August 02, 2008

Sunday, 8/3

BG 9:37
NYT 8:39
LAT 8:16
PI 8:04
CS 4:14

second Sunday acrostic: untimed but average difficulty

(post updated at 1:45 Sunday afternoon)

The NYT's second Sunday puzzle is an acrostic by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon. I won't get into the quote, just one of the clues—[Chicago entertainment district] feels decades out of date to me as an UPTOWN resident. The section of the Uptown Wikipedia article about the "Uptown Entertainment District" smacks of boosterism more than realism. The Green Mill is still a jazz club, and the Aragon Ballroom and Riviera Theatre host concerts, but the other places are mostly vacant or torn down and I wouldn't call it an "entertainment district." It's rather blighted, actually, where those venues are. Googling Uptown entertainment district scared up a blog post entitled "Uptown Entertainment District?" about a folk singer who lives in an SRO hotel and sings outside the Wilson El stop. To make sure I wasn't off base about this clue, I asked my mom and husband to name a 6-letter Chicago entertainment district, and they were both stumped and then laughed when I gave the answer.

The Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle by Peter Collins and Joe Krozel is called "Off With Their Heads!" The theme entries are easy to fill in once you've got half of an answer, as the 13- and 15-letter answers contain duplicated swaths of letters:

  • ["Will the long-winded ___ ___ his sermon?"] is completed by REVEREND EVER END, the second half being identical to the first word after the initial R is lopped off. The headless second iteration is always split into two or more words.
  • ["The majority of British ___ ___ policy coming to fruition"]: HISTORY IS TORY.
  • ["I noticed you use the ___ ___ often than the tarnished one"]: SPOTLESS POT LESS.
  • ["The driver's crew decided to make the ___ ___ priority"]: PITSTOP ITS TOP.
  • ["The parishioners ignored the ___ ___ meat on Friday"]: MANDATE AND ATE.
  • ["The judges put the names of each ___ ___ for the M.C. to read]: FINALIST IN A LIST. (Shouldn't the clue have a singular "name"?)
  • ["As one member of the crew ___ ___ co-worker leaned on his shovel"]: LABORED A BORED.
  • ["You won't find any ___ ___ Turner album"]: SONATINA ON A TINA.
Fun little word game, isn't it? And now, quickly because I've got to go out for dinner, clues of note:
  • [11th-century year] is the random MLIX.
  • [One of five Norwegian kinds] is OLAV. It could just as easily have been OLAF, and the decisive letter was in an answer with a tricky clue: [Johnson and Johnson, e.g.] were VEEPS, or vice presidents. I'll bet at least a few solvers will end up Googling "feeps" to see if it's slang for something. Or maybe FNEPS or VNEPS, since [Promised] could be SWORN as easily as the correct SWORE.
  • [Habit] is WONT, and I use the word wont far too often. I can't help it.
  • [Crossed one's i's and dotted one's t's?] sounded perfectly fine to me. It's ERRED because you dot i's and cross t's and not the other way around.
  • [Pusher catcher, for short] is a NARC, crossing a [Record holder], or DISC JOCKEY. I'll bet some folks went with the K variants of NARK and DISK JOCKEY, and in a tournament setting, I'm sure those would be accepted too. The applet wants the C.
  • NYMPHS are the [Retinue of Pan].
  • [Teacher: Var.] is a PEDAGOG. And a person crossing the street who spies a car barreling down on him might be a ped agog.
  • I don't know why [Box-and-one alternative] is MAN-TO-MAN. Basketball defense?
  • TARPS are [Bad-weather gear], but not the kind you wear.
  • [Australia, e.g.] is a LANDMASS.
  • GHOST TOWNS is a great entry. They're [Relics of the Wild West].
  • YEWS are a [Grove in many an English churchyard], apparently.
  • [Ursine : bear :: pithecan : ___] clues APE. I know this only from names like Australopithecus.
  • [Al's is almost 27] refers to aluminum's atomic weight, or AT WT.
  • [About which the Bible says "Consider her ways, and be wise"] is the clue for an ANT. 
  • ISAO AOKI looks wonderful in the grid, with that repeated AO. He's a [Japanese-born Hall of Fame golfer].
  • [Deseeded, as cotton] is GINNED, as in Eli Whitney's cotton gin.
  • ["Hasta ___"] put me in mind of things that were too long, like MANANA and LA VISTA. It's LUEGO.
  • [Folk percussion instruments] are BONES? Hmm.


