October 18, 2007

Friday, 10/19

Jonesin' 5:54
NYS 5:47
LAT 4:30
NYT 4:21
CHE 3:52
CS 3:05

WSJ 7:35

The kids in my son's second-grade class have been assigned the task of reading a newspaper article and summarizing it in a paragraph. So we were at the grocery store this afternoon and checked out the offerings on the newspaper rack.

"Well, Ben, which one do you want to get? The Tribune, the Sun-Times, or the New York Times?" I asked, not nudging him in any particular direction.

He pondered briefly and decided, "I'll take the Times." How sweet is that? I've bred a seven-year-old newspaper snob.

The most fearsome part of Patrick Berry's New York Sun Weekend Warrior was the crossing between the [Capital of the Mexican state Coahuila] and the 3-letter abbreviation clued [It's headquartered in Fort Meade, Md.]. The N-what-A? I played the "mentally scroll through the alphabet and start typing in fairly random letters until Mr. Happy Pencil appears" game. Turns out to be the NSA (not the NRA, NBA, NEA, or NWA) crossing SALTILLO. What's in Saltillo, you ask? Why, they've got clay tile and serapes, every crossworder's favorite poncho.

Outside of that Crossing of Near Death, notable entries included the cinematic E.T. PHONE HOME, the crickety TEST MATCHES, the terrific ANGELS IN AMERICA, and the idiomatic PIECE OF CAKE. Favorite clues: [Be there in spirit?] for HAUNT; [It has peaks and valleys: Abbr.] for EEG (wow, did I think I had something wrong when I'd filled in just the two E's—only eels came to mind at first); ["Fearless" star] for the super-short first/last name combo, JET LI; [Not hard to swallow] for COATED, as in tablets of medication; [Some '60s hits?] for LSD; [Luddite's antithesis] for TECHIE; [Like some nurses] for NEONATAL (which I should have guessed with a lot fewer letters!); [Nobody in the Middle Ages] for SERF; and [New Jersey delivery sound, maybe] for MOO (as in the sound when a new Jersey calf is born). I don't think I knew there was an ANT-Man (Stan Lee creation)—I'm holding out for a superhero modeled after the ladybug or walking stick.

Frederick Healy's New York Times crossword puts out some BIG TALK ([Bluster]), doesn't it? "OH, WOW!" "I'VE HAD IT!" "WAIT A SEC!" "GET A LIFE!" I like it when crosswords get mouthy like that. Crunchiest pop culture Cheetos: ["Eight Is Enough" wife] for ABBY (Betty Buckley's stepmom to Dick Van Patten's eight offspring), for one. Then there's [1984 hit parody of a 1983 hit song] for EAT IT—I went off to find a YouTube video of that song and was waylaid instead by Weird Al's Like a Surgeon, which gave me the giggles. ("Eat It" isn't as funny.) If only SPICE were clued with one of the Spice Girls and the A-TEAM were TV, not sports. Favorite clues/entries: [Windshield wipers] for SQUEEGEES; [Clam] for SIMOLEON; [Fat cat, in England] for NOB; and [Something to get a kick out of] for RIFLE. I'm not sure that KNEE PANTS have been a [Garb symbolizing youth] since Little Lord Fauntleroy's days. (A century ago, apparently they were de rigueur for diplomats in Europe.) And—I think this came up in another puzzle some weeks back—nobody really calls it SALSA DIP. Salsa is a dip, but it's just salsa.


Must be quick this morning—Ben's got the day off school and we're venturing to Chinatown this morning.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle: The theme in "Together at Last: 25, meet 26" is joining the letters Y and Z, in six disparate words, names, phrases, and places (. Fortunately, a blogger I read had linked to the ["Chocolate Rain" singer]'s YouTube video, which is quite an odd thing. I like how the Jonesin' puzzle isn't afraid to include a name with almost no offline visibility at all—but hey, in these third-wave crosswords, YouTube phenomena are fair game. Besides the lively batch of theme entries, there are some tough and interesting answers and some tough and interesting clues. Orange recommends!

Jim Leeds' LA Times puzzle: Fun! Anagramming words in the clue generates a theme answer, and all four of the ANAGRAMS are tasty sauces. Foodie bonuses: Steak AU POIVRE, GARLIC, TOMATO, EATER, and SEASON. Musical trivia I didn't know: LEONORA is a [Name of three Beethoven overtures]. And a geographic tidbit I learned: MALAYA was a [United Kingdom territory until 1957].

Annemarie Brethauer's 10/5 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword: "Off the Shelf" includes five once-banned books as the theme entries.

Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy puzzle: "Get on the Stick" includes four phrases starting with kinds of sticks (JOYstick, YARDstick, etc.). Fairly easy puzzle, right about a Wednesday NYT level.

The Wall Street Journal puzzle by Mike Shenk (a.k.a. "Marie Kelly"): "Rate Increases" adds RATE inside various phrases to make new meanings. Bedrock + RATE = BERATED ROCK, or [What an angry Doris did in many movies?]. Nonthematic fill/clues I liked: [B.B. King's guitar], LUCILLE; MAN'S MAN; [Navel bases?] for ORANGES; ["Always on Time" musician] for JA RULE.