I read some hopeful wishes that the Sunday New York Times puzzle would be a trademark Liz Gorski crossword with visual oomph, and it is. In this plus-sized 23x23 grid with left/right symmetry, Frosty the Snowman takes up residence. His hat is made out of black squares, FROSTY THE SNOWMAN is spelled out in circled letters that, in connect-the-dots fashion, outline two big balls of snow (white squares!) to form Frosty's body. The song lyrics unwind in the theme entries: Frosty the Snowman was a JOLLY HAPPY SOUL (2-Down) with a CORNCOB PIPE (134-Across) AND A BUTTON NOSE (16-Down) AND TWO EYES MADE OUT OF COAL (114-Across). That last part is clued [Lyric, part 5], and I don't see an [End of lyric] anywhere so I think that's it. The HABERDASHER who might've made Frosty's hat also ties to the theme, but tangentially. Despite the constraints of the circled squares that build the snowman shape, the fill is smooth. IRS AGENTS and PAD THAI noodles, a timorous I DARE NOT, BAKER'S DOZEN, BEDSPREAD, STRONG-ARM, ONE O'CLOCK, a HAIRBRUSH, HOOSIERS, and a SHOE STORE were all good long answers. Favorite clue: [Artificial heat?] for TOY GUN. I lost a little time with a typo when I filled in this puzzle—no, it's not ROPRS crossing HABRRDASHER, not at all. Never heard of ["The Oath" author Frank] PERETTI. Oh, here's why: He's a contemporary Christian author specializing in the topic of "spiritual warfare." Not my genre. Tiffany designer Elsa Peretti is more my speed—this heart-shaped box sits on my dresser.
You know who's a really fast solver in Across Lite? Ellen Ripstein. Crikey! Those solving times for Sunday-sized puzzles are short. (Sigh.) I'll always have Saturday...
Henry Hook's Boston Globe puzzle, "Four-Part Harmony," has five theme entries in a sort of a rebus puzzle. 22-Across is MOTHER OF A FILLY, or a mare. Next up is OUTCRY ON SEEING A MOUSE, or eek. The JOINT LINKING HAND TO ARM is wrist. UNMARRIED WOMAN'S TITLE is Miss. Put all four words together to get a HOLIDAY MESSAGE: mare-eek-wrist-miss, or Merry Christmas. It's cute, and not a sort of theme/wordplay I recall seeing in a crossword before.
Easy Washington Post puzzle from Randolph Ross, one called "Let's Face It." The theme entries share this in common: THEY WEAR MASKS. The theme clues were mostly straightforward, so I got all the theme entries without having any idea what the theme was. Favorite clue: [Calculus taker?] for the masked DENTAL HYGIENIST. Trickiest crossing: 13-Across and 13-Down. With *IDDLES for [Hoedown needs] and *INCHES for [Buntings et al.], it eventually dawned on me that buntings, like the brilliantly hued painted bunting, are birds along the line of FINCHES and not just decorative draping.
Andy Sawyer's syndicated LA Times crossword, "New Year's Re-solutions," has a hyphen in the title because the theme entries all have a RE- added to the beginning of a phrase to generate something new. My favorite theme entries were RESENT PACKING (who doesn't?), REMORSE CODE (dot, dash, head slap, dash, self-flagellation, dot, dot), and the REBUS DEPOT where one stores picture puzzles. Good theme, in my opinion. In the fill, it felt like there was more than the usual amount of words that have fallen out of favor as crossword fill in recent (re-cent...) years—[Chinese weight] TAEL crossing RARA avis, muralist SERT and puppeteer SARG, actor CLU Gulager. I do like the one-two punch of ["Woe ___"] for IS ME and [1996 grammar bestseller "Woe ___"] for IS I.
The title of Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Repeat Business," suggests that the theme will be like Sawyer's LAT theme, but in Merl's, each phrase begins with a repeated string of letters. I like TWENTY-TWENTY VISION and OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE best.
Paula Gamache's themeless CrosSynergy puzzle is anchored by three horizontal 15s crossing THE GRATEFUL DEAD. I had a brief Dead phase in college... Other highlights: FRIGHT WIG across from PLATO'S CAVE (those two phrases have not appeared together on a web page until right now); SHTETL crossing SHALOM; [Mercury Seven astronaut Deke] SLAYTON's last name appearing in the grid instead of the more crossword-friendly first name; and Martin MILNER of the Adam-12 cop show (rewarding my childhood spent watching TV).
December 29, 2007