November 16, 2008

Monday, 11/17

Sun 3:18
LAT 3:05
CS 3:04
NYT 2:53

Here's Patrick Merrell's informative pop-up graphic about last night's Simpsons crossword episode.

One cool thing about Paula Gamache is that she's got a knack for making easy Monday crosswords, but she also makes lovely themeless puzzles. Her latest New York Times crossword is one of the former. The theme is all about beseeching, pleading:

  • [Demand legal restitution after injury] is SUE FOR DAMAGES.
  • [Seek compassionate treatment] is BEG FOR MERCY.
  • [What drought victims might do]—or Southern Californians battling wildfires—is PRAY FOR RAIN.
  • [Take unnecessary risks] is ASK FOR TROUBLE. I like that this last one strays from the position of need and heads straight to heedlessness.
In the fill, 18 of the answers have 6 or more letters, so it's not all about 3- to 5-letter words that appear in crosswords again and again. The best parts of the fill include the following: A GASBAG is a [Big talker]; OODLES are [Lots and lots]; PADDING that isn't physical cushioning is an [Expense account no-no]; A LITTLE is [Not too much], and I like the indefinite article here because it feels very "in the language." POINT A, or [Place to begin to connect the dots], was a trickier spot—not an answer that pops up much. SALSA DIP tastes wrong; this [Tortilla chip topper] really wants to be just plain salsa, no "dip." (Hmm, maybe I want to mix up some salsa and cream cheese and make myself a nice salsa dip this evening?) ABAFT is one of those words that non-sailors may know only from crosswords; it means [Rearward, at sea], or towards the aft.

Scott Atkinson's Sun crossword, "A Puzzle About Nothing," has nothing at all to do with the show about nothing, Seinfeld. No, instead, each theme entry begins with a synonym for the puzzle's topic:
[Dick Nixon's nonsweating debate opponent] was JACK KENNEDY.
[Letter number] is a ZIP CODE.
One [Calisthenics exercise] is the SQUAT THRUST.
A [Drink before going to bed?] is a LOVE POTION.
[Tevye portrayer in "Fiddler on the Roof"] is ZERO MOSTEL.
In each case, the "nothing" word stands alone before a second word, so the theme's fairly tight. The fill is mighty Scrabbly for a Monday—the theme entries account for two Z's, a Q, X, and J, and two K's, and outside of those there's another Z and a pair of X's. The Down fill includes two juicy 9-letter answers—swimmer IAN THORPE and some HOT PLATES. Craziest fill: IZZATSO, for ["Really? Sez who?"]. TED gets a current-events clue, [Alaska senator Stevens];it's too bad his whole felony/maybe-or-maybe-not-voted-out thing now overshadows what he used to be most famous for—describing the internet as a "series of tubes" rather than just a truck you dump things on.


I'm too short on time for more than a cursory glance at the day's other two puzzles.

Kurt Mengel and Jan-Michele Gianette's LA Times crossword is another version of a theme we saw elsewhere a week or two ago, with theme entries starting with HOW, NOW, BROWN, COW:
  • HOW DO YOU DO is clued as [Formal greeting].
  • NOW AND AGAIN is [Once in a while].
  • BROWN-BAGGED is [Brought a sandwich to work]—though I would append an "it" to the end of the answer phrase.
  • COW-PUNCHER is [One who's at home on the range].
There are 10 7- and 8-letter answers in the fill—nice touch.

Martin Ashwood-Smith constructed today's CrosSynergy crossword, "Get a Grip." The three theme entries begin with words that more or less mean "grip," and that have ONE'S in the middle of the phrase:
  • HOLD ONE'S HORSES is [Remain calm].
  • CATCH ONE'S BREATH is [Rest].
  • KEEP ONE'S CHIN UP is [Be optimistic].
There are eight longish fill answers, 7 to 9 letters apiece—also a nice touch here.