January 10, 2009

Sunday, 1/11

NYT 10:34
BG 8:52
LAT 8:15
PI 7:32
CS 3:07

(updated at 11:50 Sunday morning)

On January 20, Barack Obama will take the oath of office and become the 44th president of the United States. Remember the election a couple months back? Yeah, Obama won a lot of states, and those states' 2-letter postal abbreviations all appear in single squares in David Kahn's New York Times crossword, "Making History." There are seven symmetrical entries relating to the theme, all with one or more rebus squares, along with scattered other states (not placed geographically) needed to represent STATES WON BY BARACK OBA[MA] / [IN] THE PRESI[DE]NT[IA]L ELE[CT]ION. Throughout the grid are other bits of presidentially oriented fill—CONG., POLLERS, OATH, a couple United Nations references, and the 1840s first family the TYLERS. Here are the official theme entries besides the two longest ones already mentioned:

  • HA[IL] TO THE C[HI]EF is the [Song with the lyric "We salute him, one and all].
  • A[ME][RI][CA]N [FL]AGS are [Patriotic displays] with four hidden state abbreviations.
  • The chief justice of the Supreme Court swears in the president. J[OH][N J]AY was the nation's [First U.S. chief justice].
  • The O[VA]L OFFICE is a [White House tour highlight].
  • Many a [Political insider] was a [CO][NV]ENTION-GOER.
This puzzle wasn't easy, and it would have been nefariously tough without the circled squares marking the location of each rebus square. Added elegance comes from the absence of any other state abbreviations outside of the circled squares in the theme entries. The rest of the grid has a few non-rebused LAs, MAs, and ARs, but that's fine. Assorted other answers and clues:
  • HIP-HOP feels fresh in the grid. The clue is the straightforwardly synonymous [Rap].
  • E[NC]HASE is clued [Set, as a gem]. Raise your hand if this word was unfamiliar to you, too.
  • [Wyoming Senator Mike] ENZI is a bit thematic, I guess. I needed all the crossings to identify him.
  • [Green's songwriting partner in old musicals] was Betty CO[MD]EN—again, didn't know her, used the crossings. (Thanks for the ID, Zulema.) David Kahn isn't known for being an easy constructor, after all. I hope everyone working this puzzle knows Comden or the Internet Movie Database, I[MD]B. the [Popular film Web site, briefly] because if they don't, ouch.
  • The crossword clue [Organic compounds] screams ENOLS, doesn't it? Ah, my old crosswordese friend. I knew I could count on you.
  • My favorite clue is [Record holder?] for a FELON.
  • [Like many campgrounds at night] clues FIRELIT. And here I was trying to choose between MOONLIT and STARLIT.
  • THE DEAD is a noted [James Joyce short story]. Snow, anyone? I have plenty.
  • [Nobel physicist Tamm] is named IG[OR]. Another only-through-the-crossings answer for me.
  • I don't know my [Old German rocket]s at all. This one's a [V-T]WO.
  • [Country singer Black] is named CL[IN]T. In the NYT applet, I typed only the first letter of each state abbreviation in the circled square, leaving a little surprise in that completed puzzle.
  • Some [Numbers?] numb you up: OP[IA]TES.

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "4-N Relations," has a trivia theme: people (and one creature) who have four N's in their names. Merl being Merl, there are two pairs of stacked entries among the ennead, and if you think it's no big deal to put a 13-letter name on top of a 20-letter name and have workable crossings throughout, give it a whirl yourself. I'm guessing it's quite difficult because it's not done too often. The theme itself is pretty dry, with straight-up factual clues. For example, ["The Great Commoner"] was WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN, QUENTIN TARANTINO [plays Jimmie in "Pulp Fiction"], and BENJAMIN FRANKLIN is easy to get as [$100 figure?] since the note is slangily called a Benjamin. Two of the people are fictional characters, as is FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER.


Pamela Amick Klawitter's syndicated Sunday Los Angeles Times crossword, "Spread the Wealth," spreads an ATM (120-Down) across two words in each of nine theme answers:
  • My favorite is "YOU LOOKIN' AT ME?"—[Fightin' words].
  • [Dieter's dairy choice] is LOW-FAT MILK. I hesitated on the beginning—NONFAT or LOWFAT?
  • [Regardless] clues COME WHAT MAY.
  • E FLAT MINOR is the [Key of Prokofiev's Symphony No. 6].
  • They ask "Who is THAT MASKED MAN?" about [The Lone Ranger, after riding off].
  • MEERKAT MANOR is an [Animal show set in the Kalahari]. I haven't seen this. Is it fun?
  • [Quicker picker-upper?] of..."your vocal fold vibrations (phonation)" is a THROAT MIKE (or mic, short for microphone). I had no idea. Does everyone else know about these things?
  • MEAT MARKET is clued as a [Chop shop?].
  • BAT MASTERSON was a [Friend of Wyatt Earp].
Henry Hook's Boston Globe crossword, "Iron-Ons," originally ran in the Globe on 11/23/08. The seven theme entries are formed by adding the chemical symbol for iron, Fe, to the beginning of familiar phrases. My favorite examples:
  • FEED MCMAHON is clued [Don't let an announcer starve]. If you missed the news last year, it was Donald Trump who stepped in with an offer to bail out Ed McMahon.
  • [Hitcher's punisher?] is FERULE OF THUMB. Hook's not afraid to toss in a vocabulary word to make a theme entry work. (A ferule is a flat ruler intended for hitting children (really! the dictionary says so), and a ferrule is the metal tube that anchors the eraser to a pencil.)
  • Speaking of high-end vocabulary, FEOFF BROADWAY is a [Feudal estate in NYC?]. I suspect feoff = fief, but I haven't seen that spelling before. One could argue that it's too obscure for a Sunday crossword, but I think it works here.
  • [Genetic cause of campiness?] clues FEY CHROMOSOME, building on "Y chromosome." Cute!
Well, I know which is this week's easiest themeless puzzle—it's gotta be Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge." The triple-stacked 15's run vertically this time, with two more 15's crossing them horizontally. Though I had not heard of A CHILD IS WAITING, the [Judy Garland movie of 1963], the crossings all over this puzzle facilitated the filling in of, well, everything. The first or second answer I put down was BINOCULAR VISION, which is [Cyclops's lack], and the rest spun out from there. My favorite clue here is [Diamond Gil]. It plays on "Diamond Lil" but refers to baseball's Gil HODGES, the baseball diamond being where the game is played.