December 14, 2007

Saturday, 12/15

Newsday 8:43
NYT 5:15
LAT 4:28
CS 2:47

I'm a little late getting to the Times crossword tonight because my kid and I were at Movie Night at his school, and towards the end of Ratatouille, he ran directly into a pillar and developed a truly impressive lump on his forehead. I think he's fine, aside from the mighty protuberance that will still smart and will still be quite visible when he sees his grandparents this weekend. His sense of wordplay remained intact, so I don't think his brain got gobsmacked by the pillar.

Speaking of this weekend, we'll be Amtrakking to Wisconsin Saturday afternoon, where I can get online only if I go around the corner to the gas station/café. (Not that all of Wisconsin is offline—just my in-laws' house.) So the Sunday puzzles that aren't available by early Saturday won't get blogged until late Sunday.

I do like Rich Norris's touch with the themeless format. Why? Well, just look at 9-Across in his New York Times puzzle: [6'5" All-Star relief ace with identical first two initials]. That's certainly nobody I've ever heard of. But J.J. PUTZ is such a great name, I am delighted to make Mr. Putz's acquaintance here. The name's both ridiculous and Scrabbly (two Js and a Z) at the same time. How can anyone not love learning this name? In the opposite corner, I had a hard time hazarding a guess at any answers. It was fitting to find more uncommon letters lurking there (a Q and an X).

Lots of answers resonated with other ones. TOSSPOTS ([They're fried]) opposite HOTHEADS ([They get sore easily]), for example, not to mention SOTS ([They're lit]). The [Pro's remark], I AGREE, meshes with the [Pro fighter], ANTI, and a more lukewarm pro, I THINK SO. ONE IN TEN odds echo ODDS ARE. Other favored entries: HOUSE-SAT, gross RAW EGGS in a protein shake, tastier AMBROSIA, and the Scrabbly words crossing J.J., JIFFY and ZEROED. And LIED is clued [Wasn't straight], which is then followed by BEARD.

The best clues, in my book: [Get bronze, say] for the verb MEDAL, as at the Olympics; [Places to make notes] for music STAFFS; [Meanies] for SADISTS (because the clue's so playful and the answer, not); [They come and go] for FADS; [Top piece] for BRA; [Certain ball] for MASQUE; [Order to leave] for the theatrical EXEUNT (and boy, did I ponder hard what sort of eviction edict might start with an E and have six letters); ["Symphony in Black" and others] for ERTES, because it sounds like a musical clue rather than a visual art clue (here's what Erte's illustration looks like); and [Rx instruction] for TID, because we've seen TER too much lately and TID is what the docs actually write on a prescription pad.

The [1970s-'80s Australian P.M.] is Malcolm FRASER, who was quite accomplished: "Australia's Prime Minister at the time Malcolm Fraser managed to make headlines in 1986 by wandering around a Memphis hotel lobby in a dazed state with his trousers missing. He had met a lady at the bar the night before who had drugged and robbed him. It was not reported whether he actually got lucky before passing out." That's way more embarrassing than growing up with a name like Putz.


Merle Baker's Newsday puzzle is not a good puzzle to begin when one is at a nadir of alertness. The first 45% of the puzzle took about 6 minutes, during which time the unanswered clues were utterly impenetrable. But after sleep and breakfast, wow, those clues turned out to be quite pliable indeed, and the rest took about 2⅔ minutes. Huh. That "sleep on it and come back to it later" strategy really works! Most of the following clues managed to perplex me when sleepy, but pleased me when I was more alert. [Desk-calendar shapes] was an odd one—apparently some people like to have 12-sided solid calendars (and those shapes are DODECAHEDRA). Who knew? [Cheap] defines FOR PEANUTS (though [Cheaply] sounds better to me). [Take advantage of] clues the very much "in the language" phrase, WALK ALL OVER. [Beans] clues SQUAT, [Beyond help] is NO-WIN, [Racetrack figure] is the PURSE (not a horse or a tout or a bettor). NOD means [Green light] approval, but it also means DROWSE (clued as [Drop off]). [Pope piece] is a poetic COUPLET, though I contemplated papal garb here. [Make uncomfortable, in a way] is the fun word SQUISH. [Potential perch] are fish ROE. A couple days ago, AGAZE threw many NYT solvers; here, the A-words of the day are ABEAM and AROAR.

Frederick Healy's LA Times crossword had plenty of near gimmes that propelled me through the grid, which has a nice flow from top left to bottom to top right to bottom. Favorite clues: [Ones in a class struggle?] for STUDENTS; [Runner's strong points] for QUADS (quadriceps muscles); [It's known for its big busts] for RUSHMORE; [Word in a winter forecast] for TEENS; and [Message on a dirty car] for WASH ME.

And now for something completely different: Paula Gamache's easy-peasy themed CrosSynergy puzzle, "Bushed." One reason it's a fast solve is that it's one column narrower than usual, with three 14s and two 8s in the theme. The first four theme entries are clued [Bushed] and are all idiomatic phrases meaning "tired": TOO POOPED TO POP, DOG-TIRED, RUNNING ON EMPTY, and WIPED OUT. Why so tired? Because you've been RESISTING A REST. (RIm shot!) Fun puzzle, with bonus points for including the TROGGS ([Group who sang "Wild Thing"]).