July 12, 2008

Sunday, 7/13

PI 9:02
LAT 8:42
NYT 8:27
CS 3:35
BG—provider of Across Lite file still on vacation

Post updated at 10:20 a.m. Sunday

Aw, thanks, folks! Some of you chipped in and covered the first three months of web-hosting fees. You know who you are, and you all deserve fresh-baked cookies for your kindness.

Based on the eight gazillion showtimes for Hancock at the multiplex today, I'd say that's the current Hot Summer Movie. We saw Hellboy II: The Golden Army instead. Who would have guessed that a Barry Manilow ballad would figure into it? Plus kittens and assorted trolls. What's not to love? Go see it.

There are first-name dynasties in crosswords, you know. There is a sisterhood of Nancys, a posse of Patricks, and also a budding duchy of Matts. Matt Gaffney and Matt Jones are supplemented by new kid on the block Matt Ginsberg. Matt Ginsberg's New York Times crossword is called "Parting Thoughts," and it's that rarity, a quip puzzle in the NYT. The [Last request] is TO DIE QUIETLY IN MY SLEEP / LIKE MY GRANDFATHER, / NOT / SCREAMING IN TERROR / LIKE THE PEOPLE IN HIS CAR. Macabre...yet funny. About 40% of the fill is 6+ letters long, and the grid's pretty low on the ARIA/OLEO/ERN scale. The answers and clues that sparkle the most are:

  • [Arthur Miller play about the Salem witch trials, with "The"] for CRUCIBLE and [Poet John who wrote "Lives of X," an autobiography in verse] for CIARDI. American literature, yeah! Plus ["Sense and Sensibility" author] Jane AUSTEN. English lit, yay!
  • [Veiled comment?] for I DO—though many "I dos" don't involve veils.
  • EMERIL / LAGASSE, [With 95-Across, chef whose recipes are used on the International Space Station]. "Bam!"
  • AS TOLD TO is [Part of many an autobiography author credit].
  • [Clothing retailer Bauer] is EDDIE. Did you know there was an ACTUAL ([Existing]) Eddie Bauer? He invented the down parka in 1936.
  • HOMEGIRL is a ['Hood inhabitant]. I backed into that one slowly, having plunked wrong-part-of-speech BRASS in place of BRASH ([Having chutzpah]) at 1-Across. "SOME___? What the..."
  • OB/GYNS are [M.D.'s who deliver].
  • The IRISH SEA was [W.W. I's so-called "U-Boat Alley"].
  • COTTONY is [Soft], sure. But even with the CO in place, I was stuck. No, COMFFFY won't work.
  • MR. HYDE is [One of two title roles (in the same film) for Spencer Tracy]. I gather the other title role in that movie was Dr. Jekyll.
  • [Desire, for one] is that STREETCAR named Desire.
  • [Noted bunny lover] stumped me. It's Hugh HEFNER, ick.
  • [Keeper of a flame?] is a GAS OVEN, which has a pilot light.
  • [Benin, until 1975] was called DAHOMEY. The name was changed so as to not play favorites with any particular ethnic or linguistic group. The country's name is taken from the Bight of Benin, part of the Gulf of Guinea.
  • ORACH is a [Spinachlike plant] I know strictly because of crosswords.
  • SPLIFF! Drug slang in the pizzuzzle: [Marijuana cigarette, slangily].
  • DEMESNE is a [Lord's land] in feudalism. I'm not sure if this is etymologically linked to the old crosswordese word esne, a serf, as demesne seems to derive from a single Latin word. Did the Old English folks lop off the beginning of a Latinate word to create a derivative?

Familiarity with assorted European languages helps out in this puzzle:

French: [Crowd in Calais?] is TROIS; the [1970s Renault] was LE CAR; [Very dry], as wine, is BRUT; ENNUI is [Lassitude]; the [Deep bleu sea] is la MER; [Word of thanks] is MERCI.

