March 18, 2009

Thursday, 3/19

NYT 4:19
Tausig (not timed)
CS 3:27
LAT 3:13

Ooh, I really liked Laura Sternberg's New York Times crossword. The theme replaces a word in each long answer with a sound-alike 2-letter state postal abbreviation, and the state is evoked by the city mentioned in the clue:

  • [Eco-friendly in Las Vegas?] clues GREEN WITH NV, NV being the abbreviation for Nevada and a sound-alike for "envy."
  • [Omaha's waterfront during downpours?] is NE PORT IN A STORM ("any port in a storm"). Nebraska doesn't have any ports, does it? Actually, it does: the port of Omaha is on the Missouri River.
  • "Emmy Award winners" turns into ME AWARD WINNERS, or [First-place finishers in Bangor].
  • RUNNING ON MT is clued as [Jogging atop Great Falls?] and it plays on "running on empty." The ON part of the theme answer doesn't quite make sense; what might it mean to run "on Montana"?
Where I went awry in doing this puzzle was filling in *EE for [___-necked] at 27-Down and leaving that middle E in place when it meant that answer would be EEE. Whoops—it's EWE-necked, and no, I never would have had a clue what that meant if not for that semi-recent crossword that introduced EWENECK to us non-horsy types. The errant E had me mired in [Tax-free transaction, usually], or SWAP. That A came from PAL, with the tough clue [Shadow, so to speak]. [Preceder of a case name] clues the phrase IN RE. NAGGER, as in "one who nags," is clued as an [Unpleasant reminder?], but in general one who nags is called a nag and not a nagger, no?

Favorite clues/answers:
  • [Two drinks, for some] is the LIMIT. Yeah, that's a good idea for me.
  • WHITE LIE is clued ["Oh yes, I love that dress," maybe].
  • The Texas A&M AGGIES are the [Team in College Station, Tex.]. My friend Leila went there.
  • [Banks in Chicago] has nothing to do with the Financial District on LaSalle Street—it's ERNIE, Mr. Cub himself.
  • [Like fireworks, infrequently] is a flat-out bizarre clue for INDOOR. I like it.
  • "NO ROOM" may sound to you like a horrible, not-ready-for-prime-time hardly-in-the-language phrase. To me, that equivalent of ["We can't squeeze any more in"] takes me back to my commuting days. One morning, there was an unhinged guy on my bus who screamed that at the people hoping to board a crowded bus. Does it seem like a decent entry to you or an invalid one?
  • WISTERIA is clued as a [Woody vine with violet blossoms] and not, thankfully, with reference to the lane that's home to Teri Hatcher's current TV character. The rhyme with hysteria is good, too. Have these words been paired in a limerick?
  • [Charles of "Death Wish"] is Mr. BRONSON. Cheesy '70s vigilante movie series + The Mustache = winner of a crossword answer.
  • [Ottoman sultan known as "the Magnificent"] is SULEIMAN. I like this one because my son has a classmate by that name. I like to think the buck-toothed third-grader is the heir to a sultan's throne.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword for this week is called "Springing Ahead." When I test-solved this one, it was a day before daylight saving time kicked in, and the theme seemed all backwards to me. Then after moving my clocks ahead an hour, everything made sense. The theme touches on TIME ZONES, which are [Things standardized by Congress on March 19, 1918]—happy 91st birthday, time zones! Where the TIME ZONEs hit the arbitrary division between days of the week is called the DATE LINE, which for the terms of this puzzle is the [International boundary which, when crossed from east to west, causes a traveler to 49-Across (and a hint to this puzzle)]. 49-Across is LOSE A DAY. The other three theme answers involve our hypothetical traveler LOSing A DAY thusly:
  • If the traveler began her trip on Blue Monday and she crosses the DATE LINE from east to west, she loses a day. The theme answer turns into 31-Across BLUE TUESDAY, with the electoral clue [Democratic sweep?]. The calendar setting gains a day, but the traveler loses Monday in the process of being inceremoniously deposited into Tuesday.
  • At 43-Across, Ash Wednesday becomes ASH THURSDAY, a [Late-week occasion for quitting smoking?].
  • 64-Across's clue is [Policy about starting the work week right?]. The answer is MONDAY LAW, based on Sunday law, another term for blue laws. (Which bite. In Illinois, you can't shop for a car on Sunday. In Chicago, you can't buy liquor at the grocery store before 11 a.m. on Sundays.)
Lots of clues from music in this puzzle:
  • [Matthew Barney's partner] is BJORK. I don't know who he is other than that apparently he has some sort of partnership with Björk. A long-term relationship with a child, Wikipedia informs me.
  • EMO is the [Genre whose band name generator offers results like "Some Kind of Bleeding Feeling"].
  • [Jonathan Davis' group] is KORN.
  • [The Specials' milieu] is SKA music.
  • F MAJOR is the [Key of Shostakovich's Concerto No. 2].
  • The band TESLA is the [Monster balladeers with "Signs"].
  • ETTA [James with a famously deep voice] picked a fight with Beyoncé over the latter's inaugural ball performance.
  • The ["Centerfold" band who are, amazingly, still around] is the J. GEILS Band.
Other clues, in the They Come in Pairs category:
  • Two colloquial abbreviations are SOL and MIA, clued as [Having no more options, for short] ("shit out of luck") and [Not participating, slangily] ("missing in action"), respectively.
  • OS X is [What Macs ship with] and VIMEO is a [YouTube alternative]. Other tech terms in the puzzle: URL and UNIX.
  • [American theater for six years as of March 20, 2009] is IRAQ. Hey, happy 6th birthday, Iraq War! Related answer: SADR, clued as [Baghdad slum area ___ City]. 

