August 20, 2008

Thursday, 8/21

NYS 6:04
LAT 4:29
NYT 3:29
CS 3:09

Updated with the CrosSynergy puzzle on Saturday

Just so you know, you're an idiot. You're wasting time solving crosswords instead of discovering a cure for cancer. Also? You never read. If you buy a newspaper, it's strictly for the crossword because you just won't read. So says ill-informed twit Ron Rosenbaum, anyway, in Slate. If you had any interest in big ideas, you would have no interest in crosswords, sudoku, and other puzzles.

Yeah, right. (Here's Tyler Hinman's response.)

Moving along! Gary Whitehead's New York Times crossword has an AGELESS (68-Across) theme, with four phrases that have dropped their AGE:

  • [Musical group that stays together?] is an ADHESIVE BAND (bandage).
  • [Faith healing service?] is MASS THERAPY (massage).
  • [Stadium's dome?] is a SPORTS COVER (coverage).
  • [Donation to the Salvation Army?] is GARB DISPOSAL (garbage).
The theme entries alternate between the first and second word losing an AGE. What I like best about this puzzle is the wealth of 7-letter entries (a baker's dozen of nonthematic ones). My favorites include KAMPALA, the [Capital on Lake Victoria]; TV STARS [Morrow and Murrow, e.g.]; VISCERA, or [Innards]; JEANNIE, Barbara Eden's [1960s sitcom title role]; and TANDOOR, clued with [It's hot in an Indian restaurant]. Shorter answers had some juicy clues, too: [Herd : buffalo :: knot : ___] means TOADS. [Frolicsome] means GAY, especially during, say, Pride Week. A CRUSH is an [Infatuation], and who doesn't like crushes? KAVA is an [Intoxicating Polynesian drink] I've never tried; anyone else? [Chase scenes, in action films] are a STAPLE.

Crikey! Now it's an hour later and I was nodding off during the New York Sun crossword. Not on account of dullness—not at all. The Olympiad-related sleep debt is catching up to me. Tony Orbach's "Dressed to the Nines" theme entries have each adopted a "nine," or IX in Roman numerals:
  • [Orchard sprites?] are APPLE PIXIES (apple pies).
  • [Sound editor's '80s TV gig?] is MIXING DYNASTY (Ming Dynasty).
  • [Animation company's quality control goal?] is PIXAR EXCELLENCE (par excellence).
  • [Skipped a trip to Belgium?] is NIXED FLANDERS (Simpsons neighbor Ned Flanders).
  • [Frank fellow who tilts at windmills?] is OPEN QUIXOTE (open quote).

How great is that theme? I'm quite fond of it myself. The before-and-after-IX phrases have some surprising collisions, like the Ming Dynasty and the prime-time soap opera, Dynasty. Or Pixar and a phrase from the French. Ned Flanders and the Flemish.

Among the fill, here are my favorite answers and clues:
  • Lotsa names! ADNAN Khashoggi, ALEK Wek, Big BOI, DWAYNE (The Rock) Johnson, the ISLEY Brothers, Jean ARP, Muhammad ALI, Tommie AGEE, SHEL Silverstein, and Omar EPPS. Those first five aren't ones that appear often in crossword puzzles, so I think they're quite nice. I suppose someone too new to crosswords to know that the [Indian ox] is a ZEBU might miss the B in BOI, but the two names ADNAN crosses do appear fairly commonly in puzzles.
  • [Marquises, e.g.] are ILES in French. In English, they're the Marquesas and they're islands.
  • To [Belch] is to ERUCT. Eructation is second only to borborygmus in my mental list of favorite gassy words.
  • [Merry, to a Euskara speaker] is ALAI. Jai alai = "merry festival" in Basque, and Euskara is the Basque word for "Basque." Want to read about jai alai in Euskara Wikipedia?
  • [It's dried and salted to make bacalao] refers to COD. Did they talk about this on The Sopranos or was that merely something like Bobby's last name?
  • SPANX is a [Women's undergarments brand]. Me, I have no patience for such compressive garments—and this is why I am not an Olympic swimmer.
  • [Utterance] clues DIXIT. Latin! And not the usual ERAT or ET ALII sort of crosswordese Latin. The Pig Latin for that would be ixitday.
  • NEIL YOUNG! I like him. Not enough to be familiar with him as the ["Hey Hey, My My" singer], though.
  • RCA is a [Brand of dishes] only if you're talking about TV satellite dishes, I think.
  • OVA are [Fallopian tube travelers].


This time, it's the CrosSynergy puzzle that's not downloadable, but the LA Times crossword is right there at Cruciverb. Don Gagliardo's three 15-letter vertical theme entries are LEFTWARD LEANING, [Like this puzzle's theme, to moderates?]; LIBERALLY BIASED, [Like this puzzle's theme, to conservatives]; and SKEWED TO ONE SIDE, [Like this puzzle's theme, to solvers concerned with puzzle symmetry?]. Until I saw that clue, I hadn't cottoned to the grid's asymmetry—the pattern is shifted one row to the left of center, so the left-hand corners have lots of 3's running across while the right side has 5's. Cute! And timely, in the thick of this pre-convention political season. Note also the longish Across answers—they're two letters longer on the right. I'm not wild about much of the fill, but I like the skewed-to-the-left theme.

Late update:

Thursday and Friday were busy days, so when Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy puzzle wasn't available in the morning at the usual link I use, I didn't get a chance to do it until Saturday. The "Back Home" theme entries end with slangy synonyms for "home":
  • A [Piece of football gear] is a SHOULDER PAD.
  • [Ventilated storage structure for grain] is a CORN CRIB.
  • [Where pelvis meets femur] is at the HIP JOINT. I usually think of joints as more commercial than residential.
  • [Bombing, as a stand-up performer] is FALLING FLAT.

Highlights: There are 16 7-letter answers in the fill, and a lightness of cluing that I like. [Figures of speech?] are ORATORS. [Dirty Harry, for one] is a COP. ABES are [Saperstein and Simpson], one from The Simpsons and one the founder of the Harlem Globetrotters. [Cash holder] is both a TILL and an ATM. ALPO is [Chow chow chow]. [It'll keep you going and stop you from starting] refers to INERTIA. [Saves soles?] is COBBLES. For '80s pop culture, there's ["Missing You" singer John] WAITE, RIC [Ocasek of the Cars], and rock singer IGGY Pop (granted, the latter wasn't just in the '80s). Nice work, Patrick! An easy puzzle but not a dull one.