October 20, 2007

Sunday, 10/21

PI 10:46
NYT 9:54
WaPo 9:32
BG 7:42
LAT 7:02
CS 7:33

My Mac just went uncharacteristically bonkers on me. The applet disappeared and reloaded itself after the timer started running, and then there was a lag before the letters I typed showed up. After I finished the puzzle, the Grab screen-capture app was logy, and the other browser where I blog was also creaky. All right, everything's restarted and now I've got the puzzle completed in Across Lite so I've got something to look at while blogging. But you go ahead and mentally subtract as much from my solving time as you think is appropriate.

The New York Times crossword's called "Set Your Mind at Ease," and it's by Brendan Emmett Quigley. The theme entries morph a short E sound into a long E sound, changing the spelling. A chicken leg becomes a CHICKEN LEAGUE, [Organization of easily frightened people?]. An educated guess becomes [Smart fowl?], or EDUCATED GEESE. The phrase "a good many" turns into A GOOD MEANIE, [Bully turned Samaritan?]. Another favorite was RED HEARING, [House Un-American Activities Committee event?]. Now, you might think that 19-Across, the [Open-mesh fabric], is terribly obscure. ETAMINE? Why, that's been written about in the New York Times—in 1917. I wasn't hip to the Q RATIO ([Market value of a company's assets divided by their replacement cost]) either, but everything else seemed reasonable to me.

Toughest clues: [Oil used in making polyurethane] for ANILINE (usually clued with reference to dyes); [Italian eyeglass] for LENTE; [HBO founder Charles] for DOLAN; the two emperors, OTHO ([Roman emperor with a three-month reign]) and NERO ([Last ruler of the Julio-Claudian dynasty]); ["Whle We Were Young" songwriter Wilder] for ALEC; [Chinese mafia] for TONG; and [Black bird] for DAW (raise your hand if you defaulted to the ANI).

Favorite clues/answers: ["Day of ___" (what "Dies Irae" means] for WRATH (crosswordese explained!); ["The Treachery of Images" artist] for MAGRITTE (this is the painting that says "Ceci n'est pas une pipe"); [Part of a dash] for TACH (part of a dashboard rather than, say, a 50-yard dash); [It may not need clarification] for OLEO (as opposed to unclarified butter); [Psychiatrist's urging] for LET IT OUT; [Lie detector alternative] for PENTOTHAL; [Place for couples?] for ARK; ["Take your time"] for No RUSH; and [Charley horse, e.g.] for SPASM.


Henry Hook's online Boston Globe puzzle, "Nothing to It," turns every NIL into a zero, or rather, the letter O. A vanilla shake is VAOLA MILK SHAKE, Barry Manilow is BARRY MAOOW, and there are seven other theme entries. One never-saw-that-before entry here: ASTRE, [1970s Pontiac model]. Fill I liked best: OBAMA, ECHIDNAS, kissing GOURAMIS (here's a short video showing how these little fish "kiss"). Favorite clue: [Springy?] for VERNAL.

Pancho Harrison's Washington Post crossword, "Prefixation," appends an A and doubles the first consonant following it (and changing the word's spelling as needed) to fake some prefix action. Salted nuts are cocktail snacks, and "under attack," they're ASSAULTED NUTS. A [Pirate craft?] is an ASSAILING SHIP. Answers that did not come readily to mind: [Tiger legend] for Ty COBB; [Sidi ___, Morocco] is IFNI; [Make undrinkable] is DENATURE; [Hebrides isle] is MULL; ["Gullible's Travels" author] is Ring LARDNER; [CO's asst.] is ADJT; and [Michael of "The Day the Earth Stood Still"] is RENNIE. GIULIANI runs alongsize CEZANNE—surely the folks who complain about the inclusion of "you know it or you don't names" don't object to names with this degree of currency or lasting import? The [Snoopy persona] JOE COOL is a terrific entry, isn't it?

Good thing Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword is the last of my Sunday roster to be available by Saturday evening, because I'm dozing off here even though it's only 8:15 now. The computer's working fine—it's the brain that's slowing down here. The theme in "The First-Name Game" is puns, dreadful puns, on famous first names. Gladys Knight becomes GLOTTIS KNIGHT; John Paul Jones is JUMP BALL JONES; the secretary of state becomes CONDO-LEASER RICE. See? Real groaners, all of 'em. And there are six more, equally groanerrific!

Sunday update:

The themeless CrosSynergy puzzle is by Bob Klahn. Huzzah! Nothing very Scrabbly here, but great fill and customarily Klahnerrific clues.

The toughest part of Robert Doll and Nancy Salomon's LA Times syndicated crossword, "Con-clusions," was figuring out what the theme was. Eventually it dawned on me—the eight longest entries end with words that are roughly synonymus with the verb con: ROOK, CLIP, BITE, HOSE, FLEECE, STIFF, SHAFT, and CROSS. Funniest clue: [Bed wetter?] for GARDEN HOSE.