March 06, 2008

Friday, 3/7

NYT 5:31
NYS 4:50
Jonesin' 4:29
LAT 4:02
CHE 4:01
CS 3:04

WSJ 7:19

Happy birthday to my husband! He doesn't read my blog and he doesn't want to read my book but hey, I love him anyway. He takes off work to take care of our son so I can jet off to the crossword tournament each year. And he plays guitar. And he used to cook for me. And he's still a cutie. I believe I'll keep him.

Paula Gamache's New York Times crossword doesn't quite have a minitheme, but I like seeing THE WOMAN I LOVE ([1937 Paul Muni drama]) above JEALOUS MISTRESS ([Art, metaphorically]). I made a few wrong turns in here. [Hand holding] is TENACE in cards (bridge), not SOLACE. [Reminiscent of the 1890s] is GASLIT, not GAYEST (blame Ken Jennings' latest blog post for putting that word in my Instant Retrival Zone). Favorite clues and entries: CLAIM TO FAME ([Climbing Mt. Everest, for Sir Edmund Hillary]; Manfred MANN'S Earth Band, who recorded "Blinded by the Light," which has got to be one of the most mondegreen-susceptible songs of all time (here's a YouTube clip); [Roman well] for BENE, really Italian "well," I think; [Singer who is part owner of Forbes magazine] for BONO (I did not know that); [London Zoo locale] for REGENT'S PARK (didn't know this, either—nor Nine ELMS, London district); [Remote access?] for a television CHANNEL; [A foot has 305 of these] for MMS (millmeters); [Holmes fought him] for MORIARTY (at first I was thinking Moriarty was a boxer, but now I realize it's Sherlock, not Larry); [Not lit] for SOBER; [Bug zapper?] for an infection's CURE; and [Meter makers] for POETS. Toughest stuff: [Cousin in a Balzac title] for Cousin BETTE; [Sacramento suburb] for FLORIN (which I knew from crosswords only as an old Italian coin); HOT LICK as a [Bit of jazz improvisation].

The New York Sun "Weekend Warrior" has classic high-Scrabble-count fill from the talented Karen Tracey. The skeleton of this themeless puzzle comprises NASTASSJA KINSKI and WIENERSCHNITZEL linked by JACK KEROUAC. I didn't know the word SITZMARK, but it's from the German Sitzmarke, meaning "sitting mark." (I love it that there's a word for a fallen skier's butt or back print in the snow.) Other entries and clues I appreciated: the gorgeous [Green mineral] MALACHITE; [Example of poetic syncope] for NE'ER; the [Duracell feature], COPPERTOP; [Last Incan emperor] ATAHUALPA; [Chrysler with "Corinthian leather] for CORDOBA (Ricardo Montalban, in the house!); [Salts, e.g.] for SEASONS (yes, I fell into the trap of thinking it was crosswordy salts, or SEADOGS of some sort), rather than the culinary verb); [Perfumes with a thurible] for CENSES (just because the word thurible is sorely underutilized); [Neckwear from pikakes] for LEIS (pikakes are fragrant Hawaiian flowers used in leis); [Chaucer's Osewold, e.g.] for REEVE (here's a site with "The Reeve's Tale" in both Middle English and modern); NETZERO; PASHAS, [Former Turkish pooh-bahs]; and a non-Pinza clue for EZIO, [Handel opera]. Who is [French composer Jacques] IBERT? Hmm, he was a 20th century classical composer. What's this ["On Beyond Zebra!" boy Conrad Cornelius o'Donald ___] O'DELL? It's a character from a Dr. Seuss book not in my ken.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Fade to Back," drops an L from BL words and changes the spelling to accommodate the new sound. My favorite of these is the riff on the Oscar-nominated film, THERE WILL BE BUD. (Tagline: "I drink your beer!") Blocks become a BOX, a blur is BRRR, and blue turns into BOO. Favorite clues and answers: [Michael Emerson, on "Lost"] for BEN; [Kilmer who voices K.I.T.T. in the new "Knight Rider" TV movie] for VAL (it was Will Arnett until his conflicting car-commercial voiceover work interfered); VIBRATO, a [Wavy tonal quality overdone by a lot of "American Idol" hopefuls] (who also are overfond of melisma); [Joy on "The View"] for BEHAR (I'm surprised her surname doesn't show up in crosswords more often)—and holy crap, so far that's all TV stuff. What can I say? I really don't watch much TV any more, and still I know this stuff. (And there's Joss WHEDON of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame!)


Today is Crossword Bloggers Stay Home With Sick Kids Day—at least for me and for Rex.

Architecture is on parade in Gary Steinmehl's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Archi-Types." Four 7's, two 6's, and two 9's—yep, that's eight theme entries quizzing your knowledge of architectural styles. You've got to love a crossword that combines the scholarliness of architecture, MYCENAEAN, and LIVY with Phyllis Diller's BOA, REBA McEntire, a Flash Gordon clue, and brand names like GUCCI and ORAL-B.

Dan Naddor's LA Times puzzle has a WHERE'S THE BEEF theme, with BURGER, RIBS, STEAK, and a ROAST hiding within the theme entries. The theme phrases don't all seem too natural, or "in the language"—is BRASS TEAKETTLE a stand-alone entity? What's a BABY CRIB SET? (Furniture and/or bedding, apparently.) ZOROASTRIANISM looks terrific in the grid, ROAST or no.

After I got the first theme entry, the title of Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy crossword, "Vowel Stepdown," suggested that PACKERS FAN would be followed by PECK-something, PICK, POCK, and PUCK. Yep, indeed, that's the theme progression. The Green Bay Packers were much in the news yesterday, as their star quarterback Brett Favre announced his retirement after 17 seasons in a tear-stained press conference. (Awww! So touching!) Favre is said to like crossword puzzles, you know, so this digression is actually 100% on-topic. I did have to piece together the second theme entry, PECK'S BAD BOY, which had completely stymied me last spring.

Norman Wizer and Bernice Gordon co-constructed the Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Built to Order." The theme entries are eight phrases that begin with building materials: STONE, IRON, CONCRETE, CEMENT, BOARD, ROCK, BLOCK, and STEEL. The clues are all straightforward hints for those phrases, only with "at the construction site?" added to each. Favorite clue: [One problem after another?] for MATH TEST.