June 30, 2007

Sunday, July 1

(updated 9:30 AM Sunday)

Hi, Evad here, quickly jumping in for the traveling Orange,

with tomorrow's NY Times....a tribute to the "boys of summer," Diamond Jubilee.

(Right now our hometown Red Sox are trailing the Texas Rangers 5-4 in the 5th...I wonder if the game will be over before I finish this post?)

Constructor Bill Zais's name was new to me, but on Kevin McCann's cruciverb.com site, I see he's had many puzzles, some with his co-constructor today, the prodigious Nancy Salomon.

The circles in the center of the puzzle trace a baseball diamond, with four rebuses representing the four bases at the corners--HOME, FIRST, SECOND and THIRD.

Along the base paths, starting (of course) from HOME, our batter answers the clue (in the Across Lite Notepad) "Now I've seen everything!" with THAT'S A [FIRST] (maybe this is this batter's debut?). He then STEALS [SECOND]. The crowd roars! He then responds to the clue "Show" with FINISH [THIRD], rounding the base to STAYED [HOME], which he certainly is glad he did not, as he scores the run!

Other baseball puns pepper the corners of the grid--FIELD TRIPS is clued as "Cause of some baseball errors?", PARK RANGER is a Texas ballplayer (speaking of the Rangers, they're still leading our Sox, 5-4 in the 6th),
GRASS SKIRT is a "Diamond border" (skirt can be defined as the edge of the baseball playing field), and GROUND BEEF as a complaint on the field. Then there's the inclusion of the classic "Abbott and Costello bit," WHO'S ON [FIRST].

Other nice fill includes SLIPSTREAM, PIED-Á-TERRE, and MOBILE [HOME], clued as "Object of tornado destruction" (it does seem like they are tornado magnets, doesn't it?) There's also a definite druggy vibe with LSD and (Crystal) METH.

A couple areas I went astray: SEE YOU for SO LONG, TRY for SIP and BOO for COO (the last clued as, "Sound from the rafters"--I have to believe that misdirection was intended!) Also, LEHRS was new to me, but gettable from the crossers. And finally, [THIRD] ESTATE sounded only vaguely familiar. (The first are clergy, the second nobility, and the third, everyone left over. A cheer from the commoners!)

A home run from Nancy and Bill!


Deb Amlen brings us today's WaPo, with another baseball-themed idea. She starts 7 theme phrases with common baseball verbs, clued instead as a discussion between 2 baseball execs about signing a free-agent.
So PITCH, STEAL, HIT, THROW, CATCH, SWING and STRIKE move from the field into the back office. Fun idea which shows Deb can construct for the standard markets just as well as for the more edgy "Onion" readers. (Her most recent "Onion" puzzle featured a "Sopranos" theme with a definition of "Cosa Nostra" and other mafia-related entries.)

Lots of tea-related clues in the WaPo:
"Like some tea" was ICED, "Invited for tea, say" was ASKED IN, and "Pekoe holder" was a TEA CHEST. Also enjoyed seeing the "oldies" references to "Get Smart's" KAOS, "Three Stooges" Larry FINE, and a game of my childhood, "Operation" with patient Cavity SAM. Strange bits with HISN clued as "Nonstandard towel word," and the French king, Hugh CAPET.

Today's LAT breaks the string of baseball themes with "Home Remodeling," a puzzle by Dan Naddor. Ten theme entries take phrases with features of a home and anagram ("remodel") the "homey" word. Fave entries included: BOREDOM (BEDROOM) EYES for "Ennui indicator?" and RICKETY SITARS (STAIRS) for "Poorly built Asian strings?" (If you're playing from your own home, the other 8 anagrams are of DEN, STUDY, KITCHEN, CELLAR, DOOR, BASEMENT, POOL and ATTIC.) I liked the idea, and was impressed with two long theme entries running down the NW and SE only a square apart. The inconsistency of most (but not all) entries being names of rooms bothered me just a tad, but I quickly recovered.

As for the fill, I liked the clue "Revolution period?" for YEAR, the word CAVORT (does anyone CAVORT these days?), and the consonant-rich PRMAN for "Spin doc."
Things I learned: Merv Griffin was born in SAN MATEO, the Guardian Angels' founder's name was Curtis SLIWA (which crossed "ELIAS Sports Bureau," a tough intersection), THOR missiles, and New York Times film critic, BOSLEY Crowther. I thought the Tyson quote was going to be his more-oft quoted comment, "I guess I'm gonna fade into Bolivian" instead of "I was freer when I didn't have A CENT." Ahh, the perils and plights of the rich and infamous...

Now I guess I'll fade back into Bolivian myself...



Call for assistance

The in-laws just called to see when we might come up for a visit, and this weekend happens to be wide open. So we're going to America's Dairyland this afternoon, to a house with dial-up internet service. I could hang out at the BP station with its wifi, but that would be rude.

So either there'll be no post on the Sunday crosswords, or a guest blogger will step up to the plate. I've had Blogger send invitations to the five swell guest bloggers from my May vacation, but I'm also open to newbies for future guest stints. If you're interested in throwing your name in the pool, send me an e-mail.

If you're Dave, Al, John, Linda, or Barry and you'd like to write a Sunday post, have at it, and please accept my gratitude as well, not to mention my apologies for the short notice. If you're busy or disinclined, I certainly understand.

If nobody ends up writing a Sunday post, feel free to chat about the day's crosswords in the comments on this post.

Updated: Dave Sullivan's volunteered to cover the New York Times, Washington Post, and LA Times crosswords. Subject to change according to his whims...


June 29, 2007

Saturday, 6/30

Newsday 13:10
NYT 7:31
LAT 6:25
CS 2:59

(updated at 10:15 a.m. Saturday)

Do you know anyone who craves jewelry that evokes recurrent crossword fill? If so, you're in luck! Here are some Oreo earrings. Sadly, that website offered no jewelry with oleo or erne motifs.

Oh—if you don't read the NYT Today's Puzzle forum and you like to track down the Across Lite version of the Boston Globe crossword early, here's a link for Henry Hook's Globe puzzle. I haven't looked at it yet, but people have already praised it.

Nothing like a killer clue at 1-Across to kick a crossword into high gear! In the Saturday NYT puzzle crafted by Byron Walden, I drew a complete blank on [Where to find the Mercury line and the Girdle of Venus]. The moon? No. The PALM. The tree? No. The PALM of the hand, where those are lesser lines that not everyone has (I have neither). I'd say the deadly 1-Across anchors the puzzle more solidly in the Waldenesque oeuvre than the 15-letter entry across the middle, SOW ONE'S WILD OATS. (This puzzle is also sure to lower your cholesterol with the soluble fiber in that and in OATY—one of those inadvertent duplications, but good for one's health.) Not that the whole puzzle is deadly, but Byron does have a reputation to uphold. Speaking of uphold, there are three adjacent Down entries starting with U: URBAN, UP LATE, and UGLY SCENES. I didn't know the phrase GIGGLE TEST—if you didn't either, read that link from wordspy.com. Clues and fill I liked, from the top down: [Small wonders] for GIFTED KIDS; [Dirt] for INSIDE INFO; [Alley oops] (as in an oops in a bowling alley) for GUTTER BALL; [D-Ray, e.g.] for ALER, because it taught me that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are nicknamed the D-Rays; [Kind of service] for YEOMAN; the linked HWY and U.S. ROUTE; the DARK / ARTS pairing (apt in this season of Harry Potter mania); ALCOHOL BAN clued as [It can keep a ballfield dry]; [Squelch] for KIBOSH; [Does the math] for SOLVES; regular fill-in-the-blank clue river AMU DARYA with both parts intact; TATER TOT (unrelated to GIFTED KIDS); and the alphabet soup of F-STAR, D-FLATS, O'TOOLE, U.S. ROUTE, and D'ABO. Other unknowns besides palmistry: AMARILLO in a George Strait song; [Polaris or Procyon] for F-STAR (I've found that unknown sciencey names in Byron's puzzles tend to be some sort of star); IL POSTO for the 1961 film; Prince OLAV Mountains; quotes from the book OMOO and the person PASCAL; and [The river Pison flowed from it] for EDEN. Fortunately, none of their crossings were deadly for me.


More themeless action: Doug Peterson's LA Times crossword and Stan Newman's Newsday Saturday Stumper.

Stan's Stumper did indeed stump me more than most crosswords. I was perilously close to putting the puzzle aside and coming back to it later with a clear head. Yes, that's standard advice for crossword solvers who get stuck, but it is anathema to the speed solver who wants to open up a can of whoop-ass on the crossword. I stuck with it, though, and emerged triumphant, if bruised. If you've tackled this crossword, was your experience like mine, or did you breeze through it and you're wondering what on earth my problem was? I mean, it all looks rather reasonable to me now, though mighty low on gimmes and obvious clues. I thought ['20s Hollywood idol] was easy enough, with a couple crossings filled in in a 9-letter space—but there are at least four old-timey Hollywood actresses known to me strictly via crosswords who have 9-letter names. Four!

The LA Times had a few obscurities. [Country singer England, et al.] for TYS? I know Ty Cobb and Ty Whathisname from that mawkish "Extreme Home Makeover" show—Ty Pennington. [Medieval crossbows] for ARBALESTS? Ouch. [___-up: gymnastics move] for KIP? Never heard of it. Am I alone? Raise your hand if you knew all three of these. Interesting grid layout, though, with the four 15-letter entries splitting the grid into the Brady Bunch opening grid.


June 28, 2007

Friday, 6/29

NYS 9:59
NYT 5:21
Jonesin' 4:20
6/15 CHE 3:44
LAT 3:39
CS 2:50

WSJ 7:59

(updated at 1:15 p.m. Friday)

You see those numbers up there? The 9:59 for the themed Friday Sun crossword by Patrick Blindauer? Not a typo. Maybe this puzzle targeted the gaps in my knowledge with remarkable effectiveness, or it's actually pretty damned hard. I look forward to finding out if it was just me.

