January 22, 2009

Friday, 1/23

NYT 7:44
Sun 4:38
LAT 5:20
WSJ 6:49
CHE 5:10
Fri. BEQ #21 6:06
Wed. BEQ #20 4:07
Onion 5:22
Tausig 4:16

I've been up since 3:30 this morning, so I might well be asleep before the NYT puzzle comes out at 9:00 p.m. Central. If so, feel free to discuss that amongst yourselves here until I return. Will I make it through all those puzzles on Friday? Highly doubtful. My son is off school tomorrow and sick, and my husband will be home sick too. You envy my life of glamour, I know.

Peter Gordon's crafted his annual "And the Nominees Are..." Sun crossword featuring the just-announced Best Picture Oscar nominees. I was hoping he'd take a rebus approach, given the unwieldy length of a couple titles, but no, he just split 'em up into multiple entries. But look! It's still a symmetrical 15x15 grid with symmetrically slotted theme answers. The only quasi-cheat was docking "The" off CURIOUS / CASE / OF BENJAMIN / BUTTON and READER. MILLIONAIRE is in the middle with its SLUMDOG opposite CURIOUS. FROST/NIXON balances OF BENJAMIN; MILK, CASE; The READER, BUTTON. It's fitting that the Brad Pitt movie takes up so much space in the grid since it hogged up a lot of nominations too. You'd think the circumscribed fill would make for clunky fill, but no—there's CZARINA, MCRIB, TROJAN, and KRANTZ. Okay, so the puzzle also has RENA and IBERT—but at least the crossings were reasonable.

Updated at 10 p.m.:

Barry Silk's New York Times crossword has plenty of interesting fill that was hiding behind good clues. I slowed myself down owing to sheer exhaustion of the eyes and brain—I didn't see the "H." in [George H. W. Bush, once], so CIA DIRECTOR was the furthest thing from my mind. The only answer that was at all jarring was SNEAK THIEF, or [Lifter], not a familiar phrase to me.

And so to bed.

Updated Friday morning:

Dang, my kid woke me up before 8 this morning. On the plus side, he and his dad are the picture of health today, and the freelance project is done. (It may appear that I have been doing fewer crosswords than usual this week, but really, that extra batch of 25 puzzles counts.)

In Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword, puns are de order of de day: [Support for a formal downgrading proposal?], for example, is I SECOND DEMOTION, playing on "I second the motion." There are six of these "the –> DE" puns in all. I forgot that NENE was both singular and plural for those [Hawaiian flyers]. Speaking of geese, [Goya's goose egg?] is CERO, Spanish for "zero."

Patrick Berry kicks it literary with his Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Unhappy Endings." Edgar Allan Poe was a huge fan of the unhappy ending, so it wasn't so hard for Patrick to find five Poe characters who met dramatic ends in wildly different ways. My personal favorite is FORTUNATO, the [Poe character who gets walled up alive in a crypt] in "The Cask of Amontillado." Now, I thought I knew plenty of Poe, but I didn't know three of the characters here, and if you don't already know METZENGERSTEIN, it's not as if it's easy to guess it from the clue. Super-smooth crossings made the puzzle eminently doable, though.

Liz Gorski's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Whack Job," has a CHOP, CHOP theme: Each of the other seven theme answers joins two words together with a hidden CHOP, as in SANCHO PANZA. The theme entries are a little on the short side, so there's plenty of breathing room for smooth fill and wide-open grid spaces along the top and bottom. Among the livelier entries are "I'M FOR IT," "GO HOME," MAN-TRAP, "OH, GOODY," TOOK A HIT, HARP ON, the ONE RING to rule them all, and O. HENRY.

Ben Tausig constructed this week's Onion A.V. Club crossword. 69-Across, FRENCH, ties everything together: [People inaccurately adjectivized before a word in 18-, 29-, 46-, and 57-Across]:

  • HORN DOGS are [Ones with one thing on their mind]. French horns are German in design, not French.
  • [Drink (to)] clues RAISE A TOAST. French toast isn't necessarily French, either.
  • The KISS OF DEATH is an [Ominous signal]. Apparently the French do not get credit for French kiss either—the English were fond of labeling anything sexually sophisticated as "French." Aw, poor English people with a low opinion of themselves.
  • [Smurf] slangily clues SMALL FRY. French fries, of course, come from Belgium.
So this puzzle goes beyond the "phrases with words that can follow ___" theme by including only such phrases in which the French part is a misnomer. Well done, Ben. From elsewhere in the puzzle: LOQUAT is a [Fruit used in Chinese traditional medicine]. BOHEA is a [Fujianese tea]. SORREL is a [Fragrant Jamaican beverage]. Less exotic beverages include NECTAR, or [Godly stuff], and ADE, or [Fruity quaff]. [TV role for Savalas and Rhames] is LT. KOJAK (the Ving Rhames version was on the USA Network in 2005, while the Telly Savalas series was a classic '70s cop show. "Who loves ya, baby?").

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "You Send Me," goes postal. Each theme entry begins with a word that's a mail class. Madonna's EXPRESS YOURSELF is a ["Like a Prayer" single]. MEDIA ELITES are [Bogeymen for Stephen Colbert]. STANDARD OIL is the [Company in "There Will Be Blood"]. And BULK FOOD SECTION is an [Area with nuts and grains, often]. Who doesn't love bulk mail?

Today's Brendan Emmett Quigley puzzle is called "Alternative Medicine" and the theme includes three famous alternative medicine gurus. Actually, I'm not sure that Mehmet Oz qualifies as "alternative." He's on Oprah a lot, he has books, he says some reasonable things—is there lots of alternative medicine in his shtick? My friend Kristin thinks he's hot. Anyway, the theme entries:
  • [Chopra's Sherpa?] is LEADER OF DEEPAK. Nearly rhyming clue + funny pun answer = crossword success. It may be a decades-old combo, but sometimes it works so well.
  • [Two things heard at a well-received session by Mehmet?] are OOHS AND OZ.
  • [Tailed for Andrew's son?] clues FOR A LITTLE WEIL. I don't understand this clue at all, but I know that Andrew Weil is that alt doc with the prodigiously bushy beard whose books are all over the place, pushing Deepak Chopra's books over to the side. (Updated to say: Brendan says it's supposed to be "Tailored" and he's fixing that. So it makes sense now.)
Lots to like in this puzzle. [Bouncing all over the place, perhaps] clues BRALESS. Remember that lawsuit brought by a strip-club customer who complained that a dancer's capacious bosom had been used to BLUDGEON ([Beat but good]) him? Another B-word, BREEDER, is [Straight person, in gay slang]. Has VOIP ([Transmission technology used in Skype]) been in an NYT crossword yet? I don't know that it has. [Generating heat] sounds like it wants a word from physics or chemistry, but the answer's EROTIC. [Safari sight] is a POPUP AD, Safari being an internet browser. [Bar order] is A BEER, and while usually crossword answers don't include an indefinite article like this, I like it here.

The Wednesday BEQ has an iPod theme, with the theme entries starting with the iPod varieties TOUCH, NANO, SHUFFLE, and CLASSIC. You don't need an answer grid or discussion here today, do you? You've moved on already?