April 05, 2008

Sunday, 4/6

Second Sunday diagramless 20:45
NYT 10:16
PI 7:49
BG 7:35
LAT 7:28
CS 3:18

...And then there were five. No more Sunday Washington Post puzzle to enjoy—Washingtonians will now be getting Merl Reagle's crossword, which I (and you, if you like fun crosswords) already solve in its Philadelphia Inquirer incarnation.

Apparently not understanding a crossword's theme for too long can really interfere with speedy solving—even after I'd filled in MAY DOUBT A WILL in Daniel Bryant's New York Times puzzle, even after seeing the "Sound Moves," title, I couldn't parse the phrase that answer was based on. (Edited to add: Ashish reports that the title in the printed newspaper is "Could You Reword That, Please?") Much later, I figured out it was made out a will, which would seem out of place as a crossword entry in its unaltered form. So, each theme entry moves a sound from the end of the first word to the beginning of the second, which necessitates changing the spelling of those words. My favorite was the [Drab Oriental fabric?], GRAY TOILE OF CHINA (Great Wall). I hit another speedbump thanks to Chicago pronunciation, as KEY PAWN (MOVING) and keep on don't have the same vowel sound, and neither to DRAW PIN (CENTERS) and drop-in (I hear the vowels in paw vs. pot).

Moving along to the clues, did anyone else find themselves at 113-Across, [Word before or after "on"], with H**D filled in, and wonder what "on hard" meant? And then "on head"? (It's HOLD.) Favorite clues: [Greek discord goddess] for ERIS (my role model!); [Motor levers] for TAPPETS (I saw this word a few weeks ago in another puzzle, and considered it solely because of Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers); [Architect whose epitaph says "Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you"] for Christopher WREN (here's a picture—the epitaph's in Latin, in London's St. Paul's Cathedral, which was closed when I tried to visit); [Tribe originally from the Deep South] for CHOCTAW (because the tribe name sounds like it just might be chocolate plus TAWS, which are clued as [Choice marbles]); [1910s='20s Dutch art movement] for DE STIJL (Mondrian exemplifies the movement's style); [What people are saying, briefly] for VOX POP; [Prime minister raised in Milwaukee] for Golda MEIR; [Twaddle] for BOSH, both Brit-inflected; [Friday, for one] for COP (trapped between the Sgt. in my head and th CO* space, I wanted to move Joe into the military and make him Col. Friday); and [Steakhouse shunner] for VEGAN (hey, steakhouses are no fun even you eat dairy, eggs, poultry, and fish, lemme tell you). Most obscure answer, for me: SIMNEL, a [British fruitcake]. That, and ILLEGIT, clued as [Crooked]; is this a real word? It seemed like the puzzle had a lot of short answers that lacked flavor, such as APOS and OAST, ESTS and ETDS.

Update #1:

The Across Lite Boston Globe puzzle by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, "Mother's Helpers," runs AU PAIRS down the middle as [This puzzle's theme]; the seven theme entries are words, names, or phrases that contain a pair of AUs. The AU PAIRS tie-in lets this make sense to me, whereas that recent Merl Reagle puzzle in which each theme entry had a pair of OUs left me cool. I like the multilingual vibe espoused by the theme entries—CLAUDE LEVI-STRAUSS has a French first name and half-Teutonic last name, which echoes the two German answers (SAUERKRAUT and HAUSFRAUEN) and two French-inflected answers (BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU and the LAURENTIAN PLATEAU. Then throw in PAUL AUSTER from Brooklyn and CHAUTAUQUA, a New York town with a Seneca name, to round things out (or raund them aut, maybe). Good fill—LOVE GAME, ON PURPOSE, SANGRIA, TOGGLE, an ART FAIR, and John HERSEY (hooray for Hersey graduating from only being in clues for ADANO!). There's also a double-hit of oval geometry—an ELLIPSE is an [Elongated O], while [Like a flattened O] is OBLATE.

Update #2:

Paula Gamache's Second Sunday puzzle, a diagramless crossword, had me erasing a ton in the top third of the grid. The good news is that I figured it all out, and I didn't even use the starting-square hint. The first big misstep was filling in THE CHOSEN PEOPLE, who picked fights with the nearby Down entries because they needed to narrow themselves down to THE CHOSEN FEW. It wasn't until I filled in the first three long answers that I gleaned any commonality—the letters ECHO. The final long answer explains the theme "in a way"—the phrases containing that letter string are ECHO CHAMBERS. (Interestingly, ECHOLOCATION could have served the same purpose with a minor clue edit.)

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Greeks and Romans I'd Like to Meet," reminds me a bit of History of the World, Part I—here, the theme entries are English words that sound as if they could be the names of ancient Greek or Roman figures. Do you know there are 15 theme answers? Yeah. That's quite a lot. My favorites were ["You're getting warmer"], HUMIDITIES; ["You don't look so good"], NAUSEA; and ["Interesting flavor...what's your secret"], CORIANDER. Outside of the theme, there's a brilliant clue: [Remove from power?] for UNPLUG.

Update #3:

The CrosSynergy themeless "Sunday Challenge" this week is by Raymond Hamel. Now, I hadn't noticed the YDS/YARDSTICK duplication in yesterday's NYT, but I did notice the UNI- prefix across from UNILATERAL here. Usually I don't notice such dupes, and when I do, it doesn't make me erase one of the answers because it's got to be against the rules. (Fight the power!) Lots of favorite entries in this puzzle—I just wish the clues had been harder so I'd have to work for all these great answers. The ACTION HERO is resting beneath the FASHION MAG, and in the opposite corner, the fill evokes a PREHOMINID crossword AFICIONADO. The Nielsen families in SIOUX FALLS may be WATCHING TV. The [Moonshine mug] is a MASON JAR. Retro childhood fun and games come out with a POTATO RACE and X-RAY VISION promised by a comic book ad. Favorite clues: [It may follow Kuwait or Quebec] for CITY; [Dr. Kimble's pursuer] for GERARD (from The Fugitive); and [Ruff stuff] for the LACE in an Elizabethan ruff collar. The most obscure clue was [Braided grass] for SENNIT; fortunately, the crossings were all pretty gettable.

Gail Grabowski's syndicated LA Times crossword, "It's On Order," has nine theme entries that begin with words that can precede order—for example, BACK FORTY and NEW POTATOES give us back order and New Order. I feel that COURT FAVOR is a little iffy—is it a blending of "curry favor" and "pay court to"?