(updated at 11:11:11 Saturday morning)
Wow, talk about your weird Halloween experiences. We were driving home from the friends' neighborhood where we went trick-or-treating (and adult trick-or-treaters could tap the keg at one house), and found ourselves in ridiculously heavy traffic—the sort of traffic that turns a 10-minute trip into a half-hour one. The kid needed some protein after an evening of candy snacking, so we were heading towards the local McDonald's—which is the one in the heart of Wrigleyville. Holy cow, are there a lot of Halloween revelers bar-hopping tonight. I had no idea it was such mayhem. So anyway, the McDonald's drive-through was taking forever. Just when the line finally scooched forwards, a young red-haired man in a Ronald McDonald costume (of sorts) roller-skated up to our car and handed over a hamburger. Turns out no, he doesn't work there; he just wanted to complete his costume by ordering 50 burgers to go. You know what happens when one customer orders 50 burgers? All the other customers kinda have to wait. But with a free burger to eat while waiting...not so terrible any more.
But you didn't come here to hear about bizarre Halloween disbursements of hamburgers. Crosswords! This week's Thursday NYT was just a regular themed puzzle of medium difficulty, and the Halloween puzzle was just a regular Friday themeless. The gimmick was stored up for the Saturday New York Times puzzle by Donald Willing. In the middle of the puzzle, we have TWO-WAY STREETS spelled backwards, as STEERTSYAWOWT: [Many thoroughfares...or what this puzzle's Across answers consist of?] Every other row of Acrosses runs from right to left, as if the traffic is going back and forth from one side of the puzzle to the other as it travels down through the grid. It took me a long time to notice that every answer in a given Across row ran backwards, and that the backwards action occupied every other row. Two kinds of fun! I loved the twist on convention here.
There are two more theme entries, both running in the standard direction: [Detours] are ALTERNATE ROUTES and a [Possible result of an appeal] is a REVERSE DECISION. My favorite backwards business:
And here's the forward stuff I liked best:
A few years ago someone told me that Stan Newman's "S.N." byline was reserved for the very toughest Newsday "Saturday Stumper" crosswords, so there was some trepidation as I printed out the puzzle. As it happened, though, the puzzle was on the easy to medium side of the Stumper spectrum. (PDF solution here.) There were some knotty crossings:
I learned that SRI is a [Title that means "wealth"]. I already knew that PEZ was a [Name derived from the German for "peppermint"]—Pfefferminz. Two other trivia bits: ["Beauty superhuman" in a 17th-century novel] is DULCINEA; ZAPATA was the [Oil company founded by George H.W. Bush]. I love the word NONESUCH, or [Paragon].
Robert Wolfe's LA Times crossword feels like it has a theme, since all three 15-letter answers are spoken phrases.
But the phrases are unrelated, so they're just the zest in this themeless. Clues of note, cool answers, etc.:
The theme in Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy crossword, "RV Park," is phrases with R.V. initials:
October 31, 2008
October 30, 2008
(updated at 11:45 a.m. Friday)
Hey, word nerds! Do you like spelling? Check out the online Spelling Bee at the Virtual Thesaurus site. It uses all sorts of fancy-pants algorithms to figure out what sort of words to give you—if you're not a terrific speller, it won't give you words like caracole. If you do have mad spelling skillz, it'll challenge you a lot but not punish you for getting some difficult words wrong. The top score is 800, and I can attest that you can score 800 despite missing a sizeable percentage of your words. (I flubbed 8 of my last 50 words.) If you play long enough, it'll give you another crack at words you gave up on—and it shows you the correct spelling when you "surrender," so pay attention to those freebie answers.
I learned about the Spelling Bee from Ben Zimmer's OUPblog post.
I must tear myself away from the Spelling Bee to tend to the crosswords.
