The Friday New York Times puzzle by David Quarfoot wasn't one of those that lent itself to jumping right in. 1-Across, [War-torn Baghdad suburb], and 9-Across, [23-Across and others] linked to [Shade shade]. Whuzzah? Fortunately, my eye caught sight of [11 1/2" soldier], which had to be GI JOE, and that got me started. Eventually the crossings in the northwest corner pushed me towards SADR CITY, with its chunk of consonants in the middle. And 9-Across turned out to be BEIGES, linked to ECRU. Another cross-referenced pair is the musical A SHARP ([It's almost a B, scorewise]) with E MAJOR ([Key that doesn't include 58-Across].
My favorite clues and fill: [One and only] for TRUE LOVE; [Fleet runner of myth] for ATALANTA (the Free to Be You and Me version is far superior to the Greek myth); [Powerful piece] for a chess QUEEN; [Boarding spot] for SLOPE (think snowboarding); two baseball bits, YER OUT (great clue, [Call from home]) and MEL OTT's full name (he was the 1936 N.L. leader in slugging percentage]); AVENUE C, [Part of Manhattan's Alphabet City]; "DON'T LIE," "I SEE IT," and "YES, INDEED"; [Underhand?] for PEON (er, not PALM); [Pilot's place] for both a GAS RANGE and the SKY; [Apple application] for ITUNES; [Judge of films] for REINHOLD (cheesy pop culture! Would you believe Reinhold is 50?); ARTICLE VI, which [forbids religious tests for political office]; [Piehole] for TRAP; E.C. SEGAR ([Swee' Pea's creator]); CYRANO crossing CELICA most mellifluously; and uncommon plural DISCI for [Track-and-field equipment].
My most favoritest entry in this grid has got to be KIM JONG-IL, the North Korean [Head of state known to his people as "Dear Leader"]. For a look at the surreal experience that is being a Westerner in North Korea, check out Guy Delisle's graphic memoir, Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. It's by turns funny, weird, and haunting. And what makes it easier to absorb lessons about unfamiliar cultures than a comic book? If you like travel books, insane dictators, and/or comic books, you will love Pyongyang. (Juche!)
Raise your hand if you know Mr. SOREN, [Archaeologist David who found the lost Roman city of Kourion]. He's much less Google-hot than Soren Kierkegaard and Tabitha Soren.
The 15x16 New York Sun crossword by Kelsey Blakley, "It's Elemental," hinges on expanding chemical symbols into elements' full names. Narrated expands Na to make SODIUM R-RATED. Automate expands Au to GOLD TO MATE. Fe is iron, so the femoral nerve turns into IRON MORAL NERVE. For sheer ridiculousness, you can't beat [Gathering celebrating cassiterite?], or TIN ORE FEST (Sn-orefest). Cu is copper, so the cured ham expands into COPPER-RED HAM. Lots of interesting fill, like the multi-word GO OFF, OD'S ON, and "SIR, NO SIR" ([Grunt's negative]).
Favorite clues: [Shaker mover and shaker?] for ANN LEE; [Ruin] for DAMN; MEAT [wagon (ambulance, in slang)]; [Amour-propre] for EGO; [Peaked] for ILL; [Christmas trees?] for PEARS (from "The Twelve Days of Christmas"); and [Butcher on "The Brady Bunch"] for SAM the butcher. The actor who played Sam the butcher, Allan Melvin, died a week ago. R.I.P.
Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Vote Early," embeds the postal abbreviation for the six states with the earliest primaries or caucuses in existing phrases, warping them into something quite different. Dry dock picks up Iowa: DIARY DOCK. Che Guevara takes Wyoming: CHEWY GUEVARA (this one's my fave). The Showtime series The L Word visits New Hampshire for THE NHL WORD. Hong Kong and Michigan team up for HOMING KONG; Nevada invades a slow cooker for SLOW CONVOKER (meh); and pot pies in South Carolina become POT PISCES ([Stoner born in March, perhaps?]). Lotsa phrases in the fill, but it's the theme I enjoyed most here.
The Wall Street Journal puzzle from Randolph Ross is called "Climate Change," and the eight theme entries swap weather-related terms to flip-flop the prevailing conditions. Cool Hand Luke becomes WARM HAND LUKE, Foggy Bottom becomes CLEAR BOTTOM, "warm and fuzzy" turns into COOL AND FUZZY like a refrigerated peach, and WET/DRY and HOT/COLD also trade places. Once one theme entry was in position, the rest became much easier.
Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy puzzle, "On-screen Illumination," bundles four movie titles that end with the words DAY, MOON, BACK, and FLASH, all of which can be followed by LIGHT (the central entry). Good, light (appropriately!) puzzle, with plenty of names in the grid—the names make it easy for me, but I know some people get bogged down by a crossword that has a preponderance of names (over a dozen here).
Michael Ashley's January 25 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Carriage Trade," demands familiarity with the names of old carriages and a willingness to pun with them. The HANSOM DEVIL and CHAISE MANHATTAN (cf. Chase Bank's old name), sure. Piece of cake. BROUGHAM CLOSET and COACH POTATO, fine. But DELPHIC CURRICLE? Are curricles well-known enough in academic circles? I didn't know the word, but then, I never read Northanger Abbey. (Is this the same Michael Ashley whose acrostics I've been doing in Games magazine lo these many years?)
(Friday-morning breakfast test violation and pointless tangent: Keller's puzzle contains ORACLE and Ashley's plays on "Delphic oracle." Around these parts, we've taken to using "the Oracle of Sphincter" as a euphemism for certain unseen emissions. Is this Oracle's wisdom any less valid than that divined from an array of tea leaves in a cup? I think not. Listen and the secrets of life will be revealed to you.)
The theme in Donna Levin's LA Times crossword puns on Scottish words (with one pun also swapping in a cholesterol-lowering medication). In the fill, boring ol' RTES is updated with [MapQuest offerings: Abbr.] Really, is anyone under the age of 60 still getting their route recommendations from AAA? Sure, AAA's little Triptyk book of maps is handy, but it takes a lot less time to print out your maps from the internet. (GoogleMaps is better than MapQuest, if you ask me.) Factoid I learned: JEAN is a [Cotton textile named for an Italian city], Genoa. Now, I knew denim was derived from de Nimes, but how did I not know the jean/Genoa link?
January 24, 2008