March 11, 2008

Wednesday, 3/12

NYS 4:25
NYT 4:11
CS 3:28
LAT 2:54

Well, the Sun crossword has inched back up to harder-than-a-Wednesday-NYT level—but the NYT crossword has scooted in that direction right with a Thursdayish difficulty. Maybe tomorrow, the usual Sun/Times differential will reappear. (Not that it matters in the least.)

The New York Times crossword by Larry Shearer looks like it's got a cheap knock-off of the Chanel or Gucci logo, with the forwards and backwards C's made out of black squares in the grid. The four longest entries are all clued simply [C], and each could double as a crossword clue for CEE. Two are tricky: CAR STARTER (the letter with which the word CAR starts) and EPCOT CENTER (the letter in the center of EPCOT). The other two are straightforward: AVERAGE MARK, or grade, and CLAMP SHAPE. If the clues seemed a little clunky to you, it's because every single one of 'em begins with C. Are we supposed to know that [Celebrity biographer Hawes] is named ESME? Probably not. Her books look cheesy and low-brow, but there probably aren't many ways to clue ESME beginning with a C. (Odd: Hawes' books on Pamela Anderson and Johnny Depp are joined by Mao and Picasso titles.) The 8- and 9-letter non-theme entries distract me a little, but they shouldn't—and they're there to shape the big black C's in the grid.

Peter Collins' New York Sun puzzle, "Long Vowels," builds on a past theme of the same letter repeated three or four times in a row by quadrupling the five vowels. "Surely there are no phrases that contain four I's or U's in a row?" you exclaim. Sure there are. They're trumped up, but clueable. The A, E, I, O, and U entries appear in that order. The A, E, and O ones were two-word phrases with doubled letters in each word, such as SHAMPOO OOZE (presaged by Ken Jennings mere days ago). The I and U entries required three words: RADII I INDICATED and MUUMUU U UNITARDS. Fun fill: SHMOO crossing SHAMPOO; FRANCE clued as [Where the Coneheads said they were from]; recent retiree Brett FAVRE; crazy STINKAROO; and RINKO Kikuchi (Oscar-nominated in Babel). Favorite clues: [Tried to contact home, in a way] for SLID towards home plate; [They can slip in the back] for DISKS in your spine; and [You name it] for a PET.


Allan Parrish's LA Times crossword celebrates JAMES TAYLOR's 60th birthday with a theme dedicated to the singer/songwriter. I had a long phase of James Taylor fandom and saw him in concert when I was about 18, but I think he's had at least two recent albums that have complete escaped my notice. His ex, CARLY SIMON, is in the puzzle, as are the titles of three of Taylor's songs. I like the Superman names that cross in the grid, LANA and KAL-EL. There are also three Z's (BONZO!) and an X (RED SOX!).

Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Dream On," features a quip: SOMEONE STOPPED / PAYMENT ON / MY REALITY CHECK. That doesn't quite make sense to me. I like the inclusion of so many 7-letter answers (and a pair of 8's) in the grid, and entries like KLUTZY crossing the MCCOYS crossing OOMPAH, and BILOXI crossing ZODIAC. O'NEAL is clued [He works with Wade for the Heat]—newsflash! Shaquille O'Neal was recently traded to the Phoenix Suns.