Jim Page's New York Times crossword starts with a mini-theme—["Easy does it!"] clues the two intersecting 15-letter answers, TAKE A DEEP BREATH and WHAT'S THE BIG RUSH—and builds the rest of the puzzle around it with fill that groups itself into assorted topic areas.
We've got some pop culture:
And some geography:
And some high culture:
And some nibbles:
I had a couple favorite clues here. [Be too reserved?] clues OVERBOOKS, as in a restaurant or flight. [Artemis or Atalanta] is a HUNTRESS. Forget the hunting part—have you seen Free To Be You and Me, in particular the Atalanta story? It's a feminist retelling of the Atalanta myth.
I was ready for Donna Hoke Kahwaty's Sun crossword, "For Startlers," since I'd already done two Halloween-themed puzzles with BOO words this week. This time, the BOOs are bunched into eight rebus squares, with RAY "[BOO]M [BOO]M" MANCINI holding down the fort in the middle. Lots of hard clues in this puzzle:
If this puzzle took you longer than you thought it would, you can take solace in the fact that it has 15 more squares than usual—the grid is 16 rows tall, not the standard 15. Before I hit the sack, let me single out one other marvelous answer—[BOO][BOO] BEAR, the [Ursine sidekick] of Yogi Bear.
Donna Levin's LA Times crossword contains some voting-related puns that took me a while to unravel:
Favorite clues: [Like a unicorn tamer, in myth] for CHASTE; [Malay word for "man"] for ORANG; and [Rose born William Bruce] for AXL. Tricky bits: [Ready, willing and able: Abbr.] for ADJS (short for "adjectives"); [Glacier National Park's Garden Wall, e.g.] for ARETE.
The trio of Todd McClary, Craig Kasper, and Andrew M. Greene teamed up to make this week's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Election Headlines." The meat of each plausible news headlines is clued as if it pertains to a particular person. Three examples:
Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "In a Stew," says that [What you're working on (and a literal hint to 17-, 28-, and 47-Across)] is a CROSSWORD PUZZLE or rather, a puzzle containing cross words:
The two longest Down answers sort of tie in with the theme. To [Have a cow] is to GET UPSET, but after all the crossness, the wise one FORGIVES, or [Shows compassion, perhaps]. [Comedian Murray] clues JAN, and that name didn't ring a bell for me. Turns out Jan Murray was a Borscht Belt comedian, né Murray Janofsky. [Those who stop Lightning strikes?] was no gimme for me—it's GOALIES, so the Lightning must be a hockey team. Or maybe soccer? No, hockey—the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning.
Todd McClary also has a solo outing today, with this week's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "Literary Bent." There's one standard theme entry, POETS' CORNER at 16-Down ([Westminster Abbey burial ground, four residents of which are hidden in this grid (in appropriate places)]. Apparently there are 28 writers buried there, as well as many others commemorated with plaques. Four of those buried there are also interred in the poets' corners of this crossword grid. Edmund SPENSER runs around the NW corner, upwards in EPSOM and to the right in the unusual ENSERFS ([Binds to the land]). Abraham COWLEY rest in the NE corner, in SCOWL and LEYTE. John DRYDEN goes down in REDRY and backwards at the end of KENNEDY in the SE quadrant. And Thomas HARDY occupies the last corner, backwards in AHEAD and upwards in HYDRA.
Plenty of tough clues, like [Post-recession measure?] for a TOUPEE, STU [Holcomb who coached for Miami and Purdue] (who?), and WELCH [__ Hall (Yale freshman dormitory)].
October 29, 2008
Chuck Hamilton's New York Times crossword has a solid theme, nothing gimmicky or wild about it:
So, the theme doesn't shout "It's Thursday!" but the fill and clues let you know that the first half of the week is over. To wit:
Will Nediger's Sun "Themeless Thursday" was not too fearsome. My favorite answers and clues:
Oddball answers and clues:
Dan Naddor drops nine (!) theme entries into his LA Times crossword. RR XINGS (railroad crossings) are exemplified in eight answers—two-word phrases (and one three-worder) in which adjacent R's end one word and begin the following one. The eight answers are placed in criss-crossing pairs that meet at the R's (I've added circles to highlight these)—so the RR entries are crossing, hence the RR XINGS in the middle of the puzzle. Two of the theme answers intersect with RR XINGS, so theme entries are traipsing all over this grid.
