December 10, 2008

Thursday, 12/11

NYT 5:40
Sun 3:51
LAT 3:50
CS 2:41

(updated at 11:50 Thursday morning)

Hasn't it been a while since the Thursday New York Times crossword had a straight-up rebus theme? Jim Hilger's debut puzzle is impressive in part because he's placed seven rebus squares (which I've circled in my solution grid) in a symmetrical pattern—and because the rebus theme works TURN into 12 answers without forced fill. The most awkward answer, I thought, was SINCERER ([Comparatively honest]), and it's 100% legit—seldom used, but in the dictionary. Here are the TURN answers:

  • In the middle, TURN, TURN, TURN is the [1965 #1 hit by the Byrds]. This
  • In the upper left corner, [Part of a pay-as-you-go plan?] is a TURNPIKE or tollway. This answer partners with TURNKEY, or [Fully equipped and ready to go].
  • The upper right has TWIST AND TURN, or [Meander, as a road], crossing SATURN, the [Roman god of agriculture].
  • The middle song title intersects with three Across answers. [Reverses course] is MAKES A U-TURN. [Like some calls left on answering machines] is RETURNED. [Petrify] is TURN TO STONE.
  • Moving to the lower left, the TURNING POINT is a [Crucial moment] and to [Eventually appear] is to TURN UP.
  • In the final corner, [Perfectly] is TO A TURN. I slowed myself down by thinking this was TO A T, which made it hard to figure out [Upset] at 71-Across. EVERT and AVERT seemed righter than OVERT but didn't work with the SOPRANO crossing, and OVERTURN is what the answer actually is. Rebus! How you trick me.
Assorted other clues and answers in this polished debut crossword:
  • [Inventor depicted in "The Prestige"] is TESLA.
  • [Hinged apparatus] is a JAW, like the one in your head.
  • [Bopper] clues CAT. Is that as in "hepcat"? Retro slang?
  • ["___ Miss Clawdy" (#1 R&B hit of 1952)] is completed by LAWDY. I've never heard of the song, but LAWDY wasn't so hard to guess.
  • SKIBOB is some sort of [Winter vehicle]. Say what? Apparently this is a bike frame mounted on skis. Do people in mountain states know about this?
  • WON gets an upgrade to a Thursday-tough clue, [Korean money]. 
  • [Where the Riksdag meets] is SWEDEN. See the cognate for the German word Reichstag?
  • If any of you are going to Carnegie Hall soon, please play a KAZOO before the concert. Make the clue [Instrument unlikely to be heard at Carnegie Hall] a little less right, won't you?
  • [Fix, as a pool cue], is RETIP. Wait, this one's clunkier than SINCERER. Its crossings are all so gettable, it's not problematic.
  • I didn't know Mount KENYA was the [second-highest peak in Africa].
Patrick Berry's "Themeless Thursday" Sun crossword is among the easiest themeless Suns I've done. Like many of his creations, it's as smooth as melted ice cream (which is to say, quite smooth indeed). Berry doesn't make many triple-stack puzzles, I don't think. This one's got three 15's stacked in the middle and another pair of 15's above and below. My favorite of the 15's is the OKEFENOKEE SWAMP, [Albert Alligator's home] from Pogo. Aside from the long entries, here's what I liked most:
  • [He has a small staff] clues SANTA, and refers to his elves.
  • [Air ball, e.g.] is a MISS, as in missing the basket entirely when you shoot a basketball.
  • HANG A LEFT is clued [Direction to change from north to west?]. Too bad GPS navigators don't tell drivers to "hang a left."
  • [Girlfriend whose name Jerry thinks is Mulva, in a "Seinfeld" episode] was DOLORES. She'd told him she'd been teased as a kid because her name rhymed with a female anatomical part. He'd forgotten her name and desperately tried to summon it up by thinking of genitalia rhymes.
  • To [Look around for some answers?] in the classroom is to CHEAT.

Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword has a broken-down theme—51-Across, WHAT'S THE DAMAGE, doubles as the puzzle's title. The answer is found at the end of the other three theme entries:
  • [Deal maker's leverage] is a BARGAINING CHIP. You can chip paint, a tooth, a table, china, glassware...
  • [Time for call letters] on the radio is a STATION BREAK. You can break pretty much anything tangible unless it's subject to tearing instead.
  • [Ford Model A that's a Georgia Tech mascot] is the RAMBLIN' WRECK. You can wreck anything, even intangibles.
Favorite stuff:
  • A.C. DELCO is the [GM parts division] and C.B. RADIO is a [Medium for good buddies]. N.C. Wyeth and T.S. Eliot feel left out today.
  • [Sports Illustrated's 1984 co-Sportsman of the Year] was Mary Lou RETTON. If you think you can guess the rest of the SI honorees if given the year and their sport, try this Sporcle quiz.
  • [Hardly hardly] clues A LOT, as in the opposite of "hardly any" or "hardly at all." I misread the clue as [Hardly hardy], which was hardly helping me.
I'm less fond of LATI, or LA TI, [Sixth and seventh of eight], as in do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do. And there are two odd-jobbers: MUSERS are [Thoughtful types] and MENDERS are [Sewers, often]. I'm thinking of starting a sports team and going with one of these names. I think the Musers will play hockey. Or maybe roller derby.

Patrick Jordan pays tribute to the late MICHAEL CRICHTON in the CrosSynergy puzzle, "Sci-Fi Guy." The ANDROMEDA STRAIN, WESTWORLD, and RISING SUN are books/movies he wrote. Did you know that LISA is a [Simpson with eight hair spikes]? I never counted. Nor did I know that the Philadelphia EAGLES were an [NFL team whose mascot is Swoop]—I know they're a team, but nothing about their mascot.