Monday, July 23, 2007

It's not always black and white

A lot of the crossword constructor's guidelines I've seen says something along the lines of "Avoid stale, overdone themes, such as colors, et cetera." Pete Mitchell's "Nonconformity" is about colors, but it's neither trite not overdone. More like proof that all you need to take a theme from trite to exciting is just a little tweak.

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 puzzles check this out. Or if you're ready to decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here. This is a great way to get people who are still a little green (so to speak) at crosswords used to themes that "break" the rules of crosswords. It's not too hard for a Wednesday so it won't have anybody seeing red.

Here's how it works: Four unclued symmetrically-placed words won't fit in the grid (i.e. inside the lines). All four words happen to be the names of colors. The reason why I think this puzzle is not too hard is because you get a great clue at 37A: How some color (and a hint to solving this puzzle) OUTSIDE THE LINES -- how some color? It's got to be "outside the lines"; I got that answer with no letters in place to help me. The intersecting entries are likewise helpful. I've watched enough television so that 1A: Mrs. Howell, to Thurston (LOVEY) and 14A: When "SNL" wraps (ONE AM) were no trouble at all. 2D: First name in gossip has got to be RONA (even though Ms. Barrett now deals in lavender not innuendo) and what else could 5D: Member of the Amazin's be but NY MET. Now that I know my first guess -- MOM -- for 1D: House rule maker, perhaps can't be right it must be BLOC and I've got three letters now that won't fit. Where could they go? 37A told me where they go, and once I had BROWN in place, and knowing crossworder's obsession with symmetry, I could skip around to the four corners and work my way inward which is what I did.

For the record, the four colors are (counterclockwise from 1A) BROWN, PURPLE, GREEN (My favorite color, a fact which I suspect will come as a shock to absolutely no one) and (for the second day in a row) ORANGE, which gives me the opportunity to reiterate my recommendation for Amy Reynaldo's "How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle" Whatever level of a solver you are, you can pick up some useful tips here. This book definitely gets the Green Genius Seal of Approval.

Other entries of interest:

7D: Result of a promotion, maybe (QUEEN) This is a chess reference, where is you can get one of your pawns to your opponent's back row, you can turn that pawn into any other piece you like, including the most powerful piece, the queen.

30D: Winning manager of the 2005 World Series (GUILLLEN) That's Ozzie Guillen of the Chicago White Sox, who are not playing like champions this years, but then neither are the 2006 World Series champions Saint Louis Cardinals.

68A: Hoppy happy hour drinks (ALES) My favorite clue in the grid. Despite the kangaroo mental imagery, it refers to the hops that give beer and ale bitterness and flavor.

51A: Lumberjill's tool (AXE) I guess a lumberjill could be a female lumberjack, but the few times I've heard the word it referred to a butch lesbian.

28A: Do stuff? (GEL) That's hairdo, of course.

That's all for today. See you on Thursday.


Howard B said...

The top-left of this puzzle just left me dazed and confused, even after I finally figured out what was going on. Since I hadn't a clue about LOVEY (not a big Gilligan's Island fan, although the theme song tends to stick in your head), that prevented the V in oVERSKIRT, which is another word I hadn't heard. BLOC didn't help either; never would have guessed that one. Finally dragged the solution out after a ton of guessing. On paper it would have been a blank void.

I swear I could actually see those little cartoon stars spinning around my head at one point. That said, these are my favorite kind of themes - clever, rule-bending, and still fun and accessible.

Orange said...

Green and orange should be complementary colors...but they're not.