I'm not double-checking my arithmetic, but I think that makes for a total of 77 theme squares. That's quite a lot. The surrounding fill doesn't fill me with awe (very few puzzles do that), but it's all solid stuff with no woeful obscurities or clunky abbreviations. Perhaps the worst entry, for my taste, is HEC ["__ Ramsey": '70s TV Western], but plenty of other crosswords have used HEC before. So the high theme-square count didn't force uncomfortable compromises in quality. Yay!
Two favorite parts of the fill actually introduce a clue/fill duplication, which I didn't notice while solving: [Congressional leader?] is a HARD C sound, and colorful BOOZE is clued as [Hard stuff]. I also liked it that [Peter or Paul but not Mary] didn't clue POPE this time—now it's APOSTLE. Have we seen that clue/answer combo before?
Today's CrosSynergy puzzle is by Bob Klahn, so you know it'll have more challenging clues than most CrosSynergy offerings. In the "Getting Approval" theme, three phrases ingest an OK and take on new meaning:
The clues that stood out for me are these:
October 28, 2008
(updated at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday)
The crux of Steven Zisser's New York Times crossword theme lies in the clues. The trick those clues play isn't usually so prominent in a Wednesday puzzle, which strives to be more challenging than Monday but not so vexing that it scares people off. If you've seen the flower = "something that flows, a flow-er" trick before, you know what's happening in the theme clues:
Clues and answers I liked:
If you're fairly new to solving Wednesday puzzles, here are some words you should know:
Laura Sternberg's Sun crossword plays around with anagrams. CRAZY HORSE, the Sioux chief, anchors the puzzle, and crazy anagrams of HORSE appear hidden within the other theme answers. For example, CULTURE SHOCK contains RESHO in the circled squares, and those letters unscramble to make HORSE, and the other theme entries' circled letters are also anagrams of HORSE.
My favorite clues and answers:
I didn't notice that the Across Lite timer was stopped when I opened the puzzle, so I didn't start the timer. Whoops.
Steven Ginzburg's LA Times crossword includes a selection of window treatments in the theme entries. The theme's not super-tight as the window treatments land in the middle, end, beginning, and end of the theme answers. Ginzburg's batch of phrases is:
Now, all four theme entries could have started with a window treatment: BLIND AS A BAT and CURTAIN CALL are both 11's and SHUTTERBUG and SHADE TREES are 10's. We'd lose the 15's and end up with fewer theme squares, though.
Of course, a theme this flexible has also been done before. I searched for CURTAINCALL in the Cruciverb.com database and found two similar themes—Fred Piscop's 12/8/01 CrosSynergy, with BLIND ALLEY and SHADE OF BLUE joining CURTAIN CALL and SHUTTERBUG; and Lee Weaver's 6/15/99 Newsday, with two 11's and two 9's. Mind you, this is no slam on Ginzburg's puzzle today. Crossword constructors do tend to play with language in many of the same ways, so several are likely come up with the same theme idea independently. You wouldn't want to see the same theme reworked in the same venue just months apart, but for versions of a theme to be published in different venues or separated by years? Not a problem.
