March 08, 2008

Sunday, 3/9

NYT 12:35
LAT 9:09
PI 7:59
BG 7:56
WaPo 7:37
CS 4:37

If you were one of those who admired my cloth shoulder bag during the ACPT, you can order your own from 1154 Lill Studio. Choose a style (more than 20 styles are available) and then select the fabrics you like, mixing and matching all you want. Three or four weeks later, your custom-made, one-of-a-kind bag will arrive. Leather-free, "made in China"-free, and pretty durable.

I did three Sunday puzzles Saturday afternoon, fresh as a daisy. Then I went out for dinner at La Crêperie, took my wine-sodden self across the street to see No Country for Old Men (best movie of 2007? Great—now I'm all caught up) and became Chigurh-sodden. Maybe not the best frame of mind for tussling with Patrick Berry's New York Times crossword. The "Splits and Mergers" theme involves fragments that branch off vertically from the Across theme answers. If I'm seeing this right, the "split" clues mean an unclued crossing branches downward from the double-clued theme entry so that it has two ways to end (as in NOT IF I CAN HELP IT splitting at the A to also spell a right-angled NOTIFICATION, and each answer has its own clue listed at 24-Across. The "merger" clues have an unclued crossing branch that feeds into it, so that the two clues have the same ending letters (vs. the same beginning letters as seen in the "split" clues): ELLERBEE has a KIL merging with it to make a KILLER BEE. There are 10 of these forked double entries, occupying a good bit of grid real estate. The other pairs are TRANSLATE / CLEAN SLATE, IMPOSITIONS / I'M POSITIVE, EVENT HORIZON / EVEN THOUGH, DISACCHARIDE / HITCH A RIDE, CAR RADIO / CARRADINE, DRY VERMOUTH / RIVER MOUTH, HUNGARIAN / HUNG A RIGHT, and DON'T BE A STRANGER / FOREST RANGER.

The most oddball fill entries were SANGAREE, a [1953 3-D movie starring Fernando Lamas], and BREN, a [W.W. II light machine gun]. (Raise your hand if you tried to get STEN to work here.) Plenty of twisty or tough clues: [It has many sides] for FEAST; [A little cross?] for PLUS SIGN; [Basketballer nicknamed the Diesel] for ONEAL (really? huh); [Himalayan cedar] for DEODAR; [It's clipped at both ends] for STOGIE; [It's split] for SECT; [Chinese province bordering Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar] for YUNNAN; and [Keen producers] for BANSHEES.

A truly fun Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle from Merl Reagle—in "Advanced Placement Test," prepositions that relate to things' relative placement are omitted and the remaining words in a phrase are in an order that illustrates the missing prepositions. A few examples will demonstrate this far better than an explanation: two eggs over easy are a vertical entry, with TWO EGGS over EASY. Read between the lines is presented as THE READ LINES. And my personal favorite, the most complex, I before E except after C, becomes I E C EXCEPT. "I've Got You Under My Skin" is the vertical MY SKIN I'VE GOT YOU. So there's a word game within the puzzle, and with 11 theme entries, there are plenty of chances to play the game. I'm adding this one to my folder of favorite Sunday puzzles for 2008; we'll see if it garners enough delegates to take office come December.

I also enjoyed Harvey Estes' Washington Post crossword, "Start to Go Back." In this one, each theme entry begins with a reversed word, changing a familiar phrase. Made in the shade becomes EDAM IN THE SHADE ([Cool cheese?]), for instance, and some cheap stew is POTS ON A DIME. Classic Estes fill, with a lightness and humor to it. (YUM, YUM! NO HASSLE! Well, except for the [Cordage grass] ESPARTO.) Favorite clues: [Mill output?] means RUMORS; [Clerical worker?] for PRIEST (sitting above HOMILY and crossing ISLAM in Harvey’s Religion Corner); [Phony start?] for TELE (as in telephony); [Area of Mars] for WAR, Mars being the god of war; and the [Nonstandard pronoun], HIS’N.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s online Boston Globe crossword, “Jailbreak,” drops a CON prefix from 10 phrases and clues the resulting phrases accordingly. A [Mesopotamian lobbyist?] is a SUMER ADVOCATE (consumer), and a [Search at the Bates Motel?] from Psycho is a NORMAN QUEST. I didn’t care for the B crossing between CARIBE/[Piranha] and BOSON/[Photon, for one], though maybe there’s not an easier way to clue CARIBE. The word felt more non-piranha common to me, but that’s probably because I’ve stayed at Orlando’s Caribe Royale, and why would you name a resort after a ravenous, flesh-eating fish? BOSON and its neighbor, TINTLESS, are fairly flavorless, but they do heavy lifting, crossing three theme entries. Oh! 1-Across is my favorite. I learned it from another crossword two or three years ago. A ZARF is a perforated metal [Coffee cup holder]. I like to call those cardboard coffee sleeves "zarfs," too.


Mike Peluso's syndicated LA Times crossword, "Medical Group," has 10 theme entries in which the first word ends with D and the second word starts with R, so a DR (doctor) is hiding in each one. The phrases themselves are not particularly fun, though I love the clue, [Popular pickup line?] for FORD RANGER.

Commenter Rick just sounded the alarm: Today's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" is by Bob Klahn. I like to save the best for last, so I usually solve all the big themed Sunday puzzles first and save the day's themeless for dessert. This one's more like a fresh strawberry pie—not as rich and chocolatey and complex as, say, Klahn's ACPT final puzzle from last Sunday. My favorite answer here is SLOT CANYON, [Deep but narrow rock formation], because I'd just picked up the term from this short short story by Chris Clarke. (Read it—it'll only take you five minutes.) FEELING NO PAIN is terrific, isn't it? Favorite clues: [Chiba cheerios] for SAYONARAS (or Japanese goodbyes); [Like M, L, or XL] for ROMAN (as in numerals); [Leader of France, Jordan, or Canada?] for AIR; and [Donne or Bradstreet] for POET (playing on Dun and Bradstreet and poets John Donne and Anne Bradstreet).