July 26, 2008

Sunday, 7/27

NYT 14:30
LAT 10:39
PI 8:52
BG 8:40
CS 3:24

(post updated at 1:20 Sunday afternoon)

Yay! It's a plus-sized Sunday New York Times puzzle by Mike Nothnagel and Dave Quarfoot. I was surprised to see the clock ticking on (and on...) as long as it did, because I never felt stuck. But it's a 23x23, which takes a while to fill in—after solving in the applet, I downloaded the Across Lite version to have a screen-capture (clicking on the image will enlarge it) that didn't have single letters in the rebus squares, and it took 7½ minutes to retype the answers I'd already figured out a few minutes earlier. The rebus squares could contain arrows or words, but I'm partial to words—UP or DOWN, LEFT or RIGHT, or "Going Every Which Way," as the title says.

Without further ado, the long theme entries with two directions apiece and their rebused shorter crossings:

  • 16-A. "[DOWN], BOY!" or [Command to an overfriendly canine].
  • 29-A. [UP]STAIRS, [DOWN]STAIRS, or [Popular 1970s British TV series].
  • 37-A. "ALL [RIGHT]!" or ["Now you're talking!"].
  • 38-A. [LEFT] IT [UP] TO CHANCE, or [Took the risk].
  • 71-A. THE [LEFT], or [Liberals].
  • 84-A. [DOWN]-SIZING, or [Cause of unemployment].
  • 90-A. "[RIGHT] ON!" or ["Amen!"].
  • 92-A. "'S[UP], DOG?" or [Slangy street greeting]. ("What's up, dog?" with the "what" elided.)
  • 95-A. SET-[UP]S, or [Arrangements].
  • 101-A. [RIGHT] END, or [Football defensive line position].
  • 125-A. "SIT [DOWN] and SHUT [UP]!" or [Exasperated teacher's cry].
  • 137-A. [RIGHT] WHERE YOU [LEFT] THEM, or [Missing glasses' location, usually].
  • 1-D. DAM [UP], or [Block].
  • 16-D. [DOWN] THE [RIGHT] FIELD LINE, or [Barely fair, maybe], in baseball.
  • 30-D. [DOWN]-SHIFTED, or [Went from second to first, say], in a car and not in baseball. Nobody tries to go back a base, do they?
  • 36-D. STANDING [UP][RIGHT], or [Erect].
  • 38-D. [LEFT] ON BASE, or [Not brought home], again in baseball.
  • 41-D. [UP] AT, or [Awake by].
  • 70-D. IT'S [RIGHT] [UP] YOUR ALLEY, or [Sentiment suggesting "Try this!"].
  • 72-D. [LEFT] A [DOWN]PAYMENT, or
  • 89-D. RESTED [UP], or [Took it easy].
  • 105-D. STAGE [RIGHT], or [Common entry point].
  • 113-D. GO [DOWN], or [Happen, slangily].
  • 140-D. [LEFT] EYE, or [Bazooka Joe's working peeper]. I would have gone with Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes.

So that's, what, eight long theme entries with 16 rebused crossings? Criminy! That's a lot of thematic action, and it's not forced. I very much enjoyed my sojourn inside the grid, piecing together all the crazy directions and tackling an entertaining set of clues and fill. Outside the terrific theme, here's what I liked best (and I won't list everything I liked, because this crossword is just too damned big for that):
  • "SHALL I?" or ["Do you want me to?"].
  • LET RIP means to [Deliver, as harsh criticism].
  • UMAMI, the [Proposed "fifth taste," which means "savory" in Japanese. It's the taste of meat, cheese, and MSG. Yes, that MSG. I have much more interest in sweet than savory.
  • A MOSAIC is an [Arrangement of 40-Downs], 40-Down being a TESSERA or mosaic tile.
  • [Hollow center?] is the DOUBLE L at the center of the word "hollow," and [Building component?] is the SILENT U in that word. Some call such entries "quarfeet," so I kinda want to know if it was Mike Nothnagel who put those entries into the grid.
  • The VW BEETLE is clued simply as [Bug].
  • Botany gets play with MOSSY, or [Sphagnous], and AMANITA, the [Genus of poisonous mushrooms]. That's the death cap mushroom, mentioned in this paper I edited on mushroom poisoning.
  • One [Result of pulling the plug?] in the bathtub is an EDDY down the drain.
  • An [Opening screen option on many an A.T.M.] is ESPANOL. I'm partial to ATMs that offer French, German, or other languages. I have a very good track record at navigating those correctly, but I've seen one or two ATMs that offer Chinese or Japanese, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get money out.

There was a mystery man in the grid, Ralph BLANE [who co-wrote "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"]. I'm not up on any [Part of a shark's respiratory system], so GILL SLIT was another "rely on the crossings" answer for me—and I found all the crossings to be fair. Thanks for making a giant rebus puzzle and inviting us all in to play with it, Mike and David (and Will)!


