February 08, 2008

Saturday, 2/9

NYT 9:08
LAT 7:42
Newsday 4:14
CS 3:01

A lovely friend who shall remain nameless owing to copyright issues has put my Crosswords episode on YouTube (sans the first round, which I wasn't in): Part 1 and Part 2.

The Saturday New York Times crossword byline reads Shannon Burns. Hmm, not a familiar name. A newcomer? Perhaps not: The Cruciverb database shows a number of 1997-98 NYT publications by Shannon Burns. Whatever the case, I wandered through the grid, searching for the constructor's wavelength, and found it a rather eely entity. Is it the rhinovirus? The beer? The boy who hasn't gone to bed yet? Sure! All three torpedoed my focus. A few Scrabbly hits in the fill, with SAN JOSE ([Latin American capital] of Costa Rica) beside AQUAMAN ([Founding member of the Justice League]), ETIQUETTE (Emily [Post codes?]) beside URBANIZED ([Built up]), and IWO JIMA ([Where Mt. Suribachi is]).

Favorite fill: The single-vowel SCHMALTZ ([Mush], both words being used figuratively); SCROOGE ([Pinchpenny] beside The THIN MAN (the [Classic 1934 novel set in Prohibition-era New York City]); and the teeny [Hanna-Barbera character] ATOM ANT crossing GIGANTISM ([Growing problem?]).

Clues that took me too long to suss out: [It can really bite] for SARCASM; the cross-referenced [sites for some coral], SALTWATER / AQUARIA (I had real ocean settings on my mind); [Home of Clarke College] for DUBUQUE; [One of the losers in the War of the Pacific] for PERU (the combatants also included Chile and Bolivia); [Pick-up and drop-off point: Abbr.] for STA (station); [It doesn't help much when it's cold] for cold COMFORT; [Middle third of a famous motto] for EGALITE (damn you, "Veni, vidi, vici!"); [Cicero, e.g.] for SENATOR; [Dish describer] for MENU (yeah, I thought of a different kind of dish and tried to make SEXY or BEAU work—no dice); [Come together] for GEL (oh, how long I let WED sit there mucking things up);

Clues I enjoyed: [Asked too much?] for PRIED; [Key word] for ENTER; [It covers six time zones] for CANADA; [The moon has one] for FAR SIDE; ["Paradise Lost" illustrator] for Gustave DORE (that's his Satan to the right); and [State with the lowest high point (345 feet): Abbr.] for FLA (yeah, Walt Disney World is less than 100 ft. above sea level).

Toughest words: [Nothingness] is the clue for the jargony NULLITY. [Set right again] clued the roll-your-own prefixed word REMEND; aw, why couldn't it be REMAND crossing Bambi's aunt ENA? JAE is the first name of [Former major-league pitcher ___ Seo]; dang, I don't even see him in the first three pages of Google hits for Jae (Journal of African Economies, anyone?). ELIE is a semi-reasonable Frenchman's name, but [French mathematician Cartan] is not the sort of mathematician one learns about unless one is pursuing a degree in math. Holy cow, KAFIR is a [Grain sorghum with stout, leafy stalks]? (Also spelled with two Fs.) TREN is, let's see, is that clue in Italian? [It's pulled by una locomotora] means it's a locomotive train. Ah, it's Spanish. I did not know that. CAL is a [Title robot in an Isaac Asimov short story] that I haven't heard of. Wikipedia tells me that Cal the robot wants to be a writer. That story sounds kinda funny!


Doug Peterson's LA Times puzzle enchanted me at first, with fill like SNIDELY WHIPLASH an an au courant HANDS-FREE DEVICE, and then it progressed to leaving me stymied in the lower half. [Ham and eggs eschewer] killed me—I was trying to think of the name of Sam I Am's target in Green Eggs and Ham, but the answer I needed was LACTOVEGETARIAN. D'oh! I liked the puzzle and found all the clues eminently fair—I just couldn't make sense out of them as quickly as I like.

Dan Stark's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" looks positive, what with the three black-square plus signs in the grid. It's good to see a few more phrasal answers in the fill—I do find the fill zingier with answers like "BEAT IT!" balancing something plainer, like RESTED. Favorite clues: [Deduction user] for TAXPAYER; [Root word] for OLE (as in a word you say while rooting for your fútbol team); [Appointments] for DECOR; [Claims] for DIBS; and [Member of the nightshade family] for TOMATO.

Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Lofty Goals," bundles five phrases that begin with "lofty" words, such as TOP BANANA and PEAK PERFORMANCE. PRO-RATES is excited to make it into the fill, since it's more often confined to fill-in-the-blank ennui in the [Pro ___]/RATA guise. SUGAR-COAT is always good, especially when it's something edible.