November 10, 2007

Sunday, 11/11

WaPo 9:11
PI 8:21
NYT 8:12
BG 7:47
CS 3:37

Alan Arbesfeld's New York Times crossword, "Putting on Some Weight," was a lot of fun. The fill's got LEO ROSTEN, whose Joy of Yiddish books are so much fun, and JUXTAPOSE, which is a fun word, and PINCH-HIT. The theme has plenty of high points.

But before I get to those, let me say that I'm pleased that I managed to make it through this puzzle as well as I did. I'm using my wee iBook laptop (not the weest one out there, but I think it's only about 4 lbs.) with its wee screen, which means the big Sunday puzzle looked rather wee. And I'm accustomed to navigating the NYT applet by using the tab key to jump to the next entry, and this particular configuration disables that option and makes me use the return key. Oh, and I also had a couple Newcastle Brown Ales with dinner (whose garlic is now reminding me of its presence), plus part of a shot of the Oyster House Saloon's homemade peach vodka, which tasted too much like cough syrup to finish. And there are plenty of aged guests at this hotel. I don't know why. Some conference of 20- and 30-something men, plus a hotel full of elderly guests. I passed one of those younger guys on the way out to dinner. It looks really freaky when a man with a completely shaved head props his sunglasses atop his pate and then looks down at something. I thought I was looking at Featureless Egg Head Man for a minute there. I absolutely should've taken his picture. It's not like he had eyes behind those sunglasses to see me do it, right?

So. back to Alan's theme. The phrases that spurred each theme entry add a TON. The most amusing results were DON'T GIVE ME ANY LIPTON and, because it plays on sex symbol, SEXTON SYMBOL. I enjoyed the Lipton one because I filled the whole answer in with just a few crossings at the end. I would delve into the clues and such more specifically, but I am so sleepy. I left the house 14 hours ago, and despite the silly California clock radio telling me it's early yet, I am craving sleep.

So please, have at it. Talk about the puzzle. Entertain one another, please. Thanks!


Alas, I woke up on the early side for the Central time zone—and I'm in the Pacific time zone. It's too early for a hotel breakfast, so instead I nibble on crosswords.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's Boston Globe puzzle, "At the Recital," features a [cynical Ambrose Bierce line] about music: "The piano is operated by depressing the keys of the machine and the spirits of the audience." This is not always true, of course. Felt like there were a lot of nonstandard plurals and irregular verbs to up the interest level here. Okay, so maybe I only noticed two, but still. GREW and PANINI don't end in -ED and -S, and that's a plus.

Speaking of Ambrose Bierce, at the Barnes & Noble page for my book, the synopsis opens, "Ambrose Bierce once defined egotism as doing The New York Times crossword puzzle with a pen." Given that Bierce died about 30 years before the Times established its crossword feature and a few years before the crossword craze first hit America, I rather doubt he's got that definition in his Devil's Dictionary.

Patrick Blindauer's Washington Post crossword, "Zoological Mix-up," takes one word in a phrase and anagrams it into the name of an animal, with the resulting phrase reclued accordingly. We get GNU CONTROL (gun), GARAGE SEAL (sale), HORSE PATROL (shore), LOOSE FLEA (leaf), SNAKE PREVIEW (sneak), JERRY HAMSTER (Mathers), GOAT PARTY (toga), DEER SECTION (reed? as in a section of an orchestra? not sure), TERN STRIKE (rent), and TENDER LION (loin). Favorite clue: [Joltin' joe?] for ESPRESSO. (That clue was immediately followed by [Joltin Joe, e.g.] for NY YANKEE.) Least favorite part: plural noun COEDS clued as [Future alumnae]—Patrick, tell me you had a snarky clue and Fred changed it! I mean, what, today's women in college, who are future alumnae, are called coeds on campus? Only in porn sites, I suspect.

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Where Am I?", the eight longest Across answers have locations hidden within them. I see a room in BROOMHILDA, home in TACHOMETER, town in JOINT OWNERSHIP, city in THE AUDACITY, county in COUNT YOUR CARDS, state in DEVASTATED, nation in ALIENATION...and both Paris and a Hilton in PARIS HILTON back in the middle. Wait! There's a parish, I see now. Oh! You know what elevates this puzzle beyond a mere hidden-word theme? The hidden words go from specific to broad: a room in a home in a town near a city in a parish (bigger than a city but smaller than a county, as opposed to the Louisiana sense of parish?) in a county in a state in a nation.

I don't see the themeless CrosSynergy puzzle for today yet, so I'll skip that. And I haven't got my Cruciverb password handy outside my home computer, so I can't download the LA Times syndicated puzzle. I'm in LA, so you'd think I could just pick up the paper, but alas, the Sunday LA Times crossword is not published in the LA Times. Instead, there are one or two other Sunday-sized puzzles in the magazine section. Which is too bad, because in recent months, the syndicated LA Times puzzle has been one of my favorite Sunday puzzles to solve.

Updated again:

Martin posted a link to today's themeless CrosSynergy puzzle over at the NYT "Today's Puzzle" forum (thanks, M.!), so I had a chance to do it after all. Mel Rosen's puzzle was easy for a themeless, but not dull. Highlights: There's a mini-theme with [Completely] as the clue for the first and last Acrosses—FROM A TO Z (so much better than the much more common ATOZ and ATOB) and ALL IN ALL. LAMONT from Sanford and Son is always welcome in my puzzle (I watched a lot of TV when I was a kid—and for those who are convinced that TV rots children's brains, well, I think I turned out alright). ETON COLLAR gets the two-word treatment instead of the usual [Kind of collar]/ETON blahness. COQUETTISH looks terrific stretching down the grid.
I didn't know that BANCO was a [Chemin de fer bettor's declaration]; I would have liked [___ Popular] instead, but I don't know if people are more familiar with Banco Popular than with chemin de fer. [Ruffle] and [Don't ruffle] are bundled together as IRK and the verb, CALM. [Solvent] is the adjective, not the noun—AFLOAT financially. I like the tech savvy of PORTED, [Translated (software) for another platform]; it IRKs me when software and game publishers don't bother porting their programs to the Mac. Last, I don't recall seeing [Big top?] before as a clue for AFRO; I kinda like it.