(updated at 9:45 Monday morning)
Gail Grabowski constructs quite a few themed crosswords for Newsday, so she's got a knack for making easy crosswords. (This is, the experts say, difficult to pull off.) Her New York Times puzzle presents a TACO TOPPING bar, with CHEESECLOTH ([Open-textured cotton fabric]), ONION DOME (a [Russian church feature]), and SALSA CLUB ([Jazzy Latin dance site]) available. Highlights in this puzzle: SWING SET is a [Backyard apparatus for kids]. YES, SIR is a [Polite affirmation]. This positive puzzle also has SI, SI, or [Senor's "Positively!"]. The verb WOLFS is clued [Scarfs (down)]. And a SNEEZE is an [Allergic reaction].
Sometimes on a Monday, I like to point out all the answers in the fill that beginning solvers need to pay heed to, the sorts of words that appear far more often in crosswords than in life. Guess what? There's very little of that in this puzzle, and that's an impressive feat. We have NIA, which is clued as [Actress Peeples] but can also be actress Long or Vardalos, too. There's an ANODE, or [Battery terminal]. [Completely, after "from"] is the three-word A TO Z, which my cousin complained about the other day—she'd like those multi-word answers to be signaled in the clue. An [F.B.I. agent] is a G-MAN, or government man. And that's pretty much it for anything that can be considered "crosswordese" at all.
Jeremy Horwitz's Sun crossword, "Season Tickets," buys movie tickets to four "season" movies:
This time around, SNEEZE is clued as ["Gesundheit" elicitor]. [Basic ingredient?] refers to the cigarette brand Basic, so the answer is TOBACCO. The excellent entry HARD-NOSED is clued [Stubborn]. I forgot what the [TV network formerly known as Pax] is called now—it's ION.
Pancho Harrison's LA Times crossword contains five Across theme entries that make the cut:
One of the 10-letter Down answers sort of looked like a theme entry—GRINDSTONE, or [Sharpening wheel]—but it's paired with the obviously non-thematic EASY STREET, and grinding is a different action than the more abrupt verbs featured in the theme answers.
There are a couple answers that seem to be used more in crosswords than in conversation. AGUE, a [Flulike symptom], means fever and shivering, and it's a word I learned from crosswords. [Former fast jet, for short] clues SST, or supersonic transport. When the Concordes stopped their transatlantic flights, all the SST clues had to move into the past tense. Didn't we mostly refer to the plane as the Concorde rather than as an SST?
In Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Extra Measures," the theme is a [Quip about entitled people]. I like that the clue sets up a little context for the quip rather than just being a blank [Start of quip] non-hint. The theme entries spell out GIVE 'EM AN INCH / AND ALL OF A / SUDDEN / THEY THINK / THEY'RE RULERS. That 6-letter answer in the middle is made possible by the grid being widened to 15x16—with an odd number of letters across, a centered answer would have to contain an odd number of letters. I giggled to see STELLA clued as [Stanley Kowalski's cry], because I know Ms. Daily is no fan of hearing that famed cry directed at her. There are 14 fill answers that are 7 to 9 letters long; I like the LITIGANT/ATTORNEY crossing, a SWAN DIVE ([Elegant way to enter a pool]), DR. SEUSS, COUGH DROP, and EGG ROLL.
Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "My Heart Belongs to You," has five heart-related theme entries, six 8-letter answers in the fill, and two corners with wide-open white space. The theme entries place their cardiac words in various places, and they're all about music:
Assorted clues and answers: [Capital city near the Pacific] is LIMA, PERU. [Groups with fringe benefits?] are CULTS. [Meat cooked in its own fat, to a chef] is CONFIT; I didn't know that's what the word meant. I never heard of ULTIMA [___ Online (long-running MMORPG)] since I'm not a gamer. [Oscar the Grouch's original color] was ORANGE? I did not know that. [Reznor and Lott, for two] clues TRENTS; I like the dissonance between the two. [Hip name for baby boys] is KADEN; wow, with that sort of clue, the universe of "acceptable crossword answers" expands vastly. I'd complain, but I like Matt's ambitious corners of white space. [Some VCR models] clues SANYOS; I just read that Panasonic and Sanyo are merging, and I really hope they create a portmanteau name like Panasanyo, Sanyosonic, or Panyo.
November 09, 2008