January 31, 2009

Sunday, 2/1

NYT 10:56
LAT 8:48
PI (untimed, but easyish)
NYT diagramless (untimed, but easier than many diagramlesses)
BG 5:55
CS 3:59

Don't miss the post just before this one—the Oryx Awards honoring the best achievements in the cruciverbal arts for 2008.

It appears that a beer with dinner and the Sunday New York Times crossword are not an optimal combination...though I didn't muck things up with any typos, so it wasn't so terrible. (Should've gone with a margarita.) "Grid-Irony" is the joint creation of Vic Fleming and Matt Ginsberg, and there are 10 other theme entries that relate to 81-Across, SUPER BOWL SUNDAY. Those 10 phrases are football terms, but they're all clued as if they've got nothing to do with the game:

  • BALL CARRIER is an [Airline for Lucille?].
  • HASH MARKS are [Corned beef stains?] as well as yard markings, I guess, on the field.
  • TWO-MINUTE WARNING near the end of the game is clued as [Caution when boiling a 60-Down?], or EGG.
  • PASS INTERFERENCE is a [Chaperon's job].
  • TIGHT ENDS are [Tersely edited epilogues?]. Finis.
  • The NEUTRAL ZONE is [Where everyone wears beige?]. I had no idea there was such a thing involved in football.
  • ILLEGAL MOTION is [Rolling past a stop sign?].
  • [Added comment?] is an EXTRA POINT.
  • OFFENSIVE LINE is clued with ["That dress makes you look fat," e.g.?]. I just saw a box of Christmas cards today with Santa clad only in a G-string asking "Does this make me look fat?"
  • FALSE START is the [Onset of a lie?].
I'm fond of both Vic and Matt, but guys, this football theme does nothing for me. I'm sure many others are enchanted by it. Let's see...what else is in this puzzle?
  • [1980s hit-makers with a geographical name] are ASIA. I'm blanking on their big hit—was it "Heat of the Moment"?
  • [Holden's little brother in "The Catcher in the Rye"] is ALLIE? That's not ringing any bells here.
  • [Liquefied] clues MOLTEN...not MELTED, which was my first answer here.
  • [Agreeing (with)] clues the two-word phrase AT ONE. I was duped into trying AS ONE, because why not clue ATONE as one word?
  • [Locales for some paintings] are CAVES.
  • The OED is a [Competitor of Chambers, for short]. I believe Chambers is a noted British dictionary.
  • [Subject for Hume] is MORALS. Does anyone really understand why all those Lost characters have the same name as various philosophers?
  • [Go for the bronze?] is to TAN your skin.
  • I like LET'S NOT as an answer. It's clued ["I think we should say no"].
  • [5 for B or 6 for C] is an ATNO, or AT. NO., or atomic number (for boron and carbon).
  • MIA HAMM is a [Hall-of-Fame forward] in women's soccer.
  • A [Mouth watering?] comes from one's SALIVA.
  • [Lovers], 8 letters, starting with FAN...FANATICS? Nope. It's FANCIERS.
  • TYNE [___ and Wear (English county)] was one of those wait-for-the-crossings answers.
  • I haven't heard of the WANDA who's a [Country singer Jackson].
  • [The U.A.E. is in it] isn't strictly geographical—the answer is OPEC.
  • [Flavius's fire] is the Latin IGNIS.
  • [Boot option] is STEEL TIP, not STEEL TOE.
  • [Small creeks] may be called RILLETS.
  • [Asian appetizer] is SATAY, as in chicken satay with a delicious Thai peanut sauce.
  • Nisan is a Hebrew month. [Meal in Nisan] is a Passover SEDER.

This week's syndicated Sunday Los Angeles Times crossword is Dan Naddor's "Buried Treasure." Each theme entry is a made-up phrase concocted in order to bury a gem in its midst:
  • [Cloudburst?] is an EPHEMERAL DELUGE.
  • [Clean up at Rhode Island's Newport Harbor?] os SCRUB YACHTS.
  • [Ineffective fly catchers?] are VINEGAR NETS, as you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
  • [When the press starts its week?] is MEDIA MONDAY.
  • [Widespread panic over heartburn medication?] is TAGAMET HYSTERIA. The sheer lunacy of this one amuses me.
  • [Horse low in pigmentation?] is an ALBINO PALOMINO.
  • [Look loaded?] is APPEAR LIT.
  • [Showy penthouse shrubs?] are ROOFTOP AZALEAS.
  • [Beverly Hills medical films?] are TONY X-RAYS.
I like the find-the-hidden-gems game here. Anyone else misread [N'awlins sub] as [N'awlins suburb]? Boy, that made PO' BOY hard to dredge out. I thought [Babe in the woods] was skewing figurative and not literal—that one's a BEAR CUB. I don't know that I'd call NEOCONS [Political interventionists]—that clue kept me wondering for a while. Strangest-looking word in the grid: BINAL, or [Twofold].