The Friday NYT by Mike Nothnagel did not fight me nearly as hard, though there were some intersecting mystery answers in the lower right quadrant that required a few educated wild-ass guesses. The [Nintendo game with exercises for mental acuity] is BRAIN AGE. Right above it is the Will Rogers movie David HARUM. The two cross the ["As I Lay Dying" character], ANSE, which I should have known because I've seen the answer before, but maybe only with easier crossings. I will remember ANSE next time: Apparently the character treated his grown son's broken leg by pouring cement on it. (This turned out to be a bad idea.) I read two Faulkner novels in school, but not this one. Anyway, the rest of the puzzle was much more pliable, starting with THE FONZ at 1-Across (a gimme). Liked HELL WEEK, obliquely clued as [Taxing preinitiation period], and ANAKIN SKYWALKER strutting across the middle of the grid. Completely flummoxed by KENTUCKY DERBY's clue, [Omaha and Spokane were once in it]. Ha! Also liked [Kind of season] for FLU; QBERT (which I have heard of, unlike BRAIN AGE); tasty S'MORES; [Some shorts] for SPEEDOS (always have to wonder if "shorts" in a clue means apparel or short films); [Not stout] for AFRAID; Nancy's friend SLUGGO; and [Follower of the bottom line]? for BASS. This one wasn't quite as much fun as the previous Nothnagel. Poor Mike: He has set the bar so high that sometimes he just limbos under it.

Patrick B2's Friday Sun puzzle, "Noble Prizes," slaughtered me. It would have helped if (a) I knew the chemical symbols for the noble gases, in order (HE for helium, NE for neon, AR for argon, KR for krypton, XE for xenon, and RN for radon—I took a solving break to Google them because the crossings and the clues just were not yielding), and (b) if I'd figured out more quickly that only two of the six added the element to the beginning of a phrase. (The best one: adding XE to the Korean War to get KOREAN WAXER, [Asian Brazilian expert?]) If that weren't enough, I also found myself at a loss in the upper left corner. I couldn't think what [Carmen, for one] could be other than OPERA (it's MEZZO). [Part of the pen name of the author who also once used the pseudonym Pierre Andrézel]? Never knew that Karen Blixen, a.k.a. ISAK Dinesen, also passed for a Frenchman. [Italian wrap] sounds like fashion or a calzone, not an ancient Roman TOGA. The [Spanish letter after cu] is ERE? I never took Spanish. And I'd never heard of [Pop painter Alex] KATZ, though his work is cool. Scattered elsewhere were other tough clues: [Long flower] for NILE RIVER, [Certain hydrometeor] for FOG, [Anton ___ (character voiced by Peter O'Toole in "Ratatouille")] for EGO (the movie's not even out yet!! Though after doing this puzzle, I read a review that says Anton Ego is the snooty restaurant critic.), that damned [Ship that brought the Statue of Liberty to the U.S.] for ISERE (and I know I just saw a similar clue recently, but failed to remember the answer the second time around), and [Push on a casino floor] for TIE (huh? Is this about poker?). Deadly! Favorite clues that did not do bodily harm: [Personal letter?: Abbr.] for INIT; [World leader?] for DISNEY; [Sweden's capital?] for ESS; and [To mate?] for FRO. Mind you, when I say that a crossword slaughtered me, I'm not complaining. Far from it!


This week's Wall Street Journal puzzle is by Randolph Ross. Sure, "Fill 'Er Up!" has about twice as many squares as Patrick's Sun puzzle. It still took 20% less time, and not because it was particularly easy for a Sunday-sized puzzle. Each theme entry is GASsed up with the word GAS added somewhere. My favorite theme entry: SLEEPING GASBAG, clued as [Braggart in bed?].

Matt Jones' Jonesin' puzzle, "S_Y Anything," has five phrases beginning with S_Y words other than say. A terrific quintet of answers: (1) SHY BLADDER. Standard daily papers shy away from references to pee, but the next-generation puzzles, as Al Sanders guest-blogged while I was on vacation in May, dispense with those reservations. I generally like the results unless they'e overly crude—and I like SHY BLADDER. (2) SLY STALLONE, good nickname usage. (3) SOY MILK. My advice to you: If you ever have a houseguest who drinks soy milk, don't leave it sitting in your fridge beyond the expiration date. It turns evil. (4) SPY MAGAZINE. I enjoyed that publication before its demise. (5) SKY MARSHAL. Do you eyeball your fellow plane passengers to see if anyone looks like a federal air marshal? Crossword-name alert: There haven't been many famous LILAs, but the letter combo is pretty tempting for constructors. Matt clues LILA as ["Yippy Ky Yay" singer McCann]. She's a country singer, if that song title didn't tip you off.

Jim Holland's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Audio Books," draws out homophones in book titles. My favorite of the four theme entries was BRAVE GNU WORLD. Overall, a much easier puzzle than most CHE crosswords, I thought.

Easier still was Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy offering, "Gimme a 36-Across!" 36-Across is BREAK, so won't you all join me in singing the Kit Kat jingle?

In Billie Truitt's LA Times crossword, the theme entries have an -OW tacked onto the end. In the non-theme fill, PHONE TAG is a terrific entry, isn't it? I also liked the Indian food two-fer, with NAN bread (conveniently available from Trader Joe's freezer case!) and the spicy lentil dish, DAL. (I think it's time for lunch.) Not sure I'm parsing ATME right—it's clued [My way]. "Throw it my way"/"Throw it at me"? I think that must be it. Iffy entry, but I like TWEEN crossing it.


June 27, 2007

Thursday, 6/28

NYS 8:10
LAT 3:50
NYT 3:37
CS 3:25

(updated at 10:40 a.m. Thursday)

Ooh! Happy crossword day! No, it's not a holiday—I'm just suffused with cruciverbal delight.

Joseph Crowley is the name atop the Thursday NYT crossword, and it's not a name I recognize though Google tells me there's a congressman by that name. Crossword-constructing debut? If so, congrats and thank you! It's a lovely puzzle, with four delicious colorful foods, deftly stacked in pairs of 15-letter entries (with only a couple crossing 3-letter words per pair) bound together thematically by RAINBOW / SHERBET spanning the center of the grid. (If you're counting, that's an impressive 74 theme squares.) Add fill like YUPPIE, BJORK, DWEEB, and REVERSI, and the puzzle gets more fun. Favorite clues: [Possible cause of heavy breathing] for SMOG; the tongue twister clue for ESAU (so much more fun than biblical references!); and [Kind of place] for ONES. Best of all, the theme entries actually taste good. MIXED GREEN SALAD? Yes, please. Balsamic vinaigrette on the side. ORANGE MARMALADE? On toast. (Made from Seville oranges, a.k.a. bigarades.) BLUEBERRY MUFFIN? With lots of crunchy sugar crystals on top. RED BEANS AND RICE? I'll pass that one over to my husband, and he will devour it. My cousin will scarf down the RAINBOW SHERBET.

In the Sun, Byron Walden's written a Themeless Thursday puzzle, and either I'm off my stride, or it's Weekend Warrior level rather than Thursday. (How tough did you think it was?) Speaking of Seville oranges, here's ARRIBA clued as [Seville shout]. I mangled the upper left corner by misattributing "Give me liberty or give me death!" to Thomas Paine instead of Patrick HENRY, but eventually I worked my way back to that section and straightened things out. In the mini-theme, someone has A DEVIL OF A TIME and thus gets in at SOME UNGODLY HOUR—I suspect it's THE STUD at 1-Across. BEA ARTHUR and MEL TORME lead a pack of AMERICANS, ART LOVERS all, in storming the ASTRODOME. On the way, they stopped at a REST AREA to PIG OUT on Taco Bell GORDITAs. Why? I don't know. You'd have to ask BYRON (["For truth is always strange; stranger than fiction" penner]). Favorite clues: [Golf partner] for PASSAT; [Shots from downtown] for TREYS (meaning three-point shots in basketball); [Person whose address is moving] for ORATOR; [Antlered ungulate] and [Humming ungulate] for DEER and ALPACA, respectively; [Gadget label?] for INSPECTOR Gadget; [Halts] as a noun (MORATORIA) next to [Yanks] as a noun (AMERICANS); and the two stocking stuffers, COAL and TOE.


Harvey Estes' "Ring Leaders" puzzle from CrosSynergy has five theme entries starting with kinds of rings. A DIAMOND (JIM) ring is lovely, of course (provided it's not a conflict diamond). I bought a CLASS (ACT) ring in high school because my sister did—what was I thinking? Totally not worth it. KEY (LARGO) ring, indispensable, of course. ONION (SKIN) ring, blech. Do not care for onions as anything more significant than a small ingredient. The MOOD (INDIGO) ring, on the other hand—I have an abiding nostalgia for mood rings.

Jeff Armstrong's LA Times puzzle has four theme entries tied together by a fifth, FRONT ENDS—the other four begin with OFFICE, RUNNER, DOOR, and MONEY, which can all follow FRONT. Is this puzzle by the Jeff A who comments at this blog, or is that a different Jeff A? This crossword, like Harvey's puzzle above, has corners filled with 7-letter words and phrases, and that generally livens things up. (And both of these puzzles contain EGO TRIP and DAY ONE!) Favorite clue: [Stick in the cupboard, maybe] hints at a verb or the dreaded oleo, but it's a PRETZEL. It would be an awfully sad cupboard if it had just a single pretzel, though.


June 26, 2007

Wednesday, 6/27

Tausig 5:38
Sun 4:54
LAT 4:46
Onion 4:33
NYT 3:56
CS 3:05

(updated at 7:53 a.m. Wednesday)

I don't want to be brief tonight, because while brevity is the soul of wit, I just don't find myself brevity-prone. However, I'm sleepy and I have several puzzles to talk about tonight, so I must curtail.

Up first, the NY Sun, NY Times, Onion A.V. Club, and Tausig puzzles:

The NYT by Barbara Olson has a MANly foursome of words with a MIDDLEMAN. Anything that gets SALAMANDERS and KILIMANJARO into the grid is fine by me. The 24 6- and 7-letter answers in the fill also freshen things up. Not sure if it's the fill or the clues that made this one feel harder than I expected—I think it's both. MALA, the [Actress Powers of "Cyrano de Bergerac"], isn't one of the old actresses whose names pop up in crosswords, but she played Roxane opposite Jose Ferrer in the classic film version, and she just died on June 11 of this year. ASEA and SEADOGS both appear in the grid, for those of you who like to collect such duplications and grumble at them.

