October 22, 2008

Thursday, 10/23

NYT 4:03
Sun 3:39
LAT 3:25
CS 2:32

I feel like I've been a less attentive crossword blogger than usual lately—I blame this month's cold, which focuses its attentions primarily on making me cough.

Patrick Blindauer's New York Times puzzle has a somewhat subtle, if buggy, theme. The ANTS that are ["Marchers" through the answers to the five starred clues] start at the left of a 7-letter word and march one square over through a progression of five words, ending at the right side of the fifth word:

ANTACID is a stomach [Settler in a pharmacy].
ANTASY completes the TV title, ["___ Island"].
ANTOM is (was?) a [B'way hit beginning in '88].
ANTA is [Where Delta Air Lines is headquartered].
ANT means to [Cast a spell over].

Including the theme entries, there are 20 answers containing 7 or more letters, giving this puzzle a moderately themeless vibe. Among the more interesting bits:

  • RIP TORN's full name is here, clued as ["Men in Black" actor]. I think this is the third time I've seen the name in a crossword this month, but RIP TORN is awesome so I'm glad to see him again.
  • [Bawl club?] is a bunch of WEEPERS. The clue redeems the answer.
  • PARTY FOUL is [Spilling one's drink at a shindig, for one]. This comes from the '90s, doesn't it? Here's a jejune explanation of the "party foul" concept.
  • I didn't know VIAGRA was a [Product once pitched by Pele]. (In Across Lite, the special character é in Pelé displayed as a question mark. "Product once pitched by Pel?" looked odd.)
  • [Like juicy biographies] is TELL-ALL.
  • [Some cricketers] are BATSMEN. Did you know that Brian Lara is considered one of the sport's greatest batsmen?
  • I know of SPEEDEE, the [Bygone McDonald's mascot], only from crosswords.
  • [Ones joining the family] could go several ways. Here, it's STEPFATHERS. (I started with STEPPARENTS.)
  • ["Nightmare ___," 1997 Disney animated series] is NED. Raise your hand if you've ever heard of this one.
  • LARRY HAGMAN! Now, that's not a full name that shows up in crosswords too often. He was [Actress Mary Martin's actor son]. She played Peter Pan; he played J.R. Ewing.
  • TESSES is a stretch as an entry, but the clue, [The "Working Girl" girl and others], was a gimme for me. Tess was Melanie Griffith's ambitious character.
  • [Study for astronomes] is ETOILES. Astronomes, I presume, is French for "astronomers"? More French: [___-dernier (penultimate: Fr.)] is AVANT.
  • [White, granular powder] could go a lot of ways. This time, it's POTASH. Do not smoke or snort this.
  • A [Teller] who tattles is a SNITCH.

Holy cow, are there ever a ton of Smurfs characters—more than 100. Just five of them made the cut to be included in Kevan Choset's Sun crossword theme. The cartoon Smurfs are blue, hence the "Blue Man Group" title for this puzzle. I know next to nothing about The Smurfs, having never watched the cartoon (I was too old when it began airing here) or sought out the original Belgian comics—so this theme had no resonance for me. These long answers begin with SMURF (71-Across) names:
  • [Large venomous snake] is KING COBRA.
  • [Its subtitle is "A Novel Without a Hero"] clues VANITY FAIR.
  • [1954 Literature Nobelist, informally] is PAPA HEMINGWAY.
  • [Convenient] means HANDY-DANDY.
  • [Dinner spinner] is a LAZY SUSAN.
Here's one reason the Smurfs are dumb: More than 100 of 'em, and only three are female. Or maybe they're just a largely gay group of blue men, I dunno. The crossword seemed a good bit easier than the usual Thursday Sun puzzle, but October 23 marks the 50th anniversary of the Smurfs' creation.


Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy crossword, "What a Trooper!", has an arresting theme featuring slang terms for law enforcement officers:
  • COPPER PLUMBING is an [Alternate to plastic piping].
  • Skewing English, we have BOBBY KENNEDY, [U.S. Attorney General from 1961-1964].
  • An [Iron-on method] is HEAT TRANSFER.
  • Is "Smokey" used outside of CB-radio lingo to mean the police? SMOKEY ROBINSON was the [Lead singer of The Miracles] until the early '70s.
Cute theme!

Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword has an explosive theme, with five theme entries starting with synonyms for "explode":
  • To GO OFF THE DEEP END is to [Get really frantic].
  • To [Do a pre-birthday party task] is to BLOW UP BALLOONS.
  • To ERUPT IN LAUGHTER is to [Bust a gut].
  • If you [Try to organize a union?] of matrimony, you POP THE QUESTION.
  • To BURST ONE'S BUBBLE means to [Deliver a harsh dose of reality].
This puzzle contained one completely unfamiliar name: [1980s KGB defector Gordievsky]'s first name is OLEG. On the plus side, it's a familiar enough Russian first name. [Saints' quarterback Drew] BREES and LEORA, [Arrowsmith's first wife] in the Sinclair Lewis novel, sit beside each other and potentially knot up the left side of the grid. Favorite fill entry: "IS IT EVER!" clued with ["You got that right!"].