Hello! I'm back home after five days in Minnesota, and boy, am I wiped out. I had a terrific time while PuzzleGirl held down the fort—nay, rocked the fort—here at la Casa de la Fiend. The only crosswords I tackled while in the Land of Ten or Twelve Thousand Lakes were the NYT puzzles, and most of those were done after 11 p.m. on a day when freight train horns and blazing solstice sun woke me ridiculously early. (If you loved any of the non-NYT crosswords from Wednesday through Sunday, tell me which ones they were so I can do those ones this week.)
I talked crosswords with three crossword-blog-reading Carleton alums, Seth G (who guest-blogged at Jim H's blog a few days ago), Christy M, and Everett C—all of them charming, as you'd expect of Times puzzle fans.
Let's see if I can remember how to blog about a crossword. The Monday New York Times crossword is the first as a duo for Andrea Michaels and Patrick Blindauer. Each is accomplished in his or her own right, and together, they've made an unrepentantly Mondayish puzzle. The fill is smoothly accessible, with the ARNO ([Florence's river]) being the most arcane-except-for-crosswords fill. (I.e., it should be straightforward enough for a beginning solver.) The theme entries are phrases one might say to shore up the bruised psyche of someone who didn't win. Is it just me, or is "WE STILL LOVE YOU" the most patronizing of the lines?
All righty, let's get this show on the road. I went to bed at 8:00 last night, so I just got to the Sun puzzle a few minutes ago. (And I still haven't done last Thursday and Friday's Sun, much less the other Saturday and Sunday themelesses.) Peter Collins' New York Sun crossword is called "Ending Up in Europe" because the starred theme entries are hiding European cities at their tail ends. The TEFLON DON, John Gotti, has London, England—a wordplay fact I'd never noticed. Tiffani-Amber THIESSEN has Essen, Germany, that city much beloved by crossword solvers. Or not loved, but faintly recognized when there's a 5-letter space for a German town. This one's kind of a cheat because even though the actress is American, the name is German. ROSEVILLE, Minnesota, has Seville, Spain. It would be great if there were a barber in that town called the Barber of RoSeville. Athens is in HEATHENS and Rome is in SYNDROME, which gets a Pixar pop-culture clue that you wouldn't know if you skipped The Incredibles. The Italian aperitif called Campari takes a plural in order to hide Paris; this one seems a bit brassy for a Monday, even in the Sun.
I really enjoyed the theme in Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "When the Saintes Go Marching In." STE (43-Down) is inserted into four 8- or 9-letter phrases to make new phrases. A RESTED GUARD incorporates the Red Guard, which is colorful. The TESTED KNIGHT includes Ted Knight, who played anchorman Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. [Hugh Laurie after a Friars Club event?] is a ROASTED HOUSE (roadhouse), and I should really get the latest season or two of House on DVD so I can catch up on that show. I like the BUSTED LIGHT because it's built from Bud Light, one of those watery beers I can drink only when they're free. Really, even when they're obscured by the addition of other letters, Ted Knight and Bud Light really liven up a crossword grid.
Mike Peluso's LA Times puzzle includes four phrases that start with synonyms:
THROWS A FIGHT = [Loses deliberately in the ring]
PITCHES A TENT = [Starts setting up camp]
HURLS INSULTS = [Heckles vehemently, with "at"]
TOSSES A SALAD = [Mixes greens and dressing]
Of course, the four words are synonyms in other contexts, but are all used in non-synonymous ways in the theme entries. It's more elegant that way, no?
There are several problems with Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "What's the Problem?" The theme entries are self-referential: Whatever the problem is with the answer is spelled out in the grid in a way that demonstrates the problem itself. It's sort of meta and hard to explain without just showing the answers:
ONE LETTER TOO LON wants the space to be one letter longer so the G will fit at the end. The one in the middle is MSSNGLLTHVWLS. (This one makes me hanker for Frank Longo's book of Vowelless Crosswords, scheduled to be released next January. I can't wait! It might be terrible practice for the ACPT, but I don't think I'll be able to postpone my purchase until March.) The third one features WORDZ SPELED RONG. I wonder how hard it would be to populate a crossword grid exclusively with words that are plausibly misspelled. Probably really difficult. In the fill here, there are plenty of 6- to 8-letter answers to spiff things up—ROLL CALL, COP-OUT (or...co-pout), C.S. LEWIS, a TRANS AM.
June 22, 2008