Those of you who are academics should check out page A6 in the February 22 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. "King of CrossWorld" is an article about crossword blogger Michael Sharp, a.k.a. Rex Parker. And I'm not just saying that because MY NAME APPEARS IN THE ARTICLE too. (Will Shortz is also quoted.)
Golf is the theme in the New York Times crossword by Vic Fleming—three 15-letter phrases that mean "golfing," clued [Enjoying an outing, perhaps]. Ehhh...that doesn't grab me. 1-Across is golf-related, too, but it’s clued as [Puppies’ plaints] rather than whatever it is that YIPS means to golfers. (Wow, it's been studied by sports medicine specialists and written up in a medical journal!) It’s a treat to have a word like LOQUACITY and a good long phrase like MY MISTAKE. Back in the land of shorter words, it seemed a tad crosswordesey for a Tuesday, with ESTE, STEN, EL AL, and SLOE.
Well, yesterday had a crossword with four women with the same initials. Today, the New York Sun puzzle by Randolph Ross, “M.S. for Movie Stars,” has four women with the same initials as “movie star,” all of them Oscar-winning movie stars, crossing a fifth member of the class. That one vertical answer, MAUREEN STAPLETON, is 16 letters long, so we get a bonus row of crossword fun here. What the hell is The Waltons Grandpa, WILL GEER, doing keeping company with these esteemed actresses? Favorite clues/answers: There's the Scrabbly NOXZEMA near GEN XERS. MOB RULE is clued as [Ochlocracy]—remember when Bob Klahn included OCHLOCRACY in a Saturday Times puzzle and some people cried foul? It's not that obscure, really. No shortage of long fill, with phrases like ON STRIKE, LOOKED UP ([Checked in a reference book]), and IN THE RED. [Worked for M] means SPIED, M being James Bond's boss. BLU [-RAY (HD DVD rival)] seems to be winning out, now that Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Netflix have opted to stick with the Blu-Ray high-def format. [Port authorities?] are WINOS. And I'm pleased to see KEYSER in the grid, with a Keyser Söze Usual Suspects reference.
I hadn't noticed that the Sun grid was asymmetrical. That's a great use of rule-breaking, if you ask me—to accommodate a theme that's both consistent (the theme entries all cohere within a very specific category) and complete (there are no other possible candidates who could be included). The names don't break down into symmetrical chunks, but otherwise they lend themselves to being grouped into a trivia theme.
Whoo! Wouldja look at Byron Walden's Onion A.V. Club crossword? There are five theme names ending in XX, meaning 10 Down answers that contain an X—and these include XTREME, SEXTASY ([MDMA/Viagra combo, on the street]), AGE MIX, and XHOSA. Extra Scrabbleosity derives from the full house of Js and Ks in the theme entries. The fill really gleams—for example, TOP DOWN, BET ON IT, AVIATRIX, and JOB-HOP. I'm always amused when I see BIBI Netanyahu because it makes me recall this Letterman Top Ten list of ways to mispronounce the name. (My favorites: Yahu Netanbibi and Betty Needs a Yoo-Hoo.) Speaking of amusement, there's Hugh JASS! (Subject of one of Bart's prank calls to Moe's.) Favorite clues: [Word quintupled for maximum annoyance] for NYAH; [Handled souvenirs?] for MUGS; [Item in a Yahtzee box] for SCORE PAD; ["Comfortably ___"] for NUMB (a Pink Floyd reference); [Person who outs himself?] for ESCAPEE; and [Hitting basket after basket, say] for ON FIRE. I'd never heard of FOO DOG, the [Ceramic canine seen outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre] in this photo; it's an imperial guardian lion. And XIAMEN, [Chinese city of 2.6 million on an island of the same name], I pieced together from the crossings. Ah, it's what we used to call Amoy. Overall, two enthusiastic thumbs up for this puzzle.
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Working Things Out," gets in a workout at THE / GYM, which is where I'll be heading once I finish the morning's puzzles and blogging. Five theme entries end with LIFT, BOX, SPIN, STEP, and RUN—and I will be doing approximately one of those at the gym (I hate aerobic exercise). Favorite clues/answers: HOT BOX, a [Small, smoke-filled place, in slang] (me, I used the term to describe my grandmother's overheated small apartment); [Emerge unintentionally, as a curse word] for SLIP OUT; SCREECH with a Saved by the Bell clue; UGGS sheepskin boots; the loathed Minnesota VIKINGS being associated with a scandal; "TEN-FOUR"; and [Good way to finish a sentence?] for PAROLE.
Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's LA Times crossword is pretty easy, with a theme of phrases that start with "blah" words (e.g., SQUARE, DULL, BORING, DRY). The fill includes plenty o' non-blah words and phrases, such as DING-DONGS, SNACK BARS, SPLURGES, and I'VE HAD IT. I laughed when I came across VIVA paper towels in the grid; long story involving my grandmother. Viva! I've seldom seen BLIN, [Light Russian pancake]; I presume that it's the singular of blini, and I know if I'm wrong, one of you will correct me.
Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Prelims," evokes a giggle with the LIM+ theme entry LIMBURGER KING. Favorite entries: The Michael Douglas movie THE GAME, SWAN SONG, LIBEL LAW, and SENORES (I believe the sham American plural SENORS shows up in crosswords more often than this Spanish-approved plural).
February 18, 2008