November 03, 2007

Sunday, 11/4

WaPo 9:54
NYT 8:51
PI 8:28
LAT 8:07
BG 7:41
CS 4:36

It's always good to see Bob Klahn's name in the byline, but I think his clues have been defanged. The New York Times puzzle was nowhere near a gnarly as I expected based on the byline. The title, "Common Ends," points at the ends of each theme entry—each phrase starts and ends with the same 3-letter string (different for each theme entry). You've got OBI-WAN KENOBI, the HOWARD STERN SHOW, and six other examples.

Toughest entry for me: RAKI is the [Anise-flavored aperitif popular in Turkey and the Balkans]. (Ick, anise. It's not enough that ouzo and Pernod exist, the Turks need their own nasty anise liqueur?) Favorite entries: IT'LL COST YA (["You're gonna pay!"]); BITTER COLD ([Antarctic]); TODDLED ([Took one's first steps]); the [Showy climber] CLEMATIS; the playful DIDY ([Nursery nappy]); and WHOOPS ([Cousin of "uh-oh"]).

Favorite clues: the verb phrase [State secrets] for BLAB; [Row between houses?] for FEUD; [Lovers' plight] for TROTH; [British hood] for BONNET (I was thinking of a thug or a hood that covers your head rather than a car hood); [Buck topper] for ANTLER; [Bar code?] for LAW; [Colt .45s, today] for the Houston ASTROS; [To have and to hold] for OWN; [Back] for BET ON; [Eve's follower] for HOLIDAY; [Brit, to an Aussie] for POM; [Gives religiously?] for TITHES; [Tumble] for a HEADER; and [Ex follower] for the letter WYE.


Henry Hook's online Boston Globe crossword, "A, My Name Is Amy," bundles the theme into the clues: the seven longest entries all have an Amy in the clue. The theme is mildly Scrabbly, with an ETIQUETTE EXPERT crossing THE JOY LUCK CLUB. One obscure geographical name: TRUK is a [Micronesian island group] now called Chuuk (me, I always appreciate a chance to pick up tidbits of world geography, excepting rivers and obscure seaports). A handful of full names spruce up the fill: TIM ALLEN and LOU RAWLS join theme entry JOEY LAUREN ADAMS and [England's Uncle Sam] character, JOHN BULL.

David Kahn's Washington Post crossword, "Grand Central," assembles six possible headlines made from words that can follow BIG (65-Across). The best example is [Affleck directed *NSync movie?], or BEN SHOT BOY BAND PICTURE—Big Ben, a big shot, a big boy, the Big Band era, and the big picture. I didn't know that the horse Seabiscuit shared a name with hardtack, also called SEA BISCUIT—the hard biscuit with a shelf life longer than Twinkies.

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Beatles—On the Flip Side," reverses the meaning of nine Beatles songs by substituting an opposite for one word. "Come Together" turns into GO TOGETHER, concerned about interior design and not clashing. "I Saw Her Standing There" becomes I SAW HER SITTING THERE, referring to Whistler's mother. "The Fool on the Hill" becomes THE GENIUS / ON THE HILL, suggesting that Newt Gingrich had an inflated sense of self while on Capitol Hill.

Sunday-morning update:

Alan Arbesfeld's syndicated LA Times crossword, "Gee Whiz," tacks a G onto the end of eight phrases to transform them. I liked the NONSTICK PANG, [Momentary longing?], best. Fill highlights: PLAY DUMB, BREAK LOOSE, VAN CLIBURN, UNCLE SAM, HOLIDAY INN.

Paula Gamache's themeless CrosSynergy puzzle taught me a new term—CODE MONKEY for [Junior programmer, in slang]. In the lower right corner, the nearly-repeating KITKAT is beside ETC ETC, which is beside YEH YEH. What's YEH YEH, you ask? It's a [1963 Latin soul song written by Mongo Santamaria]. No, I'd never heard of it.