May 13, 2008

Wednesday, 5/14

NYS 4:51
LAT 4:05
NYT 3:56
CS 3:18

The New York Sun puzzle for Wednesday is available as a .pdf rather than an Across Lite file. I downloaded it from Will Johnston's .zip file calendar page for the Sun. (That same page includes a PayPal link for paying Sun editor Peter Gordon on the honor system. I'm probably getting to that time of year when I pony up an annual donation.) I am super-tired and my printer's loud enough to wake the dead and/or the sleeping, so I'm skipping the Sun puzzle 'til morning.

The New York Times puzzle by Doug Peterson has an add-two-letters theme that's wrought pretty well. One of the theme entries, ALPINE SKIRTS, had me thinking the theme entailed adding a P (A-line skirts), but eventually I worked out that the RT is what was added—RT'S are [Football linemen, for short, caught in 1-, 28-, 47- and 63-Across?]. Frequent flier turns into FREQUENT FLIRTER, [Singles bar habitue]. A "wild and crazy guy" was a Steve MARTIN CHARACTER (main character). Pay as you go becomes PARTY AS YOU GO, or [Do some barhopping?]. Didn't know [Physics Nobelist Wolfgang] PAULI, nor GLINKA, the ["A Life for the Tsar" composer]. Coolest entries: NYQUIL, or [Vicks brand]; ON A WHIM, or [For the heck of it]; ONE ACROSS ([This answer intersects it]; and UNDIES, or [Intimate wear, informally].


I haven't got time to blog about the Sun puzzle before I head to the gym—suffice it to say that I spaced out on seeing the ONE and thus resorted to peeking at Pete's Sun Blocks post to understand the theme. I thought it had to do with going over in blackjack, and I couldn't have been wronger.

Nancy Salomon's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Man Overboard!", jettisons HE from each theme entry's original phrase. [Transport for a Trojan War hero?] is ACHILLES' EL (changed from heel), for example, and [Suds study center?] is BREW SCHOOL—a surprising change-up for traditional Hebrew school. Tastiest crossing: PIZZERIA meets GAZPACHO. Old-fashioned crossword fill that, if you don't know it, you should remember it because it comes up every now and then: [Basket fiber] ISTLE, more often clued as [Carpet fiber]. It's got three of the same letters as INGLE, which is typically clued as [Fireplace]; don't mix 'em up, which you will now that I've put them together inside your head.

Pancho Harrison's LA Times crossword has THE WHOLE (61-Across) theme—four theme entries are words or phrases that can follow "the whole." The followers are clued without "the whole" part of the phrase—thus, ENCHILADA is [*Rolled Mexican dish], and MEGILLAH is [*Overly detailed account, slangily]—I didn't know that (or any) meaning for MEGILLAH, it turns out, but "the whole megillah" and "the whole enchilada" are wonderfully colorful phrases for a crossword to evoke. The whole NINE YARDS is a familiar phrase, but the whole SHOOTING MATCH? That's one I don't hear much. I was just looking at a GAR (33-Across) on Mother's Day at a suburban nature center—that long-snouted [Needlefish] apparently dwells in waterways 'round these parts. I told my kid and husband, "If you ever see a crossword clue for a needle-nosed fish, that's it right there." Which reminds me—I have a photo of a nene from Busch Gardens that I meant to post here after spring break.

Updated again now that the sun is shining:

Patrick Blindauer's New York Sun crossword, "Cogito Ergo Sum," is available in .pdf rather than Across Lite because Across Lite is a mite persnickety and refuses to allow entries without clue numbers at their beginning. I had a complete brain short-out this morning, because I had no trouble completing the puzzle but couldn't identify the theme. The clues for the numbers that made no sense as given? Yeah, I was willing to let those slide. What excuse can I possibly have? Maybe a headache, but I think I was headachy all weekend at my first ACPT and it didn't make me stupid. I concocted crazy theories. 24-Across is SIX, and 2 + 4 = 6. SEVENTEEN has 25 in its midst, and 2 + 5 = SEVEN...with a dangling TEEN. The one with 39 in it is TWELVE and 3 + 9 = 12. The last number in the grid was TWENTY-TWO, so it must be a blackjack theme in which the player says "hit me" one more time and goes over...only the numbers aren't making sense that way. And I completely ignored the presence of ONE in the same row as TWENTY-TWO, not to mention ignoring the fact that there are 23 chromosome pairs, there's no such thing as "six skiddoo," and 11 isn't the ninth prime number (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11—yeah, that's sixth). So! The theme is "I think, therefore I sum," and all three thematic rows add up to 23 when the two numbers are combined.

I hope my confession of mental misdeeds is met with complete absolution. Favorite clues: [Orbit, e.g.] for chewing GUM; [DDT banner] for EPA (usually "___er" clues are clunky, but this one made me first think of banners that wave and not banners that ban, so I liked the wee mislead...even if it didn't mislead any of the rest of you that way); [Courier contemporary] for Andre AGASSI (not little-c courier, nor the Courier font—one-time tennis phenom Jim Courier); and [Thing that helps you choose sides?] for a restaurant menu (I'll take the sweet fried plantains, please). Least familiar name: [Belgian violinist Eugene] YSAYE. He may have landed in a crossword before, but I don't want to see him again unless he's near the Yser.

Having written those two paragraphs, I turned my attention to the comments, where Tony Orbach mentioned Patrick's plus signs. "D'oh!" I say. "Holy flipping d'oh!" Three giant plus signs made out of black squares in the grid are smack-dab in-between the paired numbers. SIX✚SEVENTEEN, ELEVEN✚TWELVE, and TWENTY-TWO✚ONE. D'oh! Trees, do you see a forest anywhere around here? A gold star to Patrick for including the black squares in his theme. A lovely twist on convention, now that I am done with the whole not-seeing-it thing.