February 18, 2009

Thursday, 2/19

Sun 4:55
NYT 4:19
LAT 2:48
Tausig (not timed)

Kevin Der's New York Times crossword cries "EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it!" Indeed, there's an extra EXTRA in this grid, with each of its five letters added to the beginning of a phrase to change its meaning:

  • [What might have the heading "Collectibles" or "Toys & Hobbies"?] is an EBAY WINDOW.
  • [Optimistic scan at the dentist's?] is an X-RAY OF HOPE. Only these first two pronounce the added letter by name.
  • The [Story of Ali Baba?] might be considered a TURBAN LEGEND.
  • [Transmits a message to Pancho and pals?] clues RADIOS AMIGOS. This one changes the pronunciation the most, from Spanish "adios" to English "radios."
  • [Amazes a horror film director?] leads us to AWES CRAVEN.
Lots of Scrabbly vocabulary floating around in this one, starting with TJ MAXX, the [Marshalls competitor]. The puzzle's also a foreign-language quiz. [It's good for Juan] clues BUENO and HABLA means [Speak in Spanish]; there's also Penelope CRUZ, the ["Volver" actress, 2006]. NEINS are [Dortmund denials], German "noes." Speaking medicalese helps to know that AVULSE means [Tear off forcefully]—if you have an avulsion, I sure hope you're heading to the ER or OR. EYE is clued as a [Socket filler]—and yes, the eyeball can be avulsed.

Plenty of pop culture:
  • [Disney's "___ and the Detectives"] is EMIL.
  • JERI [Ryan of "Star Trek: Voyager"]. She was a National Merit Scholar and graduated from Northwestern. Also from the Star Trek universe: Leonard NIMOY, ["I Am Spock" autobiographer].
  • YODA's the [Film character who says "Named must your fear be before banish it you can"].
  • [Org. in the Bourne series] is the CIA. I wonder if more people know Jason Bourne from the movies or the books.
  • DRAX was the [Bond villain in "Moonraker"]. Raise your hand if this name wasn't remotely familiar.
  • [President Bartlet on "The West Wing"] was named JED.
  • ["Wedding Album" recording artist] is Yoko ONO. Other answers with a Japanese connection: OBIS ([They have bows]) and OZAWA ([Conductor noted for wearing turtlenecks].
  • EMO is a [Rock genre]. Speaking of artistic genres, DADA was the [Precursor to Surrealism]. 

John Farmer's Sun crossword, "It's an Honor To Be Nominated...Again," features performers who've been Oscar-nominated twice for the same role. FAST EDDIE FELSON was Paul Newman's pool shark, Bing Crosby played FATHER O'MALLEY, Al Pacino mobbed it up as MICHAEL CORLEONE, and Cate Blanchett and Peter O'Toole went the royalty route as QUEEN ELIZABETH I and KING HENRY II. Nifty trivia theme—and this particular batch of trivia isn't anything I've read before.

Among the liveliest entries are these:
  • "OH CAROL" was a [Top 10 hit for Neil Sedaka].
  • PODCAST is a [Modern radio show format].
  • ROYALTY—no relation to Elizabeth and Henry, it's a [Payment to an author, perhaps].
  • Door KNOCKERS are be [Brass rings, maybe].
  • [No Nonsense rival] in drugstore pantyhose is L'EGGS.
  • PRELIM is an [Undercard fight, for short].


Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily built today's LA Times crossword around a familiar DOLLY / PARTON quote, "YOU'D BE SURPRISED / HOW MUCH / IT COSTS / TO LOOK THIS CHEAP." I've heard the quote and I've seen it in a 2005 Sun puzzle. So the punchline payoff was nil for me—no surprise lying in store since I knew the ending already. YOU'D BE SURPRISED how many old-school crossword answers found their way into this puzzle:
  • ASTA is a [Movie clue sniffer], the dog in Thin Man detective movies.
  • ENATE means [Related on mom's side]; agnate means related on your dad's side.
  • MOUE means [Pout], the noun.
  • ASSAI means [Very, in scores]. As a resolute nonmusician, I see this word only in crosswords.
  • The OHM is an [Electrical unit]. Does that get any play in high-school physics? I don't recall.
  • ETTE is a [Feminizing ending] that, if you ask me, has zero utility. It's not strictly used to genderize language, either. Is a kitchenette a ladylike kitchen? Is a cigarette a girlish cigar?
  • The immortal TSAR will be in crosswords forever. Yes, it has three consonants, but such handy ones. [Peter the Great, e.g.] is the clue this time. 
  • POI! I need to visit Hawaii so this [Luau fare] moves out of the realm of crosswordese in my head.
  • [Restaurateur Toots] SHOR is one of those people I know from crosswords.
Let me put in a plug here for more specific clues for quote themes. [Start of a quote] provides no context at all, but some quote puzzles have theme clues that give a hint about what's to come. Can you think of a way to clue this quote without mentioning Dolly Parton by name, since her name appears in the grid?

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Plantings," plants a tree in each theme entry:
  • 17A/11D are clued [generous pronouncement from the lead partner regarding employee birthday parties?]: LET THE FIRM EAT CAKE. That's Marie Antoinette's famous line with a FIR tree planted in it.
  • [Wacky Olympic skiing event?] is WEIRD ALPINE, combining Weird Al Yankovic and a PINE tree. Minus one point for planting the tree at the end of the phrase.
  • BIG MELMAC is a [Loose collection of influential corporations from Alf's home planet?]. Alf was from Melmac, and the theme answer is a Big Mac with an ELM tree in it.
  • An ASH tree and flypaper yield FLASHY PAPER, a [News source with bells and whistles?].
  • 40D and 59A combine to read IMPEACH EVERY WOMAN, or [misogynist politician's suggestion?]. That's "I'm Every Woman" with a PEACH tree. Minus one point for including a tree whose name is far better known as the fruit it bears. Plus 10 points for having the five theme entries fill up seven entries, as 65 theme squares is quite a lot.
In the non-theme fill, I give Ben 20 points for this clue: [It may be shaken but not stirred] for a HAND. That's in the running for the year's best clues. I also like the answers AP TESTS, or [Smart HS student's challenges]; BUTTS IN, or [Offers unsolicited advice, say]; and MUPPETS, or [Animal and Scooter, e.g.].