(post updated at 12:30 Friday afternoon)
It's always a treat to have a crossword by Patrick B., isn't it? Yeah, you know who I'm talking about: Patrick Berry. Or Patrick Blindauer. Heck, why not both? That's what we've got on hand tonight, a Sun puzzle by Mr. Blindauer and an NYT from Mr. Berry.
Patrick Berry's New York Times puzzle is a 66-word themeless creation. He has set the bar high for himself with his past work, and as usual he rises to the occasion with a silky smooth crossword. It's almost three crosswords in one, with the northwest and southeast corners almost walled off from the diagonal center zone. In no particular order, my favorite clues and answers:
Other clues of note:
Patrick Blindauer's New York Sun crossword is entitled "Twenty Question Marks." There are three question marks in the grid itself, where pairs of questions cross, and I counted 16 question-marked clues. That makes 19. I don't know if it's correct or not, but mentally I've added a question mark to one of my favorite clues, [Place to get sheets for a song], to get a 20th question mark. (The answer has nothing to do with sheet music—rather, it's a WHITE SALE where you can buy bedsheets for a good price.) Oh! Wait! There it is! It's the big question mark made out of black squares in the center of this asymmetrical 15x16 grid. Wow, there's a lot to talk about with this puzzle. Let's take it paragraphically:
The asymmetry— This crossword is asymmetrical for a good reason: The black question mark isn't a symmetrical beast, and it's a key element of the theme. It doesn't, I find, affect the solving experience one whit to have the grid deviate from symmetry rules.
The theme— The theme includes six questions in the grid, 16 question-marked tricky clues, and that big graphical element. The theme entries are "WHO'S ON FIRST?" crossing "SO?" (Hey, a 2-letter word! Those aren't permitted in standard crossword rules), "WHERE AM I?" crossing "WHEN?", and "WHAT?" crossing "IT IS?". Why and how don't get their moment in the sun.
The fill— Lots of long answers, good 'n' zippy. My favorites are X-RAY VISION, MCGRUFF the Crime Dog, WRITING, KEN STARR beside DULCINEA, ASKS OUT, crossword habitué ANI DIFRANCO's full name, ADAM ANT (the [Musician with the real name Stuart Goddard], not the adjective adamant), a FRAME HOUSE, GENII with that oddball ending double-I, and a SEVEN-IRON (which I didn't know could be called a [Pitcher]). Seeing SODOR, the [Island home of Thomas the Tank Engine], amused me. I wonder if Patrick included that or if Peter Gordon, dad to young kids, rejiggered the fill and added that.
The clues— With all those twisty question-marked clues, you know I enjoyed this puzzle. (I also enjoyed Bonnie Gentry's puzzle, in one of the Simon & Schuster books a year or two ago, in which every clue had a question mark. Anyone know which volume that's in?) My favorites include [Novel activity?] for WRITING; [Short vehicle of the 1980s, for short] for SNL (a vehicle for Martin Short, not a short car); [Small character in Oz?] for the letter ZEE in the word "Oz"; [Bottled spirits?] for GENII in a puzzle that also has bathtub GIN; and [Grind] for WONK, both being roughly synonymous with "studious nerd."
All right, I've got about an hour to solve four puzzles and blog 'em, so I'm going bare-bones here.
The CrosSynergy puzzle, "Final Score," is by Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke. The theme entries end with thingamajigs that may be found on a printed musical score (forgive me if my musical terminology is amiss):
Plenty of terrific fill: BEAM ME UP, ARIZONAN, MOS DEF, AL FRESCO, QUALMS.
Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times puzzle has an insert-OB theme:
Clues of note:
Todd McClary's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Campus Quads," works really well even without its gimmick, as just a good crossword with that trademark Chronicle erudition in the fill and clues. Plus: a TWIX bar. Nummy! I haven't had lunch yet, and now I want candy. The two long theme entries say that hidden within the finished grid are SIX UNIVERSITIES in TWO-BY-TWO SQUARES. I know of YALE and DUKE and RICE, of course, and PACE. ELON is a crosswordese school. I have never heard of LYNN University, though. It's got four letters, so it makes the grade here. That sly bastard McClary managed to place these clockwise-reading school names in exactly symmetrical spots in the grid, which definitely elevates the elegance of the gimmick. I'm wondering if he's got a Yale connection, because ELIS crosses the YALE box.
Favorite fill and clues:
Tracey Snyder's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Long Time No See," docks an initial letter C from one word in each theme entry. [Commands to a dog?], for example, are POINT AND LICK (click), and [Classes for would-be dermatologists?] are RASH COURSES (crash courses). I like a lot of the other theme entries, too—COME IN OUT OF THE OLD is the [Fountain of Youth slogan?], the ODE OF SILENCE (code), FIRST ON TACT (contact), PREGNANCY RAVINGS (cravings).
I'm out of time for blogging now. Enjoy your afternoon!
July 31, 2008