(updated at 9:15 a.m. Thursday)
The Sun "Themeless Thursday" puzzle is a reminder of how enjoyable Mike Nothnagel's crosswords are. If you're a fan too, check your local bookstore or newsstand for the February 2009 issue of Games—the World's Most Ornery Crossword is a plus-sized 25x25 themeless, and this one by Mike is the funnest Ornery I've done in ages. Mike told me they used most of his clues, so it seems I approve of his cluing style as much as his fill. His Sun crossword bears the usual hallmarks—lovely lively fill. Highlights for me (as opposed to Highlights for Children):
In Joe DiPietro's New York Times crossword, five phrases in which the first word starts with S and ends with -ING lose the -ING, which changes the meaning of the phrase. The de-INGed word becomes a noun used to modify another noun (I know there's a term for that). Here are the theme entries:
I like the base phrases, but the de-INGed results don't sing to me. In the fill, there are a few names I don't know, and a couple I do. The Jim [Nabors role] is Gomer PYLE; got that. The [Pupil of Miss Crump, on TV] is OPIE; more decades-old TV, got it. [Nancy's aunt in Nancy Drew mysteries] is named ELOISE; she had an aunt? [N.F.L. Hall-of-Famer Matson] is named OLLIE; never heard of him. ["Porgy" novelist ___ Heyward]'s first name is DUBOSE; Dubose Heyward is a delightfully weird name. [Sci-fi novelist ___ S. Tepper]'s first name is SHERI; never heard of her. The [R&B singer with the hit "Thong Song"] is SISQO; I know the name but not the song. [Last name in comedy] is MARX, as in Groucho, Harpo, et al.; got it. [Curly whacker] is MOE Howard, one of the Three Stooges; got that.
I like the varying Jets in the clues. The [Only Super Bowl won by the Jets] is III, while [The Jets, e.g.] are a GANG in West Side Story. There are two [Jot]s, too, a WHIT and an IOTA. There's no [Jut] clue, but close: [Just] means ONLY. There's not much information provided in the cross-referenced clues for 28-Down and 45-Down, GAS and a FILL-UP.
Don Gagliardo's LA Times crossword has a theme that takes a while to suss out because the clues for the first three theme answers is simply [?], and the grand unifying answer's clue is [Question that begs to be asked about 17-, 30- and 37-Across]. It turns out the question is WHERE DID IT ALL GO?—referring to the DISAPPEARING INK, VANISHING CREAM, and EVAPORATED MILK. Evaporated milk is actually quite easy to see, but I like the overall conceit anyway. Liveliest fill: RAISE HELL, or [Cause a ruckus]. So accustomed am I to the daily crossword's catering to the stereotypical great-grandma who gets the vapors, I wanted to put CAIN in there instead. Speaking of vapors, [Paralyze with mist, as an airport] almost looks like it's suggesting that TSA employees spray passengers with paralyzing mist, doesn't it? I bogged myself down with ICE IN (wrong! where's the mist?) instead of FOG IN, which led me to have CREW instead of OARS for [Trireme hands], too. [Word often seen in green] is obvious if you're solving the crossword while walking down a busy street, less so if you are sitting indoors—it's WALK. Also cute: Crossing PETRI dish with a TEST TUBE.
I don't at all recall ASTRES, ['70s Pontiac subcompacts]. I doubt I have ever used the word REINVOLVE, or [Bring back into play]. The lower left corner of this puzzle didn't please me at all. [Lateral lead-in] devoutly wished to be EQUI, because nobody much uses AMBIlateral; ambidextrous, yes. The ["Sands of Iwo Jima" director Allan] DWAN is not as famous these days as he might have hoped. The [Despondent cry] is "OH, ME," which I have never, ever said, and which could just as plausibly be AH ME, OH NO, or ALAS. [Some of the landed gentry] are DOWAGERS and [Birds' bills] are also called NEBS. Stretching down into this corner, too, is AT A LOW EBB, or [Declining seriously]. The idiom may date back four centuries and may be used in mainstream newspapers today, but it resisted my efforts to piece it together this morning.
Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Five of a Kind," has a vowel progression theme, with five lively phrases swapping in A, E, I, O, and U to fill in the B*LLY___ space:
Hartman probably didn't realize that Byron Walden did essentially the same theme (but with BELLYFLOP and the shorter BILLY GOAT) in his 11/23/01 NYT puzzle. The two puzzles are different—the older one was a tougher Friday puzzle, while today's is as easy as a Tuesday NYT. I like 'em both.
January 07, 2009