November 08, 2007

Friday, 11/9

NYT 7:02
Jonesin' 5:47
NYS 5:41
LAT 5:something? Forgot to note the time
CHE 4:54
CS 3:23

WSJ 8:33

The first highlight of Henry Hook's New York Times crossword is the 1-Across/1-Down dialogue of "YOU OK?" and "YEAH, I'M FINE." The other highlights are excellent phrases. WRONG NUMBER (I answered such a call this morning) is clued as [Call slip?], slip meaning mistake rather than a slip of paper. [Super Bowl XX champs] means THE BEARS; we would also have accepted DA BEARS—and no, I didn't know the answer based on the Roman numeral. (Ask me who won the Super Bowl in '85, however, and I may mention "The Super Bowl Shuffle" song.) I also like RAN RAGGED ([Wore out]), and SEASON TWO, the [Result of a new TV series' renewal], sparkles. (Season two of 30 Rock is as good as the first—I non-TiVo-brand-DVR-tivoed it tonight and will watch it post-blogging.) SIR PAUL McCartney ain't bad, either; I hear he has a new girlfriend.

And now, clues of note. [Brew choice] is MALT—and did you hear? Barley malt and hops prices are skyrocketing, which means that beer prices will go up and craft brewers may have to change their recipes. (Not that the clue is especially clever—I just wanted to share that news item.) I thought [Take the cake?] would be HOG, but no, it's EAT. The GOP is a [Bush league?] in at least one sense. OATH is a [Four-letter word, aptly]. [On] is IN RE, which is perfectly succinct. [He or I, but not you: Abbr.] was a gimme, having seen a similar(ish) clue before—a chemical ELEM., short for element. [Product whose ads featured twins] was probably not a gimme for people younger than me who never saw the "which twin has the TONI" perm commercials. I figured [It's a cinch] was going for the corset family, but CORSELET is an old-fashioned sounding word, isn't it? And who doesn't love geographically oriented trivia like [Monotheistic Syrian] for DRUSE?

What didn't I like? Well, I recognize that [Horror film that starts in a filthy lavatory] is a fresh way to clue SAW, but ick—ick to both the "filthy lavatory" mention and to the "torture porn" movie genre. STEMLESS clued as [Without a leg to stand on?]—first of all, nobody calls legs "stems" any more, and second, nobody calls amputees stemless. Or is the leg that's lacking not a lower limb at all? Are we talking stemless wine glasses> Because I don't think of stemware as having legs. First I had STEPLESS, which doesn't quite make sense, but the [Lee Marvin TV oldie] called M-SQUAD is not in my consciousness. From the "roll your own words" department, there's UNLETTABLE ([Too awful to even fix up, as an apartment]). Google suggests that most of the (incredibly uncommon) uses of that word are from the British commonwealth, where they don't prefer "rent" to "let" and where apartments are called flats. SEA DWELLER sounds clunky, too (clued as [Octopus, e.g.]). Is it a coincidence that CEPHALOPOD has the same number of letters? I bet not.

For Fiend readers who are fans of Erik ESTRADA, [Ponch player in 1970s-'80s TV], feast your eyes upon this photo and this Tiger Beat interview. (I think I had this issue of Teen Beat—boy, was I gaga over Andy Gibb. Ah, memories.)

(Ed. note: Whoops! Until seeing Barry F's comment, I forgot to mention my befuddlement at the [Toeless creature in an Edward Lear verse], POBBLE. Completely unfamiliar! And how is DUELER [One with a second helping]? Is it that a dueler has an appointed "second" as a backup person? And seeing Rex's post Friday morning reminds me that I wanted to mention [About 40 degrees, for N.Y.C.]—4 letters, must be LONG for longitude? right? Nope. NLAT, meaning "North latitude." Did not know it was ever abbreviated thus.)

