August 09, 2008

Sunday, 8/10

PI 8:35
BG 7:15
LAT 6:58
NYT 6:39
CS 3:50

second Sunday puzzle, a Patrick Blindauer diagramless—untimed

(post updated at 11 Sunday morning)

Will Nediger's New York Times crossword has an "Inside Jokes" theme, but the inside jokes don't happen to be funny. Rather, embedded within each theme entry are some consecutive circled letters that spell out words roughly synonymous with "joke." (In the applet, the bottom theme entry, 109-Across, is missing its circles where PUN appears.) This sort of theme lacks any sort of trick to figuring out the theme entries, which are clued straightforwardly. Five of the theme entries split the circled word among two words, while the other three hide the "inside jokes" within a single word.

  • [21] is the LEGAL DRINKING AGE in the U.S.
  • [Way out] is an ESCAPE ROUTE.
  • [Conductors' aids] are MUSIC RACKS.
  • [Number one] is the TOP RANKING.
  • ["Sire"] is what you might call YOUR MAJESTY if he's not a queen.
  • [Ignore, as a problem] is SWEEP UNDER THE RUG.
  • [High-school gym feature] is an EQUIPMENT LOCKER.
  • [Declaration of August 14, 1941] was the ATLANTIC CHARTER.
This puzzle, perhaps owing to the literalness of the theme clues, is one of the easiest Sunday Times puzzles I've ever done. (Stella Daily and Howard Barkin have clocked in faster than 6 minutes on this one; yup, it's easy.) Spots that might be a bit more troublesome than others include:
  • [Big name in baked beans] for VAN CAMP.
  • [Earsplitting] for OVERLOUD. Not a word we see much of.
  • [Cicero or Publius] for Roman SENATOR, and [Vespasian's successor] for TITUS.
  • [Butterfly relative] is a swimming clue, and it's the CRAWL.
  • [Cereal killer] is the fungus ERGOT. I once worked for a corporation whose CEO was called the Cereal Killer after what he did at General Mills.
  • [Curl performer] is BICEP. Sure, plenty of people call the muscle a "bicep," but the proper singular term is biceps.
  • [Athos's arm] is a MUSKET, and Athos is a Musketeer.
  • [Chopsticks eschewers, informally] are FORKERS. Have you ever heard this? I haven't.
  • [Black-and-white broadcast?] is an APB sent out to black-and-white patrol cars.
  • I love the word KERF but have no use for it. It's the [Cut made by a saw].
  • "No" is used as a verb in [People who no what they like?], the clue for PURITANS. It's not a verb.
  • [Styled] is DID UP, as in a hairdo.
  • I like TSURIS, or [Woes, to a Yiddish speaker]. I mean, I don't like it, but it's a great word.
  • Sometimes QUINCES are [Marmalade ingredients]. Not for orange marmalade. Apparently there is such a thing as quince marmalade? Wikipedia says the word marmalade derives from the Portuguese word for "quince" and originally referred to quince jam.
  • [Pet cat, in British lingo] is MOG. This one's new to me.
  • Right on the heels of the [Soda shop order], a FRAPPE, [Single malt, for instance] made me think of chocolate malts rather than WHISKEY.
  • ["Great" guy] is GATSBY, from one of Joon's many favorite books.


First up, my favorite puzzle today, Patrick Blindauer's New York Times diagramless crossword. If you haven't done it but enjoy a good diagramless, go get it. Why do I like this puzzle? The completed grid makes a cute picture, but it's not too tough to figure out because it's still got left/right symmetry. The theme is quite accessible. There are 8- and 9-letter Down answers that make it easier to keep figuring out where the Across answers fit. And the bottom of the grid is packed with 6-letter answers. I'll hide the specifics in white text because I want more of you to solve this puzzle more or less spoiler-free: The theme is E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, with STEVEN SPIELBERG, DREW BARRYMORE, "E.T. PHONE HOME," and REESE'S / PIECES in the grid. The completed grid forms a portrait of E.T., too, and it's hard to draw recognizable pictures using the black squares in a crossword grid. There are 13 or so people's names in the grid, which makes it easier for me but not, I hear, for everyone. IRA and SHORE could have been clued as non-people nouns. And did I mention the cuteness factor of the E.T. picture? Love it!

