November 16, 2005

Elusive Themesday

Brendan Emmett Quigley's NYT: What is this, Airline Appreciation Week at Casa Quigley? First the Sunday puzzle filled with airline names, and then the minimalist COACH/BUSINESS/FIRST-class theme in this puzzle. I actually had a tough time extracting the theme when I looked at the puzzle (thanks for the mental assist, Monica)—I was hoping Will had embarked on a new program of spoiling us with themeless Thursday puzzles. This one pretty much played like a BEQ themeless (but easier), so I loved it. And while REPASS is a terrible little bit of fill, it's overcome by the terrific BOB FOSSE, FERRET OUT, and ITS A LULU. Just your standard Quigley-quality super-zippy long entries.

Van Vandiver's NYS: The theme of "RR Xing" hid from me thanks to the red herring at 1D, where JCT was clued as "RR Xing." The actual theme didn't reveal itself to my brain until I'd filled in six of the seven theme entries—suddenly, DAFT CAD was obviously DRAFT CARD without the R and R. "Cold war weapon?" is a fantastic clue for DRISTAN, isn't it? I also liked seeing GMS clued as "Envoy letters," strictly because a friend of mine in Prague once appeared in a TV commercial for the Envoy SUV. They dressed her up in coveralls and a hard hat and smudged her face so she could look like one of the "American steelworkers" in the ad. Gotta film in an overseas steel mill because what American steel company, if it's engaged in the actual manufacture of steel, would take on the liability of a film crew? The Czech producers had to work hard to find a diverse "American" cast; my multiracial friend was joined by assorted immigrants or visitors from Africa and Asia. Anyway, that's neither here nor there.

Updated: Joy M. Andrews' LA Times: Did anyone else struggle with this one? It felt like the cluing kept me away from the answers rather than leading me to them, which is not my usual crossword experience. More often (at least with puzzles of the quality I seek out), the clues and entries "sing" together harmoniously, and this one seemed atonal. (Maybe I just had a momentary brain lapse?) One of the theme entries, MUFFET MORSEL, also threw me off; morsels strike me as being drier and more self-contained than curds.

NYS 5:50
NYT 4:47
LAT 4:38
CS 2:56