December 18, 2008

Friday, 12/19

NYT 28:04
Sun 24:03
WSJ 22:21
LAT 21:51
CHE 10:24
CS 5:30

(Updated at 9:45 pm Friday)

I'm going to put this here above the cut just to make sure she sees it. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Hi. I was going to try to fool you. But you knew it was me, didn't you? You could tell by the big numbers up there. At first you panicked, thought you had stumbled onto the wrong blog somehow and were losing your mind. Or that something terrible had happened to Orange and she amazingly, inexplicably, began sucking at crossword puzzles. Then it hit you. You thought: "It's just that speed solver wannabe PuzzleGirl again. Why, oh why, does she continue to humiliate herself by publicly advertising her dismal solving times every chance she gets?" You know, that's an excellent question. I'm gonna think about that one and get back to ya! For now, though, I'll just warn you that I'll be here all week while Orange is off on a big boat somewhere in the sun. Sounds great, right? Yeah well, she won't have the kind of internet access she's used to. And she's so much like me, I can tell you what she's doing right now. Her eye just started to twitch. She's pacing frantically. Pretty soon she'll be breathing into a paper bag. It's sad really. Where technology has taken us. And by us, I mean, Orange and me. None of you are that nutty, right? Okay, enough jibber-jabbering, onto the puzzles.

Did everybody else love Natan Last's New York Times crossword? It wasn't just me, right? I mean, how can you not love a puzzle that includes AZERBAIJANI and GUITAR HERO?? A lot of misdirection in this puzzle — had to be careful with verb tenses, not get locked into obvious pronunciation, and beware the dreaded First Word Proper Noun Trick. I need to catch my breath here because I just don't know where to start. Well, Pinocchio's exuberant cry "I'M A REAL BOY!" was the first thing I placed in the grid. I could hardly believe my luck that it fit. Oh, hell, let's run down the best of the misdirection:

  • [Lead for one]: Here lead is pronounced with a long e making the answer ROLE. (I was going to be super impressed if the o in the cross, which happens to be a French word, ONDES [Waves on l'océan], required one of those little tenty things. Yes, that's the technical term for it. Shut up. You know what I'm talking about.)
  • Later, however, in [They may hold the lead], it's pronounced the other way, bringing us to the answer ORES. Verry tricky!
  • Raise your hand if the first thing you thought of for [Reacts to a big buffet] was overeats. But no. In this case, it's not the French-i-fied pronunciation we need, but rather the word that sounds like Jimmy or Warren's last name and means "a blow, especially with the hand." One who reacts to that kind of buffet, of course, SEES STARS.
  • An X-RATED MOVIE is, indeed, a [Work with raw material?]. Anyone else stumbling around in the general vicinity of a butcher shop at first? Was JUDE Law ever in one of those? The movie, not the butcher shop. Oh never mind.
  • I thought for a moment that [Unpopular singer] might be frequent crossword denizen Enya but that's not really fair. In this case we needed to think of singing in the criminal, sure-I'll-talk-as-soon-as-you-show-me-the-immunity-agreement sense, which brings us to the correct answer: RAT. Hey, and you know why people might decide to go ahead and sing? Maybe because they're not really all that super at duping, i.e., perhaps they're just BAD LIARS. See how I did that?
Other random good stuff:
  • Basher TARR, the explosives expert in the "Ocean's" movies, is played by the one and only, the fabulous Don Cheadle.
  • Greek alphabet? Check. Jewish months? Check. European rivers? In progress. Book of Mormon? Wait, what??
  • Longtime Delaware senator William ROTH. Is he the Roth IRA guy? Yup.
  • Who knew Wynton Marsalis got his first trumpet from AL HIRT? I was trying to think of his dad's name (Ellis) or his brother's (Branford).
  • I thought Gordie Howe was the only four-letter hockey player I knew, but thankfully [Five-time N.H.L. scoring leader of the 1990s-'00s] Járomir JÁGR was skating around back there in the dark recesses somewhere.
  • And, finally, I hope Natan drops in to confirm that ORANGE, [Like goldfish], was included as a shout-out to our lovely and talented hostess here at the Crossword Fiend. You know it's true.
  • Oh, and I almost forgot. [Start of an exchange] refers to the phrase TIT for tat. Heh heh. You said tit.
Robert A. Doll's Sun crossword, "Position Papers," is a fun newspaper-themed rebus, with some lovely symmetry thrown in for your solving pleasure. We've got the Globe at the cross of GOLDEN GLOBE and GLOBETROT; the Star joining John McCain's SILVER STAR and Nancy Reagan's STAR CHART; the Sun at arguably the strangest theme crossing in the puzzle, juice brand CAPRI SUN and SUN YAT-SEN, the father of modern China; the Bee brings together Clara Edwards's friend AUNT BEE and Richard Gere's "BEE SEASON"; and smack-dab in the middle, we've got the Times at the cross of MANY TIMES OVER and 1978 #1 Commodores hit THREE TIMES A LADY. Just stop a minute and admire the symmetry. Seriously. Close your eyes and picture it. It's beautiful, isn't it? Take another minute or two if you need it. I'll wait ....