The Sun puzzle is Francis Heaney's creation, "On the Other Hand." Each theme answer takes a phrase with an L and an R and swaps them, adjusting the surrounding letters to retrieve an actual word. Thus, Don Rickles ➡ Don Lickres ➡ DON LIQUORS, and Big Leaguer ➡ Big Reaguel ➡ BIG REAGLE, [Popular crossword constructor Merl?]. (Hey! Merl's famous!) I found it kinda hard to unravel these, and there were six theme entries to occupy my time. Fave clues: [Breathtaking part of a sentence?] for COMMA; [Corona, e.g.] for BEER (which I like because I got that one right away...though it's Negra Modelo in my fridge); [Shortening often used in cookie recipes] for TBSP (though my main cookie recipes use cups and teaspoons, no tablespoons); [Prepare for takeoff?] for UNZIP; and [Two of all fours?] for KNEES. Two complete gaps in my knowledge: [They're separated by muntins] (link is to Wikipedia article on muntins) for PANES, and the kid-lit IRA Says Goodbye.

I'm doing a terrible job with this brevity business, aren't I? All right, now I've finished Tyler Hinman's Onion crossword, which appears to have the title, "XXXXX." The theme appears to be phrases that can be misconstrued to be about kissing. KISS THE RAIL appears to be a face-first wipeout by a snowboarder or skateboarder sliding their board along a rail; completely out of my ken, that. I got a kick out of SMACKDOWN clued as [Smooch a comforter?]. Highlights: TERRAZZO with its double Z and CAKE MIX, plus clues like [Injection into the vain?] for BOTOX and [Where Borat sang the Kazahkstani national anthem] for RODEO (it is incumbent on me to remind Tyler to think about the nude wrestling scene in Borat). Wikipedia tells me that the band in 5-Across, BSS, is "Canadian indie rock supergroup" Broken Social Scene. Never heard of 'em.

One hour into blogging (and solving), and dangit, not so brief. Ben Tausig's Chicago Reader/Ink Well puzzle, "Club Talk," has five two-word phrases that masquerade as caveman-speak, such as [Quote from director Reiner: "Me so foolish for not seeing that"] for ROB BLIND. The lead-off was DICK MOVE, which didn't shout "phrase I fully understand" to me. Urbandictionary.com to the rescue: basically a move or action on the part of a jerk, a.k.a. a dick. GODCAST is a new word, first used in 2004; I prefer hangry (and yay! that post is now the #6 Google result for a hangry search!).


Norm Guggenbiller's LA Times crossword has one of those themes that hides itself from me. A title would help: "Get Out of Jail" would describe the words at the beginning of the three 15-letter phrases.

Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Long Division," splits the word LONG with intervening letters, as in LOYAL FOLLOWING. I did see the movie LOOK WHO'S TALKING, and also the sequel. I'll never have those lost hours back, alas. LOUIS ARMSTRONG is always a boon, in crosswords and in music.

My pal Dave (a.k.a. Evad) wanted me to include a link for another one of those "kids these days!" words in Tyler's Onion crossword. DAP was clued as [High five cousin]. Urbandictionary.com's most accepted definition for dap is "The knocking of fists together as a greeting, or form of respect." I've seen it, sure, but never knew it had a name.


June 25, 2007

Tuesday, 6/26

CS 4:42
NYS 3:59
LAT 2:59
NYT 2:43
Tausig tba
Onion tba

(updated at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday—and if you like Bob Klahn's tough clues, don't miss his CrosSynergy puzzle today)

My new mantra is "Give me crosswords that make me laugh." The Tuesday New York Sun puzzle, Matt Ginsberg's "How Many ___ Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?", fulfills that. You can probably guess more or less how the theme works based on the title, but the funny parts are in the clues and theme answers. If you like your crosswords to amuse you but usually solve only the New York Times puzzle, check out this Sun crossword.

Turning away from the day's crosswords for a moment, there's an intriguing statement on page 99 of Stan Newman's book, Cruciverbalism. "I can't put a number on it, but a healthy portion of crossword puzzles published in American are created by constructors who are 'guests of the state,' as the saying goes." I know a bunch of constructors, and have seen others in public at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. There are some who haven't gone to the tournament in recent years, but they may occasionally pop up at various blogs or LiveJournals, on the Cruciverb-L constructors' mailing list, or at the NYT crossword forum. Still others never seem to show up anywhere. So maybe they're shy and not prone to communicating online...or maybe they're in prison. Who knows? (Only the editors who send them their paychecks.)

Back to the puzzles: Matt Ginsberg's Sun crossword gives you the punchline to seven light bulb jokes (none of them offensive) in the clues, and the answers fill in the blank in the title of the puzzle. I was delighted to see that several of the jokes were new to me, upping the entertainment level. Kudos to Ginsberg for getting plenty of great fill into a grid with seven theme answers. Crosswords usually spell the LYCHEE as "LITCHI," despite most Chinese restaurants opting for the LYCHEE spelling—and LYCHEE's the version in this puzzle. O. HENRY abuts MR. ZIP in one delicious corner, and then there are the Xs in LOUIS XI and XENA. My favorite clue, aside from the theme entries: [Take credit?] for OWE.

Ray Fontenot's NYT crossword gives us a batch of time-of-day movies: TEQUILA SUNRISE, RED SKY AT MORNING, DOG DAY AFTERNOON, and AFTER THE SUNSET. Too bad a central 8-letter entry won't work in a grid with an odd number of rows, because HIGH NOON would have been a terrific addition. (Yes, it includes the same NOON as AFTERNOON, but AFTER THE SUNSET's in there, so not a problem.) Between this being a typical easy Tuesday puzzle without a ton to discuss, enjoying a plate of Indian food, and getting drawn into the reality show Science of Love,, I'll sign off for the evening now.


Today's CrosSynergy crossword is by Bob Klahn. "Boxxxing Match" has theme entries that begin with the letters TIC, TAC, and TOE (hence the three Xs in the puzzle's title). I reckon there were about 20 clues that required mental flexibility to interpret, and numerous pairs of linked clues that used the same word or similar phrasing. For example, [Dada daddy] (meaning ARP) next to [Beefy baby] (CALF). And [Snake in the sea grass] for EEL followed by [Tiny stake in the grass?] for TEE. I like Klahn's way of toughening up even the shortest and commonest words.

Easy LA Times puzzle from Jennifer Nutt, with a theme of three types of people (e.g., SPACE CADET) who need to PAY ATTENTION. I think this is one of the first times I've seen DIY in the fill of a crossword, and maybe the first in a mainstream newspaper. The clue is [Tinkerer's initials] and it stands for "do it yourself." I had a discussion with someone a few months ago about whether the entry was acceptable for mainstream crosswords—there's a cable TV DIY channel among other uses of the shorthand term, so I think it's become broad enough to be fair game for a daily puzzle. Agree or not?


June 24, 2007

Monday, 6/25

NYS 3:34
CS 3:17
LAT 3:13
NYT 2:51

(updated at 10 a.m. Monday)

We spent the afternoon at Chicago's annual Gay Pride Parade. It's the neighborhood's biggest event, drawing a few hundred thousand spectators each year. There are floats or groups marching for the local TV and radio stations, assorted politicians, church groups, PFLAG (which got sustained applause from the spectators), liquor companies, gay bars, banks, theater troupes, hospitals, and more. Of course, what will show up on the local news are clips of the more outrageously clad marchers, and not the church groups or the gays and lesbians representing the bank they work for. The guy on the unicycle wearing a G-string...well, he was a little too cheeky for broadcast TV. Oddest thing: The conventionally attractive/hot young women handing out TAG body spray, which is marketed to straight men as a way to attract women. Is Gillette not aware of the demographics of a Gay Pride Parade? Hire a couple hot guys to hand out those fragrance samples, and you'll get a lot more attention for your cheapo fragrance.

Is there any link between the parade and crosswords? Well, let's see. Hasn't STOLI been in the crossword before? And GAY, and SAME-SEX? If GLBT contained a few vowels, it might get some play in the grid, but with those four consonants? Fat chance.

Monday's NYT crossword was constructed by Kurt Mengel and Jan-Michele Gianette. The constructors are feeling generous, so they've given us two choices for each theme entry—though you have to jot down both choices to finish each theme entry (e.g., PASS/FAIL CLASS). And...you know what? It's a Monday puzzle, and there's not all that much to say about it. Solid crossword, maybe a little bit tougher than most Monday NYTs.

The Sun puzzle is David Kahn's "Grand Film Openings." The quartet sextet [Ed.: Thanks to Stephen for catching the two vertical theme entries, BEN-HUR and TOP HAT] of theme entries are movie titles that begin with words that can follow BIG (40-Across—both the word and a movie in its own right). Thus, the Reagan movie BROTHER RAT yields Big Brother; HOUSE OF WAX, the big house; TIME BANDITS, big time; and Chris Rock's HEAD OF STATE gets a big head. I am surprised to see COLA clued as [Pez flavor]—I can only find the crappier fruit flavors of Pez. In Europe a decade ago, I found raspberry Pez. Hey, look! The Pez site sells cola and mint flavors of Pez candy in addition to fruit. But no grape—and somehow, my kid invariably offers me grape Pez. Grape Pez sucks.


Rich Norris's CrosSynergy crossword, "Awakenings," features four phrases that start with words that can follow COME TO (51-Down). I'm generally not a fan of this sort of theme—it helps if the theme's tightened up a little, as above with the Sun puzzle that includes six movies rather than six random phrases, or more ambitious, as with more or longer theme entries. I like the phrases that result here, though—COME TO / BLOWS, COME TO / MIND, COME TO / PASS, and COME TO / LIGHT make a nice grouping. COME TO PAPA would have been fun, but it would have been out of keeping with the sort of phrases that Rich included here.

The LA Times puzzle by Gary Steinmehl is livened up with 16 6-letter answers and a pair of 8s, surrounding five theme entries. The theme entries are easy to fill in since the beginning and end of each are the same: POKES SLOWPOKES and FILLS LANDFILLS, for example.


June 23, 2007

Sunday, 6/24

NYT 10:51
LAT 8:35
WaPo 8:33
Reagle 6:15
BG 6:14
CS 3:27

(updated at 11:20 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. Sunday)

Auugghhh! You know how it is when you're solving a crossword on the computer and the answers are coming quickly? So your fingers go to autopilot in typing things in and your eyes look to the next clue? And your fingers are a tad askew on the keyboard so you hit the key adjacent to the one you want? And then when you learn you've got an error somewhere, it takes you more than two minutes to scan the entire Sunday-sized grid to find that single errant square? Mm-hmm, I know how that goes.

