December 08, 2007

Sunday, 12/9

BG 9:10
LAT 8:28
NYT 8:24
PI 7:53
WaPo 7:00
CS 3:59

Patrick Blindauer's constructed another word search within a crossword. The puzzle is nearly a themeless one outside of the gimmick, except that the eight longest answers do all contain a forwards or backwards ELF. SELF-REFLECTIVE, aptly enough, contains an ELF and a reflected FLE. The other hidden elves are strewn throughout the grid, mostly clustered near the long entries. In case you're wondering where the hidden words are, I think I found all 20 (click image to enlarge it):

The toughest spots in this puzzle were probably the same ones for most of us. How about 8-Across and 8-Down, [River or city of Maine] and [Mushroom stems]? I wagered that the first letter in both had to be an S, though neither word (SACO and STIPES) was familiar. 101-Across was also an unknown for me—[Quasar co-discoverer Sandage] is ALLAN, and that crosses one place name and one person's name, so you'd better hope you the crossings were familiar. Favorite clues: [Not fair at all] for RAINY; [Last time?], though the grammar doesn't quite parse for me, for SHELF-LIFE; [Words from a promising individual?] for I SHALL; ["Bald" baby] for EAGLET; [Bond's man?] for IAN FLEMING; and [Evening person?] somewhat making up for the "odd job" of LEVELER. Weirdest clue: [Spitchcock] for EEL. That's not a type of eel or a regional term for an eel, no—it's "an eel split and broiled". (I'll pass, thanks.) Also of note: A rare inclusion of CANCER in the crossword, clued here as [Constellation between Lynx and Hydra]. (The Cancer constellation doesn't look one whit like a crab.)


The theme in Dave Sullivan's Washington Post crossword, "Y Me?", brings out plenty of smiles. Dave and I had talked about this theme when he was hashing out the theme entries, so while I didn't recognize any theme entries, I knew how the theme would work based on the title. So don't knock yourself if you don't find this crossword to be markedly easier than the other Sunday puzzles today. Phrases that start with ___Y words are reclued as if the ___Y word is an adjectival form of the word in the blanks. The [Political cartoonist's religious garb?] is NASTY HABIT, and I dug that because Thomas Nast's surname gets plenty of play in crosswords, but usually not in a playful way. [Phileas's low point?] refers to the fictional Phileas Fogg and his FOGGY BOTTOM. A [Rowboat full of Adonises?] is a HUNKY DORY. And a [Guy covered with foie gras?] is a LIVERY MAN, like my great-great-grandfather, only with more liver. Plenty of lively fill here, too: JUGULAR, TUNA SUB, EUREKA, NINJA, ROMULAN, and WRAITH.

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "A Stoogean Dream," tells a story through the theme entries—a Three Stooges reverie with idiomatic phrases that sound like slapstick violence but usually aren't used that way—like SMACKING YOUR LIPS. I do always enjoy Merl's story themes.

The Across Lite Boston Globe puzzle usually gets Litzed (converted into Across Lite) by Nancy Shack from the online version in...I think it's Philadelphia Weekly. The Globe puzzle appears there weeks after it runs in the Boston paper. This week's issue doesn't have a crossword to Litz, so Nancy Shack whets the appetite of Henry Hook fans by Litzing a puzzle from an old book of Globe crosswords. Henry's "Phonetic Fun" is a 1998 puzzle. The middle entry, TEA FOR TWO, explains the phonetic change in all the other theme entries. The clues and fill seemed harder than the Globe puzzles of 2007—[Cheerful, old-style] is PEART, crossing the [Wine-bottle stand] CELLARET at the R. Tell us, Henry: Have crossword solvers grown dimmer in 10 years?

Arlan and Linda Bushman's syndicated LA Times puzzle, "Meeting of the Ways," has one of those themes that makes it modestly easier to figure out the nine theme entries but doesn't increase the solver's sense of reward. Each theme phrase has ST ST ("meeting of the streets") in the middle, but figuring out such phrases as FAST START or PROTEST STRIKE doesn't offer any laughs. A few clues struck me as off—[Frustrating voice mail sequence] merits a catchy name (all I can think of is "voice-mail hell"), but I don't think PHONE TAG is it. Phone tag is the volleying of missed calls and messages left, never actually speaking to the other person, isn't it?

Rich Norris's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" is fairly easy, as far as themelesses go. It's sprinkled with Ks (six of them), as in KAFKA and KICKS ([Fun]). Zingiest entries: DOT-TO-DOT puzzles, CSI MIAMI, MT SHASTA, the AUTOBAHN, and the central 15s, MATCHING OUTFITS and DROOPING EYELIDS. I like the juxtaposition of two answers ending in -YS, since my second-grade son just learned that -y plurals turn into -ies. We have the movie SPYS and Samuel PEPYS.