May 26, 2007

Sunday, 5/27

NYT 9:23
WP 10:35
BG 7:20
LAT 7:00
CS 5:29
Newsday 7:07

Hi everyone, Al here, filling in for Amy who's traveling this weekend. Saturday night is the busiest night on the crossword blogger's schedule, of course, with 5 21's and a themeless to cover. I don't think Amy usually does the Newsday Sunday, but I always like to do it as it provides the only real opportunity to "sprint" through a 21x21 grid. I was too late getting things posted last weekend, so I'll take a page from our host's book and get the puzzles that are available posted now and I'll do an update when the late comers arrive. So, we'll start with the Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe (OK, I cheated, I really did that one on Friday).

(Updated 10PM MDT with CS, LAT, Newsday, don't read the full entry until you're ready for spoilers)

NY Times, Patrick Berry, "Dinner Theater"

Here's Patrick Berry's second appearance of the weekend, after Friday's WSJ. This one has a nice tight theme, taking the common phrase, "Dinner Theater" and using that to motivate a theme of common plays altered with a food-related pun. I usually enjoy Patrick's work immensely (for instance, I loved his WSJ offering, with a really subtle theme execution), but I didn't think this one was quite up to his usual standards. The puns started off pretty well. BAREFOOT IN THE PORK was a somewhat disturbing image for me, as I had just had two pulled pork sandwiches at a neighbor's graduation party for their son. Let's hope the pork wasn't tenderized like this! THE MERCHANT OF VENISON was pretty humorous. But the puns seemed to get a little more forced as the puzzle went on. I wasn't too familiar with the original title, so THE BURGERS OPERA didn't click for me. CHITLINS OF A LESSER GOD was so outrageous it was kind of funny. But was it really intentional to have 20A, NICHOLS, clued as "Anne who wrote "Abie's Irish Rose", when we had ABIE'S IRISH ROAST as a theme entry? And A HAM FOR ALL SEASONS didn't work for me at all. Seems like it should take more than a common short A sound to drive a pun entry.

Otherwise, the grid fill was pretty good, with plenty of groupings of longer entries, including a couple of side by side 10's. I enjoy my recording of Domenico Scarlatti's harpsichord sonatas, but I wasn't familiar with his father ALESSANDRO. I was also unfamiliar with FALLOW DEER, but their intersecting cousin at 26A was a nice close-to-home touch. I live about an hour away from that staple of the crossword gazetteer, Estes Park, CO which is filled with bugling ELK every fall. I never knew that one measly MEASLE could be referred to in the singular. I was totally hooked on Dallas when I was in college, and we used to love to make fun of how Barbara Bel Geddes, as Miss Ellie could drag out the "R" in J. R. Ewing for about 10 seconds. I devoured everything by Jane Austen a few years ago, so Mr. ELTON was a gimme. I had a guilty mind that I had never heard of Mens Rea. Finally, YACK as a variant for yak evoked a big YUCK, although given all the long entries in that part of the grid, I'm not sure how it could have been altered.

Washington Post, Frances Burton, "Mr. Vegetable Stew"

I commented the other day on how I thought Patrick's narrative WSJ was reminiscent of a Frances Hansen style puzzle. Today, Frances Burton also channels her namesake, in another food-based pun anthromorphic extravaganza that was anything but alimentary. (OK, I'll stop). In this puzzle Mr. Stew is busy dating all of his component vegetables. Ms. Bean was afraid he would STRING HER ALONG, Ms. Pea needed to SNAP OUT OF IT, and Ms. Corn hoped he would POP THE QUESTION. I thought this puzzle was a lot of fun. I was breezing through it pretty smoothly but I got pretty stuck in that little 5x5 square in the SW (yes, I've fixed my geographic dyslexia) which added a minute or two to my time.

Do you ever breeze over common crosswordese without really thinking about what the entry means? What better place to explore the background of some of these chestnuts than a crossword blog? Today, I wondered about the book "She" by H. Rider Haggard (52A). I've probably entered that a hundred times in puzzles with no idea what it's about. Turns out it's about Ayesha, known as "She Who Must Be Obeyed" who leads a tribe in East Africa and is discovered by three exploring Englishman. So now you know. Rumpole of the Bailey also referred to his wife as "She Who Must Be Obeyed". Rumpole, of course, was played by Leo McKern, who can be seen in the picture I linked above for "A Man for all Seasons" (and I didn't mean to imply Paul Scofield was a Ham). Well, didn't that all tie together nicely!

I think I'll pass on reading "She". But a couple of weeks ago, the puzzle that hid train stations in the theme entries, included PENN Station by referring to George Plimpton's Open Net. I knew Plimpton had done participatory journalism books about football and golf, but didn't know he had done hockey (and probably wouldn't have cared at the time). But now that my sons are hockey fanatics, it sounded interesting so I picked it up at the library and it's a fun read. Can't wait to get to the part where he actually plays goalie for the Bruins against the Flyers (in a preseason game).

Amy probably has a filter on this blog that will reject too much sports content, so I better watch myself.

Boston Globe, Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon (Hex), "Who Let the Dogs Out"?

A theme packed gem in the Globe today, based on hiding the word (?) "ARF". Eight horizontal entries, crossed by 4 vertical 10's, an impressive feat of construction. None of the entries were too fARFetched, although I would have thought a dewAR Flask would be used to hold Scotch.

CrosSynergy, "Sunday Challenge", Rich Norris

This themeless has it all. Two great 15's bisecting the puzzle horizontally and vertically (with a somewhat nostalgic connection), WISH YOU WERE HERE and REAR VIEW MIRRORS. Cross-referenced entries at 1A and 9A, giving us the rise and fall of CARBON paper, I wonder how many of today's email users realize that when they CC someone, they're referring to carbon paper. I had no idea what NCR PAPER was, assuming it was paper that went in an NCR copier. When I realized it was actually carbonless, or "No Carbon Required" paper, that made the connection between the two entries much cooler. But wait! NCR paper was actually invented by NCR, the National Cash Register Company! That double acronym can't be a coincidence.

Lots of other really excellent fill like SAT SCORE, WASH CARS, LATVIA, D SHARP, NETSCAPE. And a creatively misleading way to clue AREA CODE, "727 in Florida, e. g."

LA Times, Frances Burton, "Best in the Business"

A Daily Double for Frances Burton today! This took common phrases and used them in the context of superior performance at various occupations. Favorites: The surveyor is BEYOND MEASURE, and The musician is NOTEWORTHY. Nothing too exciting in the fill, but a fun puzzle. It's unusual that I finish another Sunday puzzle faster than the Newsday, but this was the easiest puzzle of the weekend for me.

Newsday, Merle Baker, "Computer Connections"

A little harder than the typical Newsday. It wasn't at all clear to me what connected the theme entries, I kept looking for the "word in the theme can precede or follow another common word" type of theme. But it's actually the "end of the first word and start of the second word hide a common phrase" type of theme, like the ARF puzzle by HEX. I'll let you find the connection.

On Sudoku
I noticed on Eric Berlin's blog that Will Shortz will be holding a national Sudoku Championship in Philadelphia this fall. And the prize money is twice what it is for the Crossword Tournament. Well, I guess we know how we rate! Harumph. I'll look into going, as I do enjoy Sudokus, but I'm not particularly speedy and I know I have no chance against math whizzes like Roger and Thomas Snyder

That is all, Amy will return tomorrow night. Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend everyone!