May 08, 2008

Friday, 5/9

NYT 7:38
NYS 5:36
LAT 5:10
CHE 4:39
Jonesin' 3:49
CS 3:05

WSJ 8:19

On this day in 2007, I was vacationing in Liverpool. O, to be in England! Except never again in May—the only time I've ever had seasonal allergies was last May in England.

The Friday New York Sun crossword, "Ends in the Middle" by Alan Olschwang, threatened to stymie me in the lower left corner, but somehow I extracted the right letters from the darkest recesses of my brain. (As opposed to the well-lighted parts.) Two theme entries contain the ABC end of the alphabet in their middles (TAB COLLARS and REHAB CENTER), and the other two contain XYZ. The problematic corner was where the insane Roman numeral multiplication problem and unfamiliar ["Strangers on a Train" costar] crossed the [DC Comics villain] whose vowel-free name I've seen in a crossword, MR. MXYZPTLK. The first M starts MCM, or [LXXVI x XXV], and the second M is in RUTH ROMAN. Favorite clues:

  • [Wire cutter?] is a BARB, as in the sharp part of barbed wire.
  • The [Subj. of the book "Treasure-House of the Language"] is the OED. Crossing that entry, aptly, is a [Word with English or language]: BODY. 
  • [They're exhausted] means what? GASES, of course.
  • [Venus, e.g.] for a brand of women's RAZOR. It's nice to get some shaving action in a crossword that doesn't involve ATRA or TRAC.
  • [Nuncupative] means ORAL. As in "Delivered orally to witnesses rather than written: a nuncupative will."
  • The [2004 Lindsay Lohan movie] is MEAN GIRLS, written by Tina Fey.
  • GOD is clued with ["Universe Ends as ___ Wakes Up Next to Suzanne Pleshette" (headline in the Onion)].
Least known to me:
  • ["___ of Lambeth" (W. Somerset Maugham's first novel)] for LIZA
  • Theme entry HYDROXYZINE, [Antihistaminic drug]. This may be used more as an anti-anxiety drug than for hives/allergy, and it's been around for more than 50 years. (XANAX, the [Pfizer antianxiety pill], rounds out the anxiety medicine category in this crossword.) 
  • [Chicago cop Lieberman in Stuart M. Kaminsky novels] is ABE.
  • Stanford University's motto is German: "Die Luft DER Freiheit weht," meaning "The wind of freedom blows." (It's "die Freiheit," a feminine noun, but when the article replaces "of the" it turns into "der" with some dative case action. I'm a little fuzzy on the mechanics at this point.)
  • ["The American ___" (Carelton Mabee biography of Samuel F.B. Morse that won a Pulitzer] for LEONARDO (also the name of one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
  • [Larry who broke the color line in the American League] is DOBY. Why isn't he better known?

The New York Times crossword by Jim Page just wasn't on my wavelength. Favorite clues:
  • [Egyptian ___ (cat breed)] for MAU—it's only faintly familiar, but look at its spots! Bonus points for cuteness.
  • [Organization originally called the Jolly Corks] is the ELKS; aww, why did they change?
  • [Where many lives are expended] is a video game ARCADE.
  • ["Doonesbury" journalist Hedley] for ROLAND
  • [Flying piscivores] for ERNS. Rex has great ERN notecards designed by Emily Cureton.
  • An ELECTRICIAN is [One who may do a wire transfer], sans question mark.

Least favorite entries:
  • PALSY, [Buddy-buddy]. You gotta tack a "-walsy" onto that.
  • Three suffixes: ANE, [Suffix of some cyclic compounds]; ITES, [Plural suffix with urban]; and ATIC, [Axiom ender].
  • MDX, [A multiple of CLI]. Why not specify that it's 10 times CLI?
  • The abbreviation ANC for "ancient" rather than the African National Congress, clued as [Not at all recent: Abbr.].
  • RINA, [Actress Morelli of "The Leopard," 1963]. Despite the favorable combo of letters in her first name Rina Morelli gets precious little play in crosswords.
  • SMALL HOURS, or [Predawn period]. I much prefer "wee hours."
  • SUBSYSTEMS, or [Secondary arrangements]. Lacks flavor.
  • NETTY, [Like lace].

