Jonesin' 4:46 — download from my Google Groups page if you need it*
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I don't think either of the Friday puzzles I've just done included the word ERST, but as this blog post mentions, it's certainly an enduring word in the land of crosswords. Nancy Friedman also covers the popular misuse of erstwhile to mean "esteemed." Have you encountered this? I have been fortunate and haven't noticed this particular wrongness.
Kevin Der constructed the Friday New York Times crossword, which beat me down in Saturday fashion. I don't know what I was doing meandering around aimlessly in the grid for that long. Let me get my one grumble out of the way first: POLY and SCI are cross-referenced as [With 19-Across, domain of civics, in brief]. Where I come from, it's POLI, not POLY; POLY is legitimate crossword fill, but it makes me cranky to see it in the service of POLY SCI. Moving along to the hosannas: Would you look at the fill in this one? In the NW corner, there's a JACUZZI ([Steam room alternative]) crossing JETS FAN ([Elated person after Super Bowl III]). At least this time the clue didn't lure me into writing NETS FAN as it did about a week ago. In the SW corner, SQUAWK ([Noisy complaint]) crosses QUIXOTE ([Visionary]) and UNKEMPT ([Not neat]). The NE quadrant tops A.A. MILNE ([His last novel was "Chloe Marr," 1946]) with "WHASSUP" (["Yo!"]). In the Mid-Atlantic zone, FACEBOOK ([Alternative to Friendster or MySpace]) crosses a delicious MARS BAR ([Chocolate treat]). I'm pretending Kevin means the extinct Mars Bar that is now called Snickers Almond rather than the British Mars Bar that is nought but a Milky Way, with nary a nut. Oh—speaking of Facebook, Facebook rocks. I have two regular Scrabulous opponents and one I am afraid of, and have just started playing a newer game called PathWords. If you need to fritter away more time playing word games online, join Facebook.
Other clues and answers of note:
The New York Sun "Weekend Warrior" is by Karen Tracey. I'm getting too sleepy to blog properly, so let me outline some tougher and/or especially clever spots:
Writing at Ryan and Brian Do Crosswords, Dan Feyer reviews a few books, including my baby, How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle.
Based on the poll results in my sidebar, I suspect many more of you are doing the Onion A.V. Club crossword than Ben Tausig's own weekly Ink Well puzzle. If you've been skipping the Tausig but like the Onion, I encourage you to add the Tausig to your weekly diet. Ben is the editor of the Onion puzzles, so if you like his sensibility there, you'll like it in his own work too. In my book (the figurative one, not the literal one), the two puzzles are equally fun and equally adventurous. The newest addition to my weekly diet is Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, edited by Matt Gaffney. As with the Onion and Tausig offerings, I don't love every Jonesin' puzzle, but I like most of them quite a bit. This week's is called "Game Theory," and here are the theme entries:
Sure, the "phrases associated with games that fit a CO**ECT ____ format" theme seems arbitrary, but if you're anything like me (and around the same age), the focus on games from childhood and adolescence and a TV commercial for one of 'em ups the ante on fun. The fill combines video games (ZELDA), pop culture (EMILE Hirsch of "Speed Racer," TILDA Swinton, CHARLES Bronson and Barkley, the History Channel show "AX MEN"), pharmaceuticals (XANAX and ZETIA), beer (St. PAULI Girl), comics (ZIGGY), and interesting stuff that doesn't show up in many crosswords (CABLE CAR, NEUROLOGY, GIFT OF GAB).
John Underwood's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "The Century Club," features the last names of eight notable people who were born 100 years ago. They include Simon WIESENTHAL, Lyndon JOHNSON, Anna MAGNANI, Simon DE BEAUVOIR, Adam Clayton POWELL, Jr., Edward TELLER, Edward R. MURROW, and Richard WRIGHT. There are a few other people in the crossword, but nobody's last name appears in the grid unless he or she would celebrate a 100th birthday this year.
Robert Wolfe's LA Times crossword has a REBUS (21-Across) theme of a different stripe. This one gives the CDB treatment to five first names. Emily Watson, the ["Hilary and Jackie" Oscar nominee, so to speak?], is presented as MLEWATSON. Elinor Donahue, the ["Father Knows Best" actress, so to speak?], is LNRDONAHUE. [Sewing machine inventor, so to speak?] is LISHOWE (Elias Howe). [Former Israeli leader, so to speak?] is RELSHARON (Ariel Sharon). And [Old Red head, so to speak?] is LXAKOSYGIN. Wait, who? This guy Alexey or Aleksei Kosygin. I'm not sure his name is quite familiar enough to lead off a crossword theme.
Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Mineral Supplements," inserts an ORE into each theme entry. Thus, the Mod Squad becomes the MOORED SQUAD, or a [Crime-fighting group based in a harbor?], and the post office is the POOREST OFFICE, or [Least impressive place of business]. The theme entries didn't much grab me—I think I prefer bolder whimsy in cooked-up theme entries. Cooked-up-ness isn't a problem—it just has to push the amusement factor. The grid's fairly Scrabblicious, as we expect from Patrick Jordan—two Xs, a Z, a Q, and a K.
Randolph Ross's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Stock Market Reports," plays around with the sorts of stock phrases that are used in business journalist. What happened to the share price? That depends on the kind of business. [Huggies stock] REMAINED UNCHANGED, sincd Huggies are disposable diapers. The toilet paper [Charmin stock] TOUCHED A NEW BOTTOM. [Dixon Ticonderoga Pencil stock] LOST A FEW POINTS. Granted, many of the brands included in this theme aren't the names of publicly traded companies, but Kimberly-Clark isn't a diaper, so its Huggies brand gets the starring role in the clue. Fun theme! I also liked the LO**Y adjectives that peppered the grid—LOOPY is [Offbeat], LOONY is [Crackers], and LOUSY is [Meriting no stars].
May 15, 2008