July 04, 2008

Saturday, 7/5

Newsday 10:14
LAT 6:03
NYT 5:31
CS 4:05

Here's a wordplay question for you: What 8-letter word for a big wine bottle turns into a 6-letter [Leaping desert rodent]? That rodent has leapt into Karen Tracey's New York Times crossword—it's a JERBOA (the bottle's a jeroboam). I think the ratio of "Karen Tracey themelesses I like" to "Karen Tracey themelesses I'm not wild about" has risen to something like 30-to-1, since I liked this one quite a bit. I did grumble to myself to see [Staunch] as the clue for STEM; I'm a purist when it comes to the stanch vs. staunch issue. Aside from that, there was much to admire. My favorite answers:

  • QUIZMASTER, or [One who asks a lot?].
  • GALAXY QUEST, the [1999 comedy featuring aliens called Thermians].
  • TOM AND JERRY, the [Duo first seen in "Puss Gets the Boot," 1940].
  • SKYROCKET, or [Zoom].
  • IDLE HANDS, which are the [Supposed tools of the devil].
  • UP AND AT 'EM, or [Morning cry]. Though I'm not sure one wants to juxtapose that phrase and SEMIERECT ([Less than upstanding])...
  • Four answers with an unusual U ending: CORFU, or [Greek port]; SHIATSU, or [Acupuncture alternative]; ZHOU Enlai, clued with [Hua succeeeded him]; and KUDZU, or [Invasive Japanese import].
  • Traceyesque geography: NOVI SAD, or [Serbian provincial capital on the Danube], ALGERIANS, or [Modern dwellers in ancient Numidia], which is new to me; LOD, or [City near Ben-Gurion airport]; and ALPES filling in [Rhone-___ (French region)]. SUSSEX takes a break from English geography and is instead clued as a [Domestic chicken breed].

There are a lot of names populating the grid. I tend to enjoy having a plethora of people in a crossword, but I know it drives some solvers bonkers.
  • OLAFS, [Lemony Snicket's count and one of Snoopy's brothers], not to mention assorted Norwegian kings of eld.
  • [Pulitzer-winning critic Richard] EDER.
  • LIEV, or ["Glengarry Glen Ross" Tony winner Schreiber].
  • Leopold AUER, [Zimbalist's violin teacher].
  • SASHA, [One of the Obama girls]. Sasha's 7; big sister Malia is 9.
  • ADRIAN I was [Pope during the reign of Charlemagne].
  • O'NEALS are [Father-and-daughter actors] Ryan and Tatum.
  • TONIO, the [Fool in "Pagliacci"].
  • Abe BEAME was a [1970s Big Apple mayor].
  • [Keebler's chief elf] is ERNIE. Tyler Hinman and I didn't know that one when the trivia QUIZMASTER asked it, but now we will both remember it for life.
  • Edward LEAR is clued as ["A Book of Nonsense" author, 1846].
  • The [First name in humor] is the late ERMA Bombeck.

Other clues I liked:
  • [Honors for top scorers?] for OSCARS—Will Thomas Newman's Wall-E score get an Oscar nomination? It really works to propel the story and convey the emotions.
  • ZERO is a [Much-repeated part of binary code].
  • [Monopoly subj.] for ECON.—wait, is this actual monopolies we're talking about, the game of Monopoly, or both?


I just saw the TRAVELERS Insurance logo onscreen during the Wimbledon women's final—that's the [Big name in insurance] at 3-Down in Karen's crossword.

Stanley Newman, or "S.N.," constructed this week's Newsday "Saturday Stumper." The Snellen eye chart is just one of several eye-exam charts that you may encounter, but Stan wants you to parrot back the first four rows for 5-Across, [Chart start]: EFPTOZLPED. I give that answer zero points for cleverness and 10 points for annoyingness and unwelcomeness. It could have been rendered more fair with a couple more accessible clues in the crossings; PYLONS, or [Power towers], and PRADA, or [LG partner in cell phones], were the last to fall for me. I can't imagine including ANISETTES as [Parts of nightcaps]—my goodness, the taste of anise is the last thing I want when I'm trying to fall asleep. [King, from 1968-83] is TENNIS PRO Billie Jean—this was my favorite clue. KNEES are [Under-the-table things]—I liked that one, too. I'm not crazy about [Have dessert after dinner, perhaps] for ALLITERATE—saying "dinner and dessert" is indeed using alliteration, but the phrasing of the clue is awkward. Who was Clemenceau? The [Friend of Clemenceau] is MONET. Google isn't telling me why ATTIC is clued as [Simple, elegant and witty]. I resent, of course, the negative connotations of FIENDISH, here clued as [Blasted]. I'm not blasted, dang it!

Robert Wolfe's themeless Los Angeles Times crossword is anchored by three 15's: MUST I SPELL IT OUT, or ["Are you dense?"], PUT IN A WORD OR TWO, or [Comment], and THIS IS NOT A DRILL, or [Scary announcement]. I needed all the crossings for some answers: CLEM, [Civil War's Johnny ___, youngest-ever Army noncom (age 12)]; MAUER, [Joe ___, first A.L. catcher to win a batting title (2006)]; ACID SALT, or [Sodium bisulfate, for one]. Favorite clue: [One might make a novel] for BOOK CRITIC.

Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy puzzle, "It Takes Two," embeds TWO inside four theme answers. STUNTWOMAN is an [Action movie employee]; GRANT WOOD was a [Painter from Anamosa, Iowa] (he did "American Gothic," with the pitchfork farm couple); FORT WORTH is a [Texas city whose motto is "Where the West Begins"]; and one sort of [Shrewd employee] is a FAST WORKER. That [Pillsbury specialty] in the fill is activating my sweet tooth—yum, CAKE MIX!