July 03, 2008

Friday, 7/4

CHE 4:23
LAT 4:21
NYT 3:42
CS 3:32

WSJ and NYS: not published on July 4

Happy Independence Day! Suddenly I'm in the mood for a summer blockbuster featuring angry invading aliens and a rousing speech from Bill Pullman.

The Friday New York Times crossword isn't themeless like most Friday puzzles. Instead, it's got a holiday theme, and it's too bad that the 4th of July didn't fall on a Wednesday this year because we've got yet another Wednesdayish crossword! John Underwood waves the STARS AND STRIPES ([Title subject of a 28-Across work]) in a tribute to JOHN PHILIP SOUSA ([Subject of this puzzle]), who was called THE MARCH KING ([Sobriquet for 28-Across]) and also composed AMERICA FIRST ([1916 work by 28-Across]). The middle Across answer is the same as two Down answers in the northeast and southwest corners, the "start, middle, and end of a patriotic cheer": USA! USA! USA! Assorted other answers include the word America in their clues, but there's also "NOT U.S." Okay, so really, that one's NOT US, as in ["We didn't do it!"].

As a reminder, the NY Sun doesn't publish on holidays, so there's no Friday Sun crossword this week.


I've got an 11:30 birthday party to attend, so I must be quick with the puzzle business this morning.

The Wall Street Journal puzzle wasn't posted when I checked. Maybe it'll be there this afternoon. Thanks to Lloyd Mazer for litzing the WSJ puzzle—converting it into Across Lite for consumption by non-WSJ subscribers—each and every week. Mike Shenk's a top-notch crossword editor and he publishes the work of top-flight constructors, but I'd never see these puzzles if Lloyd weren't making it so easy to access them.

Jack McInturff's Los Angeles Times crossword has a bit of a gimmick to it, and it's my sense that we've seen very few gimmick puzzles in the LA Times. More, please! The theme is tied together by the ELBOW in the center of the bottom row, and the four theme entries (circled in my grid for illustrative purposes—click the image to enlarge it) make an elbow bend. These turning entries are placed in symmetrical locations, which is more elegant than the alternative. The first word of each can follow elbow, too:

  • [Marx Brothers comedy] is ROOM SERVICE (elbow room). It looks like ROOMS crossing SERVICE in the grid.
  • [Actor's cover-up] is GREASEPAINT (elbow grease). We see GREA crossing ASEPAINT.
  • [Part of an ownership team] is a JOINT TENANT (elbow joint). The nonsensical JOINTTE crosses ENANT.
  • [Commuter, at times] is a STRAPHANGER (elbow strap). STRAPHAN crosses NGER in the grid.

Highlights in the fill include the [1991 Madonna hit] "RESCUE ME," Scrabbly ZAGREB ([Capital south of Vienna], in Croatia) and MARXIAN ([Like a classless society]), and WONDERFUL.

Patrick Berry's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "Five Fourths," is a trivia cavalcade of five notable events that took place on July 4 in various years. With just 72 answers in the grid, this puzzle meets the standards for a themeless crossword—it's got expanses of white space in every corner, featuring fill like THE COOLER, ALAN HALE (the Skipper on Gilligan's Island), and other 7- to 9-letter answers.

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy crossword, "Mirthful Memories," is a tribute to the late HARVEY KORMAN, who lit up my childhood one evening a week on The CAROL BURNETT Show. I saw BLAZING SADDLES when I was a kid, too. Who doesn't love bean-related low humor? THE FLINTSTONES is in the grid too—[Show for which 48-Across voiced the Great Gazoo]. I have zero recollection of a Great Gazoo on The Flintstones.