Tausig (not timed—Thurs/Fri NYT difficulty)
John Underwood's New York Times crossword doesn't have the usual sort of theme layout—instead, there are 12 short theme entries (3 to 8 letters each), each with a fill-in-the-blank clue in which the blank follows a nationality
adjective. There's a Turkish BATH (not rugs), Dutch TREAT (not uncle), Russian ROULETTE (not dressing), Swiss CHEESE (not banker), Australian CRAWL (not opals), American ELM (not Pie), Italian ICE (not Job), Canadian BACON (not geese...which are Canada geese anyway), Danish PASTRY (not...hey, I just call it a Danish, no "pastry" needed), Portuguese MAN OF WAR (not man o' wars), French TOAST (not braid), and Spanish RICE (not moss). I made those wrong turns only for the Turkish and Portuguese clues, but I'll bet plenty of solvers had their own assortment of missteps.
[Brandon Lee's last movie], THE CROW, was the coolest entry in this puzzle. SLEEP SOFA is here, clued as [Convertible]; it was just in another crossword about a week ago, and I found it jarring then, too. Sleeper sofa or sofa bed are the terms I hear bandied about. VILIFIER is a weird-looking noun; it's clued as [Slanderer]. Least well-known answer: NINON, or [Sturdy chiffon]. ATC, short for air traffic control(lers), is clued as [Takeoff and landing overseers: Abbr.]. [Bush not seen much nowadays] is an AFRO and not a former president. The Romance languages assert themselves here with POEMA, or [Spanish verse]; VERISMO, or [Operatic movement circa 1900]; ERO, or [Leandro's partner in a Mancinelli opera]; CAFÉ, or [Place to order a sandwich or espresso] (though café is now a thoroughly English word too); RIO, or [Grande opening?]; VAMOS, or ["Let's go, amigo!"]; and ALDO, or [Fashion designer Gucci].
The Tuesday Sun crossword is Patrick Blindauer's "Coming of Age." AGE comes into a familiar phrase to form each theme answer. Let's do the math:
I've never heard of one-N ANAPOLIS, a [City near Brasilia]. HAIKU is here, clued as a [Japanese verse form]—which reminds me, if you've always wanted to write some doggerel about a crosswordese person, now's your chance.
David Cromer's LA Times crossword has one of those themes I didn't understand at all until after I finished the puzzle and reread the theme answers a few times. The theme entries are all plural noun phrases in which the noun at the end doubles as a verb in other settings, and those verbs are synonyms:
The liveliest non-theme fill includes HOT AIR, or [Bombast]; NEST EGG, or [Retirement fund]; MISREAD, or [Get the wrong signals from]; and the CAVEMAN, a [Sourpuss in Geico ads]. We all prefer the gecko, don't we?
Brendan Emmett Quigley's Onion A.V. Club crossword pokes at the standard crossword rules in a couple ways. First, the puzzle's 16 squares wide rather than the usual 15x15. Second, there's one 5-letter answer that appears in the grid in two different places—but those two identical words are part of a longer phrase that would be incomplete without the repeated word. The theme answers are recording artists whose names start with repetition:
You know what? Seventy squares of theme answers are a helluva lot to pack into a daily-sized crossword. Other stuff in this crossword: NCAAS probably isn't in any dictionary in the plural, but it makes perfect sense as [March tourney, casually]. Brendan goes topical with a PLANE that [has a prominent nose, the Hudson RIVER, and the National Transportation Safety Board or NTSB, the [Agcy. that investigated a recent crash in the 17-Across], Hudson.
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Clique Clique," hides a series of high-school clique labels in the long theme answers. Well, they're not too well-hidden since the squares that contain those embedded words are highlighted—without the circles, this test solver couldn't find the theme at all. Here's the foursome:
There are plenty of highlights in this puzzle. PAISANOS are [Italian pals]. [Feature for Norm Peterson or Homer Simpson] is a BEER GUT. Norm Peterson was George Wendt's Cheers character, but I was picturing Norm Abram from PBS's New Yankee Workshop and worried about the safety of combining power saws with beer. SLEEPS ON IT means [Takes some time to decide]. FOOD COMA! That's a great term and it's clued as a [Thanksgiving feeling]. NOWHERE gets a depressingly metaphysical clue, [Desolate place, so to speak]. I don't recall seeing DHED in a crossword before. It's clued as [Just batted] and is short for the past tense of an awkward verb formation. "Designated hittered"? "Designatedly hit"? "Served as a designated hitter in an American League baseball game"? "DHed" will do just fine, thanks. TEH isn't a word but I like it in the crossword—it's a [Notoriously common typo].
February 09, 2009