John Farmer's New York Times crossword
John Farmer's themeless crossword looks a little weird before you fill it in—this 70-worder has sort of a haphazard look to the grid, doesn't it? But once you get into it, it's got plenty of interesting and lively fill. The longest answers are 10 and 12 letters long:
Another 15 answers are 7 or 8 letters long. Highlights among these:
Things I somehow knew, at least with the help of some crossings:
Trip Payne's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Versical Takeoffs"
The title of Trip's puzzle plays on "vertical takeoffs," an aviation term, and takes the game in a poetic direction. The theme clues imitate the characteristic style of certain poets and provide some identifying information; the answers are the poets' names. Like so:
This crossword should be required solving for senior English majors everywhere. I found the theme concept and clues to be delightfully clever. The cleverest non-theme clue here is [Hit the end?], for SPANK.
If you enjoyed Trip's cruciverbal parody of recognizable literary styles, you'll love Francis Heaney's Holy Tango of Literature. In this tremendously entertaining book, Francis parodies various poets' and other writers' styles after first anagramming the writer's name and using said anagram as the title of the parody. For example. T.S. Eliot can be anagrammed into "Toilets," the name of Francis's poem that captures the rhythms of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" but is set in a restroom.
Updated Friday morning:
Jack McInturff's L.A. Times crossword
The theme entries here transpose an IR into an RI four times. "You're fired" becomes YOU'RE FRIED, or [Words to a drunk?]. [2000s Senate leader's turndown?] is FRIST REFUSAL, playing on the right of first refusal. I feel like "first refusal" isn't a stand-alone phrase without its preceding "right of." The third theme answer is PARIS SKATING, or [Hilton on the ice?], playing on pairs figure skating. The last one is [What you never see after strikes?] in bowling: SPARE TRIES (spare tires).
[Finland's second largest city] is called ESPOO. "Is that a chocolate bar I see?" "No, ESPOO." This is my favorite crosswordese town. It doesn't show up more than once a year, I don't think, but it's good for a laugh when it does. (No offense to the Finns.)
Miscellaneous other clues:
Brendan Emmett Quigley's blog crossword, "Toxic Assets"
Brendan channels both Merl Reagle (tortured puns) and the Wall Street Journal crossword (finance as a theme) in "Toxic Assets." The theme entries pun on certain types of assets, turning one word into another that evokes toxicity, sort of:
Let's see...what else? [The Beetles] are V.W. BUGS—great-looking answer in the grid. A [Flexible strip of wood] is a SPLINE—meh. [Big name in wireless] is HELIO—who?
Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Transformers"
The four 15-letter theme entries spanning the grid are akin to Wheel of Fortune ""Before and After" phrases, but all begin with an actor or actress's name:
ELAM is clued as [Ancient civilization in what is now Iran]; I think actor Jack ELAM gets more play in crosswords. I wanted [Tender protein source] to be TOFU that's not of the extra-firm variety, but it's VEAL (insert sad "moo" here).
Gabriel Stone's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Figure Heads"
Gabriel Stone is either a constructor whose name is unfamiliar to me or another pseudonym for editor Mike Shenk. Let's see if it anagrams to something likely. Belgian store? Real sot binge? I blest Orange?
The theme here is that there's a hidden CPA (109-Down) in each of the seven longest answers. CPAs work with numbers, a.k.a. "figures," ergo they are "figure heads" here.
I found myself vexed by numerous clues for phrasal answers. I'm surprised the puzzle didn't take me a lot longer, because it wasn't feeling fun or fast while I was doing it. I ran afoul of some uncommon answers: CAVATINA is a [Short aria]. ROSE BAY is a [Hardy rhododendron shrub]. VISCONTI is the ["Death in Venice" director]. Then there were the phrases that did their best to hide from me: [Outraged] clues UP IN ARMS. RAN A RISK means one [Wasn't cautious]. [Live] means IN PERSON.
Cooler stuff: SHA NA NA in its entirety, clued as the [Group that played "At the Hop" at Woodstock]. BORSCHT has only one vowel in it; [It's often served with sour cream]. APATHY is a [Challenge for rabble-rousers]. [Milky Way feature] is CARAMEL; I was thinking astronomy rather than candy bars. "I'M SCARED" is a [Chicken call?].
April 02, 2009