November 02, 2008

Monday, 11/3

Sun 3:18
CS 3:04
LAT 2:53
NYT 2:46

(updated at 7:40 Monday morning)

'Tis the season for snarky political crosswords, and over at the Sadly, No! blog, Dave Macleod has posted a crossword called "Pull No Political Punches." (You can download a PDF there.) As Dave explains in a comment there, "The intent was to get as many Republican-bashing words and clues as possible without pushing it and getting stupid." Fun puzzle, Dave!

The New York Times crossword by Susan Gelfand has a fresh and fun theme. Four famous people whose last names double as verbs (and triple as nouns) take an S on the end to make grammatically correct two-word sentences:

  • EMILY POSTS corresponds to the clue, [Etiquette expert writes messages online?].
  • [Singer speculates?] clues STEVIE WONDERS.
  • WINSLOW HOMERS is the sports headline that means [Artist clears the bases?].
  • [Actress searches?] clues HELEN HUNTS.
I think this is Ms. Gelfand's newspaper crossword debut, and I hope she's been cooking up more themes for us. I like the theme here, plus the fill is a bit Scrabbly (three X's, some K's) and includes some interesting longer words. To SKYDIVE is to [Jump from a plane]. A [Bobbysoxer's hangout] was the MALT SHOP (with the terminal HOP, I wanted this to be a SOCK HOP, but that wasn't fitting. TASMANIA is [One of the six states of Australia]; I think I can name three others. (Left out South Australia and Western Australia.)

Alan Arbesfeld's Sun crossword, "Breezy Tunes," is elegantly built around an album I've never heard of. [1990 Roscoe Mitchell album (and this puzzle's theme)] is SONGS IN THE WIND. Roscoe Mitchell is an avant garde jazz saxophonist. There are also some songs whose titles end with the words "in the Wind," and these figure into the other three theme entries:
  • BLOWIN' YOUR MIND, the [1967 Van Morrison album with the hit "Brown Eyed Girl"], suggests Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind."
  • The [Weapon in the game Clue], the CANDLESTICK, prefigures "Candle in the Wind," the Elton John song about Marilyn Monroe (later reworked to honor Princess Diana).
  • Brand-name [Cordless cleaners] that vacuum small areas are DUSTBUSTERS. Kansas had a hit with "Dust in the Wind." Who doesn't have a soft spot for rock ballads?
This puzzle seemed to have a little more pedestrian fill than most Sun crosswords. ATILT and ASTIR, ESAU and EDAMS? It's also got MR. CHIPS, though, and some BAGELS; and MILO is clued as [___ Bloom (character in "Bloom County")]. If it's possible to have a crush on a comic strip character, I just might've had a teenage crush on young MILO Bloom.


Boy, I had no idea what the theme was in Tracey Snyder's LA Times crossword until the last theme answer explained it all. What do TWO-WHEELER ([Bike, e.g.]), THREE-PIECE ([Like suits with vests]), and TWELVE-STEP ([Like some rehab programs]) have in common? What unifies 2, 3, and 12? Turns out they're CRAPS LOSERS ([What the start of 17-, 32- or 38-Across is on your first roll]). I'll bet John McCain knows that, but I've never played craps.

This puzzle's got some answer words that appear more often in crosswords than in American life. There's the [Long poem] called an EPOS. ECLAT is [Brilliant success]. ESSE is [To be, in old Rome] (meaning in Latin). There's Scottish "no," NAE, clued as ["Sorry, laddie"]. Then we have the ever-popular (in crosswords and the Summer Olympics) EPEES, [Fencing swords]. If these ones gave you trouble, study up—you'll be seeing them again in your puzzles.

Tom Schier's CrosSynergy crossword, "Gridiron Scores," presents four phrases with T.D. initials. TD'S (20-Across), of course, are touchdowns in football. There's the TITANIC DISASTER (aww), a TARGET DATE, TAXI DRIVER clued as merely a [Cabby] and not as the movie, and a TONGUE DEPRESSOR. SINGLE MOM ([Parent's status, perhaps]) is excellent fill.

Like today's LA Times crossword, this one's got some crosswordy words that it behooves a beginning solver to learn. ESAU, the [Twin in Genesis], is one of the most common Biblical names appearing in crosswords. Why? Three vowels plus an S. ENOS, clued here as [Nephew of Abel], is also a frequent visitor. OREM is clued as [Utah's fourth-largest city]; there's also a Russian city called OREL to keep straight in your head, and both pop up from time to time in puzzles. IN REM is a [Legal phrase]; there's an entire vocabulary of Latin words and legal terms that appear in crosswords, though this particular one isn't that common. An ALB is a [Vestry vestment], something a priest might wear. If it's a 3-letter ecclesiastical garment, always try ALB first. ASTI, the [Fizzy wine, familiarly], is Asti spumante from Italy; Asti is a place name. EROSE means [Jagged] rather than just eroded; ERODE is also a popular crossword answer. [Elevator pioneer Elisha] OTIS is a regular around these parts ("these parts" being in the white squares).