October 27, 2008

Tuesday, 10/28

Sun 3:55
CS 3:15
NYT 3:06
LAT 2:54

(updated at 9:20 a.m. Tuesday)

Allan Parrish's New York Times crossword sports a retro theme of DANCING in the '60s. Well, I didn't make it to kindergarten until the '70s, so '60s dance crazes are not my strong suit. Here are the theme entries:

  • OLIVER TWIST is a [Dickens lad] and the Twist is a dance most of us have heard of.
  • SHETLAND PONY is a [Small equine], and I have never heard of a dance called the Pony.
  • One [Weightlifter's lift] is the CLEAN AND JERK, and the Jerk is less familiar to me as a dance than as a Steve Martin movie.
  • I had no idea that there's a [Rum/vodka cocktail] called the BRASS MONKEY, and I have heard of the Monkey.
This theme is custom-made for those of you who are, say, 50 to 65 years old. The northeast and southwest corners of the puzzle are custom-made for fans of wide-open grids, with triple-stacked 9-letter answers. My favorites there are TOM SNYDER, who was ["The Tomorrow Show" host] some years back, and a TOTEM POLE, or [Indian carving]. Yesterday, I wrote that ET TU was sometimes clued as [Rebuke from Caesar], and sure enough, today it's here as [Caesarean rebuke]. Other crossword regulars that newer solvers should store away in the memory banks:
  • TET is an [Asian holiday], the Vietnamese New Year.
  • [Skater-turned-actress Sonja] HENIE was big decades ago, and her fame lives on in crosswords.
  • ELO, the Electric Light Orchestra, is the ["Xanadu" band, to fans]. Their other hit songs included "Don't Bring Me Down," "Telephone Line," and "Evil Woman."
  • The SPAD was a [W.W. I fighter plane]. This one doesn't appear often, but it helps to have seen the word before.
  • An AWL is a [Hole-making tool] used to poke holes in leather.
  • ENIAC was a [Computer that debuted in 1946].
  • ESSE is a [Latin 101 verb], "to be." Sometimes it's clued as [In ___] (meaning "in actual existence"), sometimes as part of another Latin phrase or motto.
  • ISR. is [Mount Carmel's locale: Abbr.], short for Israel, and the UAE, or United Arab Emirates, are an [Oil-rich land: Abbr.]. SYR. (Syria) is another land in the Middle East. Word to the wise: [Leb. neighbor] can be either ISR or SYR.
  • NAN is [Bert Bobbsey's twin sister], from the old Bobbsey Twin kids' book series. NIN is Anais NIN, clued here as ["Collages" novelist]. In other puzzles, you may encounter a baseball player named Robb NEN.
  • SKA is a kind of [Jamaican music], and a forerunner of reggae.
  • Meredith Baxter played ELYSE Keaton, the ["Family Ties" mother] to Michael J. Fox's Alex Keaton on the TV show. How else are you gonna clue ELYSE? That's pretty much the only workable option.
  • NRA isn't just the National Rifle Association. It's also the [New Deal inits.] that stand for the National Recovery Administration.

The Sun puzzle by Tony Orbach has one of those themes that I paid no mind to while solving. I surmise that it's called "Making Out" because each theme entry begins with a way of making an out in baseball. There are six ways? The phrases are mostly lively, and I like their clues:
  • FLY SWATTER is clued as a [Thing causing a buzz kill?].
  • POP ROCKS are the [Candy that did not, in fact, kill Mikey] from the Life cereal commercials. I just saw a show on the Food Network that sort of explained how Pop Rocks are made (melted sugar with carbon dioxide mixed in?) and why you won't die if you combine Pop Rocks and Coke.
  • LINE DANCING eschews country music and gets a cheesy clue, [Doing the Macarena, e.g.].
  • A [Concern for someone holding put or call options] is the STRIKE PRICE. Okay, this answer isn't particularly lively and the clue is equally flat. It's hard to liven up the derivatives market without putting your own money at risk, isn't it?
  • FOUL PLAY gets a specific clue: [1978 Goldie Hawn movie]. According to the synopsis, the bag guys are linked to a "Tax the Churches League." Chevy Chase costars.
  • GROUND BEEF is a [Sloppy joe ingredient]. So's brown sugar, and if you're in my family, you don't skimp on the sweet stuff.
My favorite answer in the fill: that [Hershey's product] called the KIT-KAT. Solvers outside the U.S. may know it as a Nestlé candy bar. I bought a bag of 55 snack-size Kit-Kats for my kid's school Halloween party a couple weeks ago. There are only 18 left. We're fond of Kit-Kats around here.


Janet Bender's LA Times crossword features a simple theme: two-word phrases with T.T. initials. "So what?" you ask. Well, all five phrases come from the world of sports, so phrases like taste test, Tommy Tune, tuna tartare, and Tiny Toons don't make the team. A [Race against the clock] in cycling (if not other sports) is a TIME TRIAL. TABLE TENNIS has been an [Olympic sport since 1988]. The TENNESSEE TITANS [were the Oilers before 1999]. They played in the Monday Night Football matchup last night, and I was quite taken by their baby blue uniforms. [Hall of Fame pitcher Seaver's nickname] is TOM TERRIFIC. TRASH TALK is a [Taunting exchange during the game]. Other sports-related content in the puzzle includes IVIED, [Like Wrigley Field's walls]—once again lying dormant in October. The INDY 500 is a [Big May race, familiarly]. And Sean PENN could have been clued as PENN State, whose football team is doing well this season.

Patrick Blindauer recently had an NYT puzzle with ANTs on the march in the shortish theme entries. Today, his CrosSynergy crossword, "Moving Violation," offers another version of this theme. This time, it's a SIN (clued as [Violation, and word that "moves" within the six starred clues]) that moves one letter back with each step. It's at the beginning of the first 8-letter entry, SINISTER, and makes its way to the end of the sixth 8-letter answer:

SINISTER means [Ominous].
TSINGTAO is a [Popular Chinese beer brand]
ELSINORE is the ["Hamlet" setting].
BASSINET is a [Baby's bed].
DEPOSING is [Writing one's sworn testimony].
ASSASSIN is [One with a contract, say].

From the non-theme fill, here are my favorite clues: ARSENIC is clued as [One of two elements that ends with the letter C]. I love this sort of clue—can you name the other element? [Classical gas?] clues not music but an old gas company, ESSO. [Short pants] are GASPS and not something like knickers or capris. [It may come out of the closet] refers to LINEN. [Sources of world views?] are GLOBES.