October 09, 2008

Friday, 10/10

NYT 6:22
NYS 5:52 with one Google
LAT 4:38
CHE 3:14
CS 2:46
WSJ 8:04

Do you like chicken satay, but find yourself put off by the bothersome bamboo skewer that keeps the chicken out of your mouth? If you live in Chicago, there's a restaurant that can help you. Sura, a Thai tapas restaurant, serves a "lettuce wrap" appetizer that's essentially chicken satay bits with peanut sauce in a little crispy cup lined with lettuce. So yummy! Sura adds a little crossword-geek chic by having a couple Eero Aarnio bubble chairs. It was just a month ago that Karen Tracey's Sun crossword included EERO Aarnio, and those bubble chairs of his are surprisingly comfy.

Kyle Mahowald's themeless 70-word New York Times crossword has some colorfully colloquial answers in it: NO PAIN, NO GAIN is clued as a [Macho credo], though I daresay the credo is unisex. You don't think Mia HAMM, [Scorer of a record 158 goals] in soccer, was wont to muscle through the pain? (Raise your hand if you also considered PELE at 5-Across.) SIR, NO SIR could be an [Emphatic response during a drill]. I can always get a laugh out of my husband or son by putting on my raspy "thank you, sir, may I please have another" military voice. "Sir, yes sir." STRIP POKER is clued as a [Game in which players barely bet?]. When they begin betting, they're not bare yet.

Clues of note:

  • I think of [Makeshift] as just an adjective, but it's also a noun, a QUICK FIX.
  • One [Horizon happening] is a MOONSET.
  • [Club ___] really wanted to be Club MED again, and not the club PRO in golf or tennis.
  • [Rope fiber source] is AGAVE. You know you've done too many crosswords when you also consider SISAL and ISTLE (which is also spelled ixtle and comes from AGAVE plants).
  • [Having a headline?] clues PARTED, as in a part in one's hair.
  • NEILS are [Pulitzer-winning writer Sheehan and others]. That Neil wrote A Bright Shining Lie, among other titles.
  • [Came up with an invention] is the clue for LIED.
  • [Torch site] is the DIME. Check out the change in your wallet and that one'll be obvious. ("That one"!)
  • [School concerned with classes?] is the school of thought called MARXISM.
  • MRI is clued [Hand pic, perhaps]. There's a whole book on the topic.
  • [Like apples and oranges] asked me if it could be UNLIKE, but I said no. You have to be PLURAL.
  • The clue [Salome, to Herod Antipas] meant zilch to me—she's his NIECE, apparently.
  • SAINT DENIS is a [Burial site for many French kings].
  • SERENADE is clued as a [Fraternity activity]. Okay, Tyler Hinman or anyone else with frat experience, explain this one.
  • I've never heard of [Pop singer DeSario], named TERI. Who? According to Wikipedia entry, she went from folk to disco to gospel, all the while escaping my notice completely. Anyone heard of her?

I came to a screeching halt in the southeast corner of Patrick Blindauer's Sun puzzle, "Big Ten." The title refers to the big X (which is the Roman numeral meaning 10) that traverses the grid. It's mostly black squares along the diagonals, with space for two X's in the line in each quadrant. The middle four white squares are unchecked thanks to the black squares' pattern, but those four squares are all filled with an X. Where did I run into trouble? At the perfect storm where four Across answers meet two Down answers:
  • I Googled 46-Across, [New York City Marathon founder Fred]. Who? Madam Google whispered to me, "Fred LEBOW."
  • 50-Across had an oblique clue. [Twist pioneer many years after Chubby?] has nothing to do with dance or music. The answer's another first name, ERNO, as in Erno Rubik, creator of the Rubik's Cube, which...people...twist.
  • I somehow correctly guessed [NBA point guard Nick] VAN EXEL at 57-Across.
  • [Crystalline overgrowth] clues EPITAXY at 60-Across. Ouch.
  • Crossing those four Across answers, we see ABRAXAS at 40-Down. Whuzzah? An [Amulet word used as the title of a 1970 #1 album for Santana]. Here it is, and no, it doesn't ring a bell at all.
  • 42-Down is clued [Like some tissues], and with just the T and L in place, I was mystified. Like some anatomical tissues? Nope, like Puffs or Kleenex—TWO-PLY. Ouch. I should've gotten that one, and it would have helped immeasurably with getting through the rest of that corner.
I like the X gimmick just fine, but that corner seemed borderline unfair. Maybe I'm the only one not up on my Santana albums and the names of marathon founders? The 12 X's in the grid were included in some cool answers:
  • MAX GAIL was a ['70s TV costar of Abe Vigoda and Jack Soo] on Barney Miller. He played Wojo, or Detective Wojeciehowicz. When I was 12, I had a crush on him.
  • MR. FIX-IT is a [Handyman].
  • The IMP from a recent NYT puzzle shows up here, clued as ["The Bottle ___" (short story by Robert Louis Stevenson)] for a change. You can read the short story here. Yeah, I know this one lacks an X.
  • [Johnson, e.g.] is clued as SEXPERT; [Masters, e.g.] would also work.

