May 24, 2008

Sunday, 5/25

NYT 7:57
LAT 7:47
BG 7:15
PI 7:05
CS 6:36

Before I opened up Liz Gorski's Sunday New York Times crossword, I saw a comment about it at the NYT forum that read "Wow. Wow! WOW!" Then I solved the puzzle and thought it was indeed a very nice puzzle, but didn't see what the fuss was. I put my kid to bed, came back, and finally took note of the seven circled squares that formed a connect-the-dots puzzle. Oh! Look at that. The solver draws a martini glass with left/right symmetry, and the word MARTINI appears inside the glass at 39-Across. Who likes martinis? JAMES Bond, whose 72-Down clue reads [Bond common to the answers to the six starred clues]. Get it? Bond, the last name = bond, something that connects the six names—those six names being actors who have portrayed Bond on screen in the years listed in their clues:

  • [1969] is one-film GEORGE LAZENBY.
  • [1973-85] is ROGER MOORE, the Bond during my formative years (alas).
  • [1987-89] is TIMOTHY DALTON.
  • [1995-2002] is PIERCE BROSNAN. Note that these four appear in chronological order in the grid.
  • The guy who came before all of them ([1962-67, 1971]) appears in the upper left corner as a Down entry, in first position: SEAN CONNERY.
  • The newest Bond, DANIEL CRAIG, appears in the lower right corner, last of all ([2006–]).
  • In the mix, fitting in opposite the 10-letter ROGERMOORE, is IAN FLEMING, [Writer born May 28, 1908]. Fleming, of course, wrote the Bond novels.
  • SIR is also thematic, clued as [Title for 48-Across and 3-Down] (Moore and Connery).

Those circled squares were designed to contain A, B, C, D, E, F, and G in a layout such that they'd make a dot-to-dot martini glass. That B in GEORGE LAZENBY had to be opposite an A or C, then, and that C is in SCARING, which crosses both a theme entry and a long answer running alongside it. So it's further impressive from a construction standpoint, with that stacking of CARGO PANTS ([Attire with supersized pockets]) and BILL HUDSON ([Rock guitarist once married to Goldie Hawn] and actress Kate Hudson's father) beside the Down theme entries and two other 10s in the fill (GRECO-ROMAN, or [Like some wrestling], and GOLF COURSE, or [It's full of holes]). Other fill and cluesl I liked:
  • TO SCALE, or [How architects' models are built]
  • [Moles' production] for TUNNELS (I had spy-type moles in mind, given this puzzle's theme)
  • ON DEMAND, or [Like some video, to cable customers]—we love OnDemand here chez Fiend
  • [Piano players' hangouts] for LOUNGES (though I daresay the vast majority of piano players don't hang out in lounges)
  • [Chairman's supporter?] for MAOIST
  • [Edwards and others: Abbr.] looks like DEMS or (ex-)SENS, but it's AFBS (Air Force bases)
  • C.S. LEWIS is ["The Allegory of Love" writer, 1936]
  • The SWIM TEAM are [Butterfly experts, perhaps]
  • TOYLAND is clued with a lyric: [In song, "Once you pass its borders, you can ne'er return again"]

Mystery fill:
  • OUSEL, or [White-collared thrush: Var.]—also called the ouzel or white-throated dipper
  • NOHO, or [Neighborhood next to N.Y.C.'s East Village]
  • TASS, clued as [Old propaganda propagator]—we usually see Itar-Tass mentioned rather than a stand-alone TASS
  • LUNA [___9, first spacecraft to land softly on the moon]
  • And a third Russian answer, IGOR [Kurchatov who oversaw the Soviet atomic bomb project]
  • [March 25, in the Christian calendar], is LADY DAY, which is also a nickname for Billie Holiday
  • [Game played with a 40-card deck] is OMBRE—the 8s, 9s, and 10s are removed from a standard deck

PhillySolver's got the scoop about this crossword's creation from Ms. Gorski herself.


Bob Klahn's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" has a bunch of fresh, almost oddball entries—the sort that pushed me to rely on the crossings to piece them together:
  • BLIND PIG is an [Illegal saloon offering "complimentary" drinks to those who paid to see an animal curiosity].
  • NOBELIUM is a [Radioactive element with a once-disputed name].
  • TAFIA is a [Cheap West Indian rum made from sugarcane juice].
  • JOHN RAMBO is a [Macho stereotype of filmdom]. Is it wrong that I wanted to make John Wayne a stereotype?
  • THE CLASH are the ["London Calling" punk rockers]—this one wasn't at all hard for me, but I'm glad to see the Clash in the grid.
  • FATHERLY is an ordinary-enough word, but the [Like an old man?] clue misled me for awhile.
  • LIME KILN is a [Hot spot for shells]. Lime kilns transform limestone into quicklime.
  • ET ALIAE is one expansion of "et al." and [It may follow a list of women], since aliae is a feminine plural in Latin.
  • ALICE BLUE is a [Color named for Teddy Roosevelt's daughter].
  • THE DJ is [Jazzy Jeff, in a 1988 Fresh Prince album name]. Fresh Prince, of course, is Will Smith.
  • RHUMB is a [Point on a mariner's compass]—not a word I knew.
  • X FACTOR is clued with [Its effect is hard to predict].

Dan Naddor's syndicated LA Times crossword is custom-made for sports fans and for Californians. Each theme entry in "California Pros" is a phrase that starts or ends with a word that's also a professional sports team name (in the singular) in California. There are 14 theme entries! The state has no other major franchises (not counting Major League Soccer) that didn't make it into the grid. The phrases are clued straightforwardly, but with the league initials in parentheses. My favorite was [Liver nutrient (MLB)], hiding a wee A at the end of VITAMIN A. The San Francisco Giants make it in a GIANT SQUID, the Los Angeles Kings (hockey) and Sacramento Kings (basketball) share KING LEAR, and the Dodgers appear in DRAFT DODGERS. There's actually a mountain bike company called NINER BIKES—probably not well-known enough to normally make the cut in a crossword, but there aren't a ton of two-word phrases that include NINER. Naddor's got about 140 theme squares, 14 theme entries in a symmetrical grid, and complete coverage of the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL teams in California. Well done!

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Hard-to-Do Songs," bundles together some song titles that posit difficult tasks. How exactly would one CATCH A FALLING STAR or CLIMB EV'RY MOUNTAIN? It's a tall order—and so is every other theme entry. The theme clues all include the particular song's year in this format: [1954 song ("okay, but it won't be easy")]. There's some really nice fill in this one, but my son kept saying, "Mom, look! Look! Watch me pick up this building! Mom, look! I'm throwing it at those monsters." (He's playing a Godzilla game on Wii.) Very distracting, I say.

Henry Hook's online Across Lite Boston Globe puzzle, "Gridlock," shares its title with Matt Gaffney's book, which features a whole chapter on Henry Hook. If you haven't read the book, I encourage you to buy a copy—it offers a glimpse inside top constructors' methods (hand-crafted à la Gaffney and Byron Walden vs. database-aided à la Frank Longo and Peter Gordon), an exploration of the crossword business (books, magazines, syndication), and a touching profile of Hook. The book also quotes this blog a couple times, but I swear I would recommend it warmly even if my name weren't in it. Back to the crossword: The theme entries are all men whose last names begin with a CAR. No, not a HONDA or a FORD—the letter grouping CAR. Hey, where are the CAR women? I'm sure there are a few famous ones. Off the top of my head, there's Belinda Carlisle or Kitty Carlisle, Rachel Carson, Rosalynn Carter or Dixie Carter. Ambitious construction: the 12-letter names in the NW and SE corners of the grid are in stacked pairs.