January 20, 2008

Monday, 1/21

CS 3:48
LAT 3:06
NYS 3:00
NYT 2:43

It's a two-fer from Andrea Carla Michaels, who constructed both the New York Times and the New York Sun crosswords for Monday.

In Andrea's New York Times crossword, the theme is "Win, Lose or Draw": WIN BY A NOSE, LOSE ONE'S BALANCE, and DRAW A BLANK. All three theme answers are sort of competition-based, referring to a victory, a gymnast on the balance beam, and Scrabble. Did you try to link NOSE, BALANCE, and BLANK as I did? My favorite fill included UNDER OATH, SMIRKS, and the JUMBLE (now with strippers!). Not crazy about the variant YACK, but it's in the dictionary. This puzzle kept trying to lead me astray. [More unusual]? Must be ODDER, right? No, RARER. [Unoccupied, as a theater seat] was FREE, not OPEN. EBB*** wanted to be EBBETS Field, verb clue be damned. Hey, how about the headline across the top row: LEWD DWARF JEST.

In the New York Sun puzzle, "You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello" refers to the three words that begin the theme entries—words that double as both "hello" and "goodbye" in their original languages. ALOHA STADIUM invokes Hawaiian, CIAO BELLA GELATO invokes Italian, and model SHALOM HARLOW's name evokes Hebrew. I thought I'd never heard of that gelato brand, but when I checked out the company's website, I recognized the packaging from the freezer case at Whole Foods. Is this stuff good? Should I buy some? My favorite clues included [___=washed jeans] for ACID (ooh, bad '80s fashion!); [Dessert, to a Brit] for AFTERS (I could go for some gelato now, but it seems silly to venture out when it's 5° to buy ice cream); and [Tina's "30 Rock" role] for LIZ Lemon. Best entries: SHUSHED, THE ARTS, AL PACINO, the LAST WORD, and those Scrabbly words with Q, X, and Z in the corners.


Rich Norris's CrosSynergy puzzle struck me as dull (though Scrabbly—missing F and W and so not a pangram, but including all the less common letters), but I think it was because a reader left specific comments with theme details first, so I was in a PIQUE (61-Across) when I solved the puzzle. I receive copies of all comments via e-mail, and I hadn't done this puzzle yet when I saw those comments. I'm not about to embargo my e-mail just because twice a year, somebody posts spoilers before I've done a puzzle. Instead, I'll just ask PLEASE DON'T COMMENT WITH SPECIFICS ABOUT PUZZLES I HAVEN'T BLOGGED ABOUT YET. Thanks. As the commenter already mentioned, in the CRONY theme, each theme entry begins with a "crony" as part of the first word (e.g., PALACE, CHUMP). I think it's more elegant to hide the word within another than to gather phrases that start with a set of words, don't you?

The LA Times crossword by Teri Smalley (which anagrams to "it's really me," so I presume the constructor is editor Rich Norris) has a sprawling theme—four long "king" names in a 15x16 grid, along with four other short (4 and 5 letters) "king" names, with most being people called "the king of ___" (LEAR isn't called a king, he is a king; ALAN King is named King). The fill has some boring stuff but also plenty of showy answers—OJIBWA, YO HO HO, SQUAWKS AT and GOBBLE (poultry!), THE WHO. Now, there are 18 circled squares in the grid. I've been eyeballing these from various angles and in various orders, and regrettably, I will have to peek at the Across Lite Notepad to understand what the circled squares are about. Okay, it says to anagram them to discover the subject of the puzzle. Ah, a puzzle within the puzzle! MHUAREGLRTINIJRNTK wasn't looking like much, so I used a trick I learned from Will Shortz (on a Chicago radio program, I think)—write the letters in sort of a pyramid-form bunch so your eyes can hook the letters up more easily. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. jumped right out of that heap of letters. Hey, this is cool! Not the usual sort of tribute puzzle—those typically include key words or titles from the person's life. This one riffs on King's name and gift-wraps itself with an anagram challenge.