October 25, 2007

Friday, 10/26

CHE 7:35—Download this if you like tough crosswords
NYS 6:15
NYT 5:42
LAT 4:28
CS 3:52
Jonesin' 3:35

WSJ 8:58

It's la Dia de dos Davids! (Por favor, excuse the bad Spanish.) The Davids Quarfoot and Kahn headline the NYT and Sun crosswords for Friday.

David Quarfoot's New York Times puzzle has a zillion 7-letter entries that really sparkle. Three entries are creatures of the internet: Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation's MYSPACE, the [Modern rental option] NETFLIX, and the E-TICKET you get when you book a flight online. Spoken discourse brings us I'M NOT YOU (["Let me live my own life!"]), HAS A COW, OMIGOSH (["Heavens!"]), ROCK ON (["Way to go, dude!"]), and HERE I AM! The Flintstones gets a shout-out with MR SLATE (which I first parsed as MRS LATE), clued as [Cartoon boss working at a quarry]. Other multi-word entries I admired include IO MOTHS ([Yellow fliers with large eyespots]); YOKO ONO ([Poem reader at the 2006 Olympics opening ceremony]); RED WINE (["Cab," e.g.], meaning cabernet sauvignon); PGA TOUR; the NY TIMES; a LOVE SET in tennis ([Lopsided court result]); and SILENT C, the [Center of Connecticut]. Other notable clues: [Get a handle on?] for TITLE; [Buries] for TROUNCES; the misleading [Taper] for VCR; [Was sluggish?] for CREPT (here's a nature video of slugs creeping together...and then having dizzying slug sex); [Gaga] for SMITTEN; [Little women] for PETITES; and [He wrote "It's certain that fine women eat / A crazy salad with their meat"], a line from this poem by YEATS.

In David Kahn's New York Sun puzzle, "Fall Guys of the '70s" are sort of a blend between the Boys of Summer and Mr. October—the five baseball players whose last names end the theme entries were all WORLD SERIES MVPS in the 1970s. Roberto (SAN) CLEMENTE won in 1971; Rollie (LADY)FINGERS in 1974; Pete (HONEYSUCKLE) ROSE, 1975; Johnny (PARK) BENCH, 1976; and the ridiculously named Bucky (MADE A) DENT, 1978. ("Bucky"? That name's fine...if you're a cartoony badger mascot. Speaking of sports mascots, did you know they've got their own Hall of Fame? No lie.) Anyway: a 70-letter theme is big and impressive. Outside of that, my favorite clues were [___ Roni] for PASTA (not RICE-A!); [Place for free shots] for an OPEN BAR; [Tennessee county that was the setting of the Scopes trial] for RHEA (hey! a fresh clue for an old answer); [Villein] for SERF; [Watered down] for VAPID; and [Rebel with a cause?] for CHE Guevara. I didn't much like [Leaves in a hot state?] for LEI—I thought leis were more blossoms than leaves, and this site says Hawaii's summertime high temp is around 84°, which is more warm than hot. Hawaii's got nothing on Arizona or Vegas for heat, no?

Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle, "Un-Scary Movie," alters one letter in five horror movie titles and describes the new creations in the clues. The Omen turned into a movie about baking cookies? It becomesTHE OVEN. The Grudge becomes THE GRUNGE, and Hellraiser morphs into a volunteer organizer, a HELP RAISER. Pretty easy for a Jonesin' crossword overall. My very favorite clue: [Menu phrase often misused after "served with"] for AU JUS. You can Google up plenty of menus, like this one, that say the roast beef sandwich is "served with au jus sauce," and it must be said that the addition of the word sauce just makes it fancier. I also liked [Jeans brand with a question mark] for GUESS.


It took me a while to see what was going on with the theme in Harvey Estes' Wall Street Journal puzzle. It's called "Taking Up a Collection," and the first two theme entries, CHASING LIKE A BIRD and LOONY BRITAIN, made no sense to me. Eventually I came to the central entry, CHARITABLE DONATIONS, and saw that chunks of that phrase were being "donated" to the phrases that were the seeds of the theme entry. Thus, CHA + "sing like a bird," and RITA = "loony bin." Then come I AMBLED I SAID, CAPTAIN'S LOGO, NATURAL RIVER, and ONIONS COMMISSION. Most elegantly wrought. Terrific clues throughout the puzzle, too. My pets: [Renovation] for FACELIFT; [Runway model] for PLANE; [Slips between the covers?] for ERRATA sheets; [Wheaties, e.g.] for FLAKES; [Singer of "Footloose"] for actress LORI Singer, not a singer of the song by that name; [They're not critical] for YES-MEN; and [Steel works?] for Danielle Steel NOVELS. Best fill: REBRAND, DANNY THOMAS, ROSES ARE RED, LIP GLOSS, FIDGET, MISS USA, POLONAISE, and SPACE CAMP.

Gary Steinmehl's LA Times crossword takes __CKS words and swaps them out for sound-alike __X words. [Have salmon-phobia?] is DREAD LOX, playing on dreadlocks. An [Albany veto] is a NEW YORK NIX. Those were my favorites among the five theme entries. My favorite non-theme answer adds yet another X to the grid: TEXTING, [Sending messages, in a way]. I love it when words that have only recently been added to our daily discourse make their way into crosswords.

Jonathan Pederson's 10/12 Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle is a must for anyone who likes those knotty, twisty, toy-with-convention crosswords. Four lines of the theme explain how the gimmick works: ALTERNATE / LINES READ IN / THE OPPOSITE / DIRECTION. The answer in the middle is NODEHPORTSUOB, or boustrophedon backwards. It's from the Greek for "turning like oxen in ploughing"—i.e., you get to the end of one row and turn around to travel the opposite direction to the other end of the next row. Until you grasp the theme, all those backwards answers are perplexing. And they're not all easy words, either! [How the speed of light is measured] is in vacuo forwards, UOCAVNI backwards. Tough clues + oddball theme = maximum mind-bending fun.

Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy puzzle has an ordinary sort of theme. Yes, there's a Blindauer byline, but the CrosSynergy puzzles generally eschew bendy gimmicks, rebuses, or (except for puzzles by Bob Klahn) tough cluing. The theme in "Inside: The NFL" is that NFL is embedded in each theme entry. There are six theme entries (64 squares), so it's ambitious in that sense. Two bonus points for the inclusion of NAKED LUNCH, the William Burroughs novel. I never read the book, but it was made into a movie in the '90s...a bizarre movie. Picture a typewriter...with an anus...and a jones for roach powder made from mugwump jism, mugwumps being creepy giant wormy critters.