February 07, 2009

Sunday, 2/8

PI 8:35
LAT 7:35
BG 7:22
NYT 6:59
CS 3:36

Alan Arbesfeld's New York Times Sunday puzzle, "Pajama Party," includes nine theme answers with P.J. initials:

  • The theme launches with an icky-looking PETROLEUM JELLY at 23-Across, clued as [ChapStick alternative].
  • PARACHUTE JUMP is a [Bygone Coney Island attraction]. I am really not up on my Coney Island facts.
  • PRACTICAL JOKE is a kind of [Trick].
  • The PICKLE JAR is a [Deli receptacle].
  • The late PETER JENNINGS was [One of the former Big Three in news]. (He was my favorite of the three.) Say what you will about Katie Couric—it sure is nice to have the Big Three network news shows no longer The White Male News Half Hour.
  • POETIC JUSTICE is a great phrase and it means [Comeuppance].
  • My kid loves PINEAPPLE JUICE, a [Dole offering]. It's his standard bar order.
  • PAPA JOHN'S is a [Pizza Hut competitor].
  • PLAIN JANE is [Hardly a beauty queen]. Man, it would be great if we had as much insulting and objectifying language aimed at men as we do for women—ideally, very little for either sex. Plain Wayne, anyone?
This theme is fine, though it lacks any sort of humor component. Let's see if the question-marked clues can stir things up:
  • [Red states?: Abbr.] are SSRS from the ol' Soviet era.
  • [Printerr's misteaks?] are TYPOS. I came up with a good clue for TYPO the other day and gave it to Byron Walden; here's hoping it shows up in one of his puzzles soon because I sure amn't constructing anything these days.
  • [Foreign correspondents?] may be PENPALS.
  • [You can dig it] doesn't have a question mark but the clue isn't strictly factual. The answer is RELIC. Technically, you would dig up a relic, no?
  • [Land at Orly?] is TERRE, French for "land."
  • [Dermal opening?] is the prefix EPI. I'm not sure this clue merits the question mark.
  • [Dallas center?] clues ELS, as in the two letter L's in the middle. Not a center for the Dallas Mavericks.
I like the clue [German city whose name means "to eat"] for ESSEN—my favorite ESSEN clue of all time. It's an easy German I word (LATIN I is [Where "amo, amas, amat" is learned]), and the clue has more flavor than a strictly geographical one. I feel there's a noun missing from the beginning of [Who wrote "The only abnormality is the incapacity to love"]—ANAIS NIN is the answer. [Hand-picked thing] is a BANJO. [At home, abroad] clues the French phrase EN FAMILLE.


Hmm, I guess I wasn't in the mood for Star Wars puns when I did Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "One Fine Day at the 'Star Wars' Mall." It is possible that I might never be in the mood for a 10-pack of Star Wars puns. Here are some of the theme answers:
  • ["Star Wars" superstore with low, low prices?] is LANDO BARGAINS. Lando Calrissian (who wasn't in Star Wars, I don't think, just one or both of the first two sequels), land o'.
  • [The "Star Wars" Big and Hairy Men's Shop?] is WOOKIEE HERE, playing on "looky here."
  • ["Star Wars" stationery store?] is THE HANVELOPE. I thought Han rhymed with "man." This answer is perhaps stretching too far and too implausibly. The V crosses SOV., an [Old Brit. gold coin]—my, that's a hard clue. [Pt. of SSR] would have been much easier. The coin must be a sovereign, but I've never seen it abbreviated thus.
  • The answer to ["Star Wars" store that sells short, furry, and very lifelike action figures?] took a while to parse properly. EWOKS ETOKS sounds rather like "he walks, he talks."
A couple other short answers (in addition to SOV) gave me pause. [Abbr. after Charles Robb's name when he was a sen.] is DVA, or D-VA. [Superior and Municipal, for ex.] clues CTS, an abbreviation for courts. Never heard of [Actor Rossano], or BRAZZI, and he doesn't have the sort of name that shows up in a lot of crosswords.