Eric Berlin's New York times puzzle, "No Appointment Necessary," has circled squares within each of six theme entries. I chose to ignore the circles and figured the first one, SECURITIES ANALYST, was toying around with the idea of making an appointment with one's analyst. Actually, the circled letters spell out famous doctors—as hinted by the central entry, THE DOCTOR IS IN each theme entry. SEUSS lurks in SECURITIES ANALYST, and the other spots are hiding Star Trek's Dr. MCCOY, Goethe's Dr. FAUST, Dr. SPOCK of classic childcare books, Sherlock Holmes' Dr. WATSON, and Dr. DEMENTO (from the radio? or TV?). I liked seeing TEA DANCE in the fill because a cousin of mine got married in Hawaii but had a reception later in Beverly Hills. It wasn't a dinner, but rather a fancy thé dansant, and when you Google that, it doesn't take much effort to find the term illustrated by a drawing of monkeys. I hadn't heard of the jellyfish (ick!) called the SEA NETTLE. ERODIBLE just plain looks wrong, but it's an actual word. Favorite clues: [Jazz great Malone] for KARL the NBA star; [Language from which lemon and julep come] for FARSI (those links are to dictionary entries with etymologies); the learned-something-new clue for INCAS, [Tawantinsuyu dwellers]; [Send up or put down] for LAMPOON; and [Overhead] for SMASH. The OEO was the Office of Economic Opportunity, part of LBJ's Great Society agenda (the agency was dismantled by his GOP successor, Nixon). This, the Da Vinci Code Priory of SION, and the Twain/Harte play AH SIN are things I learned strictly from crosswords. (My typo was where NCO and NEO cross; the O was a P. Poos! Or rather, Oops!)


Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Ode to My Dad," includes a certain 3-letter name within each of a slew (16) of theme entries. I glommed onto the theme pretty quickly—Merl has done this type of theme several times before.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's Boston Globe puzzle, "Game Time," was about as easy-breezy as Merl's creation. Their theme included the names of nine games, with kids' outdoors games, parlor games, and board games all represented. I learned a new (to me) baseball name: TORII Hunter.

Richard Silvestri's Washington Post crossword, "E-Males," adds an E to various men's first names and reclues the word/last name combo. It works better in some cases—[Carousing crooner?] is BINGE CROSBY—and not so well in others—[Pub-crawling actor?] is ALE PACINO.

Updated once more:

Ernest Lampert's LA Times syndicated puzzle, "Vamoose," has a cut-and-run theme—each theme entry is the rest of a phrase that begins with the word cut or run.

Randolph Ross's themeless CrosSynergy puzzle is fairly easy. Very few 3-letter words (six of them), and none is an obscure abbreviation.


June 22, 2007

Saturday, 6/23

NYT 3:57
Newsday (untimed)
LAT 4:58
CS 3:01

(updated at 10:50 a.m. Saturday)

What? Another flip-flop in the New York Times? The Saturday puzzle, a Patrick Berry 68-worder, turns out to be easier than the Friday one. Maybe it's because there's more flow between sections, or maybe it's that the clues are more straightforward. Random riffing on things in this crossword: I missed learning JODIE Henry's name during the 2004 Summer Olympics (though she set three world records and won three swimming gold medals for Australia). Didn't really know that Van Gogh's Starry Night was joined by his Starry Night on the Rhone, which included the Big Dipper (URSA MAJOR) in the sky. Doesn't O PIONEERS (the [First novel in Cather's "prairie trilogy"]) look like it needs another IN? Then it could describe editorial columnists and TV pundits: the Opinioneers. Would you have guessed that the Wikipedia article on SUTRAs (a SUTRA is a [Collection of aphorisms]) doesn't mention the Kama Sutra? How about that word at 8-Down, clued simply as [Circle]? The answer's RONDURE, and doing a Google image search gets you nowhere. It's a word! But I don't know in what circumstances one might use the word. Anyone? HOTSPUR is clued as [Hot-tempered sort]; read all about medieval England's "Harry Hotspur". Curious about why EBON is [Like japanned woord]? See here.


Doug Peterson's Newsday Saturday Stumper didn't feel too tough. Lots of lively fill (KING'S RANSOM, HEDGE FUND, DEWDROP, ON THE MONEY, ESKIMO PIES, MINT JULEP). Favorite clues: [Loads of lettuce] for KING'S RANSOM; [Bead on a blade] for DEWDROP; [Laughs] for FUN; [Chester, for Charles] for EARLDOM (a factoid I did not pick up whilst in Chester last month—read about the nine-century history of the Earldom of Chester if you wish); [Edwards, sometimes] for NEDS; and the nonmilitary [Base character], a KNAVE. I had no idea what a Kremlin Colonel was—it's a drink with vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, and mint. A MINT JULEP has bourbon rather than vodka. Sign me up for the Colonel, please.


June 21, 2007

Friday, 6/22

NYS 5:15
LAT 4:44
NYT 4:43
Jonesin' 4:21
6/8 CHE 3:59
CS 3:09

WSJ 8:26

(updated at 11:30 a.m. Friday—and if you don't usually solve the Wall Street Journal puzzle, do this delicious one before you read the spoilers)

Mike Nothnagel's themeless 70-worder for the New York Times was a hoot and a half, with zippy fill and clever cluing. I'm gonna go ahead and plunk this one in my "great puzzles" folder because I thought it was awfully fun. Some themeless puzzles are dry and not so hard, or really challenging but not so entertaining; my favorite ones are chockablock with a certain comic sensibility. Take MR TOAD'S WILD RIDE, for example; my husband and I rode it about 10 years ago and it was ridiculous (not so wild, but there was retro fluorescent paint), and the name alone evokes a grin. The [Collector of bizarre facts] is RIPLEY, and I read those goofy Ripley's Believe It or Not books when I was a kid. [Yes-men] as LAP DOGS, a chess knight as a HORSE, the colloquialism of SLOW NEWS DAY, the green bottles of Rolling Rock beer (formerly brewed in LATROBE, Pennsylvania)—all these have such a playful vibe. My favorite clues and entries: [Slacker] (as in more slack) for LOOSER (not LOAFER); EZ PASS; ROTH IRAS; [One concerned with school activities?] for MARINE BIOLOGIST (nicely crossing the SAN DIEGO ZOO and its pandas); [Approve] for BLESS a few rows above a SNEEZE ([Cold evidence]); [Worn rocks] for JEWELRY; [Sweethearts] for STEADIES (better than cluing it as a verb); [Books with many cross references?] for BIBLES; [The orange variety is black] for PEKOE TEA; and SINEWS and TENSED beside each other.

Karen Tracey's Sun Weekend Warrior is a little less amusing and a little more of a Scrabbly spelling test (which I also love!). The trickiest to spell was KOSCIUSZKO, a bridge in New York named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko. I encourage you to read the Wikipedia article about him—he was a key figure in the American Revolution as well as in Polish and Lithuanian history (and hey! I'm part Polish and Lithuanian). What's more, when he was rewarded with a tidy sum of money for his service in the Continental Army, he used some of the money to buy freedom for slaves, and when he returned to Poland, he freed some serfs. Good guy, and worth the orthographic challenge. Another tricky spot in the grid was where [Forest swingers] meets [Forecasting tool]; APES just wasn't working, but AXES meshes with EXIT POLL. BAZOOKAS is a fun word because of Bazooka bubble gum, not the weaponry aspect. [Powerful pieces in ajedrez] is looking for "queens" in Spanish, ajedrez being Spanish for "chess"—REINAS. [Takes stock?] is RUSTLES, as in steals cattle. Lively entries include HIDE-A-BED, CUTTLEFISH, FEVERFEW, the Florida EVERGLADES, the character ADDISON from Grey's Anatomy, and SQUEAKER. Other favorite clues: [New Mexican?] for BEBE (Spanish for "baby"); the comic strip ZITS; [Significant one?] for OTHER; and [Present-day tennis] for the OPEN ERA. If you've never heard of the early '70s TV Western HEC Ramsey, make a mental note of it; HEC not infrequently rides to the rescue of a constructor trying to fill a tough section of the grid.


Ha! Another really fun puzzle, this time with the humor coming from the theme. In Patrick Berry's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Vowel Play" (which is also going in my folder of appreciation), two vowels swap places in each of the 10 theme entries, and I couldn't help smiling at the results. Among my favorites: BAGGERS CAN'T BE CHOOSERS, ROMANCING THE STENO, the A-OK TREE, and NO SPRING CHECK-IN. Outside of the FANTASTIC theme, this crossword's notable for the two corners with stacked fresh 9-letter entries crossing a theme entry (because he's Patrick Berry and he can construct that way) and for the terrific clues (how many are from the constructor and how many from editor Mike Shenk? I don't know, but they're good). [This answer contains more than nine letters] clues MAIL TRUCK, which has 9 letters but may transport sacks and sacks of letters; [The wages of sin] are DAMNATION, straight up; [They might take you down] means STAIRS; [Bridge answer] is the nautical AYE; [Got in line, say] means CONGAED; [Put right?] is the right-slanted ITALICIZE; and [Chocoholic's bane] is CAROB. Other sparkly bits of fill include "YEA BIG" and the movie IT'S PAT ("What's that?") with Julia Sweeney.

Jeffrey Harris and Todd McClary's June 8 Chronicle of Higher Ed crossword, "On the Money," features the people depicted on the larger denominations of U.S. currency (the ones no longer available, as far as I know). In the fill is 19th-century detective ALLAN Pinkerton, whose grave I saw last week in Graceland Cemetery, just a few blocks away. (Many notable Chicago names are also buried in Graceland—architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Daniel Burnham, and Louis Sullivan, retailer Marshall Field, early mayors, George Pullman of Pullman car fame.) Where was I? Crossword! Good to wedge a one-vowel word like SCHMALTZ into the grid, fortunately clued as [Sentimentality] rather than chicken fat. And IRKUTSK, a moderately Scrabbly geographic name.

