October 30, 2007

Wednesday, 10/31

NYS 5:50
NYT 4:54 (using the Across Lite version)
CS 4:02
LAT 3:25

It's Halloween, and my kid will be dressing up as Darth Vader. There'll be Halloween parties in the classrooms, with the proviso that no masks or weapons are allowed. So Ben will be a maskless Darth Vader sans light saber...wearing a manufactured costume that's basically a full-length black nylon jumpsuit with a matching stretchy cape. Yeah, that'll look awesome. Trick-or-treating in the evening will be a more Vaderesque event.

And it's Halloween, so crosswords get spooky.

Ken Stern's holiday New York Times crossword refused to load in the NYT's applet (15x16 grid), so I downloaded the Across Lite file instead. It's got some Scrabbly and otherwise fun fill and, oh yeah, a double-action rebus theme. There are six rebus squares that read as TRICK one way and TREAT the other. [TRICK]S OF THE TRADE crosses laundry stain PRE[TREAT]MENTS up top. We see ST PAT so often in the crossword that I didn't notice that it's ST PA[TRICK] here, crossing RE[TREAT]S. There's [TRICK] OR [TREAT] down the middle ([Something said while holding a bag]) crossing [TREAT]ISE and a hockey HAT [TRICK]. And at the bottom, our [U.N. ambassador under Reagan], JEANE KIRKPA[TRICK], shares a square with PEACE [TREAT]IES; she also crosses CARD [TRICK], which crosses an EN[TREAT]Y. So, it's a groovy Thursday-style rebus theme/gimmick slotted on a Wednesday so's not to miss Halloween. The top row of the grid includes two vowel-free answers, WKRP ([Johnny Fever's workplace, in 1970s-'80s TV]) and MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price for a car). There are vowels to spare in MUUMUU. Rare letter action: X-AXES, the awesome JINXED, IQ TEST, KLUTE, and KINSEY. I also like [Spunky] for FEISTY and [Like The Onion] for SATIRICAL.

Patrick Blindauer's New York Sun crossword is called "It's Alive!" and "it" is FRANKENSTEIN'S / MONSTER in the 1974 Mel Brooks movie, Young Frankenstein. Peter Boyle plays the monster, and he sings PUTTIN' ON THE RITZ in a classic, much-loved scene...that I have never seen. That's not true. I think I saw it when I was 8, and all I remember is Marty Feldman's bug eyes. (Have added the DVD to my Netflix queue.) Patrick fills out the Frankenstein theme with MARY SHELLEY, writer of the original tale. (Favorite clue: [Cold war ammunition?] for DRISTAN.)

The head in the grid (which has left-right symmetry) is a little easier to see with the dead-tree graphical enhancement of forehead sutures than in Across Lite, where we see a sketchy face with a couple neck bolts:


Thomas Schier also goes Halloweeny with his CrosSynergy puzzle, "Halloween Options." The theme entries are clued as [Trick], [Treat], and [Trick or treat], so it's less tricky than, say, the NYT puzzle. There are a fair number of names in this grid, including a couple that we see infrequently in crosswords: [Declaration of Indepedence signer Edward] RUTLEDGE and [The L of L. Frank Baum] for LYMAN.

The LA Times puzzle by Ada Honeywell has four theme entries that start with [the most popular adult Halloween] COSTUMES in other contexts: VAMPIRE BAT, CLOWN AROUND, PIRATE RADIO, and WITCH HAZEL. I do wonder whether clown costumes really rank that high for Halloween—how many clown suits are used outside of Halloween? Do those add to the clown count? One of the fill entries in this puzzle is really the cat's meow: the CAT'S MEOW. (Edited to add: Patrick Blindauer pointed out to me that CAT'S MEOW is one of the theme entries. Patrick also sent along a link to a listing of this year's top costumes, and clown's down at #8. Maybe we could've had TARTAR SAUCE instead of CLOWN AROUND?)