Hey! What do you know? Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Compression Chamber," has a variation on a Lynn Lempel theme I remember well. For my book, How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, I delineated my step-by-step solving of Lynn's 4/24/06 NYT crossword, which had two of the same theme entries as Randy's puzzle today. Here's what Randy has:
Lynn's stand-ins for SQUEEZE and MASH were two 10-letter phrases, LEMON TWIST and the delightful CAP'N CRUNCH. Favorite clues and answers today: [It has its pluses and minuses] for MATH; HOT TUNA was a [Rock group spun off from Jefferson Airplane] (thank you, crossword answer, for not being the abysmal Starship); [King of pop music] for CAROLE King (I've seen this clue before, but I still love the Michael Jackson mislead); and [Work on a sentence?] for DO TIME (not EDIT). The toughest clue for me was [Apt. ad abbr.] for EIK (eat-in-kitchen). Cluing HAREMS as [Women's groups] sat wrong with me—the clue had me thinking of feminism and then HAREMS came along and depressed me.
Hah! After the Cubs were eliminated from postseason play yet again, I texted Tyler Hinman and pretty much laid the blame squarely at his feet. After all, he had lived in Wrigleyville at the beginning of the baseball season, but then moved to California and jinxed the Cubs. Tyler's reaction to the Cubs' loss was not to accept responsibility, but rather to construct an Onion A.V. Club crossword focusing on baseball's sad sacks. The [Hard-luck subject of this puzzle] is 20-Across, the CHICAGO CUBS. The rest of the theme clues cross-reference 20-Across. There's the BILLY GOAT and its CURSE; hapless STEVE / BARTMAN; the DODGERS, who shattered the Cubs' hopes this fall; and NINETEEN OH EIGHT, [The last time 20-Across won it all]. Every single one of these answers was a gimme for me. Tossed in without regard for symmetry are the bonus entries TRIB, the [Newspaper that owns 20-Across, familiarly], and the Cubs' AGE-LONG wait for another championship. Speaking of symmetry, did you notice that this puzzle has left/right symmetry rather than the typical rotational symmetry most crosswords have?
Most surprising answer: HYMEN, clued as innocuously as possible with [Maidenhead]. Toughest clues, for me: [Moirae (Greek) or Parcae (Roman)] for the FATES; [Satanist LaVey] for ANTON; [Beetle's bane] for SARGE (from the "Beetle Bailey" comic strip); [Chief Lone Wolf and his people] for KIOWAS. Favorite clues: [Unit of force?] for COP; [Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James] IHA, because I bought his sweet, RETRO solo CD in the '90s; and [On the clock?] for TIMED, the way Tyler, I, and many of you solve most crosswords.
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle, "October Surprise," has a 15x15 variation on the theme that was in the 21x21 syndicated LA Times crossword this past Sunday: BOO is added to assorted phrases to alter their meaning.
In the "not in your daily newspaper" category, we have an ENEMA, or [Colon cleanser, perhaps]; CYBERSEX, or [Second Life hookup]; STD clued as [Result of a rubber shortage?: Abbr.]; and ESG, a [Much-sampled South Bronx band]. You know, editors clean up punctuation. Are we colon cleansers too? REBAG ([Organize differently, as groceries]) looks like one of those terrible made-up verbs, and yet who among us has never rebagged our groceries at least a little, especially at the self checkout? KRUMPS is another answer that isn't likely to pop up in the daily paper's crossword. It's clued as [Dances in a clown suit, perhaps], and I'm not sure what it says about me that with the P and S in place, my first answer there was STRIPS. That's got to be worse than mixing up Lou Dobbs and Lou Rawls.
October 27, 2008
(updated at 9:20 a.m. Tuesday)
Allan Parrish's New York Times crossword sports a retro theme of DANCING in the '60s. Well, I didn't make it to kindergarten until the '70s, so '60s dance crazes are not my strong suit. Here are the theme entries:
This theme is custom-made for those of you who are, say, 50 to 65 years old. The northeast and southwest corners of the puzzle are custom-made for fans of wide-open grids, with triple-stacked 9-letter answers. My favorites there are TOM SNYDER, who was ["The Tomorrow Show" host] some years back, and a TOTEM POLE, or [Indian carving]. Yesterday, I wrote that ET TU was sometimes clued as [Rebuke from Caesar], and sure enough, today it's here as [Caesarean rebuke]. Other crossword regulars that newer solvers should store away in the memory banks:
The Sun puzzle by Tony Orbach has one of those themes that I paid no mind to while solving. I surmise that it's called "Making Out" because each theme entry begins with a way of making an out in baseball. There are six ways? The phrases are mostly lively, and I like their clues:
My favorite answer in the fill: that [Hershey's product] called the KIT-KAT. Solvers outside the U.S. may know it as a Nestlé candy bar. I bought a bag of 55 snack-size Kit-Kats for my kid's school Halloween party a couple weeks ago. There are only 18 left. We're fond of Kit-Kats around here.
