July 24, 2007

Wednesday, 7/25

NYS 6:18
NYT 3:46
LAT 3:39
CS 3:35

(updated at 9 a.m. Wednesday)

Another cursed typo in the NYT applet! I would've been right up there with Howard B, but for an errant letter.

The New York Sun puzzle by Pete Mitchell, "Nonconformity," has a little kick to it. That kick comes in the form of an outside-the-grid twist: The only theme answer inside the grid, color OUTSIDE THE LINES, hints at the gimmick. In each corner section, the entries extend outside the grid in one direction, and the letters that don't fit inside the grid spell colors. Thus, above 1-Across, LOVEY Howell, you need your BROWN crayon to complete the Down answers of [B]LOC, [R]ONA, [O]VERSKIRT (a [Woman's accessory] that is, I believe, passé by centuries), [W]EAVE, and [N].Y. MET. In the northeast corner of the puzzle, the outer color is to the right and spells ORANGE; continuing clockwise, GREEN's under the southeast corner and PURPLE abuts the southwest. Cool trick, eh? The constructor knows how to color inside the lines, too, as AQUA fits into 6-Across normally. Favorite clues: [Sauce whose name is Italian for "pounded"] for PEST[O] (related to "piston," apparently—though pestle derives from Latin pistillum, meaning what? Anyone up on their Latin?); [Niminy-piminy person] for [P]RISS; [Nice thing?] for OBJET; [Park and bowl?] for STADIA; [Guinness Book cofounder McWhirter] for ROSS (raise your hand if you know his brother's name, too); and [Typical S.E. Hinton character] for TEE[N] (Ponyboy and Sodapop!). Wondering what zarzuelas are? That link explains the opera-ish form.

Ed Early's New York Times crossword is a quote puzzle. "A dreaded quote puzzle!" you exclaim. (Or else you're saying, "Ooh, I enjoy quote puzzles." Pfft.) This example was more like a standard crossword theme than most—instead of offering you a single "aha" moment when you eventually fill in the last line, it adds a few smaller "ahas" along the way. It's fairly standard to add a [Speaker of the quote] entry, and here it's CHICO. He's balanced across the grid by [Sibling of 54-Across], his brother HARPO. Then there's an extra symmetrical pair of entries, MARX and BROS., not explicitly tied to the quote theme by the clues but aptly describing CHICO and HARPO, et al. The puzzle is further enhanced by including 15 7- to 8-letter fill entries, with John MCENROE beside OEDIPUS, HOUDINI by ARMENIA, and a TRIVIAL/COHABIT corner. My typo was in another 7, where NET COST turned into NET COSE.


Annemarie Brethauer's LA Times crossword gets down in the dumps. It's really the pits. Why? Because the theme entries all end with things that are dug out, like pits. And in each case, the word's used in a sense other than that of a hole in the ground. There's NE'ER-DO-WELL, LAST DITCH, the GREAT DEPRESSION, the movie ENEMY MINE, and PIGEONHOLE. Extra bonus points for putting STARSHIP in the grid but not mentioning the World's Most Terrible Song, "We Built This City." I just Googled the song title and one of the first hits was this USA Today article agreeing with my assessment that this song (video here) is the absolute worst ever. Number 3 is Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" (video here), but a few months ago I heard their "Dance Hall Days" on the radio, and it was painfully, gratingly awful. I think "Dance Hall Days" (video here) is every bit as abysmal as those other songs—maybe even worse.