November 22, 2007

Friday, 11/23

NYS 15:30
NYT 5:35
CHE 4:21
Jonesin' 4:20
LAT 4:10
CS 3:05

WSJ 7:46

We'll start out in a place that is alien to many of you: The land of cryptic crosswords. I'll list many of the answers to Fraser Simpson's post-Thanksgiving New York Sun puzzle, a cryptic crossword. If you don't know what cryptics are about and are skipping the puzzle, at least take a peek at the clues and see how I derived the answers. You never know—it just might appeal to you after all. And if you like to tackle cryptics but haven't done this one yet, unfocus your eyes as you scroll down to coverage of Friday's standard crossword puzzles.

In the Sun puzzle, I had a hard time getting my head wrapped around Simpson's cluing style. Some clues were too easy—12-Across, 15-Across, 2-Down, 8-Down, 15-Down, and 18-Down were straight-up anagrams of a word (or two words) in the clue, and 24-Across was a straight-up embedded answer. (Feel free to ask in comments if you need extra hints on any of those.) Granted, it's been a long day and I was ready to fall asleep at 7:00 while working on this puzzle, but a few other clues just weren't adding up. So I cheated and used Across Lite's "reveal current letter" a few times, and then was able to piece together the answers and see how they were derived. For 1-Across, catcher = C, to kid = to RIB, win = BAG, and electronic = E: game = CRIBBAGE. For 3-Down, a swimmer = BATHER, which hems about = RE, and a brief rest = BREATHER. Here's how the other ones shake out:

5-Across: Double definition, secure and place for baby Jesus—STABLE.
9-Across: Rub out = MURDER, answer = ANS.; both are "written about" or in reverse, making a SNARE DRUM percussion instrument.
11-Across: The fruit BERRY sounds like ("so it's said") bury, or put into the earth.
13-Across: The IRS AGENT tax collector is I + (SAG inside the musical RENT).
16-Across: Pennsylvania = PA, the word IS is inside it; PISA is a tower locale.
19-Across: LIFT = LI (Roman 51) + FT (abbrev. of foot); give someone a ride = give someone a lift.
20-Across: DWELLING (home) = D is Depot's "leader" + welling (up).
23-Across: EMERSION (coming out) = Ralph Waldo EMERSON protecting the letter I.
27-Across: THEME (topic) = THE + ME (abbrev. of Maine).
28-Across: "Better" able by anagramming it into ELAB + ORATE (to speak); ELABORATE = add details.
29-Across: ROTATE means turn. Turn = ROT + T ("turn" originally, first letter of that word) inside A & E.
30-Across: A $5 bill is a FIN, inside ice cream CONES -> CONFINES = encloses.
1-Down: COSTAR = commanding officers (COS) + a sailor (TAR).
4-Down: GARY = GRANARY (thresher's warehouse) - RAN.
6-Down: The note TI (do re mi fa so la ti) + BIAS (a bent) = TIBIAS (leg bones).
7-Down: Communist RED is uprising -> DER, inside BORING (pedestrian); BORDERING = surrounding.
10-Down: The initial of "mentioned" is M + character named ARI GOLD = flower MARIGOLD.
14-Down: AS A WHOLE (in full) = SAW (carpentry tool) inside A HOLE (a gap).
17-Down: AL OERTER = ALERTER (more aware) around O (Olympics' first letter).
21-Down: ASCENT (climb) = A + SCENT (trail).
22-Down: ANGERS = park RANGERS "after introduction," meaning without the first letter.
25-Down: PLAIN (everyday) = homophone ("in the auditorium") of carpentry tool PLANE.
26-Down: MAYO (spread at lunch) = MAY (might) + O (love in tennis).

I think it was hard for me to get into the constructor's frame of mind, since I've been spending a couple hours a week on British cryptics for the past three months. Here are a few clues I've admired in The Times Crossword Book 11. Can you figure these out?

