Thursday, June 07, 2007

Weekend Warrior 6-8-07

Now that its been brought to my attention that the "themeless" Thursday and Friday Sun puzzles actually do sometimes have a mini-theme, I'm looking for one in today's puzzle by Patrick Berry. I'll share what I found right after this SPOILER WARNING: Don't read any further until you've done today's New York Sun Crossword Puzzle. New York Sun puzzles are every bit as fun and challenging as the more well-known New York Times and they're indisputably better in one way -- they're free. If you'd like to read about an unbiased head-to-head competition between the Sun and the Times check this out. Or if you'd rather decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

I found a bunch of mini-themes -- well, I guess some were more like micro-themes -- starting with homophones -- 9D: "Go!" (SCAT) and 35D: Game in which the lowest card is a seven (SKAT); and moving on to rhymes -- 54D: Modern address ending )NET) 51D: adjoined (MET) and 23D: Be a wheelman for (ABET); and then names (of writers) that look like they should rhyme but don't -- 13D: Author of "A Life on the Road" (KURALT) and17A: French author Charles who wrote fairy tales (PERRAULT).

What about grandmothers? -- 37D: Adviser on child-rearing, maybe (NANA) and 12D: Grandma Ida's portrayer on "Malcolm in the Middle" (CLORIS) (a role for which Miss Leachman won two Emmys.) -- or exotic actresses with three letter names -- 43A: "Wayne's World" co-star of Mike and Dana (TIA) and 6A: "Ally McBeal" actress (LIU) and I can just hear Rex Parker howling now. He is a crusader for the "stop-referencing-Ally McBeal" movement, a movement I can't say I support since I watched "Ally" and can usually remember enough about it to get these clues. Lucy Liu is better known for "Charlie's Angels" and "Kill Bill."

Card games is a pretty obvious one: 32A: Trick-taking game (HEARTS) and 14D: (SPADES) (same clue) along with the aforementioned SKAT, but what if Hearts and Spades were suits instead of games, would that work? Well, Lady LOU (10D; iconic Mae West role) was originally named Diamond Lil in a play by the same name, but both were changed when they filmed it, Lil to Lou, and "Diamond Lil" to "She Done Him Wrong". Among Mae's memorable lines in that movie were:
"Diamonds is my career."

and "It was a toss up between whether I go in for diamonds or sing in the choir. The choir lost."

So that only leaves clubs. And that's where it came to a halt. If the DARLA of 4D referred to the "Little Rascals" instead of "Finding Nemo" I might be able to convince myself that Spanky and the gang was a club, but as it is, I'll have to settle for incomplete micro-theme.

My favorite mini-theme is this one: OLYMPUS (38D: Fuji alternative) was the TOPMOST (39D: Culminating) mountain in GREECE (25D: Truman Doctrine beneficiary) and mythological home of the TEMPLE (31A: The rite place?)of the gods, such as POSEIDON (52A: 2006 remake of a 1972 film.) I think that definitely qualifies. Poseidon might also work with 46D: He played Austin Powers's father in "Goldmember" (CAINE) if we do ill-fated ships as in "The Caine Mutiny".

It occurred to me I might be stretching things past the breaking point when I thought maybe there was a connection between 15A: Field for upwardly-mobile types? (AVIATION) and 11D: It's not seen in musical performances (AIR GUITAR), but after exhausting all the connected entries there's not that much to talk about.

My old friend Mata HARI shows up at 24A. She's clued as "1917 Paris arrest report name" and I can't argue with that, so no "she was framed" rant this time.

23A: Mach3 predecessor (ATRA) You know crossword constructors hate to see some things -- like Atra razors and SSTs and lira --
go the way of the dodo. Maybe they should look for new ways to clue such entries.

Have a great weekend!


Orange said...

The technical definition of a mini-theme is basically two symmetrically placed long answers that relate to one another in an otherwise themeless crossword.

I haven't seen a word to describe those apt pairings and groupings of shorter answers that sometimes leap out at us. (Oftentimes the constructor hasn't even noticed the subliminal vibe he or she is putting out there...but sometimes the constructor does it intentionally.) I hadn't noticed the Greek grouping—the movie and Minolta clues helped obscure that family of answers.

Norrin2 said...

If there's not a term for apt groups and pairings I suggest we call them micro-themes.

Linda G said...

I don't always get around to doing the Sun puzzle, but I always read your blog anyway.

I think it's good that you're holding the constructors accountable for properly cluing Mata Hari. It seems to be paying off : )

BTW, you posted at 12:34. For the past 25 or so years, we've considered that a special sequence. Whenever we see it, Don and I say "I love you." Sometimes we'll call each other and leave a message that it's 1-2-3-4. Silly stuff that keeps marriage fun : )

Norrin2 said...

Linda, anything that keeps the romance alive is not silly in my book. My wife and I will celebrate our 14th anniversary in August and we're still crazy about each other, but it's sometimes hard to stay connected to that feeling when you're surrounded by dirty dishes and moody teens and lawns that need mowing, et cetera.