Janet Bender's LA Times crossword features a simple theme: two-word phrases with T.T. initials. "So what?" you ask. Well, all five phrases come from the world of sports, so phrases like taste test, Tommy Tune, tuna tartare, and Tiny Toons don't make the team. A [Race against the clock] in cycling (if not other sports) is a TIME TRIAL. TABLE TENNIS has been an [Olympic sport since 1988]. The TENNESSEE TITANS [were the Oilers before 1999]. They played in the Monday Night Football matchup last night, and I was quite taken by their baby blue uniforms. [Hall of Fame pitcher Seaver's nickname] is TOM TERRIFIC. TRASH TALK is a [Taunting exchange during the game]. Other sports-related content in the puzzle includes IVIED, [Like Wrigley Field's walls]—once again lying dormant in October. The INDY 500 is a [Big May race, familiarly]. And Sean PENN could have been clued as PENN State, whose football team is doing well this season.
Patrick Blindauer recently had an NYT puzzle with ANTs on the march in the shortish theme entries. Today, his CrosSynergy crossword, "Moving Violation," offers another version of this theme. This time, it's a SIN (clued as [Violation, and word that "moves" within the six starred clues]) that moves one letter back with each step. It's at the beginning of the first 8-letter entry, SINISTER, and makes its way to the end of the sixth 8-letter answer:
SINISTER means [Ominous].
TSINGTAO is a [Popular Chinese beer brand]
ELSINORE is the ["Hamlet" setting].
BASSINET is a [Baby's bed].
DEPOSING is [Writing one's sworn testimony].
ASSASSIN is [One with a contract, say].
From the non-theme fill, here are my favorite clues: ARSENIC is clued as [One of two elements that ends with the letter C]. I love this sort of clue—can you name the other element? [Classical gas?] clues not music but an old gas company, ESSO. [Short pants] are GASPS and not something like knickers or capris. [It may come out of the closet] refers to LINEN. [Sources of world views?] are GLOBES.
October 26, 2008
Andrea Carla Michaels and Michael Blake have teamed up again for a Monday New York Times crossword puzzle. The theme is 55-Down, SPIN—they've put an SP at the beginning of three 13-letter phrases to convert them into 15-letter phrases:
I have the sense that most themes involving question-marked clues for nonexistent phrases don't manage to have such simple clues. This trio is short and sweet, with two-word clues conveying all the sense they need to. There are a number of answers that new solvers need to commit to memory if they don't already know them:
The Sun crossword is called "The Old College Try" and it was constructed by Joon Pahk. Three theme entries end with IVY LEAGUERS. The band KING CRIMSON corresponds to the Harvard team, the Crimson. HEY BULLDOG is a [Song on the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" album], but I've never heard of it. You know how Yale students are in the crossword all the time as ELIS or YALIEs? Their official nickname is the Bulldogs. The Princeton Tigers show up in PAPER TIGER. It's a little distracting to have another team name in the grid—Whittier College's bad-ass POETS, not of the Ivy League. I like how the '80s band ERASURE sits beneath KING CRIMSON. (Wikipedia tells me Erasure is still recording and touring. Who knew?) Favorite clue: [Strong suit?] for ARMOR.
