November 13, 2008

Friday, 11/14

WSJ 7:45
NYT 5:33
Sun 4:30
LAT 4:23
CHE 4:03
CS 3:03

(updated at 10:40 Friday morning)

O happy day! Even though the Sun crossword has customarily provided just one themeless puzzle a week (alternating between Thursdays and Fridays), yesterday's "Themeless Thursday" is chased by a "Weekend Warrior." Tack onto that the usual two NYT themelesses (Friday and Saturday), the LA Times and Newsday Saturday themelesses, and the themeless CrosSynergy puzzle on Sunday, and you can see why I like the second half of the week best.

Friday's New York Times puzzle is by Brad Wilber. I'm feeling lackadaisical about blogging tonight, so here's a list of what I liked best:

  • CREAM SODA is an [A&W offering] other than root beer. Cream soda's my favorite flavor of Dum-Dum lollipop. I very nearly ordered a box of 120 cream soda Dum-Dums, but I dunno—$7.09 to ship $5.20 worth of suckers? 10¢ a pop? I need to put this on my wish list.
  • A shark's DORSAL FIN is a [Worrisome sight at a beach], all right.
  • The CO-OP BOARD are [Screeners of would-be buyers], particularly in New York.
  • [Chihuahua, e.g.] is a STATE in Mexico.
  • [One way to lie] is PRONE. SUPINE and LIKE A DOG didn't fit.
  • [Locale for an outdoor party] is a LANAI. Did the Golden Girls entertain on their lanai?
  • [Thing fit for a king] is a large bed SHEET.
  • For [Menace in the mirror], I was thinking of Snow White and that evil queen/witch character, but it's the rearview mirror and a TAILGATER.
  • A.E. HOUSMAN is the [Poet who's the subject of Tom Stoppard's "The Invention of Love"].
  • [Capable of generating heat] isn't about physics—it's EROTIC.
  • ILL HUMOR? It's more than just [Sourness]. I had it in spades this evening.
  • ERA, the Equal Rights Amendment, is [Legis. introduced into every session of Congress from 1923 to 1970]. Sigh.
  • ["Lost Horizon" setting] is a LAMASERY, or monastery of lamas.
  • Another vocabulary word: DISTICH, or [Couplet]. This resource says it's a two-line poem.
  • [African with a white beard] is an animal, the GNU.
And some knottier stuff:
  • [March site mentioned in "Eve of Destruction"] is SELMA, Alabama. It's a '60s protest song, and I got the answer solely on the "march site" part. The title put me in mind of Appetite for Destruction, which is entirely different.
  • ASTI gets a fresh clue, [Grignolino d'___ (Italian red wine)].
  • [Ken McLaughlin's filly] is FLICKA; he's Mary O'Hara's character.
  • ["Eden Concert" artist] is SEURAT. Anyone recognize this work?
  • A hot [Box at the gym?] is a SAUNA. Actual boxing gets a different clue—a TKO [stops the swinging, briefly].
  • Lash LARUE is the [Star of old horse operas], and Anna STEN is [Cooper's co-star in "The Wedding Night," 1935]. Old-time goodness!
  • [Pianist Hewitt who recorded the complete keyboard works of Bach] is named ANGELA.
  • [Sino-Japanese War statesman] is ITO, but not Judge Lance Ito or skater Midori Ito. I think it's Ito Hirobumi, or Prince Ito.
  • The [Drawing-room game in "Pride and Prejudice"] is LOO. That's a card game and not a potty game, in case you wondered.

Doug Peterson's Sun "Weekend Warrior" was easier for me than yesterday's "Themeless Thursday." Was that your experience, too, or was I channeling Doug? Here are the parts I liked best in this fun themeless:
  • STALINGRAD is the [City renamed in 1961]. Now, I knew Leningrad became St. Petersburg, but I don't think I could have told you Stalingrad became this.
  • GUNS N' ROSES is the ["Appetite for Destruction" band]—and yes, I solved this puzzle about an hour before I solved the NYT. Also from the world of rock is MR. BOJANGLES, a [1971 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band hit]. Not to mention BITSY, the [Second word of a Brian Hyland song title], "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." 
  • TUSSLE ([Dustup]) and RUSTLES ([Purloins sirloins?]) sound great together. Another answer with U in the second spot is DURIAN, the [Pungent-smelling fruit].
  • The dahlia is named after [Eponymous botanist Anders] DAHL.
  • PRINGLES? PUH-LEEZE. Are those potato chips? YES AND NO.


