Young constructor Natan Last plays it a bit Scrabbly with his themeless Saturday New York Times crossword. The structure isn't the same old, same old—two 14-letter Across entries are linked by three long Down entries (a 15 bracketed by two 12s), with plenty of flow from one section to another. I didn't encounter any real trouble spots, other than having a typo in 3-Down and blanking on what the [1979 film with sequels II to VI] could be. I had the STAR part and couldn't get Star Wars out of my head. STAR TREK! ("Khan!!") The long answers included the double-Scrabble JE NE SAIS QUOI and the idiomatic LOST ONE'S COOL bracketing ON TOP OF THE WORLD, crossed by BRING TO JUSTICE and those [Seemingly silent types], VENTRILOQUISTS. AREOLA is clued as an [Interstice]; would you believe I saw one on the way to dinner tonight? Yeah. Surprising to say the least, though at least it was about 30 degrees outside and no longer subzero. [Having the most pizzazz] clued ZIPPIEST, and while I first entered ZESTIEST, I much prefer ZIPPIEST. (And who doesn't like the word pizazz? It's got as many Z's as [Zyzzyva], or BEETLE.) Heck, I use the word zippy here, and I like the zippy stuff in my crosswords. [Meter readers?] are POETS. Did anyone else think [Al-___] was going to be something Arabic? Al-Aqaba, Al-Jazeera? No, it was Al-ANON this time. The [Big bang creator] was merely an N-TEST and not something cosmic. The verb REFEREE was clued as [Enforce the rules]. I never knew that PASCHAL was an adjective (derived from Pasch, which somehow doubles as Easter and Passover). I didn't know the phrase coup d'OEIL or "survey made with a glance"; it's French from stroke + eye. I like RUN FOR IT and ["She's gonna blow!"]. Did you know that the EAR is [Where the utricle is]? I did. Ears! I like me some geography, so DJIBOUTI, the [Neighbor of Somalia], is good stuff. ESPRESSO is a brewed drink, not brewed the same way as beer. I don't think I've heard of [Two-time figure skating Olympic gold medalist Protopopov], first name OLEG—but I love that last name. Sounds like the prototype of a pop-off. I don't eat chicken wings—too much trouble, not enough payoff—so I needed crossings to inform me that an [Option for wings] is CAJUN. I knew TIRESIAS was blind, but I didn't recall how it came to pass that he lost his sight—serves him right for...accidentally seeing Athena naked? By accident? Aw, that's not fair. PAD THAI is a good entry, but I'm not an Asian noodle fan. If there are no typos in this rambling paragraph, I will be astonished. And if there are some, then I cast all blame on the wine over dinner.
Well, I had typos and fixed them after Sherry and Nancy e-mailed me to tip me off. They and Patrick B2 are my most reliable typo-pointer-outers, and I'm grateful for their eagle eyes! (Do ernes have keen eagle eyes, too? Maybe these three have erne eyes.)
I woke up this morning with a sore throat and went back to sleep until 9:00. Now I've been up for two hours and I'm...growing tired. That's my excuse, anyway, for a deadly solving time on the Newsday "Saturday Stumper" by Stanley Newman, because a friend finished the same puzzle in just over half my time. Favorite entries: "OUI, MADAME," the [Sommelier's phrase]; MAGIC 8-BALL, [Mattel toy] (unadvertised numeral in the grid!); STAGE-MANAGE, or [Run sub rosa]; AQUA VELVA, [Brut alternative]; TWEEZER, or [Stamp collector's need]; DEMO TAPE, or [Musical intro]; and PTOLEMY I, the ["Savior" king], because of the PT start. Other favorite clues: [Washington group] for PRESS CORPS; ROMA TOMATO [Sauce source] crossing PREGO tomato sauce; [Parlor product, for short] for TAT; [Columbia offering] for PHD; and [Pressing needs] for DELTS (as in deltoid muscles).
Michael Wiesenberg's LA Times crossword seemed a little dry—in my head, I think I'm comparing it to Karen Tracey's Sun puzzle yesterday, with a bunch of names I found fun. Phrases like SEEN AT and IN ANSWER are a tad less vivacious, and one of the names here was unknown to me—LINA, [Soprano Cavalieri, a contemporary of Caruso]. Favorite clues: [Bavarian beef?] for ACH (there's also "GUTE Nacht," or "good night"); [Unholy rollers?] for DICE; and [Hill partner] for MCGRAW (as in the publisher, McGraw-Hill).
Leaving themeless country, we visit Lynn Lempel's Wednesday-level CrosSynergy puzzle, "You Gotta Have Heart." The theme entries start with words that can follow heart—BURN RUBBER yields heartburn, STRINGBEAN gives heartstring, and so on. This puzzle had a very fresh vibe to it, light fill, fun clues. And when I figured out the answer to [Drive back] was BEAT OFF, I laughed heartily because, well, you can see where Answers.com redirects you if you search for that term's definition. Racy! Changing subjects (honest!), there are the cute boys HUGH Grant and GREG Louganis, and a TRYST of a [Hot date]. Favorite clue: [Masters of spin?] for ice SKATERS.
February 01, 2008