CS untimed (J)
Bravo and thanks to Sam Donaldson for filling in yesterday! I enjoyed your entertaining take on the puzzles, Sam, and for your testimonial on how a constructor uses crossword blogs. Let's give him a round of applause, shall we?
Mike Buckley's New York Times crossword
Newcomer Buckley goes cinematic with a BATMAN / JOKERS theme. "JOKERS, plural? Wha?" you say. Yes, there have been three incarnations of the Joker—plus, JOKERS needs the S so that its 6 letters balance out BATMAN in the grid (though I would not say that "Batman Jokers" is the way anyone would refer to these three actors—maybe "actors who've played the Joker"). Have there been only these three, no more? I haven't been paying attention. Our first Joker was played by CESAR ROMERO on '60s TV. Continuing the timeline is JACK NICHOLSON from one of the '90s Batman movies (I can't even remember who played Batman to Jack's Joker). And the theme's culmination is the transcendent HEATH LEDGER, whose Joker was worlds more interesting than Christian Bale's Dark Knight Batman last year.
Other goodies in this crossword: A bunch of 6-letter answers in the fill, plus a few longer ones, give Monday solvers a little extra kick. I'm partial to CLEVER ([Witty]), HEYDAY ([Period of one's prime]), OUT OF GAS ([On empty]—I started with LOW ON GAS), AKIN TO ([Like]), and the EN DASH (a punctuation [Mark slightly longer than a hyphen]).
I do often like it when clues or their key words pull double duty. Here, both the SCENE and an ARENA are [Where the action is], and a [Double curve] tries to teach solvers two essential pieces of crosswordese: the OGEE, an S-shaped molding or line in architecture, and the letter ESS or a thing shaped like an S.
Gotta love HAZE being clued as [Jimi Hendrix's "Purple ___"] to mark the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.
I'm also fond of the consonant-followed-by-J answers. HADJ is a [Muslim's pilgrimage], while FJORDS are [Norwegian coastal features].
Updated Monday morning:
Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Success Stories"—Janie's review
Do you enjoy a colorful turn of phrase? I sure do. Wordies seem to take special pleasure in 'em, so it stands to reason that today's puzzle, with its six theme entries, will make us word-nerds happy. For those who take a greater interest in the construction angle, there's something for you, too. The theme-fill occupies 66 squares (more than 25% of the fill), and in two instances, vertical theme-fill crosses horizontal theme-fill. That's pretty terrific. (I just hope you agree that the entries BEAR OUT [Validate] my claims!)
Randy's given us six figurative phrases that suggest a literal association with an occupation. In real life, the connection may be tenuous; in the crossword world, they sparkle. In the context of the theme (and with some variations), each phrase says, "You did it—you really did ___":
Also well worth mentioning are:
Alex Boisvert's Los Angeles Times crossword
Alex's theme is rather ooky, isn't it? Each theme entry contains two OOKs:
I always appreciate a good MILKSHAKE ([Ice cream treat]). Did you notice the not-OOK-but-OK vibe throughout the puzzle? There's NOT OK, or [Prohibited], and a couple yes-OK Oklahoma entries: An OKIE is a [Dust Bowl migrant] from Oklahoma and a SOONER is an [Oklahoma athlete]. The state is home to the COYOTE ([Toon Wile E., e.g.]. The milk in the MILKSHAKE is the state beverage, and fried OKRA ([Gumbo veggie] is part of the "state meal."
There's another take on the puzzle from Rex at L.A. Crossword Confidential.
Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Monday"
In Brendan's accompanying blog post, he boasts of having no 3-letter answers at all in this puzzle. As a solver, I hadn't even noticed that. What I did notice is that a bunch of 7-letter answers tend to feel much less adventurous than the 9- to 11-letter stacks I love to see in a themeless. PETTISH and ALIEN TO? SCARIER and LACONIA? EVADERS and ETRURIA? ACCUSER and BLEATED? Three different answers that contain the word UP?
While 'ROID RAGE, LADY GAGA, ARANTXA Sanchez Vicario, and Spinal Tap's "SEX FARM" are all terrific, I'd rather take the 3s and ditch a bunch of the flat 7s.
Striving to minimize or eliminate 3s and 4s makes for an impressive constructorial feat, but does it make for a more entertaining puzzle? I say no.
August 16, 2009