Michael Blake's New York Times crossword is both delightful and dreadful. Delightful because it's got a fresh theme (no sign of THE CHIPMUNKS in the Cruciverb.com database) with names not often seen in a Monday puzzle; a fair number of 6- and 7-letter fill answers; and non-boring fill like I MIGHT, STREP, LAMAZE, STIFFS, and TO WIT. Dreadful because, well, it's THE CHIPMUNKS, who are so annoying I've patently refused to take my kid to see the recent live-action movie. But at least the squeaky-voiced rodents have been swapped out for the far more august trio of ALVIN TOFFLER, the ["Future Shock" author], SIMON WIESENTHAL, the [Late hunter of Nazi war criminals], and THEODORE DREISER, the ["Sister Carrie" author]. I believe congratulations are in order for Mr. Blake—his name's not in the Cruciverb database, so I think this is his newspaper crossword debut.
James Sajdak's New York Sun crossword, "Buff Buffet," has three theme clues that refer to 58-Across, so I checked that clue. The only William S. Burroughs novel I know is NAKED LUNCH (never read it, but I saw the movie, and boy do those images stick with you. Wonder if the book's images are as sticky in the memory?), and that fit the space. The other theme entries are what you might order at the naked lunch—a STRIP STEAK, SALAD (NO DRESSING), and GODIVA CHOCOLATE. Fairly Scrabbly fill for a Monday, with BOZO the Clown, UNIX, and IBIZA. Favorite clues: [Ones with a Bunker mentality?] for BIGOTS; [When Central Park closes] for ONE A.M. (did not know that; will avoid heading there after one during the crossword tournament); [Half of a "Sesame Street" duo] for both BERT and ERNIE; and [Mudder fodder] for OATS.
Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy crossword ("Who RU?") evokes Ashish Vengsarkar's great "Spellcheck" puzzle of a year ago with a soupçon of CDB? action. Here, the first names in the theme entries are represented by sound-alike letter sequences: K T COURIC, L N DEGENERES, the obstetrical O B WAN KENOBI, and three others. My cousin's toddler girl is named Elsie, and L C THE COW (the Borden spokescow) remains the first Google hit for Elsie. Here's hoping the average second grader six years hence will not have heard of Elsie the Cow!
David Cromer's LA Times crossword plays a different sort of name game, here transposing the first and last names and reinterpreting the last names as verbs. Who wouldn't wish to TRUMP DONALD? Although it would be uncalled for to SHORT MARTIN some money, and just plain cruel to CAGE NICOLAS or HURT WILLIAM. When I was a teenager, I had a huge crush on William Hurt. (Just look at the fabulous career he had in the '80s.) I think the crush ended when the good parts disappeared.
January 27, 2008