January 02, 2008

Thursday, 1/3

NYT 4:48
NYS 4:38
LAT 3:58
CS 3:12

Hey, look! It's alliterative crossword constructor day! Henry Hook's New York Times puzzle explains its theme in 56-Across—the four people/characters in the other theme slots (Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. the PENGUIN in Batman; MARY POPPINS; Neville CHAMBERLAIN; and the MORTON SALT GIRL) were known to CARRY UMBRELLAS. Highlights: the longish fill (ANXIOUS, FIRETRAP, BLUENOSE, SHIATSU); the inclusion of the two OUE words, ROUE and MOUE; [Boxer's hand] for PAW (boxer as in dog, not boxer as in pugilist); the steep cost of an ARM and a LEG; the Scrabbliness of JINNI (i.e., genie) and XMAS/ANXIOUS); and [Passing obstruction?] for a NAY vote.

Alan Arbesfeld's New York Sun puzzle goes zodiacal, with "Strange Signs From Above" warping eight of the 12 signs into sound-alike goofy phrases. Libra becomes LEIGH BRA, or what was removed (from Janet Leigh) before the Psycho shower scene. There's Cancer ("CAN, SIR!"), Aquarius ("UH, QUERY US"), Taurus (TORE RUSS), Gemini (GEM IN EYE), Capricorn (CAPRA CORN), Leo (LEA EAU), and Pisces (PIE SEIZE). Fun theme! Nothing's gonna work for Sagittarius or Virgo, but "air ease" and "Score pee? Oh" are faintly possible. Favorite clues: [Ma, e.g.] for VIRTUOSO; [Where stars are capitals] for MAP; and [Big shot?] for SMASH (I played my first tennis game on the Wii game console this morning—I just barely edged out my kid, who completely patronized me in the way he reassured me that I was getting the hang of it). I didn't know LUCIUS was the [Name of three popes]—I did know, however, that Samuel L. Jackson's character in The Incredibles was named Lucius (superhero identity: Frozone).


I like Donna Levin's LA Times crossword. It takes crossword regular NEE and moves it to the theme clues, each of which reads [TV spouse née ___] with a surname filling in the blank. I knew the two from newer shows and pieced the other two together from the crossings. Fun bits of TV trivia! In two corners, there are triple-stacks of 9-letter entries in the fill. Other tasty nuggets: PUN is clued as [According to Oscar Levant, it's "the lowest form of humor—when you don't think of it first"]; [Lute sound?] for the LONG U sound; and [Isinglass] for MICA, because I think isinglass is a cool word (I had no idea the etymology related to a Dutch word for a sturgeon bladder). My 7-year-old spotted the [Type of money]/PIN pairing and questioned me. Yes, I had to explain to a kid that the answer to "kind of ___" clues never equates to a noun that's the equivalent of the noun in the clue. He thought it would be awesome if pins could be used as money, and he'd stash pins in his mini-lockbox and feel wealthy.

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy crossword, "Seeing Stars," has three 15-letter things that can all be described as [Stars]. It's sort of a backwards theme, as PROMINENT ACTORS, ARMY DECORATIONS, and CELESTIAL BODIES are the sorts of phrases that would generally be confined to the clues (with STARS playing the part of the answer).