Mel Rosen's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" has only 62 answers, 44 of them being 7-letter words or phrases. There are eight 6-letter entries, ten 3-letter words, and no 4- or 5-letter words. Those chunky corners dense with interlocked 7's surely are tough to construct, so there's little space for Scrabbly letters to take hold. That's not to say the grid lacks liveliness—I am fond of the SOS PADS ([Kitchen cleaners]) and HOBBITS ([Tolkien creatures])—but the fill is mostly common words. Hey! You know what that means? Mel didn't turn to obscurities in desperation to fill the grid. I needed the crossings for ALCESTE, the [Gluck opera of 1767], but the other names in the grid include Nelson MANDELA, ORESTES, PADUCAH, Kentucky, ANATOLE France, and the BO'S Derek and Diddley. The least familiar words in the grid are perhaps BIREMES ([Some galleys], as in boats), TISANE ([Herbal brew]), and HALYARD ([Sail hoister]), and those are not akin to, say, the Bolivian river in Friday's USA Today puzzle or the Indian food it crossed (mind you, I like Indian food, but sure as heck didn't recognize what that crossword wanted). Returning focus to the CrosSynergy puzzle, the [Sullivan Award org.] is the AAU, which I also needed crossings for; that's the Amateur Athletic Union. Most of the puzzle, though, is filled with quite ordinary and accessible language, like POP STAR and ENDURED, DUSTMOP and OYSTERS. With more oblique clues, it could've been a lot harder, but the clues were mostly pretty straightforward.

Joy Frank's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday puzzle, "Emergency Room Arrivals," adds an ER to each theme entry to alter it:
  • [Bird dog that takes off with the bird?] is a POINTER OF NO RETURN.
  • A theater-financing [Angel on the lam?] is a RUNNING BACKER.
  • [Award to one working with a pitcher?] is CATCHER OF THE DAY.
  • [Dog of Greek mythology?] is PANDORA'S BOXER.
  • [Pol's home away from home?] is a CAMPAIGN TRAILER.
  • [One photographing tropical grass?] is a BAMBOO SHOOTER.
  • A [British territorial pop star?] is a ROCKER OF GIBRALTAR.
For me, only one answer was a mystery requiring many crossings—BOW OAR, or [Front rower]. Perhaps this term will be bandied about in coverage of Olympic rowing events. I don't recall seeing XWORD in a crossword before; it's clued as [Brief puzzle?], and there are a couple of crossword blogs that use the shortened term in their titles.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's Boston Globe rerun looks like it may have originally been printed on Father's Day, as the "Dad's Day" theme includes 10 phrases with the DAD string of letters used as something other than "father." The Himalayan peak NANDA DEVI, for example. CANADA DRY ginger ale. The song "DA DOO RON RON." SKEDADDLING and DADE County, a famous TRINIDADIAN, a RED ADMIRAL butterfly, SOUND ADVICE, the BAGHDAD HOTEL, and...a NADA DAIQUIRI with no liquor, or [Virgin cocktail]. That NADA phrase is new to me—local menus just call 'em virgin daiquiris.

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Minor Modifi-K-tions," changes a C to a CK in a dozen words to make fake words with new meanings. [Really tired of crime-lab shows?], for instance, is FORENSICK. [How birds think?] is DEDUCKTIVELY. [Thinker famous for slugging people who didn't agree with him?] is SOCKRATES. Me, I would've gone with the philosophy of hosiery angle. Lurking in the fill are some of the usual crossword suspects, along with some unfamiliar ones. [Ms. Hagen] is UTA and [Actress Balin] is INA. [Mr. Khachaturian] is ARAM and [Actor Morales] is ESAI. You should be familiar with all of these names, along with the [Nicholas Gage book] ELENI and ISAK, or [Writer Dinesen]. I didn't recognize [Silents star Markey], or ENID, and I don't know that I've ever seen the [Philip K. Dick book] UBIK in a bookstore or a crossword.