LA Times crossword editor Rich Norris ran one of his own puzzles for today's syndicated LA Times puzzle, "Extra Credit" (under the pseudonym Nora Pearlstone, an anagram of "not a real person"). Even after I sussed out the theme—phrases with CR, an "extra credit," inserted—I still found the overall cluing fairly tough. The last letter I entered was the U joining UFOS and SOUP. UFOS are clued as [WWII foo fighters, e.g.], and I knew the phrase only as the capital-F band name. SOUP is clued as [Trouble, informally, with "the"], which is not terribly obvious. The theme entries are:
  • CRASH WEDNESDAY, or [Good time to catch up on your sleep?]. Hey, I slept 'til 9:40 this morning. It was delightful.
  • ROLLED CROATS, or [Transported some Balkans?].
  • CROUTON BAIL, or {What you have to pay to get the bread bits released from your salad?].
  • MIGHTY CROAK, or [Sound from a huge frog?].
  • SIX-PACK CRABS, or [Conveniently boxed crustaceans?].
  • CROUCH THAT HURT, or [One bend too many?].
  • MORAY CREEL, or [Basket for snigglers?].
  • PHOTO CROPS, or [Farm produce caught on film?].

Toughest clues:
  • Edwin [Land development?] is the Polaroid CAMERA.
  • [Joseon Dynasty country: Abbr.] is KOR (Korea).
  • [Med. research org.] is NIMH. Remember the kids' book, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH?
  • [Basra natives] are not just Iraqis here but ARABS.
  • For [Musician heard in "Memoirs of a Geisha"], I thought I needed to remember the name of the classical Japanese musical instruments. Nope—just cellist YO-YO MA.
  • [Colorful flowers] are PHLOX, no plural S on the end. The X crosses the nice X FACTOR, or [Unpredictable determinant].
  • [Rock-boring tool] is TREPAN. Trepans: They're not just for boring through skulls anymore.
  • [Tyrannical boss, facetiously] is HIS NIBS. The phrase's derivation is here.
  • [Soprano Mitchell] is LEONA.
  • [Added help] is the noun HIREE, not the verb "hired."
  • [Ecuadoran province named for its gold production] is basic Spanish: EL ORO.
  • [Daughter of David] is TAMAR.
  • [Ochlocracy] is MOB RULE. This is the third time in a year, I think, that this pair has been included in a newspaper crossword I've seen.
  • [Like some earth pigments] is OCHERY. Is that a word? Yes, it is.

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Old Paint," is packed with painterly puns:
  • [Reaction to French art prices?] is DEGAS TO BE KIDDING ("They got to be kidding"). In writing, it makes no sense, but read aloud, it sounds like colloquial English.
  • [When the art museum is closed?] is MONDRIAN TUESDAY (Monday and Tuesday, I think). Yes, Mondrian sounds like "Monday and Tuesday," sort of, but are art museums closed on Tuesdays or on Mondays and Tuesdays?
  • [Chicken's reaction to great art?] is BRAQUE-BUCK-BUCK. Sounds sort of like clucking.
  • [Classic novel about a painter?] is VERMEER TO ETERNITY, playing on From Here to Eternity.
  • [What you need to get into Paul's exhibit?] are CEZANNE TICKETS, which sounds like "season tickets."
  • [Reaction to American art prices?] is O'KEEFFE ME A BREAK ("Oh, give me a break"). This one's more of a sound stretch than the Degas entry.
  • [Sources of famous oils?] clues CASTOR AND POLLOCK, playing on Castor and Pollux with castor oil and artist Jackson Pollock. I like this one's multiple levels, though Pollock's drip paintings weren't oils.

Merl supplements the theme with scattered art-related clues for the fill entries—TAR is an anagram of art, DIEGO is painter Rivera, ROSE was one of Picasso's periods, etc.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's syndicated Boston Globe crossword, "Magazine Mergers," reminds me of a theme in a Patrick Merrell crossword at the ACPT a few years ago. I usually enjoy this sort of theme, in which theme entries are crafted by piling up two or three magazine titles. OUTSIDE NEW YORK is clued as a [Mag for Big Apple escapees?] and combines Outside and New York magazines. My favorites are DOWNBEAT GOLF, combining a jazz magazine with a sports one and cluing it as [Mag for dismal duffers?], and SELF-WIRED TV GUIDE, which bundles three publications (women's magazine Self, tech-geek magazine Wired, and TV Guide) as [DIY home theater mag?]. In the fill, there were several oddities and obscurities. At 107-Down, SESS was clued as [Ganja], and while I'm familiar with ganja as slang for marijuana, I haven't seen "sess" before. 74-Down is [Greece, to Romans], or ACHAEA, with the C crossing [Cookbook author Joyce] CHEN. At 103-Across, LILA is clued as a [Robert Pirsig book], but I tie his name to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and nothing else.

This week's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" is by Martin Ashwood-Smith. The grid's quite odd-looking, with Rorschach blots of black squares drawing the eye away from the vertical triple-stacks of 15-letter entries along the left and right sides. While most of the triple-stacks' crossings are short entries, as usual, each stack does intersect another stack of 8-, 9-, and 10-letter answers—an impressive bit of construction. Overall, the cluing was pretty easy, maybe Wednesday NYT level. Did you know that "The Toy Parade" was the opening theme for LEAVE IT TO BEAVER? I didn't, but having the LEAV part in the grid early on pointed the way towards the show's title. Favorite clue: [Ebony item] for MAGAZINE ARTICLE.