August 08, 2007

Thursday, 8/9

NYS 5:22
LAT 4:15
NYT 3:37
CS 2:43

(updated at 9:15 a.m. Thursday)

This week's Themeless Thursday puzzle in the New York Sun comes from Patrick Berry. It's got a fairly low word count—64 answers—but it is quite low on the "roll-your-own word" front, includes many interesting and lively words and phrases, is moderately Scrabbly, and features four delicious corners of wide-open white space to be filled in. The entries I liked best: tasty TAPAS BAR just across the border from Portugal's AZORES; "WAIT A SECOND"; the ZAPRUDER movie; ODYSSEAN; "Be sure to drink your OVALTINE"; and the abutment of 90210's BRENDA with King SARGON, the [Akkadian king who conquered Mesopotamia]. Favorite clues: [Additions to an account?] for FIBS; [Local growers] for FLORA; [It most definitely is not fast food] for ESCARGOT (my kid, oddly enough, is interested in trying snails, though we keep passing up opportunities to order that when we dine out); [Hexagram] for STAR OF DAVID; [Italian vermouth brand featured in "Breaking Away "] for CINZANO; and [X, for Washington] for ROLE (Malcolm X, Denzel W.). Is [It can be a drag]/BUNT about bunting in baseball? Where does the drag fit in?

Tyler Hinman's New York Times crossword is a delight, too. No Thursday-style gimmick—just three guys whose names rhyme:

A bozo named STEVEN SEAGAL
Was jealous of one MARC CHAGALL
He thought Marc was French
And swung a steel bench

In this left-right symmetrical puzzle, the finest Scrabbly letters pop up in the top two rows, in QBS, JAX, and SHOW BIZ. Other highlights in the grid: the BAHA MEN of the ubiquitous "Who Let the Dogs Out"; JARGON and the X-FILES crossing that JAX; ARUGULA (because I had an arugula salad for lunch on Monday, after years of thinking I hated arugula—I merely needed to see a plate of it to recognize it as a green I actually do like); the great phrase A BIT MUCH, clued as [Too-too]; and the PAC-TEN athletic conference spelled out in full, rather than as [___-10 conference] cluing PAC. Favorite clues: [Where to see a crown] for PAGEANT; [The Engineers of coll. athletics] for Tyler's alma mater, RPI, and the related [Beer, often] for CHASER; [Blew (through)] for SPED; and ["That's what I'm talking about!"] for AMEN. [Star near Venus?] is a great clue for SERENA Williams, as it sounds astronomical. So do three other clues: [Moon and Starr, for short] for QBS, [Space] for ROOM, and [Rockets' and Suns' organization] for NBA. I can scarcely believe ARUGULA wasn't clued as [Rocket].


Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy crossword, "I Think We're in Trouble!" includes a bubbly foursome of synonymous theme entries: a fine KETTLE OF FISH, PANDORA'S BOX, a HORNETS' NEST, and the ever-popular STICKY WICKET. Best clue: [Bring up the rear?] for MOON. That upward hoisting is a key part of car- or bus-based mooning, of course.

Vic Fleming's LA Times crossword slices some TATERs in the theme entries, STATE REVENUE, DAKOTA TERRITORY, and the wee TOYOTA TERCEL. The theme entries are hooked together by some great longer fill: STIR CRAZY and HOT TO TROT.