January 09, 2008

Wednesday, 1/9

NYT 6:03
Tausig 4:38
Onion 4:30
LAT 4:something
NYS 4:18
CS 3:50

I am operating at a double handicap tonight—not only have I just returned home after pub trivia, but I'm using a new keyboard. It's darling, really—this wee, wispy wireless Apple keyboard is about a quarter inch thick, and the arrow keys are in an altogether new location, and the keys are spaced a little differently. So I thought I'd go ahead and try the new keyboard on the NYT applet and see how it works. Not so hot, I think! Will just have to get used to it. I lost under a minute searching for a typo, so the rest of the supra-Wednesday time factor may accrue to the keyboard. Or the pub. Or both.

The Wednesday New York Times crossword is by John Farmer, and there aren't really any theme entries per se—the theme is the abbreviations for the DAYs of the week, spaced out at the beginning, exact middle, and end of seven differnt entries. Monday lurks in MAJOR IN, TUE in TV GUIDE, and so forth. The days are given in order from Sunday to Saturday. Favorite entries: Rebecca ROMIJN; TV GUIDE; THE HUTU; WHOLE WHEAT BREAD; and Susan SONTAG (Sonntag is German for Sunday, in a nice bit of synchronicity). Those are just a few highlights—really some terrif fill, just marvy (to use two laudatory words from crosswords). IRISH is parked atop the CELTS of basketball—more synchronicity. Toughest clues for me: the neighbor on Mama's Family was named IOLA; [Intrigue] is AMOUR; and right under that, [Wry faces] is POUTS. Now, I've pouted, and I've made wry faces, and I don't think they're the same at all. The Mac widget dictionary doesn't seem to think they're the same, either. What say you?


Still getting used to the new keyboard this morning—I keep finding the caps-lock key by mistake, pressing the wrong arrow key, or pressing the shift key above the up-arrow key.

Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy puzzle, "C-SPAN," has 61 theme squares spread over five entries, each a phrase or word that starts and ends with C. CHENIN BLANC and CREATE HAVOC are particularly nice. It would appear that Patrick's tugging the CrosSynergy team one notch towards the new-generation crosswords (e.g., Onion, Ben Tausig's Ink Well, Jonesin')—the fill includes EEDIOT with a Ren & Stimpy clue. ALFRED U. also takes a somewhat unexpected form here. I hope to see more such tidbits of freshness.

Paul Guttormsson'a LA Times crossword has three 15-letter theme answers crossed by three other shorter theme entries, for a total of 65(ish) theme squares. FLASH crosses the middle and is the word that can precede the starts of the other five. Gotta love DANCE MOVE yielding Flashdance, which evokes that Kia commercial with "Maniac." The theme isn't the most exciting type of theme, but it's deftly managed here.

Edgar Fontaine's New York Sun puzzle, "I-Catching Names," assembles five people with *I*I first names, of varying degrees of fame. I'd never heard of French dancer ZIZI JEAN MAIRE, and cartoon skunk FIFI LA FUME's last name didn't come to mind. Poor Didi Conn gets left out (and if you don't know the name, then maybe your mom wasn't taking you to see romantic comedies when you were 11 in 1977). Rather tricky to clue KIKI DEE as [Music partner of Carmelo Luggeri] when we all know her from that '70s duet with Elton John, no? I didn't know OMAR [Metwally of "Rendition"], but for a movie about the Middle East, an OMAR isn't too far-fetched a guess.

Matt Jones's Onion A.V. Club crossword adds an -ER to the end of four phrases to turn them into dogs (e.g., a HOT SPRINGER spaniel, a SUGGESTION BOXER). Favorite clue: [Piña colada garnish?] for TILDE (!). Best fill: TRES CHIC, BROADSWORD, a LIP RING, PIDGIN, and Scrabbly SKI WAXES. I also like the pop-culture literacy of clues like [Monk's affliction: Abbr.] for OCD, cartoon dog Scrappy DOO, and American Gladiators' ELIMINATOR round.

Ben Tausig's Chicago Reader/Ink Well puzzle is called "Playing With Fire." Why? I don't know. Ah! I see it now. The theme entries teach rudimentary fire safety at the beginnings of STOP SNITCHIN', DROP YOUR WEAPONS, and ROLL INTO TOWN. Good to see NGO clued as [Designation for private global grps. since 1945)—a discussion on the Cruciverb-L mailing list revealed that a lot of crossword folks weren't familiar with NGO meaning "nongovernmental organization," but it seems to come up plenty on NPR and in the NYT. Is the clue for SIMI wrong? [Sonoma wine valley] is SIMI? There's a Simi Winery in Sonoma County, I think, but Simi Valley is in the LA area, whereas Sonoma is north of San Francisco. Favorite clue/answer: [Reverse gear?] for CROSS-DRESS. Other excellent fill includes MT. FUJI, NO U-TURN, GOSSAMER, ASCETICS, and VOODOO economics.