February 04, 2008

Tuesday, 2/5

Tausig 4:30
NYS 4:23
Onion 4:20
NYT 3:17
LAT 2:56
CS 2:42

I'm having fun reading the entries to the crosswordese haiku/senryu contest! Some make no sense at all, and most have confounded my expectations. I'd envisioned funny little poems using crosswordese words in their proper context, but some of my favorite entries use crosswordese as a stand-in for words that sound similar.

Frank Virzi's New York Sun crossword, "Do Drop In," instructs the solver to do just that: drop the letters IN from the base phrases that birth each theme entry. (Speaking of birth: The funniest clue was [Like the little kid inside some of of us?] for FETAL.) Most of the theme entries make perfect sense to me. FEELING NO PA (pain) amuses me, as does shopping at the DEAN MART (Martin). ENGLISH MUFF and ALL-POINTS BULLET capture my fancy a bit less, but make sense. I recognize that NEAT AS A P comes from "neat as a pin," but I can't for the life of me parse that. Oh! I see it now! "NEAT, A.S.A.P." monkeys with the word spacing. Okay, now that I understand that one, it's my new favorite. Tuesday is Super Duper Tuesday for the primaries and caucuses, and there are a few topical clues in the mix. There's plain ol' VOTE, TUES. clued as ["Super Duper" day: Abbr.], and...all right, there were just two topical answers. But those answers, along with [Washington safety Taylor who was murdered in 2007] (SEAN), offer some au courant content along the lines of what Jim H was asking for.

The New York Times crossword by Peter Collins has a more ordinary theme than some of his other creations. The four longest answers contain a smattering of HERBS embedded within them—PARKED ILLEGALLY, I'M IN TROUBLE, PRESS AGENTS, and LENGTHY MEETINGS. From a culinary standpoint, I must advise against adding any of those to PEPSI or HO HOS, today's junk-food contingent. Favorite entries: ALGIERS, Fran DRESCHER, HURRAH, and HOCK. I just learned that the statuettes for the National Magazine Awards, [The Oscars of magazine publishing], are called ELLIES. That's short for "elephants," and they're miniature Alexander Calder stabiles.


Francis Heaney's Onion A.V. Club crossword is custom-made for fans of movies and pop culture. Francis squeezes in a whopping 10 theme entries, paying snarky homage to the only five actors to have ACCEPTed their GOLDEN / RASPBERRY awards (the Razzies) for worst actor or actress IN PERSON. They are HALLE /BERRY (for Catwomanin her acceptance speech, she said "It was just what my career needed - I was at the top and now I'm at the bottom."), BILL COSBY (Leonard Part 6), BEN AFFLECK (for three movies!), TOM GREEN (Freddy Got Fingered), and TOM SELLECK (Christopher Columbus: The Discovery). Tons of fun, Francis!

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Early Opposition," adds a negativity prefix to the beginning of the Toxic Avenger, fairgrounds, trust fund, and bandwagon to create the NONTOXIC AVENGER, UNFAIR GROUNDS, ANTITRUST FUND, and CONTRABAND WAGON. Fresh fill, fresh clues. One out-of-left-field answer—NEU is the [German group with "Hallogallo"], and also the German word for "new."

The LA Times crossword is bylined by Michael Langwald, and I suspect the puzzle marks his debut. The theme kept me guessing until the end—what do BRAINTEASER, HOUSE TRAILER, and MAGAZINE CLIP have in common? They are all MOVIE EXTRAS, such as you would see in the previews before a movie. I like that MOVIE EXTRAS is clued as [Uncredited actors], rather than being swapped out for something blah and factual like PREVIEWS. Great answers in the longer bits of fill, too—ABOUT-FACE, TRAPEZE, ORIGAMI, DEAN'S LIST, PIT STOPS. If this is a debut, it's a very polished one.

Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy crossword, "Body Conditions," groups adjectives that include body parts—e.g., TIGHT-FISTED, HARD-NOSED, BUG-EYED. The uncommon word ADDUCE is in here, clued with [Cite as evidence]. This is how much of a crossword nerd I have always been: In ninth grade, we had a sub in German class named Mr. Adduci, and in my head I linked him with ADDUCE. What 14-year-old knows that word? The one who has been doing crosswords circa 1980. I would also have taken note of a Ms. HOD—that old [Mortar porter] pops in here, too. The [Freshwater crustaceans with seven pairs of legs] are ISOPODS, and that's my favorite photo of a giant isopod to the side. (The little isopods, or roly-polies, sowbugs, or pillbugs, are much less daunting, aren't they?)