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Study Group," reimagines the meaning of various "study of ___" words, to humorous effect:
  • PERIODONTICS becomes the [Study of punctuation marks?].
  • PODIATRY is the [Study of peas?].
  • COSMOLOGY is the [Study of women's magazines?].
  • CRYOGENICS becomes the [Study of babies?].
  • CARDIOLOGY is the [Study of poker?].
  • ELECTRONICS is redefined as the [Study of voting?].
  • HOMEOPATHY becomes the [Study of cozy places?]. This one jarred me a bit because the -pathy part relates to disease. But a dictionary tells me the suffix also denotes feelings (as in telepathy) and curative treatment (hydropathy), so let me de-cavil that. 
  • ERGONOMICS is the [Study of logic?], as you might say "ergo" to introduce a logical conclusion.
  • DENTISTRY is the [Study of minor car accidents?].
  • TOPOLOGY becomes the [Study of lids?].
  • CRYPTOGRAPHY is the [Study of final resting places?]. I spent some time trying to think of area-of-study words that started with grave- or tomb- and came up blank.
Favorite clue: [What Pop has that the Pope doesn't] for a SHORT O sound.

Paula Gamache constructed this weekend's Second Sunday NYT puzzle, a diagramless crossword. The theme entries take five phrases that end with a plural S and insert an IE before the S, thereby altering the meaning:
  • 14-Across is [Unable to mount further attacks?], or OUT OF SORTIES.
  • 25-Across is [Jokers who'll take a bet?], or COMIC BOOKIES.
  • 40-Across, spanning the center of the grid, is [Things that softly say "Feed me"?], or WHISPERING BELLIES. "Whispering Bells"? Say what? I Googled that one after I finished the puzzle and found out it's a plant and a 1957 song, neither of which were in my ken.
  • 56-Across is EARLY BIRDIES, or [Good scores on the front nine?] in golf.
  • At 68-Across, [Fraternity brother?] clues MAN OF PARTIES. "Man of parts"? Say what? I found this woeful little Wikipedia article that cites Casanova as an example of a man of parts. That article links to some info about those sleazy "pickup artist" types.
It's unusual for me to have no idea where 40% of the theme entries came from, at least if it's not a sports-themed crossword.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's online-in-Across-Lite Boston Globe crossword, "Ready for '09?," ushered in the new year with 10 theme entries (9 to 11 letters apiece) that end in IX, the Roman numeral equivalent of '09. I didn't know that SPONDULIX was slang for [Bread, moola, clams], and money, but the crossings in this entire crossword had easy clues. The theme entries were clued straightforwardly, which also eased things up a bit. Good gravy! I rarely crack the 6-minute mark in a Sunday-sized puzzle. (There are some weekly Sunday puzzles, like Frank Longo's Premier King syndicated puzzle, Sylvia Bursztyn's LA Times magazine puzzle, and the Sunday Newsday crossword, that are usually about this easy—but I'm not in the market for more easy puzzles. I hanker for more tough puzzles.) Having heard of activist Dorothea Dix, [1930s advice columnist] DOROTHY DIX gave me pause.

Will Johnston's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" includes a lattice of eight 15-letter answers, four Across and four Down:
  • THE INVISIBLE MAN is a [1933 film in which Claude Raines is seen...and not seen?]. Spelling mistake in the clue—it should be Claude Rains.
  • LEMON CHIFFON PIE is a [Dessert cart offering] I would say no to. Bring on the warm chocolate lava cake!
  • AGAINST THE CLOCK means [Under time pressure].
  • "THERE'S NO 'I' IN TEAM" is a trite [Pep talk adage].
  • [Shuttle astronaut's home] is the CREW COMPARTMENT.
  • [Clive Cussler adventure novel] is RAISE THE TITANIC.
  • [Casino dealer's action] is a FLICK OF THE WRIST.
  • [Sitcom with a show called "Tool Time"] as the show-within-a-show is HOME IMPROVEMENT.
Of the 72 answers in this grid, 44 are 3- and 4-letter words, many of them lacking that je ne sais quoi that produces crossword joy. NORN (that's a [Norse goddess]) and SMEE, OOO and LTRS, REE ([3M's mancala game "Oh-Wah-___"]) and EOE, NEN and EIKS. I do lean towards themelesses with juicy 8- to 11-letter answers rather than marquee 15's or a slew of 7's.