March 13, 2009

Saturday, 3/14

NYT 9:08
Newsday 8:28
LAT 4:12
CS 2:33

Hoo-boy! The family went out for dinner tonight at Chili Mac's 5-Way Chili and your faithful correspondent ordered the blue margarita. (What flavor is that? The consensus seems to be "blue.") The default size was 16 ounces. It's three hours later now, but I'm still feeling blue. It's astonishing that I made it through Barry Silk's New York Times crossword without any typos, I tell you. And my goodness, did this puzzle have a lot of things I just plain didn't know. Here are my "Huh?" answers:

  • JFK PLAZA is a [Park near Philly's City Hall, site of the LOVE statue]. I have a vague recollection that Mr. Silk is from Philadelphia and had some sort of cheesesteak/Philly answer in a previous puzzle. I've never been there...
  • The NIAGARA is a [River surrounding Navy Island]. I know about Niagara Falls, but don't really think about there being a river of that name, and I don't know Navy Island.
  • I've heard of Hermann HESSE, but ["Das Glasperlenspiel" novelist] rang no bells at all.
  • "COOL JERK" is a [1966 hit for the Capitols]. Before my time; never heard of it.
  • [It was captured by British forces in 1917] clues JERUSALEM. I know the U.K. was bossing around the general Israel/Palestine area around 1940, but didn't know they were in the region in 1917.
  • I've seen the name KIT CARSON but didn't know that it was the [Eponym of a national forest in New Mexico].
  • [With 59-Down, Rudolph Valentino's "Blood and Sand" co-star] is LILA / LEE. I tried flipping the answers and making MAE / WEST work, but alas, it did not.
  • [Dartmoor setting] is DEVON. I've heard of DEVON, but Dartmoor is not prominent in my memory.
  • [Enclosed in a case, as seeds] clues CAPSULATE. Not remotely a gimme, but given enough letters (say...7 of 9), the rest of the word is gettable.
  • I have heard tell of [Toning skin lotion], but can't say that FRESHENER is a word I've ever encountered.
Even without a margarita, I daresay these would have challenged me. Without further ado, here are the answers and clues I liked the best:
  • The one-letter-off pair of I'M GONE (["Ciao!"]) and I'M DONE ([Confirmation to a busboy]).
  • [John Wayne's L.A. alma mater] is USC. Hey! I knew this! I'm proofing Brendan Quigley's book of crosswords for USC football fans, and I just learned this factoid.
  • [Sierra Club founder] is John MUIR. I've been to Muir Woods in California, which was so moist that moss was growing on all sides of the trees and not just on the north side—though I'd been taught that you could always find your way out of the woods with the help of knowing that moss grows on the north side.
  • DEVILS is clued as a verb, [Prepares with hot seasoning]. I have never eated a deviled egg.
  • EROTICA! It's [Bedtime stories?], heh heh.
  • [Some pens] are SWANS. Pens are female swans, and cobs are males.
  • I don't quite get why the AXILLA, or armpit, is clued as a [Secret area of anatomy?]. Oh! Wait! I get it. Secret brand antiperspirant.
  • ZONKED is a great word. It means [Totally beat].
  • I was thinking [Reúnion attendees] were going to be French relatives, but they turned out to be Spanish ones—TIOS, or uncles at la familia's reunion.
  • The X-GAMES is clued with [Skateboarders compete in them].
  • [One of Tennessee's state symbols] is its state flower, the IRIS. Do you know your state flowers? There's a quiz for that. Illinois's is the violet.
  • [Passé video store offering] is the LASER DISK. My parents bought the less advanced video-disk player. That was around 1987—remember that technology? No?
  • [It may follow convention] clues the word GOER, as in convention-goer. I like the goof on "following convention."
  • [Dixieland group?] isn't a band playing the washboard—it's the useful pronoun Y'ALL.

Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy crossword, "Shapely Figures," has a well-rounded theme:
  • [Ovoid object used in the national sport of Wales] is a RUGBY BALL.
  • [Ovoid tropical delicacy] is a PASSIONFRUIT.
  • [Ovoid nursery rhyme character] is HUMPTY DUMPTY.
  • [Ovoid sugarcoated candy] is a JELLY BEAN. Remember those gross Bertie Bott's All-Flavor jelly beans from Jelly Belly/Harry Potter? There's a new BeanBoozled flavor assortment out in which each bean color may be one of two flavors. White with yellow flecks—could be buttered popcorn, could be rotten egg. Orange with red flecks—could be peach, could be vomit. I am not enough of a risk taker to try this candy.
Good assortment of ovoid entities, no? Overall this puzzle's pretty easy. In the southwest corner, [Roger ___, founder of The Who] DALTREY crosses both GET FRESH ([Make an unwanted pass]) and DAY JOB (["The old grind" for many]). Nice!

When I see Sandy Fein's byline on the Newsday "Saturday Stumper" (solution here), I can't help but think of SpongeBob's squirrel friend, Sandy. The northwest quadrant of this puzzle took me the longest. Selected answers and clues from that corner:
  • [Wrap-ups of a sort] are EPILOGS. Not SARONGS, no, ma'am.
  • [Tar term] is the sailor's word APORT. Other nautically minded answers in this grid: 32D ASTROLABE is a [Navigation tool], and the SEXTANT is a [32 Down successor].
  • [They may make rash decisions] loosely clues ALLERGISTS.
  • [Sports scoop] is a jai alai CESTA.
  • [Chained] is IN IRONS.
  • [Completely] clues CAP-A-PIE, from the French for "head to foot."
  • [Near-hip] doesn't mean "almost cool." It clues SCIATIC, as in the sciatic nerve.
Off to the right, ARAPAHO and APACHE cross each other. Their clues are [Cheyenne allies] and the rather-unhelpful [Arizona county], respectively. NAT is a ["Mona Lisa" name], I don't know why. Was there a Nat "King" Cole song by that name? Good to see Don CHEADLE, ["Hotel Rwanda" name], in the grid; his most recent movie is the kid-friendly Hotel for Dogs, which I like to pretend is a sequel to Hotel Rwanda.

Moving down to the southeast quadrant, SEA KALE, a [European coastal plant], seems lifeless, but SEEDERSS, or [Furrow fillers] is more so, and so is BATTLER ([He won't quit]). SHELLACKED is nice; [Routed] can mean trounced, walloped. In the southwest corner, TENTAGE, or [Camp gear], battles STANDEE, [One up], for the Dull Noun championship. QUINTET gets a classical music clue that did me no favors: [Schubert's Trout ___]; Wikipedia explains the name.

Today's LA Times crossword is by Michael Wiesenberg. My favorite crossing here is where BOLSHEVIKS ([Lenin et al.]) crash into a KNICK-KNACK, or [Trinket]. Other clues and answers:
  • [Legendary track star], 10 letters? Easy: JESSE OWENS, right? Er, no. It's SEABISCUIT, the racehorse. 4-Down, [Track contests], crosses SEABISCUIT, and the answer is DERBIES. Once again, I had track and field on my mind and not horse racing.
  • OVATE is [Like most tupelo leaves]. Photo here.
  • From Wells' The Time Machine, we get the ELOI, [Weena's race, in an 1895 novel].
  • GENE SET is [DNA research subject].
  • [A cell phone user isn't one] clues DIALER, but you know what? I still call it dialing a number. Does anyone call it something else?
  • [TVA sponsor George] NORRIS? Apparently he was a Nebraska senator who supported the New Deal, and Tennessee's TVA Norris Dam was named after him. Chuck Norris is more famous these days, but then, he's an ass and nobody's ever going to name a durable public works structure after him.
  • FEEL AT EASE feels a little ill at ease in the grid. [Conquer one's nerves] is the clue.
  • [Strip of equipment] is a verb phrase here, for UNRIG.
  • LIVENER is an awkward word. (Awkword?) It's clued with [TV show warmup, for instance].
  • KABUL, Afghanistan, is a [Mile-high Asian capital]. Don't confuse this with Lhasa, another 5-letter Asian capital (of Tibet). Lhasa is at 12,000 feet.
  • [Repo men] clues SEIZERS. And if they're compact individuals, we could call them Little Seizers and send them out for pizza.
  • [Adjusts, as a bathroom fixture] clues RESEATS. I believe reseating a toilet involves getting the whole shebang properly situated in its floor setting and not replacing the seat.