The New York Times crossword by Cathy Millhauser, "How Insulting!", was fairly easy as Sunday NYT puzzles go. She adds a DIS (slangy shortening of "disrespect") to the original phrase in each theme entry, creating a new phrase with a DIS-prefixed word. "Go figure" becomes an exhortation to (ick) Jack the Ripper, GO DISFIGURE. [Some moralizing about getting off a balance beam?] is SERMON ON THE DISMOUNT. "Counterculture" goes down-market as DISCOUNTER CULTURE. Favorite non-thematic fill and clues: [Crosses the international dateline from east to west] for LOSES A DAY; [9 to 5, e.g.] for ODDS; IGGY Pop beside COLA clued as [Popular pop]; [Seals are part of it] for U.S. NAVY; and [Declines] for SAYS NO. I had SOLVED for [Puzzled (out)] for a while, but it turned out to be SUSSED. I think that suss is sorely underutilized, but have yet to find an explanation for the Dire Straits lyrics (in "Romeo and Juliet") of "sings a street-suss serenade." What does that mean?
Poor Henry Hook. He lives to irk (see his posts at the NYT "Today's Puzzle" forum for verification). He hopes that his crosswords will succeed in irking. But the worst he can do is occasionally include a word that seems iffy but isn't—e.g., RAYLESS, clued as [Lacking light] in his Across Lite Boston Globe crossword, "End With a Preposition," looks like a roll-your-own word, but in fact is defined two ways in a mainstream dictionary: lacking light, or lacking rays (as in a kind of flower petal). MOBBISH ([Disorderly]) looked clunky too, but isn't (unless you take issue with dictionaries' inclusion of words that have become part of the language). Now, Mr. Hook could craft another super-tough crossword (like that '80s one I had a chance to do a couple years ago), but that wouldn't irk me—I would relish it. Ooh! I know how he could irk me with his puzzles. He could create hackneyed themes with boring fill and airless clues, but I suspect it would irk him too much to lower his standards. Anyway...the theme here is names and phrases that end with prepositions that are embedded within. I think there are eight theme entries: BORIS KARLOFF, CENTS-OFF COUPON, OLGA KORBUT (but is not just a conjunction)), BROWN DERBY, FOUR-LEAF CLOVER, GREAT PYRAMID, GREG KINNEAR, and BLUE THUNDER. Nice assortment of theme entries—people, a movie, places, and things. Favorite clues: [Company man] for SONDHEIM; [Tristan's love] for ISEULT (the spelling variation not seen so often); ["Eat It" singer] for YANKOVIC; [Sailor's inspiration?] for SEA AIR; [Actor Postlethwaite] for PETE; [I will follow these] for FGH; and [Stench] for FUNK (imagine if "Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk" were about flatulence). I didn't know the [Ferd'nand cartoonist] MIK; here's some info.
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle (why do I always type "Philadlephia"?) breaks some new Sunday-morning breakfast test ground. The seven "Rewriting History" theme entries (spread out over nine word spaces) take a phrase from American history and change a single letter. For example, "Remember the Maine" turns into REMEMBER THE MAIZE. Where the breakfast test comes in is 99- and 111-Across, [Historic home remedies?]: THE THIRTEEN / ORIGINAL COLONICS. That reminds me of a story. (Wait! Don't run away! It's safe for the breakfast table!) Last time I was at the hair salon, a truck with a tank and large hoses parked across the street. One guy asked what that truck was for, so I said it was a portable colonic cleansing-mobile. The colorist played along with me, and the guy totally bought it. He was horrified. (It was probably a sewer truck of some sort.) Favorite other theme entry: ELVIS ISLAND. Our vocabulary word for today is ALEATORY, meaning [Involving luck]. Did you find this puzzle to be markedly tougher than Hook's and Millhauser's? I think I may have been having a sleepy moment while solving, but maybe it was really the puzzle.
All righty, where is the CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge"? I get a "file not found" error message, and it's one of the six themeless puzzles I look forward to doing each week. Perhaps it will show up later today. Newsflash: Here is a link for downloading the puzzle in Across Lite: CrosSynergy crossword.
The syndicated LA Times crossword by "Nora Pearlstone" (Rich Norris) has a timely tax theme—"Tax Audit: The Musical" uses song titles to advance the storyline, with the titles serving as lines of dialogue in an auditor/taxpayer conversation. There were plenty of clues and answers that were just as vexing as figuring out Schedule D. What are the trouble spots that I think will tax many solvers? Well, there's [N.Y.-based teachers gp.], UFT. [1664 John Evelyn forestry text], SYLVA, beside [Daughter of Loki], HEL. [Noted Beethoven interpreter], ARRAU, crossing Latin [Forum stars?], ASTRA. [Brief guesses?] are ETAS; nothing in the clue hints at an airline connection. Similarly, [WWI innovation] is a TRIPLANE, again with no nudge towards aviation. [Hood with a piece] is a GUNSEL, a slang term for hoodlum I don't think I've seen before. There's [Operetta composer Franz von ___], SUPPE; who? (He crosses TRIPLANE, too.) [Venezia casino winner] is SETTE, Italian for "seven." That brings us to the lower right corner, with several more knotty spots. [Like Gershwin's piano concerto] clues IN F. The F is the beginning of FETCH, clued as [Wait on, in a way]. That C begins CCU, [EKG site], supplanting the more common ICU. Beside that is HEP, or [Cool], and they both cross [Tie, in a way], or LACE. That L lives in [Every bit of it], THE LOT. TAKE DOWN ([Remove from a bulletin board]) was easier, and reaches down into the corner section, where [Two-outs-in-a-single-AB stats] crosses ["___ d'Ane": "Donkey Skin" (1970 film)]. Yow! DPS must be double plays, though my eyes tend to glaze over at baseball stat clues, and French for "skin" is PEAU. PEAU's crossings also cross OTTO IV, [Roman emperor, 1209-15]. Favorite clues: [TiVo, e.g.] for RECORD (this is TiVo used as a verb); [Part of a focus group?] for LENS; and [Canines often metaphorically sacrificed] for EYETEETH.
Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy crossword is easier than I was expecting. Seemed about as hard as the typical themeless CrosSynergy, rather than positively Klahnian. Mind you, there are still plenty of Klahnian touches in the clues. For example, I was fond of these ones:
April 12, 2008