Malia Jackson and Noah Snyder's New York Times crossword (a debut?) offers three plausible explanations for what someone might've really seen when they thought they saw a FLYING SAUCER. Maybe it was a WEATHER BALLOON, or a METEOR SHOWER, or merely a CLOUD FORMATION. Lots of longer words in the fill (6 and 7 letters)—including a WIMPLE (the Flying Nun's wimple was the best, bar none). I am fond of the word HUFFY ([Peeved and showing it]) and must resolve to use it more!
Mark Feldman's New York Sun puzzle, "Alternative Transportation," suggests that a soap manufacturer might travel in a non-printer BUBBLE JET, and that a lawyer might go by TRIAL BALLOON (hot air optional). Ooh! Speaking of transportation, President Bush's helicopter trio flew over my house today. He was speaking at a nearby elementary school (not my son's) to tout No Child Left Behind, and apparently the main thoroughfares by the school were blocked off for a few hours. Back to the crossword: Lots of Scrabbly fill—JUDO, ZEST, ONYX, and assorted other words with Z's, X's, J's, K's, V's, and whatnot.
Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Apostrophe Catastrophes," takes words with an S in them and deposits an imaginary apostrophe to incorporate some possessives. We end up with two general people's stuff (the CON'S TABLE and JOCK'S TRAP), one specific person's item (GINGER'S NAP), and a thing's thing (STAND'S TILL). I think I like pronunciation-change themes like this—or at least, I like this particular one. Other plusses: Black Panther STOKELY Carmichael, a SOAPBOX, actor RIP TORN (at his best in The Larry Sanders Show, the best of which is now available on DVD, so you can get me that for my birthday, m'kay?), and plenty of geography—THE ALPS, BUDAPEST, CALCUTTA, the NEGEV, HILO, ASIA, the ARAL Sea, and London's TUBE. Poor Ted Danson—lately I've only seen him clued with reference to being on the forgettable Becker, rather than the classic Cheers or his new cable show, Damages, for which he's earned raves.
David Cromer's LA Times crossword anchors the grid with FINISHING SCHOOL, and each of the other four theme entries begins with a word that follows SCHOOL—e.g., HOUSE FINCH yields a schoolhouse. In the fill, CORDLESS is clued [Like some shavers and phones]. Do you remember the scene in The Sure Thing when John Cusack's college student character talks to his friend at school in California, and the friend boasts, "I'm talking to you cordless!"? Yes, back when cordless phones were an impressive novelty.
January 07, 2008