March 29, 2009

Monday, 3/30

BEQ 5:12
LAT 3:02
CS 2:50
NYT 2:41

I can't tell you how disheartening it is to look outside at the end of March and see snow on the ground in Chicago. Oh, wait. The people up yonder in the northern Great Plains didn't have a month and a half of bare ground up 'til now, did they? They're still waiting for the snow to leave? I don't know how they live up there, I tell ya.

Andrea Carla Michaels' New York Times crossword

When I turn my attention to the New York Times' online crossword applet, I don't always check the byline right away. I want to read the title for a Sunday puzzle, and it helps to know whose themeless stylings I'm facing on Friday and Saturday. But on a Monday? I get right to the task of doing that puzzle. Part way through this one, I was convinced the puzzle must've been made by a woman so I looked at the byline and sure enough, it's Andrea's puzzle.

I'll get back to the woman's touch in this crossword in a moment. First, let's review the theme, in which multiples progress:

  • SINGLE OCCUPANCY is a [Small hotel room specification].
  • DOUBLE INDEMNITY is a [1944 thriller with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck].
  • TRIPLE LAYER CAKE is a [Baked dessert with lemon filling, maybe]. No! Not lemon! I'd like the cake's interstices to be filled with strawberries, raspberries, chocolate, or any combination thereof.
  • QUADRUPLE BYPASS is indeed [Serious heart surgery].
Sixty squares of thematic material? That's mighty fancy puzzlin' for a Monday.

Besides Barbara Stanwyck, who are this puzzle's other women? LEONA is the [Late hotel queen Helmsley]. There's EDIE [Falco of "The Sopranos"] and SELA, or [Actress Ward]. SPENCER is the late [Princess Diana's family name]. SHE is 52-Across, ["___ sells seashells by the seashore" (tongue twister)]. In Shakespeare, CELIA is [Oliver's love in "As You Like It"]. [Author Morrison] is the eminent TONI. [TV's warrior princess] was the ass-kicking XENA. Women have UTERI, or [Wombs] (unless they've had a hysterectomy). I, TINA is [Singer Turner's autobiography]. CLUE is a [Word in many a Nancy Drew title]. (The men chime in with OMAR, EMIL, ESAI, the ALS, AJAX, and KERN.) In comparison, last Monday's puzzle had about twice as many male answers as female answers. Equity is nice, isn't it?

Aside from the Noted Women's Club fill, my favorite answer was BIG BABY, or [Chronic whiner]. Definitely a harsh name to call someone. I'm also partial to the entries with the J's and X's—JAMB and JEST, AJAX and XENA, APEX and NINJA, EXES.
"I PLEDGE," clued as the [Start of a daily school recital], is really a 7-letter partial phrase, but is there any American who couldn't answer this?

There's a lot of Latin (e.g., more than one answer) for a Monday crossword. ANNI are [Years, in Latin]. [Ad ___ per aspera (Kansas' motto)] clues ASTRA. ET TU completes ["___, Brute?"]. If any of these are new to you, make a mental note of them—they are sure to return to the crossword another day.


Donna Levin's Los Angeles Times crossword

As with the NYT puzzle, the theme answers follow a four-step progression, this time with words indicating various levels of quality:
  • POOR RICHARD is [Franklin's almanac-writing alter ego].
  • FAIR-HAIRED BOY is a [Young, promising fellow]. This phrase isn't too familiar to me. My dictionary says it means "favorite, cherished." Sometimes a lad who shows little promise is cherished anyway, right?
  • GOOD SAMARITAN is a [Beneficent biblical traveler].
  • GREAT GATSBY is clued as the [F. Scott Fitzgerald title character, with "the"].
Now, one of the long Down answers is SUNDAY BEST ([Church garb]), which halfway fits in as a better-than-great capper to the theme. But BEST isn't the first word in that phrase, and its opposite partner is the obviously-not-part-of-the-theme INTEGRATES, or [Blends together into a whole]. So SUNDAY BEST is just sitting there as a terrific piece of non-theme fill.

The left side of the puzzle skews medical. An L.P.N. is a [Hosp. staffer], PREOP means [Before surg.], and M.D.'s are [Hosp. VIPs]. Another helping profession is BARKEEP, or [Cocktail maker].

For more on this puzzle, see L.A. Crossword Confidential. The post isn't up yet, but should be soon.

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy crossword, "Jam-Packed"

The theme entries here number three, and they all begin with words that mean "jam-packed":
  • SATURATED FAT is a [No-no for the health-conscious].
  • FULL METAL JACKET is a Stanley [Kubrick film of 1987].
  • CROWDED HOUSE are the ["Don't Dream It's Over" singers]. I completely missed their 1984-96 heyday, though I remember singer Neil Finn's previous band, Split Enz from the early '80s. They're a Kiwi/Aussie band.
The crossword isn't jam-packed with theme entries, which means there's space to jam-pack it with interesting long fill. EMILY BRONTE is here, opposite the four-word FIT FOR A KING. TEST SITES and a HONEYMOON are stacked alongside the top and bottom theme answers. There's a little APRES-SKI fun and some IDEALISM for good measure.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Shakespeare at the Bat"

If my reading comprehension skills are solid, then I think Brendan suggested that this puzzle is one of his older ones, but I hadn't seen it before. The theme is phrases from Shakespeare plays that can be applied to baseball, but the lines aren't ones I know. AND WHAT A PITCH is clued [William Shakespeare on the knuckleball ("Henry VI, Part II," II, i, 6)], for example. I care even less about baseball than Brendan does, and I like Shakespeare but random squibs of text I don't recognize don't do much for me. One could also quibble that PART II, which is part of that clue, is also in the fill crossing that answer. I don't like the WINDOW clue: [Internet Explorer or Microsoft Word, say]. Those aren't windows. They're applications that you'd have in a window. Would I have liked it better as [Safari or Mail, say]? I don't know.

Favorite bits: There's a WISH LIST, GAZPACHO clued with [It's a dish best served cold], and GLOM ONTO.