January 01, 2009

Friday, 1/2

Sun 10:01
LAT 5:42
NYT 5:13
CS 3:11
WSJ 7:14

(all done updating at 4:20 p.m. Friday)

I hear that the Friday Sun crossword is one of those rare but exceedingly tough treats—a vowelless puzzle by Frank Longo. This might help tide us over until June, when Frank's entire bk f vwllss crsswrds wll b pblshd. Cn't wt! Except I can wait until morning to do the Sun, as I don't want to start it when I'm already tired because then it will kick my butt.

Speaking of the Sun crossword, if you haven't already subscribed, I encourage you to do so here. Editor Peter Gordon has overseen the development of a number of cruciverbal innovations. The vowelless puzzles, some of Patrick Berry and Patrick Blindauer's crazy twists on the format, some rebus puzzles that are too tough for the New York Times, asymmetrical grids—if you have even the slightest appreciation for puzzle challenges like these, please help keep Peter's crossword factory churning out the goodies.

The New York Times crossword is a themeless by Martin Ashwood-Smith, who's one of the regulars on the CrosSynergy constructors team. He's placed a triple-stack of 15-letter answers at the top and bottom of the grid, and a couple more 15's near the middle. Usually when there are that many 15's, one of them might be a gimme for me, but not this time. Here are the big girls:

  • SALES RESISTANCE is a [Problem in closing?]. Coffee is for closers, they said in Glengarry Glen Ross. My brother-in-law used to be in sales, despite his own comically low sales resistance. He bought a vacuum cleaner from a door-to-door salesman...as a single man who never vacuumed. He bought a set of encyclopedias for himself around the same time. See? No sales resistance.
  • [Just before it's too late] is THE ELEVENTH HOUR.
  • [1984 JoBeth Williams comedy/adventure film] was not ringing any bells for me. According to this page, the tagline for AMERICAN DREAMER was "She was an ordinary housewife until her trip to Paris turned into an extraordinary adventure." Well, doesn't that sound intriguing.
  • AVERSION THERAPY is [One way to kick a bad habit]. What would crossword aversion therapy consist of? I think speed solver Dan Feyer may be due for an intervention, as he recently reported solving 9,000 crosswords last year. (This is good news for all the rest of us—if a loved one suggests we're spending too much time on puzzles, we can place things in perspective with the Feyer Scale. "Me? Are you kidding? Some folks do, like, five or ten times as many crosswords as I do.")
  • An INVITED AUDIENCE is a [Preview crowd].
  • WEATHER STATIONS are [Pressure points?] that may record the barometric pressure. I love my Lacrosse weather station, I do.
  • [Who said "A hungry man is not a free man"] was ADLAI E. STEVENSON, promoted from his usual initials or first name appearances in crosswords to the marquee level of his full name emblazoned across the grid. It just so happens that I drove about 40 miles on the Adlai Stevenson Expressway today.
  • [One who'd like to put you in your place] in a nice way is a REAL ESTATE AGENT.
It's getting late, so without further ado, other clues and answers I want to include here follow:
  • [Seventeen people, briefly] are EDS. at Seventeen magazine.
  • A HEN is [One whose deposits are often collected]. Eggs, not ore or silt.
  • [It's a shore thing] means a PIER. Not sure why I opted for TIDE first.
  • ABS ([They look better when they're ripped]) and GUT ([Instinctive]) appear together...just before GREASED, which puts me in mind of shiny body-builders.
  • [Supporting piece] clues both a collar STAY and a framework STRUT. A [V-shaped carrier] is a HOD. Are you ready to build some stuff?
  • The [Word associated with a light bulb] is AHA. Metaphorical/cartoon light bulb, not an actual one.
  • [Whitebait, e.g.] is HERRING. Isn't that a New Year's tradition in some cultures, eating pickled herring?
  • I don't know why LAPIS is clued [Stone, to Caesar]. What's the Caesar/lapis lazuli connection? The dictionary tells me lapis is Latin for "stone," so there you have it.
  • [Ban succeeded him in 2007] refers to Kofi ANNAN. Ban is UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
  • If proofreaders [Decide to leave] something as is, they STET it.
  • [Never heard of [Jazz guitarist Farlow], named TAL.

It's noon, and I've only been up for two hours today. Is that a good thing or a bad one? I think it's good, but it leaves me behind schedule for the day.

