Note: The solution to Lee Glickstein's puzzle (and exposition on the theme) are now posted.
Because it's a Monday puzzle, Gary Disch's New York Times crossword comes with an explanatory note to render the theme more explicit: the four longest entries, it says, conceal an article of clothing. The middle answer, NECKING, has a clue that already spells that out directly, so I'm not sure why the note is needed—the clue is [Making out...or a hint to this puzzle's four hidden articles of clothing]. Okay! We get the picture. There are four types of neckwear embedded within ROOMS TO LET, NOVA SCOTIA, NASCAR FAN, and ANTI-ELITE. Not every answer in the grid shouts "Monday! So easy!" For example, there's PERGOLA, or [Shaded passageway]; this is a word I know chiefly because my parents used to dine out at La Pergola. I don't know that the XMAS clue is particularly Mondayish—though maybe the rest of you know that's the word that completes [Lennon/Ono's "Happy ___ (War Is Over")]. THRALL for [Slave] seems a tad high-end for Monday, too. Favorite clues: [Old-time actress Turner] for LANA ("old-time"! a lovely sop to the younger generations of solvers); [Michelangelo's David, e.g.] for NUDE; and [Tour de France winner LeMond] for GREG. The clue for PUNS says that [Many conundrums have them]; would someone please provide an example?
My initial reaction to Mark Feldman's New York Sun puzzle, "Punchy Language," is "Why wasn't this last Monday's puzzle??" Last Tuesday, one of the pub trivia questions was "What was the toll-free number for Hooked on Phonics?" We didn't know. Well, the clue for HOOKED ON PHONICS is [Product that can be ordered by calling 1-800-ABCDEFG]. The other theme entries are JABBERWOCKY and CROSSWORD SOLVER, and the beginnings of all three, HOOK, JAB, and CROSS, are types of punches in boxing. Vices lurk in the corners of the grid—BEER CANs and cigarettes with LESS TAR. Roger EBERT is clued as ["At the Movies" cohost]; given that his speech was not restored by his last round of neck surgery, I think that's a historical clue. (And this month, he had surgery for a hip fracture and had to miss his annual festival of overlooked films.)
I'm not crazy about the theme concept in Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword—J AND B whiskey, with two-word phrases that start with J and B—but I love the execution. Not only does every theme entry have a Scrabbly J in it, but there are six of them besides J AND B, and two of them have double Zs, one has an X, and one has a K. So overall, the Scrabble count is high in this puzzle. The theme phrases are lively, too—JOY BUZZER, JINGLE BELLS, "JUST BECAUSE." Favorite clue: [Bony jabbers] for ELBOWS. It's got a touch of J AND B action, and "Bony jabbers!" sounds like a euphemistic curse.
A couple commenters have already mentioned their difficulty with today's CrosSynergy puzzle. (Thanks for avoiding specific spoilers—I hadn't seen the puzzle yet.) Your explanation is in the byline: The crossword is by BOB KLAHN. His CrosSynergy puzzles are harder than the usual CrosSynergy offering about...95% of the time. He's known to be one of the tougher and twistier cluers in the business. When the byline has his name, toss out any expectations of a super-easy crossword. As for the theme, the title provides a big hint: it's "Finger Exercise" because all four 15-letter theme entries begin with words that can follow "finger." Fingerprint (PRINT JOURNALISM), fingertip (TIP OF THE ICEBERG), finger sandwich (SANDWICH ISLANDS), and fingerpaint (PAINT THE TOWN RED). My favorite clues: [Well-rewarded?] for RICH (I think it's because an oil well can make you rich); the verb [Square things] for ATONE (I suspect many of us read it as a noun first); [Serve behind bars?] for TEND (bartending, not serving time in jail); three meanings of "slip" in [Half slip?]/BOO (half of "boo-boo"), [Slip in the pot]/IOU, and [Slip or trip]/ERR; and [Something for Yum-Yum's tummy] for an OBI (sash). Never heard of [Gaming guru John] SCARNE; you can read about him here.
April 27, 2008