December 16, 2007

Monday, 12/17

Trip Payne's Themeless Challenger #4 9:45
NYS 3:13
CS 2:58
LAT 2:36
NYT 2:35

Crikey! Santa had better get a move on with stocking stuffers, or she's not going to be ready for Christmas Eve. And I need to get those Christmas cards in the mail, though I've done nothing towards that end other than amassing cards, addresses, and pictures of my kid. And then there's wrapping, possibly sending some gifts...where did the time go?

The Monday New York Times puzzle by Richard Chisholm sparkles. The theme is rock-solid—seasons with an S on the end, with place names for the ones that begin with equinoxes and people's names for the solstice seasons. LARRY SUMMERS, the [Former president of Harvard], was famously obtuse; I think I first heard of him via this profane blog post by a feminist academic. Is he Monday-crossword famous? I don't know. But I won't forget his name any time soon. Why did this crossword sparkle? Because it was liberally buttered with answers that don't get much play in the puzzle so early in the week. Long answers in the fill: SILENT ERA, MORTGAGES, TOLERANT, SULLIES, the IRISH SEA, ATLANTIS, NOWHERE, and OUTLANDS (I like the geographic vibe of the last four). CAJUN is a little Scrabbly. U.S. ONE is essentially a three-word answer, and it ties to the other answers with split-off letters: I-BAR, SIDE B, and BIG D. Other words that pleased me were SAMOAN, SPRAWL (better Samoan sprawl than suburban sprawl...), and PROLE, which evokes Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Will Nediger's New York Sun puzzle, "Gotham Routes," has three NYC thoroughfares mentioned in the theme entries: BABES ON BROADWAY (a musical I'm not familiar with), WALL ST. LAYS AN EGG (famous headline after the stock market crash in '29), and the BUICK PARK AVENUE. My favorite clue is 4-Down, [Dylan portrayer in "I'm Not There"]—in this movie, one female and five male actors play Bob Dylan, and Richard GERE isn't the only 4-letter candidate (CATE Blanchett, Christian BALE). Most horrifying clue/answer: [BLT request, maybe] for EXTRA MAYO. I am strictly a "hold the mayo" sort. The only voluntary mayo usage has come in the form of a BLT with turkey bacon and a light, thin layer of mayo, upon my husband's insistence that a BLT must have mayo. (I survived.) Some excellent entries: SWISS MISS hot cocoa, SLY AS A FOX, DEWARS, and the words using the three Xs and the Z.


Wait a minute. For the second time in three months, a crossword from a woman on the CrosSynergy team has clued UTERI incorrectly. Here, in Sarah Keller's puzzle, it's [Egg developers]. Technically, the eggs are already there when a baby girl is born. A follicle ripens to release an egg from the ovary for ovulation. Only a fertilized egg, which then is no longer merely an egg but a blastocyst, an embryo, or later a fetus, is developing in the uterus. If you want to use [__ holders] or [__ developers] for UTERI, don't use "egg." Please. This bugs me. Moving right along: The "Top Hats" theme entries run vertically so that their tops can be hats: HARD, TIN, PANAMA, and HIGH, though the last is, I think, strictly a metaphorical hat. Can one wear a high hat?

David Cromer's LA Times crossword has a nice theme of phrases that follow the same formula: verb + ONE'S + body part + preposition. HOLD ONE'S HEAD UP, PUT ONE'S FOOT DOWN, and KEEP ONE'S HAND IN make a good trio, don't they? One minor quibble: IN-LAWS are not really [Inevitable results of marriage]. An only child whose parents have passed away and who were also only children will not bring a passel of in-laws with her or him upon marriage. If you want to be technical about it...

Updated again:

Trip Payne's added a new puzzle on his website—a 21x21 themeless puzzle. Sports fans and movie buffs will find a few gimmes, but other long entries are drawn from colloquial spoken English. Though this puzzle is themeless, the clues are closer to Thursday NYT level than to Saturday. So if the tougher themeless puzzles are daunting to you but you're up for a meaty, plus-sized challenge, download "Themeless Challenger #4."