March 05, 2008

Missed weekend puzzles (not from the ACPT)

Sat. Newsday 14:55
Sun. CS 4:16
Sun. WaPo 7:15
Sun. PI (I don't remember the time)
Sun. BG 8:08
Sun. LAT 10:25

Henry Hook's Boston Globe online crossword, "Contain Yourself," is well worth the trip back to Sunday to download it. The 10 theme entries are words or phrases that include the letters IN in the middle somewhere, and can be split into three-word "___ in ___" phrases. The theme was really funny as these things go—[STY(IDOL)LISH] is a HERO IN CHIC (heroin chic). Heroin chic is not the sort of phrase that pops up much in crosswords! Brainwash becomes BRA IN WASH, and there's more undergarment action with MART IN SHORT. There's also a fresh MUFF IN TOP. Two fun names in the theme—Howard Stern's radio sidekick ROB IN QUIVERS and DUST IN DIAMOND, the guy who played the inimitable Screech on Saved by the Bell.

One of the weekend's themeless puzzles I missed doing until today is Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge." It's sort of a spidery grid, with tentacles of grid spinning out from the center anchored by three vertical 15s. Plenty of fresh fill. Now, why clue OPA as [FDR measure] when [Mutter's vater] or [Göttingen gramps] is there for the taking? Didn't we all take at least a year of German? No?

Liz Gorski's Washington Post puzzle, "TV Foodies," added a word to TV show titles to make up things like NYPD BLUEBERRIES, TIC TAC DOUGHNUTS, and VERONICA MARS BARS. Yummy theme! V. good fill, too.

I solved Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "The Five-Picture Deal," a couple weeks ago when it was available on Merl's website and somebody raved about it at the NYT forum. (I think I'll stick to using the Puzzle Pointers/Cruciverb/Ephraim's Puzzle Pointers links rather than getting puzzles on some other schedule at Merl's site. Don't want to run the risk of having none left for a given weekend!) So there's a STALLONE theme, a bunch of Sylvester Stallone movie titles that can mostly be clued as words or phrases (e.g., CLIFFHANGER and COPLAND mean things outside of cinema). The five unchecked squares in the middle are a fictional Stallone movie that could exist if Hollywood wanted Stallone to make more 5-letter movies that have several letters in common: CROAK shares four letters with ROCKY and COBRA, and three with RAMBO, for instance. Kind of a weird endgame, emerging from Merl's fevered wordplay brain rather than reality. Merl waited 16 years for Stallone to make another sequel that was actually entitled RAMBO so this theme could come together with titles rather than characters.

In his syndicated Sunday LA Times crossword, "A Little Bit Off," Dan Naddor drops ITY from the end of a word in a phrase and reclues accordingly. Thus, someone fatally addicted to knickknacks might be said to be DYING OF CURIOS (curiosity). I still haven't caught up on last weekend's missed sleep, so I got really woozy by the time I started this puzzle (and it's not even 7 p.m. yet!). Three puzzles this evening were OK, but the fourth has pushed me beyond my reserves. The Newsday Saturday Stumper will have to wait until after I've had dinner and tried to wake up...maybe tomorrow.

Updated with Newsday:

Stan Newman crafted last weekend's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" under the fake name Anna Stiga. (From here on out, I'm going to imagine that male constructors using female pseudonyms actually wear drag while they're constructing those puzzles. I think of Rich Norris's Lila Cherry as a sweet old lady with cotton-candy hair, a cardigan, and sensible Naturalizer shoes.) Back to the crossword: Crikey! That was hard. So many vague or obscure or oblique clues (but not many funny ones), but in the end, I have to say that everything's fair. I know HOLLAND, of course, but it was a [County of the Holy Roman Empire]? Did not know that. The ["Yes, I'm a Witch" artist] and ["Inside Las Vegas" artist] crossing in the middle—very familiar names, but those aren't remotely their most famous works (YOKO ONO, MARIO PUZO). [A, in a way] is Morse code DOT DASH. [Ensemble's home]? I was too clever to think it was a theater. So I went with DRESSER, only it turned out to be ARMOIRE. [Downing Street dessert] wanted a specific British desssert, I thought, but it turned out to be the general AFTERS. What the hell is a SKID PAD? It's a [Test-track area], apparently. [Polish servings] are the non-S plural, PIEROGI (yum!), but it took forever to suss that out. [Uncle's relative] is not kinfolk, but rather, I GIVE UP. I swear I've seen this clue or something very like it before, an yet it stumped me again. Others have griped before that SALSA DIP is redundant and nobody says the DIP part; but you can make a dip with salsa as one ingredient. Cool crossing between ON VIDEO and TV STAND. This puzzle is definitely in contention for toughest themeless crossword of 2008. Constructors and editors, can you top this one?