February 13, 2008

Thursday, 2/14

NYT 4:59
LAT 4:32
CS 3:43
NYS 3:42

Happy Valentine's Day! I received an early valentine from my son today—cut-out construction paper hearts glued to a white paper, with orangey-brown crayon lettering: "happy Valentime's day." I like it better because of the M.

David Kahn and Justin Smith also celebrate the holiday with an M—a bunch of them, in fact, along with plenty of other letters. Kahn has the New York Times crossword, a Thursday rebus puzzle with eight [HEART] rebus squares that form a connect-the-dots heart:

(You can connect the dots yourself.) The [HEART] usually appears as itself, as in [HEART] OF DIXIE, but a few times, its letters are just letters, as in NOW [HEAR T]HIS and [HEART]HS. I do have a medical-editor question: RED EAR is an [Inflammatory ailment]? First off, I've never heard of this, and I've managed both otolaryngology and dermatology publications. Second, a bit of Googling suggests it has to do with pain and nerves and not inflammation. But the dot-to-dot heart is cute, I'll grant you that.

Justin Smith's New York Sun puzzle skews Valentiny in a somewhat more subtle way: "Pucker Up" is all about the kiss, with five theme entries ending with words that mean "kiss." The middle of the grid has the old-time song, "A BUSHEL AND A PECK." The [Pilgrim's weapon] is a BLUNDERBUSS, and there are also TALKING SMACK and a HERSHEY'S KISS and GENERATION X. Fun fill and fun clues throughout—VODKA is [Tartar sauce?]; [Activity with a downward-facing dog] is YOGA; [Bob McKenzie's "Great White North" brother] is DOUG (eh, ya hoser!); oddball [Unguinous] is OILY; [Taradiddles] are FIBS; and a KNEE is [One of all fours?].


Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy crossword, "Heart Strings," has four 15-letter entries clued the same way: [HEART]. It's a VALENTINE SYMBOL, yes, but also an ARTICHOKE BOTTOM. There are a couple romance-related words dotting the fill, too—COO and LOVER.

OXIDE is clued as [Nitrous ___], which launches me onto a soapbox: If you're one of the millions of people with dental anxiety that deters you from visiting the dentist regularly, (1) tell the dentist's office that you have anxiety and need to be babied, (2) ask the dentist not to berate you for your absence, lest you never return, (3) use a dentist who can give you nitrous oxide when you're having any stressful procedures, and (4) find a new dentist if the one you have doesn't try to alleviate your anxiety. Honest: Dentists want you to come see them. They don't want to scare you off. And the nitrous can make a huge difference. (This has been a public service announcement from a one-time dental editor.)

The LA Times crossword by Linda Tay Stevens includes four theme entries that contain a little Latin love (51-Down, AMOR) within them. There's noted architect JULIA MORGAN, who designed Hearst Castle, along with three other phrases. Favorite clue: [Whom Tony and Rico fought over in "Copacabana"] for LOLA ("She was a showgirl"). The fill skewed old-timey, with MALTS, RIN Tin Tin, Davy Crockett's rifle Old BETSY, the adjective SOCKO, RKOS, and UNIX tied to the '60s.