Donna Levin's LA Times crossword tricked me. When I completed the first theme entry—CALLING GAUL CARS, or [APB words in old France and environs]—I assumed the theme would feature intrusive hard G sounds landing where they don't belong, as in "Long Guyland." But it turns out that the game is puns involving former names for various countries:
  • NAIL CEYLON might be an [Old anti-Sri Lanka war chant], playing on "nail salon."
  • BURMA FROST plays on permafrost and is clued as [Chilly coat in old Myanmar?]. My third-grader just finished his global warming poster project, so he can tell you that permafrost is proving to be not so "perma" after all. Sinking highways and houses in Alaska, dramatic sinkholes. Burma frost! (Yes, I realize I should have crafted some rhymes to mimic Burma Shave signs.)
  • I'M HENRY VIII, SIAM is [English monarch's greeting to old Thailand?]. I had to Google the reference here—it's this.
My eye keeps misreading the BEARDED clue as [Like both of Jesus' faces, usually]. The clue is [Like both of Janus' faces, usually]. Jesus is popularly represented as having just the one bearded face. Here's a smattering of other clues:
  • The Scottish hat called a TAM is [Headgear for a sporran wearer]. The sporran's that traditional Scottish fannypack worn at the front of a kilt.
  • [November 13th, e.g.], which was yesterday, was the IDES of November. I'll bet one of my clever readers can explain why the Ides fall on the 13th and 15th in different months.
  • [Palm products] are DATES if you're talking about palm trees and not big-P Palm, maker of PDAs.
  • [Yemen's capital] is RIAL if you're talking about the unit of currency. The capital city is Sana'a.
  • [Munchhausen output, so it's said] is TALL TALES. Does it bug anyone else that the condition wherein someone feigns serious illness is called Munchausen's syndrome with just one H?
  • [Gray Panthers' banes] are AGEISTS.
  • [Whacked arcade critter] is the MOLE in Whac-a-Mole.
  • An INCA was a [Worshipper of the sun god Inti].
Myles Callum's Wall Street Journal crossword, "CD Collection," gathers up a group of phrases with C.D. initials:
  • CLAM DIP is a [Party offering].
  • CHRISTMAS DINNER is a [Big family event] for some families.
  • CHOCOLATE DROP is a [Sweet cookie]. Here's a recipe.
  • CAMERON DIAZ is ["The Sweetest Thing" star].
  • COCKTAIL DRESS is a ["Project Runway" creation]. I've never seen the show.
  • [Edith Head, notably] was an Oscar-winning COSTUME DESIGNER. (Eight Oscars!)
  • [Rare event in Helll] is a COLD DAY.
  • CALM DISPOSITION is a [Buddha-like composure].
  • CROCODILE DUNDEE was a [Surprise hit movie of 1986].
Highlights in the fill include EAT MY DUST, or ["Try and catch me!"]; TAR BEACH, or [Sunbather's slang for a tenement roof]; SLAP SHOTS for [Lightning strikes?], that being a hockey term and the Lightning being Tampa Bay's NHL team; [Golf's cousin] is another Volkswagen, the JETTA, and not a sport; CHIP CLIPS, those [Snack bag closers] are so very handy; and a CASH BAR is a [Feature of some receptions].

Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Half a Loaf," starts the four theme entries with kinds of bread:
  • RYE WHISKEY is a [Saloon offering].
  • SODA FOUNTAIN was a [Drugstore counter]. I'm too young to have ever encountered a drugstore with a soda fountain, but there was a lunch counter at the Kresge's dime store when I was a kid. Close enough? The Sears store also had a counter-service restaurant back in the '70s. (Speaking of dimes, DIME is clued as a [Stopping point?])
  • [Barbecue veggie] is CORN ON THE COB. I prefer my corn boiled, not grilled, and now I've got a taste for cornbread. Might just have to whip some up for lunch.
  • WHITE NOISE is an [Unobtrusive sound]. 
BEAR HUG is clued as a [Wrestler's maneuver]. Aw, wrestlers cuddle? That's sweet. CAYUGA is the [Longest of the Finger Lakes]. Curious about how the skinny lakes were formed? Read up on the geology. Speaking of geology, BASALT is the [Tectonic plate material].

Sharon Petersen's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword demands plenty of erudition and familiarity with opera. The "Opera Lovers" theme features three title pairs, all with a different language for the conjunction between the names. ROMEO ET JULIETTE are the French [Gounod opera lovers?]. DIDO AND AENEAS are the [Purcell opera lovers?]. And [Gluck opera lovers?] are ORFEO ED EURIDICE. All right, I cry uncle. In what language is "and" rendered as ed? Other high-end clues that gave me pause: EVE is a [Massenet oratorio]; [Island in the Moluccas] is AMBON, and the A crosses [Brazilian novelist Jorge] AMADO; [Zeno's followers] were the STOICS (OK, this one was a gimme, but not the others); ["To the end," to Salieri] is AL FINE; and ICE-NINE is clued as [Fictional polymorph is Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle"] (polymorph!).