December 22, 2008

Tuesday, 12/23

Jonesin' 12:49
CS 9:19
NYT 7:41
Sun 6:28
LAT 5:14

(Updated at 10:45am Tuesday)

Joe Krozel's New York Times crossword is, well, it's, in a word ... awesome. It's a Thursday puzzle dressed up (or maybe dressed down) to look like a Tuesday puzzle. Or maybe it's just a Tuesday puzzle in a Thursday puzzle's grid. I would have liked this theme a lot on Thursday, but the fill was definitely Tuesday level. Should I stop babbling about the days of the week and get to the specifics already? If you haven't figured out the theme yet — and I'm guessing there are a few people out there who haven't — you might want to sit down because this is going to blow your mind.

The puzzle is symmetrical. No, not just the grid. The letters in the grid. Check it out: TED at 1 Across in the northwest corner mirrors DET at 72 Across in the southeast corner. And, yeah, keep going. It works through the Whole. Damn. Puzzle. I don't care who ya are, that's impressive. Nicely done, Joe. (Is it okay if I call you Joe? How about Krozie?)

Obviously, with the restrictions posed by the theme, some of the fill is going to be iffy, but I'm just going to let it go because the symmetry is so very cool. I'm not going to say much about this puzzle. But you should take the time that you would typically spend reading my commentary and admire the puzzle some more. I'll just tell you the one thing that made me laugh while I was solving. What does it say about me that when I saw the clue [Eat by candlelight, say] I thought of a power outage and not, ya know, a romantic dinner. Sheesh!

Whoa! Complicated theme and "A Flurry of Activity" in Brent Sverdloff's Sun crossword today! The four letters in the corners of the grid — W, O, S, and N — are circled, as is the letter R in the center of the grid. The notepad explains that the five circled letters can be arranged to form a word that rhymes with the first part of the starred clues. That word is SWORN. In addition, the four letters in the corners can be arranged to form a word that can precede the second part of the starred clues: SNOW. So here we go. Starred clues are:

  • [Bald car parts] = WORN TIRES
  • [Builder of an immense domed nest of twigs] = THORNBIRDS
  • [Basic breakfast cereal] = CORN FLAKES
  • [Admiral in C. S. Forester novels] = HORNBLOWER
In retrospect, the theme is kind of cool. It didn't help me at all while solving though. I looked at the instructions on the notepad and decided it was too complicated and I'd figure it out later. I did like quite a bit of fill in this puzzle though:
  • I had no idea that [Moisturizer brand] Oil of Olay shortened its name to OLAY in 1999. Where have I been?
  • I also didn't know that SOUFFLE means [Literally, "puffed up"], although that certainly makes sense.
  • Did you know that those little decorations people put in their CROCS are called Jibbitzes? Here's the thing about Crocs. Most people seem to have very strong feelings about them. They either go on and on ... and on and on about how comfortable they are, or, on the other hand, they think they're just above the plaid shirt on the Style Scale. Me? I have a pair that I wear when I have to run outside for a minute but wouldn't care to be caught dead wearing them anywhere else.
  • [Many PTA volunteers] are MOMS. I thought they were "Type A, Helicopter Parent, Control Freaks With Superiority Complexes, Fake Smiles, and the Crazy Eyes Who Want All My Money." But that doesn't fit.
  • [Gallivant] and TRAIPSE are both awesome words.
  • I can't think of ISIS — the [Goddess of ancient Egypt] — without remembering the Saturday morning show from when I was a kid. "Oh mighty Isis!" Anyone else remember that? I'm pretty sure it was either right before or right after "Shazam."
  • TYNE Daly has done a few things since "Cagney & Lacey" days, hasn't she? Oh man, she was on "Judging Amy" for six years. I never did see that show. Unless she picks up the pace, I guess she'll always be known as Mary Beth Lacey. Have you all seen Sharon Gless on "Burn Notice"? She's good.
  • If you want to see someone FIRE UP a crowd, watch this video of Barack Obama telling the story of the woman who gave his campaign its catchphrase. Good stuff.
  • [Number in "A Chorus Line"] is ONE. Cuz, see, it's the name of a song in the show. And they call songs in shows numbers. Plus it's One, which is a number. So it, like, works on two levels. Get it?

