June 08, 2008

Monday, 6/9

NYS 3:14
CS 2:56
LAT 2:48
NYT 2:47

Time's up for the crossword rivers poll! The Swiss Aare (or Aar, if you prefer) was the winner, with 14% of the vote. Just a few votes behind was the Italian Arno (12%). Tied for third place were my favorite, the Spanish Ebro (which Matt Gaffney spiffed up in the theme entry DON'T TASE ME, BRO last year) and classic French Seine. The Ubangi, Ural, Nile, Loire, Yser and Isere were also strong contenders. Nobody picked the Aire, even though it connotes wealth when you use it as a suffix. The word ladder trio of the Eger, Eder, and Oder garnered just a single vote apiece. I recognize that this was a completely pointless poll—but perhaps seeing that list of river names in the sidebar for the last week helped lodge those words in the crossword lobe of your brain. Many of them have some overlapping letters (SeiNE and SaoNE, RHiNE and RHoNE, OiSE and OuSE, AaRE and AiRE, lEnA and nEvA, oDER and eDER, EgER and EdER), so it's good to have the list of possibilities in your head.

Paula Gamache's New York Times crossword is pretty much a quintessential Monday puzzle. It's got six theme entries, so it's reaching a little further than many Monday crosswords, and the theme entries themselves have zip, so you won't fall asleep from boredom. The fill also has some flavor to it. The [Warning cry] "IT'S A TRAP" ties the other five theme entries together. Each of those begin with a "trap":

  • BOOBY PRIZE ([The worst player wins it]) and SPEED DEMON ([One who puts the pedal to the metal]) were my favorite theme entries. Booby trap and speed trap are the resultant traps.
  • The [Sightseer's guide] is a TOURIST MAP, which rhymes with tourist trap.
  • SAND CASTLE (sand trap) is a [Creation made with a bucket and shovel].
  • A [Hose company hookup] is a FIREPLUG (firetrap).

Highlights in the fill included the pair of Ivy League eponyms' first names beginning with E, EZRA Cornell and ELIHU Yale (the parallel clues rescue these from being blah); ST. CROIX, [One of the U.S. Virgin Islands] and the site of my honeymoon; SANGRIA, the tasty and fruit-filled [Spanish wine beverage]; SHUTS UP, or [Quits yapping]; KARATE, or [Sport in which belts are awarded]; IN DOUBT, or [Iffy]; and NOT YET, or ["Maybe later"]. Oh, and POOP, clued as [Inside info]. Favorite clue: [Beam in a bar?] for JIM Beam bourbon.


Patrick Merrell posted a 2004 LA Times puzzle of his on his website, with a rather convoluted theme. It was originally published early in the week, but it felt more like a Wednesday puzzle (3:55 for me). After you've solved it, see Pat's comments on it at his blog. I always appreciate a "VH1 Behind the Music" peek at how a constructor developed a particular crossword.

In his New York Sun puzzle, "Citizens of the World," Mark Feldman combines two of my favorite sorts of entries—names from culture (pop and otherwise) and geography. The theme entries' placement is unusual—four of the five names are split by a black square between the first and last names. But all five people have a country for a first name: novelist JAMAICA / KINCAID, singer INDIA / ARIE (or India.Arie, with the artist's preferred punctuation), actor CUBA GOODING JR., Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer CHAD / SMITH, and artist GEORGIA / O'KEEFFE. The first three happen to be African-American. I think the theme exhausts all the famous country-named Americans. There's Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger's daughter Ireland, but she's not famous in her own right. And the famous-enough Jordans use that as a last name. The presence of thematic paired 7s in the top and bottom rows gives us four triple-stacked bricks of 7-letter answers in the grid; AGE SPOT is my favorite just because I don't feel like that ever shows up in crosswords.

Mike Peluso's LA Times crossword follows a "B__ B__ER" template for the theme entries. A BARN BURNER is an [Impressive event], BABY BOOMER is a [Gen Xer's mom, maybe], BRONX BOMBER is [Any N.Y. Yankee], and a BROWN BAGGER is a [Worker with his own lunch]. My favorite entry: OMG, or [Chat room "Holy cow!"]. (I await ZOMG in a future puzzle.) I'm glad EYEBALLS is clued as the verb, [Has a close look at], because I don't much want to contemplate the actual eyeball. Best misstep: With the final KE in place, I entered SPIKE for [Buffy's weapon] instead of STAKE. If you watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you know how wrong that is.

The theme in Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy crossword, "Cross Word Puzzle," eluded me until after I'd finished the whole thing. "Herring word?" I pondered. Eventually it dawned on me that each theme entry begins with a word that can precede cross: [Outing for a foursome] is a DOUBLE DATE (double-cross), [Misleading clue] is a RED HERRING (the Red Cross), [Heavy metal band named after a torture device] is IRON MAIDEN (Iron Cross), and ["Great Caesar's ghost!"] is "HOLY SMOKES!" (Holy Cross). Highlights in the fill: full names of two film directors, SPIKE LEE and JOHN FORD; THE MOB with its definite article; a SAWBONES or surgeon; and OIL RIG pepped up with a movie clue ([Device seen in "There Will Be Blood"]).