September 01, 2008

Tuesday, 9/2

NYS 4:30
CS 3:29
LAT 2:42
NYT 2:35
Onion—see next post
Tausig—see next post

Aha! You know when you get through a crossword puzzle and every single square is filled in—correctly, at that—and you have no idea what the theme is? So you read the theme entries aloud, you reread the puzzle's title (if applicable), and wait for that epiphany in which the theme reveals its purpose to you? The "aha" moment held off and then walloped me for both the NYT and NY Sun crosswords this evening.

First up, the puzzle with the more evasive theme, Stan Newman's New York Times crossword. I thought it was really easy, aside from the theme, though I see that the prevailing applet winds don't bear that out. There's a lot of theme material packed in here, five 15-letter answers to be specific. I haven't got time tonight to give a rundown of the nonthematic parts of the puzzle, alas (still have a houseguest...haven't eaten dinner yet...kid starts third grade tomorrow at 8 a.m. and he doesn't wake up that early). It took some staring and reading aloud before the theme jumped out at me:

MANAGINGEDITORS are [Newspaper V.I.P.'s].
PERMANENTMARKER is a [Laundry pen, e.g.]
TENCOMMANDMENTS are the [Exodus 20 subject].
REFERENCEMANUAL is a [User's guide].
MIDDLELOWGERMAN is a [12th-15th century European tongue].

See the MAN going down the stairs through the grid? An odd theme, to be sure, and not one that makes you giggle, but a neat trick all the same.

I drew a blank on the theme in Randall Hartman's New York Sun puzzle, too. The "Look Ma, No Hans!" title couldn't be more obvious, after the fact. And in fact, the theme entries themselves really weren't making it hard to suss out the theme, were they? It may have been just me hitting that snag. Each theme entry is made by deleting a HAN from a familiar phrase:

  • NAH, MONTANA is clued as ["Ain't Helena the capital of Idaho?" reply?]. This one plays on Hannah Montana, the tween TV juggernaut that I have largely escaped.
  • OVER GERMANY is [Like a plane with a view of the Bavarian Alps?]. Hanover, Germany, is a city.
  • DEL'S MESSIAH plays on Handel's "Messiah" and is clued [Deliverer of singer Shannon?].
  • G-MAN'S KNOTS are [Shoelace problems for an FBI agent?]. That's a big change in pronunciation from hangman's knots.

It's a fresh slant on a familiar theme type, with some lively source material and results. I like the quasi-mini-theme (not quite symmetrical) in the Downs—[Divorce alternative] is an ANNULMENT and [Marriage alternative] is a CIVIL UNION.


Donna Levin's LA Times crossword has one of those pop culture themes that's perfectly suited to the LA Times: 67-Down, MDS, is clued [This puzzle's theme involves four TV ones], and the four longest answers begin or end with a famous fictional doctor from TV.
  • Dr. Casey was before my time. He's in CASEY AT THE BAT, the [Poem set in Mudville].
  • Quincy, M.E. wasn't an M.D., but that's OK because I loved the show. He made forensics cool years before CSI came along, and he had to make do without all the technology the CSI's rely on. My cousin is a forensic scientist at the Illinois State Police labs, and she has to make do without much of that technology too. In real life, DNA tests often don't get done until after months of backlog. Anyway—QUINCY MARKET is a [Popular downtown Boston eatery area] I am unfamiliar with.
  • I also like House, though I missed last season. [Sotheby's, e.g.] is an AUCTION HOUSE.
  • Dr. Kildare was also before my time, but a far more familiar name. COUNTY KILDARE is an [Irish region southwest of Dublin].
I finally had a minute to check out the CrosSynergy links Dan (Feyer, I think) posted yesterday (which he had made a note of when Al Sanders posted them earlier this summer). These links won't load a page—they'll just download a file. On my Mac, they download with a filename like csserve.cgi rather than cs080902.puz, but Across Lite opens them as .puz files. If you've missed the last three days of CS crosswords, here are the Washington Post links for them. You might want to copy the link and past it somewhere for future use (just change the date at the end).

today, September 2
yesterday, September 1
Sunday, August 31

Today's CrosSynergy puzzle is a quote puzzle from Patrick Jordan. The [Kin Hubbard quip] is BEING AN OPTIMIST / AFTER YOU'VE GOT / EVERYTHING YOU / WANT DOESN'T COUNT. It's like being a firm believer in pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps when one has worn expensive boots one's whole life. This crossword looks like a pangram (in crossword lingo, a puzzle that contains all 26 letters), with the letters Z, X, J, and K scattered throughout the grid, but there's no Q. Which is fine! Not a problem. We appreciate having some Scrabbly letters to move us out of ERAT/OLEO-heavy territory. Pangrams can be cool, but as Patrick knows, they're not worthwhile unless they can be pulled off without compromises in the fill.