July 27, 2008

Monday, 7/28

Jonesin' 4:25
LAT 3:53
CS 3:20
NYT 3:19
NYS 3:02

(post updated at 12:30 Monday afternoon)

The Monday New York Times puzzle by new constructor Roger Baiocchi deviates from the usual early-week theme layout with the unusual inclusion of 5-letter words at the beginning and end of the Acrosses in addition to three long entries. Those 5's are part of the first and third long entries, and together they make a pair of 16-letter phrases. To [begin from scratch] is to START / AT SQUARE ONE—and that phrase does indeed start at square one of this grid. The middle entry is TAKE CENTER STAGE, or [Move into the limelight]. The third section is [be beaten by the rest of the field], or END UP IN LAST / PLACE, aptly ending in the grid's last place. If those 5-letter chunks of theme entries were just randomly lopped off because they didn't fit into the grid, I wouldn't like the theme—but the picture-perfect aptness of answers' locations is a winner. I got slowed down in a couple spots here. For [It's "catchy"], I entered TUNE. But guess what? The answer immediately below that is [Something to whistle]—a TUNE! The "catchy" thing is a SNAG. I also blanked on [Such a jokester] once I had the CU***—all I could think of was comic and wag, but I needed CUTUP. (Patrick Blindauer nudged me to note that 72-Across, SITE, is part of the theme too—it's clued as [___-specific (like the answers at 1-, 41- and 73-Across)]. Thanks, PB2!)

The New York Sun crossword, Justin Smith's "Double Creatures," requires a 15x16 grid to accommodate its 16 and two 15's. One of those 15's is a plural so for maximum theme consistency, it should have been a 14—but the three phrases make for a solid Monday theme and I'm not as hardcore about consistency in theme entry structure as some people are. [Elaborate presentations] are DOG AND PONY SHOWS. An [Implausible tale] is a COCK AND BULL STORY. And [You might toy with your opponent during it] refers to a CAT AND MOUSE GAME. Favorite clues and answers:

  • 1-Across is BRAD [Pitt of "Ocean's Eleven"]. You know what? He's not just easy on the eyes—he also has talent.
  • STEPFORD, as in The Stepford Wives, means [Robotically compliant]. And creepy, too! There's plenty of other longish fill, including STROLLERS, DIMENSION, and LIVE UP TO.
  • The most patently ridiculous Roman numeral I've ever seen in a crossword is the [Early date in the 27th century], MMDCII. I glossed over the clue and filled that in via the crossings, but now that I see it? Delightfully ballsy.
  • Gross! I just noticed the clue for SAT: [Sampled a stool?]. Who doesn't love sly potty humor?
  • There's a lot of Othello action here. There's OTELLO, [Opera based on a Shakespeare play]. There's IAGO, [Broadway role for Christopher Plummer]. And there's SCAR, clued as [Villain in "The Lion King"]. Jeremy Irons, who voiced Scar, said ""Scar is the first out and out villain that I've ever played. He's the baddie and a very hammy one at that. I think we all like a good villain who's sort of witty and slimy and seductive. He has many layers and lots of tricks. He's not unlike Iago in 'Othello' in that he's a very charming villain although structurally he's much more like Claudius in 'Hamlet.'"
  • [They often wear dark eyeliner] refers to GOTHS. They also wear plenty of black clothes and strive for non-square hairstyles.


Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle for this week has a brilliant theme. In "Rainbow Connection," the mnemonic for the colors of the rainbow—ROY G. BIV, for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet—holds the key. The six other theme entries take one of those letters in a phrase and advance it to the next one in the mnemonic, and the resulting altered phrase is clued.
  • [Patterns that chickens run in?] are COOP CIRCLES, changing the R in crop circles to an O—red connects to orange.
  • [Fade off in buzz?] is LOSE HYPE, changing the O in lose hope to a Y.
  • [Where swamp creatures get married?] is ALTAR BOG, changing the Y in altar boy to a G.
  • [Site where donkeys are allowed to make noise?] is BRAY AREA, changing the G in gray area to a B.
  • [Actress Gertz greeting guests?] is DOOR JAMI, changing the B in door jamb to an I.
  • [French woman with a sexy shape?] is MADAME CURVE, changing the I in Madame Curie to a V.

Favorite clues and answers:
  • NEWT is clued as [Survivor in the movie "Aliens"]. Newt is the little girl.
  • Absymal pop culture is represented by MEEGO, [1997 CBS flop with Bronson Pinchot].
  • MEH encapsulates the feeling of ["It's not that exciting"], but in a pithier way.
  • The TOP SEED is a [High-ranked tournament player]—the highest, in fact.
  • To [Bust some rhymes] is to RAP.
  • DEALT is clued with [Passed out on the poker table?].

Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy crossword, "End Points," has five theme entries linked by the hidden words at their ends—words that connote "points." As spotlighted in the solution grid, the theme entries end with a PIN, LANCE, TINE, SWORD, and ARROW. The first theme entry is PERI GILPIN, clued [She played Roz Doyle on "Frasier"]—nice to see the actress's full name in the grid, rather than just her crossword-friendly first name. CROSSWORD is in the crossword, but it parses as a CROSS WORD, [Utterance from a curmudgeon].

Gail Grabowski's LA Times puzzle links a MOUSE (68-Across) to five things you do with your computer mouse. CLICK BEETLE, or [Noisemaking hard-shelled bug], starts with CLICK. The old [Series with Sergeant Friday] was DRAGNET, with DRAG. [Oddsmaker's equalizer] is the POINT SPREAD, and that arrow cursor POINTs at things. I love having a SCROLL wheel on my mouse, and a SCROLL SAW is a [Tool that cuts intricate curves]. I seldom DRAW with my mouse, but that's an option embedded in DRAW POKER, clued with ["Jacks or better" is a form of it].Favorite entry outside of the theme: LOVESICK, or [Filled with amorous longing].