The cluing style in Edward Sessa and Nancy Salomon's LA Times crossword clashed with my mindset—there's nothing so inherently challenging about the theme or the fill that accounts for this puzzle taking me longer than the NYT themeless, other than the clues just not resonating with the words in my head. The theme is summed up by TEE-OFF TIME, a golf [Driver's request, and a hint to this puzzle's theme]. The phrase I'm familiar with is "tee time," which gets about 17 times more Google hits than "tee-off time." This answer suggests that the other theme entries have a T taken off a unit of time, but the T is lopped off a set of unrelated words:
  • ONE GOOD URN (turn) is [Caterer's minimal requirement].
  • HOLY ERROR (terror) is [Slip-up in the pulpit?]. My first thought here was that Reverend Spooner and spoonerisms would be involved.
  • [Reveille duettists?] are a PAIR OF ROUSERS (trousers).
  • NO NEW AXES (taxes) is a [Lumberjack's lament?].
In the fill, [Swedish golfer Stenson], or HENRIK, was a stranger to me. [Ford : RESCU :: GM : ___] clued ONSTAR, which I've heard of; I don't think Ford has done such a good job of publicizing their version of. [Creator of Kissy and Pussy] is IAN Fleming of James Bond fame; I don't recall a Kissy. [Reason for weight loss?] clues TARE; with super-dry factual words like TARE, I think I prefer super-dry factual clues. Why is [Jewish star] MOGEN? I don't know. [First name in detection] is NERO, as in Nero Wolfe. [Place at the track] clues LAY, as in "lay a bet" or "place a bet" on a race. GLUON is a [Quark-binding particle]. The units of time in the crossword are a SPAN, or [Some time], and ERA, or [Hunk of history]. [Ale brewer Slosberg] is named PETE; I've never heard this name, but Google tells me he's the founder of Pete's Wicked Ale. BEETS are [Commonly biennial garden plants], but I do not know any gardeners who grow beets; I hear that eating a lot of beets will turn your digestive output purple or red. (Blue frosting or dye gives kids green poop.) [Cyrene's daughter, in a TV drama] is XENA the Warrior Princess. My favorite clue here is [One of them?] for a FOE.

Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Word of Mouth," gathers four phrases that include parts of the mouth:
  • LIP SERVICE is a [Bit of insincerity].
  • TONGUE-TIED means [Unable to speak].
  • A really [Hard candy] is a JAWBREAKER.
  • The TOOTH FAIRY, besides being that generous ethereal being who gives kids a quarter or a buck for a lost baby tooth, is also a [Ravenous creature in "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"]. I forgot those hideous little creatures that chewed up everyone and -thing at the auction house were called tooth fairies. They feed on calcium. If you haven't seen the two Hellboy movies and you enjoy wry, check 'em out.
BEET is in this puzzle, too, but clued more accessibly as a [Red vegetable] since the puzzle's targeted at more of a Wednesdayish level. Favorite clues: [It makes il mondo go round] for AMORE; [Carnegie foundation?] for STEEL, the foundation of Carnegie's wealth; [Marriage agreement?] for I DO; [Shorts supports] for the HIPS; and [Unlucky number, in ancient Rome?] for XIII or 13. I also like "DO TELL!" clued as ["Please continue!"], though I hear that Southerners who say "Do tell!" really mean "You don't say" and don't want you to say more. (This page explains that it's an expression of surprise. But this Northerner says it to mean "Please continue.")

Andrea Carla Michaels came up with a theme idea about ANTs and Patrick Blindauer crafted a fun-looking grid to embody it. Today's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Down on the Farm," has a bunch of black squares that draw the tunnels in an ant farm, and the ANTs are crawling all over the puzzle (everywhere but in those black tunnels, actually]. There's one explanatory ANT at 6-Down: [Farm creature that can be found 30 more times in this grid]. Though there aren't really any traditional theme entries in this grid—certainly none to be found in symmetrical spots given that this grid is asymmetrical—the ANTs theme was an aid to solving the rest of the puzzle because you knew that a bunch of answers would contain the ANT trigram. For example, there's a [Hairy creature], the TARANTULA, and a VANTAGE [Point with a view] beside INFANT, or [Babies], with the pair crossing a TYRANT, ATALANTA, and RADIANT. GRANT'S TOMB, the [Memorial in New York's Riverside Park], sits atop a praying MANTIS, or [Devout insect?]. Every section of the puzzle has an ANT or three crawling in it. Cute! But I feel like getting some bug spray now, or calling the constructors Antrea and Pantrick.

