July 06, 2008

Monday, 7/7

Jonesin' 4:00
CS 3:47
NYS 3:19
NYT 3:06
LAT 2:58

Today's achievements in the world of sports: My kid passed the swim test to gain access to the deep end of the swimming pool, and Rafael Nadal won his first Wimbledon title against five-time champ Roger Federer. I am proud of both young men's accomplishments.

Grr! I don't like being edged out by more than a minute on a Monday NYT puzzle, and two people (so far!) trounced me that convincingly on Bob Klahn's New York Times crossword. And I can't even drum up a lame excuse—{sigh}. The five theme entries split some motes across two or more words. There's an ATOM in MARISA TOMEI, for example, and a HINT in STITCH IN TIME. Would you believe that a friend of mine once taught [1986 world champion figure skater] DEBI THOMAS how to perform a pelvic exam? (Thomas went to med school in Chicago.) Favorite fill and clues: NOOGIE, or [Playful knuckle-rub]; [On the ball or on the dot] for two meanings of SHARP; SOU, or a [Trivial amount] not included in the theme; and [It'll bring a tear to your eye] for a tear DUCT. OSTINATO, or [Recurring melodic phrase], seems a little fancy for a Monday puzzle, but the crossings are easy enough provided you know Marisa Tomei and frequent crossword town ST. LO. Anyone else fill in the wrong ending for the [Pavarotti performance]? It's TENOR SOLO, but I started with TENOR ARIA.

The New York Sun is back after the holiday weekend with a crossword by Edward Alch. "Tongue-Tied" laps at the taste buds, with the 14-letter TASTE SENSATION centered in a 15x16 grid and accompanied by four phrases beginning with the four primary tastes. There's my personal favorite, SWEET SPOT, along with SOUR GRAPES, BITTER PILL, and SALTY DOGS. ARIEL had a sort of clue I've never seen before for that word—[Mexico's Oscar]. Here are this year's Ariel winners from the Mexican Motion Picture Academy.


Here's why I'm pleased that the Jonesin' puzzle is now available at the beginning of the week (and in Across Lite!): Because every so often, Matt Jones is in the mood to make a themeless puzzle, and it's such a treat to get such a crossword before Thursday. This one, called "A Little Bit of Everything," was on the easy side for me, but maybe it's easy only if you're into pop culture. If you've never seen the abbreviation NKOTB (for New Kids on the Block), or if you don't know any song titles from the utterly discredited Milli Vanilli, or if you don't know the Oasis brothers are Liam and NOEL Gallagher, okay, perhaps it's a tough puzzle. I like Matt's inclusion of the lowbrow, best exemplified by mall eatery SBARRO, and the colloquial, as in "HELL, YEAH" ([Overly enthusiastic response]). The geography slowed me down—the 9-letter answer clued as a [Resident of 43-down] sent me to a 7-letter [City on the Arabian Sea]. I needed plenty of crossings for both to end up with KARACHI and PAKISTANI. Speaking of Pakistan, if you've heard journalist Ahmed Rashid on Terry Gross's "Fresh Air" program, don't miss the Saturday profile of Rashid in the NYT.

The LA Times crossword by Timothy Meaker has four dramatic ways to end sporting events, but tennis doesn't figure into it. There's a [Dramatic basketball game ender], the BUZZER BEATER; a [Dramatic hockey game ender], OVERTIME GOAL; a [Dramatic football game ender], the HAIL MARY PASS; and a [Dramatic baseball game ender], WALK-OFF HOMER. What's a walk-off homer? I didn't know. Wikipedia tells me it's called that because the team can walk off the field, victorious, right after that run. Lively theme, no? The word in the center of the grid, VALSE, is sandwiched between two theme entries, dramatically limiting the constructor's flexibility for filling that spot. VALSE, or a [France dance], seems rather out-there for a Monday puzzle, and the S is tough to get from the crossing—the [Federal agency support org.] is the GSA, or General Services Administration. The crossings were easier for the SUN BEAR or honey bear of Southeast Asia, clued as an [Ursine critter with an orange-yellow marking on its chest].

Edited to add: Heh. Jim Hyres had the same idea five years ago—his 9/22/03 Sun puzzle had the exact same sports theme entries. Great minds, etc.

Lynn Lempel's CrosSynergy crossword, "Keep Cool," adds an AC somewhere within each theme entry. 'Tis the season—we recently had another added-AC puzzle. The [Christmas card design] SANTA FACE is Santa Fe with an AC inserted. [Airline's kudos for not losing suitcases] is BAGGAGE ACCLAIM. TEN-ACCENT STORE is a [Multicultural place to shop]. And the [Brew for the king and queen?] is PALACE ALE. Arguably the most obscure word in the fill is PITSAW, or [Two-person log cutter]; one lumberjack type stands in a pit below the log, working with another sawyer up top to cut the log. Nice touch to have HOSNI Mubarak, Egypt's president, crossing Egypt's LAKE NASSER, named after one of his predecessors.