Billie Truitt's New York Times crossword has the sort of theme that seems like it must've been done at least once or twice before, but I don't see these particular animal theme entries in the Cruciverb database:
Hey, that's kinda cute. I really can't quite believe this exact theme hasn't been done, because it seems so obvious a play on words. (Obvious enough for a Tuesday puzzle, but still surprising enough to be fun.) Note that in the original phrases, the first word's an adjective, while in the theme entries, there's a bit more of an active-verb aspect. (Maybe not so much in MISSING, but the other three animals are doing specific things.) My favorite entries in this grid's fill: BLONDIE, a.k.a. [Mrs. Bumstead] from the comic strip Blondie (maiden name Boopadoop); TAKE A NAP, or [Grab some Z's]; OLD-HAT, or [Passé]; BANISTER, clued as [Something to slide on], but you know your parents told you not to slide down the banister; EXPATS, or [Nationals living abroad, informally]; and BEGONIAS, the [Showy blooms] pictured at right.
WEE LAD ([Li'l fellow]) seems like a rather bizarre crossword answer to me—how did it sit with you? Crosswordy words that newer Tuesday solvers might not know (but that will surely appear again) include ADEN, the [Yemeni port]; DADO, a [Woodworker's groove]; LARGOS, [Slow movements, in music]; ROES; [European deer]; and ELLS, [Building extensions] (which I can't say I see often outside of crosswords). My very favorite clue is [Curly poker], for MOE—Curly and Moe were both part of the Three Stooges, who did a lot of eyeball poking.
Lee Glickstein's New York Sun crossword, "What's My Line?", toys with a modern crossword cluing convention. Those goofy clues that use "flower" to mean "a thing that flows" and not "a floral blossom" are at the heart here. [Delivery room nurse?] is a BABY SHOWER, or one who shows babies. [Welder?] is a TORCH SINGER, who singes with a torch. [Piano mover?] is an IVORY TOWER, towing the ivories. [Macrame artist?] is a TOP TIER, tying knots superbly. And the [Head anesthesiologist?] is the hospital's PRIME NUMBER, numbing patients. Highlights in the fill include the longish entries BELOW ZERO, TEA LEAVES (tea [Caddy contents], APARTHEID, AT ANY COST, and COZUMEL in Mexico. I don't know what an ASHPAN looks like, but apparently it is a [Fireplace accessory]. Favorite clues: [Like snake eyes] for BEADY (referring to snake eyes, literally—not to a double-ones roll of the dice); [Band whose only hit was "Whip It"] for DEVO; [Hamlet's father] for HAGAR (this would be Hagar the Horrible and his comic-strip son, not Shakespeare's Hamlet); and [Musical vibrator] for REED.
John Underwood's LA Times crossword flip-flops people's names so that their first names become their hairstyles. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin is referenced in ALDRIN'S BUZZ, [Army haircut for an astronaut?]. Marcel Proust inverts to PROUST'S MARCEL (marcel waves seen in photo), or [Wavy hair style for a French novelist?]. NEWHART'S BOB is [Short hair style for a TV comic?]. CASSIDY'S BUTCH is a [Crew cut for a notorious outlaw?]. Two of these theme entries intersect my favorite fill entry today, BAH HUMBUG ([Scroogean outburst]).
Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy crossword, "Identity Theft," steals an ID from each theme entry. My favorite of the theme entries was French braids (pictured) turned into [Paris support group?], or FRENCH BRAS. The [Network censor's motto?] WE SCREEN TV was cute, too, and who doesn't like wide-screen TVs? The lively fill includes SPAMALOT, PAYDAY, and a WWI DOUGHBOY. Favorite clue: [Fighter who went from champ to chomp?] for Mike TYSON. Not crazy about YAM in the singular as a [Thanksgiving dish] or the retro STENOS.
Today's toughest puzzle is Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Moving Together." The theme entries were all contrived contraptions, which makes it tougher to piece them together. For example, [Difficult beast to ride into battle?] turned out to be WAR CHICKEN, and [High-tech hay facility?] is MODERN BARN. What ties these phrases together is that they consist of two words that can be followed by 69-Across, DANCE. Boy, until I made it down to the end of the grid, I had no idea what the theme was doing—there's something to be said for skimming the list of clues to look for something obvious like [Word that may follow either word in 17-, 30-, 46-, and 62-Across], and yes, it is harder to skim that way in Across Lite. (That's one of a very few down sides to this particular solving format, which is popular among this blog's readership according to the sidebar poll.) The erstwhile '80s teenager in me appreciates RAIN SAFETY being one of the theme clues, producing "The Safety Dance." (My husband began making a big "S" with his arms after the first two bars of the song, without seeing what was on my screen. If your friends don't dance, of course, they're no friends of mine. S-s-s-s, A-a-a-a, F-f-f-f...you see where this is going, right? If you don't, that video link will explain all.) Lovely and lively fill includes CAFE NOIR, ALAN BALL, "I CAN'T WIN," a SURE HAND, Split ENZ (also a shout-out to early-'80s MTV...sigh), PIZZERIA, and the Brazilian spelling of BRASIL. I'm gonna have to dock Ben 5 points for RESOWS and another 10 for ENEMA, but he earns 15 points for cluing the latter as [Generally forbidden (but highly useful) crossword puzzle entry]. RALPH is clued as [Puke] in this puzzle (see below).
Deb Amlen's Onion A.V. Club crossword has a TAKE IT / ALL OFF striptease theme. GOOSEBUMP and DAILY GRIND end with "bump and grind," and two other theme entries end with STRUT and SHAKE. Now, there's also the [Last wardrobe element left on after doing this puzzle, perhaps: HIGH HEELS. Opposite that in the grid is SPEED BASS, a [Superfast electronic music genre]. I have no idea if that's meant to be part of the theme too; if so, I am too square to grasp its relevance. Gotta love having BLOGGER in the grid (clued as [One who writes for surfers]). Deb's also got RALPH in the grid, but this time the clue is ["Me fail English? That's unpossible!" quotee]. I'm guessing that's Ralph Wiggum in The Simpsons. Another toon in the grid is MR. HAT, [Mr./Mrs. Garrison's alter ego on "South Park"] (second only to Mr. Hankey in the category of "Best South Park Misters").
May 19, 2008