June 02, 2008

Tuesday, 6/3

CS 3:23
NYS 3:07
NYT 3:06
LAT 2:52
Onion —> see Wednesday
Tausig —> see Wednesday

I went to the Chicago Improv Festival tonight and saw Scheer-McBrayer—that's Jack McBrayer, who plays Kenneth the NBC page on 30 Rock, and Paul Scheer, who plays Kenneth's archrival page. They were both hilarious, but the theater's air conditioning was out so it was sweltering in there. And thanks to a second-row seat, I saw an actual sweat droplet fling itself off McBrayer's head. That's famous perspiration, from a cast member on my very favorite TV comedy.

Pete Muller is perhaps famous only among crossword insiders, but that particular fame is well-deserved. Pete is one of those constructors who specialize in twisty innovations on the crossword format (others include Patrick Blindauer, John Farmer, and Patrick Berry). This time, the theme in his New York Times crossword includes just two Across entries...but there are also four diagonal answers, each crossing five Acrosses and five Downs, so you could argue that there are 46 entries contributing to the theme. "WHERE'S WALDO?" is a [Question posed by a 1987 children's best seller], and the question is answered by 43-Across, IN THE CORNER. In each corner of the grid, there's a W that begins a diagonally placed WALDO. Lending their support are six long entries. A [Purchase of one who's looking for love] might be a PERSONAL AD, MONTICELLO is the [Building seen on a nickel], NILES CRANE is a [1990s-2000s sitcom shrink] (Frasier Crane's brother), ELLIPTICAL pairs up with [Like many planetary orbits], MOLTEN METAL is a [Material used in casting], and TOILET WATER is [Light perfume]. Thank goodness WALDO isn't hiding in the toilet! I can't believe I left the [Moselle tributary] SAAR off the sidebar poll on favorite crossword rivers. Wasn't OSMAN the [Ottoman Turk leader] just in a crossword last week or the week before? His A crosses ARIANE, the [French satellite launcher] and a rocket whose name I know strictly from crosswords.

Edited to say: Whoops, actually Pete is even more famous in the worlds of Wall Street, poker, and music. (Hat tip to Jim H.)

Jim Hyres' New York Sun puzzle, "Extra Points," incorporates all four cardinal points (N, S, E, and W) in appropriate spots in the grid, and those letters are inserted into four phrases to change their meaning. For example, Panama hat is in the eastern part of the grid, with an E added to make it PANAMA HEAT, or [Canal cops?]. (I kinda wanted the canal cops to be the people who tell you never to stick Q-tips in your ear canal.) This grid has a low word count for a themed puzzle (72, when the maximum allowed is 78), and there are plenty of interesting longer words in the fill. My favorites: MOWGLI from The Jungle Book; TRAIL MIX; TERRARIA (I have fond childhood memories of having a terrarium); GOINGS-ON; SMITHIES that are [Forgers' workplaces]; and SKIRMISH.


Larry Shearer's LA Times crossword has one of those "word that can follow the first or last word each theme entry" themes, only HOUSE can follow both the first and second words of the four theme entries:

  • BIRDBATH, [Where some fliers splash?]: birdhouse, bathhouse
  • POWER PLAY, [Hockey penalty consequence]: powerhouse, playhouse
  • TREE FARM, [Nursery supplier]: treehouse, farmhouse
  • FIRELIGHT, [Hearth glow]: firehouse, lighthouse
Often such themes include resulting combos that are a mix of compound words and two-word phrases. It's cool that all of these houses are in my dictionary as single words.

Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's CrosSynergy crossword, "A Long Walk," features a Steven Wright quip: WHAT HAPPENS IF / YOU PUT A SLINKY / ON AN ESCALATOR? My son got his first real Slinky for his birthday this spring, so he likes this Steven Wright concept.