Two constructors who make mostly (or all?) themeless crosswords, Mike Nothnagel and David Quarfoot, teamed up on the Friday New York Times puzzle. Just because there were two of them, I don't think the clues had to feel Saturdayish, but they sort of do. The grid's left and right halves are linked by just two squares, so it's almost like having two separate puzzles. That upper left zone was the toughest corner for me. In the opposite quadrant lies my favorite answer, the plastic nostalgia of an [Outdoor toy that attaches to a garden hose]. SLIP 'N SLIDE!
Favorite clues: [Awfully accurate?] for SAD BUT TRUE; ["What's ___?"] for DOING; [They might indicate hunger] for MEOWS; [Start of some how-to titles] for THE ART (but shouldn't the SODA CAN clue then avoid the word art?); [Response of feigned innocence] for "WHO, ME?"; [Shortening in the kitchen?] for the abbreviation TBSP; the verb [Level] for TEAR DOWN; [Dine, in Dusseldorf] for ESSEN (the verb "to eat"); the noun [Hide in the woods] for DEERSKIN; [It's out for a pout] for LOWER LIP; ["That's Amore" setting] for old NAPOLI; and [Photo flaw] for RED-EYE.
Less-than-obvious clues: [Jarrow's river] for TYNE; [Singer of the 1967 hit "California Nights"] for LESLEY GORE (all I know her for is "It's My Party"); [Queen in a long-running comic strip] for ALETA; [Mil. V.I.P.] for SGT MAJ; [Eye component] for AREOLA; [Poet who won a Pulitzer for "The Dust Which Is God"] for BENET; [Where I-25 and I-70 meet] for DENVER; [Kinkajou's kin: Var.] for RACOONS (the spelling grates, but can we really get upset when the word comes from Algonquin and the English spelling might be rather arbitrary?); [1883 Maupassant novel] for UNE VIE (raise your hand if you thought you were filling in a one-word name along the lines of Sylvie, the mystifying UNEVIE, rather than a two-word French title); and [Execute exactly] for the four-word phrase DO TO A TEE.
Good gravy, I'm sleepy! On with the blogging anyway: The New York Sun puzzle is by David Kahn, yet another 15x16 and yet another Oscar-related theme. The [ET] rebus is justified by THE FRENCH / CONNECTION, ET being French for the conjunction/connecting word "and." (The puzzle's title translates, "And for You, Monsieur?") The [ET] rebus occupies six movie titles, four Across and two shorter ones Down—that's a whole lotta theme. In the fill, I'd never heard of the SEABOB, a [Hand-held water propulsion device]. B[ET] ON IT, the High School Musical 2 song, I learned a few days ago from another crossword. I liked the crossing of ["CHiPs" nickname] PONCH and Daily KOS. I knew Ursa Minor meant "Little Bear," but the phrasing LESSER BEAR is looking mighty unfamiliar; I like to call it the the Little Dipper myself.
I'd write more, but I seem to be having a paradoxical reaction to the extra caffeine tonight (I'm training to stay up late Friday night!) and am too drowsy to think.
Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy puzzle is Monday-easy and very meta. It's called "Introspection" and it's self-referential. 17-Across, [What this is]: SEVENTEEN ACROSS. 36-Across, [Feature of this grid]: SEVENTY-SIX CLUES. 55-Across, [Arthur Wynne invention] and what you're looking at: CROSSWORD PUZZLE. Some lively fill here: DAVID FROST, my son BENJAMIN, CENTAURS, and some economics with a TRADE WAR and STATE TAX.
Jeremy Horwitz's LA Times crossword could be titled "I'm Outta Here, Not In"—the IM- and IN- prefixes that negate are dropped from four words that lack an unprefixed opposite. PECCABLE TASTE is not so tasteful, and PROMPTU SPEAKING would be a [Lecture with no ad-libbing?], for example. I just learned recently from the Sun puzzle that a SHOE is a thingy that holds multiple decks of cards for a dealer. Funniest clue: [Elder hostile?] for AGEIST.
Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Take a Bow," spotlights four famous wearers of bow ties. Senator Paul Simon didn't make the cut, and I didn't know two of the dudes in the puzzle were known for their neckwear. Here's WALTER GROPIUS, and here's ALFRED KINSEY; yep, bow ties on both. Easy puzzle, in any case. I liked the crossing of UH-HUH and OH NO and the inclusion of plenty of pop-culture names. There's also an old word, REAVE (definitions and etymology here), meaning [Plunder], among other senses.
Moving to the 21x21 size, Tyler Hinman's Wall Street Journal crossword was tougher than I was expecting a "Birds of Action" theme to be. The eight theme answers are all clued with birds that double as verbs. And one of the clues has two synonymous bird verbs, [GULL or ROOK]—LURE INTO A SCAM. Highlights in the fill: HASHISH sitting atop STINKO several rows below ON MEDS (a fresh and lively entry with one prior in Cruciverb, a 2006 NYT puzzle); MR CLEAN; EARBUD; TOM SNYDER; the RIAA, [Org. that's the plaintiff in some file-sharing lawsuits]; and ICE WATER in the veins. LUCIE is clued as [Charles Darnay's love]; that's from Dickens' Tale of Two Cities. Favorite clues: [Lucky man?] for Lucky LUCIANO; [What someone in a doctor's office is, or may need to be] for PATIENT; and [Clubs used at clubs] for golf IRONS. I didn't know that [Pitcher's perches] are SLABS—presumably baseball slang—and that B was the first letter I needed for the [Mineral also called heavy spar]. The who? Wha? Here's some more info about barite. It's also called Bologna stone. "My heavy spar has a first name, it's O-S-C-A-R..."
February 21, 2008