May 21, 2008

Wednesday, 5/21

NYT 4:03
NYS 3:30
LAT 2:58
CS 2:33

Another late night for me, as it's Tuesday and the second-to-last trivia night. We won! We didn't do very well, but apparently everyone else scored even more poorly, so we won and are well positioned to vie for the $600 prize that caps off a six-week run next week.

The only crossword I've done tonight is Dave Mackey's New York Times puzzle. I paid zero attention to theme until some time after I finished it, when it became obvious: makeup.

  • ROUGE ET NOIR: a [Solitaire card game] I'm not familiar with

  • SHADOW BOXERS: [Pugs in gyms, at times], and shadow as in eye shadow

  • SOLID FOUNDATION: [Good thing to build on]

  • AT FIRST BLUSH: [Initially]—a great phrase

  • LUXURY LINER: [Cunard fleet member], referring to either lip liner or eyeliner

Colorful fill includes NITWIT, or [Birdbrain]; FURIOSO, or [Forcefully, in music]; SOFT G, or [Gentle opening]; MR. MOM, or [1983 Keaton comedy]; SHOWER GIFT, or [Item from a registry, perhaps]; and XTC, or [Band with the 1987 single "Dear God"] (good band, don't know that song). Favorite clues: [Liked leader?] for IKE; [Go nuts, with "out"] for WIG; and [Something to kick up] for a FUSS.


The byline above the New York Sun crossword reads Yaakov Bendavid, and I think this is his newspaper crossword debut. The "Empowered" theme promotes some Ns to Ms:
[Ship used to transport letters?] = MAIL CLIPPER
[Frequent steakhouse patron?] = MEAT FREAK
[Over two million works of art?] = MET ASSETS (as in the Metropolitan Museum of Art)
[Ingredient you shouldn't use to make quiche?] = MACHO CHEESE

Two theme entries are merely solid, while two hit the funny bone dead on—given that I can go days without finding a single theme entry in multiple crosswords to be flat-out funny, getting two funny theme entries in one puzzle is great. The fill gleams, too: The Beatles' "LOVE ME DO," OAXACA paralleling TREBEK, names from high and low culture (Yehudi MENUHIN and VANESSA Hudgens), two other Xs, and many more 6- to 8-letter answers. Favorite clues: ["___, Babe" (1992 Mark Leyner book)] for ET TU; and [Cut the mustard?] for REAP (mustard's a crop plant, after all).

Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy puzzle, " has four kinds of deals at the beginning of the theme entries. A COMPACT (CAR) and a CONCORD (GRAPES) are roughly on a par with each other. A BARGAIN (HUNTER) is a different kind of "deal" altogether. And a BOND (RATING)...I'm not sure exactly how that's a deal of some sort. Explanations welcome. There's some first-class fill here: SCROOGE, Jimi Hendrix's PURPLE HAZE, a BIG MOUTH, JETSKI, and ANGLO-SAXON.

Dan Naddor has a happy theme in his LA Times crossword, with [Euphoric] cluing five phrases: ON TOP OF THE WORLD, TICKLED PINK, ON CLOUD NINE, HIGH AS A KITE, and IN SEVENTH HEAVEN. Two corners contain stacks of 7- and 8-letter words (ALTER EGO, CANSECO, GO AHEAD, and more), but the ambitious theme and grid result in a couple compromises in the fill. Or maybe they don't—I don't know [Tony Hillerman detective Jim] CHEE, but maybe the rest of you do. I could see some solvers hitting a snag where SHRIKE ([Predatory bird]) crosses [Campground chain KOA], or name-haters having trouble with [Danny of the Boston Celtics] AINGE crossing NIA [Peeples of TV's "Fame"] at the I. Is it just me, or does reading the theme answers improve one's mood?