April 06, 2008

Monday, 4/7

CS 3:18
NYS 3:06
NYT 2:51
LAT 2:32

Have you ever been alluded to in a webcomic? Huh? Have you? Because I have. Sort of. Faintly veiled as "Lemon." It's Patrick Merrell's latest Squares comic strip. (If you haven't been reading this weekly comic, start at the end of this page and work your way up, then click "next entries" at the bottom for the next page(s) of comics. It's packed with insidery humor aimed at crossword fans.)

The New York Times crossword's by Randall Hartman. Another baseball theme—baseball themes are especially popular in April. Why? Because baseball teams are glistening with potential and have not yet disappointed their fans. Run a baseball theme in August, and half the fans are going to feel pretty disgusted with the sport by then. That's one theory, anyway. This crossword's got five theme entries, four of which begin with FIRST, SECOND, THIRD, and HOME—the bases in baseball. The middle entry is COVERS EVERY BASE. Now, I feel like "covers all the bases" is much more "in the language" than COVERS EVERY BASE, but 17 letters won't fit into a 15x15 crossword, will it? I was mildly disgruntled when the cross-referenced clue at 1-Across wasn't fun at all—AMIN tied to IDI? That's something that will stick in one's CRAW (5-Across). Fortunately, Frank ZAPPA rides to the rescue in the upper right, and I have no unpleasant feelings about him (aside from not being crazy about his hair). His Z crosses ZANE GREY, which is opposite a RED DWARF star, which is to the left of Shaw's SAINT JOAN—nice long fill answers there. [Foolish person, slangily] is a GOONY—I had to look this one up. One dictionary defines it as a black-footed albatross, with a name derived from English dialect gooney, meaning "simpleton." Fair enough. Does the movie The Goonies pertain to foolish people or albatrosses?

In the New York Sun, Mark Feldman's "Bedroom Sounds" is upsized to a 15x16 grid, and yet it still was quick to solve for a Sun crossword. The three theme entries—PILLOW TALK, BLANKET STATEMENT, and SHEET MUSIC—don't merely begin with items found on a bed (as I first thought, wondering why Peter Gordon allowed PILLOW TALK, in which pillow = just a pillow, literally). No, the theme goes further—the second word in each theme entry fits the "Sounds" category promised by the puzzle's title. So it's an elegant and very specific theme. If only there were such a thing as a COMFORTER ORATION or FEATHERBED SPEECH to extend the theme to four entries, eh? The grid was packed with peppery fill—KEMOSABE and Tony DANZA, CBS TV and THE HAJ, OLD MONEY and SUMATRA, SCHNAPPS and SANTA FE.


Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy crossword, "Double Plays," groups together four workable phrases in which the second word doubles as the last five letters of the first word. DISCARDS CARDS spurred me to check my unabridged dictionary for the etymology of the first word. Did you know it comes from dis- plus card, based on carte? Why the word has meanings outside of card games, I don't know. The first word in DESIGNS SIGNS has a Latin etymology that traces right back to signum, "sign." YEOMEN'S OMENS (my favorite theme entry) and PRIMATES' MATES contain unrelated words. In the fill, LOU is clued as [Money guru Dobbs]. Does he ever give financial advice any more? Is he still with Money magazine? Or is full-time blowharding what he's doing these days?

David Cromer's LA Times puzzle was a breeze. The theme entries start with synonyms: ROD (SERLING), POLE (POSITION), STAFF (MEETING), and BAR (MITZVAH). I'm particularly fond of the lively non-rod, non-bar contexts of the first and last theme entries. Excellent fill for a Monday puzzle, with little of the arid filler we so often see.