December 06, 2008

Sunday, 12/7

NYT 9:32
PI 9:31
LAT 8:00
CS 4:12

(updated at 12:45 Sunday afternoon)

Hey, if you can swing it financially and logistically, I encourage you to go pick out a "Dear Santa" letter at your post office and make a kid or family's holiday brighter. 'Tis the season, yadda yadda.

The New York Times crossword by Jim Page is called "Hey!" because each theme entry contains PSST embedded in it. PSST gets across the same point as YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE...only the short one's more one-on-one while the long one's addressed to a crowd. Here are the hidden PSST answers, all verb phrases:

  • [Distinguishes] is KEEPS STRAIGHT.
  • [Does a hostler's work] is SWEEPS STALLS. Who doesn't love hostlers?
  • [Participates in a bear market] is DUMPS STOCKS.
  • [Plays at a pond, in a way] is SKIPS STONES.
  • [Engages in some mutual gossip] is SWAPS STORIES.
  • [Commits knitting boo-boos] is DROPS STITCHES.
There are a number of entries that felt a bit like nails on a chalkboard, less crossword-worthy than the other answers. EYE UP is [Examine covetously]; I know eyeing and I know looking one up and down, but I've never heard anyone use "eye up." [Seconds, say] is SOME MORE. I REFUSE is clued as [Stubborn response]. SALT LAKES are [Some landlocked bodies of water; it's in the dictionary, but I'm not a scientist who deals with salt lakes categorically, so it sounds awkward in the plural. [Like many root vegetables for the winter] is STORABLE. DITMARS is a [Queens neighborhood near La Guardia]; perhaps this is well-known to NYC solvers, but I'd never heard of it. THE LOT is [Everything]; I'm torn as to whether this is a good use of a definite article or not. SAID OK is [Caved in]. I think some of these wouldn't have caught my attention if EYE UP and SOME MORE hadn't triggered the "hey, is that kosher fill?" reflex—and if a few other NYT puzzles in the last week or two hadn't also put me on alert.

Things I liked:
  • The [Olympics no-no] is DOPING.
  • FRICASSEE is a [Chicken dish].
  • Did you know U.S. DOLLARS were the [Medium of OPEC transactions]? Those quoted prices for a barrel of oil apparently aren't being converted from euros, dinars, or riyals.
  • POSEURS are [Frauds] and SCHLEPS means [Lugs]—simple clues, colorful answers.
  • The EXIT ROW is a [Plane seating specification]
  • Two answers begin with the same 6 letters. SCRAP IRON is [Junkyard junk] and SCRAPING is [Removing, as paint]. Etymologically, scrape and scrap are akin, but I never knew that until looking the words up in a dictionary just now.
Tough stuff:
  • CAPELLA is the [Brightest star in Auriga, from the Latin for "little she-goat"]. I don't know why I entered CAPRICA first.
  • MINIMI are your [Little fingers]. I'm sticking with pinkies, thanks.
  • APODAL is clued as [Lacking limbs] or more specifically, lacking feet.
  • SMOLTS are [Silvery salmon].
  • YSIDRO is clued [San ___, locale just north of Tijuana, Mexico].
  • JANSEN is clued as the [Dutch artist Theo]. Never heard of him before, but I'm glad the puzzle introduced him to me. Here's his website. He makes large-scale sculptures, kinetic and skeletal, including giant beach animals. This artist outranks Olympic speed-skater Dan Jansen in a Google search for jansen, so I guess he's a big deal. (And deservedly so.)
Updated Saturday night:

