April 20, 2008

Monday, 4/21

NYS 4:00
NYT 3:47 (sigh)
CS 3:22
LAT 2:58

Here's the breakdown for my experience with Janet Bender's Monday New York Times crossword: 2:40 to fill everything in, and 1:07 more to figure out which square was incorrect. In general, the clues and fill were easy for a seasoned crossword solver, but I noted several answers that seemed unfriendly to beginning solvers. I ran those by my husband and indeed, he didn't have a clue about any of them and might've looked askance at them even with solid crossings. More on that in a moment.

The NYT's theme includes six phrases that start with words that double as housekeeping verbs. (Alas, there is no room for something like MOPTOPS to squeeze in—though it's certainly impressive to combine CLEAN, SCRUB, SWEEP, WASH, DUST, and VACUUM.) Two of the theme answers are just 8 letters long—SCRUB OAK ([Low-growing tree typically found in rocky soil]) and WASH SALE ([Stock transaction done at a loss for tax purposes]). That latter term isn't one I've seen before, so I hesitantly put CASH SALE in and questioned how a [Pantywaist] was a CUSS. (Hmm, that'd be a WUSS.) The other theme entries were more familiar.

Throughout the fill, though, there were a number of answers I (and many of you, I'd wager) learned from crosswords and seldom, if ever, see anywhere else. So I consulted my husband. He has never heard of [Legendary Washington hostess Perle ___] MESTA, nor Mr. ADAIR, the [Red who fought oil well fires]. SITED, he thought, sounded awfully technical; [Put in place] also seems too deceptive a clue, with the obscured past tense, for a Monday. And then there's NABES, [Local theaters, in slang], which proved to be one of the gnarliest words in last Friday's NYT crossword. If it's too hard for many Friday solvers, it's surely odd to find it in a Monday puzzle. If you're newer to crosswords, did this puzzle vex you more than most Monday puzzles?


To clarify, let me say that aside from that one crossing that threw me a curve, my delineation of the NYT puzzle's problems relates to the expected ordinariness of Monday fill. This crossword was perhaps too easy to be slated as a Wednesday puzzle, but the vocabulary, I think, puts it squarely at a Tuesday/Wednesday level. Jim H., Rex, Brian, and Ryan concurred that there was a definite non-Monday vibe to the fill.

The New York Sun crossword, "Special Teams," is by Bob Klahn. The theme centers on three rhyming 3-letter team names from the New York/New Jersey area: HAVEN'T WE MET covers baseball (the YANKS also pop in, and I wonder why those arrogant Yanks can't just let the Mets have the spotlight for a change), WORK WITHOUT A NET does basketball, and MILITARY JET covers football. Like the NYT, it's got HAZMAT in the fill. Hello again, word! That's just one of many Scrabbly words (CHUTZPAH! AJAX! ZIMA!) in the fill. There's a touch of trivia in the clue for LEO I: [Pope who convinced Attila to spare Rome]. (Better than cluing with a year, no?)

David Cromer's LA Times crossword has a 15-letter OPEN FOR BUSINESS tying together four other theme entries, which end with words that can "open for 'business'"—that is, GREEN MONKEY ends with MONKEY, and "monkey business" is an established phrase. This puzzle's "My ___" song title is MY GUY, [1964 Mary Wells hit].

Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Pajama Party," has four theme entries that, like SLOOP JOHN B, contain a PJ within them. [What's found in muscles, but not mussels] stumped me for too long. What, what! The SILENT C trick on a Monday? I wasn't expecting that. (I was, however, expecting the CrosSynergy crossword to take about this long to complete, since its steady difficulty level means it's typically harder than the NYT and LAT at the beginning of the week but easier later.) This puzzle's "My __" song title is MY GIRL, the [Temptations hit] that I love.