Okay, here's something I bet you won't see in the New York Times crossword puzzle with its famous Sunday-morning-breakfast-table test. The first two clues in Karen M. Tracey's Weekend Warrior puzzle are 1A: Stiff and 6A: Cocks, e.g.
Stiff cocks, c'mon, that can't be an oversight.
SPOILER WARNING (now with 50 per cent more rant!): 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 -- No, you know what, they're better. That's right, I said it, the New York Sun's puzzles are better than the New York Times's puzzles, and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be Peter Gordon and to keep putting out this superior product and have everybody just blog, blog, blogging and yak, yak, yakking about the Times, Times, Times. Look, if you don't have time for two great puzzles a day, do the better one, do the SUN -- (we now return you to your regularly scheduled spoiler warning) -- 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. For an unsolicited testimonial from someone who agrees with me, see here. Or if you're ready to decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.
I'm about to unveil the Raymond Chandler method for getting unstuck during late-in-the-week crossword puzzles. Raymond Chandler, the great hardboiled mystery writer, creator of Philip Marlowe, said that whenever he got writer's block he just had two guys come in the door with guns. I propose that if you get stuck on a Friuday puzzle, throw in a high-value Scrabble letter like a Z, Q, J, V, K or X. It would have served you well in this puzzle.
24A: He lost out to Philip Seymour Hoffman for Best Actor of 2005 (JOAQUIN PHOENIX)
47A: It split apart on January 1st, 1993 (CZECHOSLAVAKIA) I hadn't internalized the Raymond Chandler rule yet and I wanted this to be THE SOVIET UNION.
Other entries of interest:
10A: "The Alphabet Suite" artist (ERTE) I know as much about "The Alphabet Suite" as I do the dissolution of Czechoslavakia. I had the initial E and thought it might be the ubiqitous ENYA.
16A: "___ on First" (1981 biography of a comedian) Lou Costello was famous (with his partner Bud Abbott) for the baseball routine "Who's on First."
18A: Beauty expert Berg (RONA) If it was any day other than Friday, this would probably refer to former gossip queen (and most famous Rona) Rona Barrett.
39A: GUI piece? (USER) GUI stands for Graphical User Interface.
51A: Unfair criticism (LOW BLOW) In keeping with the "stiff cocks" subtheme, I'll tell you that a popular comedic routine when I was a lad was to insult a friend then say, "I'm sorry, that was a low blow. Speaking of low blows, how's your father? Oh, I'm sorry, that was a dirty crack. Speaking of dirty cracks, how's your mother?"
59A: One of the "three little people" whose problems "don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world." (ILSA) We know it's only four letters, so it can't be Victor Laszlo, it must be either Rick Blaine or Ilsa Lund.
63A: Second word of "Candle in the Wind" (NORMA) "Goodbye, Norma Jean." Norma Jean Baker was the name Marilyn Monroe was born with. (Unless it's the reworked Princess Diana version of the song, then it would be ENGLAND'S as in "Goodbye, England's rose.")
2D: Driving instruction? (HOME JAMES) I was looking for a trick here, maybe having to do with golf, but no, this is what I tell my chauffeur to do when we leave the opera house. If you don't have a chauffeur, go to HomeJames.com,when you've had too much to drink or when you're just trying to impress somebody, and you can arrange for a chauffeur to come wherever you are on a collapsible scooter. He'll put his scooter in the trunk of your car and drive your drunk ass home in style. The only catch is you have to live in LA.
21D: Bunny bits (DUST) In Britain what we call "dust bunnies" they call "beggar's velvet."
36D: Hector portrayer in "Troy" (ERIC BANA) Didn't see it, knew Brad Pitt was in it, had just enough letters to know it couldn't be Brad Pitt.
30D: Acts like Chicken Little (CRIES WOLF) I guess what she did could be termed "crying wolf", but the boy who cried wolf was just bored and Chicken Little really did believe the sky was falling. I wanted OVERREACTS, which wouldn't quite fit,
Other proper names in this puzzle besides the aforementioned Joaquin Phoenix, Norma, James, Eric Bana, Ilsa, Erte, Lou and Rona include NORA DUNN, ANN MILLER, ARIE Selinger, VERN Buchanan, AENEAS, and stretching things just a tiny bit -- ARAMIS (45A: Estee Lauder fragrance for men) and CHAD (1D: Bit of an election controversy?)
That's all I've got. Enjoy your Friday.