March 10, 2008

Tuesday, 3/11

Tausig 4:36
Onion 3:55
CS 3:27
LAT 3:20
NYS 3:01
NYT 2:54

Blog reader Robin Stears, a budding crossword constructor, did me the great honor of constructing a puzzle just for me. But I'm not greedy and I'm willing to share: If you'd like to try the Sunday-sized "Four Amy" puzzle, go here. Thanks, Robin! (And for the record, crosswordy people really dig it when someone makes a crossword for them just for fun. One mostly-themeless constructor recently ventured into themes featuring me and Emily Cureton, and Emily and I both ate that up. I would rather get a crossword than have a poem written about me, quite honestly.)

That's two days in a row that the NYT and Sun puzzles are on a par, difficulty-wise. This is not a trend I expect to continue, as Peter Gordon likes to tout the Sun crossword as the nation's hardest—Wednesday through Sunday had better be gnarly bastards! (Other papers' crosswords are also welcome to be gnarly bastards more often.)

Eugene Sard's previous New York Times crossword was published in 2002, also on a Tuesday. This time around, the theme is pessimism, optimism, and apathy—EXPECT THE WORST, HOPE FOR THE BEST, COULDN'T CARE LESS. The theme doesn't do much besides sit there looking fetching, but it is quite fetching if you ask me. Favorite fill: MYRRH, RACCOONS, X-ACTO knife, WACKO, "SO TRUE" (when I Googled that phrase, I found myself at a blog agreeing with this XKCD cartoon), and CAT TOY. [Get all steamy] seemed so promising, so racy, but was merely FOG UP. Brand-new phrase in my lexicon: SPY-HOP, clued as [Springing bounce in tall grasses, as by an animal, to view the surroundings]. I thought a Google search would show me sproinging springboks, but all I could find was assorted whales spy-hopping above the water's surface.

The New York Sun crossword by Kevin George is called "Trains Rolling In" because the EL rolls into each theme entry. For instance, bag handlers become BAGEL HANDLERS. Favorite answers and clues: [Montana, once] for NINER Joe Montana; S AND H, or shipping and handling; [E, often?] for theme entry VOWEL OF SILENCE; HALAL ([Slaughtered according to Islamic law]), because there's a KFC restaurant in Chicago's Pakistani neighborhood that serves halal chicken, and because I saw my first genuine authentic New York halal cart during the ACPT weekend; and FILLIP. Somebody somewhere the other day pointed out that oblique fonts are a [Slanted printing style], whereas ITALIC letters are designed separately by type designers and are not merely slanted letters. Typographical nerds, you will be heard! (Typographical nerds will also appreciate keming, but have probably already seen that webpage.)


Laura Sternberg's LA Times puzzle is going straight into my folder of favorite easy puzzles. So many Monday and Tuesday puzzles don't captivate me, but this one did, for several reasons. (1) Fun pop-culture theme. (2) A fair number of Scrabbly answers in the fill. Two Q/Z words intersecting! (3) Lively fill, such as D-BACKS, QUARTZ, LOLLIPOP, GO DEEP, MINOTAUR, JIGS, and KEYLESS entry. (4) Big swaths of white space in two corners, each with an 8 and three 7s crossing a 7, a 6, and two theme entries. Favorite clue/answer: [Nullify, redundantly] for VOID OUT (as in "Hang on; I have to void out the sale and then ring it up again").

Brendan Quigley's Onion A.V. Club crossword abuses all sorts of substances. COKE, WEED, ACID, E, and HORSE—all slang terms for drugs—begin each otherwise-unrelated theme entry. I love this puzzle for including ACID-WASHED JEANS, an abomination clued as [Certain '80s clothing fashion]. Then there's {"Yes ___" (Obama's campaign slogan)], Yes WE CAN. The zippiest 8-letter entry is NY GIANTS, who put an end to the overmuch-vaunted Patriots season this winter. And how about this combo: [It happens, it's said] for SHIT in the same puzzle as the [1847 South Seas adventure] OMOO. It's new-wave meets old-school.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword for this week, "Ease Out," eases out the EE(S/Z)E at the end of each theme entry and converts it into a plural. Processed cheese becomes PROCESSED CHIS, [Life forces with coloring agents and preservatives]; summer breeze is SUMMER BRIES; and asthmatic wheeze turns into ASTHMATIC WIIS, [Nintendo consoles for people with breathing problems?]. I'd never heard of the [Kazaa alternative] SOULSEEK, a file-sharing network. Favorite bits: [[An offer to "en1arge your m@nhood," probably] for SPAM; [The ___ of all...] for MOTHER; AMWAY above its rhyme, AT BAY; and the not-San-Francisco answer of TOKYO for [Where baseball's Giants play].

Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "3M Company," advertises no Post-its or Scotch tape. Rather, each theme entry is a contrived two-word phrase in which each word has three Ms: the [Pleistocene matriarch?] is a MAMMOTH MOMMIE, for example. With assorted other Ms outside the theme, there are 24 Ms in the grid—compare that to the NYT record of 15 Ms in a daily puzzle. Favorite clue: [Sport of Kings] for HOCKEY, citing the NHL's Los Angeles Kings while evoking horse racing.