The New York Sun puzzle by Ogden Porter, a.k.a. Sun crossword editor Peter Gordon, is called "Two by Fours." A pair of theme entries offer the distinction of having four successive pairs of double letters. I've heard of SUBBOOKKEEPER (which was hard not to type as SUBBOOKKEEPPEERR) before, but not GOOD DEED DOTTY, the [Strip that accompanied Sunday "Dixie Dugan" comics in the 1930s]. The two are thematically joined by the central answer, the basketball stats rarity (just four NBA players have achieved this) called the QUADRUPLE DOUBLE. Favorite clues: [Quote source: Abbr.] for NYSE; [Makeup of some beds] for WHITE RICE (combined with SOY SAUCE as the [Bento box condiment]); [Modern-day pyramid designer] for I.M. PEI (for his Pyramide du Louvre); [Odie contemporary] for "Hagar the Horrible's" dog SNERT (a relief to see odious Odie in the clues—would love not to see that name in a crossword grid for the next year); [Capital of Liechtenstein] for the SWISS FRANC (the country's capital city is Vaduz, and it's the only country that's not only landlocked, but surrounded by other landlocked countries); [Lament after being backstabbed] for ET TU; [Diamond makeup] for CARBON (this being a Peter Gordon creation, I was thinking of baseball diamonds]; the verb [Objects] for DEMURS (I recently saw this verb presented as "demure"—ouch); and [Make toast?] for DOOM. Good to see URBAN MYTHS in the grid, too.


A most enjoyable (and challenging) Jonesin' puzzle from Matt Jones this week. "Don't Be a Pig" asks you to translate names out of the pig Latin they sound like, with the resultant answers being fake names. The first was the last I figured out—O.J. Simpson, "the Juice," is [Former Heisman winner who now likes coffee?], or JOE SIMPSON, joe meaning coffee. Elegantly morphed and clued! John Elway [now is doing fine]—JOHN WELL. R.J. Reynolds is JAR REYNOLDS. Anita O'Day is ANITA DOE. And Uday Hussein is librarian DUE HUSSEIN. Only the first one was richly resonant with double meanings, but the others were all fun to work out. Good long fill—e.g., INTEL INSIDE, THE JURY'S OUT, PANDER TO, LET ME SEE. Freshest fill: ACAI, [Palm whose berries are now used in fruit juices]—have seen products at the store, but haven't tried any.

Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's CrosSynergy puzzle's titled "Friends of Eddie Izzard." Now, the theme has nothing to do with Eddie's comic brilliance, but the theme entries all rhyme with his name. That means lots of Zs (six of them) in the theme. Crisp cluing, plus a spelling test—for [He preceded Shimon in office], can you remember how to spell Rabin's first name?

Gary Steinmehl's 10/26 Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle features title characters from works whose titles make it sound like the character wrote the work. Now, I have never heard of The Book of EBENEZER LEPAGE, nor its author, G.B. Edwards. (Please let me know if I'm missing anything good.) Semi-familiar with Poe's ARTHUR GORDON PYM, more so with TRISTRAM SHANDY, and more more so with J. ALFRED PRUFROCK. Overall, this puzzle's clues felt tougher to me than the relative solving times would indicate.

Jack McInturff's LA Times puzzle eases the pain by jettisoning an OW from each of five theme entries. I like BLING FOR DOLLARS and YELL SUBMARINE, but FLING WATER? "Flowing water" sounds to me more like adjective+noun (e.g., GREEN SHIRT) than an in-the-language phrase to base something on. Modestly unfair crossing in the NE corner, where [Some second degs.] crosses [Pitcher Bob of the 1950s Braves]. Is Bob BUHL famous enough that we'e supposed to know the name? Because Bob FUHL crossing MFAS works as plausibly as BUHL and MBAS. I'd have nudged the MBAS clue toward something more specific to avoid the "pick a letter" syndrome.

Randolph Ross's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Chick Flicks," takes movies with a man's name in the title and changes the name to a woman's. Usually it's by changing the initial sound (sometimes to something similar, sometimes to a completely different sound), but FANNY AND ALEXANDRA and WEEKEND AT BERNICE'S change the ends. FLORENCE OF ARABIA was a good start, but some seemed a little arbitrary. Why is Jerry Maguire SHERRY MAGUIRE and not, say, GERI or CARRIE or MARY?