December 02, 2008

Wednesday, 12/3

Onion 5:30
Tausig 4:02
LAT 3:50
Sun 3:44
NYT 3:23
CS 3:09

(updated at 9:20 Wednesday morning)

I enjoyed both the Sun and NYT crosswords I just solved. Michael Blake's New York Times puzzle has a FOUR-WAY STOP tying together the other four theme entries, in each of which an initial S becomes a P (an S-to-P change, four ways):

  • [Elegance in road construction?] is PAVING GRACE. Hey, I know all about that—North Lake Shore Drive was riddled with potholes after last winter, but now has been smoothly resurfaced with graceful asphalt.
  • [Desirable guy to rent from?] is a PLUM LANDLORD. I think "slumlord" is a more common term than "slum landlord."
  • [Hit "snooze" with force?] clues POUNDED THE ALARM. That's cute—I like it.
  • A subcommittee turns into a PUB COMMITTEE, or [Council of Guinness drinkers?]. My husband is the vice chair of the Guinness Is Best pub subcommittee.
In the fill, there are plenty of names. COUNT BASIE, the ["Jumpin' at the Woodside" composer/bandleader], is the showiest, but he's keeping company with Pia ZADORA (since when is Pia in the clue and ZADORA in the grid?), the late YMA Sumac, Muhammad ALI, KRIS Kringle, Tiny TIM, RICKI Lake, Francis LAI, IRMA Rombauer, URIAH Heep, ANG Lee, DARYL [Hall of fame] (great clue!), [Winner of 2008] Barack OBAMA, ELSIE the [Borden cow], and ERIK, the [Edgar-winning writer Larson] (he wrote The Devil in the White City). TOM'S is clued as [___ of Maine toothpaste], a natural brand (not to be confused with Tom of Finland beefcake photography). Carrot Top is a person, while CARROT CAKE [often has cream cheese frosting]. [Floride, e.g.] looks like a misspelled word from chemistry, but it's un ETAT, the state of Florida in French. The [2006 Nintendo debut] is the WII game console.

Vic Fleming's Sun crossword, "Breaking the Fourth Wall," isn't about TV characters talking straight to the camera—it's about crossword answers breaking through that 15x15 wall that usually pens them in. Three answers go one square too far beyond each wall (the long one in the center breaks two walls):
  • [Outrageous] clues "over the top," and what appears in the grid is VER THE TOP because the entry has gone over the top, literally.
  • [Soon to be out of business] clues "going under," where GOES UNDE fits inside and the R goes under the grid.
  • [In every respect] clues "through and through," which has each "through" passing through the side walls such that only HROUGH AND THROUG fits inside the grid.
Definitely a cool gimmick, and not such a hard one to figure out if you've seen other crosswords that play with the format in similar ways.

I don't think the clue for ANEMIA is on target. It says [What a deficiency of folic acid causes]. What's commonly called anemia is a hemoglobin deficiency. (Remember Evonne Goolagong and her '70s vitamin commercials with talk of "iron-poor blood" in an Australian accent?) Folate deficiency can cause, Wikipedia tells me, macrocytic/megaloblastic anemia, and that is treated with tons of vitamin B-12 and folic acid rather than with iron. Is there a doctor in the house? Does the clue work for you?

The Sun puzzle's fill is pretty Scrabbly, with a HAJJ and a QUIZ, EXEMPT and a TV SET, UNTUCKED and a PB AND J sandwich.

The Onion A.V. Club crossword by Byron Walden has a whimsical political theme. The theme answers in this 16x15 extra-wide puzzle occupy pairs of 8's, 9's, and 16's, and they spell out assorted "White House items bequeathed from 43 (Bush) to 44 (Obama):
  • 1- and 20-Across are a BIN LADEN / DARTBOARD.
  • At 33-Across, [Item #2] is a "NAILIN' PAYLIN" TAPE. Isn't that grand, that a candidate for vice president could be portrayed in a porn flick? It's terribly sexist. The closest male equivalent I could find was this nude Cheney calendar shot.
  • [Item #3] at 41-Across is a CAN OF SPAGHETTI W'S. Get it? Bush is called "W," while Obama starts with an "O," so the O in SpaghettiOs becomes a W. (Didn't I tell you there was whimsy?)
  • 52-Across presents [Item #4], an EAR WARMER. Why? Because both Bush and Obama's caricatures have jug ears.
  • [Item #5] at 67-Across is PRETZELS, which Bush famously had a choking episode with.
Other presidential content: [W., e.g.] is an INITIAL. [Like 43 but not 44] clues ODD (as in odd numbers, not odd men). Campaign SIGNS are [Yard objects, at election time].

