May 16, 2008

Saturday, 5/17

Newsday 5:48
NYT 5:24
LAT 4:35
CS 4:14

Brother Mike! Mike Nothnagel! I love that his New York Times crossword includes the phrase NO MAYO. At the last ACPT, Mike and I had a conversation about the evils of certain condiments. If memory serves, Mike is part of the secret society of people who just don't care for mayonnaise. The whole [Dieter's request, perhaps] aspect? Not a factor. I just don't care for mayo. Condiments aside, this whole puzzle's smooth in classic Nothnagelian fashion. What marks it as a Nothnagel puzzle?

There are marquee entries. THE DEAD ZONE was a [1979 novel, 1983 film, and 2002-07 TV series]—and that 1983 movie was terrible. Or at least it made me laugh at Christopher Walken every time he was getting a vision. UNREQUITED LOVE is a lovely entry, too, clued as [Torch song subject]. Here's my favorite torch song, by k.d. lang.

Mike's got some uncommon-letter action: WALTZES ([Moves briskly and easily]) and JANSSEN ([Star of the 1970s detective drama "Harry O"]) and SWANKY ([Smart]) and I LIKE IKE ([Motto of a 1950s grass-roots movement]).

Colorful phrases abound: LION'S DEN ([Terrifying thing to be thrown into]), JUST A BIT ([Not much at all]), "I OWE YOU" ([Grateful person's reply]), AS A TEAM ([Together]), HE SAID ([One of two sides of a story?]), TOWN-AND-GOWN ([Of a university's relationship with its surroundings]).

There's no shortage of interesting fill: SHTETLS are [Places such as Anatevka in "Fiddler on the Roof"]. Marc CHAGALL was the [Designer of a stained-glass window in the U.N. building]. SYMPTOMS (only one full-time vowel!) are [Signs], a nice vague clue. A GAMER is a [World of Warcraft participant, e.g.]. HERSHEY is a [Big syrup maker]. The verb [Intimate] can mean ALLUDE TO.

My favorite clues: [Helper after a crash] is a TECHIE (computer crash, not car crash). [Shot] is the past-tense verb RACED. [Dreaded victimizer of Charlie Brown] could have multiple answers, couldn't it? Here, it's KITE-EATING TREE. [Turning point?] is DIME...though wait a second. Do you turn on a dime, or just stop on one? Geologically speaking, a [Great depression?] can be a BASIN. [Want to know] is WONDER, but somehow, the clue hid the answer from me. A [Jumper's cables?] are TENDONS, anatomically speaking. [Fontaine contents] means EAU, fontaine being French for "fountain" I presume. [Distant stars?] are HAS-BEENS; this might be the clue I like best here. [Prompt delivery] is the LINE that would be delivered as a cue to an actor, perhaps. [Four and four, say] is a PAIR in cards.

Less widely known material: [Holy Roman Emperor, 855-75] was LOUIS II. That last I crossed ELIS, ["We'll give a long cheer for ___ men" ("Down the Field" lyric)]. ELIS seemed more plausible than ELVS or ELXS, the other Roman numeral possibilities, but I sure didn't know it. [___ Hargreaves, first woman to complete a solo climb of Everest, 1995] is ALISON. ["McSorley's Bar" painter] is John SLOAN. [They're stranded in the body] is the plural RNAS. LYN is the first name of [___ St. James, first woman to be named the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, 1992]. ["Relache" composer] is a very specific clue for Erik SATIE, and I don't think I've seen that particular work used in a SATIE clue before. [Rimsky-Korsakov's "The Tale of ___ Saltan"] is a clue I've seen before, for TSAR. The [Photographer who was the inspiration for "Funny Face"] (an Audrey Hepburn movie) is Richard AVEDON. A [Shape-shifting Greek god] is NEREUS. I haven't seen QATAR referred to as [Land of Wahhabis]. I once made a terrible mistake and sampled some cute pink foodstuff at a Greek restaurant; it looked like strawberry cream cheese. But the [Main ingredient in taramasalata] is fish ROE—no strawberry sweetness there.