Matt Jones's "Hi, Steaks" has three mashups of two kinds of steak, e.g., STRIP SKIRT, clued as if the mashups were actual phrases. Pluses: THE MATRIX, ROCK STAR, FOR KEEPS, and the ACTING BUG in the fill. Minuses: A GAP or two in my knowledge, particularly the [1990s MTV show that played electronica], AMP, and [Russian-born swimsuit model Sheik], IRINA. (No link!) And RRR for [Watchdog's warning] rather than GRR. How many people still have a [Colorful desktop] Mac, the IMAC, and how many people have long since traded up to a newer and more powerful non-colorful iMac or other computer by now?

Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's CrosSynergy puzzle has the same sort of theme Mark Feldman had in his Monday Sun puzzle, with items of apparel doubling as verbs, Question: If you were inclined to violence, would you sock someone on the nose, as in one of the theme entries, or in the nose? I go for in, personally. Maybe it's a regional thing.

Jack McInturff's LA Times puzzle tacks a W onto the beginning of each theme entry.


June 20, 2007

Thursday, 6/21

NYS 5:54
Time Out 5:14
NYT 4:19
LAT 4:14
CS 2:58

(updated at 9:45 a.m. Thursday)

The Thursday NYT crossword is credited to John Sheehan, which is not a familiar name. This might be his constructorial debut—if so, congratulations!

Anthony Salvia's Sun crossword, "Lots of Love," hinges on the tennis definition of love: NOTHING (25-Down). The four longest entries contain rebus squares that spell out ZIP, NADA, NIL, and ZERO (as in [ZIP]-A-DEE-DOO-DAH, baseball great BILL MA[ZERO]SKI, VA[NIL]LA FUDGE, and MONTREAL, CA[NADA]. Until I figured out the rebus, I was drawing a blank on what 4-letter city could be the [Capital on Luzon]; ah, MA]NIL]A! Someday I will get there. Fairly tough puzzle aside from the rebus action—did I know that Mia HAMM had a book? I don't think I did. The 4-square blank for [Hefty competitor] sure looks like GLAD until the [ZIP]LOC rebus nudged its way in there. Did I know that AERO was an internet domain name? I sure didn't. How about [Three-time NBA All-Star Larry] NANCE? Nope. Also didn't know Darryl Dawkins and his famous DUNKs—but it's an entertaining Wikipedia article so I'm glad I looked him up. There were other things I just plain didn't know, but I found the crossings to be eminently reasonable as I didn't have to blindly guess anything. What I liked best, aside from the rebus action: [Bolt with no threads?] for STREAK (streakers have a website complete with photos); KIT BAG; [Prepared to show] for GROOMED (as in dogs going to the Westminster Dog Show); DONUT crossing DUNK; and [They might get swung at if they go through the strike zone] for SCABS (I'm pro-union).

Sheehan's NYT crossword contains six theme entries with anagrams tied to the all-caps clues with an adjective. For example, [GENRES] are TOSSED GREENS, and PROSE scrambles up to KNOTTED ROPES. The resulting phrases aren't all ones that feel "in the language" to me—like KNOTTED ROPES and ADDLED BRAINS. FAUX PAS (clued with [SAP]) is completely "in the language" (in two languages, in fact!), and BAD DEAL ([LEAD]) has more Google hits than I'd expected. Speaking of that last one, did you first try NEW DEAL and/or RAW DEAL in that post, as I did? Favorite parts: the three Xs and a Q in the grid; [It may come after you] for ARE; [America's Cup, e.g.] turning out to be EWER rather than RACE; [You can see through it] for the IRIS of your eye; and [Turn blue, e.g.] for DYE (no sadness, no hypoxia!). I don't think I've ever seen crossword regular ASP clued as [1950s-'60s American rocket; Wikipedia says the Asp rocket was "used 30 times to study the explosion clouds of nuclear bombs." Who knew?


Apparently Brendan Emmett Quigley will have a weekly crossword in Time Out New York. Seems to be only in the icky sort of Java applet I don't much like (I kept reading the wrong clues and typing over the letters I'd already entered), alas. This week's offering, "Puzzle It Over," has a meta theme of crosswords themselves.

Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's LA Times crossword offers three 15-letter definitions of HERO, sort of a reverse clue/answer set. (Nice 8-letter entries splashed throughout the grid, too.) Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Spring Training," has a similar theme—the theme entries have springing-related clues, [HOPPER], [SKIPPER], and [JUMPER].


Me, in the news

For yesterday's Chicago Tribune, Kevin Pang wrote an article about Saturday's New Word Open Mic.

I must say I rather like seeing my name in print.


June 19, 2007

Wednesday, 6/20

NYS 4:34
NYT 4:21
Tausig 4:18
CS 4:04
Onion 4:ish (forgot to jot time)
LAT 3:51

(updated at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday)

It's Wednesday, not Thursday, and yet the New York Sun and Times crosswords struck me as a little twisty. Twisty is good! I like twisty. I do wonder if a lot of NYT solvers who don't much venture beyond Wednesday will find themselves mired in Bonnie Gentry and Vic Fleming's puzzle—felt like a Thursday puzzle to me.

I assume the byline is supposed to say Bonnie L. Gentry, but the online versions of the puzzle say "Bobbie L. Gentry." Maybe Bonnie has an evil twin who also collaborates on crossword construction with Vic? Note to NYT staff: Bobbie Gentry is the stage name of someone who had a hit song 40 years ago. She doesn't make crosswords, as far as I know. Bonnie Gentry does. Plus, if you're changing constructor names in bylines now, you should've made Vic into Peggy Fleming. Now that'd be a terrific constructing duo!

Now, where was I? Crosswords, under whatever attribution. I really enjoyed Bonnie and Vic's crossword. It's got a T in each circled square, in the corners of the grid and forming a sort of INNER CIRCLE, a T-SQUARE of Ts in the middle of the grid. T is also a word contained in several other answer phrases, also at the corners of the big square/diamond of Ts (WINGED T formation, CROSS A T, T-MOBILE). That square necessitates quartets of T*T and T***T entries; we get TAT, TIT, TOT, and TUT, but are spared crossword regular TET for a change. You'll note that the letter T is absent from all the unhighlighted squares, too. The halves of jai alai are boring in a crossword, but I like the [Half court game?] clue for JAI here. Also appreciated [Like a band of Amazons] for MANLESS; LOCKS IN an interest rate; Ferris BUELLER (here's a 9.5-minute video clip of good lines from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, including Ben Stein's classic droning of "Bueller? Bueller?"); [Field of unknowns?] for ALGEBRA (not REALITY TV); and ["___ Cheerleaders" (1977 film)] for SATAN'S. Mystery man George PALADE (whom I'd never heard of) won his Medicine Nobel for what he learned about organelles; I wonder if PALATE had originally been in his spot of the grid but was changed to remove an extraneous T. Yeah, this puzzle has some blah bits, like some 3-letter abbreviations (among a slew of 3-letter entries), a couple foreign words, and the suffix ENCE, but it's also got a twisty format, a Q and an X, and more than a dozen long (7+ letters) entries.

The Tuesday NYT had college towns that started with NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, and WEST, whereas Peter Collins' Sun puzzle, "Setting Things Straight," has the four cardinal directions shooting down diagonally from/to the corner squares. The short Down answer in the center crosses a long Across one to instruct the solver to PIVOT / FORTY-FIVE DEGREES to set the directions aright. Most of the entries in this puzzle intersect one of the diagonal directions or the central theme entries, so the fill maybe sparkles a bit less (AFTA, CPUS, EEE) than the usual Sun puzzle, but I find a clever twist atones for such sins. Favorite parts: The stack in the bottom with OH SURE, RBI MEN (is this really a term in baseball? I suppose it must be), and SOS PAD; [They get ground up] for HOES; [Guy's gal pal] for AMIE; and [What you can't make do without?] for the letter DEE. Banda ACEH, which many of us never heard of (and certainly didn't know how to pronounce) prior to the December 2004 tsunami, is included; check out the AP News Pronunciation Guide here and learn how to pronounce a slew of people and place names starting with the letters A through E.


Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Getting Away," reconstrues a list of things you might do before leaving on vacation. Fave clues: [Like some unwanted hair] for NASAL; [Like some unions] for SAME-SEX; [Stick in an outlet] for PRONG; [Beta preceder] for VHS; and [Spring break?] for TAX CREDIT.

Deb Amlen's Onion A.V. Club crossword pays homage to The Sopranos. I'm not sure how many of the entries are meant to be part of the theme. The first line of the theme song, "WOKE UP THIS / MORNING," definitely. Series creator DAVID CHASE, definitely. BRACCOS, referring to co-star Lorraine Bracco and her sister Elizabeth, who apparently played Lorraine's sister on the show, most likely. Opposite that entry is SLEDDER...I don't see a connection. Opposite MORNING from the song there's BIG BANG, which is not the Bada-Bing...I don't see a connection. BUMP is clued as [Whack, with "off"]; that fits. It crosses CORPSE, which also fits. Those two words are opposite HARASS and REIN...and Tony Soprano had a horse, didn't he? And the mobsters harass and are harassed by the FBI. Favorite clues: [It's fed after pulling in] for METER; [Stock holder?] for LADLE; [Some boy toys] for KENS; and [They must be passed before they can be followed] for LAWS.

Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy "Starving Artist" puzzle plies its trade with a tripartite artist pun: HE LACKED THE MONET/ NEEDED TO BUY DEGAS / TO MAKE THE VAN GOGH. (Ouch.) Curious usage of [Lack of diversity] for UNITY. Nowhere in the American Heritage Dictionary definition do I see a suggestion that diversity precludes unity. Divisiveness does, yes, but not diversity. My son's grade school is the most diverse institution I've ever seen, and there's a unity of purpose there. And a unity of kids' shared interests in, say, SpongeBob and video games.

Dan Naddor groups word-letter names in his LA Times crossword: VITAMIN C, SPECIAL K cereal, THEORY Y from the workplace, LL COOL J, MALCOLM X, and EXHIBIT A. Alas, those end letters can be scrambled to make JACK XY, but that means nothing to me. (Kyle XY is a TV show, though.)


June 18, 2007

Tuesday, 6/19

NYS 4:44
CS 3:19
LAT 3:12
NYT 2:51
Tausig, Onion—ah, we'll do these in Wednesday's post

(updated at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday)

I forgot to mention a funny thing that happened Saturday after the New Word Open Mic. One or two people asked me, "Which dictionary are you with?" It was a tad disappointing to have to state that I wasn't "with" any reference work at all. (Sigh.) There can't be many circumstances in which a person might be mistaken for a lexicographer, eh?

