November 12, 2008

Thursday, 11/13

LAT 5:23
Sun 5:20
NYT 5:06
CS 3:31

(updated at 9 a.m. Thursday)

While solving Allan Parrish's New York Times crossword, inside my head I exclaimed "Dude!" several times, aimed at both the constructor and Will Shortz. There's SPERM in its non-cetacean, fully spermatozoic sense, clued as [Kind of bank]. And then JOHN is [One caught in a police sting] in the act of hiring a prostitute. ["Hogan's Heroes" figure] is a sitcom NAZI. What the heck—if you're going to go there, why not change ON AN into one word, Onan, and reference "seed-spilling"? Break as many crossword-fill taboos as you can in a single puzzle, eh?

The three theme answers are clued [See circled letters], and there are three circles containing an X. The first theme entry is TIC-TAC-TOE WINNER...but those circled X's aren't in a row! You lose. XXX is a [Poison warning], but a bottle of moonshine that falls short of being classified as poison may also be labeled XXX. The final XXX is not hardcore porn, as you might have suspected based on the transgressive fill, but THIRTY IN OLD ROME.

There's a wealth of good fill in this crossword. From the Acrosses, I like MCLEAN, the [Virginia locale where the C.I.A. is headquartered], for its mashup of consonants, and SPLISH, a [Sound in a Bobby Darin song title] ("Splish Splash"). Most of the cool stuff's in the Downs: CINNAMON [Gum choice]; the UNDERDOG who's the [Victor of an upset]; the DEAR SIR that [may follow a name and address] (though really, is anyone still writing the gender-specific "Dear Sir" these days?); PAMPHLET, or [Flier], which I wanted to be ELEPHANT based on the PH and T but very few elephants fly; and the vowelless RHYTHM, or [Cadence]. I do like the wide-open corners filled with 6's, 7's, and 8's.

Tough clues: [Round person?] is someone who fights a bout measured in rounds, a BOXER. The last name of [Richard ___, director of "Help!" and "A Hard Day's Night"] is LESTER; this name wasn't remotely familiar to me. I was caught off guard by [P.M. known as the Iron Lady] being too short to be Margaret Thatcher; Golda MEIR was just one of a group of women leaders the term has been applied to. This next clue wasn't hard; it was just surprising to see EMOTES clued as [Conveys feelings] instead of [Overacts]. Yay! EMOTES gets to branch out.

Frederick Healy's "Themeless Thursday" Sun crossword has 66 words, and plenty of 'em are colorful:

  • JITTERS are the [Heebie-jeebies].
  • PAY DIRT is a usually metaphorical [Source of wealth].
  • The SLIP 'N SLIDE is a [Wham-O toy used in hot weather].
  • NUTCASES are [Screwballs].
  • [Trap] is PIEHOLE, as in "Shut your piehole" (best uttered with an English accent).
  • DOUBLE CHIN is [almost never found in cheesecake] photos but is easily attained with regular consumption of literal cheesecake.
  • ["You're not alone"] clues I CAN RELATE.

Favorite clues: [Extraneous statistics] for NOISE; [Boomer born in 1961] for Boomer ESIASON, not a generic Baby Boomer; and [Sieben seventh] for EINS (eins is German for "one," and one is one seventh of SIEBEN, or "seven").


Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword is not the usual Thursday fare. First off, it's got a themeless-style grid—just 68 answers, 26 of them 7 letters or longer. Next, it's got plenty of Friday- or Saturday-tough clues. And then there's the big dollar sign drawn by the black squares in the grid. There are four long starred theme answers and a defining answer, though, to moor this puzzle firmly in the weekday themed puzzle harbor. The theme entries all begin with words that can precede DOLLAR (46-Down):
  • [Paris resort operator] EURODISNEY begins with Euro, and Eurodollars are U.S. dollars held in overseas accounts.
  • The SILVER STAR is a [Medal for valor], and the silver dollar is both a coin and a pancake size designation.
  • You can bet your bottom dollar (tomorrow), and BOTTOM OF THE HEAP is clued as [Last place]. I'll bet some solvers will guess that [Ayn Rand's first screenplay] was RED DAWN rather than RED PAWN, and they'll be Googling "bottom of the head" to try to understand the phrase.
  • The half dollar is worth half as much as the silver dollar, and HALFWAY MEASURES are [Corner-cutting efforts].
Here are some clues that slowed me down:
  • [Like horses, anatomically] is ONE-TOED.
  • I had pancakes on my mind, so the [Syrup-topped pastry] didn't become BAKLAVA without a lot of crossings.
  • [Like the old explorers, often] clues the common answer ASEA.
  • I wanted OVERATE for [Pigged out], but the answer is ATE A LOT. Some folks think that's invalid as crossword fill. Those same people (and others) might object to NOT RARE for [Fairly commonplace]; is it a stand-alone phrase or just "not" + adjective?
  • [Dauphine automaker] is RENAULT. Dauphine, Google shows me, is the name of an old Renault model.
  • [Bridges of Alameda County] is actor LLOYD Bridges and not a plural noun. I love the play on The Bridges of Madison County.
  • [Watergate figure Magruder] is/was named JEB.

Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy crossword, "Bundle of Joy," gets its title from the theme entries, which start with JO and end with Y, making each one a bundle with joy on the outside:
  • JOE MCCARTHY was the [Red Scare instigator of the '50s].
  • JOB SECURITY is a [Reassuring employment situation]. There's not a lot of that going around these days.
  • JOIN THE ARMY is a [Recruiting poster invitation]. Here's one such poster.
  • JOHN KENNEDY was, of course, [President during the Cuban Missile Crisis].
Favorite clues:
  • [Labor party?] is MOM.
  • [Top secret?] is a WIG. It's usually not a very well-kept secret. The G crosses JIG, clued as [Hibernia hop]—Hibernia was the Roman name for Ireland.
  • [Land of Opportunity?] is MARS, where NASA's Opportunity rover...roved.
  • [Like some dates] is PITTED. Dates are the fruit here, not the social engagements.
  • ONCE is [Never before and never again].
Including two 10-letter movie titles in the fill is a nice touch. We've got REAR WINDOW and MY FAIR LADY.