January 09, 2008

Thursday, 1/10

NYS 6:13
NYT 4:36
LAT 4:25
CS 3:25

Imagine my surprise when an answer in Patrick Berry's New York Sun "Themeless Thursday" could be aptly illumined by a photograph of my kid. Here is Benjamin rocking a 7-Across, also known as a [Style associated with David Beckham]:

In a crossword packed with marvelous entries, FAUXHAWK is my favorite. What else? LET ME SEE. There are also DOT-TO-DOTS ([Line drawings?]), an ONTARIAN and a TUNISIAN, HAIR TONICS for those who haven't got the follicular ability to rock a fauxhawk (short hair on the sides, spiked up at top center—versus a Mohawk, with balder sides and more aggressive spiking), the phrase AS IT WERE (which I do like to wield), KEN KESEY, WEASELED, and the [Much-feared earthquake] oft called the BIG ONE. I'm impressed to have this many Ks and an X in a 66-word grid. It's not a very low-word-count puzzle, but nor is it in the 68- to 72-word category where I expect to be treated to stellar fill. My favorite clues: Black and white action with [One in whiteface, maybe] for GEISHA and [Black cloud formers] for GNATS; [A bit too-too, to a Brit] for TWEE; [Hole in the head] for SINUS; the adjective [Ranking] for SENIOR (as in "the ranking member of the committee"); and [Bandmate of Micky, Michael, and Peter] for DAVY Jones (of the Monkees, with Messrs. Dolenz, Nesmith, and Tork).

Liz Gorski's New York Times crossword is anchored by the entry JOHN LE CARRE BOOK, and continues on with a quartet of theme entries that summon up his book, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. TINKERTOYS are [Constructing things], TAILOR-MADE means [Custom], "SOLDIER BOY" was a [1962 #1 hit by the Shirelles], and SPY CAMERAS, which are [Means of remote monitoring]. Now, a less ambitious theme might include just that quartet, maybe with a LECARRE to tie it together, but Liz has gone the extra step and tossed in that unifying 15.

Toughest clues for me: [Country store?] for ATLAS (meaning...a book that is a storehouse of countries?); [Choreographer Lubovitch] for LAR; [Subject of a 1940 biopic starring Spencer Tracy] for EDISON; and [It was split into two parts by the 1899 Treaty of Berlin] for SAMOA (Berlin??). Other clues of note: [String ___] for TRIO and the musical key D MAJ. (Liz is a violist); [Couples cruise vessel?] for NOAH'S ARK; ['50s two-seaters] for T-BIRDS (the 2002-'05 retro Thunderbird was also a two-seater); [Annoyance, in British slang] for AGGRO; [It's made up of columns] for OP-ED PAGE; [Part of a camp schedule] for MESS; the verb [Lobby] for SOLICIT; [Rub, rub, rub] for SCOUR (SCRUB also fits the SC*U* pattern—another of those paired possible answers that share several letters); [Get into some hot water?] for SOAK in the bath; [Departures] for EGRESSES; and [Burlesque show wear] for BRA (B*A could also be BOA for this clue). Another nice touch: including JESSE and OWENS with a single vague clue, [With 46-Down, Ohio State's ___ Memorial Stadium]. It's a very specific clue, unless you have no idea who OSU's stadium is named after, in which case it's [Famous person's first and last names]. Mind you, I'm not complaining—anyone who can disprove Hitler's unbaked theories of racial superiority is aces in my book, and now I know that OSU's got a newish track-and-field stadium named for Owens.


Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Miss-Named," features four cartoon characters with their married names, with their maiden names in the clues. The first two are from prime-time TV shows, the others from comic strips that are still running. I think it'd be more fun (and more challenging) to get the less-known trivia, their original surnames, into the grid. Although anyone from "Hi and Lois" would have to go—past and present last names from that strip are, I daresay, much less well-known than Marge and Blondie's names. Yet again, I have been snagged by a tricky TILDE clue—this time [Piñata feature?], last time something like a [Piña colada garnish]. Next time, I'm onto you, TILDE! And umlaut, don't think I'm not wise to you.

Gary Steinmehl's LA Times crossword applies the GIMME A BREAK concept to four other words or phrases, which are broken with an A and clued accordingly. For example, the stock market becomes STOCK A MARKET, or [Fill grocery store shelves?]. I caused myself some trouble by interpreting [Harry of pop music] as Harry CHAPIN rather than DEBBIE HARRY of Blondie fame (not Blondie Boopadoop Bumstead, but rather the "Heart of Glass"/"The Tide Is High"/"Call Me" Blondie of New Wave music). Other notable wome in this crossword: UMA Thurman and UTA Hagen! ALETA from "Prince Valiant"! TORI Amos! And one I didn't know, ALANA de la Garza of Law and Order. I think she's the current young-female-prosecutor cog in the show. Secretary of Labor Elaine CHAO also pops in to say ciao.