August 15, 2007

Thursday, 8/16

NYS 6:04
NYT 3:40
LAT 4:32
CS 2:41

(updated at 8:50 a.m. Thursday)

There's another plus-sized New York Sun grid (15x16 squares) for Pete Mitchell's "Don't Be So Negative!" puzzle. It summons up thoughts of all those words with prefixes that lack non-prefixed opposites. This old New Yorker piece by Jack Winter plays with that quirk of the English language; words and phrases like "sipid," "plussed," and "for some apparent reason" populate Winter's humorous essay. The crossword gives us NOCENT BYSTANDERS, RULY PASSENGERS, MACULATE HEART, and a GRUNTLED EMPLOYEE. Then the puzzle's also jam-packed with crisp and clever clues. [Where one might use a J-stroke] means nothing to me, but it's in a CANOE? Okay. [Cranberries' land] is ERIN, not BOG, because the band called the Cranberries is Irish. Cynophobia is a fear of dogs, so the [Bad choice for a cynophobic cinephile] is CUJO. [Heated competition?] is a MEET, where racers may run in heats. I didn't know the word [Exiguous], which means SPARSE. TASS is the Soviet/Russian news agency, a [Red alert issuer?]. [Fleshy flora] is ALOE, since aloe leaves are thick and fleshy. [Sit in a barrel, maybe] is AGE—if you're wine or whiskey. An AXLE is a Chevy [Suburban bar].

I went through at least half of Alan Arbesfeld's New York Times puzzle, including the theme entries, before I thought to see how FROM / START TO FINISH was borne out in the theme entries. ENDED BART jumped out at me as being a reorganized "bartended" (though it wasn't—it was "tended bar" with just a single letter shifted to the end), but then I didn't bother checking the logic of the theme entries up above until after I was done. "Trust in me" becomes RUST IN MET, "theater of war" turns into HEATER OF WART, and a "Trailways bus" is RAILWAYS BUST. Anyone else solve the puzzle without bothering to parse the theme answers? And did anyone else laugh to see that the [2001 Oscar nominee for the song "May It Be"] was Cruciverbia's favorite songstress, ENYA? I Googled up the YouTube video—yeesh, it's that woeful song from one of the Lord of the Rings movies. (Last Wednesday's Sun puzzle by Kelsey Blakley wowed with a similar theme.)


I got partway through Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Cheers!" and saw a frightfully stodgy quote taking shape. [Start of some advice about resourcefulness], IF LIFE HANDS YOU / LEMONS...ach. Then the rest of it settled into the grid, and the advice ended ASK FOR / TEQUILA AND SALT. (Then you'll have the ingredients for a tequila body slammer.) Oh! That's hardly stodgy.

Nancy Salomon's LA Times crossword has a switcheroo theme highlighting two homophone-rich flip-flop phrases, "all for one and one for all" and MacBeth's "fair is foul, and foul is fair." Her theme entries are FARE IS FOUL and FOWL IS FAIR, and AWL FOR ONE and WON FOR ALL. Neat trick, that.