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Girlfriends," has a really fun theme if you groove on that sort of wordplay (as I do). There are a whopping 12 theme entries, with four of them placed in stacked pairs as is Merl's wont. Each one's the name of a "girlfriend," with familiar first and last names combined to make solid puns, the meanings of which are reflected by the clues:
  • [Girlfriend who's always trying to figure you out?] is ANNA LISZT, which sounds like analyst.
  • [Girlfriend who curses a lot?] is CONSTANCE WARING (constant swearing).
  • [Girlfriend who's looking for an apartment?] is LISA FLATT (lease a flat).
  • [Girlfriend who's going out soon?] is TAMARA KNIGHT (tomorrow night).
  • [Girlfriend who sings?] is SARAH NADER (serenader).
  • [Girlfriend who's short on culture and proud of it?] is PHYLLIS DEAN (philistine). I laughed at this one.
  • [Girlfriend who doesn't believe in leashes?] is LUCINDA STREET (loose in the street).
  • [Girlfriend who collects surreal art?] is DOLLY PRINCE (Dali prints).
  • [Brooklyn girlfriend who gave up skiing?] is DENISE HURT (da knees hurt).
  • [Girlfriend who has better things to do?] is CANDICE WAITE ("Can this wait?").
  • [French girlfriend?] is MONA MOORE (mon amour).
  • [Girlfriend who owns a dealership?] is MINNIE VAN SAYLES (minivan sales). This one works less well, as "Van" should be followed by something Dutch rather than an English name.
  • [Real-life TV host who does everything you ask?] is WILLOW BAY (will obey). I'm guessing that Merl noticed Ms. Bay's name sounded like a phrase and began playing around with other phrases that could sound like names.
With 127 theme squares, there's really not all that much room for more cruciverbal bling. A few unusual answers caught my eye:
  • OCELLI are [Eyespots on peacock feathers]. This answer crosses two of the theme entries and I guess there weren't all that many choices for words that would fit the ***L*I pattern. Maybe AMALFI, SHALL I, POLLOI, COULD I, and WOULD I didn't lend themselves to a good corner.
  • A [Bridge bid] is TWO NO. Much more often, a crossword will have the palindromic ONE NO. This answer crosses two theme entries.
  • [Orlando sports venue, to locals (it's where the Magic play] is the O-RENA. This one's sandwiched between two themers.
  • [Has ___ for detail (is bad at jigsaw puzzles, e.g.] clues NO EYE. Again, this one crosses two theme answers.


Pamela Amick Klawitter's syndicated Sunday Los Angeles Times crossword is called "...And So On" because each of the eight theme entries has an ETC hidden within its midst. Two of the theme answers are caffeinated elixirs of life:
  • DIET COCA COLA is my poison, and it's clued as [Tab challenger if 1982].
  • GOURMET COFFEE may come from [Gevalia or Kona].
Two are computer-related terms:
  • INTERNET CAFE is [Where to have 23-Across and surf], 23-Across being GOURMET COFFEE.
  • An ETHERNET CABLE is an [Online hookup]. I wonder if anyone tried to enter MATCH.COMDATE here.
Two are monetary:
  • BUDGET CRISIS is a [Financial deadlock].
  • POCKET CHANGE is a [Jingling assortment].
And two...have words that begin with S and C:
  • STREET CRED is clued as [Hip-hop rep]. Great crossword entry.
  • SECRET CODE is a [Cryptographer's creation].
I solved this puzzle late last night, so I don't remember what struck me among the clues and fill. Let's take a quick look... [Triangular game accessory] is a billiards RACK; I racked my brains trying to picture a triangular board game accessory. The rest of the puzzle was smooth—nothing super-fancy, nothing too iffy, no clues that stretched things too far.

With his themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" crossword, Rich Norris demonstrates once again that he is one of the masters of the themeless form. I would've enjoyed tougher clues, sure, but look at the quality of the fill:
  • HITS HOME is a lively phrase that means [Affects one directly].
  • KIBOSH is a [Figurative end]. (Scrabbly K.)
  • JON LOVITZ was a [1985-'90 "Saturday Night Live" regular]. (Scrabbly J, V, Z.)
  • QUIRKY means [Offbeat]. (Scrabbly Q, K.)
  • Tasty PINE NUT is a [Pesto ingredient].
  • TWIST TIE is a [Flexible closer].
  • PHARAOH, the [Exodus tyrant], has an unusual AO letter sequence.
  • SKELETON KEY is clued as [Burglary aid]. (Scrabbly K's.)
  • PRESQUE ISLE is a [Lake Erie state park]. (Scrabbly Q.)
  • Jocular NOHOW is clued as [Never].
Favorite clues:
  • [Lille buddy] is an AMI. Do you hear the Skipper calling Gilligan "li'l buddy"? I do.
  • [Downslope Alpine wind that threatens climbers] is FOEHN. The linked article lists other wind names, some more crossword-friendly than others. The foehn or föhn is akin to the chinook off the Rockies. Those are diabatic winds, whatever that means, and the katabatic winds include others with cool names—the mistral, the bora, the williwaw, and the more familiar Santa Ana winds of California. Now I want to see WILLIWAW in a crossword. (Anyone else a little bit of a wind geek? No? Just me?)
  • The [Online party notice] called an EVITE is a trade name. Other E-words that have a life outside of "words that bail crossword constructors out of tight spots" include E-FILE, E-MAIL, EBAY, and maybe E-TAIL. (I could do without EZINE, ENOTE, ECASH, and EMAG.)
  • Some [Clue interpreters] are SLEUTHS. Others are merely crossword solvers.
  • [It took seconds to arrange them] refers to DUELS.