Matt Jones has crafted a puzzle with an unusual gimmick in it. This week's Jonesin' crossword, "Early and Often," includes a ballot of sorts, and instructions to MARK AN X for whichever one YOU PICK. Each "candidate" entry is 14 letters long—FIRST CANDIDATE, ANOTHER NOMINEE, and THE THIRD OPTION—but appears with a blank 15th square (those 15th squares are supposed to be circled, but the circles were missing when I downloaded the Across Lite version of the puzzle). If you X in one of those squares, you change the crossing word, but the answer will be correct with or without the X:
Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Have a Good Time!", has five different "good times" at the start of the theme entries. One [Pome variety], and a tasty one at that, is a GALA APPLE. SOCIAL WORK is a [Profession intent on improving living conditions. One [Joint type] is BALL AND SOCKET, as in your hip and shoulder. A RAVE REVIEW is a [Pan's opposite]. And a PARTY LINE is a [Tie-in to another telephone customer, as well as a tie-in to this puzzle's theme]. I wonder if anyone younger than me has first-hand experience with party lines—when I was a kid, my grandparents had a party line, and they gave out their phone number prefix as HEmlock-7 rather than 437. Old school!
Updated Monday night:
Well, the LA Times crossword hadn't been posted as of lunchtime today, and after it was posted, I didn't get a chance to solve it before late evening. Robert Morris's theme is PAPER, which precedes the first word of each of the four theme entries:
One of the 8-letter answers in the fill was unfamiliar. RANGE WAR is clued as a [Big beef over big beef?]. Wikipedia explains that range wars can also involve sheep herding and water rights.
October 25, 2008
Next Saturday is All Saints' Day, so Daniel Bryant's "All Saints' Day" New York Times crossword appears the Sunday before. The abbreviation for Saint, ST, gets added to the beginning of a word in eight phrases:
The trickiest crossing for me was in square 125, where the [Old Indian V.I.P.] meets the [Key of Bach's best-known Mass]. As far as I know, there are seven letters that could work for the music clue (A through G), and NAWAB is better known in the corrupted form, nabob. Do musically inclined people remember things like "Oh, yeah, Bach's Mass is in B MINOR"?
Here are some clues I think people might be Googling this weekend:
Places! (Sort of.)
And the catch-all, miscellaneous:
Updated Saturday night:
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Halloween Party Checklist," has another of Merl's punpalooza themes. Before I get into the theme, though, I must single out this clue: [Colon opening] is the clue for a 4-letter answer. Could it be...ANUS? No, Merl wouldn't do that. It's the prefix SEMI, as in semicolon. This one's my pick for gutsiest clue of the month.
There are 13 theme entries, with two pairs of Down answers running right next to one another.
My favorites are the PAIL and BEET ones, where the last word is changed to a homophone. Unfamiliar answer alert: DECRI is [Disrepute, to Depardieu]. Right next to that is HOBS, the [Pegs used in quoits]. (Anyone here ever play quoits?) ETERNO, presumably meaning "eternal" in Italian, is clued [Everlasting, to Enrico]. Its E crosses LEAL, which is an archaic Scottish word meaning [Faithful, old style]. For my generation, SHAZAM is forever enshrined as the Captain Marvel word, but my husband (betrayer of the generation!) also knows it as a [Mayberry exclamation] from Barney Fife.
Henry Hook's Boston Globe crossword in Across Lite was originally published some weeks back. The Across Lite edition shows up the same week that Lynn Lempel used the same theme idea in her Tuesday CrosSynergy puzzle, and both puzzles have the title, "Popinjays," as the constructors have popped in a J. Hook has eight theme entries, some of which intersect other themers. My favorites:
Oddities in the fill include NICHEVO, or [Nikita's "never mind"]; ASOR, a [Bible-era lyre]; FASCIATED, or [Malformed, as plant stems]; and ILIESCU, the [1990s Romanian president]. And then there's the insane crossing between a [Small nautical rope] called a CABLET (which I'm guessing is based on the word cable) and actor [Brad of "General Hospital"], MAULE (he played Tony Jones, a character I'm familiar with, but boy, did I not know who played him). The crossing was an L, but I tried some other random letters there first. There's also some primo fill: B-COMPLEX vitamins, the song "GET A JOB," a JALAPENO pepper, DERRIERE, Rhett Butler's GIVE A DAMN, and some potent GANJA.
