June 19, 2008

Friday, 6/20

NYT 53:38
WSJ 41:56
NYS 28:52
LAT 20:07
CHE 13:42
CS 5:46

PuzzleGirl here. It's comical seeing numbers that big at the top of this blog, isn't it? Thanks everybody for being so dang nice to me the last couple of days. It's been a blast so far. Now I want to ask you something and I want you to be honest. Are you here for an explanation of the theme in Joe Bower's New York Sun puzzle? It's called "Would You Believe?" Personally, I solved the puzzle, looked at the title, looked at the theme entries, looked at the title, looked at the theme entries some more …. Couldn't figure it out. There was no way I was going to post again without understanding the freakin' theme, so I emailed our friend Pete over at Sunblocks. He hadn't solved the puzzle yet but said casually, and I quote, "The title immediately makes me think of 'Get Smart,' but I can't think how that would be a theme." Guess what, boys and girls. That's the theme. Thanks, Pete! "Would you believe...?" is, of course, a catchphrase from the popular 1960s television show, "Get Smart." The theme entries all start with words related to the show.

  • [Sassy] = SMART-MOUTHED. The show's main character is secret agent Maxwell SMART.
  • [#2 hit of January 1984] = 99 LUFTBALLONS. Agent 99 is the character played by Barbara Feldon.
  • [They preside over presidential impeachment trials] = CHIEF JUSTICES. The agents' boss is pretty much exclusively referred to as "CHIEF." As in, "Sorry about that, Chief."
  • [Micromanager, for example ] = CONTROL FREAK. CONTROL is the secret U.S. spy agency the show is centered around.
This is a solid, creative theme. I'm embarrassed that I couldn't see it on my own. Because I didn't know the theme, the 99 really surprised me. I couldn't decide if I loved it or if it was totally unfair. Knowing the theme makes that an easy answer: love it. What do you all think about numbers in the puzzle?

Miscellaneous stuff: [_____ to Go (stain remover)] was looking for TIDE, but with all the home improvement projects we've been doing lately, all I could think of was wood stain. It seemed very strange to me that there was a product available to remove wood stain. I thought you just had to sand the stupid wood. I couldn't multiply properly and came up with CCL for [L squared], which isn't even close to the actually answer of MMD. I majored in English; you do the math. [It might be sold by the yard] is ALE, but I wanted ade. You know, like a lemonade stand out in front of your yard? [Not flat, in a way] was looking for a FITTED sheet, but I was still focused on the bra theme ([Like some bras], PUSHUP) so could only come up with words like buxom and full-figured, which obviously didn't work at all. [Genre associated with turntablism] is RAP. Turntablism? Really? Apparently, yes. [School in Philly] is UPENN. I've always liked schools that can be referred to like that, U Penn, U Conn, Texas U. Of course I'm kidding about that last one.

When I saw Mike Nothnagel's name on the New York Times puzzle it made me so happy. I'm typically right on Mike's wavelength and, though his puzzles are tough, I can pretty much expect to fight my way through them. And, well ... I don't usually have as much trouble as I did tonight. I'm going to blame it on the exhausting pace of keeping up with this blog.

Lots of good stuff here. [Head of an alley?] is a ONE PIN. Whenever I see Head in a clue I think the answer is going to be Edith. As far as I know, she wasn't much of a bowler. You didn't think I'd let you leave without telling you what Gravlax is, did you? It is, apparently, a Scandinavian dish consisting of raw salmon cured in salt, sugar, and DILL. Considering my heritage, it seems like that should be right up my alley. But I think I'll stick with lefse. (Here's where you can order some. Yum!) I always get Ed WYNN [Old-time comic Ed] confused with Fred Gwynne (Mr. Munster). [A National Cartoonists Society award is named for him] = Elzie SEGAR, Popeye's creator. Recipients of this award include frequent crossword denizens Dik Brown (1973), Al Capp (1979), and Bil Keane (1982). Thank God for HANNAH (and her sisters) [Title role in a 1986 Woody Allen film], or I might never have finished that corner. [Part of an even exchange] refers to TIT for tat. (Heh heh. You said "tit.") And [Butt] was looking for RAM, and not bum, which I had until the bitter end. (Heh heh. You said "butt.") I wanted [Be in the can] to mean something along the lines of all wrapped up or finished. But the puzzle wanted SERVING TIME. (When I just typed that it made me think of the way John Locke always talks about The Island. "The Puzzle knows what we need, Jack!")

There's a bunch of other good stuff in here, but I'm so late posting already that I'll leave the discussion to you. See ya in the comments....


