July 04, 2007

Thursday, 7/5

NYT 10:05
NYS 7:46
LAT 3:43
CS 3:17

(updated at 7:30 a.m. Thursday)

I was defeated. I watched one of ESPN's replays of the annual Nathan's hot dog engulfing contest. It was absolutely repellent. What do you get if you win? I don't know. And if you lose? The knowledge that you wolfed down 35 hot dogs for no reason, ingesting an ungodly amount of sodium, fat, and nitrates. So gross.

My husband and kid spent the afternoon at the ESPN Zone (video games!). Together, these things made me ask myself, "Why ESPN?" Do you know what it was originally an initialism for? See Wikipedia if you've forgotten or never knew.

Let's move along to a topic that receives little attention on ESPN: crosswords. I'll start with the Sun puzzle by John Farmer, called "Up to a Point." In this 15x16 grid with left/right symmetry, there's a lot of monkey business going on. You've got the FIVE-letter (53-Across) word ARROW appearing FOUR times (48-Across) diagonally, extending SW and SE from squares 19 and 51. In those squares, the A is not just the tip of the ARROW, it's also sort of [ARROW] rebus; 19-Down is [ARROW]SMITH and 53-Down is [ARROW] SHIRT. The arrows point to THE TOP (1- and 12-Down). Nifty! Two thumbs up for this crossword, which also boasts many tricky clues. My favorites: [Buggy?] for ILL; Gene Kelly's two cinematic dance partners, a MOP and CYD Charisse; [Go from 0 to 60, say] for AGE; [Hank Williams number?] for III; [Color that isn't an earth tone?] for MARS RED (my first guess was SKY BLUE); [Dog leg, e.g.] for LIMB and [Mitts] for PAWS; [Fudge] for EMBROIDER; [Its products are refined] for OPEC; and [Where you might go] for PRIVY. Never heard of French singer and songwriter Charles TRENET before.

Liz Gorski's NYT crossword defeated me as if I could eat no more than 52 hot dogs. The theme is TBS, more the plural of TB (but not tuberculoses...) than the cable channel. The starred theme entries are T-BALL EQUIPMENT, T. BOONE PICKENS, my favorite TBILISI, GEORGIA, T-BARS, and T-BONE. No TB test or T=Boz, though—perhaps there were no other 4- or 6-letter TB phrases to balance them. And the T-Bird was in yesterday's crossword. Structurally, the long and short theme entries are strapped together by longish vertical entries like TUBE TOPS and MUSTANGS (and the harder-to-suss-out TWIN-BORN). Some tough words in the fill, like BAILOR and STATORS and the [Chemical ending] at 27-Across (we know the last letter will be an E, but the first two are up for grabs—the Cruciverb.com database shows that ANE, ENE, IDE, and INE are all plausible). That [Chemical ending] did trip me up, and in fact that whole corner threw me. It didn't help that the L before EQUIPMENT lured me into entering the nonsensical LITTLEQUIPMENT—hey, LITTL isn't a word! Yup, that's what I had, which really got me bogged down in that corner. And then I spaced on the singer being ODETTA (don't know the song title in the clue, either) and plugged in Swan Lake's ODETTE (Rex Parker did the reverse a few months ago), giving me the wrong chemical suffix for too many minutes. I don't typically think of a diva as wearing a TURBAN, but here's J-Lo in one. I couldn't think of circus props besides the lion-tamer's chair and whip, so STILT remained hidden. And James OTIS and DUCT clued as [Main]? Slowed me down like a functioning esophagus should slow down a hot dog eater. Plenty of Thursday- to Friday-tough clues throughout, too. I liked this puzzle, but it didn't much like me!


Nancy Salomon's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Vowel Run," includes phrases beginning with LAST, LEST, LIST, LOST, and LUST. When I was about 13, I suspected that [Irving Stone's novel about van Gogh], LUST FOR LIFE, was "adult" because of the first word in the title. (Same with Stone's Agony and the Ecstasy, about Michelangelo. What, was Stone in marketing?)

Cool theme in Don Gagliardo's LA Times crossword—EIEIO (27-Down) doubles as the sequence of vowels that appear in the five theme entries, such as PRESIDENT NIXON. Near the top and bottom of the grid, 14- and 10-letter theme entries are stacked up, too.