNDERDOG has over/under. The word HALCYON is in there, and I realized I didn't know the etymology. It's kind of out-there: The American Heritage Dictionary gives the origin path as [Middle English alcioun, from Latin alcyōn, halcyōn, from Greek halkuōn, a mythical bird, kingfisher, alteration (influenced by hals, salt, sea, and kuōn, conceiving) of alkuōn.]. (One definition is "A fabled bird, identified with the kingfisher, that was supposed to have had the power to calm the wind and the waves while it nested on the sea during the winter solstice." Who knew? Not I.)