(updated at 7:30 Wednesday evening)
It's a marker of my generation that when I reached the final unifying theme entry in Peter Collins' New York Times crossword, I was perplexed as to how THE BRAT PACK would fit into 10 squares. No, this puzzle isn't hiding '80s stars like Judd Nelson in it—rather, it's THE RAT PACK:
I'm not sure that IT'S A BET, or ["You're on!"], quite qualifies as a piece of crossword fill, but I might say the same about I'M NOT HERE, an evasive [Call to someone answering a phone, maybe], but I like the vibe it evokes. What else is here? Anyone who watched Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in the '70s knows that the [Enemy of a mongoose] is a COBRA. [Patriots' Day time] is APRIL; is this the holiday that the Boston Marathon's tied to? [Mule team?] is the ARMY because the Army team's mascot is a mule (I think). [Something the U.S. government keeps an eye on] is the GREAT SEAL—the reverse side of the Great Seal is where you'll find the unfinished pyramid with the eye on top. [Miraculous Medal figure] is MARY; this medal does not have an eyeball pyramid on its reverse. [Lead-in to pipe or pit] is CESS, and this may violate some people's breakfast tests. [Federal Reserve chief Bernanke] clues BEN.
The theme in Jonathan Gersch's Sun puzzle, "Numerical Rhymes," managed to elude me because I had cryptic crosswords on the brain. I misinterpreted [1988 Joe Keenan novel (2,7)] as dictating an answer consisting of a 2-letter and a 7-letter word, which, duh, wouldn't work for a 10-letter entry. Those numbers are to be pronounced, and the answer words rhyme with the number names: two-seven, BLUE HEAVEN. Here are the other theme entries, all phrases that rhyme with a pair of numbers:
The [Fed head] pops up in the fill here, too, only with his last name, BERNANKE. The Peter Gordon fondness for unusual clues gives us [Aulos relative] for OBOE. Aulos turns out to be an ancient Greek instrument that figures into mythology; read up on it at that Wikipedia link. The fill in this puzzle isn't particularly Scrabbly or fancy, but it's ridiculously smooth and junk-free.
Scott Atkinson's LA Times crossword reimagines assorted spoken phrases as having specific applications in football:
OBAMA is in the grid at 1-Across, clued as ["The Audacity of Hope" author]. I would've gone with Dreams From My Father here, as HOPE appears in the grid with a non-Obama clue, [Clinton's birthplace]. Other geography clues include [Fertile Crescent waterway] for the TIGRIS River; [City on the Ruhr] for ESSEN; [Bluesy Memphis Street] for BEALE; [Florida's ___ Beach] is VERO; [Lebanon's ___ Valley] is BEKAA; and [Grenoble's river] is the YSERE. The [Epitome of hardness] is NAILS—hey, wait a minute, that's not in the Mohs scale! SINATRA gets more crossword attention today, being clued as [Rat Pack leader]. STA takes a break from abbreviating train stations and serves as Spiro T. Agnew's initials; he was a [VP from Md.].
Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Diversion," creates a "di" version of several phrases by adding a DI to the beginning of one word:
Favorite fill: NOOGIE, or [Knuckle rub]. BEALE Street is in this puzzle too, clued as [W.C. Handy's "___ Street Blues"], and the [Rocky peak] called a TOR was also in the LA Times crossword.
I won't get a chance to do the Onion and Tausig puzzles until later today.
Updated Wednesday evening:
Ben Tausig's Chicago Reader/Ink Well crossword, "Soundproof Toilet Humor," actually has nothing to do with potty humor. Rather, the theme entries are based on phrases that include words with a silent P. "Silent P" sounds like "silent pee," which would result from a soundproof toilet. Each silent-P word is replaced by a homophone that lacks the P:
XYZ is clued ["Your fly is open"]. Say what? I think maybe girls don't learn this in grade school the way boys do. Here's a Wikipedia article all about ways to tell someone their fly is open. Interesting morsels in the fill and cluing:
Matt Jones's Onion A.V. Club crossword invites solvers to inaugurate our 44th president into the theme answers—not by inserting OBAMA into them but by adding XLIV (66-Across), which is 44 in Roman numerals.
Lest you think this puzzle is biased in its focus on 44, there's also IRAN clued with the McCain quote ["Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb ___"]. Two entries I don't think I've seen in crosswords before (but have seen in everyday life) are RATED T, or [Suited for high schoolers, on video game packaging], and TAMPAX, a [Stayfree competitor]. Two completely unfamiliar answers intersected in the grid: [Noted Scottish DJ duo, or their home club] is OPTIMO, and IPEX is a [Victoria's Secret wireless bra brand]. (Ladies, don't buy your bras at Victoria's Secret. You can do better somewhere like Nordstrom.)
November 11, 2008