This afternoon, my husband and son were getting haircuts at a neighborhood salon (no such thing as a barbershop around these parts, unless you mean the fancy men-only salon on Halsted). Ben was in the chair getting a fauxhawk while his parents waited, and what did we overhear? The guy at the counter hashing out the Wednesday NYT crossword with a friend. I sprang into action as I must (my secret supersuit is emblazoned with a bold XW) and lent a helping hand. I also jotted down this blog's URL so the guy (a stranger to the blogosphere) could check it out.
And as I finished the Thursday New York Times puzzle by Jim Leeds, I thought, "Ohhh, Salon Man will be vexed by this." The southwest corner, in particular, and the northeast to a lesser degree, and also a little in the upper midsection (the thorax, if you will), and a bit in the northwest corner—combinations of answers that aren't so familiar and also aren't zippy and fresh. To wit: in the SW, Latin legalese CAUSA, astronomical O-STAR, the ship ISERE, and the acronym LORAN are piled up alongside one another. Gah! In the opposite corner, [Hebdomadally] clues A WEEK. Now, hebdomadal means "weekly," so "weeklily" means A WEEK? I'm not seeing it. Can anyone offer a sentence to demonstrate the interchangeability? And KELSO clued as a racehorse the day after FUNNY CIDE—¡no mas! (I prefer KELSO clued with reference to Ashton Kutcher's pretty-boy character on That '70s Show). Moving to the upper left, ABIE gets a non–"Abie's Irish Rose" clue with ["___ the Agent (old comic strip)]—feh, I say! And going to the right side of the thorax, LOESS and COPRA (both words I learned strictly from crosswords) cross the [F.D.R. agency] OPA. That's the Office of Price Administration, in case you weren't following the news in the 1940s. OPA is usually clued as the Florida town, Opa-Locka; for once, I'd like to see it clued as [Granddad, in Germany]—at least the PA part is inferrable, whereas [F.D.R. agency] is practically a clue that says [Random three-letter abbreviation].
Good gravy, I'm channeling Rex.
That out of the way, let's poke the theme and see if it moves. Five theme entries add a C before the O at the beginning of a phrase or compound word, and the resulting creation is clued accordingly. A marine biologist performs a CORAL EXAM, one might CON THE LOOKOUT, Slinky art could be COIL PAINTINGS, witches cook with COVENWARE, and (Canadian slur alert!) [Eskimos in an igloo?] are COLD FOLKS AT HOME. That last one seemed completely random to me, but Professor Google says it's a song title.
Doug Peterson's "Themeless Thursday" puzzle in the New York Sun has plenty of vibrant fill. Jimi Hendrix's PURPLE HAZE, a MENTAL NOTE, PINOT NOIRS (I'll wager that pinot noir sales skyrocketed after the movie Sideways came out, with its famously profane anti-Merlot line, "I'm not drinking any fucking merlot."), a REPORT CARD, and a dose of ENRICHED URANIUM. Not to mention KATAKANA (the [Japanese syllabary]), artist and film director Julian SCHNABEL, and James [Bond foe] SMERSH. Favorite clues: [Baby, maybe] for the verb SPOIL; [Press release?] for OLIVE OIL; [Shade] for a ghostly WRAITH; and [Lander at TLV] for EL AL (presumably TLV is Tel Aviv's airport code).
Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Let Go!", begins each theme entry with a word that's synonymous with "let go." In the fill, Star Trek: The Next Generation's Counselor TROI shows up, and she's also in Manny Nosowsky's LA Times crossword. Manny's puzzle has A LOT TO ANSWER FOR running vertically down the middle of the grid, surrounded by five questions: WHY BOTHER? WHICH IS IT? WHAT'S IT FOR? WHERE CAN I WASH UP? And WHO'S THE MAN? Favorite clues: [Leader of the pack?] for HARE (because the hare's a fast runner...although in "The Tortoise and the Hare," the hare loses his lead); [Stout fellow?] for BREWER, and the associated NEAR BEER.
December 26, 2007