And we're back. I always enjoy the pop culture references in crossword puzzles, particularly when they involve music and sports, so I loved seeing three-fourths of the Fearsome Foursome today. L.A. Rams MERLIN Olsen, Deacon Jones, Rosey Grier, and Lamar Lundy, terrorized their opponents throughout the 1960s. I would venture to guess that there was never a quartet of famous tough-guys with weirder first names.

Speaking of weird names, I was tripped up quite a bit in the SE corner with EVIE [Val and Joan's mother in the comic strip "Stone Soup"], Olympic swimmer DARA Torres, and reliever Robb NEN. Throw in an ancient warship I've never heard of down there and, well, I'm sunk. TRIREME? Really?

I also had a hard time remembering that vie means life in French, to which EAU (water) is indispensable. ROSEBUD was [Charles Foster Kane's dying word] in "Citizen Kane," one of those movies I can't believe I haven't seen. (It's in pretty good company with "Casablanca" and "Gone With the Wind," though.)

That's it for now. Back later with more Friday puzzles....

In Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword, an s (representing the word it's) is added to the beginning of familiar phrases to create new phrases à la the Gershwin classic "'S Wonderful."
  • [Take to task on the porch] turns "it's cold outside" to SCOLD OUTSIDE
  • [Goulash fresh from the oven?] takes "it's too hot to handle" and makes it STEW HOT TO HANDLE
  • [Blizzard?] = SNOW BIGGIE ("it's no biggie")
  • [Dreamlike delight?] = SURREAL PLEASURE ("it's a real pleasure")
  • [Attest to my membership?] = SWEAR I BELONG ("it's where I belong")
I can't believe I'm going to admit this to you, but I had a lot of trouble with 1 Down. I got right away that the clue — ["Come on down!" announcer] — referred to "The Price Is Right" game show. Without thinking, I entered PARDO, realizing an NSEC later that it wasn't right. I erased it and heard Bob Barker in my head: "Who's our next contestant, Johnny?" Johnny... Johnny! ... Johnny who? What the heck is Johnny's last name? Couldn't get it without the crosses. His last name? Yep, pretty much the same last name I had for the first 35 years of my life: OLSON. Ack!

  • Did you guys know AVA was [Burma's capital city for nearly five centuries]? And that Earl AVERILL was a Hall of Fame outfielder? I didn't. Totally guessed that cross.
  • I've never seen — nor had any desire to see — "REN and Stimpy." But knowing they have an album titled "You Eediot!" almost — almost — makes me want to check them out.
  • Idaho's state motto is ESTO Perpetuo ("Let it be forever").
  • Originally thought the [Red hot chili pepper] would be poblano and not CAYENNE. Really wanted it to be Anthony Keidis, but no caps. Darn.
  • The trading PIT is a specific area of the stock exchange's trading floor designated for trading individual futures or options contract.
  • SUASIVE means [Convincing]. So, pretty much the same as persuasive. Someone 'splain that to me.
  • The ARIZONA Cardinals moved away from St. Louis in 1998. Has it really been that long since I paid attention to pro football??
  • Amy Winehouse's Grammy-winning song is, as you know, REHAB. You know you want to click here.
I always get a little nervous at the prospect of solving the Chronicle of Higher Education's crossword. It's often chock full of academic-type stuff and my brain hasn't worked that way in a long time. A few of the theme answers in today's John Lampkin offering, "Physical Romance," were a little too scienc-y for me to understand, but I looked them up for you. It's just one of the services I offer. You're welcome.
  • [Go out with anyone or anything alive?] = CARBON DATE. You see, carbon is an element present in all known lifeforms. Thus, it's considered the chemical basis of all known life.
  • [Pairs of romantically involved hotties?] = THERMOCOUPLES. A thermocouple is, basically, a temperature sensor.
  • [Power that a beautiful person has?] = ATTRACTIVE FORCE. This has to do with magnetism. Or maybe gravity. Possibly both.
  • [Response to a gift of jewelry?] = CHAIN REACTION. You don't want to know the first thing that came to my mind for this one. Hello, breakfast test!
  • [Measure of the evening's success when saying farewell?] = WAVELENGTH.
I'm running out of time here. Have to get over to a thing at the kids' school. I'll leave you with "The ANVIL Chorus" from "Il Trovatore." If you're just dying to talk about the CS and WSJ puzzles, knock yourselves out in the comments. I'll be back to add my no doubt fascinating perspective later on today.

