June 14, 2008

Sunday, 6/15

LAT 11:22 with two-way kibitzing
NYT 7:21
BG 7:10
PI 7:03—The Across Lite file has some cut-off clues; you can get a printable puzzle with complete clues on this page
CS 3:56

NYT Second Sunday puzzle, "Missing Links"—untimed, but pretty quick

When I updated the Saturday post and said I was solving and blogging on the phone, it was a long call with a good friend. I finished the Saturday update around 5:30, when the Sunday NYT was already out—and then spent another three hours on the same call. I'm marking Father's Day weekend by having the house to myself! It's luxurious. I need to edit a paper...just as soon as this post is done. First things first!

You see that new thing atop the sidebar to the right? That is a handy-dandy function programmed by Dave Sullivan (known 'round these parts as "Evad"). Solvers who prefer to solve the NYT puzzle in the newspaper or in Across Lite can enter their solving times (and I will trust you to be honest) and see how they stack up against others, without having to use the NYT's applet. In a few days, there'll be another thingamabob like this for the New York Sun crossword, which doesn't have any sort of daily standings functionality. The NYT one resets when the new puzzle is released online, same as the applet. The Sun standings will reset...I'm not sure when. Early morning, perhaps?

I believe the Sunday New York Times puzzle marks yet another constructor's debut, and a fine debut it is. Jeremy Newton's crossword is called "Did You Get the Memo?" and the theme centers on the "Re:" subject line of a memo. Each theme entry is a phrase that starts with a word beginning with RE, and the RE is severed from that word and changed to an "Re:" component:

  • [Memo about Stephen King's "Christine"?] is RE: POSSESSED AUTO.
  • [Memo about an inveterate perjurer?] is RE: LYING ON INSTINCT.
  • [Memo about a dating guide?] is RE: PAIR MANUAL.
  • [Memo about where tariffs are imposed on incoming ships?] is RE: PORT FOR DUTY.
  • [Memo about stores for animal appendages?] is insane: RE: TAIL OUTLETS. I cannot envision shopping at a tail outlet. I just can't.
  • [Memo about a religious outpost for prisoners?] is RE: CON MISSION.
  • [Memo about why to buy an air purifier?] is RE: MOTE POSSIBILITY. This one's my favorite. I have plenty of mote possibilities here at home.
  • [Memo about a lyricist?] is RE: VERSE ENGINEER. Reverse-engineer is a fairly fresh phrase for a crossword, and turning a poetic type into a "verse engineer" amuses me.

So, I liked the theme, but would you look at the fill? Jeeze, there are 21 7-letter answers and a pair of 8s. And I like the cluing vibe, too. The best 7s include:
  • OH HENRY, or [Candy bar whose name is an exclamation]—a great answer.
  • NIAGARA, or [Falls on the border]—a wonderful clue. I sought a verb for way too long, it seemed.
  • PG-RATED, or [Like many nonanimated Disney films].
  • NUTCASE, or [Loon].
  • TYRANNY, or [Rule before a revolution, maybe]. Again, I was looking for a verb but needed a noun.
  • OLD NAVY, or [Clothing chain since 1994]. I have a neighbor who was in the Marines about 40 years ago. He's got a t-shirt that says OLD MARINE, in classic Old Navy style.
  • POOL CUE, or [It may be used for banking]. More the geometry/basic physics sort of banking, not financial.
  • TRINARY means [Threefold]. For my money, this was the toughest fill in the puzzle, and there were no obscure names or ungettable words to stymie everyone. This one doesn't belong in my"best 7s" list, but I didn't want it to be lonely in its own paragraph.

Gary Disch's second Sunday NYT puzzle is a "Missing Links" puzzle. There are three 9x9 grids with Scrabble-type linked words in them. The solver's job is to add the 15 letters below each grid to make longer words. I've seen similar puzzles in Games magazine, and had fun with these. If you're stuck and looking for a few hints, here are some in white text. (Highlight text with your mouse to reveal.) In grid 1, you'll need to add letters in rows 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Row 7 will contain the word BANSHEE. In grid 2, rows 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, and 9 receive added letters. There will be no blank squares in the top row and the rightmost and leftmost columns. In grid 3, rows 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8 get new letters. Rows 2 and 7 will have no blanks.


