The New York Times puzzle by C.W. Stewart and J.K. Hummel felt surprisingly easy to me. The theme entries are tied together by the descriptor THEY CAN BE ROLLED. The theme entries are clued fairly straightforwardly, with the except of the BOWLING BALL: [It may end up in the gutter] is factual but open to misinterpretation. You might also roll a TURTLENECK collar or a movie camera, or purchase your QUAKER OATS in rolled form. (I do not advise rolling your own oats.) I liked the fill all right, too, and it's not so easy to get good fill with more than three or four theme entries. I appreciated the trip down memory lane (The '70s! Whoo!) afforded by country/rock's OZARK Mountain Daredevils. Ah, how I loved "Jackie Blue"! (The drummer/singer is cute! Like a young Paul Krugman, but he needs to lose the neckerchief. The song rocks, and the video...shows many hirsute band members.) CYGNUS the [Stellar swan], or swan constellation, looks a helluva lot more like a swan with a bird picture superimposed over the connect-the-dots stars. (Also in the sky: NOVAE. Also avian: EMU.) SUNDIAL had a great clue: [Old timer?]. I get tired of seeing the various OHO, OOH, and AAH answers in crosswords, but AHA (["Got it!"]) is at least pertinent to crossword solving. Two old names that could be clued in entirely different ways: SOL, [Showman Hurok], and FLO, [Showman Ziegfeld]. If you're not up on your old-time showmen, these could be tough little nuts. What do you make of SMUT appearing not long after [Skin-related] and [Makes hard]? I filled in SMUT first, and somehow, DERMAL and STEELS felt contextually inapt. The STUDS ([Some retired racehorses]) are not far away, either.
Randall Hartman's New York Sun crossword, "Y2K," did not have that easy Tuesday vibe. It took a bit too long for me to snake my way down to the bottom theme entry, MAKO CLINIC, where the theme became obvious: A letter Y is changed into a K. "Now, didn't the title tell you to turn a Y to K?" you ask. Why, yes. Then I had a typo in YOU ALL (YOA ALL), making me contemplate phrases ending in LACY. Ah, I LOVE LUCK (Lucy). Of course. And with the death yesterday of the aged head of the Mormon church, PLINK THE ELDER—[Shoot a church leader?]—seems unfortunately topical. With 18 6- to 8-letter answers in the fill, we get plenty o' freshness—CON AMORE, or [Tenderly, on a music score] (don't think I knew that one), a video game INTRUDER (?), and Hepburn and Tracy's DESK SET (haven't seen it) stand proudly in one corner of the grid. Pop-culture fun with Dylan MCKAY, the bad boy of Beverly Hills, 90210—he was the one played by Luke Perry, whose post-90210 career has failed to impress much. CMX is clued as [XXXV x XXVI]—it was only recently that I figured out how much sense it made to guesstimate an approximate answer to see if I could fill in an extra Roman digit. 30ish times 30ish is 900ish, so I added an M after the C that I had from the crossing. It's not the complete answer, but hey, it's faster than doing the arithmetic all the way.
The February/March issue of Bust magazine is on newsstands now. There's a new feature called X Games, a crossword by Onion A.V. Club constructor Deb Amlen. Deb's first puzzle is entitled, "Every Which Way But Missionary," and I think it'll fit right into Bust's overall vibe. I bought the magazine last Friday, but haven't made it to the crossword yet because I'm reading the 92 pages before the puzzle. When I've done the puzzle, I'll blog about it—so now's your chance to go buy the magazine if you've been hankering for a more feminist crossword. (I know I have!)
