January 31, 2008

Friday, 2/1

LAT 7:57
NYT 7:16
Jonesin' 5:32
NYS 5:07
CHE 4:28
CS 3:28

WSJ 7:53

It's terribly distracting, trying to blog about crosswords (and solve them) when Lost is on. Quelle dramatique!

Okay, I blogged the NYT puzzle (below) while watching Lost. Then the show ended and I did the Sun crossword, and as I begin to blog that, my husband's doing a crossword on his iPod touch and asking for help. The man is nuts—he's filling in things that make no sense and pretending that they do. For a clue about a good-looking guy, the crossings led him to fill in STUDPUFFIN. Yes, a hot seabird. The crossing was [___-bang], and he opted for SLAP-bang rather than SLAM-bang. Slap-bang? Studpuffin? Oh, dear.

So. Yeah. Um, the crossword. The New York Times puzzle was constructed by Doug Peterson. Twenty-three black squares looks fairly impressive, but there are 68 answers, which is not so low at all. Which, in my book, is a good thing—more answers of higher quality means more entertainment than fewer answers that are more forced. There are pairs of 15s near the top and bottom of the grid—I like the [Hobbes in "Calvin and Hobbes"] clue for IMAGINARY FRIEND, and the USED CAR SALESMEN holding everything up. Some of the tricky clues fell like a house of cards—well, at least if I had some crossings. Or a lot of crossings. I took a wrong turn with [It stocks blocks], though—not a TOY STORE at all, no! Just an ICEHOUSE. I have never been to an icehouse; have you? That wasn't the only wrong turn I took, you'll see.

Favorite clues: [Prepare for a shower] for GIFT-WRAP; [Well activity] for WISHING (I opted for an oil well GUSHING at first); [Chief goals?] for END ZONES (as in the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL); and [Playboy's plea?] for RENEW the magazine.

Other clues of note: [Temper] for ASSUAGE; the verb phrase [Ape wrestlers] for GRAPPLE; [Body part above la bouche] for NEZ (French for mouth and nose); the cross-referenced prefix and suffix that go together, PENTA and GON; the noun [Intimate] for CRONY; [Subject of some conspiracy theories] for HOFFA; [Staff note] for MEMO (not a CLEF or REST); [She's dangerously fascinating] for CIRCE (I went with the generic SIREN); [Tickled the most?] for PINKEST (as in "tickled pink"); [Hosts] for RAFTS, both meaning a slew of something; [Before being delivered] for PRENATAL; [Make like Pac-Man] for CHOMP; [Aggressively ambitious] for HUNGRY; [Basso Hines] for JEROME; and ["Who ___?"] for DOESN'T.

The New York Sun "Weekend Warrior" is a Karen Tracey offspring, and I'll bet it makes a bunch of you cranky. Sometimes Karen reins in her propensity for including names in the grid, and sometimes she lets her freak flag fly. Hooray! The flag is hoisted high, and there are 15 or more people's names (pop-cultural ones, too) in the grid, along with some place names. Look at the full names—DESI ARNAZ, JOAN VAN ARK of Dallas, and otically gifted MITCH ALBOM. Chatty entries include "ARE WE ALONE?" or is there life on other planets and the [Retort to the indiscreet], "hey, I HEARD THAT." Scrabbly vocabulary includes AJAX, an [Amsterdam soccer team], and Spanish painter VELAZQUEZ. Good multi-word entries include "ANNIE'S SONG," the Atlantic and Pacific TIME ZONES, PURPLE SAGE, BONE-DRY, and FREE SPIRIT.

Favorite clues and entries and the toughest parts, jumbled together: [Extended operatic solo] for SCENA; [Weenie roast desserts] for S'MORES; [Birth] for NASCENCE (I do like the word nascent); ["Waking Ned Devine" star Ian] BANNEN; ["Tired blood" tonic] for GERITOL (which vitamin was Evonne Goolagong hawking in the '70s with talk of "iron-poor blood"?); [Ireland's Shannon-___ Waterway] for ERNE (wily sea eagle is hiding in its waterway guise!); [Aleve, generically] for NAPROXEN; [French quarters?] for ETES (ETE = summer, and a season is a quarter of the year); [Personal attendant in the British royal household; [Shooting equipment] for LENSES (thank you for being photographic and not about bloody hunting, LENSES); the UNSEEN/UNDONE crossing; and [Host] for RAFT (hmm, where did I just see that?...).


In the Wall Street Journal crossword, "Gofer Broke," Harvey Estes says that GOOD HELP IS / HARD TO FIND and helps out by extricating the workers who are hidden in the the other 10- and 12-letter answers, and placing them in symmetrical spots at the grid's top and bottom. There's a SERF in USER-FRIENDLY, for example. There aren't a ton of theme squares, so there's room for livelier fill—GONE TO POT, "THAT'S RICH," "SO THERE," Beckett's ENDGAME, a NEAT FREAK.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Stuck On You," is an easy one this week. The theme entries are four things that may be stuck on you—TOILET PAPER on your shoe, or a "KICK ME" SIGN, to name two. Fun fill—there's [Sitcom architect] MIKE BRADY, a SPLIT END (wow, did I have a ton of split ends before my haircut—winter!), SUSHI BAR, UBER-HIP, MINDY [Cohn of "The Facts of Life"] (Natalie!), Futurama's LEELA—light, fun, plenty of TV.

Pancho Harrison's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword for this week is called "Divining Women," and each of four long entries contains a GODDESS broken across two words: WITHER AWAY, GUARDIAN ANGEL, JEFFREY ARCHER, and CHRIS ISAAK. Hey, I like this theme! CHRIS ISAAK's maleness is balanced out by ISAK Dinesen. CARPE DIEM (the [Pithy life lesson coined by Horace]) evokes Dead Poets Society, which featured a young ETHAN / HAWKE, who's clued with reference to Training Day instead.

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy crossword, "King's English," pays tribute to a batch of Stephen King books—well, four novels and a 1985 movie based on three King stories. I don't think I've read any King books since FIRESTARTER in my early teens, but my cousin devours them. Wasn't it nice of King to unretire from writing novels? I do read him every month—he's got a column in Entertainment Weekly.

I didn't much care for the cluing style in Pamela Amick Klawitter's LA Times puzzle. Which is to say, it tied me up in knots and slowed me down more than I like, but didn't teach me oddball trivia or names like a tough themeless puzzle tends to. The theme was NO-WIN: Six other entries were phrases from which WIN had been yoinked. Two of the theme entries were just 7 letters long, which made it harder to recognize them as theme entries at first. So the [Techies' gossiping site?] E-COOLER just seemed so...bad. But it's wine cooler without the WIN, so I liked it when I realized it was a theme entry. Is it an editorial statement that THE METS are in this NO-WIN puzzle? The [Jungle hybrid] TIGLON also made me cranky—the liger, I know, but the tiglon or tigon (with reversed parentage) is less familiar. I also took umbrage at HOOD KING (hoodwinking minus WIN) clued as [Don?]. Really? The 'hood? (The clue could have gone in a cobra direction.) Read a little about King's philanthropic efforts here. Kudos to the constructor for including seven theme entries, though. (My take is subjective, of course—at the NYT forum, someone just singled this puzzle out as particularly good. Chacun a son gout!)