February 03, 2009

Wednesday, 2/4

Sun 6:10
BEQ 5:01
Tausig (not timed)
Onion 4:32
NYT 4:22
LAT 2:59

I flaked out on one of the answers in Paula Gamache's New York Times crossword, absentmindedly entering ALOE instead of ALEE, the nautical [Salt's direction]. That made 17-Across look like RONAI__ for the longest time. (Sigh.) The theme entries all switch various other spellings of the long-A ARE sound into the ARE spelling:

  • RENAISSANCE FARE is [16th-century Florentine food?]. Those retro festivals can be spelled Renaissance Fair, Faire, or probably Fayre.
  • BAD HARE DAY (hair) is the [Reason the tortoise won the race?].
  • [Baseballs, footballs and basketballs?] are SPORTSWARE.
  • RIGHT TO BARE ARMS is clued as the [Freedom from the requirement of having long sleeves?].
Favorite fill: GAWK, or [Rubberneck]; KIBOSH, or [Stopper of things]; THE AISLE, clued as [A ring bearer may go down it]; BELIZE, formerly British Honduras, a [Commonwealth country in Central America]; SAD TO SAY, or ["Alas"]; POTPIE, or [Entree from the frozen food department]; [Policy ___] WONK; HAS DIBS, or [Lays a claim (on)]; VANISH, or [Dematerialize]; the Spanish word JEFE, or [Baja boss]; SHERPA clued as [Guide for Hillary], not Hillary Clinton but Edmund Hillary; and WIG OUT, or [Freak]. What is that, a dozen great entries? This, my friends, is what makes Paula Gamache's puzzles so much fun.

Patrick Blindauer (2008's most impressive crossword constructor, if you ask Rex and me) made the Wednesday Sun crossword, "Vowel Movement," which has a thematic consistency that maybe isn't noticed instantly. Each of the quintet of theme answers changes its vowels from one word to the next, with the consonants unchanged. And in each case, a vowel is replaced by the next one in the AEIOU sequence:
  • [NASA doctor's collection?] is SPACEMAN SPECIMEN, with the A–>E conversion happening twice and E–>I once. I can't see "spaceman" without wanting to pronounce it "spə-chay-mən," thanks to 30 Rock.
  • [Glittering lymphoid mass?]—eww—is TINSEL TONSIL. I–>O, E–>I.
  • Split into two entries, we also have PAC-TEN / PECTIN, or [jelly thickener for "The Conference of Champions"?]. A–>E, E–>I.
  • [Breath fresheners for a certain prayer?] are MANTIS MENTOS. A–>E, I–>O.
  • And the [Fad collection of actor Dempsey?] consists of PATRICK'S PET ROCKS. A–>E, I–>O. Did you dig putting your first name in a prominent spot in the grid, Patrick?
Amid these 12- and 16-letter theme entries there's a lot of Scrabbly fill—STATE TAX and the FONZ, the NICK JR. cable channel, OZZY Osbourne and the OJAYS.

Speaking of Nickelodeon kids' programming, I hear that documentarians Patrick Creadon and Christine O'Malley's next project is a TV documentary exploring the societal tsunami of fun that is SpongeBob SquarePants. SpongeBob and friends are much beloved in this household, so we're looking forward to that.

This week's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword by Ben Tausig, "Janus Words," was the first one I test-solved, so I can't report a solving time (it would either be artificially slow the first time or illegitimately fast the second time around). I think the Ink Wells usually take me somewhere in the 4:30 to 5:30 range, a consistent Thursday-Friday NYT level. The theme here is ANTAGONYMS, clued as [What the self-contradictory words found in this puzzle's theme answers are examples of]. The other long answers are phrases that can be interpreted as the opposite of the more common meaning:
  • SOUTH-BOUND is clued [Headed to Dixie - or stuck there?]. The usual sense is the first, but "snowbound" would mean trapped by snow, not heading towards it.
  • CUTS THE LINE means [Butts ahead of people waiting - or gives up waiting?].
  • To CLIP AN ARTICLE is to [Remove part of the paper - or attach it?] with a paperclip.
  • [Very good report following a zoo gate mishap - or a very bad one?] is NOTHING LEFT. "Omigod, there's nothing left!" vs. "Not to worry, nothing left through the open gate."
I like etymology clues like [Title derived from "Caesar"] for TSAR, and the feminist-friendly clue for AVON, ["The Company for Women," condescendingly enough]. Favorite fill: The Eagles song "LYIN' EYES"; FREELANCER; the four-word UP IN THE AIR for [Undecided]; and TAURINE, the [Controversial Red Bull ingredient]. I had no idea the operatic TOSCA was a female character—the clue is [Floria ___ (character performed by Maria Callas)].


Do Donna Levin's LA Times crossword and you'll get your daily allotment of healthful veggies. Each theme entry begins with a kind of ONION (50-Down):
  • The BERMUDA TRIANGLE is the [Site of strange disappearances].
  • [Gulf of Panama archipelago] clues the PEARL ISLANDS, which I've never heard of.
  • [Roman landmark rising from the Piazza di Spagna] is SPANISH STEPS.
  • [Song vessel beneath a "sea of green"] is the Beatles' YELLOW SUBMARINE.
No red, white, or green onions here, nor Vidalias. But you can also cook up SPINACH and KALE (both clued as [Leafy green]) with some CHARD (well, Swiss chard is a leafy green, but the answer is clued as a [Wine choice, briefly]) and NIBLETs of corn ([Bit of corn]) in a little OIL (clued as the inedible variety nicknamed [Texas tea]). For dessert, maybe something with SLOE plums ([Gin flavoring]) and HONEY ([Sweetie pie]) or a Hostess HO HO ([Sounds from Santa]). The next morning, steep a TEABAG ([Leaves holder]) for some wake-up caffeine and slice a BANANA ([___ split]) over your OATS ([They may be rolled]).

Francis Heaney's Onion A.V. Club crossword is custom-made for Scooby-Doo fans. You know how Scoob says "Ruh-roh!" for "Uh-oh"? Francis replaces the initial sounds in various phrases with R's and clues the original phrase rather than the familiar R.R. phrase that we see as the answer.
  • ["Shaggy! This chopped-down tree is haunted by a phantom!"] clues RUMP ROAST (stump ghost).
  • ["Shaggy! It's a spooky sorceress who keeps complaining!"] clues RICHIE RICH (bitchy witch).
  • ["Shaggy! It's a giant arachnid that's apparently been working out!"] clues ROUGH RIDER (buff spider, or possibly tough spider).
  • ["Shaggy! There are monsters under this bridge with terrible colds!"] clues RICK-ROLLS (sick trolls).
Scooby-Doo mysteries often include spooky things like ghosts, and perhaps also witches, spiders, and trolls. Favorite answers: GROKKED, or [Figured out]; CHA-CHING, or ["I'm about to get paid!"]; CANAPE clued as a [Cater-waiter's delivery, perhaps]; PARTY HAT, or [Celebratory cardboard cone]; and AQUARIUS, the [Opening number of "Hair"].

Today's Brendan Emmett Quigley puzzle is called "Jailbreak," and a CON has gone on the lam from each theme entry:
  • [Poured concrete in gun chambers, say?] clues SEALED WEAPONS (concealed weapons – CON).
  • [Guest speakers on the subject "Does the 'Three Billy Goats Gruff' Story Perpetuate Offensive Stereotypes?"?] clues TROLL PANEL (control panel – CON). I like the picture of a discussion panel of subterranean trolls concerned about their public image.
  • [Made out with a barbershop quartet?] clues NECKED FOUR (the game Connect Four – CON). This one doesn't quite work for me—doesn't necking demand a preposition before the object?
  • [Recorded the prechorus?] clues TRACKED BRIDGE (contract bridge – CON). I'm not familiar with the verb track meaning "to record," but I'm sure musician Brendan is.
The bottom third of this crossword took me about as much time as the rest of the grid. [Poet Laureate Reed] WHITTEMORE was unknown to me, though he taught at Carleton College until 1966 (before my time). (No relation to the REED that is a [Marsh stalk].) [George Bush or Dick Cheney, once] was a YALIE; I didn't know Cheney went there, though he flunked out. Corn PONE is apparently an [Oval-shaped loaf]. [In place?] clues DOOR, the place where you go in. [Certain camera shot] refers to a film/video camera, not a still camera—the answer is FADE-IN. [Edward Cullen's adopted mother in "Twilight"] is named ESME and no, I have no plans to read the books or see the movies. [Seed sowing time, perhaps] put me in an agricultural frame of mind, and MALEOR**** just wasn't coming to me just wouldn't pop up was an eely answer—MALE ORGASM.