August 01, 2007

Thursday, 8/2

NYS 6:02
NYT 5:22
LAT 3:33
CS 2:46

(updated at 10:30 a.m. Thursday)

Crikey, this collapse of the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi is highly distracting. I solved the Sun crossword with WCCO's live TV coverage playing in a browser window in the background. (I think a local TV station's website can be a better source than, say, CNN when it comes to a local story.) Anyway, our thoughts go out to anyone who's affected by the bridge disaster or just freaked out about it.

The New York Sun puzzle is Kelsey Blakley's "Serving Spoonerisms," and who doesn't like spoonerisms? The theme entries are—surprise, surprise—spoonerisms in which two words swap initial sounds. A bolt cutter, rabbit-hole, litter box, Citigroup, poster boy, and fruit flies are transformed into the oddly equine COLT BUTTER, which you could spread on a HABIT ROLL and top with some BITTER LOX. Don't miss the GRITTY SOUP course (yum!). And get your carbs with BOASTER POI and FLUTE FRIES. See what they all have in common? The spoonerisms all become foods. This, mesdames et messieurs, is what we call a tight theme. The puzzle's got three Xs in it, which is foxy. Favorite clues: [Coxcomb] for BEAU (love the word coxcomb, and didn't know that beau also means "a dandy; a fop"); [Round dance participant] for BEE; [Series opener] for MINI (as in miniseries); [Character voiced by Justin Timberlake in "Shrek the Third"] for ARTIE (I knew this one!); and [Head cheese?] for EXEC. I learned a new Hawaiian word, mele, in [Dances to a mele] for HULAS; mele has come to mean song. I also enjoyed the flipflopping of 31- and 32-Down: [Golda's successor...] and [Eban's predecessor as Israeli foreign minister] refer to ABBA Eban and Golda MEIR.

Robert Dillman's New York Times crossword substitutes chemical symbols for five metals included in various phrases. We have GET THE PB OUT (lead), GO FOR THE AU (gold), AG BELLS (Silver Bells), SN PAN ALLEY (tin), and CAST-FE ALIBI (iron). I felt like it took me much to long to figure out that there was a cute gimmick at play here, but when I did get the gist of it, I was impressed. Seeing [Minneapolis suburb] in the clues is probably rattling some people not expecting to be reminded of the news while working a crossword (EDINA is on the other side of town, though). Favorite clues: [Target of some testing] for STEROID (I stared at ___ROID blankly, wondering if fibroid, Metroid, or android somehow made sense); [Like old Rome] for IMPERIAL; [Ticks off] for FROSTS; [Uncombed, say] for WILD (My son took his thick bedhead to day camp today, where some wondered if he might've encountered an excess of voltage. Hmm, guess I forgot to wet his hair down. He's due for a haircut.); and [Kitchen coat] for TEFLON. Cribbage is not my bag; here's the definition of NOB.


Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Sensational Solving," is a fairly easy crossword that has four theme entries that start with words that mean "sensational." The second words are MILE, FOUR, TOWN, and COMPROMISE, so the theme is fully contained within the first words.

Do keep an eye out for crosswords in which the theme doubles up. We've seen a few recently where both halves of each theme entry are involved. For example, Matt Gaffney's Onion puzzle had a BEFORE TAXES theme in which both halves of the theme entries (e.g., LUXURY FLAT) could be teamed with TAXES: luxury tax, flat tax. Other "tight" themes apply a consistent trick to a set of theme entries that cohere in another way, as in today's Sun puzzle: Spoonerisms resulting in food. Spoonerisms alone can make a fun theme, but there's extra elegance when the theme has another layer of consistency.

The theme in Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword is an ordinary one: Four wildly unrelated things (NBA DEFENSE, GARLIC SQUASHER, DRY CLEANER'S AID, and PRINT MEDIA) that all mean [PRESS]. Who doesn't like the word SQUASHER? The fill gets off to a good, Scrabbly start in the upper left corner with JAVA atop IRAQ. Overall, the fill is mainly unexceptional—just the sorts of words one expects to see in a mid-week crossword. But I truly enjoyed this puzzle because the clues were so good. My favorites: [Island that will wake you up?] for JAVA; the geographically educational [Asian country slightly larger than California] for IRAQ; [Opposite of able?] for ELBA (as in the palindrome, "Able was I ere I saw Elba"); [Dandy guy?] for JIM (anyone else leap at FOP despite the clue's question mark?); [Place for quarries] for HIDEOUTS; and [Something in your eye] for both RETINA and GLEAM.