December 03, 2007

Tuesday, 12/4

NYS 4:37
Onion 4:16
Tausig 3:46
NYT 3:08
LAT 3:08
CS 2:59

There's an extra puzzle this week, which commenter Sue tipped me off to this morning. Fred Piscop's "Paint by Numbers" crossword appeared in the Sunday NYT's Style magazine. The theme entries are tough if you don't know the 20th century and contemporary art world, but the cluing for the rest of the fill is easy enough to pull you through it. I knew only a few of the theme entries, but still whizzed through faster than a regular Sunday NYT.

In the applet version of Alison Donald's New York Times crossword, there's some explanatory text: "Same Clue Missing Four Times." In the Across Lite version, the Notepad text reads, "The answers at 17- and 51-Across and 11- and 24-Down can all be defined by the same missing three-letter word. What is it?" So the AL version gives away a little more information—but I'm guessing most solvers without access to that hint still figured out that CLOSE FRIEND, POPULAR BREW, COMIC ABBOTT, and BLOSSOM-TO-BE could all be clued as [Bud]. I've seen this sort of theme before, but generally the theme entries would all be clued [Bud] rather than [???]. Wait, where can I submit my secret BUD answer and receive a prize? There was plenty of fill I liked here: FINICKY and KNACK, MITZI and ZEALOT among the Z words, JULEPS, MACABRE Poe, PRENUPS, and the DODGERS.

If you peel away the sides of Alan Arbesfeld's New York Sun puzzle, "Apple Core," you find five boroughs of New York City lurking within the theme entries, spanning multiple words. [Capture ones who hang crows?] is NAB ROOK LYNCHERS—I could do without mention of lynching in a crossword puzzle, frankly. [Inside shots of NBA star James?] are LEBRON X-RAYS; I like this one. The strange OTTOMAN HAT TANGO comes from the clue [Ballroom dance performed wearing a fez?]. To [Tick off a naval officer?] is to PIQUE ENSIGN. And the [Half-score from a court grp. that yours truly defame?] is the nonsensical USTA TEN I SLANDER—kudos to anyone who can concoct another way to bury Staten Island in a phrase. Outside the theme, I liked SQUAWK (but wouldn't exactly call it a [Lame duck sound?] unless maybe you're talking about politicians), the DUODENUM (the name comes from the Latin for "twelve finger-widths in length"), SCHWAS (anyone know how to make that special character appear?), TRIGRAMS (with the sort of misleading clue, [ABC and KLM, e.g.]), and SUSAN clued as ["Terror Dream" author Faludi].

Updated Monday evening:

Ben Tausig's weekly e-mail with the puzzles he edits and/or writes arrived early this week, so I can blog about these puzzles tonight. I know, you haven't had a chance to solve those crosswords yet, and you'd just as soon have me wait until morning. But mornings are busier, so here we go.

Ben Tausig has the constructor byline for this week's Onion A.V. Club puzzle. The final theme entry is ALIEN INVASION, clued as a [Possible title for this puzzle]. I'm such a geek, I saw the ET inserted into the other three theme entries and thought of the Latin et, meaning "and." But E.T., extraterrestrial, sure, that works too. Those E.T.'s find their way into NEW YORK JETSET, PICKET A FIGHT, and the [Royal regiment?], or PRINCESS DIET (my favorite of the three). Favorite fill: AFRIKAANS, Will ARNETT, and the ethnic cuisine answers, AREPA and KORMA.

Ben's Chicago Reader/Ink Well puzzle, "A Century of Fakers," gathers a group of famous LIP-SYNCHING offenders: PAVAROTTI, LINDSAY LOHAN, MILLI VANILLI, and FIFTY CENT. (Alas, no room for Ashley Simpson and her SNL gaffe.) It's a rather ugly grid with those 7-square chunks of black at the sides of the puzzle, isn't it? I do like some of the clues, though. My favorites: [It might have a black eye] for PEA; [It's for babies] for SPERM (!);
I also liked the five-consonant MTV VJ entry, though I think of Dan Cortese as the Seinfeld "himbo" George had a man-crush on, and Bill Bellamy as that comedian I scarcely know (though Wikipedia provides the important information that Bellamy is largely responsible for the enduring phrase booty call). J.J. Jackson and Martha Quinn, now, those are some VJs for the ages. (1981, whoo!)

Updated Tuesday morning:

Will Johnston—who is America's #1 enabler of crossword junkies, thanks to the Puzzle Pointers page he maintains to provide easy access to the top crosswords available online—constructed today's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Fortunate Four." The theme entries begin with words that can follow LUCKY, and they appear in sort of a ring around the grid. My alternate title: "Four-Leaf Clover." The four lucky things are a PENNY, STIFF, STRIKE, and CHARM. (What, no LUCKY BASTARD?) I don't know if Will intended it or not, but the four 7-letter Down answers all seem rather unlucky—a LOW CARD (unless you're playing blackjack and have 18 or 19), SUCKERS (unless you're the scam artist in the clue), a NO-SEE-UM, and SARCASM.

Jerome Gunderson's LA Times crossword has one of those double-play themes—both the first and second words in each theme entry can precede HOUSE. FIREPOWER delivers firehouse and powerhouse, CLUB STEAK has clubhouse and steak house, GLASSWARE has the proverbial glass house and a warehouse, and SAFEGUARD hides a safe house and a guardhouse.