Other clues that I suspect will stump many people:
  • [Bit of ballistic evidence] for SHELL CASING
  • [Bat shapers] for LATHES, which turn wood 
  • [Builder of a hanging nest] for ORIOLE
  • [Projecting bit of architecture] for ORIEL (I mucked up that corner by mistakenly entering fellow crosswordese OSIER)
  • [Jib used to give a boat more speed] for GENOA
  • [Yellowish-orange spread] for APRICOT JAM (...or maybe it was just me who had trouble seeing that one)
  • [It tells you where to look] for a CROSS-INDEX, with SEE cross-referenced to it
  • [1960s TV Western] for LAREDO
  • [Cousin of a guinea pig] for PACA


Matt Jones goes themeless, as he does a few times a year, in this week's Jonesin' crossword. Two of the three long entries in the midsection—in the puzzle's womb, as it were—are FRATERNAL TWINS and RAISE CHILDREN. Those aren't coincidental—Matt's a new dad! Favorite parts of the puzzle: [Meg's mom, on "Family Guy"] is LOIS, who is the star of this video clip that perfectly encapsulates parenting; EDITH PIAF, with her last three letters crossing the stack in the middle of the grid; the [Meat Puppets song coverd by Nirvana on "MTV Unplugged"] is "OH ME" (and would you believe none of Nirvana's Unplugged songs seem to be available as phone ringtones?); and [Phrase said after smacking one's forehead], or "NOW I GET IT," making its second crossword appearance this week. Not wild about the heavy use of word endings in CRUMBLIEST, SYRUPIEST, and LONESOMELY, but will forgive it since Matt will soon enough be getting the Stewie-on-Family Guy treatment from two kids at once.

Doug Peterson's LA Times puzzle used plenty of Friday clues to make it harder to figure out what the theme entries were, since the theme entries were pretty much ungettable without knowing the gimmick. I suppose if I'd started at the bottom of the grid, where, I BEFORE E, [Start of an English rule, and this puzzle's theme], was lurking, it would have come together sooner. [Athena's appearance?] is a WISE MIEN (with an I before the E in the second word). [Doctor's office status, often?] is PATIENT PENDING (patent). [Components in relatively slow computers?] are POKIER CHIPS (poker). And [Tales from the market?] isn't about the stock market—it's GROCERY STORIES (stores). I love the word SKITTERED ([Skipped along]) and should use it more often than I do.

Jim Leeds' Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Cross Examinations," gets TESTY (39-Across) by sneaking four standardized tests (and, in keeping with the publication that published this puzzle, they're all ones a college student or grad might take, not a mere SAT) into rebus squares in the four longest entries. KI[M CAT]TRALL contains the MCAT; PUL[LS A T]RICK ON has the LSAT; READIN[G MAT]TER has the GMAT, and OLIVE [GRE]EN holds the GRE. There were two unknown-to-me answers that crossed—"Little MATTIE," the Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem, and "TU[LSA T]IME," the Don Williams hit single, but what else could go there but an I? The rebus crossings were all smooth as silk—ENI[GMAT]IC, A[GRE]ES, and TO[MCAT]S. I don't know that I would have thought it possible to make an MCAT/LSAT/GMAT rebus crossword! But the rebused entries all work, and the entire puzzle is solid.

Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy crossword, "Have Courage!", tosses synonyms for brave into the theme entries: a VALIANT EFFORT, FEARLESS FOSDICK, and Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD. Fantastic clue: [Bridges of Los Angeles County] for BEAU Bridges. With five or six other names from show business, this crossword felt more like an LA Times puzzle—and they weren't showbiz names from the '30s, '40s, and '50s, so I enjoyed it thoroughly.

This week's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Getting a Business Degree," is credited to Maryanne Lemot, which anagrams to "not my real name"—it's editor Mike Shenk's work. Not only does this puzzle have plenty of sparkling fill—like PUFF PIECE; two [Item in a certain kit] entries, SNARE DRUM and HI-HAT (from a drum kit); CAR WASH; SCOREBOARD; and SORE THUMBS—it's also got an entertaining theme. The insert-a-group-of-letters theme can fall flat or it can gleam, and this one gleams by adding a dry MBA to assorted base phrases:
  • [Support for a funeral parlor hoist?] is EMBALMER GANTRY; I wonder if seeing the Elmer/embalmer pairing was the seed of this puzzle. I don't know that I knew a gantry was a type of crane.
  • [Candy from a marine machine?] is THE SEA GUMBALL (The Seagull).
  • [Ones seeking locations for Bollywood movies?] are BOMBAY SCOUTS (Boy Scouts).
  • [Boss's holiday dinner dilemma in a tight economy?] is TRIM BACK OR TREAT (trick or treat).
  • [Time in office marked by reckless excitement?] is a SLAM-BANG TERM (slang term).
  • [War between origami artists?] is FOLDING COMBAT (folding cot, the most WAN [Anemic] of the base phrases).
  • [Term of endearment from Gable?] is MY SWEET LOMBARD ("My Sweet Lord"). Carole Lombard and Clark Gable were husband and wife, not merely costars.