June 03, 2008

Wednesday, 6/4

Onion 4:42
Tausig 4:29
CS 3:59
NYT 3:47
NYS 3:46
LAT 3:21

D'oh! I lost a good 30 seconds on Billie Truitt's New York Times crossword thanks to a typo. Every so often, a few voices cry out for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament to switch from paper-based solving to computers. To that, I say "noooo, thank you." I am considerably less likely to write ADAGOO with a pencil than to type it on a keyboard. Anyway...this puzzle's got five theme entries, four of them described by the one in the middle, THINGS THAT BREAK. You've got breaking CURVEBALLS, clued in a non-baseball context as [Tricky, unexpected questions]. Except the metaphorical curveball doesn't break the way one thrown by a pitcher does. This one needed a baseball clue, albeit one without the word ball in it. The [Vampire's undoing], DAYLIGHT, KIDS' TOYS ([Stairway hazards, in some homes]), and OCEAN WAVES ([View from the shore]) are three other things that may break. Favorite tidbits: TWO-WAY, or [Involving give-and-take]; [Source of bread, for short] for ATM; and NEWSDESK, or [Bulletin-creating department]. Yesterday's Sun puzzle had SMITHIES and the Truitt puzzle has a [Place with a forge], just one SMITHY.

Continuing the blacksmithiness, Peter Wentz's New York Sun crossword, "Cross References," has an ANVIL, or [Smith's block]. But that's not what the puzzle's about. The theme entries refer to one another in a circular fashion: 17-Across is [What 25-Across has]. What is 25-Across? [What 43-Across has]. Which is what? Well, 43-Across is clued [What 57-Across has]. And 57-Across tells you [What 17-Across has:
FIVE VOWELS (I, E, two O's, and an A) can be found in the phrase NINE CONSONANTS (those nine being THRSLLBLS), which are found in THREE SYLLABLES, and TEN LETTERS has three syllables while also describing what FIVE VOWELS has. I like individual answers that are hyper-literal like this, so an entire theme that works this way is right up my alley. This puzzle is 10-Down (STELLAR).

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Hitting the Sauce," dishes out a feast of Reaglesque puns. Four theme phrases fill up six long spaces in the grid. [Cacao flower?] is MOLE BLOOM, playing on Joyce's Molly Bloom and mole sauce. The [film on sauce that's been refrigerating for a very long time?] is a frosty RIME OF THE / ANCIENT MARINARA. (Although technically, a jar of marinara left in the fridge for a long time after opening is going to sport a moldy rind more than an icy rime.) [Sauce held in safekeeping?] is BANK HOLLANDAISE ("bank holidays"). And the movie Weekend at Bernie's becomes WEEKEND AT / BEARNAISE, [film about a brief sauce-based getaway?]. I especially like the NW and SE corners of the grid, where 9-letter theme entries (or parts thereof) appear in 9x3 stacks.

Francis Heaney's Onion A.V. Club puzzle doubles a letter in each theme entry to good effect. A standard lap dancer gets upgraded with another P: A [Performer accompanied by Finnish folk music?] might be a LAPP DANCER. A [PR problem for a Virginia senator?] is a WEBB MISTRESS, combining Sen. Jim Webb with a female webmaster. [Explanation from one who doesn't care for anal sex?] is "BUTT NOT FOR ME." And mad skills, as in "Yo, Francis gots mad crossword-constructing skills," references Mothers Against Drunk Driving in MADD SKILLS, or [Ability to encourage people to use designated drivers, say?]. Other stuff I liked: SNOWDROP, or an [Early spring flower] that might bloom before crocuses; [Non-goths, to goths] for NORMALS; "WHAT THE..."; and UKRAINE clued with [Country whose name was commonly preceded by "the" before 1991]. Why did we drop the "the" before "Ukraine"?


Allan Parrish's LA Times crossword hitches a ride in a yellow car, with the theme entries beginning with the synonymous TAXI (TAXIDERMIST), CAB (CABINET MEMBER), and HACK (HACKNEYED PHRASE) embedded within longer words. Favorite morsels: HOOPLA crossing MOOLAH; BErSERK ([Destructively out of control]); the always-tasty KIT-KAT bar; and the stack with SARCASM, ONE-A-DAY vitamins, and PBS-pledge TOTE BAGS.

Looking at the title of Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy crossword, "Hang Ten," probably would have sped my understanding of how the theme works. In each theme entry, TEN is tacked onto the end of the first word, with the resulting phrase clued. Comedian Chris Rock is the base phrase for CHRISTEN ROCK, or [Baptize actor Hudson?]. I got bogged down there by thinking of Kate Hudson and Ernie Hudson, not to mention Jennifer Hudson. Actress Bea Arthur takes ten to be BEATEN ARTHUR, the [Defeated leader of the Knights of the Round Table?]. The videogame Pac-Man skews to college football's [Bear or Bruin?] in PAC-TEN MAN. [Young tom's wheel's?] are a KITTEN CAR, but the phrase kit car isn't one I know. Best fill: BOB AND RAY, ME-TOOISM, and EVA PERON.