Mike Peluso's syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, "KP Duty," groups together eight two-word phrases in which the first word ends with K and the second starts with P. A [Diver's choice], for example, is TUCK POSITION. [Lowest enlisted rank] is BUCK PRIVATE. [66-Down cause, maybe] is BLACK PEPPER. Before I saw that 66-Down was ACHOO, I had BLACKP***** and wondered how 66-Down would tie in with the BLACK PLAGUE. This type of theme tends to be on the easy side, because once you've figured out how the theme works, you know each theme answer contains a KP spanning two words. I do prefer themes with some sort of wordplay rather than a commonality like this.

Merl Reagle tells an agricultural story in "Farming It Out," his Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle for this weekend. The dozen theme entries (plus EIEIO as a bonus) relate parts of a business tale using quasi-farm-related idioms such as SEED MONEY, CHICKEN FEED, and "THAT AIN'T HAY." Not only is this a lot of theme entries (granted, some are on the short side), but at the top and bottom of the grid, there's some theme-answer stacking, as is Merl's wont. The grid's a little ugly with those black squares in all four corners, but Merl is his own editor and Merl doesn't turn down Merl's puzzles for structural reasons like that. If the point of a crossword is to entertain, Merl is one of the best at doing that, week in and week out.

Henry Hook's syndicated Boston Globe crossword, "Over and Under," plunders the thesaurus for various words, phrases, and statements that can mean [Over] or [Under]. There are five of each, and they all run in the Down direction—with the [Over]s directly above the [Under]s. Challenging theme to fill out, I thought, but not particularly fun. The overs are IN EXCESS OF, CONCLUDED, REPEATEDLY, "I AWAIT REPLY," and THROUGHOUT. The unders are DOWNSTAIRS, NOT AS MUCH AS, BURDENED BY, LOWER THAN, and HYPNOTIZED. The clue [N.Y.C.-vs.-Chi. argument cause] seemed to signal an abbreviation in the answer, but no: it's PIZZA, of course. That was my favorite clue, along with [Changing time?] for PUBERTY. Plenty of tough-as-nails answers here: [Old name in Turkish taffy] is BONOMO, crossing IVANOVO, a [Russian textile city]. The latter touches AMBERY, or [Dark orange-yellow]. Below that is RHETOR, a [Skilled speaker] sharing its last three letters with ORATOR. TIROS are [Novices (var.)], and they cross RODRIGO, [Baritone in Verdi's "Don Carlos"]. And DAGMAR the ["Dumb blond" of 1950s TV]? I've seen her in a couple crosswords over the years.

I'll get to the CrosSynergy themeless in a couple hours. Saving the best (i.e., the kind of puzzle I enjoy the most) for last!


Will Johnston's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" was indeed fun for me. HIs 68-word grid has corners of 7's with a spiraling net of 11's joining them together. I had a lot of favorite answers in this one:
  • STARTER HOME might be your [First base?]. One economical [Decorated accent] is a THROW PILLOW. 
  • An EXIT POLL is [Something taken on the way out].
  • The INSIDE SCOOP is [Privileged information].
  • A [Pair of sweaters] is a TWIN-SET—typically a cardigan and a matching shell or short-sleeved top.
  • RUN-DMC is an [Influential hip-hop group].
  • ERNIE KOVACS was once the [Percy Dovetonsils portrayer on '50s TV].
  • [Available, as food] is IN SEASON. The locavore crowd is big on eating food that's IN SEASON and grown locally, rather than eating Chilean peaches in January.
Favorite clues:
  • [They may prevent passage] clues NO VOTES in the legislature.
  • [Word found between "YES" and "NO"] is OUIJA on a ouija board.
  • EXTINCT is [Out of this world?].