August 29, 2007

Thursday, 8/30

NYT 5:46
LAT 5:22—late addition to the post
NYS 5:03
CS 4:14

I am going to mentally subtract a little time from my NYT applet solving times while I'm on vacation and using a browser that refuses, no matter how politely I ask, to let me jump to the next entry with the tab key. Am amazed I didn't nod off during the puzzle, considering I've been up since 4 a.m. Eastern time, over 18 hours now. Sure, there's an 18-Hour Bra on the market, but that doesn't mean that an 18-hour day isn't too long. Although what do I know? Maybe that bra makes all the difference. Maybe it infuses caffeine through the skin.

The Thursday New York Times puzzle by Vic Fleming and Bruce Venzke had some heavy-duty Friday vibes, didn't it? Sure, there were four theme entries—interlocked 15-letter entries starting with WHO, WHAT ("WHAT IN TARNATION?!?"), WHEN, and WHERE. (Why? Because crosswords are fun.) But they were interlocked in a themeless puzzle sort of way, and the grid had plenty of wide-open spaces much like a themeless puzzle.

Favorite clues: [Seinfeld's "sworn enemy"] for NEWMAN; [Vicious sorts] for PIRANHAS; [Sterile, in a way] for NEUTER; [Gore follower] for TEX (as in Gore-Tex); and [Gentleman of the court] for Arthur ASHE. I also enjoyed the literary references: VLADIMIR, [One of the men waiting in "Waiting for Godot"]; Bob AMES, [young man in Dreiser's "Sister Carrie"]; ENID, the [Tennyson woman called "the fair"]; and Uriah HEEP, [Mr. Wickfield's clerk, in literature]. I learned a few new things: Debussy wrote an "Air de LIA," which you can listen to here; there's a VEAL Orloff in addition to veal Oscar; there's a children's author/photographer named ARLENE Alda, whose books look fantastic and I want to know why nobody tipped me off to their existence; MURIATIC acid is the old name for hydrochloric acid; and a NIB can also be a [Pointed extremity]. I won't LIVE A LIE: this puzzle also has a bunch of quasi-crosswordese entries that may be most vexatious for newer solvers. But three decades into my puzzling avocation, I am not put off by the AARE and YSER, SRI and DAH, EERO and RHIN, ESSO and NISAN. (And of course, this lover of contemporary pop culture knows who NIA Long is and, in fact, just spotted her last night on an aged rerun of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, portraying Will Smith's girlfriend.)

Steven Ginzburg's New York Sun crossword, "Self-Reflective," bundles a set of phrases made of letters that share a reflective symmetry. The clue for the last of these, OKEECHOBEE, says, [Florida lake in which you could view the unchanged vertical reflections of 18-, 28-, 35-, 45-, and 54-Across]—and indeed, DIXIE CHICK, KICKBOXED, and two others are all composed of letters that look the same right-side-up and upside-down. Favorite clues: [Crawl out of one's skin?] for MOLT; [Put one's foot into someone else's mouth?] for KICKBOXED; [One intimately involved with the spirit world] for SOT; [Pole vault metal?] for the Polish currency unit, GROSZ; [Sign of fall] for SCORPIO; and [Georgia, once] for COLONY (not SSR for a change!).

Speaking of OKEECHOBEE, my husband and I thoroughly amused ourselves today with Florida place names I saw on the map. We aren't too far from the Withlacoochee State Forest, so we're contemplating buying a can of huitlacoche and leaving it in Withlacoochie, while singing 2 Live Crew's "Pop That Coochie." (What can I say? It was a longish drive.)


Well, I don't remember my password, so I can't get the LA Times puzzle in Across Lite this week. The CrosSynergy puzzle's by Patrick Blindauer today. The "Freudian Slip-ons" theme entries all have an ID tacked on, changing the meaning. Yo-Yo Ma the cellist becomes the YO-YO MAID; Special K cereal, SPECIAL KID; ho-hum, HO HUMID; car bra, CAR BRAID (the iffiest and/or hardest to figure out for me); and the down-South DIXIE CUPID. I surely never knew that [Spock's father] was SAREK. Highlights: ZADORA with Pia in the clue rather than vice versa; [Guy in charge of a spinning wheel] for PAT SAJAK; BABY TALK; and SKITTISH.

Updated again:

Dan Naddor's LA Times puzzle has an Across Lite notepad entry providing the diagonal clues (yes, the diagonal clues). There are four 15-letter theme entries that all criss-cross in the center square, all clued as [Cross-country trip #1], [#2], etc.: ST CLOUD TO AUSTIN going from north to south, SAN JOSE TO DURHAM traveling west to east, SEATTLE TO NAPLES going NW to SE, and ANAHEIM to BOSTON going SW to NE. You might think ST CLOUD TO AUSTIN isn't truly cross-country, but there's no central state north of Minnesota or south of Texas. Yes, there's fill like OOOH (crossing TO in three directions, so three Os in a row were unavoidable) and a Roman numeral, but most of the words in this grid intersect with at least one of the theme entries. There's even room for a quartet of 9-letter entries (the tasty TV ANTENNA and "THAT'S A LIE," plus SIGHTLESS and FLIES SOLO), one FIEND (clued as [Evil sort]—frankly, I'm hurt), ADVERB with a great clue ([Again or anew], absolutely tricking me into trying AFRESH), STYX and NIXON meeting at the X, and the word SILVA, clued as [Trees of a region]. Flora and fauna get all the attention, but who doesn't appreciate these types of words? I do pay attention to the silva when I travel, but never manage to track down a "Trees of England" or "Trees of Florida" book to tell me what those mystery trees are. Anyway, congratulations to Dan Naddor on a cool four-way intricate geography theme! (And thanks to Matt for tipping me off to this crossword.)