1. Savoy, perhaps, gets cold underground? Just the opposite (5)
2. Uproar created by lout leaving a dance first (8)
3. Obsession about larva over in Winnipeg area (8)
4. Writer depicting seabirds according to Chinese dynastic principles? (6,9)
5. Quick pint, perhaps around four? (5)

Moving along to American-style crosswords:

For our post-gluttony dessert, everyone has room for Paula Gamache's New York Times crossword. There's a mini-theme with the VISITORS' DUGOUT ([Where Yankees are found at Shea Stadium]) across from BALLPARK FRANKS ([Fan fare?]). This crossword has a lot to say: "IT'S ALL GOOD" (["Everything's cool"]); "OH, GOSH" (["Jeez!"]); "LOOK, MA!"; "EVER SO SORRY" (["A thousnad pardons"]), hey, BRO ([Dude]); and "HOLA" ([Ciao, in Chile]). Can someone explain that last one to me? I though hola was hello in Spanish, and ciao is goodbye. Ah, ciao also means hello. Interrelated clues: [Waist products] for OBIS, [Waste product] for TRASH BAG, and TOSS for [Put into a (TRASH BAG)]. Tennis gets two, with the USTA ([Court org.]) and GRAND SLAMS, of which [Rod Laver won two]. The completely unrelated RURIK stands alone—that's the [Ninth-century founder of the Russian monarchy]. Never heard of him, but the Wikipedia story is interesting. Oddest clue: [What someone might win after stumping a cultural group?] for ETHNIC VOTE. I prefer the more colloquial stuff—the LOUSY ([Stinko]) [Two-timing types] are RATS, and DETOX and MAGS are both short for longer words, and there's GLOM and YADA. Stale crossword shoe width EEE gets promoted to EEE WIDTH. I learned a new word in the clue for ASIAN FUSION, [Cuisine that may be served with a chork]. Chork? Here's what it is, a chopstick/fork blend. People, it's not that hard to learn to use chopsticks. Honest. Avoid the chork.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle, "DEF Jam," has four theme answers that contain the DEF letter string. There's also a South Park character I'd never heard of, GINGER KID. And a band I wouldn't recognize, STEREOLAB (where first I entered STEREOGUM, but that's a music website, not a band.


Dan Fisher's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "The Borrowers," has just five theme answers tied together by 104-Down, LOAN—each contains those letters in a chunk. CARMELO ANTHONY and APOLO ANTON OHNO cover sports, while movies give us actor EVERETT SLOANE, director MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI, and the toons LILO AND STITCH. The thematic lightness means there's plenty of room for good fill, with numerous chunks of 7-letter answers. MASHUP is clued as [Musical mix of two songs into one]—as in Danger Mouse's Grey Album combining music from the Beatles' White Album with vocals from Jay-Z's Black Album. Overall, I really enjoyed this puzzle's cluing and fill.

Jeffrey Harris's 11/9 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "On the Campaign Trail," takes political campaign terms onto the hiking trail, cluing those terms as if they pertain to a twig running for office. GRASS ROOTS, SPLINTER PARTIES, STUMP SPEECH, and the others can all be viewed from a tree's standpoint. Two unfamiliar names in the grid: PAVIA, the site of a battle in the much-beloved Italian War of 1521. (What? That's not one of your favorite wars to study?) It was [Where Charles V defeated Francis I, 1525]. The other mystery, wait-for-the-crossings name was [Bengals kicker Graham] SHAYNE. Is it Graham Shayne or Shayne Graham? The latter.

Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword really beats around THE BUSH—six other theme entries, all clued with [Beat], encircle THE BUSH. I admire the thematic density, but one of the theme entries, LIKE KEROUAC, rubs me the wrong way. I can overlook that thanks to the swath of stair-stepped Across answers in the middle—CAROUSEL atop HONOLULU atop THE BUSH atop OVERTOOK atop SEAN PENN.

Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy puzzle is called "Going Nowhere" because its four theme entries are verb phrases that sound active but don't involve making physical progress—e.g., RUN OUT OF STEAM, JUMP AT THE CHANCE.