The good news is: We won the six-week trivia contest and the $600 top prize. (Favorite question, the rare multiple-choice: Are bonobos asexual, homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual? Tyler's big gimme: How many sides does an icosahedron have? Somehow we were the only team that knew the latter.) The bad news is: It's late, I'm tired, I've had a few drinks, the applet refused to load so 33 seconds were gone on the applet's clock by the time I saw the puzzle, my friend's recent Jethro Tull blog post did not tell me the answer to 51-Down, and I mistyped 67-Across and then couldn't grasp the crossings—so the New York Times crossword by C.W. Stewart kicked my butt. The theme is...let's take a look back and see. Ah, yes. The theme is BALLS. Each of the following six theme entries begins with a word that can be followed by BALLS:
BLACK-TIE = [Fund-raiser wear, perhaps] (blackballs)
BUTTERCUP = [Yellow flower] (butterballs)
GUM ERASER = [Artist's smudge remover] (gumballs)
HIGH NOON = [1952 Gary Cooper western] (highballs)
MEATHEAD = ["All in the Family" nickname] (meatballs)
SOFT-SOAP = [Cajole] (softballs)
It would be a little smoother to have the tie-together entry be the singular BALL, I think, but a word with an even number of letters would have to move from the center of the grid. The SW and NE corners are pretty wide open for a Wednesday puzzle. Where I got mangled up, mainly, was in the lower center section. [Aqualung, e.g., in the 1971 Jethro Tull album] was a LECHER? I had no idea. Flute + prog rock was as far as I got in understanding their oeuvre. I mistyped APES instead of APSE for [Vaulted area, often] and failed to notice the problem the first, oh, three times I read the 51- and 65-Down clues that crossed the wrong squares. [Put up with] is BEAR, sure, but with the mangling above, it just wasn't working out. (Sigh.)
I probably won't have time to get to the other five crosswords before lunchtime Wednesday. (Sigh.)
Randall Hartman's New York Sun puzzle, "Bury the Hatchet," buries an AX in five phrases to generate the theme entries. [Command to the promiscuous widow in "The Night of the Iguana"] is "STRIP, MAXINE" (strip mine); I know Maxine Waters from Congress and '70s singer Maxine Nightingale better than this fictional one. Favorite son begets FAVORITE SAXON, [Pet German of yore?]. My favorite theme entry's CHICKEN WAXING, or [Process of taking hair off a fraidy-cat?].
Rich Norris's CrosSynergy crossword, "E-tail Losses," repurposes too-frequent crossword fill ETAIL by using it in the theme concept—an E at the tail of a word in each theme entry is lost. Thus, [Really valuable hair gels?] are GOLDEN GOOS (golden goose); [What a sitting jury has 12 of?] are LAPS IN JUDGMENT (...but the laps aren't in judgment, are they?); [Lions, bears, etc.?] are DENS' POPULATION; and [Knockouts-to-be?] are FUTURE TENS. There are two 9-letter names in the fill: ANNIE HALL, the [1977 Oscar-winning film], and JOSE GRECO, an [Italian-born flamenco dancer] whose name somehow came to me, and I really don't know why.
The clues in Mark Sherwood's LA Times crossword kept eluding me and my wavelength. The theme entries all begin with related words: HOLY SMOKES is a [Surprised cry], the HALLOWED HALLS are [Academic environs, reverentially], BLESSED EVENTS are [Births], and SACRED COWS are [Certain untouchables]. Wouldn't you rather say "Sacred smokes!" and back off from the holy cows? One film clue was a little misleading: [Julia of film] is RAUL Julia and not Julia Somebody. And then the [Big name in film] clue surely wanted a cinema legend, right? Nope—FUJI film, as in camera film.
I know I'm a day later than usual on the two Ben Tausig puzzles—his regular Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword and this week's Onion puzzle. But if I start those now I'll be late going to the gym, and we certainly can't have that.
Am I just overtired or is Ben Tausig's Onion A.V. Club puzzle tougher than usual? The theme entries rework some vowel sounds THE LONG WAY. Men's short E goes long in MEAN AT WORK. Car's short A goes long to make CARE WASH. A bat (pronounced "bot") mitzvah becomes BOAT MITZVAH; muddy, MOODY WATERS; and bit, BITE PART. I got all tangled up by the [Dangerous ray], which is supposed to be a GAMMA ray and not a manta. Favorite clues: [Use acid for creative purposes] for ETCH; [Body image, briefly?] for TAT (tattoo). A MONSOON was an [Indian summer occurrence] not because of "Indian summer" (warm weather in autumn) but rather, summertime in India. [Hall of Fame football coach Ewbank]'s first name is WEEB. The [___ Rebellion (1739 slave uprising)] is STONO; if you don't know this piece of history either, read up and learn. [___ bomb] is completed with SAKE; a sake bomb is a shot of sake dropped into a pint of beer, causing mad fizzing. And I think this may mark WET SPOT's debut in a newspaper crossword.
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle, "The Theme Theme," translates TV or movie theme music into written syllables. Wow, I am not good at making sense out of those. My mind's ear heard the Rockford Files theme for most of 'em, or Sanford and Son—and those weren't included here. 18-Across represents the "Final Jeopardy" music from Jeopardy!. 29-Across, with the *snap* *snap* bits, had to be ADDAMS FAMILY. 49-Across hits the GHOSTBUSTERS theme song sung by Ray Parker, Jr. 62-Across brings Superman. The Raiders and Star Warsthemes composed by John Williams could also have worked—or at least, the tunes are distinctive and memorable. (Wow, this theme made me spend a lot of time digging around YouTube for all those clips.) The last entry I completed was the [Slangy address] "YO, SON." Aside from that one, I liked the fill.
May 28, 2008