March 26, 2007

Monday, 3/26

CS 3:01
NYS 2:59
NYT 2:46
LAT—Is this posted yet?

First things first: In May, I'll be out of the country for two weeks, and between the uncertainty of a regular Internet connection, the time zone difference, and the fact that it would be incredibly stupid to spend two hours a day in England doing crosswords and writing about them—well, doubt I'll be blogging much. I'm hoping to recruit several guest bloggers to keep the crossword chat flowing here. There's no obligation to do all the same puzzles I'd do, or to post your solving times, but I'd hope that the Times and Sun puzzles would get mentioned daily. If you're interested in joining Team Fiend in May, please send me an e-mail (and let me know how many posts you'd be comfortable being slated for).

Second thing: My mother just called and asked me to convey to Al Sanders that she, like countless others, really wanted him to win the tournament this year. She bears Tyler no ill will but thinks he should quit with the winning already and let someone else have a turn.

You know how the golf and tennis worlds keep track of "money leaders"? I suspect Tyler has won more money at crossword tournaments than anyone else in this country. When the tournament enrollment was smaller, the prize money was also considerably smaller, so his three years have probably been more lucrative than Jon Delfin's seven wins. (Plus inflation, yadda yadda.) So yes, Tyler, you have enough. Quit being so damned good at crosswords, will you?

Moving along to the day's crosswords: The Monday NYT is by Eric Fischer. The theme entries include the words CREATURE, BEAST, and ANIMAL, and are three lively phrases. Bonus points for BEAST OF BURDEN's Rolling Stones clue. Double bonus points for reminding me of Aardman Animation's short, Creature Comforts, with claymation zoo animals talking smack about life in the zoo; if you've never seen it, keep an eye out for it. I really liked AIDS being clued as [___ quilt (modern memorial)] rather than, say, [Helps]. The AIDS quilt is an established part of America's cultural fabric, and I applaud Will Shortz for publishing this non-stigmatizing clue. Is this the first time a mainstream crossword clue for AIDS has referenced the disease? I'm not sure HOSTLER can be tagged as an easy Monday-level word—I presume it's a variant of OSTLER, but don't recall seeing HOSTLER before. Let's look it up—whaddaya know? It's OSTLER that is the variant, but it's shorter and hence more crossword-friendly.

Harvey Estes' CrosSynergy puzzle, "Mule Train," has a theme that didn't jump out at me. The title and the central entry, ["Mule Train" singer Frankie ___] LAINE, didn't seem to be connected to the long entries. Aha! There's SHOE at the bottom, clued [Mule, or word that can precede the first word in...] the theme entries. SHOESTRING, SHOEHORN, SHOE TREE, SHOE BRUSH. I like Harvey a lot, I do, but this theme does nothing for me. The Mule Train/mule = shoe combo? Weird. But the quartet of 9-letter fill entries were decent, especially ORANGEADE. Hey, I always like to see ORANGE, AMY, or FIEND in a crossword.

Leonard Willliams' Sun puzzle, "Podcasting," recasts the letters P, O, and D in various permutations (all five options other than POD) in the middle of the theme entries. I wonder if the word podcasting itself was the impetus for constructing this puzzle.