CS Forever... (J—paper)/4:30 (A—Across Lite)
Word nerd alert! Lexicographers Erin McKean and Grant Barrett, who've attended the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, are part of the team that's just launched Wordnik.com, which is sort of the next generation in dictionaries. It's online and feeds you up-to-the-minute information about a word—not just a dictionary definition but examples of how the word's being used now, Flickr photos that illustrate it, recent Twitter posts including the word, a chart showing how the word's frequency has changed, and so on.
I looked up Will Shortz's favorite word, ucalegon. There's no definition given, but the Twitter post made me laugh: nnelson415: A "Ucalegon" is a neighbor whose house is on fire. It took me an hour to remember this and call 911.
Steve Dobis's New York Times crossword
Those "word that can precede the starts of the theme answers" themes tend to be a little prosaic. One enhancement is to have both parts of the theme entries pair up with the unifying word. Another approach is to beef up the theme by sheer numbers, as Dobis does with this nine-piece theme:
I find myself wishing to take short walks, maybe have a short dance, do my best with my short wits.
Tougher words in the fill:
Updated Tuesday morning:
Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Talking Heads"—Janie's review
For those solvers who like their themed puzzles to be served up with a heavy helping of wordplay, I think you'll find that this to be one of the GEMS of the genre. The titled "talking heads" are... titled heads. Of state. So our four theme entries conclude with a SHAH, a RAJAH, a KING and a CZAR. But those four exalted ones anchor longer puns as well, clued (and I know you'll be shocked to hear this...) alliteratively. Let's take a look:
My major complaint about the puzzle is that it took me too durned long to get goin' (and finish...)—and the critical cross of KEEP and KIGALI eluded me altogether. I knew neither the capital of Rwanda I'm embarrassed to say, nor had I ever heard of the KISS principle (which, as you may have guessed, has nothing to do with these guys). Aaaarrrggghhh. Well, now I know (and hope I won't quickly forget). That said, I got nuthin' but good to say of it.
The grid gives us triple columns of 6s and 8s at either side, pairs of 6s stacked at center and accommodates four 7s as well. Better yet is the fill, which is fresh 'n' lively 'n' well-balanced. REPRISES and PAPERJAM are making first-time major-puzzle appearances; and DIRECTV and LESS THAN, CS debuts. BANZAI, UTOPIA, ADAM'S ALE [Water, wittily], BLACK BOX (resonating sadly indeed with the recent Air France disaster), ROSETTA—all terrific stuff. We also get a spicy mini-theme with EROTIC, SEX and OOLALA; and a pair of names with decidely G-rated "riddle" clues: ROB [Good name for a thief?] and OTTO [Good name for a mechanic?] (as in "Otto, the auto mechanic").
There are some other strong riddle-like clues that bear mentioning: [Punchless punch] is ADE; [Queens diamond that wasn't forever], SHEA (stadium...); [Perfect place that's "not a place"], UTOPIA; [London home of Constables and Sargents, with "the"], TATE (Gallery—and not YARD [as in "Scotland"]); [Shocking color], PINK; [Ant. ant.], SYN (i.e., "antonym"'s antonym [opposite], or "synonym"...just to be very literal...).
And take a look at these clue pairs, as they too, with their repeated words, are wordplay-packed:
Other strong clue/fill combos include:
If I haven't mentioned your fave(s), do tell. In the meantime, that's all she WROTE!
Joan Buell's Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme here is people of some note whose last names are European capital cities:
MR. GOODBAR, the [Hershey's product], may not be a top-selling candy bar (kept alive, no doubt, solely by its inclusion in the bags of Hershey milk chocolate bars, Special Dark, Krackel, and Mr. Goodbar), but it's a great crossword answer. Bonus points for echoes of Looking for Mr. Goodbar. I also like the MINIMART, clued as [Many a gas station store].
I had trouble tuning into Buell's wavelength on the clues. How about you? Did it take you as long as the typical Wednesday/Thursday LAT?
Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Enjoy the Silence"
Matt made the theme entries by adding a "SH" to familiar phrases:
It's a solid theme, with a terrific batch of phrases gathered together before the SH's were inserted.
I had no idea that GABE was the name of [Tycho's friend, in the webcomic "Penny Arcade"], nor that the comic had a Tycho in it. GABE Kaplan remains my go-to reference in the famous Gabes category. These are a few of my favorite things in this puzzle:
Matt's kids are just wee toddlers, and yet he already knows that STEVE was the [First "Blue's Clues" host]. I cannot accept Joe as the host. I also have issues with the cartoon Barnyard, a spinoff of a movie. The UDDER is indeed a [Feature mistakenly added to some male cartoon bovines]. Yes, the boy cows in Barnyard all have udders. It wouldn't be so terrible if they were just for show, but they use them. Can anything be more horrifying than the sight of a cartoon bull firing gushes of white liquid from his nether regions? Seriously. And this show is for children!
Speaking of kids, my son is 9 but we haven't played Go Fish yet. (THREES are a [Go Fish request, perhaps].) Must remedy that! The answer to [Montana handle] is HANNAH, as in the Disney TV character Hannah Montana. I'm so proud of myself that I didn't get that without all six crossings. I was thinking of Joe Montana and the state, but Hannah Montana has not found a way into my head.
June 08, 2009