John Lampkin's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle takes some well-known scientific phrases and clues them as if the first word of the phrase is spelled differently. Like so:
  • [It predicts that the dullest party guest will sit next to you?] = BOHR THEORY
  • [It indicates how many times you'll be made fun of after doing something dumb?] = MACH NUMBER
  • [It measures the hardness of a bop to Larry or Curly's head?] = MOHS SCALE
  • [It governs the behavior of watched pots on stoves?] = BOYLE'S LAW
I don't know nothin' 'bout no science stuff, but I have heard of these phrases. I know some of you are going to have a field day discussing them in detail. Have fun! I'll be over here licking my wounds from the beating Nothnagel gave me. Several of the answers in this puzzle were obviously included just for me. (It is all about me, right?) When I lived in New York for a couple years I was like two blocks away from the [T.S. Eliot-inspired musical] CATS. Every once in a while my neighbors and I would get to see one of the actors walking down the street in one of those costumes. Too funny. As a graduate of the University of Maryland, I had no problem getting TERRAPIN for [Diamondback reptile]. We're college wrestling fans here at our house and I was telling my kids the other day that since we're moving away from Iowa and back out to the DC area, we'll probably start following the Terps wrestling team. They asked me what a terp was and I explained it was short for terrapin, which is a turtle. You know the next question, right? "Mommy, why would they want a turtle for their mascot?" To which I responded, "Um, er, … well, it's a big, scary turtle." Not sure how else to make sense of that one. The University's slogan right now is "Fear the Turtle," which I think is pretty humorous. If you haven't read John Irving's A Prayer for Owen MEANY, you might want to check it out. Most people I know who've read it consider it one of their favorite books. Let's see, what else was in there for me? [Simon Bolivar's birthplace] is CARACAS. Been there. An EXACTA is an example of a [Two-horse wager]. Done that. TAE BO is a [1990s exercise fad]. Bought the tapes.

Updated again:

I guess I hadn't really focused on the fact that I'd be blogging six puzzles today. And if you're still reading this, I've already taken up a significant part of your day. So these last three will be short.

The theme of Dan Fisher's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "R&D Investment" is pretty tricky. He took a two-word phrase, added an R somewhere in the first word and a D somewhere in the second word and then clued the resulting phrase. Like so:
  • [Bitter tub feature?] = ACRID DRAIN (Acid Rain)
  • [Tennis drop shot from Gandhi?] = INDIRA DINK (India Ink)
  • [Protectors of the reef ecosystem?] = CORAL MINDERS (Coal Miners)
  • [Cultivated basswood trees?] = BRED LINDENS (Bed Linens)
  • [Very small measure in a hardware store?] = BRAD BREADTH (Bad Breath)
  • [Silt that came from a brook?] = STREAM POWDER (Steam Power)
  • [Poets who wrote about the market in 1929?] = CRASH BARDS (Cash Bars)
  • [Items discovered while hiking?] = TRAIL FINDS (Tail Fins)
  • [Squeeze the water out of Southern greens?] = WRING COLLARDS (Wing Collars)
  • [Colorful kerchiefs worn by Al?] = GORE'S BANDANAS (Goes Bananas)
Whew! Some of those were hard to figure out. Especially the ones that had other Rs and Ds in them. Other notable stuff: Thought we might be seeing Tonga again already, but ARUBA's motto is ["One Happy Island"]. A [Brief scene] is a VIGNETTE. Great word. [Summer music] did exactly what it was supposed to do and gave me fits. I couldn't think of a genre specific to summer (the season) and only through crosses did I remember DISCO queen, Donna Summer. [Fawning flattery] is SMARM. Another great word. Is there a creepier character on television than BEN Linus, [Leader of the Others on "Lost"]?

Billie Truitt's LA Times puzzle is full of Zs. She took a familiar phrase, changed the spelling of the first word to include a Z, and then clued the resulting phrase.
  • [Grab a lantern?] = SEIZE THE LIGHT (Sees the Light)
  • [Ongoing confusion?] = DAZE OF OUR LIVES (Days of Our Lives)
  • [Be paralyzed by money woes?] = FREEZE FROM DEBT (Frees from Debt)
  • [Relax, commuter-style?] = LAZE ON THE LINE (Lays on the Line)
Stuff I liked: [Wearer of #37, the first uniform number retired by the Mets] is Casey STENGEL who, like Yogi Berra, was exceedingly quotable. Here's one of my favorites: "The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided." Indeed. One of the words my son learned in school this year is GLUTEUS [Bum muscle?]. He uses it at every opportunity and just knows he's hilarious.

Thank God for Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Minding the Storage." I'm hoping that my time on this puzzle allows me to keep at least a shred of credibility around here. Theme answers in this puzzle all end with something that can be used as storage.
  • [1970s cop show] = STARSKY AND HUTCH
  • [Woodpecker's feeding spot] = TREE TRUNK
  • [Track and field event] = POLE VAULT
  • [Quickly-decided matter] = OPEN-AND-SHUT CASE
Ya know what? That's all I'm going to say about that one. I need to go rest up for tomorrow's puzzles.