Elizabeth Gorski's New York Times crossword, "Architectural Drawing"
Every now and then, Elizabeth Gorski gets the urge to craft a crossword that combines a rebus gimmick with a spatial or architectural aspect. She's had one with the Empire State Building, one with James Bond's martini glass, and another with Spider-Man's web. This time, she turns her talents towards the EIFFEL TOWER at 118-Across—a [Landmark inaugurated 3/31/1889 whose shape is suggested by nine squares in this puzzle's completed grid]. Which nine squares? Why, the rebus squares, of course, laid out (like the rest of the grid) with left/right symmetry. What's in the rebus squares? Eiffel Tower's initials, ET, which is also the French word et, or "and." What does et do, grammatically speaking? It's a conjunction—THE FRENCH CONNECTION, if you will (67A: [1971 Oscar-winning film whose title is hinted at nine times in this grid]).
There are more French connections in the puzzle's theme. 26-Across is AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is the [1951 Oscar-winning film whose title suggests a visitor to the 118-Across]. That American vacationing in Paris may want beverages or snacks. [Wine enjoyed by 26-Across, maybe] is a CHATEAU LAFITE (45A). [Morning refreshment for 26-Across?] is CAFE AU LAIT (52A); I'm not sure why there's a question mark in that clue. The baked good called a [Napoleon's place, frequented by 26-Across?] is a bakery, or PATISSERIE.
The theme marches on with the ET rebus squares:
Beautiful crossword, isn't it? Liz has a gift for the visual and the constructing chops to get rebus squares to fit where they need to in order to draw a picture. And then there's a solid theme-entry count of six. There's probably a reason that very few constructors publish 21x21 rebus puzzles with theme entries layered on top—I can't imagine pulling this off.
Mind you, Liz also had a little help from some clunky little filler words. There's one I don't remember encountering in crosswords before—UNCI (125A) are apparently [Hook-shaped parts of brains]. I may be a medical editor, but I don't know this word. It's the plural of uncus, and my mother, the medical transcriptionist, doesn't know the word either. So it's not just you, if you were stumped by that one.
Here are a few highlights in the non-theme fill:
I have a half-nit to pick with 70D: [Soyuz letters] for CCCP. Yes, the old USSR's Cyrillic abbreviation CCCP appeared on old Soviet-era spacecraft. But the Russian space program is still using the Soyuz name—just this week, they launched a Soyuz craft that was heading to the International Space Station upon the departure of the space shuttle Discovery. (The Discovery landed in Florida Saturday afternoon.) The clue's accurate but anachronistic—which means Will Shortz has all the cover he needs to use it. Just a heads-up that Soyuz is still out there.
No late-week NYT crossword would be complete without a little crosswordese, some semi-obscurities, or both. (We call these learning experiences, no?)
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Wedding No-Shows"
This week's Merl Reagle puzzle reframes the phrase "wedding no-shows" and creates a theme of wedding-related phrases in which one letter (specified at the end of the clue) is a no-show. The resulting phrase gets clued with respect to various nuptial scenarios. For example, 67A is [What a priest might accidentally call the bride? (L)], or YOUR AWFUL WEDDED WIFE (lawful). Ha! I'll bet that was the seed entry for this puzzle.
22A: [Not-so-good news for a groom? (I)] clues THE BRIDE'S MAD (the bridesmaid). That definite article would pair better with the maid of honor or the best man, as there's usually just one of those. But there are typically two or more bridesmaids and ushers. 24A: [What Eskimos do at weddings? (R)] is THROW ICE (throw rice). The other theme answers are BOTHER-IN-LAW (brother), LOWER ARRANGEMENT (flower), HERE COMES THE BRIE (bride), EXCHANGE VW'S (vows), and A LOVELY COUPE (couple).
Merl presents a new ENZO, [Singer Stuarti]. Not really new, as the fellow passed away in 2005, but new in that he's not the usual ENZO in crosswords. According to Wikipedia, "During the 1960's and into the early 70's, Enzo Stuarti appeared in a series of commercials for Ragu Spaghetti Sauce, where his catchphrase was 'That's A'Nice!'" Another person I've never heard of is LUANA, or [Actress Anders], who started out in Roger Corman's B-movies. And who is [Actress Felicia] FARR? Jamie Farr says he's much better known among Americans.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's delayed Boston Globe crossword in Across Lite, "Presidential Pet"
There's not too much to say about this puzzle, which is good because I am running out of time tonight. The theme is a "presidential factoid" presented in four 21-letter answers that span the grid and an 11 in the middle: THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE / GAVE TO JOHN QUINCY ADAMS / AN ALLIGATOR, / WHICH THE PRESIDENT KEPT / IN A WHITE HOUSE BATHROOM. I just told my son this factoid, and he was underwhelmed. Aw, I thought he'd get more of a kick out of it.
Was President's Day about six weeks ago? Yes, it was—so this was a timely holiday puzzle when it appeared in the Globe. Granted, it was still a quote/quip sort of theme, and I generally can't get too exercised about such themes.
Updated Sunday morning:
Rich Norris's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge"
How often do you find yourself filling in 1-Across as the last answer in a crossword? That happened to me with this puzzle. [Cheap trinkets] are tchotchkes or tsatskes or, apparently, CHACHKES. The tchotchke spelling is the one I'm familiar with, but Yiddish words seem to have a variety of spellings in English. I can't help thinking that when Joanie and Chachi got married, they received a few CHACHKES as wedding gifts.
Favorite fill and clues:
Kathleen Fay O'Brien's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, "Los Angeles Clippers"
For my full write-up on this puzzle, see L.A. Crossword Confidential.
The theme entails clipping an LA from nine phrases to create the theme answers:
Tribute to Dave Sullivan, Our Tireless Webmaster
A lot of you have no interest in paying attention to how long it takes to finish a crossword, I know. But some of us do like that aspect. And look how cool the revamped leaderboard is! Thanks to Dave and his programming mojo, we can now see how we stack up against the friendly competition on both the NYT and LAT crosswords, in one handy-dandy box.
Dave also made one of these standings boxes for Brendan Quigley's site. It is a bit disheartening to be trounced by others, I know. (Ellen, so fast on the LAT today! A slew of people, faster than me on the BEQs!) But it's all in fun, and I encourage the relative slowpokes (who are, of course, still faster than the majority of solvers out there in America) to post their times too. The minutes field goes up to 90 minutes, so don't be shy if you go over the hour mark.
Please join me in a round of virtual applause and whooping for Dave.
March 28, 2009