Seth Abel's New York Times puzzle didn't hit a false note from start to finish. Just one letter nagged at me in the "Car Talk" theme, while the rest delighted. In-the-language phrases are clued as if the last word is a car model of the same name. The troublesome square was in REAL TROOPER, for which the preferred phrase is real trouper (but the Isuzu TROOPER is the vehicle). The [Ford purchased online?] is an INTERNET EXPLORER, the [Honda owned by one of the Simpsons?] is HOMER'S ODYSSEY (ha!), there's an Acura URBAN LEGEND, a [Tiny Volkswagen?] is a MINIATURE GOLF (ha!), and there's a Buick TWENTIETH CENTURY. Going Down, there's a PARTIAL ECLIPSE (Mitsubishi) and Suzuki TRUSTY SIDEKICK. Other automotive fill includes a TOTAL LOSS, Stephen King's evil CHRISTINE, the Dodge ARIES, and (sort of) a tire in TIRE OUT. Favorite fill and clues: SHTETLS and SCHUSS with their single, solitary vowels; [Paved road: Sp.] for ESTRADA ("Erik Paved Road"); [Overdrawn account?] for SAGA; [Question following "Oh, yeah?!"] for SEZ WHO; [Performance artist Anderson] for LAURIE (my sister's name, same spelling and all); and the double German nuggets of EIS ([Winter autobahn hazard]) and EIN ([Hamburger's one]). Least favorite: [It's measured in degrees] for BURN—Chicago had a horrible burn story in the news recently, so it's a depressing evocation (whereas [Former name of the FC Dallas soccer team] is not).
Henry Hook's Boston Globe rerun in Across Lite, "Do the Math," has a nifty theme. The theme clues are [Z+], [T+], [G+], [L+], [P+], [B+], [H+], [D+], and [C+]. Say what? The answer to the final Across clue, [How to make sense of the starred clues], is ADD ONE. Thus, the clues are really [Zone], [Tone], [Gone], and so on. Without checking, I'll bet that all the common *ONE words are included in the clue list. The fill has some oddball words of the "huh?" variety. The [Faux-gold alloy] is OROIDE, and I don't think I've ever seen that word in a crossword puzzle before. The [Coin of Yemen] is the BUQSHA, also unfamiliar. The [Easel constellation] is PICTOR. [TV's Dr. Keith] is ABLOW. And [Re body movements] is GESTIC. Fill/cluing highlights: FROGGER ([Vintage video game]) and GOULASH ([Jumble]). Why on earth is [Flo] a DUD?
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Russians I'd Like to Meet," is another of his punstravaganzas. The [Russian marathoner?] is GLADYS ALMOSTOVA ("glad it's almost over"), and the [Nearsighted Russian cab driver?] is MISCHA TURNOV ("miss ya turn-off"). Yup, that's some hardcore punning, all right. I was beginning to nod off while solving, so forgive me for having nothing sentient or salient to say about the puzzle. And so to bed.
Updated Sunday morning:
Dan Naddor's syndicated LA Times puzzle, "Whimsical Wordplay," lives up to its title. Phrases beginning with -ical adjectives are redefined using other meanings of the noun that follows. Thus, [Repair shop technobabble?] is MECHANICAL BULL. A [Church service with a finger-wagging message?] is CRITICAL MASS. An [Extremist's privilege?] is a RADICAL RIGHT. A TECHNICAL KNOCKOUT is a [Gorgeous geek-squad member?]. [Juilliard department heads?] are MUSICAL CHAIRS. The other three theme entries are just about as spot-on as these five. Overall, a most enjoyable solving experience, with fill like SWEE' PEA, SLAP SHOT, ET TU BRUTE, HOP TO IT, RUB NOSES, SAID HI, and POLI SCI.
Matt Ginsberg's Washington Post crossword, "What It Is," breaks up the theme answers by omitting the "is" from the middle and putting the two entities that bracket the "is" in separate parts of the grid. While it was kinda fun to leap to new spots in the grid once I figured out the other half of a phrase, the seemingly random placement of the theme answers is a little off-putting. The pull of thematic symmetry is so strong that I'm tempted to apply some symmetry by pairing other answers that appear opposite the theme answers. RICE-A-RONI is DOPE! SCHIRRA is SPORTIEST!
In Ray Hamel's themeless CrosSynergy puzzle, two 15-letter names from fiction span the grid—and they're not names I know. Apparently...let's see...huh. A Google search for ADMIRAL CRICHTON returns almost exclusively references to the J.M. Barrie work, The Admirable Crichton. The Wikipedia summary doesn't suggest that Crichton was an admiral at all. The clue reads [J.M. Barrie play, with "The"]. Is it possible that the constructor and his CrosSynergy peer reviewers didn't fact-check this, and it's just plain wrong? (The search query "admiral crichton" barrie returns 63 hits, versus 24,200 for "admirable crichton" barrie.) The other 15 is MISTRESS QUICKLY, a character in multiple Shakespeare plays that are not among the ones I've read. Another entry, INTENDANT, was utterly unfamiliar to me. It means [Public manager] in these ways.
December 01, 2007