June 28, 2008

Sunday, 6/29, or "Crikey!"

NYT 9:05
PI 7:52
LAT 7:32
CS 3:43
Mike Nothnagel's second Sunday NYT puzzle (diagramless crossword)—untimed but fairly easy as these things go
(No Boston Globe puzzle in Across Lite this week, and probably not for the next week or two)

Okay, I'll be leaving for my cousin's wedding at 5:00, when the Sunday NYT comes out. It would be very poor form indeed to blow off the ceremony (the bride's brother, a secular mail-order minister, will officiate) in favor of crosswords and blogging, so let this be a placeholder until either very late this evening or Sunday morning.

Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves when you've done the puzzle(s), and I'll try to remember not to spoil the puzzles for myself by reading your comments before venturing into the crosswords.


Okay, that was a late night and I'm still tired this morning.

The New York Times crossword by Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer, "Ten Grand Surplus," inserts a K (or two) into various phrases to create the theme entries. "Show me the money!" becomes SHOW ME THE MONKEY, an [Impatient kid's pea at a zoo?]. My favorite theme entry is TRIPLE KLUTZ, or [Worrisome type at a china shop], building on the ice-skating move called the triple lutz. It's hardly fair to clue RICA as [Villa ___ (town near Atlanta)] when a vowel crosses a French word (RIRE, or [Laugh, in Lille]), that's not among the 10 or so French words that non-Francophones are likely to know. Yesterday's bride's little sister, also my cousin, got married to a man from Costa RICA, which is surely more familiar to solvers than Villa Rica, Georgia. (ELKHART, Indiana, the [Indiana city near the Michigan border], may not be any more famous than the Georgia town, but it's from my region so I knew it, and it doesn't have an easier cluing option.) I don't know Jack LAWRENCE [who wrote the lyrics to "Tenderly"]. Lots of juicy, fill, though—an APE SUIT, a NOSEDIVE, J.M. BARRIE, STYGIAN ([Hellish], or pertaining to the river Styx), and a hotel-room MINIBAR ([Traveler's temptation]). Besides those town names, other geography includes UGANDANS ([Dwellers along Lake Victoria]), LA PLATA ([City once called Eva Peron]), EDINA (crosswords' favorite [Minneapolis suburb]!), ESSEN, UTAHAN, NEWARK, TONGA, and the USSR. Tony previously included ORFE, a [Golden pond fish], in a Saturday NYT puzzle, crossing CUCHIFRITO in deadly fashion; that's the thing about those really obscure words that you encounter in crosswords. You may say "I know I'll never see that word in another puzzle," but it may well show up and redeem its earlier appearance. It took me all the crossings to see that WORMS are [Nature's aerators]; I was thinking more passively of PORES.

Kevin Donovan's syndicated LA Times crossword, "Out in Front!", appears in the Chicago Tribune, I think in the Books section. Yesterday at the wedding, a relative asked me about 1-Across, which I hadn't seen yet. [1964 Nobel Prize decliner] turns out to be SARTRE, and if you ask me, the crossings are all quite gettable... The theme entries all add an OUT to the front of existing phrases. My favorite theme entry was the last one I came to, and I'm definitely someone who likes to save the best for last. (So don't even think about asking me for the last bite of a sandwich or a dessert—I've already eaten all the less appealing parts and have been looking forward to that one perfect morsel at the end.) [Not a good place to go on a windy day?] is an OUTHOUSE OF CARDS. This combines wordplay with juvenile potty humor, so I think it works beautifully! It paints a vivid picture of someone caught in an indelicate position as a tiny house of cards tumbles around him. I'm also partial to the [Golfer's reject?], an OUTCAST IRON, and [Where Billy the Kid studied?], OUTLAW SCHOOL.

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Deal!", features a bunch of puns involving the names of card games. I have never once played fantan, pinochle, whist, canasta, or skat. I may or may not have played a little poker as a kid, I played a little computer hearts, and rummy...that's gin rummy? Yeah, I've played that. Puns like YES YOU CANASTA QUESTION and WHISTWORLD don't grab me. Maybe it's just the headache talking. A couple TO*O answers weren't too familiar to me—TOHO is the ["Godzilla" studio, 1954] and TOPO Gigio is [Ed's mouse pal], I think. You need to be a good bit older than I to see a Gigio-less clue for TOPO and have any chance of getting it.

Paula Gamache's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" was a delight. Not as tough as I like a themeless to be, but packed with lively fill and a certain esprit de cluing. From childhood, there's the [Child's modeling medium], PLAY-DOH, and the [Yellow Seussian creature that may have a star on its belly], or SNEETCH. "I'M A GONER," "YES, LET'S," "GOT 'EM," and "OH, STOP IT" are colloquial English. [Silk and wool] are both FIBERS and FABRICS. ALOHA OE is a [Song written by Queen Lili'uokalani] of Hawaii. A [Façade component] is the CEDILLA dangling from the C. My son loves RAMEN, or [Japanese noodle soup]. BASS ALE and NETZERO join PLAY-DOH in the trade name zone. DEAR SIR and IDEA MEN give a bit of retro sexism. I love the word PASSEL ([Whole bunch]) just as much as I love the phrase "lousy with"—as in "This crossword has a passel of fun words in it, and it's lousy with light-hearted clues." CLIMATE CANARY, [Species that serves as an early warning system], is likely a phrase we'll be seeing much more of in the coming years; I just read that the North Pole ice may melt this summer. Thanks, Paula, for a fun puzzle!