(updated at 5:25 p.m. Wednesday)
Harvey Estes' New York Times crossword hits the Wednesday sweet spot with an elegant theme, a low word count (72 answers = themeless grade), and colorful fill and clues. 57-Across is OLE, defined as [49-Across, in this puzzle]. 49-Across is THE LAST HURRAH, a [1958 Spencer Tracy film...and a hint to 20-, 30- and 39-Across]. Those three answers all end with a last hurrah, a final olé, and in each one the pronunciation is different:
Here's what I liked best outside of this finely wrought theme;
If you haven't been doing crosswords too long, you might not know that FALA was the name of the [F.D.R. dog], or that a SETA is a [Bristlelike part], such as on a caterpillar.
Alan Arbesfeld's Sun puzzle is called "Catching Some Rays" because each theme entry has some sort of ray or Ray hidden within it:
Did you ever think that NEO CON could possibly be the answer to ["Sweet ___" (2005 Rolling Stones song)]? This came as a complete surprise to me. The song's got a Wikipedia page devoted to it. (Lyrics here.)
Francis Heaney's Onion A.V. Club crossword combines an AEIOU vowel progression theme with an add-some-letters theme with interesting results:
Robert Doll's LA Times crossword contains five theme phrases that mean [Vamoosed]: FLEW THE COOP, MADE TRACKS, GOT OUT OF DODGE, HIT THE ROAD, and TOOK A POWDER. All are idiomatically equivalent as well as making for colorful language. Clues that took some work to get:
[Lou "The ___" Groza, memorable NFL placekicker] is nicknamed The TOE. That's apt, but I'd never heard of him.
[Art from Pompeii?] wants you to return to ancient Pompeii, where Latin, not Italian, was spoken. The noun art in Latin is ARS, as in "ars longa, vita brevis."
[Horse variety?] is GIFT, as in "don't look a gift horse in the mouth."
[Providence athletes] are FRIARS? Really? Both the men's and women's teams are the Friars.
Tom Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Interior Living Quarters," hides four different ABODEs (58-Across) inside the theme entries:
We see HOI in the grid with a "___ polloi" clue plenty, but having POLLOI clued as [Hoi ___ (the masses)] is unusual. Old crosswordese ANIL pops up from time to time; here it's clued as an [Indigo-producing shrub].
The Tausig puzzle will have to wait until after this morning's third grade spectacular at my son's school.
I confess it took me a long time to understand the theme in Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle at all. The title is "The Short List," and here are the theme entries:
So I guess the crossword's called "The Short List" because these phrases build off of five shortened names. I feel old and out of touch having zero familiarity with 40% of 'em.
In the fill, there's a slew of juicy answers. THE VIEW, a DOVE BAR, and STIR-FRY occupy one corner. TV STAR and ACT TWO each have a four-consonant pile-up. GODCAST, a [Neologism for a holy download], is new to me. My dictionary informs me that COMFIT is a dated word—it means [European fruit candy] or, according to that dictionary, a "candy consisting of a nut, seed, or other center coated in sugar." Seeds? Damn near killed me having that M crossing the unknown-to-me M. WARD. BAKR fills in the blank in [Abu ___ (Muslim leader after Muhammed)].
November 25, 2008