(post updated at 2 p.m. Tuesday)
Lynn Lempel classes up her Tuesday New York Times crossword by including plenty of 6- and 7-letter answers in the fill. Each theme entry adopts an N that changes the phrase's meaning:
I don't know that I've seen RUSHEE before. It's clued as a [Fraternity recruit], but it sounds like a drunkard is trying to pronounce Salman Rushdie's name. I would have preferred the SCALPED clue to reference only tickets, and not tickets plus "Western pioneers." (According to this article, American frontiersmen, the ancient Scythians, and the Visigoths also engaged in scalping.)
Chuck Deodene's New York Sun puzzle, "Woof!", crafts a trio of three-word phrases in which each word can modify dog. [Beset by a feathered swarm?] is UNDER BIRD ATTACK, and underdog, bird dog, and attack dog are all familiar. The [#1 grasslands tour leader?] might be a TOP PRAIRIE GUIDE (top dog, prairie dog, guide dog). And [On a quest for a certain spicy food?] is HUNTING HOT CHILI (hunting dog, hot dog, chili dog). That made me confront my unfamiliarity with the etymology of "hot dog"; it may be that no one knows where the term came from. Joining these three concocted theme phrases is the phrase DOG RUNS—each is a run of three "dogs." Favorite entries in the fill: FLAMBE, DUBYA, KATMANDU, and ECSTATIC.
Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Regular Exercise," puts regular GAS (65-Down) into three theme entries. Actually, the GAS is already inside those phrases—SARATOGA SPRINGS is an [Upstate New York spa], for example, and ALL KIDDING ASIDE and AS STRONG AS STEEL also break GAS between two words. Favorite clues: [Basic ones are over seven] for PHS (pH's); [Clunky dory] for TUB, a shoddy boat; [Sound of one hand clapping?] for SILENCE (so that answers that question...); [Joke or choke] for the noun and verb GAG; [It's breath-taking and inspiring] for a LUNG; [A color purple] for PUCE; [Song sung singly] for SOLO, singly being one less than doubly; [Capital in the middle of Czechoslovakia?] for OSLO; and assorted paired clues (genres, dawn, sesame, float, cold). As so often happens with a Klahn themed puzzle, the fun is in the many askew clues much more than in the theme.
Klahn rhymes with Kahn, as in David Kahn, constructor of today's LA Times crossword. The theme's tied together by [Hip-hop mogul] JAY-Z, and the five (!) theme entries are people's full names that start with J and end with Z. JON LOVITZ was a [1985-'90 49-Across regular] on SNL. JENNIFER LOPEZ is clued as ["Angel Eyes" star], though her best acting work may have been in Out of Sight. Yugoslavia's [Marshal Tito, at birth] was named JOSIP BROZ. JOAN BAEZ was a [Woodstock folk singer, 1969]. And JIM NANTZ is still a [Longtime CBS Sports announcer]. The theme's mostly pop culture, making it a good match for the LA Times (and a good match for my personal preferences). Excellent fill throughout, too, despite the limited options available owing to the six J's and six Z's mandated by the theme. There are even two more Z's and another J (beginning the word puzzles called JUMBLES), for good measure.
Matt Jones's Onion A.V. Club puzzle follows up the British Open with a doubly golf-inflected theme. Four golf terms are divided (or preceded) by the insertion of FORE, another golf term, and the resulting phrase—which involves a compound word starting with fore—is clued with reference to both the original golf phrase and the theme answer. Jack Nicklaus was called the Golden Bear, so GOLDEN FOREBEAR is a [Shining ancestor, or a golf legend's nickname interrupted?]. FORESKINS GAME is [Circumcision diversion, or a type of golf competition interrupted?]. MATCH FOREPLAY stems from match play and is clued as [How amorous firestarters might start the fire, or a golf scoring system interrupted?]. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, has plenty of golf resorts. HILTON FOREHEAD is [What Paris's bangs cover, or a noted golf course interrupted?]. Favorite fill entries/clues: [Fred Flintstone's boss] MR. SLATE; LORENA Bobbitt, who [cut John Wayne from an important part]; [Subject of Falco's biggest hit] for AMADEUS; and the Japanese WASABI and ARIGATO.
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle is the week's toughest so far. The theme provided me with no solving help, as I couldn't make sense out of the theme until after I'd finished the crossword. The title, "Produce Results," really includes the noun produce, not the verb—each theme entry is two kinds of produce, fruits or vegetables, changed to their homophones and clued with reference to the resulting words. Chard and maize give us CHARRED MAZE, or a [Labyrinth, after a blaze?]. A pea and a leek become PEE LEAK, or [Revelation of a public urination charge?]. WRY PAIR, or [Ironic couple?], plays on a pear and...the grain rye? Currants and beets yield CURRENT BEAT, or [Trendy drumming?]. Favorite and/or freshest fill and clues: BEER PONG, or [Popular collegiate "sport" played with balls and cups]; MANHOLE, or [Common gay bar name]; ["WALL-E" love interest] for EVE; DESTRO, the [G.I. Joe villain] I've never heard of; both LL COOL J and RUN DMC; EVEREADY brand batteries; "NO CAN DO"; LON NOL's full palindromic name; the Anti-Defamation League or ADL ([B'nai B'rith rights org.]) opposing NAZISM; and two unfamiliar answers, JALAPA, or [Capital of Veracruz: Var.], and ESG, or ["A South Bronx Story" band].
July 21, 2008