Monday, July 02, 2007

The third of July 2007

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're ready to decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

In the back of my mind is what looks to me like a long-range goal but is probably more of a pipe dream. But I've thought I should try my hand at puzzle contructing some day. A lot of puzzles make me think "I could have done that." Then one like this one comes along and I think "Never in a million years would I have been able to come up with something half so clever. How many times have I seen the phrase HOT SHOTS (17A: Whizzes) and not been able to mentally move that first S westward and see HOTS HOTS. Same deal with SHOWS HOW (65A: Demonstrates the way ) which could just as easily be SHOW SHOW. And those are the easy ones.

4X4 is by Kelsey Blakeley, and each themed entry has a series of four letters repeated in succession. Besides the two I just mentioned there are:

20A: "Can you hear me?" [tap,tap] (IS THIS THING ON.) Great answer. Besides the repeated ISTH quartet, it's just such a great visual of a comedian laying an egg.

27A: They're often used to make pasta sauce (ROMA TOMATOES)

38A: John Donne line (NO MAN IS AN ISLAND) Which is not to say that Man is not an island, because right there in the Irish Sea is the Isle of Man. Its ruler is Queen Elizabeth the Second, who is not a man (or an island), but one of her many titles is "Lord of Man"

Sorry, sometimes when I start riffing on some of these crossword answers I flash back to one of the TV shows I loved the most growing up -- Tom Chapin's free-association bonanza "Make a Wish." I never missed that show. Back then nothing was more important on Sunday than "Make a Wish" and Casey Kasem's countdown.

By the way The Isle of Man has one of the coolest flags ever --a stylized wheel composed of three legs with stars on their heels.

Did you ever wish you were a flag? Think of it. Imagine all the possibilities and make a wish.

46A: Creator of Winston Smith (GEORGE ORWELL) Well, well, George Orwell. Winston Smith is the protagonist of the book Nineteen Eighty-Four. I had just been reading an article that puts that book on the list of books most illustrative of their times.

57A: 1989 Rod Stewart hit (DOWNTOWN TRAIN) All Rod the Mod did was pretty the song up and make it pop. It's a Tom Waits song.

A very literary puzzle, it seems to me. In addition to Orwell, Dunne and Waits, we also have 70A: Essay page (OP-ED) 50D: Items in mailboxes (LTRS) 1A: Course for aliens: Abbr (ESL) , 47D: Nephew of King Arthur (GAWAIN) 31D: "Coffee, ____ Me?" (book subtitled "The uninhibited Memoirs of Two Airline Stewardesses") and 4A: "Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th" coauthor Gingrich (NEWT) a fictionalized look at the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack -- you might say it was presented through the eye of Newt.

By the way, "Coffee, Tea or Me" was some red-hot reading when I was in elementary and middle school. I'm sure it wouldn't raise an eyebrow now. I lustily devoured all three sequels to this work as well -- "The Coffee Tea or Me Girls’ Round-the-World Diary" "The Coffee Tea or Me Girls Lay It on the Line" and "The Coffee Tea or Me Girls Get Away From it All." Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones were the type of sex-loving free-spirited girls that were all too rare in the 8th grade class at Pender Academy in Burgaw, North Carolina. What a disappointment to me when years later I learned that those books were actually written by a man named Donald Bain. Mister Bain, by the way, after ghost-writing dozens of books, now gets to sign his own name to the "Murder, She Wrote" series of novels. Never one to let go of a good pun, Mr. Bain titled one of them "Coffee, Tea or Murder?"

That's all for today. The Sun will not be published tomorrow in observation of Independence Day, so no puzzle until Thursday.

I will be on vacation next week under semi-primitive conditions (indoor plumbing but no internet). Like Trudy and Rachel I'll be getting away from it all. At first I had hoped that with the holiday I could get far enough ahead that all I would need was somebody to post each day's commentary for me, but the Sun only posted one week's worth of puzzle this time. So, if you are interested in guest blogging for a day or two next week, please get in touch with me by e-mail. If you've never done much crossword blogging or blogging of any kind I'll be happy to give you a crash course. It's not hard and it is a lot of fun. If I can't get enough guest bloggers I guess the Green Genius will go dark for one week.

As you can see I am already in vacation mode. That's why you get a screen shot today and not my usual hand-done puzzle -- I spilt Samuel Adams Summer Ale on it.

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