Don Gagliardo's LA Times crossword changes -ence and -ance words at the ends of the theme entries into plural -ents and -ants words:
  • [Harbor groups of strikers?] is PUT UP RESISTANTS. I checked three dictionaries to see if resistant was also a noun, and finally the third tome, an unabridged dictionary, said yes.
  • [Bouquets for the diva?] might be STAGE PRESENTS.
  • [Trailer for an old movie festival?] is MINUTE OF SILENTS.
  • [Leaders in a race?] are the FRONT ENTRANTS.
  • [Hypochondriacs?] clues EXTREME PATIENTS.
Did you know [Uncle Scrooge, for one] was a SCOT? I didn't. UXOR is a [Wife, in legalese]. I remember the ["Airplane!" heroine] ELAINE, played by Julie Hagerty. I didn't know that a [Nasty "Pearls Before Swine" character] was RAT; is that a rat, or a character named Rat? REDFERN is clued as a [Sydney suburb], but I daresay the "Doonesbury" character Rick Redfern is more familiar to American solvers. [Subject of a parental caution] is STRANGERS here. I had a tough time settling into the constructor and editor's wavelength in the clues—did you have that experience?

Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Doubled Down," might offer a welcome respite to Wall Streeters. Except...ALAN Greenspan, the FDIC, NYSE, and the ENRON bankruptcy are in the grid as reminders of economic crisis, and while the word UP appears in three phrases (REST UP, END UP AT, and ICED UP)—it's always going down. The theme entries are all Downs with double-D's inserted into them to change a phrase's meaning:
  • [Hoedown hutch?] is a FIDDLING CABINET (filing cabinet).
  • [Loco locomotive?] is a MUDDLE TRAIN (mule train).
  • [Bureau for hot mixed drinks?] is a TODDY CHEST (toy chest).
  • [Sheets vis-a-vis straw?] are HUMAN BEDDING (human being).
  • [Story of a Ping-Ping champ's retirement years?] is BEYOND THE PADDLE (beyond the pale). This one's my favorite.
  • [Schwinn seat in storage?] is a GARAGE SADDLE (garage sale).
  • [Pop with punch?] is BOXING DADDY (Boxing Day).
  • [Where to get calls in a flooded field?] is a PADDY PHONE (pay phone).
My favorite non-thematic answers were PLATYPI ([Egg-laying mammals]), DODO BIRDS ([Pigeons' extinct kin]), LAGUARDIA ([Mayor nicknamed "the Little Flower"] owing to his first name, Fiorello), RIP TORN (["Men in Black" actor]), and DARNED IF I DO ([First half of a lose-lose comment]).

Nancy Salomon's CrosSynergy crossword offers more of an escape from worldly cares. In "Plentiful Plots," the theme entries are all places where fruit grows, always clued [Fruitful land]. There's a STRAWBERRY FIELD, an APPLE ORCHARD, a CRANBERRY BOG, and a WATERMELON PATCH. Yum! But wait: No ORANGE GROVE as a sop to my online pseudonym? Fine, fine—it doesn't always have to be about me. The fill includes spoken language like PARDON ME, MY STARS, NO CAN DO, and HON; TUBE TOPS, and I wish there were a way to cross-reference that to the AHAB clue; and MOJO, clued as [Voodoo spell].

Pancho Harrison's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "Avon Calling," features five phrases the English language picked up from William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon:
  • SALAD DAYS are [What we call youthfully innocent times, thanks to Shakespeare].
  • BATED BREATH is [What we call tense anticipation, thanks to Shakespeare].
  • HOUSEHOLD WORD is [What we call a term everyone knows, thanks to Shakespeare].
  • SHORT SHRIFT is [What we call little consideration, thanks to Shakespeare].
  • FANCY-FREE is [What we call having no emotional ties, thanks to Shakespeare].
HOUSEHOLD WORD is especially apt, as that term describes plenty of words and phrases that are household words only because Shakespeare gave them a platform to become broadly known. My favorite answer here is WHAT HO, [Bertie Wooster's greeting]. I use that greeting myself sometimes, but didn't know where I picked it up. (My "What what?" comes from the movie, The Madness of King George.)