April 21, 2008

Tuesday, 4/22

Onion 5:02
Tausig 4:18
NYS 3:36
LAT 3:21
NYT 3:09
CS 2:50

Well, Friday's NET LEASES and Monday's WASH SALE were leading us straight to the Tuesday New York Times crossword's theme. Here, there are four financial terms, all clued with a twist on the first word's meaning. NET EARNINGS hook into a fishing net, CAPITAL GAINS are tied to a seat of government, a newspaper publisher might have PAPER PROFITS, and [Salary for selling insects for food?] could be construed as GROSS INCOME indeed. 1-Across launches the puzzle straight into trickery: Just as yesterday brought a different crossword with a SILENT C in it, here HARD G is clued as [What a gal has that a gent doesn't?]. Now, count how many other 5-letter things there are that a gal has that a gent does not. I can think of at least three, beginning with OVARY. ERIE shows up for the second day in a row with an unusual clue—this time, [Lake next to Avon Lake], which is not a lake I know. The less-seldom-seen AMEER spelling clocks in ([Mideast pooh-bah]), crossing HARD G at the A—so the tricky 1-Across didn't even have completely obvious crossings. How well-known is the hockey term DEKES, [Fakes out with fancy footwork]? I didn't know it before the 2005 ACPT finals puzzle taught it to me.

The title of Michael Langwald's New York Sun crossword, "I Before E As in Movie," means that an I and E are combined and added inside movie titles. For instance, [Movie about an amp hauler's African journey?] is ROADIE TO MOROCCO, based on Road to Morocco + IE. In the fill, ONO gets a clue I don't recall seeing before—[Sponsor of Central Park's Strawberry Fields]. I thought I knew my desserts, but had no inkling that [Frangipane nut] was an ALMOND. (Frangipane is apparently named after a different guy named Frangipani than the fragrant Plumeria/frangipani shrubs or trees.) Who is DINO Valenti? [Quicksilver Messenger Service lead singer Valenti] seems to convey plenty of information, and Wikipedia has still more—yet I still have no clue. Don't know their/his songs at all.


"Emote" alert: Entertainment Weekly just reported that Was (Not Was) has a new album out, with one of their trademark odd guest vocals from the "minimal-voiced" Kris Kristofferson. They asked him not to emote too much because they were going to layer the sound of a cattle stampede over his vocals, and Kristofferson laughed because usually he's being encouraged to emote. Why? Because emoting seems to have pejorative connotations mainly in crosswords. Why, here's some advice for aspiring Broadway performers: "Emote. The best actors know how to emote, but also know how to emote effectively."

Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy crossword has four seemingly unrelated phrases but, as the "End Game" title hints, each phrase ends with a word that's also a game. We have TROUBLE (the Pop-o-matic die is less engaging than I remember from childhood) and SORRY, Ben might get CLUE for his birthday, and RISK doesn't excite me despite its geography aspect. Props to the constructor for getting SKYPE in there—boy, is it handy to have a free way to talk on the phone with an overseas friend. I don't recall seeing it in a crossword before, but perhaps it's been in a Tausig or Jonesin' puzzle.

Norm Guggenbiller's LA Times crossword places its title within the grid: JOIN FORCES. (Yes, the same Norm Guggenbiller who, according to his blog comment, is a resident of Avon Lake, Ohio. That's beside Lake Erie, you know...) The other three theme entries begin with "___ force" entities: POLICE (WORK), AIR (SECURITY), and LABOR (STRIKE). NO, wait! They end with "___ force" entities, too: work force, security force, strike force. I didn't notice that at first and was underwhelmed. Six thematic components is more impressive than three, and while the theme phrases are rather dry, they yield six solid "___ force" phrases. I have no idea how LIFO ("last in, first out") is used as a [Inventory evaluation meth.]. Minor peccadillo in the clue for 46-Down, IN A JAM: it includes the word in although that appears in the answer ([In need of bailing out, perhaps]). [Needing to be bailed out, perhaps] is clumsier phrasing but ESCHEWs the in issue. (HECTIC and ESCHEW appear beside one another in this grid, and despite the part-of-speech problem, I like the idea of "The Hectic Eschew" as a band name.)


Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Generational Shift," takes phrases that end with a word that is (or can be) an adult animal and substitutes the name for the young of that species. The resulting phrase is clued as if it has nothing to do with a young animal. A papal bull is a PAPAL CALF, or a [Lower muscle in the Vatican?], for example, and Rommel, the Desert Fox, becomes a DESERT KIT with a canteen and a cactus-cutting knife. The fill includes eight 8-letter answers, stacked three abreast and crossed by another 8. Speaking of "abreast," Ben ventures into non-cactus cluing for AREOLA, [Oft-sore area for marathoners]. (It's true. They chafe. For men and women alike.) The discussion of what 5-letter parts a gal might have that a gent lacks (see today's NYT crossword) points to the squeamishness about body parts that newspaper puzzle editors must have because a segment of their audience would indeed wig out with a human AREOLA or various bodily substances appeared in the crossword. Here, it wasn't at all titillating (that's an unfortunate word), and in fact, the clue could mislead a solver into thinking of achy feet or leg muscles. If you're gonna drop the AREOLA into the puzzle, this is a good way to do it (though I wouldn't expect to see it in the next few years in a daily newspaper puzzle). Favorite entries: MALAPROP crossing the BAD KARMA that could strike you if don't leave tips, a BAZAAR for haggling, and Pig Latin IXNAY.

The AREOLA (clued in a more risqué fashion as [Nipple ring]) also pops up in Byron Walden's Onion A.V. Club puzzle. On the heels of his Charlton Heston tribute puzzle in the NYT, Byron again draws on current events—with "Client 9" Eliot SPITZER and [Louisiana Senator David] VITTER (a client of the "D.C. Madam") skulking around near a PROSTITUTE RING that spans the center of the grid at 38-Across. A 38-Across might leave a TART CARD in a London phone box. Let's see...what else is thematic? One could make a case for CREEP and FLING. This topical puzzle also has a gimmick—four "prostitute rings" in the corners of the grid contain synonyms for "prostitute" (HOOKER, ESCORT, GIGOLO, CALL-GIRL) traveling clockwise from the top in 6- or 8-square rings. Those corners are packed with 6- and 8-letter entries, which means that fill has to mesh together in three dimensions.

Now, the result of the ambitious construction is that some of the fill is insane. [Kid-safe update of "very"] is HECKA (in lieu of "hella," but I gotta tell ya, I haven't heard anyone using "hecka"). [Make a mess of] is FRIG UP; now, I've heard "frig" used in lieu of the other F-word, but not in the "___ up" formation. PAPPAS is an odd-looking spelling for [Dads]; my county treasurer is Maria Pappas, but I suppose the rest of the country doesn't know her name. Favorite clues: [She wants to be starting something] for a PYRO; [Wonkette, e.g.] for a BLOG; ["Ya got it"] for YEP; [Kind of car or album] for CONCEPT; [Have an eruction] for BELCH; [You can stand to go there] for a URINAL; and [Hang loose?] for DANGLE (...right by the urinal). I think the clue for SIT'N SPIN (which is a terrific entry) is wrong—raise your hand if you remember Sit'n Spin toys being around before the '80s. Sure, this page calls it an '80s toy, but it was originally a pre–Care Bears toy and I swear they were around in the '70s.