Favorite clues: [Defense establishment?] is an ALIBI. Your [Duff] is your REAR, while Hilary [Duff rival, once] was Lindsay LOHAN. GIRD is clued [You can do this to your loins]. [You can believe it's not butter] clues OLEO; damn straight.

Oniony stuff: A [Cougar, perhaps] may be a MILF. Your BFF, or best friend forever, is a [Chum, in modern shorthand]. ["Keep it in your ___"] clues PANTS. [Dick caught while urinating outdoors] is ANDY Dick. [Vomits] is used to clue SPEWS.

Tough stuff: [Rover's irritant] is a FLEABITE. [Dharma teacher] is a LAMA. The [Absurdist genre associated with Jasper Johns] is NEO-DADA. TOP UP means to [Fill to the brim, in a pub], and is also the phrase my Volkswagen uses when I'm low on wiper fluid: "Top up wash fluid," it says. ACCUTANE is the [Brand name for the acne drug isotretinoin].

The fill's got six chunky zones of themeless-style white space, lots of Waldenesque long answers interlocking.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle, "Bear With Me," echoes Tuesday business headlines with 58-Across. DOW DROPS answers the clue [All-too-frequent headline these days, and the inspiration for this puzzle]. Each of the other four theme entries drops a DOW from a familiar phrase:
  • N PILLOWS is a [Variable quantity of headrests?], altered from "down pillows."
  • Rod Stewart gets "SING, ROD" (dowsing rod), clued as [Urging to Stewart when feeling shy in the mic?].
  • [Find some ranch behind door #3?] is WIN DRESSING. Have you ever won salad dressing? I have not.
  • [Latin phrase claiming possession of a small bird?] is MEA LARK, playing on the possessive pronoun in "mea culpa" and the meadowlark. 
My favorite answers: BRAND-NEW, "NO CAN DO," DAWDLE, Judge WAPNER, DONE FOR, and GARBANZO beans. And look! It's [Tennis star Goolagong], or EVONNE. I hadn't seen this puzzle yet when I mentioned her earlier in this post. Zestiest clues: ["The Dead ___ Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop"] is missing EMCEE. I'd never heard of the Saul Williams book of poetry before, but the title is great. IRONIC is clued as [Like none of the scenarios in a certain Alanis Morissette hit]; the song is called "Ironic." [Israeli coinage] is SHEKELS, actual coins, and not coined words.


Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword describes things by where they fall in a list of similar entities:
  • [Fiji, of Fiji, Aruba, Monaco and Vail?] is the FIRST PLACE in the list.
  • [Math, of English, Math, History and Biology?] is the SECOND CLASS on your class schedule.
  • [You, of him, her, you and me] is the THIRD PERSON listed, though "you" is the second person grammatically.
  • [Vail, of Fiji, Aruba, Monaco and Vail?] is the LAST RESORT, as all four places are resort locations. Of those, I've only been to Vail.
I don't recall seeing a theme like this before. In the fill, ASIAN is clued as [Afghani, for one]. "Afghan" is the predominant word used to refer to a person from Afghanistan, and [Afghan, for one] would have been a much trickier clue—some solvers would have thought of blankets and Afghan hounds rather than people. (Missed opportunity in cluing mayhem.)

Ray Hamel calls his CrosSynergy puzzle "Fodder Time" because each theme entry ends with some farm animal fodder. The first two are verb phrases and the second pair are nouns:
  • [Behave self-indulgently] is to SOW ONE'S WILD OATS.
  • [Prepare for bedtime] is to HIT THE HAY.
  • The LAST STRAW is the [Proverbial backbreaker].
  • SNAKE IN THE GRASS is a [Treacherous person].
Have you seen a crossword answer that's got six vowels and no consonants before? ["Absolutely, monsieur!"] clues OUI, OUI.