October 24, 2008

Saturday, 10/25

NYT 6:54
LAT 5:17
Newsday 4:37
CS 3:30

Yay! Another themeless crossword from Karen Tracey, this time in the New York Times. Like many of Karen's confections, this one contains a lot of Scrabbly letters (three J's, a Q, three K's), pop culture, people's names, and a little geography. Let's start with my favorite entries:

  • JACKANAPES is a [Whippersnipper]. Let's give this word some currency, shall we? Who's with me?
  • CHE GUEVARA was the ["Guerrilla Warfare" author, 1961].
  • An unfamiliar-to-me word, EARTHSHINE, is clued as [Faint illumination of the moon's dark side]. What a lovely astronomy word!
  • JAMES JOYCE was, among other things, [Writer of the 1918 play "Exiles"]. Wow, I haven't heard of that work.
  • JELLYSTONE! That's the [Park in Ranger Smith's charge] in the old Yogi Bear cartoons.
  • IRAQ WAR provides a Q, and is clued with [Tony Blair advocated it].
  • I do not like SQUIRREL, the animal, but as a crossword entry, it's golden. The clue is rather icky, though: [Brunswick stew ingredient].
There were lots of other people and characters in the grid:
  • Fictional JABBA the Hutt was the [Captor of Han Solo] in some Star Wars movie.
  • Fictional IRENE ADLER is the [Opera singer created by Arthur Conan Doyle]. This one I learned strictly from crosswords.
  • Actress TARA REID! She's blown her career for the most part, but she was the [Player of Danni Sullivan on "Scrubs"]. The character was bit of a trainwreck.
  • Fictional ILIA is a [Princess in Mozart's "Idomeneo"], apparently. (The pelvic bones and ice skater Ilia Kulik are other ILIA options.)
  • [Jazzman ___ Allison] is named MOSE.
  • Fictional SHE-RA is [He-Man's twin sister].
  • ["Gilmore Girls" co-star Alexis] BLEDEL has also been in those Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies.
  • BEN is my son's name, and also that of the giant clock bell in London, [Big ___] BEN.
  • TUPAC Shakur is the [First name in rap].
  • Actress ESSIE [Davis who played Maggie in two "Matrix" movies] should get a bigger role in something so she can appear in more crosswords.
  • ["Six Feet Under" star Peter] KRAUSE was also in Sports Night, Aaron Sorkin's first TV series.
  • [Sherlock's French counterpart] is ARSENE Lupin.
  • Fictional LIAT was [Joe's love interest in "South Pacific"]. Liat was also the name of one of these paper dolls we had when I was a kid—as seen in this video. Anyone else have those paper dolls from around the world?
  • RONA Barrett was once the [First name in Hollywood gossip].
I know a lot of people grumble when a crossword contains a slew of names, but I'm glad Will Shortz is willing to strike a balance and publish this sort of puzzle on occasion to delight those of us who love it.

Other favorite clues and answers I want to mention:
  • SAN ANTONIO was hiding from me even with a handful of letters already filled in. It's the [Home of Our Lady of the Lake University], apparently. It's a cute town, but don't try to go to the art museum without a car.
  • [Like some lava] clues BASALTIC. Geology rocks.
  • AFICIONADO is clued with the could-mean-a-lot-of-things [Buff].
  • YERBA BUENA is a [Trailing evergreen related to savory]. At first, I didn't know why this wasn't given an easier clue relating to Richard Nixon, and then I realized that's Yorba Linda I was thinking of.
  • ORGANIST is clued with [One may play at a ballpark]. Alas, none of the good teams are still playing ball these days, unless you can summon up some excitement for the Phillies or Rays.
  • One [Measure of support?] is C-CUP. This may be the best clue I've seen for a bra size crossword answer.
[Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to the stars?] are LEOS, astrologically. Hey, me too!


Doug Peterson's themeless LA Times puzzle duped me with that [Type of trail] fitting a *AP*R pattern. A PAPER trail, right? Nope, it's a VAPOR trail. Another trouble spot was [Taken out, as refrigerators], which made no sense to me. UNCRATED = taken out of a crate? Yeah, that works. [Products of hydrocarbon combustion] are OXIDES, but rust is an oxide and I don't think combustion is involved in rusting. Chemistry's not my strong suit, so I'm not familiar with all the ways of making oxides.

Favorite clues and answers:
  • [Group that includes TV's "Friends"] is GEN X. I had no idea what the answer was until the X was in the grid.
  • [Groom on the cover of Life's 3/31/52] issue was ABNER. Whoa, really? Apparently Li'l Abner had avoided marrying Daisy Mae for 18 years, so the comic strip characters' wedding was big news. Ah, simple times.
  • [It may be part of a round] is ALE, if someone's buying a round of drinks.
  • One type of [Legal challenge] is the BAR EXAM—this was my favorite clue because the answer's so simple but I thought I needed to summon up some obscure legal term.
  • X-RAY VISION! It's a [Fictional threat to privacy]. I was thinking BIG BROTHER at first.
  • [Scoop, perhaps] is one kind of NECKLINE.
  • ALI MACGRAW gets the full-name treatment. She's clued as ["The Getaway" actress].
  • My favorite answer is SIR, NO SIR, an [Emphatic military answer].
For me, today's easiest themeless was Dan Stark's Newsday "Saturday Stumper." (Solution PDF here). The clue that took me off guard was [Temperaments, so to speak] for KIDNEYS. Say what? Who speaks that way? It's in the dictonary, but I've never encountered that usage before. I wonder if it dates back to when people talked about their humors (blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile) as if they affected personality traits.

Favorite and/or gnarliest clues:
  • [Up a lot] is a verb phrase cluing DOUBLE.
  • [Tie-wearing toon] is YOGI BEAR. What a coincidence, having JELLYSTONE in the NYT puzzle on the same day.
  • [National Capital Territory of Asia] is DELHI. I have no idea what the clue refers to.
  • ERIK is ["The Flying Dutchman" role]? Mr. Estrada wishes he could get some love here.
  • BEARDS are [Sun blocks]. Why? Because they block the sun from a chin? Is there another level here?
  • [It's larger than Australia] clues the SAHARA Desert. My, that is big. All that sand, wasted because it's not in beach form.
  • [Part of a date] is a STONE. I surmise that the pit or seed in the fruit called a date is termed a STONE.

Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy crossword is a "Paul Newman Tribute." The legendary actor Paul Newman died about four weeks ago, and his passing definitely merits a crossword made in tribute to him. The theme entries are three 15-letter movies for which Newman was nominated for an Oscar. Newman was in many other notable movies of varying letter counts: Hud (3), Cars (4), Blaze (5), Exodus (6), The Sting and Slap Shot (8), The Verdictand The Hustler (10), Nobody's Fool (11), Cool Hand Luke (12), and some longer titles. That's a lot of material, though mostly not bunched in same-length pairs—I wonder if anyone's been working on a Sunday-sized tribute to Paul Newman's career.