The LA Times crossword is by David Kwong and Scott Foley, and that's Scott Foley in the photo. He was on Felicity back in the day, and now he's on the [CBS drama costarring Scott Foley (who co-created this puzzle), and a hint to puzzle theme...]. The show is called THE UNIT, and I needed that clue to make me notice what tied the other theme entries together. LEAGUE OF NATIONS, YARD SALES, and the others begin with units of length. The LA Times puzzle is always the most Hollywood-inflected of the major newspaper puzzles, but this one takes that to a new level. Cool entries in the fil include ATLANTIS and the FOUR TOPS. My favorite clue: [One of seven] for EUROPE (my first thoughts were Snow White's dwarves and then the seven seas). Hey, I'll bet this is Scott Foley's constructing debut—congrats!
Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy crossword, "Stop or I'll Hoot!", has as a theme all sorts of shouts—a REBEL YELL (Billy Idol comes to my mind long before anything Dixie for that phrase), a PRIMAL SCREAM, and two others. (Note to the CrosSynergy team: You'll want to fix the typo in the [Spot on an oscilliscope] clue before the puzzle's added to a book collection.) Great longish entries in the fill—POLICEMAN is not so exciting, but it's clued [Starsky or Hutch] so I like it. VERKLEMPT gets a Saturday Night Live clue, [Overcome with emotion, to Linda Richman] (she was a Mike Myers character). "The policeman was verklempt because Krispy Kreme was all out of chocolate-frosted donuts." SAY UNCLE gets expanded play for a nice change, rather merely UNCLE or ["Uncle"] used in a clue for I GIVE. SAO is clued as [___ Paulo, Brazil]—an article in Bust says it's the world's third largest city, and I had no idea it was so huge—about 18 million in the area. RIB is clued as [Eve's origin], and I don't like that. First of all, it posits the scientifically implausible as crossword fact, and second, my, isn't that part of the Bible awfully dismissive of women? "Aw, you're just a spare rib, nothing special." Hey, who says DRY UP for ["Shut your yapper!"]? Archie Bunker said "Stifle"; where do people say "Dry up"?
Updated again Tuesday evening:
I still haven't gotten to Deb Amlen's Bust puzzle (go buy the magazine so the spoilers won't spoil the solve!), but this week's Onion A.V. Club puzzle is by Deb. The theme entries are song titles warped to include the name of a famous painter. "Don't Know Much" (which I don't much know) is DON'T KNOW MUNCH (Edvard). "Hello Dolly" is HELLO DALI (Salvador). "Get Back" is GET BRAQUE. And "Make That Money" (another song I don't know) becomes MAKE THAT MONET. Over yonder in the fill, I think STAND ON may be a 7-letter partial entry; don't much care. I was disappointed that HUMPS was clued as [Arches] rather than with reference to Alanis Morissette's slowed-down version of "My Humps." The doubled-up TOMTOM and BOOBOO are beside one another, which is cute. Favorite entries: JOHN Q. Public and "LOOK MA, no hands!"
Ben Tausig's Chicago Reader/Ink Well puzzle (and if you're out there calling this the Village Voice puzzle because that's what it's listed under where you download the puzzle, please cease—the Voice got bought out by crossword-ditching dirtballs ages ago, and this lovely weekly puzzle doesn't run in the Voice)—damn, I'd better start over. That parenthetical aside was just too long. Ben's puzzle is titled "Pairs, Trips, and Quads," and the theme entries contain letter pairs (three in BBQ QUEENS), a triplet (the Ts in SCOTT TUROW), and three quads (VJ J.J. JACKSON, KKK KNIGHTS, and the AAA AUTO CLUB). I lovelovelove that VJJJJACKSON one—not only is it super-Scrabblicious (and not surrounded by compromised fill), but it takes me down memory lane to that first year of MTV. (The KKKK and QQ bits are also Scrabbly and tough to work into the fill.) I learned a new word in the fill—HYMNODY, or [Sacred songs]. Politics and current events get some play—LIKABLE is clued [Obama to Clinton: "You're ___ enough"], George Allen's unwise MACACA remark, and BUSH SR., clued simply as . Yes, Bushes Jr. and Sr. aren't really Jr. and Sr. because they have different middle initials, but people call 'em that anyway.
January 28, 2008