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.