(updated at 9:30 Friday morning)
Hooray! The Cubs beat Milwaukee this afternoon in a dramatic 12 innings. There were some pessimists who gave up and went home when the Cubbies were down 6-2 in the ninth, and they missed a good time.
Alex Boisvert's New York Times crossword includes a timely mini-theme, and how often is a Friday NYT puzzle specifically timely? Hardly ever. The two 15's that cross in the center are TALK LIKE A PIRATE Day (September 19) and SHIVER ME TIMBERS, or ["Well, I'll be!," as it might be said on September 19]. I do not understand the appeal of Talk Like a Pirate Day, but I know certain people work themselves into a lather over it each year. Aargh? Whatever.
This puzzle is easy-peasy, as far as themelesses go, but still loaded with great fill. For example:
The crossings gave me what I needed for [Meyerbeer output], which is good because OPERAS was far from the tip of my tongue. And the [Hindu drink of the gods], AMRITA—that one also came from the crossings.
Tom Heilman's New York Sun "Weekend Warrior" is not too fearsome as WW crosswords go, but a good bit harder than the NYT...especially with entries like COTOPAXI, the [Volcano of Ecuador]. And FONTAL clued question-markedly with [Springy?], as in springs of water being fonts. Favorite entries:
In a freaky coincidence, both the Sun and NYT crosswords contain LATE PASS as an answer—the Sun clue is [Gym entrance requirement, sometimes] while the Times has [Student excuser].
Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword forced me to bide my time and wait for the light to go on. I thought I had 1- through 4-Down right, but that made the beginning of the first theme entry start with SDDO. Say what? Turns out four of the theme entries went AGAINST THE GRAIN—[Rebelliously, perhaps (and a hint to this puzzle's four theme answers)]. Backwards!
All four theme entries mean "against the grain," and they all travel against the grain too. I like the backwards crossword action a lot. Now, some of the crossings for these backwards answers might not be totally obvious to a solver who hasn't sussed out the backwards aspect, which could make it tough to finish. MACAU, or [Former Portuguese colony in China, to the Portuguese], crosses two theme entries. So does AUDRA [McDonald of "Private Practice"]. [Truth or consequences] clues the word NOUN. [Lucy's "Ally McBeal" role] is LING. [1964 Civil Rights Act creation] is the EEOC. A [Slip cover?] is a DRESS, although hardly any younger women wear slips these days.
Rich Norris's CrosSynergy crossword is called "Lint Trap" because each theme entry contains the word LINT split across two or more words. [Solve a crossword, e.g.] is FILL IN THE BLANKS. CRIMINAL INTENT is the [Subtitle of the second "Law & Order" spin-off]. [Ironically, it's the larger of the two] refers to the SMALL INTESTINE, which is skinnier but much longer than the large. Something that has [Broad appeal] is of GENERAL INTEREST. The fill includes a METEORIC rise beside ESCHEWS; the Italian "thank you," or GRAZIE; and the [Archie Bunker expletive] "AW, GEEZ."
John Lampkin's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Writers' Courses," plays with writers' names and food and drink. [What the writer of "Charlotte's Web" chose for an aperitif?] is WHITE WINE (E.B. White). Francis Bacon joins the game with [What the writer of "The New Atlantis" chose for an entree?]—a BACON BURGER. LAMB CHOPS are [What the writer of "Essays of Elia" chose for the main course?]; Charles Lamb wrote under the name Elia (common crossword fill). Jack LONDON BROIL is [What the writer of "White Fang" chose for a meat course?]. And for dessert, [What the writer of "Cantos" chose for dessert?] is Ezra POUND CAKE. My goodness, that meal is a heart attack in the making. No veggies, no salad, no sides? Just three kinds of meat, wine, and cake? Ambitious fill, with more than 20 6- and 7-letter answers, including my favorite, HANGDOG ([Shamefaced]). There are plenty of high-end answers, such as ESDRAS, [Name shared by two Apocrypha books].
Yet another Wall Street Journal crossword that's easier than they used to be—Mike Shenk, if you're reading, can you let us know if it's merely chance that the last few WSJ puzzles have been fairly easy, or if it's a purposeful easing up? Dan Fisher's "Front-Runners" theme places a POL at the front of seven phrases to change their meaning completely. My favorite was POLYESTER YEAR, clued as [1976, when leisure suits were most popular?]. The other theme entries are:
September 18, 2008