April 19, 2007

Friday, 4/20

NYS 6:11
NYT 5:54
LAT 5:35
4/6 CHE 4:49
CS 4:13

WSJ 9:05
Reagle 7:32

(updated at 9:15 Friday morning)

If it were legal to do so, I just might marry David Quarfoot's Friday NYT crossword. From start to finish, it was just fun, fun, fun. And so fresh! Right off the bat, 1-Across had me singing the old commercial jingle to myself until "I'm a TOYS R US KID" came to me. Throw in ABS OF STEEL and a ONE-MAN ARMY crossing S'MORES, the TATEs from Bewitched, [Harmonia's antithesis] ERIS the goddess of discord, and [Turnoffs, e.g.: Abbr.] for RDS (as in "turn right at the Beerwah turnoff"), and that quadrant is mighty tasty.

Moving to the right via an ONLINE CHAT, we get a FLU SHOT (every fall!) and a BURP, along with a couple question-marked clues—[Broadcasting unit?] for AIRWAVE and [Gateman?] for ST. PETER.

Add a couple letters to that eructation to get a BURLAP wrap for plants, and head into classics corner with OVID and the PERIL that is [Scylla or Charybdis]. [Bars from a store] means UPC CODE and not the dreaded oleo, which might have been an ingredient in the MRE's predecessor, the C RATION. [a, b, c, d, e, etc.] are such CHARACTERS, they escort us to the lower middle/right quadrant of the grid.

[Gets into] turned out to be DONS, not DIGS. [Muffin, for one] is a PET NAME, and the [Starting point?] is EDEN. I needed the crossings to tell me that Southern University was in BATON ROUGE; apparently Branford Marsalis went there, along with Randy Jackson ("Dawg! I just wasn't feelin' you tonight.") and a Chicago public servant I've voted for. Below that city is AMEN CORNER, which is clued as [Church section]; and here I thought it was just a golf thing (interestingly, the golf thing derives from a jazz song!). I absolutely did not know that the title of Berlioz's LES TROYENS is French for "the Trojans," which begs the question, What do the French call condoms? The answer is here. What's a [Chart maker]? Something that makes the charts: a POP TUNE. The intersection between MALORY (who wrote Le Morte d'Arthur) and MOME (from Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky") was rewarding—I like it when I know things that an English major ought to know. (Other delicious words from that poem: frumious, galumphing, and "O frabjous day!") Really, this DQ puzzle could not have been more entertaining. *clink* It just landed in my favorite-puzzles folder.

In the Sun, Gary Steinmehl's "Four Corners in the Middle" theme inserts the postal abbreviations for the four states (Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and New Mexico) that meet at Four Corners. (I don't think they're in geographic order, so if you get lost out west, rely on a map rather than this crossword.) Cowboy boot plus NM = COWBOY BON MOT, the best of the theme entries. Other highlights: [What a vecturist collects] is TOKENS; [End of a well-known series] is XYZ, crossing BORAX and GROSZ; [It was called Lacus Asphaltites in ancient times] clues the DEAD SEA; and [Name that comes from the Greek word for "life"] is ZOE, as in zoology (plus there's PEACE, [What "shalom" means]—life and peace make a lovely pair). What does [It's used in a box] mean in terms of TEE? Is this golf?

[Golliwog] serves as the clue for OGRE in the Sun crossword. I wondered about the word golliwog, so I Googled it. Oh, my. There's a collection of golliwogs at the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, and Ferris State University sociologist David Pilgrim writes about the golliwog's history. Wow. I wonder if the constructor and editor were aware of that, or if they plucked golliwog out of a list of synonyms for "ogre."


Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Cash Crop," has an ordinary theme that I didn't even notice (the first word of each theme entry can precede "cash"), but the clues! Loved the clues, which included a good eight pairs of successive clues that shared some wording. For example, [Slot insert] and [Plug insert] (TAB and JACK); two [Bailiwick]s (TURF and AREA); [Emphatic aprobación] and [Emphatic refusal] (SI SI and NO-HOW); and [Water bird] and [Check the water] (SWAN and DAM, but not the Aswan Dam). OBIE crosses OBI, clued as [Something for Yum-Yum's tummy], above John Belushi's SAMURAI character. EELS swim in ["I don't mind ___, Except as meals..." (Ogden Nash)]. [The least funny Marx] is KARL, though I hear his friends thought he was a hoot. This puzzle wasn't that difficult to solve, but the clues made sport of the English language more than most themed puzzles do.

Susan Sugarman's April 6 Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "They're Entitled," serves up the given names of several title characters, and the solver has to remember, guess, or slowly tease out what the book's title is. I vaguely knew 18-Across, and the other three were strictly pieced together from the crossings. Remember where I said in a previous paragraph that I liked feeling rewarded as an English major? Yeah, the CHE puzzle has a knack for highlighting spots of ignorance. (Sigh.)

Doug Peterson's LA Times crossword includes the word WHANG, clued as [Metallic percussion sound]. My, that's a useful word.

Merl Reagle's Sunday puzzle for the Philadelphia Inquirer is called "Another Opening, Another Show." The short theme entries are one-word movie titles with another letter tacked on at the beginning, creating a new word or phrase. The clues combine both the original movie and the fake one with a pithy pitch, which must've been challenging to pull off for all 20 (yes, that's twenty) theme entries. I'll bet that Norbit was the impetus for this crossword, which would be great because then some good would have come from the movie (which I didn't see, because no, fat suits are not the height of comedy). I always like this sort of crossword, where the theme entries would make a good word game on their own.

Patrick Berry's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Two for One," inverts "X for Y" phrases into "Y for X" ones. My favorite: ["Oh, what lovely scales you have," and so on] means COMPLIMENTS FOR FISH. Best clue I've seen for MERLOT: [Wine disparaged in "Sideways"]. Loved that scene in the movie! I liked this puzzle, but I find myself having little to say about it. It's not the crossword's fault.