June 26, 2008

Friday, 6/27

LAT 5:48
NYT 5:43
CHE 4:24
NYS 3:46
CS 3:25

WSJ 8:07

Watching a competition show, The Next Food Network Star, I heard one contestant say "My heart was literally going a mile a minute." Now, technically, the speed of the heart is measured in beats per minute. Let's see...a mile a minute is 60 miles an hour, right? So for a heart to literally be going 60 miles an hour, it would have to be located in a motor vehicle traveling down the highway, wouldn't it? In this case, the contestant was in a kitchen. Why, oh why do people use "literally" to add figurative emphasis?

Karen Tracey's New York Sun "Weekend Warrior" was not so bellicose at all. It's got enough Scrabbly letters to make it a pangram, with the marquee entry "I'M TOO SEXY" down the middle crossing TIM CURRY, who played the too-sexy Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the sweet transvestite from Transylvania. The clue for JOY ADAMSON, the [Virginia McKenna movie role of 1966], refers to Born Free in a way that probably obscures the Born Free link for most of us. And then there's ELSA, the Born Free lioness, clued as [Tiffany jewelry designer Peretti]. (I'm partial to Peretti's hearts in crystal. But I already have two paperweights and a heart-shaped box, so don't get those for my birthday, okay?)

Karen's geographic hit this time isn't full of implausible letter combos: the IRISH SEA is [One end of St. George's Channel], which I know nothing about. (See also the Boston CELTICS.) I know OTAY only as what Eddie Murphy's Buckwheat character said on SNL, not as [___ Mesa (San Diego border crossing)]. LAOTIANS are there as [Vientiane natives], and NORD is [Lille's department] in France. The botanical arena gets AZALEAS, LANTANA, and a SEQUOIA—is that the shortest word containing all five vowels? The culinarily inclined might know ENOKI mushrooms and that MUSSELS are a [Billi-bi ingredient]. Judaism gets ISRAELITE and Simchat TORAH, a holiday not in my ken. Native Americans get a shout-out with CALUMETS, or [Peace pipes], and MANITOU, or [Algonquian spirit]. The [Inventor who gave skyscrapers a boost] is ELISHA OTIS, who made the elevator; usually he gets only his last name into the grid, but a regular crossword solver should know his first name from all those [Elevator pioneer Elisha] clues.

Brad Wilber's New York Times crossword is a good bit tougher than the Weekend Warrior, but still solidly Friday level despite some gnarly bits. As in Karen's puzzle, there are some paired answers, here specifically cross-referenced in the clues. The [Luau lighting] TIKI TORCH goes with HULA at 37-Across, the adjacent [Radio code word]s are ROMEO and SIERRA, and the [program pitched by Queen Latifah] is JENNY / CRAIG (she's touting a loss of 7% of her body weight rather than a goal of being skinny, which seems more realistic and health-oriented than the usual commercial diet plan).

Favorite entries:

  • ELMER'S GLUE, or [Big sticker?]
  • NEWS CRAWL, or [Ticker with headlines]
  • WEARS THIN, or [Stops being funny, say]
  • AMISH BUGGY, or [Sight in Lancaster County, Pa.]
  • HAT IN HAND, or [With respectful humility]
  • TURN TO MUSH, or [Get all sentimental]

Favorite clues include [Do the dishes?] for CATER. [Canyon tones] are OCHRES. Four of those letters are in the same spots in ECHOES, which could be sound tones in a canyon. Tricky! [Spring arrival] is an ARIES born in late March or most of April, and not a flower that emerges in springtime, as I was first thinking. [Gernreich who invented the monokini] is RUDI; here's a discussion of the back-formation of various swimsuit names as if -kini were a suffix rather than part of the Bikini Atoll's name.

Mystifying morsels:
  • SEGNO is a [Repetition mark, in music]. Things found on music staffs are not my forte.
  • ORY completes ["Le Comte ___" (Rossini opera)]. There's a Kid Ory in jazz, too.
  • I know INTL abbreviates international, but I'm not quite sure how [Not just at home: Abbr.] makes sense as its clue. As in "intl. sensation"? If it's that sort of usage, it's not one that is ordinarily going to be abbreviated.
  • ["___ Cardboard Lover" (Norma Shearer film)] is completed by HER. Er, whatever you say, Mr. Cardboard, sir.
  • [Footballer Ford] is LEN. Yep, that's a 3-letter man's name. That'll play.
  • [Francis ___, signer of the Articles of Confederation], is Francis DANA. Wikipedia tells me that his grandson Richard Henry Dana, Jr., wrote Two Years Before the Mast.


Jack McInturff's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "African Road Trip," assembles a narrative with the help of some fun geographical puns. [My guide and I began our tour in Khartoum, driving in a] LUXURY SUDAN, Sudan being where the city of Khartoum is. Accra points towards I'M GHANA LIKE THIS; Nairobi, KENYA GO FASTER; Kampala, HAVE UGANDA SLEEP; Porto Novo, I'VE NOT BENIN. This puzzle was right up my alley, though there was a 6-letter stretch that required every single crossing to complete. [Where Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac] is MORIAH? Wow. I know the Chronicle is a publication for academics, but I would have preferred MARIAH Carey crossing AVA Gardner to MORIAH crossing OVA. Does everyone else know Moriah? Is it just me?

Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword features primatological puns. [Party snacks for apes?] are CHIMP 'N' DIP, although that sounds more like a snack for a carnivore that eats chimps. [Alternatives to monkey bars?] are RHESUS CUPS, playing on Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and, perhaps, candy bars. GORILLA MY DREAMS goes way back; this [Ape's heartthrob?] sounds like "girl o' my dreams." [Ape-to-ape exchange?] is GIBBON TAKE, although give-and-take represents exchange and I don't see where the gibbons are sharing here. Hearst's San Simeon becomes SAN SIMIAN, [California tourist spot in "Planet of the Apes"?]. I wanted this one to be ORANG COUNTY. Can we get a TV show called The O.C. in which all the parts are played by orangutans? Please? Good fill overall, with a smattering of long entries, and rather tough clues if you ask me.

Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Birthday Beginnings," is published on Stella's birthday. Happy birthday, Stella! The theme is quite similar to that of Joon Pahk's bonus puzzle—the theme entries include words that can follow birthday. I think the options for phrases ending with "birthday ___" words might be more generous than for phrases that begin with those words—CAKE OF SOAP and SUIT THE OCCASION seem awkward compared with Joon's CLASS-ACTION SUIT and TAKE THE CAKE, for example.

Liz Gorski skews topical with her Wall Street Journal crossword, "Lending Limits." She handles the CREDIT CRUNCHES by crunching CR into a single square wherever it appears—in five longish entries that each contain two [CR] squares and two other shorter pairs of entries, not symmetrically plunked in, with single [CR] crunches. There were two intersecting names I didn't know—mystery writer LILIAN Jackson Braun and MALENA, a 2000 Italian film starring Monica Bellucci. Given that there wasn't another reasonable option for *ILIAN, that worked out OK.