November 06, 2008

Friday, 11/7

NYT 5:51
Sun 5:14
LAT 4:23
CS 4:23
CHE 4:22
WSJ 6:23

(updated at 3:50 p.m. Friday)

Kevin Der's 70-word New York Times crossword bears the hallmarks of his shtick. Yes, I know he's only had a few puzzles published, but they tend to have some fill that says "person who's too young to remember a time before the ubiquity of tech gadgets." He's got INSTANT MESSAGES ([E-mail alternatives]) crossing KARAOKE MACHINES ([Self-contained music equipment]). The icky word ETAIL is [What PayPal facilitates]; don't get me started on PayPal, which is holding my personal information hostage in an unpleasantly bossy way.

I just have a minute to convey a few highlights before I tuck my son in and probably fall fast asleep myself:

  • KB TOYS and KIDS' MEAL are a [Retail chain popular with kids] and [Smaller fare, usually], respectively. KABUKI is another K answer, and it's clued as [Drama in which male actors play both male and female parts]. It crosses yet another Japanese K word (with KARAOKE, we're up to three), KAWASAKI, a [Big name in bikes]. Japan's OBIS, or [Accessories whose colors may indicate rank], make the cut without a K. SAKAI, the unknown-to-me [Port on Osaka Bay[, doesn't start with a K but
    contains one.
  • [Where guards are stationed] clues the football GRIDIRON. I'm torn: Do I love this clue or find the "stationing" of football players to be odd wording? I think I like the mislead.
  • GIRL TALK is [heard at a slumber party]. What, you boys don't have slumber parties, too?
  • [Warren of the car rental business] is AVIS. What? It's not named after the Latin for "bird"? And Taco Bell's named after Mr. Bell. What next? The Windy City is named after 19th century legend Harold City?
  • SNOOK is clued as [Thumbing-the-nose gesture]. This one I learned from another crossword. The full phrase is cock a snook.
I don't care for BRAVE MAN, or [Medal of Honor recipient, say]. If that passes muster as a crossword entry, then so should WEAK MAN, BRASH WOMAN, or STALWART INDIVIDUAL. It's basically just adjective + noun. 

Doug Peterson's "Weekend Warrior" Sun crossword has clashing 15-letter entries that collide in the middle. SUPER BOWL SUNDAY is one thing, but Celine Dion's "MY HEART WILL GO ON" is even more bombastic. I like how the song looks in a crossword grid, with the word spaces removed: "My Heart Will Goon." "My Hear Twill Goon." Goons make anything more interesting. Shiny things:
  • HYPERLINKS are [often underlined].
  • LARA CROFT is a tomb [Raider of note].
  • A [Resounding win] is a LANDSLIDE. Nobody needs a landslide if 52% will do the job.
  • BAMM-BAMM is that kid from The Flintstones. I always preferred Pebbles.
  • USA TODAY is clued as a [Colorful broadsheet]. Remember Jon Stewart's slam on the USA Today crossword in the movie Wordplay? Heh. That paper should make a personnel change and hire Sun editor Peter Gordon to oversee its crossword.
PAYNE is clued as ["Major ___" (1995 Damon Wayans film)]. A more current clue would be ["Max ___" (2008 Mark Wahlberg film)]. I call a moratorium on any more "___ Payne" movies, at least until such time as the Trip Payne biopic begins production.

Patrick Berry's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Switching Parties," goes seasonal with a political gimmick. In each of six theme entries, a D and an R switch places to change a phrase:
  • A hearing aid turns into HEADING AIR, or [Leaping up to hit a soccer ball and missing entirely?].
  • "Waged war" becomes WAGER WAD, or [Bet your bankroll at the poker table?].
  • [Figurine made from Asian grain] is DOLL OF THE RICE, playing on "roll of the dice."
  • Designer jeans swaps the D and R at opposite ends of a single word, giving us RESIGNED JEANS, or [Pair of pants surrendered to another?]. If I were to wager a small wad on it, I'd guess that the designer/resigned switcheroo was the seed for this puzzle.
  • BAD CORES are [What remains after you eat a barrelful of rotten apples?]. Or maybe this play on bar codes was the seed entry.
  • My favorite theme entry was "DEAR! MY LIPS," or [Spouse's objection after a particularly forceful kiss?]. I like the change in emphasis from "read my lips" to this.


Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword reworks five phrases by changing a P sound to a B sound and adjusting the spelling as needed:
  • [Furry menace aboard the Enterprise?] is TRIBBLE THREAT, playing on "triple threat." That new Star Trek movie looks entertaining, but it's a tad off-putting that the Enterprise crew is now played by people younger than me. How did this happen?
  • [Percussionists?] are CYMBAL FOLK, not simple folk.
  • STABLE GUN is a [Defense against horse thieves?]. Staple guns are scary.
  • [Condiment for silents star Normand?] is MABEL SYRUP rather than maple.
  • An Oedipal complex is transformed into EDIBLE COMPLEX, or [Assemblage of gingerbread houses?]. I like this one the best.
I was misinterpreting [NBA one-pointers] as two-point field goals rather than free throws, or FGS intead of FTS. That made [High-___: dignified] look like it might be GONAD. Whoops. It's TONED. The longest non-theme answers are BOX SCORES, or [Sports summaries], and DISSOLUTE, or [Rakish]. We should use dissolute more often. [Prefix for a cab collector] turned out to be OENO, and the cabs being collected are the red wines called cabernets; tough clue. I had no idea that ECOL. (ecology) is a [Sci. founded by Danish botanist Eugen Warming]. Wait, is he the guy global warming is named after? Another tough clue was [Event at which multiple repeats are common]—a spelling BEE. [Where kwanzas are spent: Abbr.] is ANG., or Angola. The [Piscine symbol of overcrowdedness] is a SARDINE. [There are two in Beethoven's Fifth] is an awfully numeric clue for OBOISTS.

Today's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Zone Blitz," has an odd sort of theme. Bob Klahn fills five rows of the grid with a dozen kinds of zones. The two 15-letter theme entries have three terms that modify zone squashed together—TOWAWAY, WAR, NO-FLY and CANAL, END, COMFORT. Two 12-letter enries each contain two zones—STRIKE, DANGER and SCHOOL, SAFETY. And two 7-letter zones in the middle are single zone types—LOADING and NEUTRAL. Other clues: [Deco designer de Tirtoff] provides the real last name of ERTE. [The cat in "Peter and the Wolf"] is portrayed by a CLARINET. ["Have I got moos for you!" utterer] is a COW. Is this a famous cow line, or just something Klahn imagines a cow would say? [WWII's Uncle Joe] is STALIN; I daresay I didn't know Stalin was called Uncle Joe. That would be one scary-ass uncle. [Lock, stock, and barrel?] make up a RIFLE. [Enoch, Eve, or Elizabeth] are famous real or fictional people surnamed ARDEN. And one [Color on the Irish flag] is, of course, ORANGE.

The Wall Street Journal crossword isn't posted in Across Lite yet. I hope to get to it later today when it's up, but my son's off school from now 'til next Thursday, so I'll be getting pulled away from blogging.

Updated Friday afternoon:

Again? Another easier-than-usual Wall Street Journal crossword that tumbled faster than most past WSJ or NYT Sunday-sized puzzles. I'm always pleased if I can break the 8:00 mark in a 21x21 crossword, but dipping below 7:00 cries "easy." In Randolph Ross's "What's My Line?" crossword, the theme entries are phrases that end with words that can mean "career" or "job":
  • [Dental school career?] is DRILL INSTRUCTOR. This one isn't clear to me—is INSTRUCTOR the job-related word here, or is it DRILL at the beginning? The other theme entries all end with the synonym.
  • CON VOCATION is a [Criminal career?], splitting the word convocation into two.
  • [Career at a Washington newspaper?] is a POST POSITION. This one's a double, as POST can also mean "job."
  • BANG-UP JOB is a [Career at the demolition derby?].
  • TENNIS RACKET is clued as [Wimbledon pro shop career?].
  • An AVON CALLING might be a [Career as an English playwright?] such as Shakespeare.
  • IRAQI OCCUPATION livens itself up by playing the part of a crossword theme answer, [Career in Baghdad?].
  • To be in the BASEBALL TRADE would be to have a [Major league career?].
  • FANCY FOOTWORK is clued [Career at Manolo Blahnik?]. This theme entry diverges from the mold a bit, as WORK isn't a stand-alone word here. But it's my favorite theme entry anyway.
Did you realize that the plural of arboretum is ARBORETA? These [Sylvan showplaces] can also be pluralized with a simple -S. Favorite entries: FLAG DAY, which is [June 14] and my cousin Mike's birthday; BOWL GAME, one of many events for [January sports viewing]; UNCLE SAM, the [Finger-pointing character]; and LINE ONE, an [Office phone button] as in "call on line one."