July 31, 2007

Wednesday, 8/1

NYS 6:29—see previous post for link to .pdf
LAT 3:43
NYT 3:19
CS 3:18

(updated at 2 p.m. Wednesday)

Ellen Ripstein tipped me off to some YouTube videos you might enjoy. The Discovery Channel's got a trivia game show called Cash Cab, in which people who hail a taxi and find themselves in the Cash Cab have a chance to win money by answering trivia questions. If they miss three, they have to get out of the cab even if they haven't reached their destination. Apparently puzzle folks in NYC are on the lookout for the Cash Cab and sometimes they find it.

In this segment, frequent NY Sun constructor Tony Orbach and his son do battle with the cabdriver/inquisitor. Another clip features Mark Danna, a constructor whose byline I've seen mainly in Games and/or Games World of Puzzles, I think. He's published several NYT crosswords and a Wall Street Journal one, too.

Patrick Blindauer continues to unearth new ways to innovate in crossword construction. In his 14x16 New York Sun puzzle, "Board Members," there's a 8x8 chessboard (though not one with alternating black and white squares) embedded in it. The two long vertical theme entries give you a chess problem to solve: WHITE TO MOVE; MATE IN THREE. Within the chessboard area, certain squares are tagged as containing black or white chessmen; K, R, P, B, and Q designate which pieces they are. Me, I skipped the chess portion of solving this puzzle—if you're a chess fan, though, tell me how you liked the embedded chess content here. Favorite clues: [Deal breaker?] for NARC; [Shirts and skirts et al.] for RHYMES (this one always fools me!); [It might be cashed for pounds] for CHEQUE; and [Common Polish name ender] for SKI (I have some Jablonski in me). I love the word [Salacious] and note that BAWDY (the answer here) and RANDY have three letters in common. Want to know more about the [Highly venomous snakes] called KRAITS? Read this. It also lists other poisonous snakes, including two sea snakes. I have an ex-Marine neighbor who has both water moccasin and tree snake anecdotes and, frankly, I can't say which is more horrifying—snakes lurking in trees or snakes lurking beneath the surface of the water. I never heard of baseball player Jim KAAT ([Pitcher Jim with 16 Gold Gloves]) even though he played with the White Sox for a couple seasons in my childhood. Of course, in my childhood, my dad was utterly bored by baseball and didn't expose me to it.

All that is a roundabout way of avoiding the point: Congrats to Patrick B2 for another cool twist that expands what "crossword puzzle" means!

The New York Times crossword by David Kahn is a tribute to Beverly Sills, who died this July 2. Tons of relevant answers: BEVERLY and SILLS, for starters. She was a LYRIC / SOPRANO (those entries cross in the middle). Some of her noted opera roles: CLEOPATRA, LUCIA, ROSALINDE, and VIOLETTA.
And, not part of the symmetrical theme, crossword stalwart ARIA, clued as ["Sempre libera," e.g.]. Here's a video clip of Sills on The Muppet Show, singing that aria while Miss Piggy tries to outsing her. Opera COSTUMES and Sills' nickname, BUBBLES, round out the theme. If you highlight the theme entries, you'll be impressed by how the 10 words intersect in the grid. Some of the fill is unexceptional (as one might expect with 10 theme entries that interlock), but there are also some goodies, such as ARCANA (a cool word—and also the plural of arcanum!); SERB and CROAT sharing the [Balkan native] clue; and CARRIES clued as the football-stat noun. I also took a fresh look at INANER. Nobody ever uses this comparative word outside of crosswords. It gets a mere 785 Google hits. But it could also double as a phrase. Where might you get stitches? IN AN E.R. (N.B. That wouldn't be kosher crossword fill.) Favorite clue: [Stretches out?] for COMAS.


Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Say Uncle," has a 100% pop-culture theme: actors who played uncle characters on TV shows. The Sopranos' Uncle Junior was the only one whose name (DOMINIC CHIANESE) came quickly to my mind. WILLIAM DEMAREST from My Three Sons was a close second. The other two? Let's see. BRIAN KEITH was in Family Affair, which was from my early childhood and I remember very little of it. He played the dad in the original Parent Trap movie, but I can only picture Dennis Quaid in the remake (which launched the talented Lindsay Lohan into her hideous celebrity). Here's what Brian Keith looked like. And here's DENVER PYLE in Dukes of Hazzard. Elsewhere in this puzzle, PLUMPS is clued as [Drops heavily]. I could swear I've heard "plop" but not "plump" with that meaning, but the dictionary tells me I should get out more.

Jerome Gunderson and Nancy Salomon's LA Times crossword features phrases that begin with 3-letter names of AUTHORS: Amy Tan, Edgar Allen Poe, Umberto Eco, and Anais Nin all get the treatment here. These writers are crossword heavyweights whose short names get a lot of action in the grid, so it's nice to see them used in a fresh way. My favorite theme entry is NINCOMPOOP. Other favorite bits: IGGY POP and MOSHPIT placed opposite one another in the grid, and [Where to hear a lot of grunts?] as the clue for ARMY. Not a big fan, in general, of short clues that alliterate or rhyme, though, and this puzzle has a great many of those.