March 05, 2009

Friday, 3/6

NYT 8:29
LAT 4:13
BEQ 4:13
CHE 3:58
CS 3:12
WSJ 9:21

Apparently this is one of those days when my ideal bedtime is 8:30 p.m., but I find myself fighting to stay awake while doing a crossword after 9:00. Newcomer (?) Corey Rubin's New York Times crossword mightn't be as hard as a tough Saturday puzzle, at least if you're awake. Because I'm drowsy, though, I'll just list some clues and answers in lieu of sentient prose:

  • [Tetanus symptom], singular, is SPASMS, plural. Were you looking for a Latinate word ending with -US like I was?
  • MACGYVER! Favorite answer today. This was the [1980s-'90s action/adventure series] starring Richard Dean Anderson, whom I had a crush on back in his General Hospital days.
  • The goddess ARTEMIS was the [Sender of the Calydonian boar] in Greek mythology.
  • A.A. MILNE didn't just create Winnie the Pooh. ["The Great Broxopp" playwright, 1921] also describes him.
  • [1989 French Open winner and others] clues CHANGS, Michael et al.
  • III is a [Name tag?] used for the third in a line to carry the same name.
  • AÑO in Spanish means "year" and mayo is the month of May. Now, ANO without a tilde is clued [It includes mayo], which sounds like a condiment being associated with an unfortunate Spanish anatomical term.
  • Dr. DOLITTLE is the [Doctor who's friends with Matthew Mugg].
  • The HORA is a [Dance around a high chair?], with a regular-height chair being held aloft.
  • The [hypocrite's mantra] splits into two entries, DO AS I SAY / NOT AS I DO. It's not customary to include 8-letter partials, but the two together form a complete line. How do you like it as a crossword answer? 9- and 10-Down also relate to one another, but without forming a complete phrase—CLEANLINESS is next to GODLINESS, literally so in this grid.
  • [Forward and back, e.g.] is a terrific clue for ATHLETES.
  • [Yellow-green shade] is PISTACHIO, similar to chartreuse.
  • [Place to receive communion] is the ALTAR RAIL. Do people actually call it that, or is this arcane?
  • Isn't ENEMY MINE also a movie? It's clued as the [Barry B. Longyear novella that won Hugo and Nebula awards].

Jack McInturff's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "Leading Men," gathers up an assortment of Mideast rulers of the male persuasion and puts them into pun circumstances:
  • Having NO GREAT SHEIKS could be a [Leadership problem for a Muslim country?]. (No great shakes.)
  • [League athletes meeting with Muslim rulers?] might be a gathering of PROS AND KHANS. (Pros and cons. "Khaaaan!")
  • [Spice fit for a Muslim sovereign?] clues SULTAN PEPPER. (Salt 'n' pepper.)
  • [Muslim prince's tendency to stand on ceremony?] is EMIR FORMALITY. (A mere formality.) 
I note that none of these generic rulers have female equivalents, and I believe the words are all applied only to men. Sure, there's a sultana, but she's the sultan's wife or concubine and not herself a leader. (Harrumph.)

The toughest crossing in this puzzle was where botany collided with classical Greece—the [Peloponnesian city] ARGOS crosses GALLBERRY, or [Species of holly], at the G. ATMOS is a [Brand of clock powered by changes in temperature]; I know nothing about this. Same with WEIR clued as [Fish catcher]. I like the verb [Couch] as a clue for PHRASE, and the Middle Eastern inflection of HOOKAH, or [Water pipe]. POSEIDON was the [God with a grudge against Odysseus].

Randolph Ross's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Dispossessed," extracts the apostrophe from a dozen possessive phrases and slides the S over to the beginning of the next word. Like so:
  • [Homemade Irish side dish?] might be MURPHY SLAW (Murphy's law).
  • [Threat of a malpractice suit?] is DOCTOR SCARE.
  • [One who is bad to verse?] is a POET SCORNER. Have you been to Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey?
  • An [Exterminator at Parliament?] is a LORD SPRAYER. Good gravy, one doesn't expect an exterminator to spray a person.
  • CAPTAIN SLOG might be a [Nickname for a plodding pirate?].
  • [Place to wash up in a graphic arts shop?] is a PRINTER SINK.
  • [Turns at bat in Anaheim?] are ANGEL SWINGS.
  • [Jargon from a bereaved wife?] is WIDOW-SPEAK.
  • [Ollie's partner as a tiller of the soil?] is FARMER STAN. I like the use of the lively phrase farmer's tan as the basis for this one.
  • FIREMAN SAX is an [Instrument for an emergency responder?].
  • [Escargot's universe?] is SNAIL SPACE.
  • WOMEN SWEAR? Yes. Yes, some of us do. [Opinion that ladies can be as profane as gentlemen?] is the clue.

