In showbiz news today, Broadcasting & Cable reported that Merv Griffin's Crosswords is going into production hiatus until at least early 2009 "because the costs were outweighing the returns." Mind you, 80% of the country was supposed to be airing the show's second season starting this fall, but that's not in the cards now. Does anyone mind? (Thanks to Clarence for sending the link.)
Barry Silk's New York Times crossword has five theme entries that begin with things you might DRAW (67-Across) in some fashion. They're not always a thing in the theme phrase—for example, a BLANK EXPRESSION starts with an adjective, but you can also draw a blank. And a BATH (TOWEL), CURTAIN (CALL), PICTURE (SHOW), and GUN(POWDER). In the fill, A ONE is paired with A TWO to make North Dakota legend Lawrence Welk's signature intro. KENTUCKY and neighboring TENN. are another related pair of answers. Old-time actress ANOUK Aimee gets her oddball first name in the grid rather than her last name (which sounds like a first name), which I think has appeared far more often. Also a smattering of foreign words—TRE and AMORE are Italian, ETAT is French, BESO is Spanish, DII is Roman (that counts, right?), QED is a Latin abbreviation and AD HOC is also Latin, and EMEER is Arabic. ROOTY is in there clued as [Like ground around a tree] rather than as part of the IHOP meal called the Rooty Tooty Fresh 'N Fruity—it could have shared the grid with EGGO, a breakfast option for those who don't want to EAT OUT.
Derek Bowman's New York Sun crossword, "A and Q from A to Z," spells out a sentence that is a pangram (it's got 37 letters; longer and shorter ones are included with it here): WATCH JEOPARDY! / ALEX TREBEK'S / FUN TV QUIZ GAME. The theme didn't do anything for me, really, but I loved some of the fill: MR. BIG, JFK JR., and MCJOB all have unexpected consonant pile-ups. JURY-RIGS is a great word. SKIP ROPE's good, and I like the [Do double Dutch, e.g.] clue. (Here's a high-octane double Dutch video.) ABSINTHE! And LUKA, the Suzanne Vega song from 1987 (here's the video). And LES MIZ, which is what the Les Miserables musical was popularly called. And then there's KIKI / DEE, who duetted with Elton John on "Don't Go Breaking My Heart"; here's a video of that, in case you're in a YouTube mood. We had the 45 of that song when I was a kid, and I'm still fond of the tune. Watch the video and marvel at Elton and Kiki's wardrobes—bib overalls with an actual bib? Go figure!
Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Vanishing Act," is, as usual, clued harder than the typical themed crossword from the CrosSynergy team. ACT has vanished from the theme entries—long-term impact, for example, becomes [Dennis the Menace, seemingly forever?], a LONG-TERM IMP. A [Saturn commercial directive?] is LIGHTS, CAMERA, ION because Saturn's SUV is called the Ion. [Jerk on the stump?] is CAMPAIGN TIC (tactic). Fanciest fill: RUSTY NAILS, or [Scotch and Drambuie drinks]; REGULAR JOE, or [Fine fellow]; [1973 Jim Croce hit] I GOT A NAME; and WARTHOG, or [Pumbaa of "The Lion King"]. My favorite clues: James [Caan job] for acting ROLE; [Skosh] for TAD; the three "power"-related clues for 46-, 48-, and 49-Down pertaining to math, the SEA, and geopolitics; the two "serenade" clues for BOO and WOO; [Initial education?] for the ABC'S; and [Cow's first sound?] for a HARD C.
Chuck Deodene's LA Times crossword features three 15-letter things that are FILED (which crosses the middle theme entry). There were a bunch of words that resonated with another one nearby in the grid. ALLY is separated from ENEMY by a wall of black squares. Marilyn HORNE and [Kenny G's horn], the SAX, are close together. DEPARTURE crosses AFAR. [Optimistic] ROSY crosses [Pessimist] NAYSAYER. A question, for those of you who still have vinyl record albums in the house: Is an [Album's first half] called SIDE A? I know 45's had the A side hit and a B side, but I'm thinking albums had sides 1 and 2.
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Summer Blast," decides to TURN ON THE A.C., or insert AC into four other phrases to change them. Bombshell turns into BOMB SHELLAC, a [Ten-megaton finish?]. The [Floral-scented rapper?] is LILAC WAYNE (Lil Wayne). The [Cosmic campaign appearance?] is BARACK AT THE MOON (as in Ozzy Osbourne's "Bark at the Moon"). And an ID number turns into a drug [Dealer's inventory tag?], or ACID NUMBER. In the fill, CHACHA is clued as [Search engine that employs human searchers]. Here's chacha.com, if you're curious. My favorite fill: MANX CAT, ARM CANDY, [Queens-based clothier] FUBU, and [Kafka hero Gregor] SAMSA. BECK'S Dark is all right, but Negra Modelo is my go-to dark beer these days.
Deb Amlen goes literary in her Onion A.V. Club puzzle, but not so literary that the average high-school graduate who did the assigned reading will be lost. The theme is GEORGE ORWELL's novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four—the THOUGHT CRIME concept, TELESCREEN technology, and all-seeing BIG BROTHER were scary and futuristic a few decades ago, but now? Orwell was looking mighty prescient. The Big Brother aspects of security cameras in public spaces, the PATRIOT Act, the TSA's airport screening, cameras that send you tickets for running a red light, and cell phones and search engines that track your whereabouts and queries weren't around in 1984, but they sure as hell are now. Scary, isn't it? I must chide Deb for the soap opera clue, [Anthony of "General Hospital"]. I immediately flashed back to 1980...and locked my sights on Genie Francis, who was Laura in the Luke and Laura pair. Anthony GEARY (Luke) eventually battled his way into the grid.
June 23, 2008