January 31, 2007

Thursday, 2/1

NYS 5:00
NYT 4:55
LAT 3:41
CS 2:51

(post updated at 10:30 a.m. Thursday)

Wow, February already? Yeesh. Time flies when arctic weather is on the march.

The Sun puzzle, Max Rosmarin's "Triple Doubles," has plenty of juicy clues. The theme has nothing to do with basketball stats. Rather, the theme entries have pairs of triple letters (as in HAWAII INN NAMING). My favorite clues included [Take a shine to?] for GLOSS, [Lose, as a tail] for SHAKE (I was thinking of those lizards that can regrow tails), [Have a date?] for EAT, and [OR setting] for PST.

In Michael Maurer's NYT crossword, I got off on the wrong foot with 1-Across, plugging in the more familiar AIR ACE instead of WAR ACE. The theme sent me all over the grid, as each theme entry was two cross-referenced entries forming OXYMORONS of a type. The word pairs seem to appear in random spots, but taken together, they occupy symmetrical pieces of real estate and account for a veritable boatload of theme squares (75 by my count). Having that many theme squares, of course, tends to force compromises in the fill, so we end up with ERNES singing MIS and flying across the ORNE River, for example. Favorite clues here: the simple [In] for ENTREE, [Choice after a football coin toss] for RECEIVE (Go, Bears!), and the doubling up of [Start to fall], SAG and the month SEP. For my money, Michael COLE has got to be one of the least well-known of famous COLEs: Natalie, Nat King, Gary, Old King, slaw, Porter, the USS, Haan shoes. The TV version of The Mod Squad was largely before my time. I looked up the [Lebanese port] TRIPOLI (being more familiar with the Libyan city), and found this nice tidbit at the end of the Wikipedia article: "Today, Tripoli is also known as Al-Fayha'a, derived from the Arabic verb Faha which is used to indicate the spread of a certain smell. Tripoli was best known with its vast orange orchards. During the season of blooming, the pollen of orange flowers gets carried by the air spreading a splendid odour that can be felt anywhere in the city and its suburbs, hence the name al-Fayha'a."


Sheldon Benardo’s LA Times puzzle has a fun theme that toys with people whose first names are also cities and whose last names are also nouns. I especially liked [Oregon newcomers?], EUGENE DEBS. Fictionally, Austin Powers could have been included. Any other famous names come to mind? I can’t think of any suitable Pierres. (Moving away from the theme, I thought [Five-sided home?] was a great clue for PLATE.)

Bit of an oddball theme in Randall Hartman’s CrosSynergy puzzle—phrases that contain the letter string NZO—but it makes for a lively trio of 15-letter entries.

Will and Merl's appearance on Oprah's show (which airs in the morning in Oprah's home market) was entertaining. They didn't have the same "wow!" factor as the two brothers doing the Cirque du Soleil act—could you lie on your stomach and lift your feet off the floor if there were a man doing a handstand on your heels?—but Oprah seemed delighted by the personal bits Merl worked into the Oprah-themed puzzle. While the acrobats wore a lot of makeup, even in HD, I didn't see makeup on the crossword guys. But they looked more polished than they did in Wordplay, so maybe the hair and makeup department did do something after all.