November 11, 2008

Wednesday, 11/12

Onion 5:12
Sun 4:40
Tausig 4:05
CS 3:55
LAT 3:44
NYT 3:25

(updated at 7:30 Wednesday evening)

It's a marker of my generation that when I reached the final unifying theme entry in Peter Collins' New York Times crossword, I was perplexed as to how THE BRAT PACK would fit into 10 squares. No, this puzzle isn't hiding '80s stars like Judd Nelson in it—rather, it's THE RAT PACK:

  • PAID A VISIT, or [Stopped by], embeds Sammy DAVIS Jr.'s last name in it.
  • SMART INVESTOR, or [Market-savvy sort], hides Dean MARTIN.
  • And Frank SINATRA, Ol' Blue Eyes himself, lurks within PUTS IN A TRANCE, or [Hypnotizes]. That's a particularly nice find, isn't it?
I'm not sure that IT'S A BET, or ["You're on!"], quite qualifies as a piece of crossword fill, but I might say the same about I'M NOT HERE, an evasive [Call to someone answering a phone, maybe], but I like the vibe it evokes. What else is here? Anyone who watched Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in the '70s knows that the [Enemy of a mongoose] is a COBRA. [Patriots' Day time] is APRIL; is this the holiday that the Boston Marathon's tied to? [Mule team?] is the ARMY because the Army team's mascot is a mule (I think). [Something the U.S. government keeps an eye on] is the GREAT SEAL—the reverse side of the Great Seal is where you'll find the unfinished pyramid with the eye on top. [Miraculous Medal figure] is MARY; this medal does not have an eyeball pyramid on its reverse. [Lead-in to pipe or pit] is CESS, and this may violate some people's breakfast tests. [Federal Reserve chief Bernanke] clues BEN.

The theme in Jonathan Gersch's Sun puzzle, "Numerical Rhymes," managed to elude me because I had cryptic crosswords on the brain. I misinterpreted [1988 Joe Keenan novel (2,7)] as dictating an answer consisting of a 2-letter and a 7-letter word, which, duh, wouldn't work for a 10-letter entry. Those numbers are to be pronounced, and the answer words rhyme with the number names: two-seven, BLUE HEAVEN. Here are the other theme entries, all phrases that rhyme with a pair of numbers:
  • [Unethical campaign practices (30,6)] are thirty-six DIRTY TRICKS.
  • [Explore the ocean with one's breath held (3,5)] is three-five FREE DIVE.
  • [He played an economics teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (10,9)] clues ten-nine BEN STEIN.
  • [Lead a law-abiding life as a former criminal, in British slang (1,8)] is one-eight RUN STRAIGHT.
  • [Enough for seconds all around (20,4)] is twenty-four PLENTY MORE.
The [Fed head] pops up in the fill here, too, only with his last name, BERNANKE. The Peter Gordon fondness for unusual clues gives us [Aulos relative] for OBOE. Aulos turns out to be an ancient Greek instrument that figures into mythology; read up on it at that Wikipedia link. The fill in this puzzle isn't particularly Scrabbly or fancy, but it's ridiculously smooth and junk-free.


Scott Atkinson's LA Times crossword reimagines assorted spoken phrases as having specific applications in football:
  • [Quarterback's thought on third down and 10?] is I'LL HAVE TO PASS, as in needing to throw a pass.
  • [Quarterback's encouragement to his backup?] is a non-dismissive GO TAKE A HIKE, as the player will take the next ball that's hiked.
  • [Quarterback's query about his starting offensive team?] is WHAT'S MY LINE? There are offensive and defensive lines of players.
  • [Quarterback's question to blitzing defenders?] is WHY THE BIG RUSH, as what those players are doing is called rushing.
OBAMA is in the grid at 1-Across, clued as ["The Audacity of Hope" author]. I would've gone with Dreams From My Father here, as HOPE appears in the grid with a non-Obama clue, [Clinton's birthplace]. Other geography clues include [Fertile Crescent waterway] for the TIGRIS River; [City on the Ruhr] for ESSEN; [Bluesy Memphis Street] for BEALE; [Florida's ___ Beach] is VERO; [Lebanon's ___ Valley] is BEKAA; and [Grenoble's river] is the YSERE. The [Epitome of hardness] is NAILS—hey, wait a minute, that's not in the Mohs scale! SINATRA gets more crossword attention today, being clued as [Rat Pack leader]. STA takes a break from abbreviating train stations and serves as Spiro T. Agnew's initials; he was a [VP from Md.].

Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Diversion," creates a "di" version of several phrases by adding a DI to the beginning of one word:
  • Color vision becomes COLOR DIVISION, or [Sports network employees responsible for anecdotes?].
  • [Gallows humor?] takes a stress crack (stress cracks are to walls what stress fractures are to bones) and makes it a DISTRESS CRACK.
  • DELIVERY DIVAN, or [Birthing room amenity?], builds on a delivery van.
  • [Stinger that sends picnickers running?] is a DISPELLING BEE (spelling bee).

Favorite fill: NOOGIE, or [Knuckle rub]. BEALE Street is in this puzzle too, clued as [W.C. Handy's "___ Street Blues"], and the [Rocky peak] called a TOR was also in the LA Times crossword.

I won't get a chance to do the Onion and Tausig puzzles until later today.

Updated Wednesday evening:

Ben Tausig's Chicago Reader/Ink Well crossword, "Soundproof Toilet Humor," actually has nothing to do with potty humor. Rather, the theme entries are based on phrases that include words with a silent P. "Silent P" sounds like "silent pee," which would result from a soundproof toilet. Each silent-P word is replaced by a homophone that lacks the P:
  • [Essence of an apple?] is ESPRIT DE CORE (corps).
  • [Sweet talk that may be subjected too a "don't ask, don't tell" policy?] is MILITARY COO (coup).
  • [Terse pair of instructions to a stray usher who has work to do?] is RETURN, RESEAT (return receipt).
XYZ is clued ["Your fly is open"]. Say what? I think maybe girls don't learn this in grade school the way boys do. Here's a Wikipedia article all about ways to tell someone their fly is open. Interesting morsels in the fill and cluing:
  • UNICORNS are [Creatures often depicted near rainbows]. Have you seen the Charlie the Unicorn cartoon? I love a surprise ending.
  • D CUP is clued as a [Swimsuit spec]. Most swimsuits don't specify a cup size, but they really should.
  • [Something to help you move your body] is not music with a driving beat but a HEARSE.
  • CHOO is clued as a [Syllable on a Valentine's Day card from Ralph Wiggum]. I believe the "I choo-choo choose you" Valentine was given to Ralphie by Lisa, but the line is inextricably linked to him because he gushed, "You choo-choo choose me?!?"
  • ['60s sitcom character whose handlers stuffed nylon in his mouth] is Colonel Klink from Hogan's Heroes. No, wait. My mistake. It's MR. ED, the talking horse.

Matt Jones's Onion A.V. Club crossword invites solvers to inaugurate our 44th president into the theme answers—not by inserting OBAMA into them but by adding XLIV (66-Across), which is 44 in Roman numerals.
  • Maid service + XLIV = MAX LIVID SERVICE, or [Stint with the military that makes someone the angriest?].
  • Author Anne Tyler + XLIV = ANNEX LIV TYLER, or [Add a building wing to a "Lord of the Rings" actress?].
  • See stars + XLIV = SEX LIVES STARS, or {People who sell a lot of amateur home videos [wink, wink]?}
  • Mini Coopers + XLIV = MIX LIVNI COOPERS, or [Get Israeli PM hopeful Tzipi's barrel makers all out of place?]. Coopers are barrel makers, and Tzipi Livni is the acting prime minister of Israel. She's also the minister of foreign affairs. No, she's probably not well-known enough to anchor an American crossword theme entry, but how many other phrases can you make by adding an XLIV?
Lest you think this puzzle is biased in its focus on 44, there's also IRAN clued with the McCain quote ["Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb ___"]. Two entries I don't think I've seen in crosswords before (but have seen in everyday life) are RATED T, or [Suited for high schoolers, on video game packaging], and TAMPAX, a [Stayfree competitor]. Two completely unfamiliar answers intersected in the grid: [Noted Scottish DJ duo, or their home club] is OPTIMO, and IPEX is a [Victoria's Secret wireless bra brand]. (Ladies, don't buy your bras at Victoria's Secret. You can do better somewhere like Nordstrom.)