Alan Arbesfeld's New York Times Sunday puzzle, "Pajama Party," includes nine theme answers with P.J. initials:
This theme is fine, though it lacks any sort of humor component. Let's see if the question-marked clues can stir things up:
I like the clue [German city whose name means "to eat"] for ESSEN—my favorite ESSEN clue of all time. It's an easy German I word (LATIN I is [Where "amo, amas, amat" is learned]), and the clue has more flavor than a strictly geographical one. I feel there's a noun missing from the beginning of [Who wrote "The only abnormality is the incapacity to love"]—ANAIS NIN is the answer. [Hand-picked thing] is a BANJO. [At home, abroad] clues the French phrase EN FAMILLE.
Hmm, I guess I wasn't in the mood for Star Wars puns when I did Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "One Fine Day at the 'Star Wars' Mall." It is possible that I might never be in the mood for a 10-pack of Star Wars puns. Here are some of the theme answers:
A couple other short answers (in addition to SOV) gave me pause. [Abbr. after Charles Robb's name when he was a sen.] is DVA, or D-VA. [Superior and Municipal, for ex.] clues CTS, an abbreviation for courts. Never heard of [Actor Rossano], or BRAZZI, and he doesn't have the sort of name that shows up in a lot of crosswords.
In Nora Pearlstone's Sunday Los Angeles Times syndicated crossword, 18-Down is [False names], or ANONYMS. "Nora Pearlstone" is one of editor/constructor Rich Norris's anonyms (it's an anagram of "not a real person"). In the "E.E. Comings" theme, each long theme answer is a two-word phrase with E.E. initials. ECONOMIC EXPANSION is a [Monetary policy goal], for example, and [Computers and such] are ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT. The corners of the puzzle have a lot of 7-letter answers interlocking, which gives them the feel of a themeless crossword framing the themed one. Highlights in the fill:
Patrick Jordan's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" is none too challenging. Did you know that Sidney Poitier directed STIR CRAZY? It's true. I had no idea. [Nineties, to Einstein] is IQ RANGE. No, just kidding—it's an ANAGRAM. [Turkey or tyrannosaurus, say] is a BIPED like you and me. Two successive answers, 8- and 15-Across, have the same 5 letters in the middle. [Emulates Don Juan] clues SEDUCES while [One on a diet] is a REDUCER. (Alas, TEDUCET cannot continue the series because it's not a word.) I have never heard HEADMAN used to mean a [Leader], but you may sign me up for the headwoman clan. CUTES is clued as [Case of the ___ (affected coyness)]. The European geography here is a little snoozy—the MARNE is [The Seine's largest branch] and BADEN is a [German region]. Answers like EARLIKE ([Resembling an auditory organ]) and ENOLS ([Compounds with double-bond carbons]) are also on the snoozy side.
Henry Hook's Boston Globe puzzle in Across Lite is called "Hot Stuff," and each of the 10 interlocking theme answers begins with a group of letters that also make up a "hot" word. I've circled the "hot" words so it's easier to see how the theme entries are physically connected—22- and 45-Across both cross 23-Down, as do the trio of answers in the opposite corner, and the northeast and southwest corners of the grid have stacked pairs of theme answers. The "hot" words aren't used as such in the theme phrases. For example, STEWIE GRIFFIN is the [Matricidal TV tyke] from Family Guy, the [Hawk] WARMONGER lacks true warmth, and the [Popular board game] PARCHEESI isn't about parched desert. It's a well-conceived and adeptly executed theme, but I suppose the stacking and interconnectivity of theme answers required a few obscurities that wouldn't ordinarily appear in an easyish Sunday crossword. [Bowling Hall-of-Famer Billy] WELU, for example, and CEDIS, or [Money of Ghana]. TELAR, or [Tissue-related], is a bit out there as well. But there's also junk food that's putting me in the mood for salty snacks—ONION DIP to go with potato chips or maybe some CHEETOS.
February 07, 2009