Updated again, at last, with the Vwllss Crsswrd:

Frank Longo's Sun crossword is both themeless and vowelless. To keep things clear, there aren't any Y's serving as consonants or vowels in this grid. This puzzle felt easier than Frank's past ventures in vowel-free entertainment. Here's what the NSWRS are when you reanimate them with their lost vowels:
1A. JNLC is Jean-Luc Godard.
5A. MTLPLCHCQZ is multiple-choice quiz.
15A. FTSR is footsore. Not a word I've ever used, but I must concede it should have a place in my vocabulary.
16A. LTHLCMBNTN is a lethal combination.
17A. FDST is fades out, I think.
18A. TRVLDSTNTN is travel destination. Use of those -tion/TN noun endings makes these vowelless monsters a little more pliant.
19A. RSNR is a reasoner.
20A. NTRNTNLZNG is internationalizing. There's another -tion lurking in there. Given how common T and N are in English words, the vowelless constructor is probably quite fond of -tion words.
21A. STTC is static.
22A. GRDTNS are graduations.
23A. NTHM is an anthem. They sang "O Canada" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the NHL Winter Classic at Wrigley yesterday. If you watched that, did you see those military jets roar overhead? I heard them fly over my house a few seconds before they reached Wrigley.
24A. PCC is ipecac.
25A. GTHSMN is Gethsemane. It's the name of a good garden center a couple miles from me—very little agony and betrayal going on at this Gethsemane.
30A. MSMFFNRTS is a Museum of Fine Arts. Where are the museums of coarse arts, like the rendering of armpit farts and belching the alphabet?
33A. RNMNT is an ornament.
34A. MSPRNTS are misprints, with only two vowels omitted.
35A. I couldn't figure out what CSNGSTR was short for, so I checked Pete Mitchell's Sun Blocks blog—causing a stir. Ah, the deceptive inclusion of an invisible "a" as a word...
37A. RNCTD is reenacted.
38A. SPRNGRLLS is also missing just two vowels so it looks nearly normal: spring rolls.
40A. LTTSNW is "Let It Snow", times three.
42. LLL is lull; this could also have been clued as loll or Lille.
43A. NKNT is in a knot, againn with an "a" that's dissolved away.
44A. DSCCTS is desiccates.
46A. RLSH is relish.
47A. DRSSRHRSLS are dress rehearsals.
51A. VDTP is videotape.
52A. SSTRPBLCTN is a sister publication.
53A. LTTC is lettuce.
54A. NDNPLSCLTS are the Indianapolis Colts.
55A. TMTT is the tomtit.
56A. GDNCCNSLRS are guidance counselors.
57A. NSNR is ensnare.

1D. JFFRSNMMRL is the Jefferson Memorial.
2D. NTDSTTSSNT is the United States Senate.
3D. LSSNTHMPCT is lessen the impact.
4D. CRTRCMFRTS are creature comforts.
5D. MLTNGPT is melting point.
6D. LTRTRCRSS are literature courses.
7D. THVRDCT is The Verdict.
8D. PLLNT is pollinate.
9D. LCDTNG is elucidating.
10D. CMSNSTRNG is comes on strong.
11D. HBTL is habitual—half the word is omitted vowels.
12D. CNNZ is canonize—ditto.
13D. QTTN is quotation—five vowels dropped, four consonants holding steady.
14D. ZNNG is zoning.
26D. HNGRNRVLTN is the Hungarian Revolution.
27D. SMSLKLDTMS is, I suppose, "Seems Like Old Times."
28D. MNTLNSTTTN is a mental institution.
29D. NTRSTHPCTR is enters the picture. Nice lively phrase.
31D. FNDNDRPLC is find and replace—also lively.
32D. SCRLTLTTR is The Scarlet Letter.
36D. SNLSSNSS is sinlessness. It's not a coincidence that four of those S's double as the last letter of the crossings—those S's come in handy here.
39D. PLCSCLL is places a call.
41D. WSHBSN is washbasin.
45D. CRLCS are curlicues—I like this one.
47D. DSNG is dousing. Could just as easily be dosing, but dousing makes for a crisper clue.
48D. RSDD is resided.
49D. STNN is sit in on. As Pete M. noted, "sit in" sounds a tad more right than "sit in on" here.
50D. SRPC is Serpico.

Did you notice that this is a 60-"word" puzzle with just 25 black squares? If this were a standard crossword, this grid would be off-the-hook insane, with quadruple-stacked 10-letter answers in each corner and those 9-letter answers in the middle binding them all together.