Sunday, July 5, New York Times crossword post below
Richard Silvestri's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, "Heard Down Under"
This puzzle's got a sound-change theme in which phrases with long A sounds in American English are pronounced Australianically, turning our long A zone into long I land. Spellings are changed to make real words:
✦ 23A. [Cookie made with Chianti instead of figs?] is a WINE NEWTON, playing on singer Wayne Newton.
✦ 25A. [Wood for sashes?] clues WINDOW PINE rather than pane.
✦ 34A. Prince's Purple Rain turns into the [Blue Danube relative?] PURPLE RHINE. This answer crosses the RHONE, a [River through the Lake of Geneva].
✦ 50A. [Discovery of the mother lode?] is a MINE EVENT (main event). Pet peeve: when people write "mother load."
✦ 76A. If you [Put an "X" where you want to cut the cord?, you MARK TWINE. To better reflect Australian pronunciation, should this be MOCK or MACK TWINE? (I know, the theme is strictly the one vowel change.)
✦ 90A. [Female chiropractor?] is LADY OF SPINE (Lady of Spain). She's offset by two male worker terms, ADMEN ([Commercial developers]) and MAN-HOUR ([Unit of work]).
✦ 105A. [Squall at sea?] clues BRINE STORM (brainstorm). This is my least favorite theme entry. Maybe a pickle-related clue or a different brain/BRINE idea would've worked better.
✦ 107A. ["I never forget a face," e.g.?] is a MEMORY LINE (memory lane).
There's plenty of good fill here. 29D is LLEYTON, or [2001 U.S. Open champ Hewitt], lost to Andy Roddick at Wimbledon, no? Poor Roddick. He's now being fed to the Federer lions. He can't beat Federer, can he? Also in the arena of sports is 82D RCA DOME, or [Colts' home before Lucas Oil Stadium]. Wait, what? The new stadium has a retractable roof, and the RCA DOME was razed last December. Okay, so RCA DOME is becoming less useful as a crossword answer.
27A is [Like some pens]—ERASABLE. Do not attempt a crossword tournament with a non-erasable pen. The Pilot Frixion gel pen is nicer than goopy Eraser-mate ballpoints.
26D [God for whom Wednesday was named] is WODEN. I like to pronounce it "Woden's Day" on occasion.
Least familiar answer: 71D. [Basso Cesari], or SIEPI. Crossing two theme entries at the I's! Runner-up honors go to 34D PALMA, or [Balearic Islands capital].
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "The Forts of July"
You can zip right through this puzzle as if it were an easy unthemed crossword, but then you're missing the hidden theme. Per the note accompanying the puzzle, there are 11 famous fort names hidden in the grid, sometimes spanning black squares. It took me just as long to find the forts as it did to solve the crossword. The last one I found was little Fort DIX, hiding in the APPENDIX as 24A ([Back-of-the-book section]). Here are the other forts (which I've circled in my completed grid):
✦ Fort Bliss in 22A STATE OF BLISS, or [Very happy "place"].
✦ Fort Lauderdale occupies 27A/29A, [Cosmetics name] LAUDER and ["Brenda Starr" creator Messick], or DALE.
✦ Fort Sumter joins 34A PLAY POSSUM ([Fake it, in a way]) to 38A TERMINAL ([Grand Central, e.g.].
✦ Fort Lee, N.J., is the middle name of 56A TOMMY LEE JONES, [Harvard roommate of Al Gore].
✦ Fort McHenry crosses two black squares, joining three answers: 66A USMC is [Jarhead's org.], 67A HEN is clued with [She might fly the coop], and 68A RYAN is [Matt Damon's private] in Saving Private Ryan.
✦ Another middle name gives us Fort Knox—83A JAMES KNOX POLK, [Tyler-Taylor go-between] in the procession of U.S. presidents.
✦ Fort Ticonderoga is a great hidden fort, isn't it? 98A EMOTICON is clued by way of [:-) is an example of one] and 101A DEROGATORY means [Belittling].
✦ Fort Apache's in 107A PAPA, or [Bear in a tale], and 110A CHEKOV, or [Captain Kirk colleague].
✦ Fort Bragg occupies 118A BRAGGART, or [Blowhard].
✦ Fort Worth, Texas, is inside 120A WORTH THE WAIT, [Like great shows].
I wonder whether it was emoTICON/DEROGAtory or LAUDER/DALE that nudged Merl into crafting this unusual theme. I just realized that the theme entries are placed symmetrically! The fort names aren't all the same lengths, but one at the end of a phrase is balanced by a fort at the beginning of a phrase on the opposite side of the grid. The two middle names are in an opposing pair of entries. MC/HEN/RY is smack dab in the center of the grid. The four forts that span single black squares are plunked down around symmetrical pairs of black squares. Cool.
Updated Sunday afternoon, after the epic Wimbledon men's final:
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's Boston Globe crossword, "Tacked-on Endings"
Ten theme entries have a letter tacked on at the end, changing the phrase's meaning. Patrick Blindauer's Third of July Wall Street Journal puzzle added the letters of LIBERTY to the theme entries, so I took a look at the added letters in the Hex puzzle. ORGTREPUOI...hmm, that anagrams to POI GROUTER? PIG OR ROUTE? I think it's just 10 random letters.
Most surprising answer: BONG clued as [Pot holder?]. Drugs! Illicit ones!
Favorite theme entries: BATHING SUITE is clued as a [Many-chambered shower room?], and GARBAGE MENU represents [Dumpster-diver's choices?].
Least timely: In tennis, [Six games to none] is a LOVE SET. The Wimbledon match had none of those. I'd never seen a 16-14 set before. That was insane, wasn't it? Roddick absolutely made Federer earn his plaudits today (and I wish Roddick had won, because what a Cinderella story that would be).
Lynn Lempel's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge"
This puzzle flirts with having its 15s constitute a mini-theme. There's DIAMOND JIM BRADY, the [Gilded Age philanthropist known for his jewels and huge appetite], and then there's ORDER IN THE COURT, a [Call from a bench]. Baseball diamond, basketball or tennis court? Maybe? No?
Toughest clues: 16A [According to church doctrine] clues CANONIC, which looks odd without an AL on the end. 39A [It keeps you from going gray] is BALDNESS, which technically does not prevent grayng unless it is absolute BALDNESS that removes all traces of hair before any of them go gray. 1D FADDISH is clued with [In one year and out the other]—year, not ear. 7D [Put down roots, in a way] clues SODDED, which doesn't feel like a common past-tense verb. Speaking of unusual past-tense verbs, 14D SCYTHED is clued as [Cut down in the field]. 30D. [Atlas holders] are missile SILOS holding Atlas missiles.
9D is [LBJ albatross], and I wanted the answer to be HIM or HER. But Johnson's pets were beagles, not albatrosses, so the albatross is metaphorical: Viet NAM.
Favorite clue: 45D [Reason for a rash response?] for ALLERGY.
July 05, 2009