May 23, 2009

Sunday, 5/24

NYT 6:22
PI about 8 minutes (paper)
LAT 8:04
BG about 9 minutes (paper)
CS about 4 minutes (paper)

Liz Gorski's New York Times crossword, "Perpetual Motion"

I don't know about you, but I'd never heard of the guy at 29D, who was clued only with [See note]. The notepad (which worked perfectly in the applet) says that he invented the figure you outline when you play connext-the-dots with the circled squares, and that the other five theme entries (all starred) give a hint:

  • 21A. [2007 Ken Follett novel] is WORLD WITHOUT END.
  • 25A. [Bond film that's a real gem?] is DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER.
  • 100A. [Alexander Pope phrase appropriate to the start of a sports season] is HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL. See: Chicago Cubs.
  • 104A. [1974 Carl Carlton hit] is EVERLASTING LOVE.
  • 47D. [Song by Tejano singer Selena] is ALWAYS MINE.

Without end, forever, eternal, everlasting, and always suggest infinity, and the circled letters spell out SYMBOL OF INFINITY when you trace the shape of the infinity symbol—which was devised by JOHN WALLIS at 29D.

Good things about this puzzle: (1) The visual oomph. (2) The well-executed and elegantly thought-out theme concept. (3) The overall smoothness of the fill and clues—I didn't hit any icy patches. Bad things: Is zero the opposity of infinity?

Clue roundup:
  • 10A. [Scot's exclamation] is OCH, not ACH.
  • 13A. SHAD is [The fish in John McPhee's "The Founding Fish"]. I haven't read that one, but loved the geology primer in McPhee's Basin and Range.
  • 30A. [Kisser, so to speak] is your face, a.k.a. VISAGE. FACE is at 57D, clued as [Makeup target].
  • 34A. ARNETTS is clued as [Newsman Peter and others]. What, Will Arnett of Arrested Development, husband of Amy Poehler, isn't by far the more famous Arnett now?
  • 52A. YECCH, which is also spelled yech (less effectively), means ["That's disgusting!"].
  • 66A. I'm fond of the analogy clues, which seem to be a Shortz/NYT thing. [Knesset : Jerusalem :: Storting : ___] OSLO.
  • 75A. The Latin phrase IN ESSE means [Real].
  • 88A. [Fivesomes] are PENTADS, and no, I don't think I've ever had cause to use this word.
  • 91A. [Gonitis locale] is the KNEE. I don't know that "gonitis" is commonly used in orthopedic circles. Is there an orthopod in the house?
  • 110A. The crosswordese bay windows called ORIELS are [Victorian home features].
  • 114A. Thank you, Mr. WYNNE. That's [Arthur ___, inventor of the crossword puzzle]. Well done!
  • 3D. ISR., or Israel, is the [Country whose national anthem's title means "The Hope": Abbr.].
  • 4D, 6D. Temperature extremes! COLD ONE is a [Brewski] and a HOT OVEN is a [Baking need]. Indeed, we preheated the oven yesterday before putting the oatmeal/dark chocolate chip/pecan/dried fruit cookies in.
  • 10D. [Has thirds or fourths, say] clues OVEREATS.
  • 20D. The one who's WORST OFF is [Most in need of help]. Good entry.
  • 62D. This one feels awkward. ["Win ___ of..." (contest come-on)] clues A SET. How many contest prizes are sets of anything?
  • 63D. Liz is a musician, so I'm guessing the [C to C#, e.g.] clue for HALF STEP is hers and not Will's.
  • 79D. EXEGESES are [Biblical interpretations] or critical interpretations of other texts.
  • 81D. INSANEST is clued [Most ready for commitment?].
  • [Six years before the Battle of Hastings] is MLX, or 1060.
  • 86D. BASE TEN is a [Common thing to count in].
  • 87D. [Thick-___] SKULLED shares most of its letters with thick-SKINNED. I wonder how many people opted for the latter.

Is it just me, or was this puzzle easier than you were expecting, too?