Four of the theme entries run vertically, and all of them intersect Across theme answers. That's fancy constructin' there. In the non-theme fill, [Front runners?] confused me for a while. DESERTERS may run from the battlefront. MAPLE TREE is clued [One may be tapped]; yum, maple syrup. [Profitable Internet business] clued PORN, which I was not expecting to see here; EBAY just wouldn't fit the crossings. [Home of the Wildcats] is RUPP ARENA, at least for one university's Wildcats. Which one? University of Kentucky, Google says. [Season segments] are TV show EPISODES, not months of the year. [Old Finnish coin] clues PENNI; they use the euro now. I thought [Cardinal toppers] would be the hats those prelates wear, but they're the CRESTS of feathers on the redbird's head.


There's more Jack McInturff puzzlin' in the LA Times crossword, with a theme summed up by the [Rhyme runaway] DISH ("and the dish ran away with the spoon"). Add a couple spaces and you get the phrase "D is H," which describes the change made to each theme entry.
  • [Biker's sentiment?] is LOVE ME, LOVE MY HOG. Harley Davidson motorcycles are called hogs, and "love me, love my dog" is something people probably say even if they have one of those horrible dogs that barks too much.
  • A [Mechanic?] can be a USED CAR HEALER. (Dealer.)
  • [Pawn shop visitors from some plantations?] clues COTTON HOCKERS. Does "cotton dockers" mean Dockers brand pants made of cotton? Aren't all Dockers mostly cotton? Do people call them cotton Dockers?
  • [Disaster at a flooded smokehouse?] is WATER OVER THE HAM. (Dam.)
Lots of tough clues in this puzzle. Such as:
  • [Second-story man] clues YEGG, a safecracker.
  • [Part of a support group] clues FAN, straying from the usual meaning of "support group" since it's Friday.
  • [Stars at the Colosseum?] are ASTRA, Latin for "stars." I finally looked up the answer to a question that has plagued me for years: the word coliseum is indeed an alteration of colosseum and means the same thing.
  • [Snap] clues the verb phrase GO MAD. It would have been easier to have NOMAD crossing SWAN, but maybe McInturff liked the Friday difficulty of the two-word [Snap] answer.
  • [What some keepers keep] are GREENS. Greenskeepers work where, at golf courses and palatial estates?
  • Sometimes [Fancy spread] clues an ESTATE but this time, it's CAVIAR.
  • [The Bobbettes' only Top-40 hit] was "MR. LEE."
  • [Big foot?] clues EEE, the extra-wide shoe size. I rather doubt anyone calls their wide feet EEEs.
  • [16th century Span. Carmelite reformer] was ST. TERESA.
  • [Former RR regulator] was the ICC.
  • [Rider of Dinny the dinosaur] is OOP. Uh, old comic strip reference? I forget. Oop was a caveman of some sort? This wasn't part of my childhood.
  • [Psalms interjection] is SELAH. It's a rather mysterious word, as you can read here.
  • [Eastern nurse] is an AMAH. This is an old-school crossword answer that used to show up quite often. It still pulls constructors out of tight corners, so make sure you remember the word if it's new to you.
Brendan Quigley kicks it themeless today for his BEQ blog puzzle, "In 70 Words or Less." I did this crossword in the standard order, starting in the 1-Across corner and working my way down and to the right. Hey-o! Look who's down there in the last Across answer: [Five-time American Crossword Puzzle Tournament winner] TYLER HINMAN. Normally I'd be rolling my eyes at fill like NAL, [Publishing house that's a div. of Penguin], but the L's a gimme if you know the name Tyler Hinman—and anyone who's been reading Brendan's blog probably does. Lots of other names in the grid, like EVA LONGORIA, KEN KESEY, the great EDDIE IZZARD, GEORGE IV, ISOCRATES, and MONTEZUMA—now, that's how you run the gamut in having names in crosswords, with Greek and English and Mexican history to offset pop culture and nerd culture. I didn't know that GRUMIO was ["The Taming of the Shrew" servant]—that's one of the Shakespeare comedies I never made it to. And EXMOOR, the [Stocky pony with a fawn-colored nose]? I don't know if that's a breed or a fictional name or what. And EIDOLON, a [Summoned apparition in "Final Fantasy IX"]—total mystery to me. I like the name ZATOPEK, as in [Emil ___, 1948 and '52 Czech track gold medalist], and want to see it paired with the Southern Mexican people, the Zapotec.

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy crossword, "Intermittent Showers," reminds me of the Ella Fitzgerald/Ink Spots song, "Into Each Life, Some Rain Must Fall." (Go have a listen if you're in the mood for some moody music.) Patrick drops a little RAIN into each theme entry:
  • The phrase "by degrees" becomes BRAINY DEGREES, or [Ph.D. and others?]. That's good.
  • [Reluctant lawyer's statement?] is I RESTRAIN MY CASE. That one's a little clunky, a little too implausible.
  • [Impostor in a sheikdom?] is a BAHRAIN HUMBUG. I wasn't hip to the deceit sense of "humbug," just familiar with the Scrooge line "Bah, humbug." (Scrooge was calling Christmas a fraud. Who knew? Not I.) I do get a kick out of geography-based punning action, so I loved BAHRAIN HUMBUG when it appeared in the puzzle.