February 24, 2008

Monday, 2/25

CS 4:14
NYS 3:29
LAT 2:59
NYT 2:52

You know what? I think the Monday New York Times crossword puzzle by Randall Hartman should've had the clues toughened up a bit so the puzzle could be published on a Wednesday. Unless the solver likes woodworking, I'm thinking the theme is better suited to something beyond a Monday. And some of the fill seemed non-Mondayish in nature, too. The theme is held together by the vise of 55-Across, WOOD, and the beginning of each of the four longest Across answers ar STRIP, SAND, PRIME, and PAINT. The bits that seemed post-Monday included PRIME MOVER, clued as [Initial power source]. Then there's ELIMIDATE, which I've seen parts of over the years, clued as [Competitor of "The 5th Wheel," in reality TV]. All right, The 5th Wheel is the only dating reality show I have zero recollection of, so the clue actually made the answer harder to find. TAP OUT is [Lose all one's money in gambling]; not familiar with that usage. Favorite clue: [Top secret?] for TOUPEE. Arguing in favor of a Monday slot, we hit the trifecta of the word ladder made of OLIO, OLEO, and OREO. (If only OMIT, OBIT, OBIE, ODIE, ODIN, OLIN, ORZO and OUZO had also been used! And wow, it's not hard to make a word ladder out of 4-letter words that frequently appear in crosswords.)


Today's CrosSynergy crossword is by Bob Klahn, meaning it's not a Monday-level puzzle. I started out by scanning the "Colorful Pentagon Insiders" theme clues first, and [Purplish-red spy?] announced itself as MAGENTA HARI, hiding a GEN (general). Ha! Hardly ever start a puzzle by filling in a theme answer. The other ones took a few crossings, though. At first I thought [Greenish-brown rocker] ending with NUGENT would have some other military abbreviation wedged into TED, but instead, it's hazelnut + gen = HAZEL NUGENT (with the GEN part not showing up in the color name). ARGENT GARFUNKEL is silvery-white, and a less common color name than the other two. (GENERAL PRACTICE sort of ties the theme together.) Fill I liked the best: SPACKLE! SHTICKS! Bernard MALAMUD and Red SKELTON! Toughest and/or best clues: [1830 Hugo play on which a similarly named Verdi opera is based] for HERNANI (the opera is Ernani); [Bangs out] for TYPES (retro!) followed by [Retro copy, for short] for MIMEO; [Merchant ship flotilla] for ARGOSY; ["Johnny Eager" Oscar winner Van] for HEFLIN; [Joint for dummies and jerks] for KNEE; [Like "yea" and "nay"] for RHYMING; [Measure of fun?] for TON; [Juju, mojo, or grigri] for AMULET; and [Tolerant Latvian?] bringing a little fun to crosswordese LETT.

Justin Smith's New York Sun crossword, "Hard Stuff," starts off Monday morning with a little hair of the dog that bit you. Three "BOTTOMS UP!" theme entries end with slangy synonyms for booze: TURNER AND HOOCH, RUNS OUT OF JUICE, and DUCK SAUCE. A few other entries, not in symmetrical spots nor overtly tied to the theme, echoed the likkered-up vibe: TEE SHOT, RELIT, ISOTOPES, and a PINT. There's some difficult fill lurking in the grid, but with easy enough crossings. [Assassination, in spy lingo] is WET WORK (wet because of all the blood—ick); [Actress Moon of "House of 1000 Corpses"] is SHERI (her married name is Sheri Moon Zombie); and [Horse tracks that also include slot machines] are RACINOS.

The theme in David Cromer's LA Times crossword bundles nonmusical phrases including words that are also musical instruments (e.g., DRUM BRAKES, HORN OF PLENTY). One of the theme answers is ORGAN DONOR. Have you talked to your family about wanting them to donate your organs if you kick the bucket with healthy organs? You could save lives and restore sight, and let a few of those 98,000 Americans graduate from the transplant waiting list. See Donate Life America for more. (Yes, this is totally off-topic, but there are few good excuses for healthy people not to be willing to be organ/tissue donors.)