THEME: No theme today—Just a themeless Saturday puzzle
Hello! It is I, Orange, the sole member of the L.A. Crossword Confidential blogging team who has not gone to Queens for tomorrow's Lollapuzzoola 2 tournament. I was one of the test solvers, though, and the puzzles were a hoot, so I know that PuzzleGirl and Rex are in for a good time. The event's organizers, Brian Cimmet and Ryan Hecht, are themselves engaging hoots too. Maybe next year I'll lug the family to New York in August so I can make it to Lollapuzzoola 3.
I do like a themeless puzzle to be clued harder than this one is, but I thought Peter Wentz's fill felt rather like a Karen Tracey crossword—and she's one of my favorite themeless constructors. It's the combination of Scrabbly letters (eight Ks, four Js, one Z), people's names, and lively language.
Let's tackle our Crosswordese 101 lesson before moving on to today's zippiest fill.
Crosswordese 101: Let's see...ERLE and OLLA have already been covered, so let's go with presidential monograms. The only U.S. presidents widely referred to by initials are JFK, FDR, and LBJ (59A: War on Poverty monogram), but other presidents and presidental candidates get initialized in crosswords: namely DDE, or Dwight David Eisenhower, who beat AES, or Adlai Estes Stevenson. LBJ isn't today's crosswordese selection—nope, it's his successor, RMN, or Richard Milhous Nixon (34D: 1960 debate monogram). Does anyone refer to him as RMN outside crosswords? Not so much.
What are the zingiest names in the grid? These ones:
- 14A: Role in the film "W." (JEB BUSH). Kinda unexpected to have a pop culture clue for a recent ex-governor.
- 29A: "Cheers" actor (TED DANSON). Another first/last name combo, always cool to see in the grid.
- 45A: Leader with a bouffant hairdo (KIM JONG-IL). "Bouffant"? My first thought was of the B52s:
- 57A: Title host of a talk show featuring dance routines (ELLEN). That's Ms. DeGeneres, of course.
- 62A: Big name at the Peppermint Lounge (JOEY DEE). No idea what this refers to. I may be too young for this one—and I just had a birthday a week ago, so I welcome opportunities to feel too young!
- 1D: '80s William Shatner cop series (T.J. HOOKER). I never watched the show, but regardless, I can still appreciate the artistry of the show's title sequence:
- 50D: "Crunk Juice" rapper (LIL JON). Here's a guy who likes to have fun with his image. The collision between KIM JONG-IL and LIL JON just might be my favorite crossing of the year.
Other fill that rocked:
- 60A: Uses a MapQuest feature (ZOOMS IN). If you're still using MapQuest, do yourself a favor and move over to Google Maps. The photographic "street view" option is incredible, and I've seen a few nutty route suggestions at MapQuest.
- 65A: Impressive way to walk? (ON WATER). The answer looks lousy by itself, but the clue makes it work.
- The 39D/40D/41D trio is terrific. Words on some autobiographies are AS TOLD TO. The Stadium vendor's cry is "COLD BEER!" And an Unthinking reaction is a KNEE-JERK response.