May 15, 2008

Friday, 5/16

NYT 8:55
LAT 6:11
NYS 5:14
Jonesin' 4:46 — download from my Google Groups page if you need it*
CS 4:11
CHE 3:48

WSJ 8:54

*If you have trouble downloading the Across Lite file (jnz362.puz), please try it with a different browser.

I don't think either of the Friday puzzles I've just done included the word ERST, but as this blog post mentions, it's certainly an enduring word in the land of crosswords. Nancy Friedman also covers the popular misuse of erstwhile to mean "esteemed." Have you encountered this? I have been fortunate and haven't noticed this particular wrongness.

Kevin Der constructed the Friday New York Times crossword, which beat me down in Saturday fashion. I don't know what I was doing meandering around aimlessly in the grid for that long. Let me get my one grumble out of the way first: POLY and SCI are cross-referenced as [With 19-Across, domain of civics, in brief]. Where I come from, it's POLI, not POLY; POLY is legitimate crossword fill, but it makes me cranky to see it in the service of POLY SCI. Moving along to the hosannas: Would you look at the fill in this one? In the NW corner, there's a JACUZZI ([Steam room alternative]) crossing JETS FAN ([Elated person after Super Bowl III]). At least this time the clue didn't lure me into writing NETS FAN as it did about a week ago. In the SW corner, SQUAWK ([Noisy complaint]) crosses QUIXOTE ([Visionary]) and UNKEMPT ([Not neat]). The NE quadrant tops A.A. MILNE ([His last novel was "Chloe Marr," 1946]) with "WHASSUP" (["Yo!"]). In the Mid-Atlantic zone, FACEBOOK ([Alternative to Friendster or MySpace]) crosses a delicious MARS BAR ([Chocolate treat]). I'm pretending Kevin means the extinct Mars Bar that is now called Snickers Almond rather than the British Mars Bar that is nought but a Milky Way, with nary a nut. Oh—speaking of Facebook, Facebook rocks. I have two regular Scrabulous opponents and one I am afraid of, and have just started playing a newer game called PathWords. If you need to fritter away more time playing word games online, join Facebook.

Other clues and answers of note:

  • [Cellar's opposite] is TOP SPOT, as in baseball standings.
  • [Technicolor] means VIBRANT (but nobody ever says vibrant yawn).
  • [Most clowns] are SMILERS but sometimes they are creepy, and nobody uses the word SMILERS except an Estonian rock band.
  • [Emerson said intellect annuls it] refers to FATE; I guessed FAME, which mucked up the crossing [Santiago skipper]—it gave me the nonsensical CAPIMAN instead of el CAPITAN.
  • ["The West Wing" actor] is Jimmy SMITS, not Martin Sheen; he joined the show after I quit watching it.
  • ANO is clued as [Marzo to marzo, e.g.], a move calculated to irk Hispanophones. Año means "year," while ano means "anus," and it wouldn't be hard to clue it as the two-word phrase AN O.
  • To [Sculpt] is to CARVE (not recarve).
  • [Read syntactically] is PARSED; it's hard to solve late-week NYT crosswords unless you parse the clues correctly.
  • A [Bank guard?] for a river bank might be a DIKE.
  • [Places to develop one's chops], meaning karate chops, are DOJOS.
  • RETE is an old crossword standard, [Bundle of nerves].
  • I wanted [Tasty triangles] to be SAMOSAS, but they turned out to be DORITOS. I don't call those "tasty triangles." Have you read the ingredient lists? Tons of salt, plus MSG, disodium guanylate, and "corn syrup solids." (I'll pass. Well, OK, I'll just have one or two. I swear that's all.)
  • [Blogger, e.g.] is a NETIZEN; but I feel the word netizen is past its prime. Two better internet-based answers: FACEBOOK and a LINK ([One may be sent in an e-mail]). 
  • I didn't know AVOCADO was a [Tree of the laurel family].
  • [Flies] is a verb twice in a row: ZIPS and ZOOMS.
  • To [Frazzle] is to UNNERVE. I like that. Well, not feeling frazzled, no. Just the words.
  • One [Typography measure] is an EM SPACE. That's a space about as wide as a capital M, or as wide as an em dash.
  • [Parts of some Bach suites] are GAVOTTES. Clink the link to read more—I have no knowledge of this myself.
  • [Crush holder that's crushable] is a SODA CAN, with Crush meaning a drink such as Orange Crush.
  • DOLCE is the [Opposite of agitato].
  • Architect I.M. PEI is the [Designer born in Guangzhou, China].

