June 13, 2008

Saturday, 6/14

Newsday 10:45
LAT 9:59
NYT 5:30
CS 4:43

Thanks to all who answered my latest poll, "How do you visit this blog?" The first option, "It's my home page," was a joke. I expected that one to rack up zero votes, and indeed it did. The other options:

  • "It's bookmarked"—65%. Aren't browser bookmarks handy?
  • "I Google a clue"—19%. Hello, Googlers! Stick around, why don't you?
  • "I type in the URL to visit"—9%. Try bookmarking the site or subscribing to the RSS or Atom feed. Save yourself the keystrokes!
  • "I click a link on another site"—6%. Blogrolls!
  • "I read it in a feed (e.g., RSS)"—5%. I grew too lazy to keep up with a zillion blogs via bookmarks and started subscribing to RSS feeds. It takes out the guesswork of figuring out when to look for a new post—when there's a new post, it'll tell you. I do have to remember not to click on crossword blogs in the RSS reader if they might talk about puzzles I haven't done yet, though.

I was admiring some wordplay-oriented prints at my friend Susan's house this morning. The prints were by Kay Rosen, whose sensibility seems to involve playing around with letters, palindromes, letter patterns, word pairs with similar letters, phrases with similar sounds, letters that look the same upside-down, and so on. One of the Rosen prints on Susan's wall was the word OUT with a little square cut out of the right side of the O, turning the O into a C like so). A cutout making OUT into CUT! The other two Rosens were "Palimpsest" and "The Man," both of which can be seen in the bottom row of the page I linked to. These are all so captivating! If you're having lousy weather, you could do worse than to pass some time enjoying Kay Rosen's art.

Matt Gaffney's begun a weekly crossword contest here. You can print out this week's puzzle there or download it in Across Lite at the affiliated Google Groups page. If you become a member via the Google Groups page, you'll get each week's puzzle e-mailed to you on Friday. Deadline is the following Tuesday. The stakes aren't high—you can win an autographed copy of one of Matt's puzzle books or the nonfiction Gridlock. (Note: No spoilers in the comments, please. Contest winners should have to do the work themselves.)

Crosswords! Yes, we still review newspaper crossword puzzles here, too. Brendan Quigley's New York Times crossword has just 62 words (the maximum for a themeless puzzle is 72), spinning out in a pinwheel grid. As one would expect with such a word count, there are a few intersections facilitated by -S plurals and -ED past tenses. But the "roll-your-own word" quotient is surprisingly low, and this NYT crossword has only two 3-letter entries. My favorite part of this puzzle is the upper left quadrant. Brendan starts out with TRUTHINESS, Stephen Colbert's [Modern coinage meaning intuition without regard to facts]. Beneath that is HAS A SHOT AT, or [Can still get]. It looks weird in the grid, doesn't it? "Ha sash o tat." AMELIORATE is the verb [Better], and Karl Marx's DAS KAPITAL sits beneath that. Among the short crossings in that section, I'm partial to the clue for TALK: [Cheap commodity?]. I initially went with STATIST for the [Proponent of strong governmental control], but it's the Frenchy ETATIST. I don't recall ever learning that STELLA Maris is the [title of the Virgin Mary].

My favorite clues and answers elsewhere in this puzzle:
KITE RUNNER, or [Best-selling 2003 Khalid Hosseini novel, with "The"]—I haven't read the book or seen the movie, but I hear great things.
[Boodlers' acts] are BRIBERIES. I don't boodle and I didn't know the word before just now.
A [Tick, e.g.] is an ACARID. Mites are related.
[What schools have] are IDEOLOGIES. And also, in some cases, playgrounds.
[One of the Wayans brothers] is KEENEN Ivory Wayans. I'm glad the puzzle didn't stick us with a lesser Wayans like Marlon or Shawn. (I like Damon, though, and there's also a sister named Kim.)
RASA, as in tabula rasa, means [Literally, "scraped"]. Yes, erase is etymologically related.
A [Thing that'll deter someone from taking a ride] is a CAR ALARM, a ride being a car.
This clip from Groundhog Day is what I think of when I see "AM I [__ right?"]. Am I right or am I right? Right right right.
[Diplomat and Adventurer] are both DESOTOS. Did you have any idea? I didn't, but it seemed plausible enough.
[Micmac relative] sounds a tad like a burger, but it's the CREE tribe.
[Where to find the Wienerwald: Abbr.] sounds like it could be a Teutonic EuroDisney thing, but it's Austria, or AUST. for short. (The Olympic abbreviation for the country is OST, I think.)
The crossword dagger SNEE gets a new(ish) clue: [N.F.L. offensive guard Chris].


Okay, it's almost time for the Sunday NYT crossword to come out, so I'm gonna go ahead and finish the Saturday post on the "short shrift" model.

Rich Norris's CrosSynergy crossword, "The Fourth Tee," adds a T where it doesn't belong in four phrases. Sounds boring, doesn't it? It isn't, as it turns out! The [Alien domestic?] is MAID MARTIAN (from Maid Marian in "Robin Hood"), and Beethoven's "Eroica" becomes a [Blue musical work?], or EROTICA SYMPHONY. Shiny fill, too—the album CHICAGO VII, INSIDE JOBS, and more.

Merle Baker cooked up a toughie for the Newsday "Saturday Stumper." Crikey! It took me nearly twice as long as today's NYT. Highlights in the fill: PIEHOLES, KASPAROV, O CAPTAIN, WHATSIS, and JALAPENO.

Brad Wilber's LA Times puzzle only got part of my attention, as I was on the phone while solving. I suspect it was actually a good bit easier than the Newsday puzzle, and a bit harder than the NYT. Lots of really cool fill—SUPER SLO-MO (in a spot where SLOW MOTION would also fit, dangit), FISHEYE LENS, BOBSLED TEAM, the EMERALD ISLE, IDAHO POTATO, and the wonderful POWER BALLAD ([Uncharacteristic heavy metal song]).