March 05, 2008

Wednesday, 3/5

NYS 5:43
NYT 4:25
CS 3:15
LAT 3:03

The Tyler Hinman win streak continues, with our team's first pub quiz win in too many weeks. I helped out with a vestigial childhood memory of the diving bell spider, while Tyler was spot-on when it comes to the Spanish Armada and the Battle of New Orleans.

Despite the pub portion of pub trivia, I've returned home to solve and blog. You know what? I took enough of a beating on Steven Ginzburg's New York Times puzzle—I will hold off on the Sun crossword until morning. The theme is sequential letters starting phrases—the [German auto debut of 1974] was the VW SCIROCCO, for example, and J.K. ROWLING is the [First person to win a Smarties Prize, for children's books, three years in a row] (that's non-American fake M&Ms, not the delicious little powdery American Smarties). Each corner of the grid has a brick of three 7-letter entries (such as SHRIVEL, HEADWAY, and I GIVE UP). Favorite clues/answers: [Meteor in a meteor shower] for LEONID; the double Desperate Housewives action of EVA Longoria and TERI Hatcher; [Ohio city named for a mathematician] for EUCLID (where the hell is Euler's town, huh?); VOCAB; [Spiked punch?] for the tool called an AWL; DIY, clued as [Like many a home improvement project, for short] (this answer was the subject of heated discussion on the Cruciverb-L mailing list some months back—it stands for "do-it-yourself" and there's even a cable channel by that name); and [It may be caught in a filter] for SPAM (not LINT!).


The New York Sun puzzle, "Initial Initialisms," took me a good bit longer than the other puzzles—was it that much harder, does the extra row of squares in a 15x16 add that much time to the solve, am I having a dim morning, or was I just enjoying it too much to rush through? It's by Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer (who tie for the title of Friendliest Constructor at the Hotel Bar). The five theme entries, all oriented vertically, convert a 3-letter word at the start of a phrase into an initialism. [Ship a white chip with Brown?] is U.P.S. THE ANTE, [Tale about a real so-and-so?] is an S.O.B. STORY, and—my personal favorite—[Doing coke from a tombstone?] is R.I.P. SNORTING. That one's a good, funny-sounding phrase when it's played straight, and broken down it evokes the image of cokeheads snorting a line off the top of a granite marker. Morbid and inappropriate but funny as hell. I was momentarily confused by AM/FM RADIO, but that's not part of the theme because (a) AMFM isn't a pronounceable word and (b) it's opposite the classic Nancy Reaganism, JUST SAY NO. (That offsets the encouragement to start doing cocaine in the cemetery, I think.) SHOULDA is [Part of a rhyming rueful triumvirate]—that's just one of a dozen 7-letter answers in the fill.

Patrick Jordan wasn't at the crossword tournament last weekend. I hear he was in the Caribbean, enjoying his Merv Griffin's Crosswords vacation prize. (Yes, some crossword hotshots do win that show—just not all of us. Insert a moue emoticon here in your mind.) The CrosSynergy puzzle's got Patrick's byline today, with a "Last Hurrahs" theme I didn't put together until just this moment. Each theme entry ends with a WHISTLE, CLAP, or CHEER—presumably for Patrick's performance on MGC a few months back. There are 10 answers in the fill of 7 to 9 letters—I'm partial to STAGHORN fern, TUNGSTEN filaments, donated CASTOFFS, and a military TRIBUNAL. I'm not usually crazy about rhyming or alliterative clues, but I rather like [Gestation location] for WOMB.

The LA Times crossword is by Derek Bowman. The theme includes 75 of 80 entries—like a good report card, all A's. (Five answers, like SNL and LPS, contain only consonants.) The three longest are M/F pairs from a game show (PAT AND VANNA, Sajak and White), the Bible (ABRAHAM AND SARAH), and Hollywood (FRANK AND AVA, Sinatra and Gardner, the avatar of xword blogger Linda G.). Pretty easy once you notice that theonly vowel included in the grid is A. Favorite clue: [NBC show that did "Celebrity Jeopardy!" parodies] for SNL. Those skits were always funny. Do they still do those?