August 31, 2008

Monday, 9/1

CS 4:40
LAT 3:59
Jonesin' 3:43
NYT 2:30

(updated at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday)

Happy Labor Day! May your labors be few (but not unemploymentally so), your skies clear, and your barbecues free of all foodborne pathogens.

The New York Times crossword is a solo outing from Andrea Carla Michaels, who is one of those early-week specialists. As expected for a Monday, the theme is basic and straightforward, the clues are pretty easy, and the fill combines plenty of plain language with a handful of crosswordy answers that a beginning solver will soon learn all about. The theme answers all relate to hushing, but I don't quite get why the clues are worded as they are. SILENCE IS GOLDEN is ["Shhhh!" prompter]. Doesn't "Silence is golden" replace a "Shhh!" rather than prompting one? MUM'S THE WORD is clued with ["Shhhh!"]. That's "Shhh"! as in "Don't tell anyone" rather than "Be quiet." MY LIPS ARE SEALED is a ["Shhh!" response]—again, more of an "I'll keep your secret" than "Ooh, I better be quiet because she shushed me." I don't know how well these three theme clues and answers cohere, but hey, it's a Monday puzzle and the phrases are so familiar, there's no need to overthink it.

One of my favorite clues is [Like oranges and tangerines] for CITRUS. (Anyone else try CITRIC first? No?) Andrea just says "no" in two answers: NO SALE is a [Key on an old register], as in cash register, and NO RUSH means ["Take your time"]. There are 15 other 6-letter answers in this grid, which makes the fill feel a bit fresher than if there was a greater preponderance of 3- to 5-letter answers.

Here's a Crosswords 101 lesson. Study the following crosswordy items, which you will be quizzed on later in other crosswords:

  • [Lyrical, like a Pindar poem] is ODIC. When Pindar's in the clue, you almost always need the word ODE or some form of it.
  • ET TU completes ["___ Brute?"]. It's what Julius Caesar said to one who betrayed him. The clues for ET TU sometimes mention a "rebuke."
  • [Hersey's "A Bell for ___"] ADANO is a WWII novel for which Hersey won the Pulitzer Prize. Has anyone read this or seen the movie? I know it only from puzzles.
  • [Sign of a hit show] is SRO, short for "standing room only." Do Broadway shows sell tickets for standing room?
  • SNEE is clued [Snick and ___]. According to The Mavens' Word of the Day, "The classic crossword clue for snee is "cut, old style." Actually, just 14 of 110 os SNEE's crossword appearances in's database reflect that verb usage. About 25 times, it's been clued with some version of the "snick/snick or/snicker" thing. More often, SNEE is clued as an old dagger, a bygone blade, etc.
  • [Leave in, to an editor] is STET, or "let it stand." The opposite is DELE, or "delete." Yes, proofreaders and copy editors use these terms, but they (the terms, not the people) are equally popular within crossword grids.
  • LILT is a [Light tune]. I think the word gets more action in crosswords than in speech or ordinary writing.
  • [Old salts] are TARS. Old slangy word for "sailor." Popeye was the consummate tar.
  • [Drunkards] are SOTS. You know what sots do? They tope. And sometimes emit a "hic." If they don't keep drinking, they may get the DT's. Sot, tope, hic, DTS—that's crosswords and booze in a nutshell.


Anyone know where the CrosSynergy puzzles have been hiding? I know this page offers an online applet and a printable option, but I want my Across Lite, dagnabbit! I especially want yesterday's themeless crossword.

The LA Times crossword by Joe DiPietro has six theme entries beginning with _AKE words:
  • 17-A. FAKE THE FUNK is clued as [Not keep it real, in streetspeak]. This is not a phrase I've heard.
  • 23-A. SHAKE ONE'S BOOTY is to [Dance enthusiastically, slangily]. Isn't the one's quaint?
  • 52-A. STAKE ONE'S CLAIM is to [Assert a right of ownership].
  • 61-A. WAKE THE KIDS is to [Disturb your children with late-night noise].
  • 3-D. MAKE A DENT is [Show initial progress, with "in"].
  • 36-D. TAKE A RIDE is [Drive to the country, say].
The symmetry in this group of phrases is that the middle two Acrosses are verb-ONE'S-noun, the two bracketing them are verb-THE-noun, and the two Downs are verb-A-noun. The theme does not exhaust all the possibilities, though. BAKE COOKIES and SLAKE ONE'S THIRST could fit into a grid, but not within the bounds of the paired structures here. (I can't think of a good phrase that starts with BRAKE, though.]

Updated again:

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword is called "I'm Surrounded by Idiots" because the theme entries are various "idiots" with extra letters in their midst:
  • NINEPENNY means [About 7 cm long, like nails sold in hardware stores], and the first and last letters form NINNY.
  • FILM SCHOOL is [Where many directors get their start]. There's a FOOL around there.
  • DOUBLE-SIDED TAPE, the [Gift-wrapping adhesive] for those too anal to let tape show, is wrapped in a DOPE. (Thanks to Triplerose for correcting me. I had DUPE. D'oh!) Is the double-sided tape for sticking on bows, or for holding the giftwrap around the box?
  • MORAL OBLIGATION, or [Do-gooder's reasoning, perhaps], is tied up in a MORON.
  • A TWIT encloses a TWO-BASE HIT, which [lets the batter get to second].
  • DOWN QUILT is a [Comfy handmade comforter], and it tucks in a DOLT.
I like the vocabulary word in the fill: OROTUND means [Sonorous]. ZANZIBARI's two Z's are zesty—it's clued as [Resident of the island where Freddie Mercury was born]. I didn't know the Queen front man was from Zanzibar. Hell, when I was a kid, I had no idea he was gay, either. Or the Village People. *whoosh* over my head.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle is called "Location, Location, Location" because the location of the words in the clue is key.
  • [Flu (taxi) symptom?] is CAB IN FEVER, because that taxi or CAB is inside "flu symptom," which refers to FEVER. Cabin fever is a familiar phrase if you ditch that first word break.
  • [Tim of (catch some rays) "Bull Durham"?] is BASK IN ROBBINS. Baskin Robbins is a chain of ice cream stores now conjoined to Dunkin Donuts.
  • [Family (Hershey treat) members?] clues KISS IN COUSINS. Kissin' cousins is the base phrase here.
  • [News (fair) magazine?] is JUST IN TIME. This theme entry is a smidgen jarring because unless there's a famous person named Justin Time, the base phrase has a stand-alone "in" while the other theme entries don't.