(updated at 1:10 p.m. Wednesday)
Between a condo board meeting and watching the VH1 tribute to The Who (including a rare set from The Who themselves), TiVoed from the Palladia HD channel, it sure has gotten late, so I'll be quick here.
The New York Times crossword by Oliver Hill seems on the hard side for a Wednesday, doesn't it? Still shy of Thursday, though, so I guess that makes it a Wednesday puzzle after all, but a hard Wednesday. The theme entries have homophones for clues, and the answers are phrases that normally wouldn't pass muster as crossword fill—sort of a clue/answer reversal, with the 11- and 14-letter answers being suitable clues for the 3- and 4-letter clues, which are common crossword answers. Here they are:
Fair enough. But good gravy, what on earth is EXEGETE doing here in the middle of the week? That's an [Expert at interpreting a text], apparently. I wonder if anyone's messed up that T by not knowing that OTAY is [Buckwheat's affirmative].
Among the more interesting entries are these:
Peter Wentz's Sun crossword has a strong streak of lunacy to it. Most of the theme spells out what the theme is: 62-Down is THE AVERAGE / SCRABBLE SCORE OF / ALL THE LETTERS IN / THIS PUZZLE, or in other words, TWO. You've got your standard quantity of vowels, plus six Z's, two X's, plus all sorts of other letters, and they somehow all average out to 2 points per letter using Scrabble tile values? I'm thinking that was no mean feat, constructing this puzzle so that the average isn't,say, 1.83 or 2.07 instead. (I'm assuming it works out to a total Scrabble score of twice the number of white squares—no way am I going to check Peter and Peter's work!) The fill includes entries like JUDE LAW, BOHEMIA, and the X PRIZE for added oomph. There's also some weird stuff, like Italy's LA SPEZIA, an OBLIGER, and a HIERARCH, some of which makes this puzzle also feel supra-Wednesdayish. I haven't looked at the Thursday and Friday Sun puzzles yet, but if they're harder than this puzzle, oof! Are we in for a workout.
Michael Langwald's LA Times crossword honors the Lizard King (Jim Morrison), sort of, with a puzzle that includes a SALAMANDER ([Amphibian that can regenerate its limbs]). Morrison led THE DOORS, a [1960s-'70s group, and this puzzle's theme], and each of the other theme answers begins with a kind of door:
A few miscellaneous clues and answers:
Speaking of music downloads, I'm digging the iTunes "genius" option. Pick a song that matches your mood, click the genius button, and get a playlist of 25 compatible songs. The only down side is that it can be hard to do crosswords and type blog posts when danceable songs are playing or when you can't help singing along with an '80s Human League song.
Matt Gaffney's Onion A.V. Club crossword plays a quasi-cryptic game, with the cryptic crossword–style clues instructing us to put an actor's name inside another word to create a new made-up phrase. In each case, it's a 2-letter word getting sandwiched around the person's first name, with the last name left as is. Here's how it plays out:
If you enjoyed this theme (as I did) but haven't dared to venture into cryptics, you might want to give them a try. With 70 words and four corners packed with 7-letter answers, this puzzle also has a little of the challenge of a themeless crossword. Two clues that slowed me down: [The NBA's Zydrunas Ilgauskas, e.g.] needed a 3-letter answer. Hmm, LITHUANIAN is too long. I had *AV and of course there are two basketball teams whose nicknames fit that pattern, the CAVs (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Mavs (Dallas Mavericks). Then there's [Take in Tolkien, e.g.], which I was reading with "take" as a noun, and I was at a loss. The One RING? No, "take in" is a verb phrase, and the answer is READ.
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "A Turn for the Worse," replaces key words in certain phrases with their opposites, all with negative connotations:
Solid theme, not too tough. Highlights in the non-thematic answers and clues:
It's going to take me all day to do today's Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword. Why? Because instead of looking at the whole puzzle, I'm going the diagramless route and waiting for Brendan to parcel out the clues, one by one, in his Twitter feed. So far he's given the first four Across clues, and I think the grid's just got a standard crossword layout and symmetry, so I think the first six Acrosses are all 7-letter answers stacked beside one another at the top. I can't make fast progress because I won't get the 1- to 14-Down clues until after all the Across clues have been tweeted. I could cheat and Google 1 Across, [With 8-Across, "A Punk" rock band]—but where's the fun in that?
Commenter Squonk actually read Brendan's post today and informed me that the Twitter feed has clues for Friday's puzzle. (You can see the tweets in the sidebar of Brendan's blog if you don't want to sign up for Twitter.) I suspect this is the first instance of a crossword being provided in 160-character (max.) chunks. Anyway, today's puzzle is untweeted, just a regular puzzle, no diagramless option unless you cut out the grid yourself. The "Ow! Aargh!" title hints at the sound change in the theme entries. I don't know how to use the international phonetic alphabet to render the sound change, so I'll let the theme entries demonstrate it instead:
Juicy clues and answers:
January 13, 2009