May 01, 2008

Friday, 5/2

NYT 6:50
NYS 6:23
LAT 4:42
CHE 4:15
Jonesin' 3:45
CS 2:42

WSJ 7:32

Barry Silk's New York Times crossword has a few gnarly spots that distracted me from the lively fill. Would you believe that I clicked the "done" button on the applet with two crazy wrong squares? Yeah, I did. ["Jubilee Trail" novelist Bristow], *WEN? Hmm, sounds like a Western; let's go with OWEN. No, it turns out to be a Western romance by GWEN Bristow. With that incorrect O, the crossing [Torpedo] made little sense, but I talked myself into OUTMAN. (Hey, there's plenty of sports lingo I don't know. This could be, say, luge terminology.) That made 43-Down UTLED for [Anarchic]. UNLED? That does make sense, but it sure wasn't the first thing that came to mind. It's not like me to talk myself into completely implausible answers—sigh. That wasn't the only patch where I spun out, either. ["I Wish" rapper ___-Lo] crossing [Couple seen in a restaurant]? Raise your hand if you figured the couple were entrée SHARERS and wondered if SREE-Lo was a holy Indian rapper. (Salt and pepper SHAKERS crossing SKEE-LO, actually. Now I'm intrigued because that Wiki informed me that Skee-Lo covered "The Tale of Mr. Morton" on a 1996 Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks album.)

Clues most likely to stump people and/or clues I liked:

  • The [1972 top 10 hit that's seven minutes long] is LAYLA.
  • ["And their lies caused them ___": Amos 2:4] is completed by TO ERR.
  • [1960s Elvis-style singer ___ Donner] is RAL; never heard of this guy.
  • [Record listings?] are the CRIMES in a criminal record.
  • [Sonata that might not sound good] is a Hyundai USED CAR.
  • HENNAS are [Leatherworking dyes]? I knew they could be used on hair and to adorn skin, but that's all. 
  • [Philosopher Mo-___] for TZE; Mo-Tze would be a good rapper name.
  • The [Capital just south of the equator] is Ecuador's QUITO, which the NYT travel section just touted.
  • The last name of [George ___, longtime Cleveland Orchestra conductor] is SZELL.
  • A [Bay Stater or Garden Stater] from Massachusetts or New Jersey is an EASTERNER.
  • [One whose work may be catchy] is a SLOGANEER. The unsung sloganeer finally graduates from clue to fill.
  • The [Bronchoscopist's view] is said to be the TRACHEA here; physicians, isn't that misrepresenting the bronchoscope's job (going beyond the trachea and into the bronchi) somewhat?
  • HERSHEY, Pennsylvania, is the [City where Chocolate Avenue crosses Cocoa Avenue].
  • The [Kazan Cathedral location] is RED SQUARE.
  • [Still "well," but not beyond] is UNBURNT, a questionable-looking word used here to describe steak.
  • [Ammonia derivative] is IMIDE; this one slowed me down a bit as I started with IMINE. (Close, but no cigar.)
  • I drew a total blank on ["Lost" actress Raymonde] even though the show is on (via DVR) as I write this. TANIA Raymonde plays Rousseau's daughter, apparently.

Answers I liked: Uncle Sam's I WANT YOU; CBS NEWS; the [Gooey goody] SMORE (I have a brand-new box of graham crackers, some HERSHEY minis, and a bag of marshmallows in the kitchen, and a microwave is a workable stand-in for a campfire); ALDER catkins (I have always been fond of catkins hanging on trees); AY CARAMBA, or ["Sheesh!," south of the border]; and the [Kraft brand] CHEEZ WHIZ.

Byron Walden's 68-word New York Sun "Weekend Warrior" isn't among my favorites of his work, but it does get off a few good nuggets. My favorite entries are BOSS HOGG from Dukes of Hazzard, "I WON'T BITE" ([Friendly reassurance to a timid child]), a very old lady's BLUE RINSE, ROCK-SOLID, the four-word phrase HAS AN IN WITH, and the broadside collision of CRASH and SCENE. Favorite clues:
  • [Short-changed oneself, maybe?] for KNELT
  • [Floor covering] for SPILL
  • [One who is often praised] for ALLAH
  • [Phoenician double-deckers] for BIREMES (most double-deckers are buses or sandwiches rather than boats of antiquity)
  • [In contact with] for AGAINST, as in "a ladder placed against the wall"
  • The double hit of Sarkozy action, [Nicolas Sarkozy, to Carla Bruni] for MARI (French for spouse) and [Where Sarkozy can get cozy] for the French president's ELYSEE Palace
  • [Fizzle] for GO NOWHERE
  • [What players should do] is GET TESTED—let's take a vote. Does this mean players on the dating scene should get tested for STDs or that athletes should get tested for performance-enhancing drugs?
  • [Tina in "Napoleon Dynamite," e.g.] for LLAMA
  • [Auxiliary of the past?] for WAS
  • [Bar code?] for LAW
  • [Took a punt, say] for the definitely-not-football BOATED—I will gladly take the punt and BIREMES in lieu of an ark or proa
  • [Syllogistic segue] for HENCE

