I'm a little disappointed in myself, because I should've gotten through Natan Last's New York Times puzzle in less time. I'm tired! But I really shouldn't be so sleepy before 7 p.m., really. The puzzle's called "Triangulation," and the theme combines two gimmicks: First, there are six longish answers—two Down answers on each side, and two Across answers in the middle, near the top and bottom of the grid. Each of these long answers contains a trigonometric ratio rebus square, with SIN (sine) in DANTE'[S IN]FERNO crossing [SIN]NER and TWO PEA[S IN] A POD / CA[SIN]OS, COS (cosine) in BELLI[COS]ITY / AC[COS]TS and [COS]MO KRAMER / DIS[CO S]TU (!), and TAN (tangent) in CA[T AN]D MOUSE / SA[TAN] and EQUIDIS[TAN]T / S[TAN]ZA. For added elegance, the ratio pairs appear opposite one another. The second gimmick is the triangle of highlighted squares in the center of the grid that spells out TRIGONOMETRY. Notice how well the answers mesh together in the center despite the inclusion of that triangular answer—RESTROOMS and MY DARLING and OLIVE OYL? Those are smooth.
In other parts of the grid, the most savory answers are BEATNIK, SUDOKU and HANGMAN, a CD DRIVE, all the first-person phrases (I DON'T CARE, I GET IT, I'M FINE, IS IT I), and New York's Governor SPITZER. Hey, did you know an [Early pulpit] is an AMBO? My favorite clues: [Numbers game] for SUDOKU; [Saw things] for TEETH; [It might be silver] for LINING (good gravy, did that one take a long time to figure out, even with the INI in place); [Single, for one: Abbr.] for SYN (synonym!); [Star in old Westerns] for BADGE (oh, how long I pondered Lash Larue and the prospect of other actors in old oaters); [Facilities] for RESTROOMS; [Words of honor?] for ODE; [Strip joints?] for CA[SIN]OS; [1950s stereotype] for BEATNIK; [Highlighted, as text] for IN BOLD (raise your hand if you went with ITALIC first); [Place for a swing] for a golf TEE; and [Bottom of the ___] for NINTH (Why did I opt for EARTH first?). Overall, a fun puzzle with some good gimmick action.
P.S. The online versions of this puzzle had to have a clue for the vertical leg of the triangle, so the clue numbering differs between them and what's in the Sunday magazine.
P.P.S. A note from Will Shortz at the NYT forum: "Tomorrow's crossword is a Sunday debut by Natan Last, a high school senior in Brooklyn. At 17 years 2 months he is the youngest known Sunday crossword constructor in the Times' history. It's a very impressive debut, too." Indeed!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe crossword, “Look Both Ways,” is jam-packed with palindrome action, which made it easy to fill in the reverse of any partially completed theme entries. The palindromes I liked best were the ones I haven’t seen before—particularly BORROW OR ROB and BOSTON DID NOT SOB. I think I may have seen DO GEESE SEE GOD before, and it’s beautifully ludicrous. Favorite fill: the diva’s HIGH NOTE, a HOMINID, and Patrick SWAYZE. Cleverest clues: [Good-time bird?] for LARK and [Patty’s escort?] for BUN. (Patty and Frank should be a couple.) The [Borage family plant] called BUGLOSS was unfamiliar.
Merl Reagle’s Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle is titled “What’s My Wine?” because it’s filled with winy puns. Sometimes, pun themes with a variety of different sound/letter changes irk me, but this time, it went down smoothly and with aromas of nectarine and green apple. Merl has long been the master of stacked theme entries, and here, each corner of the grid has a long pair of theme entries (14/13 and 16/15) running alongside each other, along with four more Down entries (12 or 10 letters apiece) in the midsection. (160 theme squares? Holy theme density, Batman!) My favorites are SUMO RIESLING, the Brooklynese-sounding VENUS DE MERLOT, APPRECHABLIS, and—even though I’d never heard of Beloved Infidel—BELOVED ZINFANDEL.
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “Box Office Numbers,” features seven song titles that are reinterpreted as belonging to the soundtracks of assorted fictitious “___: The Musical” movies. “ROCK THE BOAT” (don’t tip it over) goes with The Poseidon Adventure, and “GREAT BALLS OF FIRE” pairs up nicely with Deep Impact. I think this puzzle was actually easier than the comparative times suggest—I’m beat, and I kept realizing my eyes had closed whilst solving. The answers I liked best in the fill: PEEKABOO, GARY HART, ANN ARBOR, and a word I didn’t exactly know, CATENARY ([Curvature of a suspended cable]). Least favorite, on account of sheer creepiness: SAND EELS and SEA WASPS. Favorite clues: [They hold a bit] for REINS; [You can stop it before you go] for MAIL (anyone else think of Kegels and peeing? No?); [Pack unit?] for LIE (as in “a pack of lies”); [“Living” person] for STEWART (as in Martha Stewart Living magazine); [“Truman” star] for SINISE (He was in that? So were 6-lettered CARREY, LINNEY, and HARRIS, dangit!); and [It’s got you covered] for SKIN.
Updated Sunday morning:
Ooh, I really liked James Sajdak's theme in the syndicated LA Times crossword, "Prefixation." Eight words with prefixes are reimagined with the prefix broken off to be a standalone word. For example, a [Masterwork?] is a PRO CREATION, and not at all about sex and procreation. SUB HEADING is the direction a submarine's heading and not a subheading. And CONTRA DICTION is an [Accent once heard in Managua?]. My favorite clues: [Al or Mo] for ELEM. (chemical element); [Partners in crime] for MAFIOSI; [Sleeper, say] for RAIL CAR (I was thinking of movies); [Most people sleep on it] for REDEYE; [Popular cups] for REESE'S; and [Rock mixing tools?] for REVERBS.
Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy puzzle is pretty easy for a themeless crossword. I had no idea what a [Limassol resident] was, but the crossings pointed me towards CYPRIOT, which is my all-time favorite word for a person from a particular place; Monégasque and Muscovite are close behind. The middle of this puzzle grid features a triple-stack of 15-letter phrases.
January 19, 2008