Karen Tracey's New York Sun "Themeless Thursday" kicks off 1-Across with my internist, [Golden Horde member]. (She really gives TATARs a good name.) So maybe a clue like 1-Across doesn't give the rest of you the warm fuzzies, but it works for me and put me in a positive frame of mind for solving. Overall, I thought this crossword was on the easy side for a Karen Tracey creation. Her hallmarks are here: YPSILANTI plays first chair for the Crazy Geography Band, with backup from LOS ALAMOS and NORWEGIAN (love the clue for the latter: [Munch, e.g.], as in Edvard Munch of "The Scream." Scrabbly action comes from a GET-WELL BOUQUET and classic cartoon mouse SPEEDY GONZALES. Today's Crazy Crossing™ is brought to you by the [Japanese dog breed] SHIBA INU and [Spanish composer Isaac] ALBENIZ. Favorite clues and answers: [It might lead to a run] for a non-baseball pantyhose SNAG; [Jordan, once] for NBA STAR (raise your hand if you entertained vague thoughts of emirates and ancient Near East place names);[Little green man?] for the seasonally appropriate LEPRECHAUN; [C. sixteenths] for TBSPS (a tablespoon is a half-ounce, so there are 16 of 'em in a cup); [Poz magazine subject] for AIDS (yes, the Sun crossword is not afraid of a little acquired immunodeficiency syndrome); the out-there [Singer in the John Wayne film "The Longest Day"] for ANKA (who sang the title song); [Ron whose #10 was retired by the Chicago Cubs] for all-around good guy Ron SANTO; and [Hacker capable of breaking into any computer?] for a primitive AXE, which can indeed be used to hack open a computer case.
Now, the New York Times crossword applet stinks when it comes to rebus puzzles. If you enter just the first letter of what gets packed into a rebus square, it's indistinguishable from any other letter in the fill. So after the applet rejected my solution in the applet, I turned to Across Lite. Surely it will all be clear there! No, no—I still have the same answers. Everyone else seems to have the correct answer tonight, but not me. No, sir. That's making me grumpy. Alan Arbesfeld's theme/gimmick is to take double letters and wedge them into a single square, but only those double letters that appear within 17-, 18-, 28-, 36-, 41-, 46-, 59-, and 62-Across and the Down entries that intersect at the rebused double letters. Other double letters show up in the fill (IRRS, KEEN, ARRIVES AT, ASSTS), which muddles things a bit. And the gimmickized fill wasn't particularly flavorful—U[PP]E[R R]IGHT? A[DD]RE[SS] B[OO]KS? PE[PP]ER BOX? Lee Van CL[EE]F? Meh. Who says BU[TT] O[FF], anyway? And the standard fill—SPIKEMEN and STOA? I just don't get it. What's the point here? And more important, where the hell is my error? [Edited to add: Now that Harris Rubin has finally posted his solution, I see that suspecting "rattle and hum" could mean [Half of a showy display] was way off. RA[ZZ]LE and dazzle! And the only-in-Urban-Dictionary BU[TT] O[FF] is flat wrong because it's BU[ZZ] O[FF] Am having Emily Litella moment...]
After I got the first theme entry in Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy puzzle, "O Captain, My Captain," I glanced at the other theme clues. Ah, they're all actors from movies that have "Captain" in the title. Curse you, Hamel! I did not want to draw a blank on everything but KURT RUSSELL in Captain Ron." A dreadful-sounding movie that I never saw, but dammit, that bit of pop culture was instantly retrievable. I think it's because the dreadful title is so memorable. I didn't remember that BOB HOSKINS was in Captain Jack; the only Captain Jack anyone remembers now is Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow. The PECK and LAUGHTON movies are completely outside my ken.
The LA Times puzzle by Billie Truitt has a timely theme, as I'm leaving in an hour for the dentist. Each of the four phrases in the theme end with a word that's also a kind of dental work—BRIDGE, CROWN, FILLING, and CAP. I like this theme. Three cheers for modern dentistry! BAR EXAM and POLI SCI are lovely entries, too. I didn't know there were things called GAS OIL or a TEA URN, nor that Capra had a '61 movie called Pocketful of MIRACLES.
March 12, 2008