September 03, 2007

Tuesday, 9/4

NYS (not really timed, but not so easy)
Onion 4:53
Tausig 4:37
CS 3:35
NYT 3:30
LAT 2:56

Themeless expert Manny Nosowsky pops up with the Tuesday New York Times puzzle, which has a theme that mystifies me. The vertical 15-letter entry, A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE, ties together one TENDERLOIN STEAK, two EGGS SUNNY SIDE UP, and three PEACHES AND CREAM. I'm confused because I wasn't aware that peaches and cream is measured in terms of the number of peaches. And while these foods would crowd one's plate, would they ever be served on a single plate? Why, Denny's sells a breakfast item that includes a 13-ounce steak and two eggs, but in lieu of fruit, the sides are hashbrowns or grits plus toast. Don't get me wrong—I love peaches, but I don't mentally group them with steak and eggs. What I liked: [Helpless?] for SOLO; LOATH (around this house, we like to say what we are loath to do and what is our wont); SODAPOPS; [Tut's kin?] for TSKS; the rhyming ISSEI and ASSAY; [It goes for a buck] for DOE; and the interlocking of the 15-letter entries. I'm not so sure about GO LAME clued as [Start limping]; the eminent Dr. Google suggests that it's used mainly about horses (and also waterfowl). Does anyone say horses start limping? Maybe they do. I don't travel in horsy circles.

I solved Tony Orbach's New York Sun puzzle the other day, on vacation, while talking to my kid, so I more or less ignored the Across Lite timer. The "Snaky Movements" theme entails moving the S from the tail end of a phrase to the beginning. Thus, "lick one's chops" becomes the kinda icky SLICK ONE'S CHOP (of veal). "Pork and beans" is transformed into SPORK AND BEAN, [What a dieter who was planning to order either a soup or salad might pack for lunch]—although why said dieter would pack the bean is not clear to me. [Leg of lamb à la Chef Shakespeare] is SHANK WILLIAM, riffing on Hank Williams. "Take your lumps" becomes STAKE YOUR LUMP. My favorite clues: [Its role is often as a cameo] for the black ONYX; [1982 Flock of Seagulls hit subtitled "So Far Away"] for I RAN (if you're feeling nostalgic for '80s New Wave music, here's the video); [Poseidon's realm] for THE SEA; and [Do business?] for SALON (hairdo place of business). I also liked seeing ANG LEE with his full name, the word QUIPSTER,
SEXED up and GOOSED in the rear; and VLASIC brand pickles.


Byron Walden's Onion A.V. Club crossword marks the return to school with a subtle theme of cognition: GROUPTHINK, THE EDGE OF REASON, SOFT FOCUS, FROM CONCENTRATE, and UNDERSTUDY. The word count (70 answers) is low enough for a themeless, so this is a meaty grid with plenty of long answers outside the theme. The fill is fairly Scrabbly, with four Xs (lurking in words like BETAMAX, MISS X, and the cheesy band STYX) and a WWW that starts three 7-letter phrases that extend down from it. The clues entertained me. My favorites: [Musical astronaut Lance] for BASS (the former N'Syncer trained to go up in a Russian rocket); [Doesn't check?] for XES (meaning "writes an X instead of a check mark"—this one confused me); [What Barbra Streisand uses to have herself shot] for SOFT FOCUS; [Cheated with one's neighbor, say] for COPIED (raise your hand if you thought of the Ten Commandments rather than the classroom and put down SINNER); [They give drag queens a lift] for HEELS (not EDDIE MURPHY); the combo of UGG boots at 5-Down and FREEBOOTS for [Plunder...or a ridiculously good deal from 5-Down]; [Took a leek] for ATE; [Chopped liver entrée?] for WHAT AM I (my son uses sign language of his own devising to tell me when I'm chopped liver—he points to the side of his ribs and then does a "chop, chop" move); and [It's a fare question] for WHERE TO. The clue that kept me intrigued the longest was [Assless chaps?] for STICK MEN—perfect! Fresh fill: the movie SAW II; slang PRESH (short for precious, I presume); LOW COMEDY from Benny Hill; and the NO TURNS traffic sign. Whoops, I almost forgot this one: [Outburst from Ren] for YOU IDIOT. Here's the "Happy Happy, Joy Joy" clip from Ren and Stimpy, though it lacks Ren's trademark "You eeeee-diot!"

Ben Tausig's Chicago Reader/Ink Well puzzle, "Let's Make a Deal," hides card games—BULLSHIT, BRIDGE, HEARTS, GIN, and WAR—at the end of the theme entries. Anyone else get stopped cold by ARTI*****HEARTS? ARTIFICIAL wouldn't fit and made no sense with the [They may be quartered and marinated] clue, but I wanted it to work somehow. Good use of the small book, ON BULLSHIT, to embed the game BULLSHIT. Scrabbly, with four Zs, an X, and a Q. Fill I liked: the ARAFAT/GAZA twofer; the QDOBA restaurant chain; the fairly obscure word PELAGE for [Fur coat]; BEET RED and NEPALI—and look over here, some old crosswordese regulars, the ARNO River, OONA Chaplin, and the AEDES mosquito. Toughest clue, for me: [(A) ways] for HIKE, as in "it's a hike from here/it's a ways off."

Norma Johnson's LA Times crossword was a lot of fun, with a theme featuring the anatomy of a pickup: IS THIS SEAT TAKEN? Say, HAVEN'T WE MET? Hmm. ARE YOU ALONE? And finally, YOUR PLACE OR MINE? What else did I like? The top corner with OUI crossing OUIJA—which should be a no-no of a dupe since OUIJA can be split into OUI and JA (French and German, "yes"), but I liked it anyway. And the Russian "no" (NYETS, in plural) sits on the other side of the grid for balance. STITCHES in your side, a ONE-HORSE town, [Altar ayes] for I DOS, "ACT NOW" and "OH RATS," and [Makeup of a heavy balloon?] for LEAD. Missed opportunity: 10-Down is [Bikini part] or BRA, and what are AAS? [Small batteries], not [Small 10-Down sizes].

Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Sound Alikes," had a grade-school theme: phrases made of sound-alike _ail/_ale words, such as MAIL MALE and TAIL TALE. I might've liked the theme better if all six theme entries didn't include those same six letters in the same spots—too basic and aha-limiting. One dreadful clue/answer combo: [Sorority gals] for COEDS. I've previously expressed my distaste for coed as a noun—it implies that the basic term college student is male and a female college student is a coed, just as plenty of people say doctor and woman doctor but seldom man doctor. And really, in this day and age when the majority of college students at coeducational institutions are female, this dinosaur of a sexist word (in the noun form) needs to go. And gal in the clue sounds mighty passé, too.