Happy May Day! Workers of the world, foundering ships, and maypole fans unite.
It's Thursday, and the New York Times crossword by Jim Leeds serves up a rebus challenge that I will call Tribute to Ellen Ripstein. (Ellen is wont to say things like "Smoking, ick." She has not, to my knowledge, said "Rebus puzzles, ick.") GROSS parks itself in the middle of the grid to spotlight all the [ICK] rebus squares. Let's gather them all up here, since it's hard to see them in the applet grid where a plain old letter I stands in for each [ICK]:
I usually don't second-guess answers with small duplications, but the "good to the LAST DROP"/DROP-KICKER combo did give me pause. Other trouble spots and/or clues of note:
Alan Arbesfeld's New York Sun puzzle bears the title "6 x 8." Within the crossword are six 8-letter ANAGRAMs, all clued in reference to another of the group. The family of anagrams includes two mathy words—TRIANGLE, INTEGRAL; three verbs—RELATING, ALTERING, ALERTING; and the oddball TANGLIER. In the fill sits some SOY MILK, clued as [Drink for the lactose intolerant]; I am delighted to tolerate lactose, personally. A goodly quantity of longish fill fleshes out the grid here.
In Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Inner Ability," he hides his ESP (63-Down) abilities in the midst of each theme entry. The four ESP answers (e.g., TRADES PLACES, FREE SPEECH) are supplemented by some lively long fill—ALEX HALEY and an ALMA MATER, Hamlet's ELSINORE Castle and "JUST A SEC." I'm glad to see A TEST clued as ["This is only ___"] rather than the played-out atomic test; if only N-TEST and H-TEST could also be spiffed up with an alternate clue. The BUICK [Century, e.g.] goes out for a spin again (see the NYT), only without rebus action. My enjoyment of this crossword was diluted a bit by the inclusion of some blah crossword regulars—OGEE, OTOS and a UTE, ULNA, ICER. A QUONSET hut and a GNOME do help allay that, though.
The LA Times crossword is credited to "Sir Barton Giacomo (1919-2005)." That's not a deceased constructor—it's the names of the 1919 and 2005 winners of the Kentucky Derby (link is updated only through 2006). The theme entries are eight other horses that have won the Derby (which takes place this weekend) and have names that can be plausibly clued as regular words or phrases. The theme's explained by the clue for DERBY WINNER: [Each one in this puzzle has its year in parentheses]. So [Unison cheer (1894)] is CHANT, and [Tax law provision affecting prior years (1961)] is CARRY-BACK. I recognize that the inclusion of so many theme entries and the innovation of the non-horse cluing are cool but...but...I just don't care about horseracing. Or "motor sports," boxing, poker, or bridge. Many of the horses' names were unfamiliar to me: STREET SENSE (2007! How quickly I forget, or how thoroughly I paid no attention a year ago), SWALE (1984), SWAPS (1955), CHANT, REAL QUIET (1998), and CARRY BACK. Looking at the list of past winners, I've heard of the most famous ones from the '70s, a handful of older ones, and a couple of the recent ones. The rest? Whatever. (As for who constructed the puzzle, my guess is LA Times crossword editor Rich Norris, but it could be someone else tickled by the idea of a two-horse pseudonym.)
April 30, 2008