April 01, 2008

Wednesday, 4/2

NYT 4:42
CS 4:28
NYS 3:54
LAT 3:40

Pub quiz is tonight, so NYT crossword blogging will wait until midnight or Wednesday morning.

Do you have any speed-solving tips? Which is to say, meticulous bits of technique that you swear by for finishing a crossword as fast as you can—which clues do you tackle first? Where do you move from there? Do you follow a certain path through the grid? Do you write your letters a certain way? What advice have you gotten from faster solvers? When solving online, do you mostly leave the mouse alone (as I do), navigating with tab/return/arrow keys? Don't tell me your tips here—take them over to Jerry's blog, where he's compiling a set of communal speed-solving tips.

After taking an April Fool's Day break, baseball week continues in the New York Sun crossword. Mark Feldman's 15x16 "Baseball in Vegas" assembles four phrases that pertain to gambling but begin with words that are key to baseball: CATCH, HIT, THROW, and RUN. Hooray! A baseball puzzle in which only minimal knowledge of baseball is required to grasp the theme! One completely unfamiliar bit of fill: TIK-TOK, the [Mechanical man from Oz]. If you're from Oz but you weren't in the movie, The Wizard of Oz, then I don't know you.


Well, I had to go download the Across Lite version of the New York Times crossword to discover who the constructor was—the applet showed only "Patrick." Turns out it's Patrick Merrell whose puzzle's title field reads, "Turn the completed puzzle into a greeting card!" The theme entries (four 15s) read HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO—plus the instructions to CIRCLE LETTERS TO / SPELL OUT THE NAME / OF YOUR RECIPIENT. I believe every letter appears in the grid at least twice to facilitate your finding nearly any first name in the grid. But with only one Q and X, it's not quite universal. For example, poor Xixa Basha's first name cannot be circled in the grid. Is that the point of the theme, that you could assemble practically any first name from the letters included in the grid? If that's the deal, then I'm not so excited by that. But then, it is quite late, and I am barely sentient right now. I like that Pat (...or Will) has GAP clued as [Feature of Alfred E. Neuman's smile]; Pat has some involvement with Mad magazine. The [1977 James Brolin thriller with the tagline "What evil DRIVES..."] is called THE CAR (the car is possessed).


Sean Smith's LA Times crossword tries a little ANGER MANAGEMENT, with theme entries that begin with synonyms for "angry." CROSS THE RUBICON uses the verb, but CROSS also means "angry." TICKED OFF POINTS has a verb phrase means "checked off," but can also fit the theme with another meaning. STEAMED DUMPLINGS also use a non-anger sense. Somehow I really like it that one of the theme entries includes a two-word phrase rather than limiting the theme action to the first word of each theme entry. Johnny DEPP is here, clued as ["Pirates of the Caribbean" star]. Johnny Depp is also here, meaning in Chicago, filming the John Dillinger biopic, Public Enemies. I passed a corner where they were shooting the movie on my way to trivia last night. So add another violent movie filmed in the neighborhood that I'll probably take my kid to, just because the neighborhood's going to be in the movie. (Dark Knight, this July's Batman sequel, is the other.)

Will write about Klahn's CrosSynergy puzzle when I get back from the gym—

And now I'm back, and boy, do I love Trader Joe's:

While I was out, Joon left a comment saying "This is the first time i can remember saying this, but am i the only one who thought the CrosSynergy puzzle was the best one of the day? Cute theme, excellent cluing, solid fill." Precisely! Gotta love Bob Klahn's style. "Bag Ladies and Gentlemen" are those four people in the grid (one fictional) whose surnames pull double duty as "___ bags." EDDIE MONEY is a moneybags (maybe there's a singular, but I like the nickname Moneybags), LEARNED HAND carries a handbag, MURPHY BROWN has to brown-bag it, and GEORGE SAND is toting a sandbag. With 22 6- to 9-letter entries in the fill, we get treated to a ton that's not the same ol' same ol'. Favorite clues: [Hardly a striking individual?] for a SCAB crossing the picket line; [Receive willingly?] for INHERIT; [Band or musical follower] for SAW (a musical saw is a handsaw used as a musical instrument); [One of three who walk into many bars?] for RABBI ("A priest, a rabbi, and a leprechaun walk into a bar"); and [Where "We have met the enemy..."] for ERIE. Yes! Really! Not Pogo. Oliver Hazard Perry said it during a battle at/in/near Lake Erie. And did you know that the [Group that evolved from Johnny & the Moondogs] was the BEATLES?