July 28, 2008

Tuesday, 7/29

Onion 4:30
Tausig 4:12
CS 3:51
NYS 3:50
LAT 3:02
NYT 2:43

(post last updated at 7:20 Tuesday night)

I really liked the Tuesday New York Times puzzle by David Kwong and newcomer Emily Halpern. It was clued easy enough to be a Monday puzzle, but the theme entries are altered phrases and those aren't so Mondayish, so here it is on Tuesday. The constructors took four "Great" things and dampened the enthusiasm for them:

  • [Mediocre F. Scott Fitzgerald novel?] is THE DECENT GATSBY.
  • [Mediocre place to scuba?] is the GOOD BARRIER REEF.
  • [Mediocre Steve McQueen film?] is THE NOT-BAD ESCAPE.
  • [Mediocre Jerry Lee Lewis hit?] is OKAY BALLS OF FIRE. This one's the funniest theme entry, though I like all four.
The theme is better than so-so, isn't it? I liked the fill too, though some may frown at all the names of people and places. "INDEED!" is clued as ["For sure!"], and I am fond of indeed's exclamatory usage. "EITHER/OR" is another way of saying ["Take your pick"]. We've got SYNONYMS, [Roget's listings]. Dracula's CLOAKS, CRAFTY, and PSEUDO lend a seamy undercurrent. And OPRAH sort of rhymes with OKRA, which she's sitting atop.

Tom Heilman's New York Sun crossword, "Bakin' Bits," mixes up a quartet of baking-related puns. [Gluten?] represents FLOUR POWER, playing on flower power. DOUGH-EYED (doe-eyed) is [Like someone whose cornea is caked up?]; eww. NOT KNEADED (not needed) is [Without having been pressed or folded?]. And [All there is from crust to crust?] is PURE BREAD (purebred). I appreciate some of the 8-letter fill—the former COMISKEY Park, SOFT SOAP, potatoes AU GRATIN, ERASURES clued as [Disappearing acts?]—but DEW-LADEN ([Moist, in a way]) sounded off. I Googled it and found photos of dew-laden grass and cobwebs and flowers, so I guess I'm off base here. ERIE is clued as [Gannon University's home], and that's a clue I cited in How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle as an example of a tough late-week clue for an common answer like ERIE. What's Gannon University doing here on a Tuesday? Flavor FLAV, the [Rapper with a trademark clock necklace, informally], is my favorite short answer today.

Timothy Meaker's LA Times crossword provides ample PROOF (37-Across) in the theme—the other four theme phrases begin with words that can precede proof.
  • A [Highlighted agenda item] or blog listing item is a BULLET POINT (bulletproof).
  • [Blaze fighter's aid] is a FIRE HYDRANT (fireproof).
  • [Artist's alternative] is WATER PAINT (waterproof), which I would call watercolor, but what do I know?
  • [Shirley Temple, notably] was a CHILD ACTOR (childproof).
Favorite entries in the fill: FLEX TIMES, or [Customized work schedules]; LET IT BE, or [Beatles title lyrics after "Whisper words of wisdom"]; and VESPA, the ["Roman Holiday" transport] that's growing more popular these days owing to its gas-sipping ways.


The theme in Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Salon Work," feels like it's referring to an old-lady salon. Each theme entry begins with a salon verb, all clued in the past tense but CUT and SET being non-ED past tenses. TRIMMED THE SAILS ([Adapted to prevailing winds]) and CUT ONE'S LOSSES ([Accepted a bad situation]) include pretty much the same salon function. TEASED THE BOYS, or [Was coquettish], grates a bit as a phrase. Then there's SET A GOOD EXAMPLE ([Modeled good behavior])—I don't know anyone my age or in my mom's generation who gets her hair "set," but my late grandma used to like a "set." I bet she was also more familiar with ICEBOXES, or [Cold compartments].

Updated again:

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Downgrading," changes letter grades and not in the student's favor:
  • The A in the song "A Boy Named Sue" becomes a B in B-BOY NAMED SUE, or [Breakdancer with a feminine sobriquet?].
  • The B in bar mitzvah turns into a C in CAR MITZVAH, or [Coming-of-age on wheels?].
  • [Prozac?] is a DOLOR GUARD, dropped down from color guard.
  • And "Dear Prudence" becomes FEAR PRUDENCE, or [Be intimidated by good judgment?].
Favorite clues and answers:
  • An [Ass] is a BOOB. Nothing untoward here, folks.
  • The [Band with "1"] is the BEATLES. 1 was the relatively recent compilation of their #1 hits. "Dear Prudence" is not on this album.
  • BALI is a [Resort island in the 4th most populous country in the world], Indonesia. (Only China, India, and the United States are bigger.)
  • [Frank, notably] is DIARIST Anne Frank. Last night on Jay Leno's "Headlines" segment, he showed an ad for a "Dairy of Anne Frank" show.
  • [One of us?] is either YOU or me.
  • You know what, though? An IUD isn't precisely an [Alternative to the morning-after pill]. Yes, both are technically contraceptives, but there's a definite difference between a form of birth control that takes up residence for, say, five years and one that's used ad hoc. That said, I like IUD getting its day in the sun in crosswords.

Francis Heaney was on deck for this week's Onion A.V. Club crossword. I don't know how much Francis got paid for this one, but it's lousy with product placements so he should've gotten fees from the advertisers. He imagines four movies (spread across five long entries) whose titles could have been changed to accommodate product placements. A [Michael Jordan movie featuring product placement] might be SPACE SMUCKERS (Space Jam). Aardman's Chicken Run turns into PERDUE RUN. The Pelican Brief sells underwear as THE PELICAN BVD. And Like Water for Chocolate morphs into LIKE EVIAN / FOR NESTLE. Now, that would be a cinematic abomination. Did you know that there's an [Upcoming Sylvester Stallone-directed biopic] called POE? Hmm, my Googling suggests that the lead role hasn't even been cast yet. Never heard of ART BRUT, the ["It's a Bit Complicated" band]. MR. PEEPERS, the [Classic sitcom starring Wally Cox], aired in the early '50s. It also appears to be the name of a porn website. I love little hits of highly specific pop culture, like [She dated Keith Hernandez and David Puddy, among others] for ELAINE from Seinfeld. Although I should clarify: Specific pop culture trivia from before my time is not fun at all.