I just remembered Wednesday evening that I hadn't started blogging about the ACPT crosswords. If you did the ACPT puzzles already or if you're not opposed to spoilers, scroll down for the puzzle #1 post.
Today's New York Times crossword has an unfamiliar byline: David Chapus. This may well be a debut, and it's a doozy. The folks who complained that Caleb Madison's Wednesday puzzle felt Thursdayish should have suspected that Thursday's puzzle would go beyond Thursday-level difficulty. The theme involves a rebus gimmick. The PED XING sign at 39-Across is a hint to the theme, which is PED squeezed into a single square—a crossing (XING) between Across and Down, naturally—in each of the four quadrants:
The rebus squares didn't land in exactly symmetrical spots, but the longer answers in the rebus pairs are placed symmetrically. This being a Thursday with a Fridayish vibe, there are plenty of interesting and/or challenging clues, and I liked 'em:
Wasn't this a good take on the rebus concept, what with the unifying entry PED XING serving as the impetus for the whole enterprise?
I had no idea where Donna Hoke Kahwaty's LA Times crossword was heading with its theme until I made my way down to 57-Across, [Noodles, and a word that can precede the beginning of 17-, 28-, or 43-Across]—SPAGHETTI. Well! SPAGHETTI is a far more interesting word to partner up with other words than what we usually see in such themes. A typical "word that can precede/follow ___" theme centers on a common noun, like WATER or EYE. SPAGHETTI is a cool choice because there aren't a zillion "spaghetti ___" phrases in the language (excluding the many options that might be found on trattoria menus). The New Oxford American Dictionary lists only Kahwaty's three phrases, along with spaghetti bolognese, so the theme is tight. (The constructor's job is easier in a "water ___" puzzle, as there's a much longer list of theme entry candidates to choose from.) Here are the three:
This puzzle's also noteworthy for having four 9-letter answers in the fill. A [Gourmet] is an EPICUREAN. [Like a couch potato] means SEDENTARY. GREEN PEAS are [Stew ingredients]. And RORSCHACH is a [Personality test creator] as well as a Watchmen character. The toughest clue for me was [One of the Papas]—I first thought of Irene Papas, which was a wrong turn, and then struggled to remember who was in The Mamas and the Papas besides the Mamas. DENNY Doherty, along with John Williams (and Mama Cass Elliot and Michelle Williams). I also paused at [Search and rescue org.]—that's the USCG, or U.S. Coast Guard.
Between the surprise of learning that SPAGHETTI phrases were the main dish and the interlocked long answers in the fill, I'm putting this puzzle in contention for the year's best mid-week puzzle.
Speaking of that, Michael Sharp (a.k.a. Rex Parker) suggested this morning that we add a "best debut" category to the year-end Oryx awards, and David Chapus's NYT rebus puzzle is in the running there.
Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy crossword, "Vision Quest," has three theme entries that end with "vision" words:
In the fill, TAPIR is clued as a [Belize beast with a prominent snout]. I must take this opportunity to warn you: if a tapir has its back end to you, stay back because its pee can travel a good 10 feet or more. We found this out the hard way at the Chester Zoo in England. MALARKEY is a great word, and it's clued as [Bunkum]. In the '70s, the [TV cop with a Tootsie Pop] was Theo KOJAK, played by bald Telly Savalas. Great clue for THOU: [Intro to art?].
March 11, 2009