September 29, 2008

Tuesday, 9/30

Tausig 5:43
Onion 4:40
NYS 3:50
CS 3:12
NYT 2:45
LAT 2:45

(updated at 9:15 p.m. Tuesday)

The big news in the crossword biz is that the New York Sun is ceasing publication after tomorrow. So the Tuesday Sun puzzle will be the last published under that paper's auspices. The good news is that Peter Gordon had already accepted about 5½ months' worth of crosswords, and we'll be able to access them for a nominal fee. Stay tuned for details about where to get the crosswords and how to pay your pittance for the privilege. I'll continue blogging about the puzzles.

I forgot to notice the theme in Allan Parrish's New York Times puzzle until after I finished it. The theme is diner seating options, the counter, a booth, or a table:

  • GEIGER COUNTER is clued as a [Particle-detecting device].
  • JOHN WILKES BOOTH was the famed ["Sic semper tyrannis!" crier].
  • The PERIODIC TABLE is a [Chemistry class poster, perhaps].
Me, I like a booth. I also like how much longer fill there is in this puzzle—with just three theme answers, there's space for interesting stuff outside the theme. HYDE PARK is, among other things, [Franklin D. Roosevelt's birthplace]. AMARETTO is that [Almond-flavored liqueur] that comes to mind whenever I see the word amoretto. The upper left and lower right corners of the grid are pretty wide-open, with those theme entries intersecting a trio of 6's and a 9-letter answer. I'd say more, but I'm watching Heroes and it's awfully distracting.

Matt Ginsberg's New York Sun swan song is called "Eight Is Enough" because the answers in it contain only eight of the 26 letters, those in the word notaries. (These letters are sometimes held to be the most commonly used in the English language.) The theme is explained in the clue for 15-Across, NINE, or [One more than the number of different letters in this puzzle]. Well, the fill isn't at all Scrabbly, that's for sure. Working by hand, I imagine this puzzle would be mighty challenging to construct—but Matt has some sort of intricate database of crossword entries, and I would guess he had a computer do much of the heavy lifting. Matt, would you care to tell us how it played out?


Once I figured out the theme in Jennifer Nutt's LA Times crossword, I really liked it—it evokes a LONG WEEKEND. Mind you, the clue for that entry spells out the theme clearly, but in an easy puzzle, I don't always read every clue, especially a long one: [Break suggested by the first three letters of 18-, 23-, 51- and 57-Across]. Those four answers are:
  • FRIGHT WIG, or [Halloween hairpiece], begins with the abbreviation for Friday.
  • SATELLITES, or the hidden plural [Orbiting craft], starts with Saturday.
  • SUNKEN SHIP is a [Source of ocean treasure, perhaps]. It begins with Sunday.
  • MONEY BELT, or [Where a tourist might keep cash], starts with the abbreviation for Monday. Hey, a four-day weekend! That's 33% better than a three-day weekend, and offers double the value of a standard two-day weekend.

There's one clue that has become factually inaccurate in recent days. Is WAMU still a [BofA competitor]? Poor WaMu.

Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's CrosSynergy crossword, "Talking a Good Game," centers on an "observation": AFTER ALL IS SAID / AND DONE, A LOT MORE / IS SAID THAN DONE. True enough, that. I rather like the entry GOES BOOM, clued as [Explodes, to a kid]. I also like the potato pair: a COUCH is a [Place for a potato?], while IDAHO is a [Place for potatoes?] in the plural.

Updated again:

Byron Walden's Onion A.V. Club crossword for this week is horribly rude (...not that there's anything so wrong with that), as each theme entry tells you where you can get off—at least, those imprecations are found at the beginning of each of those phrases.
  • [Popeye's "I'll be!"] exclamation is BLOW ME DOWN. Blow me is one of those dismissive, rude phrases.
  • The [1991 Phoebe Cates comedy often compared to "Beetlejuice"] is calle DROP DEAD FRED, and drop dead is a more mortal but less obscene demand.
  • To [Make it through an excruciating, extended ordeal] is to GO TO HELL AND BACK. Skip the return trip and just go to hell.
  • I've never heard of the [2007 Marilyn Manson album] EAT ME, DRINK ME, and I don't generally go around saying eat me.
  • [What studying philosophy will do, according to Steve Martin] is SCREW YOU UP. I don't doubt that, but I don't recall the circumstances in which Steve Martin said that. Screw you, of course, is the less impolite version of the phrase that this puzzle evokes.
In the fill, there are eight 8- and 9-letter answers, including slangy SCHMOOZES (clued as [Shoots the shit]) beside SKEEZIEST ([Superlative for a flasher], and no, I don't wish to contemplate the very skeeziest of the flashers). Two full names that are likely brand-new as crossword answers are BOB NEY, the [Former Ohio congressman released from prison in August 2008], and MACK BROWN, the [Coach of the 2005 NCAA football champion Texas Longhorns]. Guess which one of the two I've heard of?

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Covered in Spots," is covered in advertising spots. That is, each theme entry has an AD added to it, changing the gist:
  • AD + ding-dongs leads the way to [Sex reassignment surgeon's task, at times?], or ADDING DONGS. It can be done, yes, but is technically difficult.
  • AD + AM radio = ADAM RADIO, or [Religious station?].
  • AD + poetic diction = POETIC ADDICTION, or [Foot fetish?]. Poetic diction is not so familiar to me. And I call myself an English major! My degree should be rescinded, shouldn't it?
  • {What swing state viewers might experience as the presidential election draws closer, punnily, or a possible title for this week's puzzle?] is AD NAUSEAM. Nauseam doesn't stand alone in English, hence the "punnily," I guess. I am not in a swing state. It was just two days ago that I saw my first McCain bumper stickers in Chicago—and one of the vehicles had an out-of-state plate.
  • AD + Miami Vice = MIAMI ADVICE, or ["Make sure to eat at this amazing Cuban place in South Beach," e.g.?].
Favorite clues and answers aside from the theme: NBA JAM, the [arcade basketball game that failed to include Michael Jordan]; [Place with millions of inhabitants at the time of its "discovery"] for AMERICA; AUDRA, or [Actress Lindley of "Three's Company"] for a '70s TV nostalgia hit (she played Mrs. Roper, of course); and stale ol' STYE with a non-eye clue, [Sebaceous gland problem], that pointed right towards ACNE (hey, when's the last time a STYE clue wasn't a gimme?).