Speaking of "eh," I liked one particular clue in John Underwood's Tuesday NYT crossword. That would be HOSERS clued as [Boorish sorts, in Canada]. Americans associate "hoser" and "eh" with Canada largely because of the Bob and Doug McKenzie characters from SCTV. AEON by itself is icky crossword fill, but combine it with FLUX and you've got yourself a Charlize Theron movie. The existence of a movie called NICO the Unicorn had utterly escaped my notice. When a city and its 2-letter state abbreviation are combined in a themeless puzzle, it's often a tricky answer to guess; in this crossword, there are four such combos in the theme. A tight theme it is, too—four college towns that start with NORTH, WEST, SOUTH, and EAST. The fact that NORTHAMPTON doesn't have a stand-alone NORTH is but a wee flaw in an otherwise rock-solid theme. The constructor has an ambitious grid design, too, with those 10-letter entries stacked with the top and bottom theme entries and the vertical 10-letter words (EPICUREANS!) each crossing two theme entries and one of those other 10s. Sure, you also end up with AEREO and DYE POT, but it's not the end of the world. There's the shout-out to HEMP as [Source of hashish], after all, and several Scrabbly letters, too.

Bob Klahn (!) constructed the Sun crossword for the day. The theme took an extra minute or two to see: In "The Addams Family," he's opted to add AMS to the base phrases to concoct the theme entries. Thus, "all there" becomes ALL THE REAMS; "reshoots," RAMSES HOOTS; "Delaware," DAMSEL-AWARE; and "used to be," USED TO BEAMS. Tie them together with good longer fill like ROMANTIC, COMPADRE, and WHOPPER and solid short fill, and you've got a smooth grid. Then you add the Klahnesque clues (with perhaps a soupçon of Peter Gordonizing) and you've got a tough Tuesday challenge. My favorite clues: [Digs like pigs] for ROOTS (a twist on the incredibly stale [Pig's digs] clue for STY); the doubling up of Caesar/Caesars and emergency clues for 20- through 23-Across; [Man of gravity] for NEWTON; [Is a drama queen] for crossword stalwart EMOTES; [Shot in the back?] for SPINAL; [Degree of success] for PHD; [Jerry and George taught her about shrinkage] for ELAINE; and [Ant who sings] for ADAM (I think I owned Adam Ant's 1982 album; man, was he pretty).


Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle has a theme of things people use their fingers for. And no, nose picking was not among the theme entries, nor guitar picking. VEGANS are included as [People with strict diets], and OLEOS as [Nondairy spreads]. Did you know that margarine often has dairy in it? Hardcore vegans shop for special vegan margarine. I could never be vegan. I love butter.

David Cromer's LA Times crossword has four 10-letter LEADER OF THE PACK entries, two of them intersecting that central 15-letter title. The last word in each theme entry can be followed by the word pack. Best clue: [Permanent place?] for SALON.


June 17, 2007

Monday, 6/18

NYS 3:32
LAT 2:52
CS 2:49
NYT 2:41

(updated at 9 a.m. Monday)

We celebrated Father's Day by lunching at La Creperie (poulet au curry crepes, yum!) before seeing a revival showing of Labyrinth, the 1986 Jim Henson fantasy movie starring a teenage Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie as the Goblin King. Ben enjoyed it, as did his parents. You know what, though? I was famished when we were getting ready to leave the house for lunch. I was ridiculously hangry. (Honest!)

A few days ago, Curtis Yee's NYT crossword included the CHICAGO "L" as a theme entry, and a number of people questioned whether it was kosher to call the train the "L" rather than the El. I prefer the El, but there's a new book I'm thinking of buying for my son called The Chicago "L"—so "L" is definitely a legitimate variant.

And now, the main event: The Monday puzzles. Randall Hartman's NYT crossword has three theme entries that follow an [entity] OF THE [body of water] format, as in LADY OF THE LAKE and CHICKEN OF THE SEA. What's this GEM OF THE OCEAN business? It's clued as [Columbia, in an old patriotic song]. I Googled it up just now and learned that the lyrics are dreadful. Might have been co-written by Yoda. How many of you thought, "Oh, of course, GEM OF THE OCEAN," and how many of you (like me) said, "Wha?" I got off to a perplexed start with 1-Across, [#1 number two who became the #2 number one] for President John ADAMS. I liked the foursome of 8-letter fill entries: HEAD CASE, SWAYBACK, crawfish ETOUFFEE, and SNEEZE AT.

Mark Feldman's Sun crossword, "Apparel of the Past," gives us a batch of past-tense phrasal verbs that have clothing homonyms. For SCARFED DOWN, unlike the other four theme entries, the etymologies of the noun and verb differ. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the apparel is from [French dialectal escarpe, sash, sling, from Old North French, variant of Old French escherpe, pilgrim's bag hung from the neck, from Frankish *skirpja, small rush, from Latin scirpus, rush]; the eating sense is a variant of scoff (meaning 2), itself an alteration of the obsolete scaff; there's a third carpentry meaning with a third root, [Middle English skarf, as in scarfnail, probably from Old Norse skarfr, end piece of a board cut off on the bias]. I like that this crossword sent me off on a learning expedition, and also the 7-letter highlight, BUSHISM.


Joy C. Frank's LA Times crossword plays that funky music with theme entries ending with DISC, RECORD, ALBUM, and PLATTER. Adding to the musical slant are alt-country's Steve EARLE and a pair of RAPPERs, [Nelly or Nas, e.g.].

I like Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Crossing Over." First, because it amuses me to be reminded of the charlatan John Edward and his "psychic" TV show, Crossing Over. Second, because the theme is hopping—the three phrases "cross over" a black square between the words. We have QUANTUM and LEAP, SPRING and LOADED, and JUMP and STARTED.


June 16, 2007

Sunday, 6/17

Reagle 9:39
NYT 8:44
BG 8:00
LAT 7:23
WaPo 7:05
CS 3:37

(updated at 10:30 a.m. Sunday)

Happy Father's Day to those of you who are dads!

The Sunday NYT crossword by Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer was fresh and fun. The "Rear Axle" theme entries have had an -LE axed from the rear of key words. The funniest ones were THE TEMP OF DOOM (playing on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), FAMILY STY DINNER (style), and that great kids' book on analytical psychology, THE JUNG BOOK (Carl Jung supplanting the jungle). There were a few "Huh?" spots, particularly James THOMSON, the [James who wrote "Rule, Britannia"]—usually we see the guy who composed the music (Thomas Arne, he of the crossword-friendly surname) and not the one who wrote the words. Never heard of American tennis player VIC Seixas, who won Wimbledon in 1953 and was a top-ranked player off and on from the early '40s through the mid-'60s. Also never heard of SEXT, [Noontime service] or prayers said six hours after dawn or roughly at noon.

Moving along to the clues and answers I enjoyed most: TALL ORDER and its partner across the grid, IPSO FACTO; ["Stupid," in Spanish(!)] for MENSA; AXILLA, the medical term for the armpit, because I do like me some medical terminology; [Mile-high world capital] for KABUL (La Paz, in comparison, stands at an elevation of more than two miles); [They're beside sides] for ENTREES; [Stuntwork?] for BONSAI (stunted trees); the combo of SALT (14-Down) and SODIUM (43-Across); MARY ANN from Gilligan's Island; ["How ya doin'?"] for 'SUP (as in "Whassup?"); [___ girl] and ["___ girl!"] for COSMO and IT'S A; [Lose in one's drawers] for MISFILE; and [Record keeper?] for DEEJAY.


Paula Gamache's themeless CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge has three triple-stacks of 15-letter entries. After 1-Across came to me right away, the rest of it tumbled like a house of cards in front of a fan. There was one completely unfamiliar word: GAVI, the [Wine made from Cortese grapes]. It's an Italian white, and it's said to pair nicely with fish.

Henry Hook's online Boston Globe puzzle this week is "In the Material World." It's a quote puzzle (meh) that works toward the punchline at the bottom: a ZERO MOSTEL quote about JIM HENSON: "He has the best possible / actors. / If you have a disagreement with / them, you can / always / use them to wash your car." Said actors, of course, are the Muppets. I took some judicious guesses in a couple spots, starting with 1-Down. The [Crust-mantle link] is MOHO, short for the Mohorovičić discontinuity (more info at that link if you're geologically inclined today). If I ever knew the name Michael ANSARA, I forgot it. He is the Syrian-born actor who played Cochise on the '50s TV show, Broken Arrow. Middle Eastern, Apache...what's the diff? (Mel Gibson may be nuts, but at least he cast regionally appropriate actors in his Apocalypto movie.)

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "How To Talk to a Caveman," cautions the solver against using certain terms when conversing with a caveman. The funniest: ["On weekends, don't ask him to"] GO CLUBBING. Loved the clue for HARASS, the misleadingly animal-oriented [Badger or hound]. Merl's note with with puzzle (in the Across Lite Notepad) says: "With the GEICO cavemen possibly getting their own TV series (ABC has ordered a pilot), I thought a little sensitivity training might be in order."

In Randall Hartman's Washington Post crossword, "Where Are You Employed?", six theme entries play with multiple meanings of key words. Why work at a pizza place? THE DOUGH (pizza dough and cash) IS GOOD. Why work at Michelin? I NEVER TIRE (car tires, get tired) OF THE JOB. Pretty easy, and fun.

Vic Fleming's LA Times syndicated crossword, "Plenty of Pop," evokes his Wall Street Journal puzzle from two days ago. The WSJ puzzle featured phrases with the DAD letter string inside, in rebus form, while this one has eight phrases like that with the DAD spelled out in three squares. This one probably went a little faster for anyone who'd already solved the WSJ puzzle (there can't be too many of us, can there?), as a couple of the theme phrases were the same.


Popular acclaim for hangry

Crossword editors, constructors, and solvers all turn to dictionaries to confirm that a word means what someone says it does, to explore its meanings, or to check out its etymology. Sometimes dictionaries seem like unassailable, disembodied authority figures, but the members of the Dictionary Society of North America's are actual people devoted to documenting the English language in a useful way. I met a handful of them at the DSNA's New Word Open Mic this afternoon. Dictionaries can't coast along on old words, of course—language evolves and new entities need names. (Thus words like podcast, the 2005 word of the year for the Oxford New American Dictionary, are coined and legitimized.)