Today's CrosSynergy crossword is a themed one from Bob Klahn. As the "Grab Your Hat!" title hints, each theme entry has grabbed a HAT. Splinters + HAT = SPLINT HATERS, or [Ones who insist on cast support?]. (Extraneous public-service note: If anyone in your household is prone to getting splinters, you need Tweezerman's splinter tweezers. Why, my husband used 'em just yesterday to pull a wooden splinter from our son's hand.) [What McCoys haven't done since 1891?] is BATTLE HATFIELDS (battlefields). [Harilal, Manilal, Ramdas, and Devdas?] are MAHATMA'S BOYS (mama's boys). I think Klahn likes to make puzzles with smaller themes (this one has just 39 squares) to facilitate filling the rest of the grid with smooth and interesting fill that lends itself to twisty clues. [Hunk o' terbacky] for CHAW (I just like to say "terbacky"), which is of a piece with Dogpatch in the CAPP clue that follows. [Paperless exam] is kinda boring for ORAL (though the noun aspect is better than the adjective), but the very next clue is [Paperless post], or E-MAIL. Klahn definitely enjoys pairing clues this way, more than any other constructor I can think of. An EL AL plane is a [Flight out of Israel?]. I didn't know IVAN was [Uncle Vanya's first name]. [Bends over backwards] is, literally, ARCHES. [Way out there] is WEIRD, not just "distant" or "afar." [Makes a fast stop?] is EATS. Favorite entries: DELIGHT, AMOS OZ, "NAME IT," RABBIT FEET (aww, poor bunnies), and HAVE A FEW.

Ray Hamel's themeless Newsday "Saturday Stumper" has four inset 15s framing the grid, with 9- and 13-letter entries running alongside them. Nothing too obscure, nothing too crazy—and no clues too impossible. I don't know the [Top-10 tune of '69], "DOWN ON THE CORNER," but the crossings were pretty reasonable. I absolutely did not know SHEMA, a [Synagogue prayer]. It crossed CUSP at the S, with CUSP clued as [Beginning point]. That was where I ended, since [Like some stadiums], _-SHAPED, had a few plausible letters and I didn't know SHEMA. A U-SHAPED stadium? Okay, that works. PACERS are [Ones in the lead] in a race. The other long answers are:

  • LOWERCASE LETTER: [It's not a capital]
  • CONCENTRATING ON: [Making central]
  • BITES ONE'S TONGUE: [Shuts up]
  • MATHEMATICIAN: [Bertrand Russell, for one]
  • EARLY AMERICAN: [Decor style]
  • PUNISHERS: [Furies, in myth]
  • MARINATED: [Soaked, in a way]
  • PARDNERS: [Western friends]
  • AMES, IOWA: [Cyclones home]

I suppose the crossing of CIARA ([Four-Grammy winner of 2006]) and CURLEW ([Snipe relative]) could have been most vexing for those not up on current rap or birds. And I did have a wrong turn at [Sandinista foe]; even though the first letter looked like a plural S in the crossing word, I wanted CONTRA rather than the pieced-together-eventually answer of SOMOZA. (I much prefer a tasty samosa.)

The themeless LA Times crossword by Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily features three triple stacks of 15-letter entries. I started out skimming the clues for all nine 15s and got nowhere, but the shorter answers (mostly 3s, 4s, and 5s) crossing them offered a ton of help. Some of the 15s echo one another—AS BAD AS BAD CAN BE ([Dreadful to the max]) sort of rebuts TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE ([Like some ad offers]). And "I CAN'T SAY FOR SURE" (["Maybe"]) and "MAKE MINE A DOUBLE" ([Strong words at the bar]) both are first-person comments. I had no idea that PETER COTTONTAIL was a [Resident of April Valley].