Happy birthday to my son Ben, who turns 8 on Thursday. Birthday greetings also to three other charming people born on April 24—you know who you are.
Michael Langwald's New York Times crossword has a rebus puzzle (not in the sense that crossword folks use the term rebus for squares containing multiple letters) hiding within it. The [1965 hit by the performers suggested phonetically by the ends of 18-, 24-. 37- and 56-Across] is Sonny and Cher's "I GOT YOU BABE". (Here's an ancient video clip of their performance.) The four entries that are referenced are MIDNIGHT SUN ([Summer arctic phenomenon]), WOUNDED KNEE ([1890 battle site that's now a memorial]), SAINT ANNE ([Grandmother of Jesus]—really? I did not know that), and MARKET SHARE ([Measure of a company's dominance]). The ends run together thus: SUN KNEE ANNE SHARE. Seems like an odd way to assemble a crossword theme, but it's a good odd and a welcome departure from the ordinary.
I really should have finished the puzzle faster—the answers were tumbling easily, but the typing thereof? Not so smooth. TO SCALE was TOSSCAL the first two times I tried to enter it, and I kept typing answers in the wrong direction or order. Oy! Here's a clue I don't understand: SOL is clued with [G]. Are those equivalent musical notes or something? Favorite clues: [Mayo can be found in it] for AÑO (Spanish "year," Spanish month of May); [Hamilton who wrote "Mythology"] for EDITH (a highlight of high school, that book); [It'll never fly] for EMU; ["Sanford and Son" setting] for WATTS (Sonny and Cher's TV shows and Sanford and Son both ran from 1971 to 1977—and I was watching them); and [Prepare to serve] for ENLIST (I was thinking first of food served on a tray, then of tennis). I didn't know that CHUTNEY was [Condiment made with a mortar and pestle], but I did know that I love chutney, especially to cut the heat of curry spices. BERTHA was [Charlemagne's mother]? (Also known as Bertrada of Laon, who hooked up with King Pippin the Short, who may or may not have been a hobbit.) [War preceder] wasn't HEIGHTENED TENSIONS at all but rather, MAN O'. Did you know the Portuguese man o' war is not a jellyfish? Read all about it. [Cross as ___ (annoyed)] is A BEAR, and I don't know how many people still use that phrase—but bears certainly can be cross, as demonstrated by the one from the Will Ferrell movie that just killed its trainer this week. (Eek. Poor guy.)
The New York Sun "Themeless Thursday" is by Sue Alexander, and I don't recognize the name—a constructor's debut? She's got a smooth mini-theme: FEET ON THE GROUND and HEAD IN THE CLOUDS. I wonder if it's intentional that their locations are topsy-turvy, or if the fill just wasn't working with THE CLOUDS up top.
Favorite entries and clues: BIKER BAR, clued as [Hangout where you might see a lot of hogs]; SICK AS A DOG; the literal MOON-WALKER or astronaut [Alan Bean, for one]; [Hit singer, perhaps?] for RAT (who might "sing" or rat on a hitman); and [Things assumed to be false?] for ALIASES.
Lynn Lempel's CrosSynergy crossword is a good mid-week puzzle. The "Female Leads" in the theme entries (unified by SHE at 66-Down) are female animals, but those words are part of longer words in the two shorter theme entries and span two words in the longer ones. There's a SOW in SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW and a DOE in DO EXACTLY AS I SAY—both great entries even if you ignore the animal gimmick. HENRY CLAY and COWABUNGA contain a HEN and COW. Bonus points to the constructor for plunking WILDEBEEST in there as a fill answer.
David Kwong also has a cool theme in his LA Times puzzle. PETER AND THE WOLF anchors the theme, and the other four theme entries are phrases in which a word is replaced by the instrument that portrays that character in Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. The oboe plays the part of the duck, I have learned from a great many crossword clues over the years. So duck and cover ([Protection method from flying debris]) becomes OBOE AND COVER. There's a bird represented by the flute, so we get a tropical FLUTE OF PARADISE ([New Guinea's black sicklebill, e.g.]). Grandfather and bassoon are linked, so grandfather clock ([Tall timekeeper]) is a BASSOON CLOCK. And the clarinet stands in for the cat, so cat burglar ([Stealthy sort]) becomes CLARINET BURGLAR. The theme's explained in a Notepad note in Across Lite; I suppose the same explanation is given in the actual newspaper. That's probably a good thing, because if you don't know anything about PETER AND THE WOLF, the theme entries would be truly mystifying.
April 23, 2008