July 17, 2008

Friday, 7/18

NYS 7:33
NYT 5:31
CHE 4:16
CS 3:39
LAT tba—I can't get Cruciverb.com to load today, so no LAT in Across Lite yet

WSJ 9:42

I have a headache, which does not put me in a blogging frame of mind. Also, if you happen to have solved the Sun and Times crosswords without a headache and you were faster than me, please remember that my brain is aching. (Preemptive excuse-making! I excel at that.)

Up first, Mike Nothnagel's New York Times crossword. I liked it a lot. A crossword that works GAY-FRIENDLY into the mix (clued as [Inclusive, as some resorts]) gives me the warm fuzzies. I've edited plenty of sleep medicine papers, so I liked the combination of CIRCADIAN RHYTHM ([It helps you sleep at night] rather than in the daytime) at 17-Across and JETLAG, which is a potent [17-Across disrupter] (so is shift work).

The nastiest bits, the ones that demanded attention to their crossings, included:

  • IXIA, a [Showy flower of the iris family]. I'm usually pretty good at the botany clues, but not this one. Rumor has it ixias are native to South Africa and are also called corn lilies.
  • The [Chorus "instrument" in Verdi's "Il Trovatore"] is an ANVIL. Blacksmiths, Wile E. Coyote, a bone in the ear—those are the anvil connections in my ken.
  • I had ACH for the [Glaswegian "Gee!"], but it's OCH.
  • Hockey is not my thing, so I had no idea the [Section of a hockey rink in front of the goal] was called a SLOT.
  • The [Force commanded by the Duke of Medina Sidonia]? The clue meant scarcely anything at all, but a few crossings pointed towards ARMADA, and it fit with everything else. Medina-Sidonia is a city in Spain.
  • ["Just a Closer Walk With Thee" and others] are DIRGES. Would you believe I don't own a single mixtape of dirges?
  • I've heard of EROS, sure, but I drew a blank on the [Offspring of Chaos, to Hesiod] clue.

Interesting or unusual answers:
  • [Music lovers flip for it] means SIDE TWO of an album. In vinyl. Kicking it old school!
  • MUCH TO MY CHAGRIN is roughly equivalent to ["Unfortunately..."].
  • [Denied] means SAID NO TO. Past tense, no -ED at the end—heck, no -ED in the middle, either.
  • ENTRY-LEVEL is [Like many low-paying jobs]. I started in publishing and made $16,250 a year in my entry-level job. I wonder what editorial assistants start at now...
  • The FIRE MARSHAL is a [Person with burning resentment?] because he's so darned mad about those fires that need investigation, I guess. The clue seems like it fits an ARSON INVESTIGATOR better, but that won't fit here.
  • KEVIN BACON was a ["Diner" co-star, 1982], along with Ellen Barkin, pre-plastic surgery Mickey Rourke, and Daniel Stern.
  • EARLDOM is one kind of [English jurisdiction] but boy, that word didn't come easily for me.

Assorted other things I feel like mentioning, but no longer have the will to organize:
  • In old ROME (13-Down), people spoke Latin, so [Hard to find] was RARA, meaning "rare." Nice cross-referenced combo, Mike and Will.
  • People! DIRK Benedict was in The A-Team. The late Molly IVINS could indeed say that. TRAJAN was an emperor. Antoinette PERRY is the Tony Awards' namesake. Mary was the [Sister of Lazarus, in the Bible]. LITA Ford is a rock guitarist. Generic people include a RAJA, a GURU, some AGAS, a Cabinet SECY., and a PAL.
  • If you turn down the corner of a page, that [Turndown?] is a DOGEAR. With the errant ACH, I was looking at DAGE-something for way too long.
  • Oh! Fun clue: [Presidential portrait site?] is your WALLET, provided you've got some paper currency.
  • MONISM is the [Belief that all things are made of a single substance]. Can that substance be chocolate? Or crunchy toffee?
  • Usually it's deca- but sometimes that [Prefix meaning "10": Var.] is spelled DEKA. This is one of those times.
  • Can you use AWASH IN ([Completely overrun by]) in a sentence? "This crossword is awash in good, meaty stuff."
  • I've done enough crosswords that a clue like [Biotite and lepidolite] had me thinking MICAS right off the bat.
  • I like TMI, or "too much information" (["I didn't need to know that," informally]. If you don't care that I have a headache, you might've thought "TMI" at the start of this post.