Erin McKean's the lexicographer who came to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament this March and had a little side event with Francis Heaney for a Discovery Channel documentary. (Francis made a crossword with new coinages and old words that Erin wished to save from the "lexicographical dustheap.") Erin is the editor of the above-mentioned Oxford New American Dictionary (which I won a copy of when hangry garnered the most audience votes) and she smoothly emceed the Open Mic event.

So. Hangry. It's a word I first encountered in this New York Times article, describing the way one feels when hunger or hypoglycemia induces a fit of crankiness. I do not ever skip breakfast because I can't function if I don't eat. Hangry fills a need by aptly describing how I and many others feel if we let ourselves go too long without a snack or meal.

Now, some of the lexicographers at this meeting pooh-poohed the word. Too old for a new-word contest—it's been in use since 1999. Too muddled in meaning—some people use it to evoke anger with hankerings. But why did enough people vote for it to win me a dictionary? I'll bet every single person who raised their hand for hangry has either experienced hangriness first hand or is close to someone who gets unreasonable when hungry.

For now, the word has little chance of winding up in a published crossword puzzle. But I'm hopeful that hangry will gain currency and and eventually be used widely enough that the lexicographers will consider it a useful addition to the language.

The panel of lexicographers picked their own winner: newsrotica. This word was coined today by one David Epstein, who works in publishing here in Chicago but doesn't work on a dictionary. He'd been trying to come up with a word to describe the perfect storm of the 24-hour news cycle enabled by cable news, "news" stories with salacious aspects (think Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole Smith) but little real import, and the public's insatiable appetite for this coverage. David explained that newsrotica combines news, erotica, and a touch of the neurotic. During the Open Mic event, the lexicographers Googled the coinage and came up completely dry—this isn't a word that a bunch of people have thought up independently. There may be a better word for this concept waiting to be coined, but in the meantime, this post begins a Google trail for David's newfangled newsrotica.

Grant Barrett was on the panel of experts. He runs a website, Double-Tongued Dictionary, "a lexicon of fringe English, focusing onslang, jargon, and new words." I've had the site bookmarked for ages—it's a nice diversion.

Also in attendance was Charles Hodgson, who does etymological podcasting (an audio "word of the day," essentially) at Podictionary. Written transcripts of the podcasts are included on the site for those who prefer to read. (Yay!) I think he'll be posting a podcast of the Open Mic after the meeting, so look for that if you're curious. After browsing through a handful of posts, I just added this site to my RSS feed so I can get those hits off the etymology pipe without expending any effort.

I've long been a fan of Language Log, especially the posts that puncture the stodgy "rules" of English usage and document the rich history of violations of said rules. Prescriptivists may think they're taking us to hell in a handbasket, but I like this crowd's general approach to usage issues. For example, a few paragraphs earlier, I used the plural their with the singular every single person because his or her is clunky and his isn't gender-neutral at all. This post defends the use of a singular antecedent for they, and dammit, I approve.

Anyway, today I met one of the Language Loggers, Ben Zimmer. Oddly enough, he didn't come off as a rock star at all.

But isn't that more or less how you view lexicographers? Like celebrities in the world of word lovers? They're right up there with crossword constructors and editors—well, until you get to know them and discover that despite the geeky glamor, they just tend to be smart and interesting people with nary a bodyguard or posse in sight.


June 15, 2007

Saturday, 6/16

Newsday 6:52
NYT 6:10
LAT 4:41
CS 2:37

(updated at 8:45 a.m. Saturday)

So, Saturday afternoon I plan to head down to Hyde Park for the New Word Open Mic. Much more my speed than a standup comedy open mic, or a singer-songwriter open mic.

Joe DiPietro's 72-word Saturday NYT crossword had a few spots of levity, but seemed pretty straightforward as far as themeless crosswords go. Tons of phrases—NEXT UP, GO AFTER, LOSES TO, AIMED AT, and ACHE FOR all sort of mesh together. The upper right has a trio of answers containign 3- and 5-letter syllables: SAWHORSE, ICE QUEEN, and THE STAND. One of my favorite clues is the one for IQ TEST: [It might ask "What comes next?"]. (Does the "next" cue tat NEXT UP elsewhere, though?) I like the batch of entries that include letters as words: SCENE I, TO A T, A TO B, A PLUS, and EXHIBIT B. Apparently Delaware became known as the DIAMOND STATE because Jefferson called it a "jewel" with a strategically advantageous location. Here's the ORTEGA site, complete with the sun smackdab in the logo's middle. (Rival taco company Old El Paso gets short shrift here, with the EL PASO clue being [It's near Fort Bliss].) The trickiest clue for me was [Bologna oils], which sounded vaguely culinary in nature but turned out to be the Italian word for "art" (as in oil paintings), ARTE. The T was the last square I filled in, since [Nonsense] can be bosh just as easily as the chiefly British TOSH, and TOSH could also be clued with reggae's Peter Tosh. Extra bonus points for the non-ED past tense of LEAPT, clued as [Acted impulsively].


Karen Tracey's LA Times themeless crossword has a grid that can inspure a dash of vertigo, but if you can piece together the four 10-letter answers that spiral around the center, you've got a leg up into each of the quadrants. (Conversely, if any of those elude you, you'll be starting from scratch with a mini-puzzle in that corner.) Favorite bits: [It's shaken but not stirred] for TAMBOURINE; my ONE AND ONLY; [First name in toasting?] for DOM (took me a while to connect that to Dom Perignon champagne); [Gossip] for WHISPERING; and [One way to be taken] for ABACK.

Raymond Hamel's Newsday Saturday Stumper was a little more of a Saturday Irker for me today. The [Symptom suffix] ATIC crossing the ol’ ETUI? (I see that the clue's a mislead, making the solver think of suffixes used with specific symptoms rather than with the word symptom—symptomATIC—but I didn't see that when I was solving and it seemed rather random at the time.) [Not ___ (not really)] as a clue for HALF? Is not half a stand-alone phrase, or is it generally not half bad? According to the idiom listing in the dictionary entry for half, not half can precede something other than bad...though it seldom does. ["Westworld" name] as a clue for YUL? Never saw the movie, and "name" in the clue made me think it referred to the name of a character rather than an actor. ELARA, one of Jupiter's 63 known moons, and far from the biggest)? Three French words commonly seen in crosswords (ETUDE, ECOLE, ETRE)? NO I.D. as [Reason for a bouncing]? COATLESS? (PANTSLESS is funny. COATLESS, not so much.) This puzzle made me kinda grumpy.


June 14, 2007

Friday, 6/15

NYS 8:37—the Friday Sun .pdf can be downloaded here
6/1 CHE 6:20
NYT 5:19
LAT 4:22
Jonesin' 4:14
CS 3:07

WSJ 8:11
Reagle tba

(updated at 9 a.m. Friday)

Have y'all been able to track down the .pdf for the Friday NY Sun crossword? It's Craig Kasper's "Holy Crossword, Batman!" (It's now available at the Sun now.)

Speaking of Batman, when my kid and I went to investigate the slew of movie trailers around the corner this afternoon, we learned that they were filming interior scenes for The Dark Knight, the sequel to 2005's Batman Begins. Starring Christian Bale as Batman, Heath Ledger as a villain, Gary Oldman as the police chief (one neighbor saw Oldman walking to his trailer), and the excellent Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over Katie Holmes' part. About 25 trailers and RVs were parked on the school grounds at Ben's school, the extras were hanging out inside the school, and the film crew was filming inside an apartment the next block up from our street. I took a few pictures with my cell phone of a Gotham Police Department patrol car and the City of Gotham license plates on a row of vehicles. Now I want to see the movie next July to try to pick out all the local scenery masquerading as Gotham. And I can't wait to see what the school spends its Hollywood paycheck on—the school's last windfall brought a digital music lab. My husband just returned home and says the filming action continues even at this late hour. They do need to finish up and clear out before 28 school buses invade the school property in the morning so the kids can pick up their final report cards.

I don't know if any of you watched the short-lived 2001 live-action show, The Tick. It starred Patrick Warburton (David Puddy on Seinfeld) as the titular Tick, a superhero with a moth sidekick named Arthur. One of the other characters on the show was named Batmanuel. He had a Spanish accent. This relates not at all to crosswords, but hey, today's recurring motif is Batman.

The Friday NYT is a themeless 70-worder by Nancy Joline who has, as far as I know, no direct connection to Batman. (We do not hold this against a crossword constructor, of course.) I wasn't sure that HOROSCOPER was actually a word—it doesn't get many Google hits and I've never heard it used—but I checked my Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary and lo and behold, it's there as an inflected form of the archaic horoscopy. I didn't know that Halliburton was cofounded by one ERLE Halliburton—at last, a plausible alternative to Erle Stanley Gardner! I hadn't been familiar with TV chef PAULA Deen until a few days ago, when a blogger was horrified by her boil-in-the-bag omelet and posted this how-to link. Highlights: VANUATU, combining geography geekdom with Survivor pop-cult; [Pops] for OLD-TIMER; the BLUE / NOTE jazz label pair of entries; [Pennsylvania, e.g.] for AVENUE; [Gentlemen of Verona] for SIGNORE (thanks to the NYT Today's Puzzle forum folks for lambasting SIGNORS in a recent puzzle and cementing the SIGNORE plural in my head); [Drub] for PLASTER; and reference to Patti LABELLE's "Lady Marmalade." I rather liked the vague, short clues that leave you guessing as to which sense of a word is meant. For example, [Tramp] could be HOBO or HARLOT, but it's TRAIPSE; [Tell] means TATTLE but [Turns in] meaning RETIRES rather than RATS OUT. I hadn't known that EVITA PERON was a [First lady who was once a prominent radio actress], but had too many of the letters from the crossing words to be duped into thinking of U.S. first ladies from the radio era. One partial duplication, with GRANOLA BAR and OPEN BAR—but who can object to the inclusion of an OPEN BAR? Not I.