Bonnie Gentry's syndicated LA Times crossword, "Bandleaders," appears in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, so my husband grabbed a pen and set to work. Then he began the trash talk, claiming he would finish before I did. Then I downloaded the puzzle and set to work. He's still working on it. (Hee hee!) The "Bandleaders" theme includes eight phrases that start with words that can fill in the blank in "___ band":
  • [Heisman winner, e.g.] is a BIG MAN ON CAMPUS, and there's big band jazz.
  • [Ritual favorite written by Mendelssohn] is the WEDDING MARCH (wedding band—which can be both a gold ring or a band that plays at the reception).
  • [Bosses of bosses] are HEAD HONCHOS, and you can wear a headband.
  • [They may go either way] refers to SWING VOTERS (swing band—see big band, above).
  • [Deferential approvals] are RUBBER STAMPS (rubber band).
  • [Vigilante's action] is a CITIZEN'S ARREST (citizens' band, or CB radio).
  • [Compete at Petaluma, once] is ARM-WRESTLE, and you can wear an armband along with that headband.
  • [Shibboleths] are WATCHWORDS (watchband of a wristwatch). Shibboleth, you probably know but I didn't, is from the Hebrew Bible.

The trickiest answer in this puzzle for this non-Pennsylvanian and non-radio buff, is the [Longtime Pittsburgh radio station] KDKA? What? A station east of the Mississippi that starts with K rather than W? Turns out it's one of a handful of exceptions to the rule. Its last letter was a crapshoot—the crossing clue is [This, in Toledo]. The answer is ESTA, but could it just as easily be ESTO if you don't know your Pittsburgh radio call letters? Spanish speakers, help me out here. Favorite fill: CHEEZ-IT crackers.

In Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "But Hey..." is the phrase that precedes a bunch of other phrases in colloquial English. For example, WHO'S COUNTING or SOMEBODY'S GOTTA DO IT. Given the lack of specificity of the theme clues, the crossings need to be easy enough to point solvers in the right direction—and they are. Except for those clues that are goofed up in the Across Lite version:

100-Down. [Porter tune] should be [Cole Porter tune], per the version on Merl's website.
101-Down. [of Sid's 1950s co-stars] should be [Sid's 1950s female co-star].
102-Down. [rs] should be [Abhors].
104-Down. [mo replay] should be [___-mo replay].
106-Down. [s about] should be [Knows about].
107-Down. [cakes] should be [Rich cakes].

Fun crossword theme!

This week's Across Lite rerun of the Boston Globe crossword is constructed by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon. The "Long Division" theme comprises a dozen entries occupying six full rows of the grid. The four shorter theme entries involve division by numbers, while the others divide a word by another word. [Theater ÷ 1 = Neolithic] is STONE AGE: the word STAGE divided by the number ONE, cryptic crossword style. [Chief ÷ 9 = emaciation] is BONINESS: BOSS divided by NINE. The non-numeric divisions work the same way. [Shop tool ÷ priest = amphibian] is SALAMANDER, a LAMA inside a SANDER. Nifty theme, no? I'm guessing that Henry and Emily looked for theme entries made up of TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX, and SEVEN, but found no words that consisted of those numbers surrounded by another stand-alone word. My favorite name for a body part is in the fill here: the PHLTRUM is the [Upper-lip groove] between the lip and nose. Doesn't it sound like it should be an old brand name?

Randolph Ross's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" is fairly easy as themelesses go. [Castor's slayer] would have been much harder for me, but it evoked a previous NYT clue, [Argonaut who slew Castor], that brought this blog a ton of search-engine traffic. IDAS! It's you again, with a different clue! You can't fool me, mister. IDAS crosses HAD A.C. (air conditioning), or [Was ready for the heat, for short]; that HADAC is sort of iffy as a crossword entry. The [1975 U.S. Open tennis champ] ORANTES was an answer for which I needed every single crossing. But aside from those spots, it was all pretty reasonable. Favorite clues: [A Hamburger's one] is EIN ("Hamburger's" is the possessive here, not the contraction of "Hamburger is"); ["Theatre of the Absurd" luminary] for Eugene IONESCO, the playwright who penned Rhinoceros; [Smallest bone in the human body] for STAPES, the wee stirrup in the middle ear; and [German Hermann] for writer Hermann HESSE.