November 08, 2006

Thursday, 11/9

NYS 5:22
NYT 4:50
Thurs. LAT 3:55
CS 3:54
Wed. LAT 2:52

O frabjous day! What bounty! Two most enjoyable crosswords from the NYT and the Sun—conjured up by Byron Walden and Ben Tausig, respectively. The clues! The fill! The themes! They're the perfect antidote for an overlong day.

Byron spins 57 letters of thematic fun, with the PEOPLE OF THE EARTH being those whose names start with earth-related adjectives. If there were a famous person or character named Loamy, he or she would fit right in here. I liked the inclusion of the Cubs' recently fired manager, DUSTY BAKER (always pleased when I know sports clues right off the bat...or with a few crossings, anyway). I know CLU Gulager was just mentioned (NYT forum?) as retro fill, and I think OATERS might've been, too—so those entertained me as STENOS did in the Wednesday puzzle. Fresh fill, with IN A FUNK, O'DOUL'S, SADDLE UP, RAGMAN, and FT MYER. Favorite clues: [It may be swiped at work] is BADGE (not stapler, pens, or Post-its), the noun [Familiar] for FRIEND, [Ranch settings] for SALADS, [They're produced by degrees] for ALUMNI, and [Cry repeated to a vampire] for DIE. And I almost forgot to point out the structure—notice that the top and bottom theme entries are welded to the central entry with 8- and 9-letter entries, while the middle three themers are bound by a pair of 7's.

The quality of cluing is not strained in Ben's Sun puzzle, either. Don't know who the Sneaker PIMPS are, but no matter. Two of the "Internal Organs" theme entries were particularly lively ones—FALUN GONG and THE ARTIST—in addition to containing the vital organs, LUNG and HEART. The fill includes a Q, X, and Z. And the clues! My favorites: [Person you don't want to play peekaboo with] for FLASHER, [Cover of night?] for PJ'S (I can't tell you how excited my kid is that his class can wear pajamas to school tomorrow), [Hip sound?] for SHORT I (this one addled me for far too long!), [Pool opening] for BREAK, [Nancy's opposite number, once] for RAISA, and [What Barbara Billingsley spoke in "Airplane!"] for JIVE. This puzzle informed me that the locals in Italy call Mt. ETNA Mongibello (or Mongibeddu in Sicilian).