(updated at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday)
Man, oh, man. I am beat. There's nothing like having your car towed after remedying the reason you got a parking ticket. Should they have towed it? Certainly not. Does the city need the revenue? Apparently. It's the least I can do to help out. But your kid's bedtime is hardly the optimal time to load up the family in a borrowed car to visit the auto pound.
Yeah, so I didn't enjoy Edward Safran's New York Times crossword one bit, but I believe it's my overwrought state of mind and not the puzzle that's at fault. Is this Mr. Safran's constructing debut? I do not recognize the name. The theme is cinematic men who ___, clued by actor and year:
Answers that didn't come so quickly to mind:
In the New York Sun, Jeremy Horwitz provides a trivia theme in his crossword, "Reading for a Bit Part"—there are three semi-recent movie adaptations of novels in which the novel's author had a bit part. The [1989 film in which author Stephen King plays a minister] is PET SEMATARY. I never read the book or saw the movie, so I don't know why it's Sematary and not Cemetery—but how fun to have a crazy misspelling featured in a crossword. The [1999 film in which John Irving plays a stationmaster, with "The"] is CIDER HOUSE RULES. I read that, and found off-putting the fact that a character's name was spelled "Melony." The [1996 film in which author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. plays a sad man on the street] is MOTHER NIGHT. I probably read this in high school, and I have no spelling-related comments on it. The corners of Jeremy's puzzle contain triple-stacks of 8-letter answers and quadruple-stacked 6's. Included in those bricks of white space are many lively entries, such as a LAVA LAMP, CALAMARI, TRINIDAD, and ZEALOT.
I had no idea what Robert Doll's LA Times crossword theme was when I had GARLIC PRESS ([Implement used on cloves]) and SETTING SUN ([Much-photographed phenomenon]) in the grid. I may have also had EARLY TIMES, [Maker of the Official Mint Julep of the Kentucky Derby], without noticing it was also a theme entry. Then I reached 63-Down, [What you might get from the ends of this puzzle's six longest answers], with N*** in place. The Sun! A beloved source of a crossword puzzle! Newspapers! Aha! The other three phrases hiding newspaper names are the [Marlene Dietrich trademark], a HUSKY VOICE; [Oscar's cousin], the GOLDEN GLOBE award; and the [Fort Knox entrance, for one], a SENTRY POST. Not only are there six theme entries here, but some of them manage to intersect. Hey, a question for you constructor types: Do the four squares that form ell shapes (after 1-Across, above 38-Down, and those squares' opposites) all count as "cheater squares"? And why exactly are cheater squares frowned upon?
Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Yo-Ho-Ho!", serves up four kinds of [Mixed drink with rum], the old-time sailor or pirate's liquor of choice (hence the crossword's title). The drinks are the PINA COLADA, BEACHCOMBER, BAHAMA MAMA, and TOM AND JERRY. I've never had any of them, but daiquiri is too short to fit into this theme. Favorite clues: [Pained expression?] for OUCH and [Fault line?] for OOPS. There's some Scrabbly fill, such as QUENCHED and ZONKS. My favorite fill's not the Scrabbly stuff, though. DUST-UPS are [Quarrels], and a delicious CANDY BAR is a [Vending machine buy, perhaps]. I did take a wrong turn with that last one—I followed the CAN part with OF POP, which I also would have liked to see in the grid.
Ben Tausig was on the schedule for this week's Onion A.V. Club crossword, which took me quite a bit longer than the day's other puzzles. Is it really that hard, or did I fall off Ben's wavelength this morning? Each of the five theme entries has a short word in which the first two letters have been transposed, altering a phrase's meaning:
Favorite fill: UPCHUCK, or [Hurl]; YES'M; CROSS-DRESS, or [Reverse one's gear?]; and ANARCHY, or [Political state whose symbol often appears in Wite-Out]. Favorite clues: [Private addressee] is your DIARY, and not someone in the military addressed by a private. [Note below an F?] looks like a music class, but it's the teacher's notation, "SEE ME." There were plenty of clues that forced me to use the crossings because I had no idea what they were. [Bret and Jemaine of "Flight of the Conchords," e.g.] are a DUO. [___ de Beber (Antonio Carlos Jobim classic)] is AGUA. (Does that mean "water to drink"?) ELO is a [Chess rating system named for its creator]? I haven't heard of it, but the Electric Light Orchestra? Oh, yes. [Bassist Palladino] is named PINO.
Ben Tausig's other puzzle, the Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword called "Number Two," posits some punny tag lines that could've been used in commercials about vice presidential candidates in 2004 and 2008. Four years ago, it was Bush/Cheney vs. Kerry/Edwards, so ["Dick Doesn't Just Lobby for the Tobacco Companies--He's a Client" (rejected campaign ad, 2004)] is CHENEY: SMOKER (playing on "chain smoker"), and ["John: Model Citizen" (rejected campaign ad, 2004)] EDWARDS TO LIVE BY (words to live by). The current campaign pits Obama/Biden against McCain/Palin, so ["Now More Than Ever: Joe" (rejected campaign ad, 2008)] is BIDEN: HIS TIME (biding his time), and ["How Does Sarah Stack Up?" (rejected campaign ad, 2008)] is PALIN COMPARISON (pale in comparison). Say what you will about the ugliness of modern American electoral politics—at least they spare us terrible puns. Surrounding the theme entries are a bunch of lively answers with fun clues. There's PIPE DOWN, the N.Y. JETS, WASABI, and KNOWNS (I had GIVENS). DIEBOLD fills in the blank in ["___ Accidentally Leaks Results of 2008 Election Early" (Onion headline)]. BRYANT gets away from college football, with [Plus-size retailer Lane ___]. I am confused about one thing, though—why is AGA clued [Indian tourist destination]? That clue seems better suited to AGRA than AGA.
September 16, 2008