Advance notice (not late notice, but redundant advance notice): On Saturday, I'll be out when the Sunday NYT crossword is released and won't be back 'til late. Concert! The Police! Then Sunday morning and afternoon will be booked with Mother's Day activities. So the blogging this weekend may be...tardy and lackadaisical. Guest bloggers would be another way to go, but I suspect my usual cadre of scintillating guest writers also have busy weekends ahead.
The Saturday New York Times crossword by Karen Tracey struck me as markedly easier than the Friday puzzle. Was that your experience as well? It seems like an odd-looking grid for Karen, with shorter entries ringing the grid and hemming in the swaths of white space. The middle of the grid, with two 7-letter answers bracketed by 4s, isn't typical. But the fill and clues? Ten kinds of fun. I kept encountering entries that made me smile, nice surprises.
In the southwest quadrant, [It's just north of Nauru] sounded like a clue for a wickedly out-there geography answer (one of Karen's trademarks), but the answer was just the EQUATOR. Not a crazy-sounding place name, no, but it does have a Q, so it fits right in. The Q is shared by SEAQUAKE, a [Source of some big waves].
In the center, the EXIT ROW that's [Preferred seating, for many] surprised me by being plane seating and not in a theater or stadium (note the appearance of an X). It crossed YAHTZEE, a [Classic game with 13 categories]—with a Z. EXIT ROW's X was also the end of JOHN KNOX, [16th-century founder of Scottish Presbyterianism]; he adds a J and K to the Scrabbly accounting of this puzzle. (Also from Scotland: NAES, or [Caledonian contradictions].) EXIT ROW's E also began another X entry, EXULTANT, or [More than happy]. (ECSTATIC would also fit there, but would have reduced the X factor by 1.)
In the upper left section, there's another Z in OZONE HOLE, an [Antarctic environmental concern], crossing COZEN, or [Gull].
In the opposite corner, I saw the clue [Indie rock band whose name is Spanish for "I have it"] and said to myself, "So that's what YO LA TENGO means!" Then I proceeded to put that 57-Across answer in the space for 60-Across beneath it. You can imagine what that did to the crossings—gah. Soon enough, I figured out what I'd done and put back the intersectiing answers I'd wiped out. YO LA TENGO is a terrific entry—fresh, poppy, and good at teaching introductory Spanish.
Here are the other parts I liked a lot:
Today's themed CrosSynergy puzzle comes from the atelier of Bob Klahn. The "Ear Drops" theme features four phrases that have dropped an EAR. [Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms?] are THE THREE B'S (The Three Bears), but I could swear we called them "the three B's" back in my school days. [Dark red cherries?] are BING FRUIT (bearing); really, aren't bing cherries one of the highlights of summer? [Truman's regal digs?] manipulates Hearst Castle into HST Castle (Harry S Truman); a little bit of a twist on the theme, to change a word into initials. [Upon sitting down to eat?] is JUST AS I FED (feared). Favorite clues: [Homespun home] for spider WEB; [Age follower?] for BEAUTY; [All wound up] for both TENSE and ON EDGE; and ["Crikey!"] for EGADS.
The other Bob of crosswords, Bob Peoples, constructed the LA Times puzzle. I have a headache, so I'm not in a very bloggy mood. Herewith, a list of some noteworthy clues/answers:
My favorite answer in Dan Stark's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" happens to be the first one I started to fill in—KALAHARI, the [Bushmen's habitat]. That's the sort of entry a constructor doesn't just back into—versus, say, ASSESSED in the opposite corner, which has those S's that make it easy to find fill that works with it. By and large, the fill is ordinary words, with many short clues that obscure the answers—the Newsday Saturday style. For example, [Floors] for AMAZES, [Tenor] for DRIFT, [Means] for AGENT, and [Sets] for TVS. Those are essentially impossible to Google—you can dig through every dictionary definition of the clue and maybe hit on the right answer, but for the most part you're on your own. I rather liked the two longer trivia clues for common short answers: ["Oxford in the Vacation" byline] tells you, I'm guessing, the name of an essay by ELIA, and [Joliet discovery of 1669] is Lake ERIE. Another trivia factoid: Clint EASTWOOD was the [Thalberg Award recipient of '95] at the Oscars. Favorite clues, with a mislead: [Self starter] for HIM; [Diamond rarity] for NO-HITTER; [One on the house] for a ROOFER; and [Mayo is found here] for EIRE, home of the County Mayo.
May 10, 2008