February 25, 2009

Thursday, 2/26

Sun 3:50
NYT 3:49
LAT 3:35
Tausig (untimed)

Hey, sometimes Brendan Quigley makes crosswords that people pay him for, and not just those three free puzzles each week at his blog. His New York Times crossword has four theme entries, four phrases that have INGQ (or just GQ) in the middle. That sounds lifeless, doesn't it? It's not, because the Q is always up for a good time and the phrases are interesting ones:

  • LIVING QUARTERS is another way of saying [Residence]. The Q's crossing is IRAQ, the [Modern home of the ancient Akkadian empire].
  • BURNING QUESTION is clued as [It has to be asked]. That Q starts QUASI, which hooks up with the next theme entry—
  • The HOMECOMING QUEEN is an [Alumni weekend V.I.P.]. This Q is just in an abbreviation, SQ FT.
  • The last INGQ phrase is STRING QUARTETS, being [Many Haydn compositions]. Its Q feeds a QUAY, or [Unloading site]. If you ask me, both quay and wharf are great words. Way better than pier or dock.
I got off on the wrong foot with this puzzle by making 1-Down a wandering EYE instead of JEW. I just this minute learned that there was a wandering Jew in medieval Christian folklore—I only knew it as a houseplant. That corner was the last part I filled in, and KIRI wasn't helping me one whit (that's [___ Davis, "A Girl Like Me" documentarian].

I've got some favorite clues and whatnot:
  • The two-word partial AN ART gets an interesting quote clue: ["Conversation is ___ in which a man has all mankind for his competitors": Ralph Waldo Emerson]. 
  • ["Hard ___!" (captain's order)] clues ALEE. It's always fun to shout "Hard alee!" when you're trying to spin your Tilt-a-Whirl car.
  • [It comes from Mars] clues the TWIX candy bar. I mean, cookie bar. Yum. Want one now.
  • [Something in the air] might be an ODOR.
  • The informal PLAN ON is clued [Have in mind].
  • [It's similar to cream] refers to the color ECRU.
  • The informal "I'M IT" is clued ["You're looking at your guy!"].
  • [Twilight, old-style] is the GLOAM. The word is from Old English.
  • [Its home is on the range] isn't a TEPEE or anything like that—it's a SAUCEPAN in the kitchen.
  • I even like [Finnish architect Alvar ___] AALTO because it makes me think of the TV show Lost, in which the Dharma Initiative was funded by one Alvar Hanso. Who doesn't like Alvars?
It wouldn't be a Thursday Times without some curveballs:
  • [Reno's AAA baseball team] is called the ACES. Nobody knows this, right?
  • [Middle year of Nero's reign] is LXI. This crosses two answers that may not be readily apparent to many solvers, provided those solvers can't ballpark the middle of Nero's reign and need the crossings. ILENE is the first name of ["The L Word" creator/producer Chaiken]. Thank you, Entertainment Weekly, for teaching me these names. [False sunflower] clues the OXEYE daisy.
  • The BROUGHAM was a [Closed carriage with the driver outside in front].
  • [Old hwy. from Detroit to Seattle] is U.S. TEN.
  • [Lacking depth] clues TWOD, which always seems to befuddle many people because it's not ever written that way outside of crosswords. It's TWO-D, as in 2-D, as in two-dimensional.
  • [Opposite of pobre], or "poor," is RICO, or "rich."

Tony Orbach's Sun "Themeless Thursday" reminded me a bit of Karen Tracey's puzzles thanks to some Scrabbly names. There's TORQUEMADA (is it a coincidence that this [Cruel inquisitor] appears opposite MISTREATED with SADIST in between?) and the band JAMIROQUAI, and a most timely PONZI SCHEME crossing UZBEK. There's also a bakery zone, with TEACAKE (I'd have loved it if that were clued as the character in Zora Neal Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God) atop SODA BREAD. Never heard of the ["Mighty Mouse" villain] called OIL CAN HARRY. Favorite clue: [Jessica Simpson, to Bronx Mowgli Wentz] for AUNT. I haven't heard the term [Pigeon-hearted] before; it means MEEK. I was disappointed that the puzzle didn't have more challenging clues, but relieved that Tony didn't pelt me with an unfamiliar fish crossing a Puerto Rican fried food (as he did in his first NYT themeless).


In his LA Times crossword, David Kwong riffs on the phrase "kill two birds with one stone" with some rock 'n' roll trivia:
  • ['60s band co-founder who changed his professional name to Roger] is JIM MCGUINN. I think everyone knows him as Roger McGuinn, so the clue is a bit of insider trivia.
  • Another ['60s band co-founder] is DAVID CROSBY.
  • Together, they are TWO BYRDS.
  • There's also MICK JAGGER, a [Rock group leader for 46 years]. (46!!)
  • Mick, of course, is ONE STONE. There is no mention of killing, though the Stones are still around and the Byrds disbanded in 1973. I don't think it was Mick's fault that the Byrds broke up...or was it? Kwong's crossword cracks the 35-year-old case wide open!
Assorted clues:
  • ["I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work" speaker] was Thomas EDISON.
  • [One concerned with handicaps] is a BOOKIE. Here's a virtual bookie taking virtual bets on whether Tyler will five-peat.
  • SLASHER goes nonviolent with [Budget committee, these days].
  • [Common geriatric malady] isn't AGESPOTS, alas, but DEMENTIA.
  • [Matched the card, in golf] means MADE PAR.
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle, "Reel Copies," has a theme that was utterly unfamiliar to me when I test-solved it.
  • [2006 film from The Asylum about an anthropologist searching for ancient codes] is THE DA VINCI / TREASURE. (Not The Da Vinci Code.)
  • [2006 film from The Asylum about travelers menaced by vipers] is SNAKES ON / A TRAIN. (Not Snakes on a Plane.)
  • [2008 film from The Asylum about alien robots threatening human civilization] is THE DAY / THE EARTH STOPPED. (Not The Day the Earth Stood Still.)
  • These movie titles are all tied together by MOCKBUSTER, a [Word used to describe a film made by The Asylum film studio, such as "Transmorphers" or "Sunday School Musical"]. These are typically low-budget, straight-to-video B movies that are released to surf on the coattails of actual blockbuster movies. Before doing this puzzle, I'd never heard the term or any of these titles. How about you? Did you already know about mockbusters? If not, did the MOCKBUSTER clue explain it clearly enough?
Miscellaneous non-theme clues:
  • [2005 Coldplay album with the single "Speed of Sound"] is X AND Y. (Technically, the title's X&Y, but crosswords like to spell out symbols and numbers.)
  • An ice FLOE is a [Slippery sheet].
  • BEANO is a [Wise thing to take before a burrito-eating contest].
  • [Great place from which to see Kings and Senators?] is RINKSIDE. The Kings and Senators are NHL teams.
  • [Ho Chi Minh's rhyming birthplace] is VINH. Never heard of it. (The addition of "rhyming" to the clue was my idea. It's lame, maybe, but I think many of us could use the help in summoning up VINH.) Speaking of Vietnam, PHO is a [Vietnamese bowlful].
  • ["Terrorist fist bumps"] are DAPS. Thanks for the colorful phrase, Fox News.
  • [He said "Fear is the path to the dark side"] clues YODA. Why wasn't the line "Fear the path to the dark side is"?
  • [Equatorial Guinean greeting] is the Spanish HOLA. Who knew?