The New York Sun "Weekend Warrior" is by Karen Tracey. I'm getting too sleepy to blog properly, so let me outline some tougher and/or especially clever spots:
  • [Dick's running mate?] is JANE, as in "See Dick and Jane run."
  • [He's asked a lot of questions] means ALEX TREBEK.
  • [Pinang] is a word for BETEL NUT.
  • I have no memory of a [1981 Ryan O'Neal comedy] called SO FINE.
  • [Nine Inch Nails musician] Trent REZNOR rarely gets his last name in a puzzle.
  • A [Lofty place?] is a BARN that may have a hay loft.
  • [Closefisted] means CHINTZY and cheap.
  • HAS KITTENS is a wonderfully colloquial phrase meaning [Gets dramatically upset].
  • [Cataclysmic endings?] refers to the two ends of that adjective—CEES, as in the letter C.
  • [Rolling rock] is MOLTEN LAVA, not just a brand of beer.
  • FRANZ LISZT is the [Subject of the biopic "Song Without End"].
  • [Denying one's true self] is LIVING A LIE.


Writing at Ryan and Brian Do Crosswords, Dan Feyer reviews a few books, including my baby, How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle.

Based on the poll results in my sidebar, I suspect many more of you are doing the Onion A.V. Club crossword than Ben Tausig's own weekly Ink Well puzzle. If you've been skipping the Tausig but like the Onion, I encourage you to add the Tausig to your weekly diet. Ben is the editor of the Onion puzzles, so if you like his sensibility there, you'll like it in his own work too. In my book (the figurative one, not the literal one), the two puzzles are equally fun and equally adventurous. The newest addition to my weekly diet is Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, edited by Matt Gaffney. As with the Onion and Tausig offerings, I don't love every Jonesin' puzzle, but I like most of them quite a bit. This week's is called "Game Theory," and here are the theme entries:
  • [Earn money, in the game Operation] = COLLECT A FEE
  • [With 39-Across, what's revealed on the back of Trivial Pursuit cards] = CORRECT / ANSWERS
  • [Board game whose ads featured the line "Pretty sneaky, sis"] = CONNECT FOUR

Sure, the "phrases associated with games that fit a CO**ECT ____ format" theme seems arbitrary, but if you're anything like me (and around the same age), the focus on games from childhood and adolescence and a TV commercial for one of 'em ups the ante on fun. The fill combines video games (ZELDA), pop culture (EMILE Hirsch of "Speed Racer," TILDA Swinton, CHARLES Bronson and Barkley, the History Channel show "AX MEN"), pharmaceuticals (XANAX and ZETIA), beer (St. PAULI Girl), comics (ZIGGY), and interesting stuff that doesn't show up in many crosswords (CABLE CAR, NEUROLOGY, GIFT OF GAB).

John Underwood's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "The Century Club," features the last names of eight notable people who were born 100 years ago. They include Simon WIESENTHAL, Lyndon JOHNSON, Anna MAGNANI, Simon DE BEAUVOIR, Adam Clayton POWELL, Jr., Edward TELLER, Edward R. MURROW, and Richard WRIGHT. There are a few other people in the crossword, but nobody's last name appears in the grid unless he or she would celebrate a 100th birthday this year.

Robert Wolfe's LA Times crossword has a REBUS (21-Across) theme of a different stripe. This one gives the CDB treatment to five first names. Emily Watson, the ["Hilary and Jackie" Oscar nominee, so to speak?], is presented as MLEWATSON. Elinor Donahue, the ["Father Knows Best" actress, so to speak?], is LNRDONAHUE. [Sewing machine inventor, so to speak?] is LISHOWE (Elias Howe). [Former Israeli leader, so to speak?] is RELSHARON (Ariel Sharon). And [Old Red head, so to speak?] is LXAKOSYGIN. Wait, who? This guy Alexey or Aleksei Kosygin. I'm not sure his name is quite familiar enough to lead off a crossword theme.

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Mineral Supplements," inserts an ORE into each theme entry. Thus, the Mod Squad becomes the MOORED SQUAD, or a [Crime-fighting group based in a harbor?], and the post office is the POOREST OFFICE, or [Least impressive place of business]. The theme entries didn't much grab me—I think I prefer bolder whimsy in cooked-up theme entries. Cooked-up-ness isn't a problem—it just has to push the amusement factor. The grid's fairly Scrabblicious, as we expect from Patrick Jordan—two Xs, a Z, a Q, and a K.

Randolph Ross's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Stock Market Reports," plays around with the sorts of stock phrases that are used in business journalist. What happened to the share price? That depends on the kind of business. [Huggies stock] REMAINED UNCHANGED, sincd Huggies are disposable diapers. The toilet paper [Charmin stock] TOUCHED A NEW BOTTOM. [Dixon Ticonderoga Pencil stock] LOST A FEW POINTS. Granted, many of the brands included in this theme aren't the names of publicly traded companies, but Kimberly-Clark isn't a diaper, so its Huggies brand gets the starring role in the clue. Fun theme! I also liked the LO**Y adjectives that peppered the grid—LOOPY is [Offbeat], LOONY is [Crackers], and LOUSY is [Meriting no stars].