If you're a night owl, tune into WGN Radio's website at midnight (Central time) Friday to hear "crossword experts" Tyler Hinman and me on the Nick Digilio Show.
Emily Cureton's NYT Crossword Puzzle Drawings blog is in my RSS feed so I never miss one of her illustrations. My favorites combine two or more disparate words from a grid to create something that is one part surreal, one part ludicrous, and two parts laugh-out-loud funny. Emily's drawing inspired by Thursday's puzzle cracks me up every time I look at it! (Be forewarned: There is some nudity of an anatomical nature.)
All righty, the Saturday New York Times puzzle is considerably easier than Friday's was. Barry Silk's fill is on the Scrabbly side, with answers like NETFLIX ([Service with a queue]), SHMOOZE ([Chin-wag]), XANADU ([Exotic estate]), QUAKE ([Faultfinder's concern?]), and JUTE ([Cordage material]). The waist section of the puzzle is toned up, with a CONSENTING ADULT ([One who didn't say no?] in a ménage à trois with a ROAD WARRIOR ([Frequent business traveler]) and a bunch of STALACTITES ([They hang from the roof]—the mnemonic my husband learned as a kid was that stalactites hold tight to the cave roof, and stalagmites might reach it someday). Those three are crossing CARGO PANTS, which I am wearing right now but not [for rough outdoor activities].
I need to put my son to bed and then head out, so I'll be super-abbreviated now: [Part of some Muslim households] strikes me as a terrible clue for HAREM. [First to be admitted?: Abbr.] is the state of DEL (Delaware). It's EWA [___ Beach, Hawaii]—don't know it. It's ULAN [-Ude (Russian city on the Trans-Siberian Railroad)]. A CARTEL is a [Trust]. [Things that wear well?] are ERODERS (meh). Singular [Nostril] is a NARIS. [Feelthy stuff] is a dreadful clue for PORN; if you're gonna put PORN in the crossword fill, enough with the prudish, judgmental-sounding clues. If you think it's [Dirt] or [Feelthy], don't include it in the puzzle! TAI is [Sea bream, in a sushi bar]; poor Tai Babilonia, losing even her crossword fame.
Two more geographical, gotta-work-the-crossings answers in the NYT I wanted to mention: The WESER River, [River formed by the junction of the Fulda and Werra]. With two E's, this one pops up in crosswords from time to time. The [Afghan province or its capital] is HERAT (which is not a name for a male rodent). The Wikipedia writeup on the city tells me it's in western Afghanistan not too far from the Iranian border, and that the population is largely Persian-speaking Tajiks. The city has been around for a good 2,500 years, and used to be administered by a satrap. (Crossword answers in action!)
Doug Peterson's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" was a fun one to solve. As someone with a pseudonym that starts with an O, I couldn't help but notice all the O words in the grid. OOPS! OPTICS! OPTIONAL! ORACULAR! ORDAINED! The fill was awfully smooth, with no obvious clunkers. DORA THE EXPLORER and her friend in X-dom, ALEXANDER CALDER, criss-crossed in the middle of the grid. The picture shows Calder's "Flamingo," standing beside the Kluczynski Federal Building in Chicago.
Other highlights: DIMAGGIO atop ED O'NEILL; TRICOLOR pasta (more filling than the French flag); RAINOUTS and a TARP; FAUX PAS; LOTUS clued as [Plant in the "Odyssey"] (here's an excerpt about Homer's lotus-eaters); REDACTS crossing nearly synonymous EDITS; WALLS UP clued as [Punishes, a la Poe], as in "The Cask of Amontillado"; and PHLOX ([Butterfly attractor])—so pretty!
Manny Nosowsky's LA Times crossword seemed less satisfying than most of Manny's themelesses. It's got a beautiful grid with 360° symmetry, a word count of just 62 words, and wide-open corners packed with 6- and 7-letter entries. Answers like TAIL PIN ([Cello support piece]), COZENER ([Cheater]), EBONIZE ([Blacken, in a way]), LEGATEE ([Executor's contact]), NEGATOR ([Skeptic]), TIE RING ([Part of a horse-hitching device]), and PIE DISH ([Cobbler's place]) all made me think of SNOOZES (which had the only question-marked clue, [Nap kin?]). I'm glad to see Ida LUPINO clued as ["The Hitch-Hiker" director, 1953] rather than as just an actress. She was the first woman to direct a film noir.
Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Zero-G," extracts a G from each theme entry, such that a ghost writer becomes a HOST WRITER, or [Penner of an RSVP?]. It's probably not too hard to avoid using the letter G in the entire grid, but Paula's made sure that it's nowhere to be found. Well, it's in the clues, but that's completely fine.
February 22, 2008