September 22, 2008

Tuesday, 9/23

CS 3:48
NYS 3:35
LAT 3:18
NYT 2:59
Onion, Tausig—see 9/24 post

The Crossword Fiend forums/message boards are open for business. (Wait, is it a business if no money changes hands?) Come join the fun.

But first, read my blog post! I don't want to write in a vacuum of solitude.

Great Tuesday theme in Richard Chisholm's New York Times puzzle. 61-Across is IN HOT WATER, or [Where 17-, 29-, 36- and 44-Across often end up]. A LAWBREAKER, or [One risking arrest], ends up only in the idiomatic, metaphorical hot water. The other three things need actual hot water: SPAGHETTI, a [Trattoria offering], TEA LEAVES, clued with [Some seers read them], and those pesky [Sink items], DIRTY DISHES. My favorite answer in the fill is DIAL TONE, the [Sound after a hang-up]. Answers that might throw a newer solver who hasn't seen them time and time again already:

  • ["Exodus" hero] is the Leon Uris character ARI. Former White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer and Jeremy Piven's Entourage character Ari Gold also get some of the ARI cluing action—along with the scoreboard abbreviation for the Arizona Cardinals.
  • The last name of [Two-time Oscar winner Luise] is RAINER. She won in 1936 and 1937. The crossword seems to prefer her to German-language poet Rainer Maria Rilke.
  • Sometimes an answer contains more than one word. Here, the most troublesome multi-word answers are AS I DO, or ["Like me"], and I DO TOO, or ["Same goes for me"].
  • A [Nosegay] is a POSY, or a small bouquet of flowers. Does anyone hear the words nosegay or posy outside crosswords? I don't think I do, but then, I don't order flowers often.

It took me a while to identify the theme in Mark Feldman's New York Sun crossword. It's the kind of puzzle where the theme entries are all clued straightforwardly and aren't so obviously related, so you can finish the thing without grasping the theme. The title, "Ultimate Band of Fiction," had me looking for hidden musicians, but it's actually a theme of hidden musical instruments at the end (hence "Ultimate") of each theme entry. All five theme entries are fictional characters from literature, TV, and movies: DAMIEN THORN, JOHN KLUTE, BECKY SHARP, DAISY DUKE, and ELLEN MORGAN. What further tightens the theme is that each character's last name contains one letter before the instrument name. The fill contains 16 7- and 8-letter entries, which is impressive.


Lynn Lempel's CrosSynergy puzzle reinterprets "On the Home Front" as "phrases whose front words can appear in front of the word home." This is another theme I didn't piece together until after I finished solving it.
  • An [Incessant talker] is a MOTORMOUTH. A motor home is an RV.
  • One [Means of identifying a product] is a MODEL NUMBER. Check out the model home in a new subdivision or condo development.
  • [Work perk] is a paid VACATION DAY. The commonality of vacation homes was an issue in the political discourse a couple months ago.
  • A [Relaxing break] is a REST PERIOD. I don't know how restful rest homes are to their inhabitants, but certainly the resident's family members can get more rest by not providing round-the-clock care themselves.
Anyone else get confused by the deer of crosswordland and enter ROE DEER instead of RED DEER for the [Antlered grazer of Eurasia]? Anyone else feel sad for the OTTER, clued as a [Playful swimmer hunted for its fur]? I, for one, find evocations of skinned animal fur rather offputting at the breakfast table. (Can you imagine if PETA launched a crossword boycott?) SEAN Penn is in the puzzle as ["I Am Sam" star Penn]. The last time this was referenced in a crossword, just a few days ago, I entered SAM I AM straightaway. Whoops, different Sam!

Now, the theme in Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's LA Times crossword hid from me because musical lingo is not my thing. A [Fossil fuel, e.g.] is a NATURAL RESOURCE. A [High-tech sports bar purchase] is a FLAT-SCREEN TV (though plenty of households have flat-screen TVs too—sports bars have those giant projection TVs more than homes do, I think). The average sports bar will have TVs in the plural—way in the plural. SHARP CHEDDAR is a mildly [Pungent cheese]. I might've clued it as flavorful, as I reserve pungent to describe the stinky cheeses I cannot abide. NATURAL, FLAT, and SHARP all describe...what, notes? Keys? Jim's music theory post doesn't explain NATURAL but reviews various flats and sharps found in crosswords. The three theme entries are tied together by a fourth: MUSIC TO ONE'S EARS, or [Delightful, and a hint to this puzzle's theme].