February 23, 2009

Tuesday, 2/24

Sun 4:12
Jonesin' 4:02
NYT 3:20
LAT 2:59

Lately folks have been saying that "four is the new three"—that themed puzzles usually seem to have four or five thematic entries rather than just three. Stephen Edward Anderson's New York Times crossword, a plus-sized 16x15 puzzle, has three theme answers and a lively pair of non-thematic 10's, and some good bits to the fill. The theme entries are "[bird that's a verb] ONE'S [noun]":

  • [Strain to see over the top] is CRANE ONE'S NECK.
  • [Eat humble pie] is SWALLOW ONE'S PRIDE. I like the eat/swallow echo between the clue and answer.
  • [Be a street peddler] clues HAWK ONE'S WARES.
The aforementioned 10's are WIGGLE ROOM, or [Margin to maneuver], and PAPER TIGER, or [Toothless enemy]. OSLO is unexciting fill, but its clue links it to the [Norwegian coast feature], FJORD. Other fill and clues I liked:
  • TOPAZ is the [Birthstone for most Scorpios].
  • TWERP is an [Insignificant type].
  • LATIN is the [Root of all Romance languages], and right above it is an example of a Romance language, the Spanish AMIGO, or [Friend in a sombrero]. Nearby is its French cognate, AMIE, a [Friend who's française].
  • STYX, the [River of Hades], meets the XBOX [___ 360]. Speaking of video games, GAMERS are [Arcade fans].
  • PITA bread is an excellent [Hummus scooper-upper].
  • LEOPARDS are [spotted in tall grass].
  • [Professzor Rubik] gets a Hungarian title. ERNO Rubik invented Rubik's cube.
Less welcome were the military abbreviations, SSGTS ([U.S.M.C. noncoms]) and PFC ([Low-rank inits.]); the suffixes, ENES ([Hydrocarbon suffixes]) and ITES ([Social finishes?]; the triple-letter EEE ([Wide shoe spec] and SSS ([Sound of bacon frying]); the HIREE who's a [Company newbie]; and the awkward-looking RED A, or [Stigma borne by Hester Prynne]. I've never heard of the PAM in this grid, [1989 Bond girl Bouvier]—that's the character played by Carey Lowell in License to Kill. You know what movie character I'd like to see in a crossword someday? Lars Thorwald, the heavy in Rear Window.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle is called "I Don't Got U, Babe" because each theme entry has lost a U:
  • Mobius strip becomes MOB IS STRIP, or [Angry crowd forms a small band?]. The answer phrase doesn't scan well.
  • Policy premium turns into POLICY PRE-MIM, clued as [Insurance plan, before the "Mad Madam" from Disney's "The Sword in the Stone" showed up?]. Never heard of Mim, and the answer phrase is just weird.
  • Julius Caesar has two U's and only one of them departs to make JULI'S CAESAR, or [Golfer Inkster's salad order?].
  • Sodium nitrate becomes SO DIM NITRATE, which seems to violate the rules of grammar. The clue is [Chemical in the dumbest diet ever?].
  • Oksana Baiul drops her U to yield OKSANA BAIL, or [Money to spring a Ukrainian figure skater from the pen?]. I kinda like this one.
Two TV-show names I'd never seen appear in the fill. JAIMIE completes ["The Travels of ___ McPheeters" (1960s TV western with Charles Bronson and a teenage Kurt Russell)], and ["For the Love of ___" (2009 VH1 reality show)] is about RAY J. I also don't spend enough time with desktop publishing to recall LOREM [___ ipsum (faux-Latin phrase frequently used by publishers in placeholder text blocks)]. Bonus points for two game-show references, NO DEAL ([Phrase said without hitting the button, on TV]) and Alex TREBEK ([Connery's foil, in "S.N.L." skits]), for swapping out the usual "Garfield" supporting character Odie for NERMAL, the [Overly cute kitten that annoys Garfield]; and for the scholarliness of Abraham MASLOW, the [Psychologist with a hierarchy of human needs].

Peter Gordon's inner esne, Ogden Porter, constructed the Sun crossword entitled "Puzzle of the Week." The theme is people whose first or last names double as a day of the week. Peter reached into fictional characters to fill out his hebdomadal septet:
  • NANCY FRIDAY is the [Author of "My Secret Garden"].
  • PAUL SUNDAY is an [Identical twin character in "There Will Be Blood"]. Didn't see the movie.
  • THURSDAY NEXT is the [Protagonist of several Jasper Fforde novels]. I started one, lost interest, and lent the book to my mom, who likes mysteries but not classic English lit.
  • WEDNESDAY ADDAMS is an Addams Family TV character who's also a [Christina Ricci film role]. Can you name the rest of her family? How about the members of other TV families? Try this Sporcle quiz. My husband and I got about 96 of the 130 names.
  • Never heard of JEFF SATURDAY, [All-Pro center for the Indianapolis Colts]. Football teams have centers?
  • RICK MONDAY was a [Cubs player who prevented two protesters from igniting an American flag on the outfield grass during a 1976 game at Dodger Stadium]. I may be a North Sider now, but in 1976 I was a tween with a dad who didn't give a fig about baseball. Never heard of him.
  • I have heard of TUESDAY WELD, of course, but didn't know she was in Looking for Mr. Goodbar. I didn't see any R-rated movies when I was 11. Plenty of RATED G movies, [Like "Wall-E"], though.
Did you notice how tall this puzzle is? It's 17 rows high, so we get 30 more squares than usual and at no extra charge. Favorite answer: William WEGMAN, whose art photographs of his Weimaraners are so captivating.


Waah, I have a sore throat and I feel a bad cold coming on. Just in time for the crossword tournament!

Today's LA Times crossword is a quip puzzle by Pancho Harrison. The [Start of an editor's quip about verbose writing] clue is perfect—it's specific and gives the solver some guidance for filling in the theme entries, whereas a flat [Start of quip] clue just says "hey, bozo, good luck working the crossings." The quip theme still didn't excite me, but I appreciate the specificity of the clue. IN EVERY FAT BOOK, / THERE IS A / THIN BOOK / TRYING TO GET OUT.

[Tweeters' quarters] does not refer to stereo speakers with woofers and tweeters. Nor does it refer to Twitter users, whose Twitter action is called tweeting. The answer is birds' NESTS. The [Canonized pope known as "The Great"] is ST. LEO (he's called LEO I in more crosswords). [Supreme council of old Rome] is just a SENATE, nothing more obscure than that. [Turner and a general] clues IKES, as in singer Ike Turner and Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower. To [Exercise a 19th Amendment right] is to VOTE, if you're a woman. [Wall St. trading group] clues ASE.