December 03, 2008

Thursday, 12/4

Sun 4:25
LAT 3:57
CS 3:55
NYT 3:34

(post updated at 10:51 a.m. Thursday)

Barry Silk's New York Times crossword has a low enough word count (72) to cut it as a themeless puzzle, but it's got a theme: The last two Across answers are CLEAR / THE, and there are four theme entries that begin with words that can follow "clear the."

  • A [Bridge authority] is a DECK OFFICER. Does this have to do with ships? The spin-off phrase is "clear the deck."
  • [Medicated candy] is a THROAT LOZENGE. 'Tis the season to "clear the throat" and to use those lozenges.
  • [Comparatively quick communication], compared to slow-boat-to-China delivery, is an AIR MAIL LETTER. ("Clear the air")
  • An AREA CODE MAP might be a [Verizon reference], and the authorities may "clear the area."
This puzzle's got a lot of curious little answers as well as cool longer ones. For example:
  • [Victory, Viennese style] is SIEG, a German word.
  • [Greek war goddess] is ENYO. That sounds like a merger between Enya and Sony, and it's not a name that comes up often in crosswords.
  • AKIM is [Actor Tamiroff]. I think he used to be more popular in crosswords; I don't know anything about his real-world popularity or career.
  • [Daughter of Cadmus] is INO. Okay, now this is turning into a bad Letterman routine. "Enyo, Ino. Ino, Enyo."
  • Does everyone know that [Louis and Carrie] are NYES? If not, it could be tough to complete ENYO.
  • IMA is two words, I'M A, filling the blank in ["___ Man," top 10 hit of 1967].
  • IVO [___ Andric, 1961 Literature Nobelist], shares his first name with a preschooler of my acquaintance. "Ivo, meet Enyo and Ino."
In the category of cool longer answers and groovy clues:
  • DUTCH ([Like Rembrandt]) is followed by another nationality, IRISH, clued with the analogy [Magyar : Hungarian :: Gaeilge : ___].
  • The BATCAVE [lies beneath Wayne Manor] and is located in GOTHAM.
  • KOREA was the [So-called Hermit Kingdom of old]. Trivia!
  • SQUELCH is clued as the verb [Silence]. Sounds like an onomatopoeia word, doesn't it? The sound your boot makes when you step out of goopy mud?
  • WINE BAR is a [Reception amenity] that should really branch out into whites other than Chardonnay.
  • [One end of the Moscow Canal] sounds exotic, but it's just the VOLGA River. (In related news, [River of Saxony] is the ELBE.)
  • Boring little ITEM gets clued as a [Big-ticket ___], which is much more colorful.
  • ["Everybody loves somebody sometime," for Dean Martin] is his EPITAPH. Hey, if you're bored, Google "racial epitaph" and see how many people get this word mixed up with "epithet."
  • "I'M BACK" is an [Announcement after being away]. Too bad MISS ME doesn't appear opposite that.

Martin Ashwood-Smith's "Themeless Thursday" Sun crossword is moored by two triple-stacks of 15-letter entries. BENITO MUSSOLINI is grouped with ANTS IN ONE'S PANTS ([Shpilkes]!) and a STICKY SITUATION up top, and down below there's a ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME COUNTERPROPOSAL about RECREATION ROOMS.
My favorite clues and answers:
  • JOE COOL is a [Brown dog alias], as in Charlie Brown's dog, Snoopy.
  • PHIZ was the pen name for the [Illustrator for Charles Dickens]. There's nothing like a Boz/Phiz teaming to make you think you're looking at a Red Sox/Phillies match-up in crazy-land. Fo' shizzle!
  • The clue for DISCOS is [They usually have big balls]. Mm, shiny.
  • I didn't know the word [Cantillate]. It means to chant or INTONE a religious text.
  • Michael EISNER is an [Exec who ran a company that had the same internal letters as his last name]: Eisner and Disney.
  • TIKI Barber is a [Former Giants teammate of Plaxico]. You know what you call it when Plaxico Burress shoots himself in the leg? A Plaxident. Not to be mistaken for an oral-hygiene product.


The theme in David Kahn's LA Times crossword took me far too long to understand. Hmm, maybe that's why it's a Thursday puzzle and not a Wednesday one. The two Across theme answers reveal what unites the first part of each of the five Down theme answers: Each one is a ROCK AND ROLL / HALL-OF-FAMER. Some of these words are just that—words—so the fact that they're also surnames wasn't obvious. (At least, not to me.) They are:
  • [Place for shooting stars?] is the set in HOLLYWOOD, and Buddy Holly is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  • [Crocodile Dundee's weapon] is a BOWIE KNIFE (David Bowie).
  • [Prolific income source] is a CASH COW (Johnny Cash).
  • [Place accessed via a rabbit hole] is Alice's WONDERLAND (Stevie Wonder).
  • [Game with many imitators] is SIMON SAYS, in which players imitate the leader (Paul Simon).
An olio of non-theme clues and answers:
  • [Maxwell Anderson play involving a mountain owner] is HIGH TOR. You can own a mountain?
  • [18th-century musical family] is the BACHS, Johann Sebastian Bach and some of his sons. I'll bet his daughters had just as much innate musical talent. Canadian heavy metal singer Sebastian Bach is no relation (it's not even his real name).
  • The [Inuit word for "house"] is IGLOO. Makes sense.
  • [Coast Guard pickup] is SOS, as in picking up a distress signal.
  • [They provide top-notch services] clues ACERS, as in people who ace their serves. The clue and answer alike feel a little tortured, but I have a high tolerance for crossword conventions that stray from common English usage but aren't hard to guess if you do a lot of crosswords.
  • [Privacy metaphor] is CLOSET. Is that as in "skeletons in the closet," or as in a gay person being closeted?
  • [King's desires, in olden days] were SONS. That caused no shortage of grief—Henry VIII, anyone? Not the patriarchy's finest moment.
  • [Emperor Galba's predecessor] was NERO. I'm guessing that NERO is the most common 4-letter emperor in crosswordland. A Cruciverb search bears that out; Galba's successor OTHO is a distant second.
I don't typically begin a crossword by scanning the theme clues, but a CrosSynergy crossword makes that a little easier by including a title for the puzzle (like the Sun and all the Sunday-sized puzzles). Randall Hartman's "Full of Envy" suggested the answers would have NV in their middles, but it turned out that the answers had N.V. initials. Suspecting a V in the middle, though, I filled in ___ VISION for [20/20] and ___ VESSEL for [Aircraft carrier, e.g.]. Those turned into NORMAL VISION and NAVAL VESSEL. The other theme entries were NORTH VIETNAM, a [War opponent of the '60s] (that clue sounded to me like it referred to anti-war protestors rather than combatants), and NIA VARDALOS, the [Star of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"].

In the fill, I wasn't expecting the answer to [They're out standing in their field] to be GUERNSEYS. Moo!