I thought DEER MEAT ([Woods game]—not Tiger Woods' golf) was properly called venison, but I see here that the venison label also covers elk, moose, and antelope meat. So if someone tells you his favorite kind of venison is not DEER MEAT, he isn't an idiot.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Repeat After Me," repeats a word and plunks it after a ME. WING, RELY, AGER, and KONG feed into a MEWING WING at the animal hospital, MERELY RELY, MEKONG KONG, and a MEAGER AGER who doesn't quite pass muster as a golden-ager. Entries I liked include GRAPE SODA, TAX-EXEMPT (two Xs!), PETER OUT, "IT'S NOT OK," and BOHO-chic. Favorite clues: [Dollar rival] for EURO (currency, not rental car companies) and [Class full of jokes] for SEX ED. I'd never heard of [Lute player Karamazov who collaborated on Sting's "Songs From the Labyrinth"], EDIN. If last summer's Police concert is any indication, the Police show I'm seeing next weekend will include no lute action—just the original trio demonstrating that three musicians is all you need for an arena concert.


Hey, check out the elegance of Harvey Estes' Wall Street Journal crossword theme. The "Heart of Change" gimmick is to do the "Before & After" game to merge two phrases into one. "That's been done before plenty of times," you say. Yes, but here, the words that link the two phrases are PENNY, NICKEL, DIME, and QUARTER, in that order, all tied together with an aptly thematic phrase, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN, spanning the middle of the grid. There may be only five theme entries, but they total 101 theme squares. My favorite theme entry is [Cry of "Small burgers only!" at McDonald's?], or GIVE NO QUARTER POUNDERS. With such long theme answers and so many 7s in the fill, the overall fill contains few uncommon letters, but there are lively words and phrases such as GUTLESS, FESS UP, SEWANEE ([The University of the South, familiarly]), DAYS INN, DILBERT, TWO-BIT, WRANGLER, AXEMAN, and EVANDER Holyfield.

It took seemingly forever for me to understand Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer's LA Times crossword. The first theme entry was [Like top singers?], WELL-VOICED. Hmm, not a familiar phrase, but then again, music isn't my forte. The next one, [Where medieval winches were kept?], crossed NAVA*O, which meant it could plausibly be JOIST CASTLE or HOIST CASTLE, and I opted (wrongly) for the J. I kept plodding through the theme and only figured it out with MY NAME IS OIL, a [Bertolli boast?]. Aha! "My Name Is Earl" with a sound change. Well-versed, Hearst Castle—all righty, those make perfect sense now. FOIST ON THE SCENE was [Hype unscrupulously?], and then there was my favorite theme entry: LOIN TO TALK, or [Headline about a chop's oratorical debut?]. It's patently ridiculous, which must be why I like it.
Nice puzzle, T and P! Interesting clues:
  • [Her given name at birth was Sari] for ZSA ZSA Gabor
  • ["Je crois que ___": Pierre's "I think so"] for OUI
  • [Gad about] for TRAIPSE—I love traipsing
  • ["More than I needed to know!," briefly] for TMI ("too much information")
  • [Joe in Paris] for CAFE (French for "coffee")
  • [Badderlocks, for one] for KELP edible Scottish kelp, at that)
  • ["We're treating!"] for "ON US"—more interesting than an onus, no?
  • ["Is that so?"] for "OH, REALLY?"

The Chronicle of Higher Education crossword by Jim Holland is called "Painted Ladies," but it has nothing to do with the butterfly of the same name. Rather, the theme entries are five famous paintings of women, clued as [Painted lady by Duccio], [...da Vinci], [...Botticelli], [...Matisse], and [...Wyeth]—MADONNA AND CHILD, MONAL LISA, THE BIRTH OF VENUS, BLUE NUDE, and CHRISTINA'S WORLD, in order. Favorite clue and answer: [Leaves hanging by a thread?] for TEABAG (that one's going on my list of the year's best clues); NONPAREIL, or [Unequaled], just because I love Sno-Caps brand chocolate nonpareils.

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle lands on the easy end of the CrosSynergy scale, at a Monday difficulty level. The meat of the "Vehicular Verbs" theme lies in the theme clues, [Train], [Ship], [Plane], and [Bus]. The theme entries themselves are essentially crossword clues for the one-word clues, and two of them wouldn't pass muster as standard crossword entries: SMOOTH A BOARD and TEACH SKILLS aren't stand-alone phrases. (CLEAR TABLES and PUT IN THE MAIL word for me, though.) If there were a J, this puzzle would've been a pangram, and that's one of Patrick Jordan's hallmarks—the pursuit of pangrams that use all 26 letters of the alphabet. Patrick could have snuck a J in 53-Across, having Steely Dan's AJA crossing JETE and Grieg's "ASE'S Death"—but then we'd lose APU and PETE Townshend and have to contend with crappy ASES, so it's better to forgo the pangram than have compromised fill.