August 24, 2008

Monday, 8/25

Jonesin' 4:45
CS 3:13
NYS 2:52
NYT 2:30
LAT 2:25

(updated at 2:20 p.m. Monday)

The Monday New York Times crossword hits the Monday sweet spot—nice and easy, with an accessible letter-progression theme of phrases that sound great together (the P and K sounds are inherently entertaining). Andrea Carla Michaels and Michael Blake teamed up to give us:

  • PACK A PUNCH means [Be very potent].
  • The PECKING ORDER is [Social hierarchy].
  • The PICK OF THE LITTER is the [Very best puppy or kitten].
  • POCKET CHANGE means [Miscellaneous coins].
  • PUCKERED UP is clued with [Got ready to kiss].

All this makes me want to say "Peter Piper packed a punch when picking a peck of puckered-up peppers. Then he purchased a pack of Pocky Sticks." My favorite fill mostly revisits the P and K: STUNK and SKIMPY, a PONZI scheme ([Kind of scheme that's fraudulent]), POPS and PUTTS.

Mark Feldman's New York Sun crossword, "Military Medicine," has an elegant but still easy theme: phrases that begin with a military rank and describe something related to medical care.
  • GENERAL HOSPITAL is a generic term as well as a [Long-running ABC soap].
  • MAJOR OPERATIONS include [Open-heart surgeries, e.g.].
  • PRIVATE PRACTICE also gets a pop-culture clue, ["Grey's Anatomy" spinoff], but doubles as a generic term.
Favorite entries: POP-UP AD, Christopher MELONI (only because it gives me a chance to call him a Fanelli boy), BELARUS and NEBULAS sharing six of their letters, and gaping MAWS.


Paula Gamache packs her CrosSynergy puzzle, "E-ZPass," with five theme entries (each containing EZ welding together two words) and a slew of 7-letter answers in the fill. The STRIKE ZONE is a [Pitcher's target]. WOWIE ZOWIE is an [Expression of glee]. EMILE ZOLA, whose writing is stark and richly detailed, is clued as the ["J'accuse" author]. The [Traditional marmalade ingredient] is ORANGE ZEST; I'm partial to this answer. [1960s group who sang "She's Not There"] is THE ZOMBIES. WOWIE ZOWIE and THE ZOMBIES make this a fun theme, don't they?

I liked a lot of the clues and fill here (and it's only Monday!). My favorites:
  • The IPHONE was [Time magazine's 2007 Invention of the Year].
  • Two timely answers are the NOMINEE, a [Convention VIP], and ORATE, or [Give a keynote address], which will be done at the Democratic convention by...Mark Warner? Wow, I don't know anything about him.
  • [Like some soap] is ON A ROPE. I haven't seen soap-on-a-rope in years, but there is, of course, a web retailer specializing in it.
  • "SAYS WHO?" is equivalent to ["And what's your source?"].
  • RESIZE looks like a junky add-a-prefix entry, but if you've ever had to [Make smaller or larger, in Photoshop] or another image editing program, it's a familiar word. Heck, who hasn't RESIZEd a browser window a zillion times?
  • [What heirs split] evokes "splitting hairs," but it refers to ESTATES.
  • I like that FEELERS is clued as [Trial balloons], but I would have liked it as bug antennae too.

David Cromer's LA Times crossword was so easy, I filled in all four theme answers immediately after filling in 5- to 8-Down. The theme entries are plural nouns that begin with a man's nickname:
  • BOBBY PINS are [Hair holders].
  • BILLY CLUBS are [Beat walkers' sticks], as in the police beat.
  • TEDDY BEARS are [Furry carnival prizes].
  • TOMMY GUNS were [Prohibition era weapons].
I wonder if I could have finished the puzzle even faster if I'd gone back to the top after entering the theme answers, rather than navigating my way up from the bottom. Is top-down solving markedly more efficient?

Updated again:

Matt Jones's newest Jonesin' crossword, "Flippin' Sweet," has three theme entries of different lengths, so the grid has left/right symmetry. It took me a while with my head flipped over to understand the theme clues:
  • INVERT SUGAR is [Je9ns]. Flipped upside down, everything's in reverse order. Viewed upside down, s is still s. n flips to look like a u. Upside-down 9 looks sort of like a capital G if you squint. (If it had been 6 instead of 9, the upside-down version would look like a lowercase g.) e upside down looks sort of like a typographical a. And a sans serif J inverts to a sketchy r
  • APPLE TURNOVER is clued [aldde]. The a and e invert to become one another. d flips to p, and l is pretty much the same either way.
  • UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE is [sa>le)]. a and e swap directions. The greater than l part has to be flipped and squeezed together, with the l and less than resembling a K. The ) flips to be (, which is a shallow C shape.

Sweet! If you didn't notice, the three theme entries all describe the reversal aspect. Can you imagine if the clues and answers had been swapped? Would you ever come up with Je9ns or sa>le) as an answer for a straightforward-looking clue? The theme's complemented by zippy fill—YUPPIE, SQUAWK, YAKUZA, ELWOOD from Blues Brothers—and clues. My favorite, for its '80s musical nostalgia, is [They're pulled from the shell, in a Squeeze song title] for MUSSELS.