Hey, guys. Sorry to do this, but this day has been a lot crazier than I expected. I'm going to go ahead and post the completed grids for the WSJ and CS puzzles, but I haven't had time to pull my thoughts together and there are still a few more things I have to do before that makes it to the top of my list. Speaking of which, where the hell is my list?!? Oh, here it is. Anyway. Sorry about that.

Trip Payne's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Following the S&P," adds the letters SP to the beginning of familiar phrases to create new amusing phrases.

  • [Deface an artwork?] = SPOIL PAINTING
  • [Wrong way to get syrup from a maple tree?] = SPOUT ON A LIMB
  • [Nutmeg crusher, for example?] = SPICE BREAKER
  • [Be the least coherent?] = SPUTTER MOST
  • [Big Brother's eyeballs, perhaps?] = SPHERES LOOKING AT YOU
  • [Italian version of Cheez Whiz?] = SPRAY ROMANO (nice!)
  • [What an astronaut puts on a boo-boo?] = SPACE BANDAGR
  • [March king?] = SPRING LEADER
  • [Request to a shopaholic spouse?] = SPEND LESS, LOVE
I really enjoyed this puzzle. When I see Trip's name, I know I'm in for a workout and this puzzle didn't disappoint. Tough stuff for me: [Fielding novel] refers to Henry, not Helen. So that means AMELIA, not Bridget Jones. HOMER is the [Brother-in-law of Patty and Selma] and I can only assume that's a "Simpsons" reference. As many times as I've entered it in crossword grids, I had no idea MENLO Park was in New Jersey. Thought it was a suburb of Chicago for some reason. Never heard of the ELI Young Band. Never knew that [Tastiness] can be called SAPOR. Good thing we learned that a PIT is a [Trading spot] in another puzzle today. [King's domain?] refers to CNN's Larry King. And [Some business partners] are SONS, which reminds me of the Undisputed Number One Best Television Theme Song of All Time. You can hear an awesome version of it here. (Thanks, Wade.)

Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy crossword, "Game Birds," features four professional sports teams each with a different bird mascot. One football team: the BALTIMORE RAVENS; one basketball: the ATLANTA HAWKS; one hockey: the ANAHEIM DUCKS; and one baseball: the TORONTO BLUEJAYS.

Not a lot to say about this easy, breezy puzzle. I like how the [Hawaiian veranda] LANAI crosses the [Floral neckwear] LEI in the northern California region. We've also got MORAL crossing ORAL there. Looks to me like only a couple things might have tripped people up. The crossing of [Icelandic currency] KRONA and [Big name in headphones] KOSS seemed unusually tricky in this particular puzzle. I can never get [River nymph] NAIAD without the crosses. PuzzleSon is a Cub Scout, so AKELA, the [Cub Scout pack leader], was familiar to me, but I sure would have had a hard time with it a few years ago. And, oh yeah, LPS. For you whippersnappers, that's what we used to listen to music on back in the old days before CDs.

Sorry it took me so long to get today's write-ups done. When Orange gets back, she'll probably fire me. Hey look! It's almost time to start tomorrow's puzzles! I guess this is what it's like living without Super-Human Solving Powers. See y'all in a little bit....