April 22, 2008

Wednesday, 4/23

NYS 5:17
NYT 4:01
CS 3:34
LAT 2:50

Yep, that's right. I haven't done any of the Wednesday puzzles yet, and it's too late now. Am out the door to trivia in a minute. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves in the comments if you've done the New York Sun and/or New York Times crosswords—I will try to remember not to read those comments before I've done the puzzles. And if I should spoil my solves by reading comments first, I will have no one to blame but myself—unless someone else offers to take the blame.

Late Tuesday night:

I started reading the blog comments after coming home from trivia (we took second place and are positioned well for the new six-week cumulative points total prize chase—$600 for our team if we come out on top after six weeks), and Alex said he would accept the blame for spoiling—and that's as far as I got. Thanks for the save, Alex! I was going to blithely read comments until I regretted it, but you saved me.

Stephen Edward Anderson had his debut puzzle quite recently, and here's his second New York Times crossword already. Way to go, SEA! He's an expat living in Europe (and a semi-regular on the NYT forum), so of course his theme is ur-Americana: cowboys and their horses. QUICKSILVER, CHART TOPPER, HAIR-TRIGGER, and TALENT SCOUT all end with famous horses, and 30- and 27-Down spell out RIDE 'EM / COWBOY. W-w-wait, TOPPER? Wha? Google tells me that's the name of Hopalong Cassidy's horse. SILVER goes with the Lone Ranger, TRIGGER is Roy Rogers, and Scout is...let me look this up...the horse belonging to Tonto, the Lone Ranger's pal. I'm quite fond of an OKAY GUY ([Nice enough fellow]) in the fill.

Robert E. Lee Morris's New York Sun crossword, "Alcohol Containers," has a theme I didn't see while solving. What is it? Let me take a look. Aha! Embedded within the five theme entries are kinds of liquor. RIVER MOUTHS, LAST OUTLAW, NUMERIC KEYPAD, VAPOR TRAIL, and TWIN-ENGINED split some alcohol between two words. (Edited to add: Reader Joon notes that the last theme entry is also serving GIN.) The [2004 Israeli film set during Sukkoth] was a complete mystery to me: USHPIZIN. I am far too sleepy to remark further.


Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Spin Doctoring," puts TURN at 63-Down to tie the theme entries together—each phrase's final word can follow "turn." Having actress JULIA STILES among the ordinary nouns in the theme adds a little élan. With actors JOSH Duhamel, ILKA Chase, Lotte LENYA, and Esther ROLLE and L.A. Laker player Lamar ODOM in the fill, this really felt like an LA Times crossword.

The theme in Billie Truitt's LA Times puzzle feels like I've seen it before—a vowel progression running through the beginning of five theme entries—but a quick check of the Cruciverb.com database doesn't turn up anything obvious with these particular theme entries. PAPARAZZI has just three prior uses in the database, all in themelesses. The letter P just plain has a fun sound—peppy and poppy—so the progression through PEPPERONI, PIPSQUEAK, POPPYCOCK, and PUPPY LOVE works beautifully. These words/phrases share a consistent vibe—substituting flat entries like PAPER CUTS and PEPPER BOX and PIPE STEMS wouldn't be nearly as effective. Terrific group of theme entries + solid and Scrabbly fill = good crossword.