Spanish: [Rains in Spain], which of course fall mainly in the plain, are waters, or AGUAS; [God, in Granada] is DIOS; [Salma Hayek, for one] is a LATINA; that [European carrier] is IBERIA; [Matador's move] is PASE.

Italian: PRIMA [___ ballerina]; [Uno + due] = TRE; some [Tasty tubes] of pasta are PENNE.

Latin: MEA [___ culpa]; QUASI is [Not exactly]; RES is a [Matter of law].

German: [Ein Berliner, often] is HERR.


I solved Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle late Saturday night, when my head really wished that I'd just go to bed. Merl packs nine hat puns (one spans two entries) into "Hat Tricks":
  • Topsy-turvy becomes TOPSY DERBY, or [Upside-down, as a clown's hat?].
  • Talk radio becomes TOQUE RADIO, or [What hat lovers listen to?].
  • [Parisian's daily prayer?] is DON'T RAIN ON MY BERET (parade).
  • ["Very hatlike," in Italian?] is MOLTO BEANIE (bene). Hah!
  • [Result of the old bucket-above-the-door gag, in Scotland?] is WATER OVER THE TAM (dam).
  • [Wintertime "combo-hat" that never caught on?] is THE BOWLER ICE CAP (polar).
  • [What the host of "Hat Hotline" has at least once a week?] is A CLOCHE CALL (close).
  • [With 127-Across, the best-selling hat song of 1972?] is THE FIRST TIME EVER I / SAW YOUR FEZ (face).
  • [Hat-hater's response to this puzzle?] is "BAH, HOMBURG!" (Humbug.)

Nobody does puns in bizarre categories like Merl.

The title of Dan Naddor's syndicated LA Times Sunday crossword, "Chuck Schwa," looks like Charles Schwab minus his last letter, but the theme's got nothing to do with investing. Rather, a schwa sound is chucked from 11 phrases to alter their meaning, often to comic effect:
  • [Tough time spent between jobs?] is a BROKE PERIOD (baroque).
  • [Terrifying strains of algae?] are SCUM TO FEAR (succumb).
  • [Poetry about tin?] is STANNIC VERSES (Rushdie's Satanic Verses). Oddly, the T crosses metaphorical TIN ([Like some ears]). I liked this one.
  • [Knockoff from Nantes?] is a FRENCH CLONE (cologne).
  • [Applause for gladiators?] is CLAPS OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (collapse)—this one made me laugh. We can all express thanks that it's not a syphilis clue, although that would seem very Caligulan.
  • ["Woe is me!" to "How are you?"?] is a PLIGHT REPLY (polite).
  • [Kilimanjaro convoy?] is MOUNTAIN TRAIN (terrain).
  • [Calls from donkey colts?] are GREEN BRAYS (Berets), green meaning young and inexperienced.
  • [Delicate greens?] might be TENDER CRESS (caress).
  • [What Mrs. Kennedy did in church?] is ROSE PRAYED (Parade).
  • [Mensch on the field?] is a SOLID SPORT (support).

That's a helluva lot of theme entries, with one spanning the entire width of the grid and the two Down ones crossing two Across theme entries each. Some of the fill is toughish, which I like. an [Old German coin] is a THALER (this eventually morphed into the word dollar). ORRIS ROOT is a [Perfumery fixative]. [Nearly 29% of TEL AVIV?] is VEES, as in the letters. An AGOUTI is a [Rabbitlike rodent]. [Brno's region] is MORAVIA in the Czech Republic (the other main Czech chunk is Bohemia).

This week's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" comes from Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily. [Division symbols] (÷) are called OBELI, but that symbol has older manuscript marking purposes, and the name obelus is also applied to the typographical dagger. Favorite entries: HA'PENNY, or [Currency unit in the song "Christmas Is Coming"]; TIME WARNER, or [Big name in media]; and the two -DO entries, THE MIKADO and TAE KWON DO. Favorite clue: [Coach often lacks it] for LEGROOM.