Sun 8:30—cool puzzle—don't miss it
(post last updated at 8:40 p.m. Friday with the Wall Street Journal puzzle)
Do you wish I talked more about me, me, me? If so, you're in luck! Jim Horne's interview is up at the Wordplay blog tonight.
Frederick Healy's New York Times crossword was moving along swiftly for me until I hit the skids in the lower right-hand corner. The answer to [Rally speaker's emphatic response to his own rhetorical question] seems a tad trumped up as crossword answers go: I SAY NO. Having [Modern home of ancient Ebla] crossing a [Site in ancient Thebes] in the same general area didn't help—those are SYRIA and KARNAK, respectively. KARNAK crosses ["Home Improvement" actor Richard] KARN, who went on to host Family Feud. See those K's? They have plenty of company, as there are eight K's in this kooky puzzle. What else did I notice about the clues and answers?
I accidentally did Joon Pahk's Sun crossword, "Transmutation," at the beginning of the week. Whoo, was this ever hard for a Monday! That explains why it's a Friday Sun puzzle. Joon's got five rebus squares distributed in the four longest Across answers, and each one demonstrates a little ALCHEMY by turning lead (Pb) into gold (Au). For example, [Raising support?] clues a PUSH-UP BRA, and the PB changes to AU in the crossing answer, TUSSAUDS ([Place to find lifeless celebs]) modeled in wax). Blow RASPBERRIES crosses an AUGEAN task. TOP BANANA intersects with a CO-AUTHOR, [Someone with whom you might share a spine] without being conjoined twins. The double-rebus answer is the [#1 hit of February 2003], "BUMP, BUMP, BUMP" (video here), which I have never even heard of. If it wasn't a song aimed at toddlers, I wasn't encountering it in 2003. The song title crosses JUNEAU and HAULS.
I loved the alchemical rebus transmutation, and also relished its challenge and the overall toughness of the puzzle's clues and fill. Plus PECAN is followed by KARO, which is followed by JIMS. My dad JIM'S recipe for PECAN pie is modified from the one on the KARO corn syrup bottle—just use two or three times as many pecans as the recipe calls for so that it's pecans all the way down to the crust.
Todd McClary's LA Times crossword has some genius moments that entertained me. The four OUT OF AMMUNITION theme entries are out of ammo because they've lost the BB that was in the original phrase:
Here are my favorite parts of this crossword:
Brendan Emmett Quigley's crossword today is a themeless one called "Power Grid." In his accompanying post, he talks about crossword entries that some label "contrived":
Superstar constructors like Byron Walden and Joe DiPietro pull this trick off all the time. Typically their work is so open or so filled with good stuff, they'll inevitably be forced to have to stretch the rules just enough to use completely plausible entires that are very colloquial, yet aren't in any dictionaries, and just barely in everyday speech. I think some solvers are on the fence about them; the case against is they're a little too contrived. Generally, I love those entries the best because, at the very least, they're completely original. And freshness is always going to win out over seeing the same old tired repeaters.Brendan's got a few such answers in this puzzle, but he also has some incredibly zippy and fresh answers that aren't at all contrived—[Pocket game, perhaps] clues IPHONE APP. iPhone users love to load their phones with fun applications, but IPHONEAPP probably wasn't in any constructor's word database 'til now. Same with SEXTING, clued as [Modern-day booty call]. Who uses this term? I don't know. I don't. But I'm sure it's out there and I'm equally sure it's never appeared in the NYT crossword. MADMEN used to be just a word, but now it's gained currency as Mad Men, the award-winning TV series, so it looks hipper in the grid. CAF is here clued as [Half-___ (order to a barista)]. There might not be any other decent way to clue CAF, but it works perfectly and it's au courant.
I'm less fond of REDIGS and REMOLDS, and the set of "answers that may be considered contrived" includes WE MET, AMUSE ME, and I'M ALONE. Making their inclusion more tolerable is the presence of other lively answers like GAY ICON ([Cher or Madonna, e.g.]), SHEBANG ([Whole amount?]), ONCOMING traffic, the CERUMEN/OUTER EAR combo, and Mickey SPILLANE. ["Sex and the City" siren] really needed to be SAMANTHA, but only MIRANDA would fit the space.
Michael Ashley's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Reading Lits," features four novels whose titles have been changed by transposing an ST into a TS. The resulting title is clued, with the author's name there to lead the way to the answer:
No sign of the Across Lite version of the Wall Street Journal crossword yet—Lloyd Mazer, who voluntarily does the work to get the puzzle converted into Across Lite and hosts the files on his server, has a brand new granddaughter (yay!), so perhaps he has been too busy cooing at a baby to post this puzzle. I can wait. Babies are cute.
Updated Friday evening:
Indeed, Lloyd Mazer was too busy with that grandbaby to post the Wall Street Journal crossword earlier. "Divine Inspiration" is the name of the game, and its author is Pancho Harrison. I was rather pleased with myself for figuring out the tie-in between title and theme well before reaching the explanatory answer at 132-Across, [Part of Bette Midler's nickname (and what the starred answers do)]—MISS M. Each of the nine theme answers has lost its initial M and the resulting new phrase is what's clued:
Drop-a-letter themes can easily fall flat, but I quite enjoyed this crossword. The theme entries had some fun little surprises, like Mark Twain minus the M and the aforementioned ASS MARKETING. I swear the WSJ puzzle has gotten easier lately. Do you think the editorial powers-that-be have instructed editor Mike Shenk to go easy on their readership in these recessionary times?
February 05, 2009
Sun 8:30—cool puzzle—don't miss it