(post updated at 10:40 Monday morning)
All right, let's get this out of the way right up front. 6-Down in Oliver Hill's New York Times crossword is BARYON, the [Subatomic particle made of three quarks] that I've never heard of and am much surprised to see parked in a Monday puzzle. The theme? It's phrases that end with -anners:
WEEKLY PLANNERS are [Books for jotting down appointments].
CAT SCANNERS are [Hospital imaging devices].
POOR MANNERS include [Burping and slurping in public]. In private? Totally fine. Have at it.
PROTEST BANNERS are [Places for antiwar slogans], among other things. A syndication-delay solver e-mailed me today and mentioned a Bay Area friend had chopped up a fallen tree and put up a sign in the front yard reading FREE FIREWOOD. A neighbor asked who Firewood was and why he'd been imprisoned. *rim shot*
This crossword had some lovely entries, including IWO JIMA ([1945 battle site with a flag-raising]); the CY YOUNG [Award won by Roger Clemens seven times]; and Ralph ELLISON, who wrote "Invisible Man." ONER is a boring only-in-crosswords word, sure, but I like the clue, [Lollapalooza]. The music festival of the same name took place in Chicago this weekend, and I heard about 90 seconds of Kanye West's show while driving by on Lake Shore Drive tonight. That Lollapalooza ties in with the general rock vibe, in FOO Fighters, the Sex Pistols' PUNK, and NEIL Young. DIRK clued as a [Dagger] seems like a bit of a stretch for Monday solvers, but the sooner they learn to associate those two words, the better they'll be at future crosswords. I wasn't crazy about NETSURF, clued as [Cruise around the Web]—not sure who uses that term—or OW OW. At least ["Man, that hurts!"] meshes with OW OW, which at first I thought was going to be yet another NYT usage of OWIE as an interjection rather than a noun meaning "boo-boo."
The New York Sun puzzle by Bill Weber (Debut? If so, good going!) is A-OK. The "Doubly Approved" theme includes three phrases that contain OK twice. BY HOOK OR BY CROOK means [In any way possible]. COOKING THE BOOKS is [Falsifying financial records]. And my personal favorite, the OKEFENOKEE SWAMP, is a [Southeastern wetland]. The non-themed fill is superb. TCHOTCHKE! A spelling test, a fun word to say aloud, and a [Cheap trinket] all rolled up into one. I didn't know what SCOTCH EGGS ([British breakfast foods]) were until I looked it up—a shelled hard-boiled egg enrobed in sausage and bread crumbs and then deep-fried. Cholesterol, yum. MUMBAI is what we call the city of Bombay now. BIOPIC advances from its supporting role in crossword clues to a lead role as an answer. And there's a MOTORDROME, or [Track for a car race].
Clocking in at roughly a Thursday level in a sea of Mondays is Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle for this week. The answers in the "Size Matters" theme are oversized things that rely on their size for their effect: a NOVELTY CHECK along the lines of the Ed McMahon/Publishers Clearinghouse checks, CLOWN SHOES (which puts me in mind of this Rolling Stone article about speaking in tongues and fictional alcoholic clown fathers), a giant FOAM FINGER as seen at sports stadiums, and a MONSTER TRUCK ("Truckasaurus!"). One thing I like about the Jonesin' puzzles is their openness to language as spoken informally. Here we have POOF UP, clued as [Fluff out, like hair or a sleeve], and YUCKY, or [Full of bad taste?]. There's also pop culture—Michael URIE of Ugly Betty, MONGO from Blazing Saddles. And current events—Nancy PELOSI. And a little bit of naughtiness—MOONED is clued [Made an ass of oneself?].
Doug Peterson's LA Times crossword has an exemplary theme—that is, a theme in which three phrases begin with synonyms for exemplary. PERFECT BINDING is the [Technique used to make paperbacks] and magazines like Vanity Fair; the New Yorker's an example of saddle-stitched binding. IDEAL BODY WEIGHT is a [Goal for many dieters]. And MODEL AIRPLANES [may be flown by hobbyists]. In the fill, ESPRESSO ([Trattoria beverage]) delivers a jolt of caffeine. Also lending pep are the words with letters like X, K, and J—MEXICALI, the [Capital of Baja California]; XENA, [TV heroine with a sidekick named Gabrielle]; more coffee, [Joe in a cup] for JAVA; KAREEM Abdul Jabbar, [Laker teammate of Magic]; and JAWS, [Shark flick]. [Very good grade] is A MINUS, which looks like the mystifying AMINUS in the grid.
The quip in Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy crossword, "And Tomorrow...?", occupies four full rows of the grid (with a single black square in each of those rows). FOREVER IS / A VERY/ LONG TIME INDEED / BUT SHORTER THAN / IT WAS / YESTERDAY. I don't care for the 5-letter chunks split off, because I forgot they existed and read it as "Forever is a very long time indeed but shorter than yesterday," and that made no sense at all. If there are GONNA ([Sondheim song "We're ___ Be All Right"]) be short theme entries, I want more payoff than a quip. Clues that may vex crossword newbies:
August 03, 2008