Onion—delayed 'til Thursday
Happy April Fools' Day! You know what that means—that's right. Crosswords with holiday themes of some sort. Trip Payne's annual "Wacky Weekend Warrior" puzzle in the Sun is, like all "Weekend Warriors," a Friday puzzle, coming out three days after April Fools' Day. (P.S. If you have a trip coming up, you'll be interested to know that you can download all the Suns through April 18.
I just got a used book from an Amazon-linked seller in the mail today—Stan Kurzban and Mel Rosen's The Compleat Cruciverbalist. Not that I feel the need to begin constructing crosswords with the book's help any time soon—but I'd recently ordered a used copy of an out-of-print childhood favorite, and it smells mildewy. So when I saw that a mint-condition first edition of The Compleat Cruciverbalist was on the market, I figured it would be a good addition to my library. Now I fear I will never read it because it looks so pristine in its plastic jacket. Maybe if I don white cotton gloves and promise to be very careful, I'll let myself leaf through the book. (My husband says I should order a beaten-up copy to actually read.)
The New York Times crossword is by Manny Nosowsky, and the problem with April Fools' Day falling on a Tuesday is that the crossings were so easy, I paid precious little attention to the theme and blithely entered APRIL FOOL in place of APRIL FEEL and NOBODY'S FOOL instead of NOBODY'S FEEL, having not noticed that the FEEL LIKE A FOOL theme interchanged the FEELs and the FOOLs. [Nitwit's swoon?] is FOOL FAINT (changed from feel faint), and [Doing okay as a magician] is FOOLING OKAY. The top and bottom Across theme entries are connected to the central theme entry by pairs of lively 8-letter entries (SWORE OFF and TOOK NOTE, OVERSELL and LIVE WELL), and the longer Down theme entries feed into 5x6 corner sections. Anyone get fooled by [Kind of eyes] and go for GOOGLY instead of GOOGOO? I did. Among my favorite clues was a bit of actual medical/pharmacy terminology, [Four times a day, on an Rx] for QID. Bid = twice a day; tid = three times a day; qd = once a day; and ter = supposed prescription frequency term found only in crosswords. Dr. Nosowsky also includes the ATRIA ([Places in the heart]), the [Belly part] that is the NAVEL (along with its INNIE variety—if there are medical terms for innies and outies, I don't know 'em), and the [Painkiller since ancient times], OPIUM. MIASMA, or [Bad atmosphere], is no longer blamed for diseases like cholera—that theory was so mid-19th century. Another clue I liked is [Red River city], 5 letters...did you say HANOI? No, this time it's FARGO, North Dakota, where I have in fact strolled beside the Red River of the North.
Patrick Blindauer's New York Sun crossword includes 60 letters of instructions (four 15-letter entries) telling the solver that THE FINAL LETTERS / OF ALL TEN NAMES IN / THIS PUZZLE'S NOTE / SPELL OUT A PHRASE. In Across Lite, the note appears in the Notepad: "This crossword is dedicated to my close personal friends Twyla Tharp, Jennifer Capriati, Michael Chertoff, Yoko Ono, and Bill Gates." Twyla and Tharp end with A and P, and the rest of the names complete the phrase APRIL FOOLS. I feel like I've been fooled, because I was expecting some sort of gimmicky play happening within the grid, as is Patrick's wont. (Just to make sure I wasn't missing something, I asked Patrick, who confirmed that there's no other hidden layer to the puzzle. It's only Tuesday, so alas or fortunately, the dirty tricks must wait.) Favorite clues: [Sandwich that's definitely not glatt] for BLT (bacon isn't kosher, and glatt...well, it has to do with kosher rules, something about smoothness of lungs, and nobody's checking the smoothness of a pig's lungs to check whether it's any kind of kosher since pork is never kosher—unless it's in Chinese food, or so I've heard—so maybe I don't love the clue after all); the cross-referenced [Partner of 2-Down] and [...3-Across] pair, OOH and AAH; [One doing a waggle dance] for BEE; and [Word with France, Jordan, or America] for AIR (I just saw a similar clue a few weeks ago, and still like it). Good to see ROALD DAHL's full name in the grid. I knew that [Jewish holiday in Adar] was PURIM because I'd read SethG's guest post at Jim H's blog—all you need to know about Jewish holidays for crosswords, plus spelling variations in words transliterated from Hebrew.
Jennifer Nutt's LA Times crossword plays JACKS, with four theme entries ending with "___ jacks" words (e.g. SAFE CRACKER -> crackerjacks, SKI JUMPING -> jumping jacks). I think it's been a while since I've seen SPAM clued as [Hormel meat product] rather than as junk e-mail (did you read the article about the epidemiologic mystery at a pork processing plant next door to Hormel?). Is it unfair to feel disappointed that this was a regular theme and not an April Fools special?
Patrick Blindauer's other puzzle for the day, the CrosSynergy crossword called "F*O*O*L-Headed," has an April 1–pertinent theme sans twist. Each theme entry has a letter added at the beginning—F to the first, O's to the second and third, and L to the last. The Etch-a-Sketch toy becomes FETCH A SKETCH for SNL, and live ammunition takes an O to head to a Greek food fight with OLIVE AMMUNITION (you can picture it, can't you?). The [Proofreader's duty?] is OMISSION CONTROL (better than adding an E...), and LOVER LOOKING is the point of the dating site match.com. Favorite clues/answers: [Flotsam's counterpart] for JETSAM (I am also fond of the verb jettison); the letter PEE sneaking in as [Capital of Poland?]; and two actresses from Scream—NEVE Campbell and Courteney COX, the latter clued by way of Friends instead.
This week's Onion A.V. Club puzzle wasn't sent out with Ben Tausig's weekly crossword. Why? Because...you'll see why after the puzzle is e-mailed out on Thursday. Hmm. Intriguing. Ben says "Congrats to Francis Heaney for his brilliant effort." Again, hmm.
Ben's Chicago Reader/Ink Well crossword, "Game On," also marks the opening of the baseball season (like several other puzzles this week) with four theme entries. I think. Two 14-letter and two 9-letter answers obviously contain baseball terms (BALLPARK FIGURE, GET TO FIRST BASE, STRIKE OUT, OFF THE BAT), but there are two other 9-letter Acrosses, SUGARCOAT and "I'M ONTO YOU," that can't possibly be thematic...can they? The Cubs played their home opener yesterday, amid thick fog and off-and-on rain. They lost, but their new player from Japan, Kosuke Fukudome, was 3-for-3 yesterday. (And he's hot.) Now, where was I? Oh, yes. The crossword. Great fill, with CRACKPOT crossing the aforementioned SUGARCOAT, and FOIBLE and ABSOLUT vodka crossing the aforementioned I'M ONTO YOU, which I love and was clued [Words uttered with a wagging finger and narrowed eyes]. Ben plays around a bit with crosswordese, cluing AAR as [Swiss river, and a homonym for 43-Across] but cluing 43-Across merely with [See 40-Across]. That's right—knowing your Great Rivers of Crosswordylvania is your most direct path to getting ARE.
March 31, 2008