Updated Saturday night:

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Celebrity Anagrams"

What a fun theme! I do like anagrams, especially when they're apt and entertaining. Here, Merl takes 11 (!) famous people's names and anagrams them into words that are part of the clue. ["A) I TEND TO SCOWL, and b) I do it less when I direct"] clues squinty auteur CLINT EASTWOOD. [His slogan could be "JEST, NOT WAR"] refers to JON STEWART (whose fondness for crosswords goes unremarked in this puzzle). KATIE HOLMES is an anagram of the beginning of [SHE LIKE-A TOM (and Tom like-a her)]. Ouch! The LIKE-A bit strains things a bit. Poor TONY BLAIR—["I used to be in charge, but now you could say I'm ONLY A BRIT"]. CHRISTINA APPLEGATE is the [Actress (and crossword fan) known for her APPEALING THEATRICS; she outed herself in a comment at Rex's blog when her too-long-for-crosswordese name was in an NYT puzzle, and has talked about crosswords in Entertainment Weekly and on Letterman. [He'll help you ENJOY L.A.] clues JAY LENO, though I don't know how he'd help me enjoy L.A.—maybe by leaving it? I hadn't seen this short theme entry when I was working through the theme clues without any crossings, but I like to think it would've been a gimme too. [AH, I SPEAK A SWELL RIME (and I write okay, too)] perfectly captures WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE's writing style, doesn't it? JOE NAMATH is clued, [OH MAN, A JET is what I used to be"]. I couldn't figure out [Acting may be the HAMMIEST GIG, but not when she does it]—the GIG part planted GIGI firmly in my head, so I needed some crossings for MAGGIE SMITH to emerge. Same with TIM RUSSERT, clued with [His interviewing motto could have been "TRUST ME, SIR"]. MARY MAGDALENE was easier to tease out of [LEGENDARY MAMA in "The Da Vinci Code" (an anagram not mentioned in the original book)].

If you have an aptitude for anagramming, I'll bet you savored this puzzle's theme. If you can't anagram your way out of A PEP GRAB, I hope you had fun pondering the clues and teasing the answers out of the crossings.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's non-current Boston Globe crossword, "State Pairs"

The portmanteaued constructing duo Hex form portmanteau names of two states in the theme clues, and the answers are the nickname that would result from combining the two states. For example, Delaware is called the First State and Georgia's the Peach State, so "Delaworgia" is the FIRST PEACH state. The pairings don't always make much sense—Nevatah (Nevada + Utah) is the SILVER BEEHIVE state, and, well, beehives aren't made of metal, nor are they silver-hued. Call me crazy, but I would have adored this theme if the clues and answers hade been swapped. Having to figure out which states to blend and how to blend them would've been fun, even if the "correct" spelling might seem arbitrary. Imagine if NEW JERK (New Jersey + New York) and ARKACHUSETTS (Arkansas + Massachusetts) had been answers in the grid! And actually, these eight theme entries used up only 18 state nicknames, so there are 32 more that are ripe for the mashing—and the states in this puzzle could be recombined in novel ways. Oklafornia, for example. So, come on, someone make that puzzle!

Updated Sunday afternoon:

Kevin Donovan's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, "Keeping an Eye Out"

Hey, it's almost time for the Monday NYT puzzle to come out online, so in lieu of writing about this puzzle now, let me instead refer you to PuzzleGirl's L.A. Crossword Confidential post. I did this crossword this morning, but I barely remember it—the intervening hours of my kid's homework drama have purged my brain of sentient thought. The, no. That won't work. I'm empty.

Randolph Ross's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge"

Fairly easy puzzle, as themelesses go. Liked SEE YA LATER, TCHOTCHKE, THE REDS ([Ohio players], not to be confused with the Ohio Players of '70s funk), and fancy HETERODOXY ([Non-traditional beliefs]). Less thrilled with roll-your-own REPACKED, LAI and FRISCH surnames, N.A.R. initials, and plural brand name ATRAS.