October 05, 2008

Monday, 10/6

Jonesin' 4:16
NYT 3:10 (but about 30 seconds of that were eaten up by discovering I needed the Enlarge Grid option)
Sun 2:57
CS 2:57
LAT 2:56

My, my, that's not a square grid at all, that New York Times crossword by Patrick Blindauer. The grid is 24 squares wide and 9 squares high, about the size of American currency, and has left/right symmetry. The theme entries all have to do with the DOLLAR (8-Across), or the [Source of all the tender words in this puzzle?]. I could do without that little bit of "legal tender" wordplay, but I suppose the added hint is appropriate for a Monday puzzle. In each corner, there are three circled squares, and ONE is spelled out there. The other theme entries are phrases or images found on a DOLLAR bill:

  • 26-Across, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, is [8-Across issuer].
  • 35-Across is IN GOD WE TRUST, the [Motto of 26-Across found on the 8-Across].
  • 53-Across is one [Symbol of 26-Across found on the 8-Across], the GREAT SEAL.
  • 58-Across is another symbol of 26-Across found on the 8-Across], a BALD EAGLE. The currency I have handy is a 2003 $2 bill, which lacks an eagle. Let's see...okay, there's the eagle on the right side of the back of the $1 bill.
Hey, guess what?

The circled ONEs and all the other theme components aside from the descriptive DOLLAR appear in the grid in pretty much the same relative positions as on the actual dollar bill. Isn't that nifty? Good execution of a cute idea, Patrick.

To get the new Sun crossword, visit Will Johnston's calendar page. We're awaiting word on the mechanism to subscribe, so if you're not planning to pay $12 or so for a half year of Sun crosswords, I don't want you to download the Monday puzzle. Or if you do download it, I want you to feel bad about yourself and atone by subscribing after all. The puzzle is by Donna Levin, and the title is "Orange Zest." (Hello!) There are four theme entries that start or end with a variety of orange:
  • A [Hematologist's test] is a BLOOD COUNT, and blood oranges have deep red flesh.
  • That [Rossini opera, with "The"] is BARBER OF SEVILLE. The Seville orange is also called the sour orange, bitter orange, or bigarade. It's good for marmalade.
  • MANDARIN COLLARS are [Features of Dr. Evil's apparel]. Dr. Evil is one of Mike Myers' characters in the Austin Powers movies, and I loved canned mandarin oranges as a kid.
  • The FUZZY NAVEL is a [Peachy cocktail], and navel oranges are probably a staple in your local grocery store.
The grid is crisscrossed with a lot of 8-letter answers just for the heck of it. FIRE ANTS are [Stinging insects]. FAD DIETS are [Trendy weight-loss plans]. [Boy toys?] are KEN DOLLS. My favorite entry, though, is HELL NO, the [Emphatic denial]. There are a couple X's in the fill, including one in STYX. That one's clued as the ["Mr. Roboto" rock band], and I gotta tell you, that video is unwatchable.

Sun update: Peter Gordon reports: "This week is free so everyone can find it. No need to feel guilty. Subscriptions start 10/13 (assuming we get it all worked out before then)."


Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy crossword, "Apple Cores," places a MAC in the middle of the grid (31-Down, [Core of this puzzle]) and in the exact middle of the three theme entries:
  • [Fictional H.G. Wells device] is a TIME MACHINE.
  • HAROLD MACMILLAN was the [British Prime Minister 1957-1963].
  • The PANAMA CANAL is an [Important shipping route opened in 1914].
The tightest version of this theme would have all three embedded MACs starting a word or all three split across two words. The version we have splits one and keeps two intact. If you are a solver and not a constructor, is that sort of inconsistency something you notice? If you do notice it, does that inconsistency lower your opinion of the theme? My guess is that the vast majority of solvers don't notice and wouldn't mind the variance if they did notice it.

I like the southwest and northeast corners of the grid, with the 8/9/10 stack. ELEMENTAL PAKISTAN POLE VAULTS sound like they could be something, but then I'm no sports expert.

Jack McInturff's LA Times crossword could be entitled "P.R. Firm," as each theme entry is a phrase consisting of two words both starting with PR, and they have a business vibe to them: [Lots with ocean views, usually] are PRIME PROPERTY. [Self-employment, as for a doctor or lawyer] is PRIVATE PRACTICE. And a PRINTING PRESS was a [Gutenberg creation]. That middle theme entry is chained to the top and bottom ones by 8- and 9-letter answers, so there's some structural challenge to this construction.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword this week is a themeless puzzle called "No Theme For You!" I hadn't heard of actor Hakeem KAE-Kazim of Hotel Rwanda, but I got the crossings and never even saw that clue. In the lower left corner, there was one crossing that made me eyes cross: [One of the four players in "Gauntlet"] is an ELF, and I have no idea what that reference is all about. The E appears in Tim BERNERS-LEE, [British scientist Tim credited with inventing the World Wide Web]. Hmm, I missed hearing about him. The grid's unusual, with that 1/2/3/4-Across chunk consisting of an 7/7/11/3 layout. But look at the interlock of the longer answers: CHICKEN VINDALOO ([Spicy non-vegetarian Indian dish]) crosses two 10-letter triple-stacks and that 11 in the middle, and the left and right sides have staggered 11-letter answers brushing up against one another. Favorite entries: I FEEL SO OLD, TV cooking guy ALTON BROWN, an indoor-playground BALL PIT, and Atlanta's TURNER FIELD.