October 20, 2008

Tuesday, 10/21

Sun 4:18
CS 3:35
NYT 3:17
LAT 2:54

(updated at 9 a.m. Tuesday)

Randall Hartman's New York Times crossword feels a little more Wednesdayish than Tuesdayish, doesn't it? The five 15-letter theme answers (that's 75 theme squares, which is quite a lot) are the sort of phrases that seem better suited to clues than to crossword answers, as the theme gimmick resides in the clues and solvers need to piece together the answers bit by bit.

  • The first theme clue is [P]. Which P is this? A Greek rho? The abbreviation for "pressure"? The chemical symbol for phosphorus? No, it's the SIXTEENTH LETTER of the alphabet.
  • [PO] could be the red Teletubby or the abbreviation for "post office" or "per os" (meaning "by mouth" in a prescription order). It's also a RIVER OF LOMBARDY, but I don't think most Americans who've heard of the Po could peg it to the Lombardy region of Italy.
  • [POL] seems more straightforward, but what's the phrase that it's cluing? It's CAPITOL HILL TYPE. I'm glad I had the ending filled in from crossings first, because the TYPE part doesn't seem Tuesday-obvious.
  • [POLK] is a FORMER PRESIDENT. With SIXTEENTH LETTER above, I half expected to need to know which president he was. (The eleventh.)
  • [POLKA] could also be described in a few ways. It's OKTOBERFEST TUNE here.
The least exciting bits of fill—answers like ELOI, suffix ERO, AM SO, and [Jack of "The Great Dictator"] OAKIE—tend to intersect with two of the long theme answers or sit astride a theme answer, so they're there in the service of a higher good.

Lee Glickstein's Sun crossword, "A New Beginning," has a theme that sounds simple enough on its surface—four words get new prefixes to change their meaning—but made me think from start to finish. In each instance, the result of the prefix change is a two-word phrase rather than a single word. A [Music nut?] is a STEREO MANIAC; an obsessive person is a monomaniac, and back in the days of vinyl, records could be recorded in stereo or mono. [Inmate dream?] is a CON VISION. The opposite of con- is pro-, and provision is a single word. [Where to buy underwater vessels?] is the SUB MARKET. Sub- means below, while super- means above, and we've all been to the supermarket. Reversing the pre- in precautions gives us POST CAUTIONS, or [Put up warning signs?]. Cool theme—just bendy enough to give the noggin a workout, but straightforward enough for a Tuesday...or maybe a Wednesday.

My favorite clues:
  • [Paper money source] is AD SPACE, as in a money source for a newspaper, not a source of paper currency.
  • [Bill of Rights?] clues Bill O'REILLY of right-leaning Fox News.
  • If you [Followed your gut instinct?] when your stomach growled, you ATE something.
  • The verb [Squirrel] clues STASH. Would you believe a squirrel tried to bean me with a slab of garlic bread this morning? True story.
  • [Inner tube?] is your AORTA, among other anatomical tubing.


Neville Fogarty's LA Times crossword invites all the famous WHITE SUIT men to a party:
  • MARK TWAIN was, among other things, the ["Pudd'nhead Wilson" author], and he liked to wear a white suit.
  • COLONEL SANDERS occupies 29- and 50-Across. [With 50-Across, he started a fast-food franchise at age 65].
  • White-suited MR. ROARKE was the fictional ["Fantasy Island" host] played by Ricardo Montalban. The actor was born in Mexico and had an accent to match, and I never understood why they saddled him with an Irish name.
  • TOM WOLFE is the ["Bonfire of the Vanities" author].
I enjoyed this sartorial theme. Hovering around the theme entries are some unusual answers that don't appear much in Tuesday crosswords. ["The Sorcerer's Apprentice" composer] is Frenchman Paul DUKAS, not a household name. Then there's AZOIC [__ Era: old name for Earth's pre-life period]. Nautical terminology includes HAWSE, or [Anchor line's hole]. My favorite clue: [Athletic supporter?] for a TEE, as in the little doohickey that holds up a golf ball or a football.

I didn't recognize the constructor's name. Neville Fogarty is likely this young man who was on Jeopardy! in 2000 at age 11, and I think this puzzle is his constructing debut. Welcome!

Lynn Lempel's "Popinjays" puzzle for CrosSynergy pops in a J to alter four phrases:
  • [Twain taking notes for "Life on the Mississippi"?] is a RIVER JOTTER, which is river otter + J.
  • [Bourbon Street get-togethers?] are PRO JAMS, or pro-am tournaments + J.
  • [Feature of a bloodhound with measles?] is a SPOTTED JOWL, building on a spotted owl.
  • Baseball's "Kill the ump!" becomes KILL THE JUMP, or [Ruin a good checkers move?].
  • [Nerve-racking sound?] is an ACUTE JANGLE.
In the past, SAUNA has been clued similarly, and some have argued that a sauna is not a [Steamy bath]. Mostly it's hot and dry, yes, but when water's thrown on hot rocks, there's temporary steam. Either way, I don't like the heat. There were two squares that led me astray temporarily. [Blackball] could be BAN or BAR, and I opted for the former until NIVERJOTTER made no sense. [Hold tightly] could be CLAMP or CLASP, and again I chose wrong. The crossing [Roman sun god] is SOL, not MOL.