February 04, 2009

Thursday, 2/5

Sun 6:06—one of the year's best themeless puzzles
LAT 3:49
NYT 3:23

Dean Olsher, whose book From Square One: A Meditation, with Digressions, on Crosswords is due out this June, is from the same generation as President Obama—younger than the bulk of the Baby Boomers, older than the Gen Xers. Apparently the name for the '54–'65 cohort is Generation Jones, and Dean wants to gather a list of generational markers like "I couldn't care less about where you were when JFK was assassinated." Go add your own at Dean's blog.

Jim Horne's interviewing his fellow ACPT crossword-blogging panelists, beginning with Ryan Hecht and Brian Cimmet. Still to come: Michael Sharp and his alter ego, Rex Parker, and yours truly.

David Kahn's New York Times puzzle is an impressive piece of construction. There's a 15-letter entry running down the middle, intersected by five theme entries, and the two corners not involved in those six answers get two more theme entries. It's Black History Month (...in the shortest month of the year, as we all know) and next week is the 2009 NAACP IMAGE AWARDs ([Annual entertainment honor]) show. (It's a "multi-culture awards show, from an African-American point of view.") Seven past winners are featured here:

  • JAMIE FOXX is the [Actor who received a 7-Down (1998, 2002, 2005-06)]. Technically, I think he received at least four 7-Downs.
  • ALICIA KEYS also has a bunch of these awards at home. She's the [Singer/songwriter who received a 7-Down (2002, 2004-06, 2008)].
  • ASHANTI is a [Singer who received a 7-Down (2003)].
  • DELLA REESE is the [Singer/actress who received a 7-Down (1996–2002)], I'm guessing mostly for Touched by an Angel.
  • The late, great BERNIE MAC was a [Comedian who received a 7-Down (2003-06)].
  • FANTASIA, from American Idol a few years back, is a [Singer who received a 7-Down (2005)].
  • The inimitable SPIKE LEE is the [Director who received a 7-Down (2007)].
I love to see the crossword breaking out of its "entertainment for aging white people" box, and Kahn takes it there in style with 71 theme squares and a whopping eight theme entries. It might've been nice to have actual Thursday-grade clues to match the publication date, but what we have seems to have landed in the Tuesday-to-Wednesday range (at least for people who have paid any attention to pop culture over the last decade).

Miscellaneous clues and answers:
  • [Year St. Pius I died] is CLV. Everyone knows that one, right? No? Sometimes I wish the Roman numeral clues would just give themselves away. Who would really be troubled to see [155, in ancient Rome]?
  • I didn't remember (or perhaps know) that Ralph NADER was the [Subject of the 2007 documentary "An Unreasonable Man"].
  • [More red, maybe]: Is it RARER or RAWER, like steak, or RIPER, like a strawberry? I never know without the crossings. The berry won out this time.
  • [One with a long face?] is a MOOSE, as in the animal.
  • [One-dimensional: Abbr.] is LIN., short for linear. I'd have preferred Maya LIN, who designed the Vietnam veterans memorial in D.C.
  • [Drillers' org.?] is ROTC, as in drill sergeants. Sometimes a clue like this is about dentists and the ADA.
  • [Piece of equipment used in a national sport of Canada] is the CROSSE. From lacrosse, yes?
  • [Annoying types] are VEXERS. Plural form of a seldom-used -ER word? Meh. Inclusion of the root VEX? Hooray!
  • The [Boonies] are the STICKS. I do not live there.

My favorite themeless puzzle in a while is Will Nediger's Sun "Themeless Thursday." Swish! That was the sound of this puzzle landing in my 2009 Favorite Crosswords folder. Tons of fresh fill, aimed right at my pop-culture sweet spot. There are two clues that reference The Simpsons—Cletus the SLACK-JAWED YOKEL and D'OH, the [Cry a channel surfer might hear a few minutes after the final ticks of "60 Minutes"]. There's Mr. Big, a.k.a. JOHN, of Sex and the City (first name revealed only in the post-series movie, if I recall). ARISTOTLE is clued as "The Big ___," Shaq's nickname. There's idiomatic and colloquial language—"IT'S JUST ME" as a big improvement on more frequent crossword answers ITISI, ITSI, and ITSME, and ONE TOO MANY at the bar. BAKED ZITI evokes another Sun themeless from a few years ago in which Byron Walden paired the answer with baseball's BARRY ZITO; here the pasta/baseball combo uses MIKE PIAZZA. I got duped by [Sources of moving music] and entered IPODNANOS; the answer turned out to be CAR RADIOS so only two letters were right there. More pop-cult goodies: the WU-TANG CLAN and a TEENAGE WEREWOLF.

If you never got around to subscribing to the Sun crosswords for October '08 through February '09 but you love great crosswords...then I don't know what to do with you. (Picture me shaking my head sadly here.) The run of puzzles ends this month because editor Peter Gordon only had 600 subscribers, and he'd need a good 1,000 or 2,000 to continue as a viable enterprise. (And by "viable" I mean: one that brings in enough money to fairly compensate some of the best constructors in the business and their able editor.) Peter says "I will start up again if I can get enough people to pledge to pay 20 cents per puzzle (for example, that's $50 per year if I publish Monday to Friday and skip holidays, or $31.20 per year if I decide to do three days a week)." When Peter adds a link at suncrossword.com for joining the hopeful waiting list, I'll share it here (and exhort you all to sign up).


When I woke up today I thought it was Friday. I'm only now realizing it's only Thursday. (Damn!)

Jim Horne's interview with Michael Sharp is up now.

Jack McInturff's LA Times crossword gets UP in your business, inserting UP into the middle of compound words or phrases to alter the meaning. In each case, the UP affixes itself to the first word:
  • SLIP-UP COVER is clued as [Shredding evidence of one's mistake?].
  • STICK-UP SHIFT is the [Work period most prone to robberies]. Bank tellers hate working that shift.
  • MIXED-UP BLESSING is [Grace that starts with amen?].
  • ROUND-UP ROBIN is a [Bird that helps cattlemen?]. And wouldn't that be a nice bit of symbiosis? Well, it would be if robins got something out of driving cattle. The cattlemen will need to provide worms. Lots and lots of worms.
  • CHECK-UP MARK is a [Physical exam rating?].
McInturff fills the grid with a lot of 6- and 7-letter answers. A [Malicious rumor] is a CANARD; more specifically, a canard is an untrue rumor. To [Court] someone is to ROMANCE them. An [Extra number] performed at the end of a concert is the ENCORE. The [1998 All-Star Gam MVP] is ALOMAR. Sandy or Roberto? It's Roberto ALOMAR. In the category of shorter fill, ORONO's clue gets more geographic specificity than usual: [College town on Maine's Stillwater River]. [Whisperer's target] is someone's EAR. And [I follower?] clues HOP, as in IHOP pancake restaurants. Corn cake pancakes, R.I.P.