Updated on Sunday morning:
On Halloween last year, the holiday-themed LA Times crossword was credited to Ada Honeywell. This year, the pre-Halloween syndicated Sunday Los Angeles Times crossword is another Honeywell puzzle with a timely theme. In "Scared You!", each theme entry is made by adding BOO to an existing phrase:
Seven theme entries is on the low side for a Sunday puzzle, and the result is that there's space for yummy fill:
I do wonder, when I see a constructor's work only in the LA Times and I like the puzzles (as I do this one), if the byline contains another pen name for editor Rich Norris or if it's just a constructor who isn't particularly prolific.
It's my impression that among the CrosSynergy team of constructors, the one whose themeless "Sunday Challenge" puzzles are most likely to contain triple-stacked 15-letter answers is Martin Ashwood-Smith. He's got another one today, with triple stacks at the top and bottom. Favorite clues/answers:
October 24, 2008
Yay! Another themeless crossword from Karen Tracey, this time in the New York Times. Like many of Karen's confections, this one contains a lot of Scrabbly letters (three J's, a Q, three K's), pop culture, people's names, and a little geography. Let's start with my favorite entries:
There were lots of other people and characters in the grid:
I know a lot of people grumble when a crossword contains a slew of names, but I'm glad Will Shortz is willing to strike a balance and publish this sort of puzzle on occasion to delight those of us who love it.
clock bell in London, [Big ___] BEN.
Other favorite clues and answers I want to mention:
[Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to the stars?] are LEOS, astrologically. Hey, me too!
Doug Peterson's themeless LA Times puzzle duped me with that [Type of trail] fitting a *AP*R pattern. A PAPER trail, right? Nope, it's a VAPOR trail. Another trouble spot was [Taken out, as refrigerators], which made no sense to me. UNCRATED = taken out of a crate? Yeah, that works. [Products of hydrocarbon combustion] are OXIDES, but rust is an oxide and I don't think combustion is involved in rusting. Chemistry's not my strong suit, so I'm not familiar with all the ways of making oxides.
Favorite clues and answers:
For me, today's easiest themeless was Dan Stark's Newsday "Saturday Stumper." (Solution PDF here). The clue that took me off guard was [Temperaments, so to speak] for KIDNEYS. Say what? Who speaks that way? It's in the dictonary, but I've never encountered that usage before. I wonder if it dates back to when people talked about their humors (blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile) as if they affected personality traits.
Favorite and/or gnarliest clues:
Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy crossword is a "Paul Newman Tribute." The legendary actor Paul Newman died about four weeks ago, and his passing definitely merits a crossword made in tribute to him. The theme entries are three 15-letter movies for which Newman was nominated for an Oscar. Newman was in many other notable movies of varying letter counts: Hud (3), Cars (4), Blaze (5), Exodus (6), The Sting and Slap Shot (8), The Verdictand The Hustler (10), Nobody's Fool (11), Cool Hand Luke (12), and some longer titles. That's a lot of material, though mostly not bunched in same-length pairs—I wonder if anyone's been working on a Sunday-sized tribute to Paul Newman's career.
October 23, 2008
Sun 6:02 (by the way, downloading the Sun should work now at Cruciverb)
(updated at noon Friday)
Friday blogging will be light/late—my son is off school, and we need to get started on making a model of the earth. Mantle, anyone?
