February 17, 2008

Monday, 2/18

CS 3:07
NYT 2:39
LAT 2:32

Happy President's Day! Enjoy a Monday without a New York Sun crossword. (Insert sad-face emoticon here.)

Lynn Lempel's New York Times puzzle hooks up tangentially to the presidential race, with theme entries beginning with LIBERAL, PROGRESSIVE, LEFT, and RADICAL. (I will ally myself with the first three, but what's RADICAL doing in there? Most lefties are no more radical than the extremists on the other end of the political spectrum.) Unusual non-theme fill includes MEAT STEW, "NOT SO FAR," and PAY TV. Some fill combos entertained me—a GOFER keeping company with an EMIR, the BOB UP/OBIE/BABY B action, Vladimir LENIN with a banjo TWANG, and the OAF looking SMART sporting a FEZ. Overall, a lively Monday puzzle, maybe a notch below the usual high level I expect of Lynn Lempel, but crisper than many Monday crosswords.


Nancy Salomon's LA Times crossword filled itself in pretty smoothly, despite the inclusion of 14 7-letter answers that should take a little longer to answer because the kneejerk response we develop to clues for those short words that appear all the time is absent. But the clues were largely straightforward, so zip-zip-zip, the puzzle fell on the easy side. The theme could be called "Utility Men": three men of use are a JACK OF ALL TRADES, HANDY ANDY, and JOHNNY ON THE SPOT. Many answers in the non-theme fill are conversational in nature: BEAT IT, IT'S A JOB, WHY ME, SO SORRY, and TEN HUT are all spoken phrases.

Yesterday's syndicated LA Times puzzle had a theme of M.C. phrases. Today, Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy crossword, "Emcees," limits that to the names of famous women with M.C. initials: MARIAH CAREY and MARY CASSATT ("The Child's Bath" is my favorite of her paintings; it lives here at the Art Institute of Chicago), MARIA CALLAS and MARCIA CROSS. Nice mix of high and low culture. Highlights in the fill: Leo the MGM LION, the JAZZ AGE, WANNABES, RUPAUL, and the ARGYLE/GARGOYLE intersection.