December 08, 2008

Tuesday, 12/9

Sun 4:01
LAT 3:48
Jonesin' 3:45
CS 3:41
NYT 2:49

(updated at 9:24 Tuesday morning)

Matt Gaffney's got his weekly crossword contest, and Trip Payne has his Triple Play Puzzles with assorted types of crosswords. Now Brendan Emmett Quigley joins the ranks of talented constructors providing puzzles online. Brendan will be dispensing a crossword every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—the first one, "Whipping Posts," looks to be on the tough side, and...I'm at a loss to explain the theme. (So no spoilers!) The content of the fill is along the lines of the Jonesin' and Onion puzzles, contemporary hipster pop culture, video games, tech stuff, etc. The clues for 9-Down and 42-Across had tasty misleads. Anyway, I'll probably start blogging about the BEQs after the holidays.

The New York Times crossword by C.W. Stewart packs in 72 theme squares—the board game CLUE and six phrases that begin with the tokens' colorful names:

  • PLUM PUDDING is a [Traditional Christmas dessert].
  • A [Red bird with black wings and tail] is the SCARLET TANAGER. It's a familiar bird name to me—I filled in the answer without reading the clue first, thanks to suggestive crossings.
  • [Traditional January event] is a WHITE SALE. My prediction: deeper discounts than ever before in '09.
  • [1999 Tom Hanks film, with "The"] is GREEN MILE. I'd rather have GREEN PEAS or something that's complete as the theme entry here.
  • MUSTARD PLASTER is a mighty quaint-sounding [Home remedy for skin irritations].
  • PEACOCK BLUE is a [Shade close to azure].
The theme felt either familiar or too tempting not to have been done before. My hard-working staff dug up two priors, the Sunday 5/3/98 NYT by BEQ (with three of the same answers) and the Friday 9/24/04 NY Sun by Jonathan Cass (two duplicates) with a 15x16 grid. So Stewart fit everything into a 15x15, and she and Will Shortz keyed the clues to an easy Tuesday level—it's a different slant on the theme.

In the fill, LADIES is clued as a [Word that can precede or follow "first"] (first ladies in the White House, "ladies first" as in this Free To Be...You and Me video), while NIPPLES are [Parts of baby bottles]. Nope, no clue cross-referencing here. It's a great LADIES clue, isn't it?

Richard Silvestri's Sun crossword, "New Dimensions," takes one- or two-dimensional shapes and beefs them up into two- or three-dimensional shapes. Haymarket Square becomes HAYMARKET CUBE, or [3' x 3' x 3' bale for sale?]. The clue's numbers had me thinking YARD rather than CUBE, and my first word association for Haymarket is riot, not Square. [One way to keep something level?] is to LAY IT ON THE PLANE (line), and [Orb of punk rocker Sid?] is VICIOUS SPHERE (Sid Vicious, vicious circle). ZIPCAR, the [Auto-sharing company], makes for a great entry. The fill's on the Scrabbly side, with a pair of Z's, a pair of X's, and a Q.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Circular Logic," turns TURN through a circle, moving one letter to the end with each step of the theme:
  • [Mark Morrison R&B hit of 1997] is RETURN OF THE MACK. I've never heard of it, but its TURN is in highlighted squares.
  • [Breakfast mishap] is BURNT TOAST, with the T sliding past URN.
  • [Bucket at the theater] is POPCORN TUB, with the U moving down past the RNT.
  • [Movies like "Star Wars," e.g.] are SPACE ADVENTURES, with the R after the NTU.
If you move the N to the end, you'll return to TURN. In the fill, there are stacked pairs of 9-letter answers shoring up some theme answers, and a chunky block of 7's in the middle connecting the other theme entries—plus a few other 8's and 9's here and there. Highlights: AMETHYST, ALAN ARKIN ([He played the grandfather in "Little Miss Sunshine"]), BRITNEY ([Sean Preston's mother]—and I wanted to fit YOKO ONO there. Wrong Sean), RAISE CAIN, '70s sitcom GOOD TIMES ([TV title sung after "Ain't we lucky we got 'em"]), and a TENDER AGE. Not to mention CILANTRO and a MASOCHIST ([One who doesn't mind feeling the pinch]). In the clues, I enjoyed the ["Cheers" exclamation] NORM. Unfamiliar fill: [Zapp Brannigan's assistant, on "Futurama"] is KIF; [Mazda Raceway Laguna ___ (Monterey racetrack in operation since 1957)] is SECA.


Don Gagliardo's LA Times crossword has 15 W's in it, and WWW isn't even used as an entry anywhere. The NYT record is 14 W's, so 15 is noteworthy. The theme is summed up by COMPOUND W, ["The wart stops here" product, and a hint to the theme]. The eight theme entries have compound W's—that is, double W's—and they're further compounded by the theme answers crossing in pairs. Interestingly enough, one of the pairs crosses at an O rather than a WW. Here are the octet:
  • The [1937 Disney heroine] SNOW WHITE crosses POWWOW, a [Native American ceremony] with a bonus W.
  • To [Snore] is to SAW WOOD and GLOW WORM is a [Bioluminescent larva]. This one crosses at an O.
  • ["What did you think of the movie?"] clues "HOW WAS IT," and "NOW WHAT?" is ["Yet another problem?"].
  • To [Become fatigued] is to GROW WEARY, and NEW WAY, or [Fresh approach], is the iffiest theme entry. I'm guessing there aren't so many 6- to 9-letter phrases or words with a WW in the middle.
I like that the wart medicine COMPOUND W could inspire a crossword theme. (Preparation H must be next.)

Tom Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Hole Out," is another in which each theme entry is a series of words run together. I wouldn't mind not seeing this type of theme again—maybe one in which the words in the theme entry overlap, something with more inherent interest and challenge, would be more fun. What do you think?

The theme is ___ holes. I was filling in 17-Across by answering a bunch of Down clues in sequence. After 8-Down, I was presented with the following for 17-Across: CUBBYBUTT******. Omigod! Butthole makes its crossword debut! But no...the next two letters were ON. Buttonhole. Oh. That's different.