Pretty sure this is the first time I've ever done a Jonesin' crossword and it was hip, which is just what I expected! Theme answers in this "Note for Note" puzzle exchanges one letter of a musical artist or band name such that the resulting phrase contains a word describing a foreign currency. So the Scottish post-punk band Franz Ferdinand becomes FRANC FERDINAND. (Yes, I had to look that one up because I'm ... old.) Mary Wells, who sings "My Guy" becomes MARK WELLS. (I didn't have any trouble with that one.) Dinah Washington becomes DINAR WASHINGTON, Boys II Men becomes BOYS II YEN, and The E Street Band becomes THE E STREET RAND. Clever and fun!

I always get a kick out of seeing music-oriented clues and answers in puzzles. Unfortunately, this particular puzzle references one of my Top Three Least Favorite Songs of All Time, "Send in the Clowns." So now it's stuck in my head and I'll no doubt be cranky all day.

TAFKAP stands for The ARTIST Formerly Known As Prince. I wanted to post a link for any Prince fans out there but apparently TAFKAP is diligent in his review of copyright infringement on YouTube. So here's Tom Jones doing a Prince cover.

Oasis's song "D' YOU Know What I Mean?" is not the same as Lee Michaels's classic 70s song "Do You Know What I Mean?," which I first heard covered by Renee Geyer and which I'm seriously hoping gets stuck in my head now that I'm talking about it.

Ya know what? I could spend all day looking up all the musical connections I made while solving this puzzle, but I think I'll move on so I can get some other stuff done today!

I don't typically tend to struggle much with the CrosSynergy crossword, but today's constructor is Bob Klahn after all. Which means, of course, that it contains colorful fill, tricky clues, and a theme that I almost didn't see. The title of the puzzle, "Letter Openers," made me think that the theme had something to do with letters of the alphabet when, in fact, the first words of the theme answers can be added to the word letter resulting in a familiar phrase. We've got RED (letter) HERRING, CAPITAL (letter) CRIME, SILENT (letter) BUTLER, and BLOCK (letter) PARTY.

To my mind, Klahn is the King of Cluing Misdirection. Most of the time I really appreciate his humor — like OPIE for [Bee minder of '60s TV] and MADAM for [Address of the very first palindrome?]. There are also few in this puzzle that rate pretty high on the groan-meter. [Brest milk], [It's put before Descartes], and [Item peddled by a spokesperson?] leap to mind. Ya know what, though? I don't think a pun cares whether you laugh or groan, it just wants the attention.

I was going to tell you a funny story about Bob SEGER but I can't remember all the details off the top of my head and this is already taking me too long. Maybe he'll appear in another puzzle this week and I'll be ready for it.

Gail Grabowki's L.A. Times crossword offers us phrases that all begin with words that describe someone who TALKs A BLUE STREAK. The first theme answer, RAMBLING MANSION, made me think the theme was going to be adding -SION to familiar phrases. Of course I had the Allmann Brothers song in mind, but to make up for leaving out the Bob Seger story, here's a clip of his "Rambling Gambling Man." Do you think they couldn't afford a mike stand so he wrote his part for just the one hand? Other theme answers are GABBY HAYES and WINDY NIGHT.

Hey look! Just when Orange went to the trouble of letting us know that AT SEA is usually clued as [Confused] (or something similar), here it is clued as [Between ports]. I guess Miss Smarty-Pants Speed Solver doesn't know everything. Of course, she never claimed to know everything. I'm just making a joke at her expense because she's not here to defend herself. Plus I did yesterday's NYT in 4:07.

Finally, I'll leave you with my favorite NAMETAG and see you tomorrow.