Frederick Healy's New York Times crossword is riddled with spots to trip or to draw a blank on, but somehow it all came together. What's in this 70-worder? There are some people, specific and general. Two people get the full-name treatment:
Last names only for these folks:
On a first-name basis:
Fictionally, we have the '70s [Sitcom guy with a frequently upturned thumb, with "the"], FONZ, and SATAN. The latter is a [Bad lover?] if he loves bad.
Then there are all the generic sorts:
Geography figures into this puzzle, too:
Assorted other not-so-well-known bits:
Justin Smith's Sun crossword, "Swiss Cheese," has sprouted three HOLEs in rebus squares:
I like that my first name, AMY (or ["This Is the Life" singer Macdonald]—who?]) intersects with MR. HAT, the ["South Park" puppet] wielded by whacked-out teacher Mr. Garrison. I like other stuff, too, but duty calls.
The theme in Larry Shearer's LA Times crossword is spelled out in the final theme entry: DISAPPEARING INK is a [Prankster's item, and this puzzle's theme] because INK is removed from various phrases to create the other four theme entries:
The surrounding clues and fill slaughtered me, alas. TEL [___ Hai: Israeli monument site] was a bit much, as the TEL crosses two theme entries, and the puzzle's already got B'NAI Brith, HORAS, an ESSENE ([Supposed inhabitant of ancient Qumran]), and ERIC Bana (who played an Israeli assassin in Munich) for the Jewish/Israeli sub-theme. I've heard of MORONI as Mormonism's Angel Moroni, but not as the [Capital of the Comoros]. All sorts of clues felt like Stan Newman "Saturday Stumper" clues—the noun [Adept] is an ACE; [Evening] a game is TYING the score; [Beats] are TEMPOS and not a verb; the verb [Rush] means to BOLT. Slightly more specific were these clues that still eluded me for a while: The [Gist] of something is its KERNEL of truth; and [Pleasure seekers?] are IDS.
Was this one tougher than you expected, or am I just not on Larry Shearer's wavelength?
The theme in Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Spaghetti Western," kept me guessing, and when it finally added up, it made for a nice "aha" moment." Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is the quintessential spaghetti western, and the three theme entries are 15-letter movie titles that begin with THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY. The [2006 Matt Damon movie] is THE GOOD SHEPHERD, THE BAD NEWS BEARS is a [1976 Walter Matthau movie], and THE UGLY AMERICAN is a [1963 Marlon Brando movie]. Perfect theme, isn't it?
Karen Adams' crossword in the Chronicle of Higher Education just might be her debut. The theme is "Is There a Wort for That?"—Wort is German for "word," and the theme entries are all German words that have no one-word English equivalents:
Cool theme. I also like the anatomical collision between GLUTE, or [Certain muscle, slangily], and GLOTTIS, or [Laryngeal opening]. Things I didn't know: ROWE is [18th-century Poet Laureate Nicholas]. CAPUA is or was an [Appian Way city]. BODHI is [Enlightenment, in Eastern religion].
I had fun with Pancho Harrison's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Male Bonding." There are nine theme entries, famous men whose names include MAN at least once, and those MANs appear in rebus squares. Since [MAN]FRED MAN[N] has two MANs, that means there are 10 rebus squares that need to work out with intersecting Down entries. It all comes together smoothly, and some of the non-theme clues are fun: [Shell games?] are REGATTAS. [It has little foliage] clues BONSAI. [Tool used when the stakes are high?] is a SLEDGE, used to pound stakes into the earth. Archie [Bunker, for one] is a BIGOT. The fill contains a lively batch of words, such as Miami Vice's TUBBS, a GUSHER, ONE-NOTE, GARBLE, ROOMIES, Huey Lewis and THE NEWS, and SPLATTED like a water balloon. I still want to grumble that the WSJ crosswords have been easier than usual of late, but this one was a little closer to the mean, and the rebuses were fun to root out rather than burdensome. Anyone else notice DANTE and PEAK appearing in sequence together near the bottom? Dante's Peak was a volcano movie.