November 10, 2008

Tuesday, 11/11

LAT 3:12
Sun 3:02
NYT 2:53
CS 2:52

(updated at 9:15 Tuesday morning)

Nancy Salomon and Larry Shearer teamed up to make a New York Times crossword that goes off in a decidedly non-Tuesdayish direction—two directions, actually. In addition to the 15-letter theme entry at 7-Down, HEADING DUE SOUTH or [Going straight to Antarctica, say], there are two diagonal 15's spanning the grid. Heading southeast from the 1 square, we have SLIP-SLIDING AWAY to remind me of this Paul Simon song. Traveling southwest from the 12 square is RUNNING DOWNHILL. The fill consists of ordinary Tuesday-grade answers, which was probably hard to achieve given the extra "checking" of some answers. Both YOU I (completing [Fats Domino's "It's ___ Love"]) and IGGY ([Pop's ___ Pop]) cross four Down answers, one of which is a theme answer, as well as intersecting both of the diagonal theme answers. That middle section probably didn't have too many alternative fills, eh? The constructing duo even managed to work two 9-letter answers, the WINDY CITY and a HONEYMOON, into the grid.

Jack McInturff's Sun crossword, "Alter Natives," is in the running for an Oryx award for Best Repurposing of Crosswordese. (Remember the year-end American Crossword Critics Association awards Rex and I compiled last year? Professional namer (and constructor) Andrea Michaels suggested calling them the Oryx awards, combining the Orange and Rex alter egos.) The "alter native" in question is OTOE, an [Oklahoma Indian (and a three-word description of this puzzle's theme)]—in other words, change an O TO E in each theme entry:

  • "Pork barrel" becomes PERK BARREL, [Where execs' benefits are stored?].
  • "Missed the boat" becomes MISSED THE BEAT, or [Felt nostalgic about one's former patrol?].
  • The Boer War is remade into BEER WAR, a [Battle between Coors and Budweiser?].
  • A crowbar is changed into a CREW BAR, [Where a rowing team goes drinking?].
  • [Pail filled with boxing prizes?] is a BUCKET OF BELTS (bolts).
  • And an [Ingenious bit of foliage?] is a CLEVER LEAF (cloverleaf).

For today's LA Times crossword, editor Rich Norris, writing as "Lila Cherry," dug up four 14- or 15-letter phrases that contain the letters in VETERAN in order, spaced out by the other letters in the phrase. I've circled the those squares in my answer grid. Now, how on earth did Rich devise this list of theme entries? With the aid of a computer program, or just in his head?
  • [CIA specialty] is a COVERT OPERATION.
  • [Classic number from "The Wizard of Oz"] is OVER THE RAINBOW.
  • [TV host with a Top Ten list] is DAVID LETTERMAN.
  • Less familiar to me is the [1987 Luther Vandross #2 R&B album], GIVE ME THE REASON.
It's Veterans Day today, so this VETERANS ([This puzzle's honorees, one of which is spread out in each of the four longest answers]) puzzle is a timely tribute—and that unifying theme word crosses two of the theme entries. Highlights in the fill: HOME BREW is [Personal suds]; VEEJAY and DWEEBS reside near each other in the grid; MR. ROARKE was [Tattoo's boss on "Fantasy Island"]; OLEG Cassini and Calvin KLEIN are both fashion designers. I was confused as to why U2 lead singer BONO was clued [His epitaph reads "And the beat goes on"], so I Googled that. Ah! The late Sonny BONO, not the U2 guy. Overall, the fill's quite Scrabbly, with V's that aren't in the theme entries, J's, K's, and X's.

Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy puzzle is also a "Veterans Day Tribute." The theme answers are four famous men who served in the four branches of the service:
  • [Classic vocalist who served in the U.S. Army] is TONY BENNETT. Elvis's name is too long for this space, and he was more a rocker than a singer of the standards.
  • [Red Sox legend who served in the U.S. Marines] is TED WILLIAMS. Today, my son Ben and I are going to visit a neighbor who's a Marines vet. He's got a t-shirt that looks like and Old Navy t-shirt, only it says "Old Marines."
  • [Former president who served in the U.S. Navy] is JIMMY CARTER. JOHN KENNEDY, sans middle initial, also fits that clue.
  • [Action star who served in the U.S. Air Force] is CHUCK NORRIS. It was his service in South Korea that spurred his interest in martial arts.
The PENTAGON, or [United States Department of Defense headquarters], is a bonus entry related to the theme.