October 01, 2008

Thursday, 10/2

Sun 4:58
NYT 4:34
LAT 3:49
CS 3:15

The New York Times crossword is credited to one Samuel A. Donaldson. Is it that Sam Donaldson? Wikipedia says the ABC News legend's middle name is Andrew so...it could be. The famous Sam Donaldson was depicted in one of my favorite Emily Cureton crossword drawings. Or it could be a different Samuel Donaldson. Either way, it's a good puzzle with a solid theme and deftly triple-stacked 9-letter answers in the fill. The theme's unified by the [Two-time Time Man of the Year], Richard NIXON, and each of four theme entries nixes an ON at the end of a word:

  • BAT TWIRLER (playing on baton twirler) is an [Anxious baseball player at the plate?]. 
  • PICK YOUR POIS (poison) might be a [Sign above a luau buffet?]. Outside of Hawaii, I suspect poi gets more play in crosswords than in conversation—and I like it when a bit of quasi-crosswordese gets promoted to a theme entry.
  • YUK TERRITORY (Yukon) is a [Land of laughs?].
  • BRAIN SURGE (surgeon) is a [Flood of ideas?].

Those corners packed with long answers serve up goodies like AWAY GAMES, or [Road trip events], and SNAKE EYES, a [Loser at the dice table]. Sure, it's taking the easy way out to facilitate the southwest corner with SSSS at 60-Across, but I like the results. I must cavil a bit at the clue for SATURDAYS, [Popular dates for dates]; the 12th is a date, but Saturday is a day. ['80s craze starter] could've been a lot of things (Madonna, MTV, Flashdance...) but here it's Erno RUBIK, the cube guy. This crossword includes two of the A- words I'm fond of, APACE ([Quickly]) and AWRY ([Out of whack]). KEROUAC looks handsome in the grid, too—he's the ["Big Sur" writer, 1962]. I had zero interest in seeing the movie, so ANNA, [Actress Popplewell of "The Chronicles of Narnia"], was new to me. VAS is split into two words, V AS [__ in victory], rather than being kept intact in the VAS [__ deferens].

Tony Orbach's Sun crossword, "Sleeping In," is super-Scrabbly since the theme entries doze off with the insertion of double-Z's:
  • [What you might do if you get a dent from someone who slaps your car's hood while crossing the street?] is BLAME IT ON RIZZO. This combines the gross movie Blame it on Rio (50-year-old Michael Caine with a teenage girl? Ick) with the famous Ratso Rizzo scene in Midnight Cowboy (short clip here). "I'm walkin' here!" An inspiration to pedestrians crossing the street everywhere.
  • JAZZY WALKING is a cool [Cat's means of getting around?]. This one crosses jaywalking with hepcats in the jazz milieu.
  • A [Vertiginous network?] on cable might be the DIZZY NETWORK, playing on the DIY network and dizziness.
  • Remember "freedom fries" from back when jingoists in Congress wanted to express their umbrage at France by lashing out at a snack created in Belgium? Add some frizzy hair and you get FREEDOM FRIZZES, or [Curly hairstyles that aren't oppressed].
Tony worked in some more Z's, plus a Q, two X's, a J, and some K's. Among the Scrabblier non-theme answers are KRAZY KAT, the [George Herriman comic strip]; a SGT. MAJ., or [High-ranking NCO] with only one elitist vowel; and KAZOOS with an incomprehensible-to-me clue, [Mirlitons].


The theme in Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy crossword, "Different Strokes," isn't golf or swimming strokes, but generic tactile stroking:
  • A [Square on a piece of toast] is a BUTTER PAT.
  • The [Classroom favorite] is the TEACHER'S PET.
  • [It's found to the left on a sink] clues the HOT WATER TAP.
  • [One who falls for sob stories] is a SOFT TOUCH.

Favorite entries: MR. ROGERS, who was a [Gentleman in a PBS neighborhood], and OH HENRY, a [Candy bar once promoted to honor "Hank" Aaron]. I'm not sure I get the gist of [Addition to a board, say] for NEW BLOOD. A corporate board?

I came across a link that says today's LA Times crossword is Jonathan Seff's second published puzzle, but I don't recall a previous one. If you're interested in reviews of crossword applications for the iPhone, Google the constructor's name and you'll find plenty. His theme in this puzzle is phrases that can be clued with [Mark], in sort of an inverse way—the theme answers wouldn't customarily make the cut as crossword fill, so it's a clue/answer flip-flop. Each of these four phrases wouldn't be out of place as a clue for MARK: a CLASSROOM RATING, OLYMPIAN SPITZ, a STRIKE OR SPARE on a bowling scorecard, and a SWINDLER'S VICTIM. In the fill, TO ERR gets a clue that isn't ["___ is human..."]—instead, it's ["Better ___ with Pope, than shine with Pye": Byron]. That line is from this loooong satirical poem. Ah, the long lost art of lengthy satirical poetry...