November 19, 2008

Thursday, 11/20

Sun 15 minutes or so...I had to print out the puzzle in order to finish it
NYT 5:54
LAT 4:37
CS 3:42

Pete Muller's New York Times crossword features a quote theme, beginning with [Start of a quote by economist Allan Meltzer]: CAPITALISM / WITHOUT FAILURE / IS LIKE RELIGION / WITHOUT SIN. Well, that seems a little parochial. This write-up details various religions' views of sin, but surely there are some religions out there in which sin isn't a key concept. Capitalism and failure? Oh, sure. Those do go together—especially these days. Why, there's BEAR / STEARNS, which collapsed a few months ago. And ENRON, which also imploded. Ray KROC [who founded McDonald's] set up a company that has not failed (yet). An [I.R.A. option] that tanked less than stocks would be a T-NOTE.

Quote themes usually fail to entertain me, however, and the challenge of filling a long swath of blank squares with heavier-than-usual reliance on crossings isn't my cup of tea. I cost myself 2 minutes on the clock in the upper right corner of this grid. For 19-Across, [Come ___], I could see nothing but INTO, as in "come into some money." I briefly considered UNTO, but that made no sense. With that I, I decided *HIALS must be PHIALS, even though those couldn't possibly be [Bars of a sort]. And what sort of [Fish that can detect ultrasound] would the PHAD be? No sort. It's SHAD crossing sandbar-type SHOALS and come ON TO, as in hitting on someone in a bar. My eye didn't want to split up ONTO into two words. So that's my tale of solving woe.

What else is in this puzzle? Let's see. Pete is a musician as well as a capitalist, but I don't think he plays saxophone (piano and vocals, according to his website)—[Sound of a sax] is WAIL and [Kind of sax] is ALTO. [One who believes humans descended from extraterrestrials] is a RAELIAN; Raelians sound kooky. [Chinese dynasty a thousand years ago] is LIAO; Wei and Han also seem to get some play in crosswords. Asia also brings us PAKISTAN ([Commonwealth member beginning in 1947]); baseball [Pitcher Hideki] IRABU of Japan; and KABUKI, or [Tokyo theater performance]; Japanese [Director Kurosawa], or AKIRA; and RANI, or [Eastern queen] from India. [Winning coach of the first two Super Bowls] is Vince LOMBARDI of Green Bay Packers fame. A [Device also called a rectifier] is a DIODE; anyone know that one without a few crossings in place? And how about [Tribe speaking Chiwere]—did you know that was OTOE, or did you let the crossings guide you to that popular crossword tribe?

People have been raving for days about the Sun puzzle by Patrick Blindauer and Frank Longo. "Three-Ring Circus" has two theme clues labeled [Ring #1] and [Ring #3], for the FIRE-EATER and LION TAMER in the circus. Where's ring #2? you ask. It's in the middle of this 15x16 grid, sandwiched invisibly between the two 15-letter entries, that's where. The answers that cross those 15's are all one letter longer than their spaces would suggest, and the extra letter really goes between the 15's (though I rebused the extras into the bottom 15 for lack of a better solution). The star of ring #2 is the TIGHTROPE WALKER, spanning the treacherous wire between EDITORIAL STANCE and EXERCISE REGIMEN. Isn't that fancy? The extra letters walk that tightrope in the grid. I think this grid could have been expanded to a gimmick-free 15x17 with the TIGHTROPE WALKER occupying the center row of the grid, but what's the fun in that?

Other cool stuff in this crossword: [He worked with Cuba in 1996] clues TOM Cruise, who co-starred with Cuba Gooding, Jr., and did not (to my knowledge) work with Fidel Castro's regime. Terrific clue there. The puzzle's got four X's, four K's, and a pair of J's. Longer fill includes PIGEONHOLES, JALAPENOS, and "DON'T THANK ME," all crossing the tricked-out 15's in the center. [Band with the 1981 #1 album "Paradise Theater"] is STYX. Omigod, concept album! Complete with a record jacket with left and right flaps that opened out to reveal an old-time theater. This is now my all-time favorite clue for STYX. [Talaria wearer] refers to those winged sandals that have fallen out of favor, worn by HERMES, a.k.a. Mercury. Why does Manolo Blahnik refuse to market beautiful talaria?


I've gotten into a bad habit lately with Across Lite solving—I type things in and don't look to make sure they look right. And so in Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword, I had AARNO instead of AARON for [Baseball's Hammerin' Hank], and thus that corner was the last part I finished. Mind you, if AARNO were someone's real name, it's be getting plenty of play in crosswords. Naddor's theme is rhyming puns:

  • [Antelope that believes in corporal punishment?] is a SPANKING GUN (spanking new).
  • [Himalayan hair style?] is a MOUNTAIN DO (Mountain Dew).
  • [Dismissal from the court?] is a TENNIS SHOO (tennis shoe).
  • ["Just what you'd expect Capote to say!"] clues THAT'S SO TRU (that's so true).
  • The clue [Hearth ailment?] is just a letter off from "heart ailment," but it points to CHIMNEY FLU (chimney flue).
  • [Amorous murmur in the barracks?] is MILITARY COO (military coup). This was a theme entry in another recent puzzle that changed coup and corps to coo and core.
There's no shortage of good fill in this puzzle. There's a RED ROOF INN and TV AUDIENCE (["American Idol" judges, ultimately], bypassing Simon, Paula, and Randy). PRETZELS and SAM NUNN, the [Defense secretary after Cheney]. GO GET 'EM is a [Spirited exhortation], all right. I'm not crazy about TINY TOT as fill; this [Stroller passenger] answer was in an NYT puzzle recently too. Are ALOES really [Medicinal creams]? I like the SOLDERED clue: [Put the metal to the metal?]. But does the plural TNTS ([They cause blowups]) work?

Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Twin Ends," has a subtle and probably pretty flexible theme, words that begin and end with a shared set of three letters:
  • ENTRAPMENT starts and finishes with ENT. It's a [1999 Sean Connery movie].
  • IONIZATION is the [Removal of electrons]. I have no idea what the "deionized water" I see on some product labels is—does deionizing consist of unremoving electrons?
  • The UNDERGROUND is a [Secret revolutionary force]. UND isn't a stand-alone 3-letter word, unlike the other "twin ends" in this theme.
  • ANTIOXIDANT is clued as [Beta carotene, for one].

As a wee bonus, there's a TSETSE fly with twin ends and no middle. I like how the TWO-LITER [Soda bottle size] crosses JOLT Cola—only JOLT is clued as [Shake up]. A [Sheet of connective tissue] is FASCIA; I know all about my plantar fascia, alas.