In the Sun, Craig Kasper doubles up on the Batman theme action with cartoony sound effects (ZAP! KAPOW! BONK! BAM!) embedded in the long entries together with scattered Batman villains: CATWOMAN at 34-Across, the PENGUIN at 48-Across, the PUZZLER at 4-Down, and the JOKER (portrayed in the in-production movie by Heath Ledger) at 51-Down. I didn't notice this at first, but now that I do, WHAMMO! I'm knocked out. Each of the sound effects comes from Batman socking the villain, with the sound effect and bad guy intersecting.

The toughest corner for me was the lower left, but eventually it came together when I figured out what 3-letter movie ending in K was a 1991 Best Picture nominee (JFK), took a wild-ass guess that Senator Chuck Hagel was once president of the USO, took another wild guess that BIC makes glue sticks (Staples.com doesn't sell Bic's sticks, but it does sell OIC brand glue sticks. Sure hope none of you were familiar with OIC glue sticks!). I didn't do the Roman-numeral math for [Divisor of MMMDCCC], but indeed, CLII × XXV = 3,800. I don't think I've ever played JOTTO, the [Word-guessing game], but reckon I'd like it. Highlights: [Like a private getaway, maybe?] for AWOL; [Apple core creator] for INTEL (the new Intel-based Macs); the BAOBABS or monkey bread trees; [Tap-in location] for LIP; [Unplugged] for ACOUSTIC (this CD is my favorite from the MTV Unplugged series); WOOLGATHER; [O no.] for CIRC (as in the circulation of O magazine); [Pittance] for SONG; [Clearances] for the plural noun OKAYS; and [When to expect a touchdown[ for ETA. Anyone else mystified by ["The ___ McLaughlins" (1924 Pulitzer winner)]? Turns out to be The Able McLaughlins.

Just quick takes on the rest—my son's school day is just 90 minutes long today (picking up report cards and saying their farewells):

Harvey Estes' CrosSynergy puzzle includes some lively fill amid a theme of broken GRINs (with letters splitting the GR from the IN). Doug Peterson's LA Times changes -INE endings to -INGs. Favorite example: [Ostrich relative in a holiday pageant?] is CAROLING RHEA. Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle, "Don't Sweat It," has a theme of people with the initials B.O., with a pop-cultury vibe I enjoyed. Patrick Berry's June 1 Chronicle of Higher Ed crossword provides a good challenge—figuring out the spoonerisms in the theme entries. (Had not heard of the [1819 Shelley poem, with "The"]—"The CENCI." Apparently it is a verse drama seldom performed as a play owing to its incest theme.) Vic Fleming's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Pop Quiz," marks Father's Day (which is this Sunday) with an apt rebus. I got stuck at the intersection of a numerical prefix (usually it's OCTO, but don't we sometimes see OCTA?) and a 4-letter ELO song that turns out to be "DO YA.".


June 13, 2007

Thursday, 6/14

NYS 10:59
NYT 3:37
LAT 3:28
CS 2:29

(updated at 10 a.m. Thursday)

June 14! Yes, it's Flag Day again, also known as the day after my sister's birthday. (Ben and I spent the day visiting my sister today. Boy, does that kid love to play in the swimming pool! He'll be in heaven in a week and a half when day camp starts and he can hit the pool every morning.) June 14 is also the birthday of some famous people. Poor Alois Alzheimer—people were always forgetting his birthday.

The Thursday NYT crossword by Donna Hoke Kahwaty is not at all ARTLESS, [Ingenuous...or like 17-, 24-, 50- and 60-Across]. The theme entries are, however—each has lost ART. Starting salary becomes STING SALARY; heart of darkness, HE OF DARKNESS; surprise parties, SURPRISE PIES; and martini glasses, MINI GLASSES. (I Googled "surprise pies" and found a page of trivia about pies. Some of the poll results sound awfully spurious. And supposedly, the wealthy English were known for making surprise pies with live critters inside them.) I was stumped for a while when I had ** OF DARKNESS, wondering how on earth a rebus could break PRINCE into two pieces. But then ARTLESS practically filled itself in at 38-Across, giving a huge hint. Not so sure about [Supply at a changing station] for TALC; baby powder in general has fallen out of favor at diaper time, and many parents opt for cornstarch baby powder over talcum powder. Love those four vertical 10-letter fill entries, but boy, do I wish they had tricky Friday or Saturday clues.

Okay, so, maybe 10:30 at night and drifting off to sleep is not the optimal setting for solving a Themeless Thursday puzzle in the Sun, eh? Francis Heaney's crossword slaughtered me. Partly on its own merits, and partly because I spaced on reading and interpreting clues that weren't so hard. Like the [Hit song from "Outlandos d'Amour"], ROXANNE—a gimme once I finally roused myself enough to notice the clue. (Guess who's going to the Police concert at Wrigley Field next month? That's right! A bloggy friend and I are going, just the two of us, since we were both Police fans back in the '80s. There are no tickets for our husbands, who never had the same admiration for Sting anyway.) And [OS interface]—I figured it might be the letters that come between O and S, and yet my sleepy head determined that there were too many letters for that to be the case. (Actually, PQR fits perfectly and there aren't four letters between O and S.) Never heard of the BURQINI before, but it's a cool word. Haven't seen MadTV lately, so I didn't know JORDAN PEELE either. Favorite clues: [When it started, the world population was around 50 million] for IRON AGE; [Cons' foes] for LIBS; [It's often followed by 99801] for JUNEAU, AK; [Like something that's going around] for IN ORBIT; [English war god with a day named after him] for TIU of Tuesday fame; and [Mission of Hope?] for USO TOUR. Favorite fill: SIT PAT; pre-temptation Gollum, a.k.a. SMEAGOL; WRECKED, REX REED, WRESTLER, and ROXANNE; VAMOOSED; JUDE LAW; and NUTCASE.


Today's CrosSynergy puzzle by Sarah Keller ("Once Upon a Time") is notable for its easiness. If you're in the mood for an easy Monday-level crossword after the mauling by Francis's puzzle, this one will fit the bill.

Alex Boisvert's LA Times puzzle makes sport of crosswordese by taking one of those regular denizens of the grid and hiding it within four theme entries. A fun little "aha" moment!


June 12, 2007

Wednesday, 6/13

Onion 5:58
NYS 4:59
Tausig 4:26
NYT 3:32
LAT 3:27
CS 3:13

Updated at 8:10 a.m. Wednesday

The Across Lite version of this week's Onion A.V. Club puzzle wasn't included in Ben Tausig's weekly mailing, but it's available from the constructor, Francis Heaney, here.

The Wednesday NYT crossword by Curtis Yee is filled with intersecting names—which means I liked it! (Some of you may be less thrilled.) Now, if you've been living under a rock or in a hidey hole, maybe you don't know designer VERA Wang, which would be too bad if you didn't know KEVin Eubanks from The Tonight Show, IRA Glass from public radio, or LANCE Armstrong (surely none of you needs a link for this guy?), all of whom cross VERA's name. Anyhoo, the theme entries make up a DELI ORDER of a BLT sandwich, with GO TO PLAN B, THE CHICAGO "L," and a SLEEVELESS T. (Hold the mayo.) Favorite bits: the longer fill, such as OUT OF GAS and COSTELLO; [Calm] as the clue for AT PEACE (anyone else opt for APPEASE first?); inclusion of MOREY Amsterdam from the old Dick Van Dyke Show (last Sunday's Washington Post puzzle included LAURA PETRIE for another hit of nostalgia); the cross-referenced addition of UNO and DOS; and [Part of a suit] for DEUCE.

An elegant Sun crossword from Kelsey Blakley, this "One, Two, Three, and Four of a Kind" puzzle with a 15x16 grid. Each theme entry is 10 letters long but contains just four different letters—one four times, one three, one twice, and one a single time. One of the five entries, PEPPER TREE (four Es, three Ps, two Rs, one T) intersects two of the other theme entries. Nifty theme! Also nice: the 14 long fill entries (7 to 9 letters), such as ARANTXA Sánchez-Vicario, HAGRIDDEN, and CAVEMEN; [Play favorites?] for BET; [A, for one] for ARTICLE; and [Arkia alternative] for EL AL (who knew Israel had other airlines?). I learned a new name here: LEN Coleman, the new president of baseball's National League and "the highest-ranking African-American in professional team sports."

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle is called "Mass Movement." The theme eluded me until I came across 39-Down, the SUBWAYS that tie the trio of theme entries together: phrases that begin with TUBE, EL, and METRO (in METROSEXUAL—great word!). Now, I didn't mention this above in my remarks about the NYT puzzle, but I do prefer to call Chicago's train the El, as in this crossword, rather than the "L." The fill is a bit UPTEMPO, with UPBRAID, FESS UP, and BELLY-UP upping the ante. Favorite morsels: [Talk through?] for NARRATE; [Pupusa creators] for EL SALVADORANS; BIT PART and OH BOY; [Prepares to shoot] for ZEROES IN; [Banks with a show] for TYRA; [Wing adjective] for ATOMIC; and [Lord's partner?] for TAYLOR.

As 7-, 22-, and 61-Across tell us, Francis Heaney's Onion A.V. Club crossword conceals TWO / SLANTED / OPINIONS. Conveniently enough, the two diagonally SLANTED statements are highlighted in the grid with circles, and they read BUSH IS A MORON and CHENEY IS EVIL. Hey, look! They're slanted in more ways than one! A droll crossword for liberals. Highlights include crisp fill (CIABATTA, GAS-X, SAY NO MORE); that nutty John STOSSEL (without peeking at the link, guess his age!) and that funny BERNIE Mac; [Cigar butt?] for ETTE; and an overall abundance of wide-open white spaces for a themed puzzle. I'd never heard of the HOH Rain Forest in Washington, the world's largest temperate rain forest.


Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle, "On Hand," has four theme entries that are all meanings of the word [Hand]. Did you know that a BANANA CLUSTER is a hand? I'm not sure I did. (I'm not sure I didn't, but more not-sure that I did.) I used to see the name ADELA Rogers St. John much more often in crosswords. Even though she doesn't pop up frequently these days, I figured I ought to know who she is. That Wikipedia link says she was best known as a "girl reporter" in the '20s, '30s, and '40s; interesting career. She also appeared in Reds as one of the "witnesses."

The four theme entries in Fred Jackson III's LA Times puzzle are embraced by 73-Across, LOVE, which can precede the first word of each phrase (BIRD, SEAT, STORY, LETTER). I rather like it that PAPAS is clued not with Irene Papas, but as part of the James Brown song, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag."