March 15, 2009

Monday, 3/16

BEQ 3:39
CS 3:32
NYT 3:00 (there was a 20- or 30-second search for a typo)
LAT 2:30

Lynn Lempel has been one of my favorite Monday constructors since she arrived on the puzzle scene a few years ago. Her New York Times crossword pokes at the usual guidelines which say that Across answers that aren't part of theme should be shorter than the theme entries. Here, there are eight theme answers that are 6, 7, and 8 letters long that end with a long-I sound spelled eight (!) different ways, set apart from the other fill by starred clues:

  • The [Fraternity with a sweetheart of a song] is SIGMA CHI. The fraternity song is called "The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi."
  • A [Drink that often comes with an umbrella] is the MAI TAI.
  • [Like some socks] clues KNEE-HIGH.
  • A [Smart aleck] is a WISE GUY.
  • [Salon supply in a bottle] is HAIR DYE.
  • CLEAR SKY is a [Good picnic forecast].
  • MUD PIE is a [Chocolaty ice cream dessert].
  • Last but not least is the rarest of long-I spellings, seen in the [Second-generation senator from Indiana], EVAN BAYH.
There's also the German ei spelling, but the dreadful 15-letter Arbeit macht frei would not be welcome in a crossword. Other German words ending -ei (like Bäckerei, or "bakery") aren't familiar enough for an American crossword. Are there other long-I spellings left out?

The longest Down answers are longer than any of the theme entries, which is fine, as they're not starred, they're not Across, and there is a Notepad message about the theme. Oh, hey, applet users, did you see the new(ish) Notepad button above the grid? This is a welcome enhancement to the applet experience. If you click it, a box pops up saying "The answers to the eight starred clues all have something in common, each in a different way." The grid disappears when the Notepad is visible, but when you click "back," the puzzle is there in all its splendor.

Speaking of things in all their splendor, NUDE is clued as [Ready for skinny-dipping]. And those long Down answers I mentioned are ORGAN MUSIC, clued as [Hymn accompaniment], and a MODEL PLANE, or [Small replica of the Spirit of St. Louis, e.g.]. Ordinarily I'm no fan of "wife of famous guy" clues, but today's pair of actresses had been married to the same guy: AVA [___ Gardner, Mrs. Sinatra #2] and MIA [___ Farrow, Mrs. Sinatra #3]. Did you know that O GAUGE is a [Track choice for Lionel trains]? I filled in the GAUGE parts and leaned on the crossing JOINTS ([Wrist, elbow and ankle]) for the O. Of course, having FITS instead of the correct NETS for [Meshes] slowed down the appearance of JOINTS. IMS gets clued as [AOL chitchat]—I wonder what percentage of IMing is carried out via AOL/AIM, which seems to be alluded to in half of the IMS clues I see. A lot, but not most, this chart suggests.

My favorite answer in this puzzle, given the loudness of my kid this afternoon, is SHUSH, or ["Be quiet!"]. See also YAP AT, or [Talk to persistently and with a big mouth]. This is my PLAINT, or [Lament].


Jerome Gunderson's LA Times puzzle was so easy, I plowed through the Down clues and glanced only cursorily at the Acrosses along the way. I did read one of the three theme clues:
  • [Bad-mouth an Aretha Franklin classic?] clues DIS "RESPECT." Hey, it's also a word so I never checked the clue.
  • [Rap a Rolling Stones classic?] is DIS "SATISFACTION." Again, I didn't see the clue 'til after I was done. Not a fan of using rap=knock in a rock-related clue, given the existence of rap-rock crossover artists.
  • [Pan a Billy Joel classic?] clues DIS "HONESTY." This is the one I read. Cute theme, isn't it? I wonder if there are other one-word song titles that could feed into this theme and produce dis- words as solid as this trio. "Maggie Dismay" doesn't quite work.
The rock 'n' roll vibe carries through to The King, ELVIS / PRESLEY. Assorted non-theme clues:
  • [Gristmill fodder] is GRAIN.
  • [Snippety] means PERT. (Not the shampoo brand.)
  • [Miss Piggy's poodle] was named FOOFOO. Really? Had no idea.
  • [Thrill-seeker's cord] is a BUNGEE cord.
  • ETHYL is an [Antiknock agent].
  • [Communications code word for A] is ALFA.
  • [Use LSD, slangily] is TRIP OUT.
  • ["Cotton Candy" trumpeter] is Al HIRT.
  • [Vowel sound represented by an upside-down "e"] is the SCHWA. Like the U in "circus."
Now, which of the three songs in this puzzle is still going through your head? I have an "Honesty" earworm this morning.

Updated again Monday afternoon:

Sorry about that delay—I went out to IHOP for breakfast, then to the hair salon and the grocery store, and the next thing you know, school's letting out and it's a lovely day so we stayed at the playground for over an hour. During my outings, I had the opportunity to see Broadway's potholes (this being Chicago's Broadway St., not NYC's) up close. You know what's in the bottom of these potholes? Cobblestones and decades-old streetcar tracks (the Broadway streetcar ceased service in 1957). I had no idea the history was buried so shallow.

The theme in Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy puzzle, "The End Is Near," wasn't all that easy to tease out. The end of each theme answer is a synonym, sort of, of "near":
  • GLENN CLOSE [was Cruella de Vil in "101 Dalmatians" and "102 Dalmatians"]. Glenn Close saw Wordplay at Sundance and chatted with the crossword posse in '06. She's surprisingly short.
  • AS TIME GOES BY is the [Song Sam played in response to "Play it, Sam"] in Casablanca.
  • The GIRL NEXT DOOR is a [Stereotypical sweetheart].
  • I GET AROUND is the [Beach Boys boast of 1964].
Lots of goodies here, but I'm short on time so I'll just mention three favorite clues/answers:
  • DON'T ASK might be your ["Rough day?" response]. Perfectly colloquial.
  • SIN TAX is a [Liquor levy]. I'm fine with sin taxes, but blue laws are just wrong.
  • ["Got milk?"] is an ad slogan. If you're a cat, your equivalent of this line is MEOW.

Today's Brendan Quigley crossword, "Stimulus Package," features a theme with five illicit stimulants. I think. I'm not sure.
  • To [Act like a slavedriver] is to CRACK THE WHIP. Crack cocaine.
  • "ROCK OF AGES" is the [Def Leppard song that begins with the gibberish "Gunter, glieben glauten, globen"]. There's also rock cocaine. But more important, this is the most enjoyable clue in ages. Zero trickery to it, just straight-up facts, but hilarious all the same. I love the '80s.
  • E PLURIBUS UNUM is a [Phrase on the back of a buck]. E is also called ecstasy.
  • SPEED CHESS is a [Place to pick up a check, fast]. Speed = amphetamines.
  • [N.W.A. pioneered it] clues WEST COAST RAP. West cardinal direction, a name for the New World, Mae and Dominic and Jerry's last name. Let's see what has. Hmm, how about West Coast? On page two of the definitions, I see that West Coast can also refer to Ritalin. Hey, that's a stimulant! There's my answer. is five parts horrible (with crap lexicography submitted by mouth-breathing adolescent boys) and one part a useful slang reference work.
Brendan's got four nice corners of fill in his puzzle, with 10-letter Down words each intersecting four theme entries. There probably aren't many alternatives for F*R*S*O***, so it's good that the southwest corner cooperated with FIRESTORMS. What did I like the most in this puzzle? This stuff:
  • [Bullshit?] clues MANURE. Why, the clue would work fine without the question mark, too.
  • [Many an office has one], 4 letters. Hmm...BOSS? Copier and break room are too long. The answer turns out to be OATH, what many an elected office has. Good mislead.
  • The LION'S DEN is a [Scary place to be thrown into].
  • LIL' KIM is [Notorious B.I.G.'s paramour].
  • COACH K, or Mike Krzyzewski (did I spell that right? I'm going from memory here), makes for a super-fresh crossword answer. That's a [Duke basketball nickname].
  • MOWGLI is ["The Jungle Book" hero].
  • HOPS UP is a perfect fit for a crossword with this theme. [Excites] is the clue.