Joe DiPietro's New York Sun puzzle is called "Shuffle the Deck," so I figured the theme would have something to do with playing cards. Indeed, we are treated to SPOONERISMs of four cards. After swapping the initial consonant sounds (or lack thereof), the eight of hearts becomes HATE OF ARTS, a [Philistine's characteristic?]. The ace of spades is SPACE OF AIDES. The [Movie river's senior member gets better?] was hard to parse. Rivers have members? The queen of diamonds turns into a brief tale in which the DEAN OF KWAI MENDS. That one's tortured so far, it's almost genius. Six of clubs is CLICKS OF SUBS.

The clues and answers I admired the most:
  • DONDI! The [Orphan of old comics] with the vacant stare.
  • SAO TOME, [Gulf of Guinea island]. Full name! More often, it's a fill-in-the-blank with just one of the two words in the grid.
  • MR. T, the [B.A. Baracus portrayer on TV], was in The A-Team. Boy, seems like that show is everywhere.
  • The explicit HBO documentary/magazine series REAL / SEX gets split among two entries. I like that they're clued in unison.
  • [What kids to when it counts?] is HIDE, in hide-and-seek. It means the player who's "it."
  • FRAM is an [Oil filter brand], apparently. I believe it's used to make the frim fram sauce, two parts frim to one part fram. Here's a clip where you can enjoy Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong's duet on "The Frim Fram Sauce." "I don't want pork chops, baby"—truer words were never sung.
  • I blanked on OMAR MINAYA's last name, piecing it together with the crossings. I always like a full name parked in the crossword grid.


Harvey Estes constructed this week's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Boarding Requests." The boarding in question has a Star Trek bent to it—together, 65- and 67-Across spell out BEAM / ME UP. Those ME's are beamed up from the four theme entries in the grid's bottom half, where they've been removed from phrases that are reclued accordingly, and teleported smack-dab into the four theme entries up top, also clued accordingly. [Brand-name desserts in a food fight?], for example, are SARA MELEE CAKES. The [Plain grazer?] is a HOMELY COW. The [Guilt-ridden doo-wop group?] is SHAME NA NA. After the ME's were beamed up, what was left at the bottom included 'TIS SQUARE (Times Square), or [Comment about something that's ne'er been hip], and LEAD A CHARD LIFE (charmed), or [Be a vegetarian]. Good theme, tons of good fill and clues. One of my pet peeves is crosswords that pretend that "coeds" isn't a sexist term for "female college students." So props to Harvey and/or editor Mike Shenk for [Connecticut coeds] as a clue for ELIS—maybe the Yale students in question are thought to be female, but ELIS is a gender-neutral term for Yale students. I have never once used MELON to mean [Financial windfall]. Which kind of melon is it? I prefer watermelon. Favorite clues: [Appealing, maybe] for IN COURT; [Place for some drawers] for ART CLASS; [Evidence from a hairsplitter?] for DNA; and [Area between the shoulders] for the ROAD.

I quickly caught onto the theme in Larry Shearer's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "Copy Writers." [Difficulties in writing "Common Sense"?] are Thomas PAINE'S PAINS, and all the theme entries follow that structure, author's name in the possessive + a homophone of that possessive. Dario FO'S FOES are [Those who opposed the writing of "Accidental Death of an Anarchist"?]. That writer a great many of us know strictly from his appearances in crosswords, Charles Reade, figures into READE'S READS, or [Texts that influenced the writing of "The Cloister and the Hearth"?]. Edgar Allan POE'S POSE is the [Stance assumed while writing "The Purloined Letter"?]. [Libations enjoyed while writing "War Trash"?] are JIN'S GINS, and I had to look that one up. It's a recent novel by Ha Jin and it won the National Book Award. The most insane entry in the puzzle was [Local assembly of czarist Russia], or ZEMSTVO. The Wikipedia article tells me this mode of local government allowed the peasants a wee smidgen of involvement, though the nobles hogged most of the slots for themselves.

Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy crossword is called "Plus-Fours," and it's got nothing to do with those crazy-looking short pants that may well be in evidence at the British Open golf tournament this weekend. Instead, the theme entries add four to the number in various phrases. You know the story of the Three Little Pigs—add four and you get SEVEN LITTLE PIGS, [A full litter?]. [A very lucky find?] might be an EIGHT-LEAF CLOVER (though I'd worry about mutagens in the local environment if I saw one...). The [Extended Beatles song?] is TWELVE DAYS A WEEK, which would be a lot of days in the week to be loving someone.