November 20, 2007

Wednesday, 11/21

NYS 4:44
NYT 4:21
CS 3:46
LAT 3:31

I'm heading out for a night of trivia with Tyler Hinman and friends. (Here's hoping I don't jinx them and destroy their good position in the standings this month.) So I won't be home until late, and may or may not have the energy for the Times puzzle before morning. Here's my Sun write-up for now. Feel free to chat about the NYT too—if I forget and read spoilers in the comments before I solve the NYT (the comments are e-mailed to me), I will chastise you for my own forgetfulness. Fair enough?

Russell Brown, who comments here fairly often, has ponied up a rebus puzzle with 10 rebus-filled answers for the New York Sun. (Russell also does grid design, sort of, for turned wood bowls and vases.) The theme gave itself away easily enough since I know that confectioner's sugar contains CORN ST[ARCH]—I just had to figure out if the rebus was [STAR] or [ARCH]. And no, the title, "Gateway," didn't give it away because I often forget to utilize the title. (The Gateway Arch is near where Lewis and Clark set out from.) The Kansas City MON[ARCH]S Negro League team crosses the CLE[AR CH]ANNEL radio conglomerate. CORN ST[ARCH] meets up with the [Tomboy of fiction], JO M[ARCH]. 53-Across threw me because CHART fits into five spaces just as well as B[AR CH]ART does; the latter crosses WEB SE[ARCH]ING, which runs alongside PALE BLUE, [Like liquid oxygen] (Pretty! And not a fact I knew.). In the middle there's the pro-wrestling SUPERST[AR CH]ALLENGE crossing a CED[AR CH]EST. And at the bottom, [ARCH]ITECTS] crosses [ARCH]ERY, which has the "Wha?" clue of [Toxophilite's skill]. The exact symmetrical placement of the five rebus squares will appeal to Rex, though I thought it felt like they were asymmetrical while solving.


Trivia night went well, and the team is well positioned in the overall standings so we've got a shot at the $1,000 prize next week. My shining moment: For the tossup question, "What year was The Godfather: Part II first released?"—for which points were awarded to the five teams closest to the actual answer—I guessed 1974, the correct year. My 20-something teammates were stumped. (Age has its benefits.) The last time I went, the tossup question was "How much does the Hummer [I forget which model] weigh?" Pfft! That seems far more random and arbitrary than '70s movie releases. (FYI: The Godfather, 1972; The Godfather: Part III, 1990 and far too late for anyone to care.)

I solved Kelsey Blakley's New York Times puzzle late last night. I was not at my peak. And I was too tired to blog about it then. Let's see what I recall now: The theme is movie-related phrases that start with words that are also military ranks, and those ranks are abbreviated in the grid. Hence, PVT SCREENING, MAJ MOTION PICTURE, and GEN ADMISSION. Movies, in the army? If only Stripes and Private Benjamin and Three Kings figured into it somehow. Outside of the theme, there are two giant fill entries, the Consumer Reports BUYER'S GUIDE and SMOKE SIGNAL, which would be lovely additions if they weren't mildly discomfiting by virtue of being as long as many theme entries. (Shorter than these three theme entries, and thus kosher, but still bringing pause.) And then the longest of the Down answers are just words...except that one of them, MATINEES, relates to movies and muddles my head a little. And this morning, my head is muddled enough as it is. [Ed: At the NYT forum, Ghulam points out that Consumer Reports compiles a Buying Guide, not a Buyer's Guide. I suppose the clue still works if you lowercase it to be a generic buyer's guide.]

Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke play with the basketball team in their LA Times crossword. STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRAETORIAN GUARD, and DETENTION CENTER all end with basketball positions, and fortunately, they've got funny clues tying them to the sport. If this theme included literal clues for those three entries plus a helper entry of, say, HOOPS, it would be a boring theme—but with the playfulness Stella and Bruce opted for, I liked it. Overall, the fill and clues had a fun vibe to them. Smooth puzzle!

Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Oscillation," has a THURBER quote. Bleah, quote themes. Bizarre fill—ROOTWORM, ENDWAYS, and PLUMELET? Not on the tip of my tongue. (Thank goodness there are no rootworms on the tip of my tongue!)