In Nora Pearlstone's Sunday Los Angeles Times syndicated crossword, 18-Down is [False names], or ANONYMS. "Nora Pearlstone" is one of editor/constructor Rich Norris's anonyms (it's an anagram of "not a real person"). In the "E.E. Comings" theme, each long theme answer is a two-word phrase with E.E. initials. ECONOMIC EXPANSION is a [Monetary policy goal], for example, and [Computers and such] are ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT. The corners of the puzzle have a lot of 7-letter answers interlocking, which gives them the feel of a themeless crossword framing the themed one. Highlights in the fill:
  • KRAKATOA is a [Volcanic island near Java]. Wait, is it still there, or did it blast itself to smithereens?
  • MUESLIX is [Kellogg's whole grain cereal]. I started out with CRISPIX despite its lack of whole-graininess.
  • [Scanned bars] are a UPC CODE. You'd think the word "bars" in the clue would've stopped me from writing BAR CODE first.
  • CLOSE-KNIT means [Tightly connected], like answers in an American crossword.
  • [Player on a team that lost all 16 of its 2008 NFL games] is a Detroit LION. Ordinary answer, hilarious clue.
  • [Sum preceder?] is ERGO, as in Descartes' Cogito ergo sum, or "I think, therefore I am."
  • SEA BREEZE is indeed a [Refreshingly named vodka cocktail].
  • Your KEISTER is your [Duff].
  • [Two-piece shooter, often] is a tricky clue for POOL CUE. Many pool cues unscrew to become two more portable pieces.
  • Trigonometry echoes in [Go off on a tangent] for DIGRESS, which is more fun than the [Trig function] COSEC.
  • [Small creatures] clues an archaic word, ATOMIES, the plural of atomy. It also means a mote or tiny particle as well as a tiny being.
Patrick Jordan's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" is none too challenging. Did you know that Sidney Poitier directed STIR CRAZY? It's true. I had no idea. [Nineties, to Einstein] is IQ RANGE. No, just kidding—it's an ANAGRAM. [Turkey or tyrannosaurus, say] is a BIPED like you and me. Two successive answers, 8- and 15-Across, have the same 5 letters in the middle. [Emulates Don Juan] clues SEDUCES while [One on a diet] is a REDUCER. (Alas, TEDUCET cannot continue the series because it's not a word.) I have never heard HEADMAN used to mean a [Leader], but you may sign me up for the headwoman clan. CUTES is clued as [Case of the ___ (affected coyness)]. The European geography here is a little snoozy—the MARNE is [The Seine's largest branch] and BADEN is a [German region]. Answers like EARLIKE ([Resembling an auditory organ]) and ENOLS ([Compounds with double-bond carbons]) are also on the snoozy side.

Henry Hook's Boston Globe puzzle in Across Lite is called "Hot Stuff," and each of the 10 interlocking theme answers begins with a group of letters that also make up a "hot" word. I've circled the "hot" words so it's easier to see how the theme entries are physically connected—22- and 45-Across both cross 23-Down, as do the trio of answers in the opposite corner, and the northeast and southwest corners of the grid have stacked pairs of theme answers. The "hot" words aren't used as such in the theme phrases. For example, STEWIE GRIFFIN is the [Matricidal TV tyke] from Family Guy, the [Hawk] WARMONGER lacks true warmth, and the [Popular board game] PARCHEESI isn't about parched desert. It's a well-conceived and adeptly executed theme, but I suppose the stacking and interconnectivity of theme answers required a few obscurities that wouldn't ordinarily appear in an easyish Sunday crossword. [Bowling Hall-of-Famer Billy] WELU, for example, and CEDIS, or [Money of Ghana]. TELAR, or [Tissue-related], is a bit out there as well. But there's also junk food that's putting me in the mood for salty snacks—ONION DIP to go with potato chips or maybe some CHEETOS.