It took some thinking and some looking to find the theme in Ernie Lampert's LA Times crossword. HIT THE HAY appears in the middle at 35-Across, clued as [Turn in, perhaps using items hidden in 17-, 24-, 48- and 57-Across]. Those items for hitting the hay are shown in bold within the following phrases:
  • [Pay for a year's delivery of, say] clues SUBSCRIBE TO. 
  • [Ubiquitous 3M product] isn't Post-it notes, it's SCOTCH TAPE.
  • [Museum holdings] may include WORKS OF ART.
  • ["Rio Rita" costar, 1929] is BEBE DANIELS. Hah! Her name was utterly unfamiliar to me a couple weeks ago when she was the DANIELS in the 3/7 NYT crossword. And here she is again, more famous than she's been in decades. You'd be surprised how often you get quick crossword payoff for learning something that seems ridiculously obscure the first time you see it in a puzzle.
Ideally, a hidden-word theme will be consistent in where the words are hidden—within a single word (e.g., SCOTCH), across two words (BEBE DANIELS), or across three words (WORKS OF ART). It can be mildly jarring to have an assortment of multiple routes.

Here's an olio of clues and answers, which bundle themselves into various categories:
  • Science! FERRIC is [Iron-clad?]. To OSMOSE is to [Undergo diffusion]. [Out of this world?] clues IN ORBIT—hey, did you watch the shuttle launch on Sunday? It was awe-inspiring.
  • Business abbreviations! IPOS, or initial public offerings, are [NYSE newsmakers]. An LBO, or leveraged buyout, is a [Heavily financed corp. takeover].
  • Political leaders! Corazon AQUINO was Ferdinand [Marcos's successor] as president of the Philippines. [Mussolini's movement] was FASCISM. CHE is the ["Evita" narrator]. NANCE completes ['30s V.P. John ___ Garner].
  • Literature! There's HARLOT'S ["___ Ghost": 1991 Mailer novel]; NED, or [Novelist Buntline]; and H.G. WELLS, the ["Men Like Gods" author]. ERLE (Erle Stanley Gardner) is clued as [First name in mystery]. There's also [Biographer Leon] EDEL.
  • Pop culture names! I didn't know TYS, clued as [Country singers Herndon and England]. [Ethan of "Training Day"] clues HAWKE. His fellow thespian is ESTELLE [Getty of "The Golden Girls"]. ADELE Astaire was [Fred's dancing sister].
  • European place names! [Caen's river] is the ORNE. GHENT was the [1814 treaty site], and it's in BEL., or Belgium ([Antwerp's country: Abbr.]. TOLEDO is a [City in Spain] as well as Ohio.
Favorite clue: SOCCER is a [Goal-oriented activity?].

Randy Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle is called "Hamburger Helpers," and the phrases all contain hamburger toppings in other contexts:
  • IN A PICKLE means [Up the creek].
  • STEAL THE BACON is a [Game involving grabbing and tagging], and I've never heard of it.
  • [Has expertise] clues KNOWS ONE'S ONIONS. This is an established phrase? I wasn't familiar with it, but enjoyed reading this discussion of its origins.
  • To CUT THE MUSTARD is to [Do an able job].
  • [Photographer's request] is SAY CHEESE. You'll note that these last two phrases should not be mixed up, as "cut the cheese" fails the breakfast test and saying "mustard" would not make people appear to be smiling in photos.
I had a turkey burger the other day, and my burger wants to know where the lettuce, tomato, and ketchup phrases are.

Assorted clues:
  • If you are [First to break the tape], you are the SPEEDIEST.
  • [High-ranking NCO] is a SGT MAJ.
  • [Like marbled meat] clues VEINY. I thought marbled meat was mainly fatty and meaty, but then, beef is not my thing so what do I know?
  • [West Indian witchcraft] is OBEAH.
  • [Gen. Pershing or Mr. Astor] is a JOHN J.
  • Something that has been VOIDED is [No longer legally binding]. Sometimes your bladder is no longer legally binding.
  • Nikola TESLA was the Tesla [Coil creator from Croatia]. Alliteration!
  • [Tiki Barber's twin] is RONDE. Ronde plays football, while Tiki has moved on to a broadcasting career (interestingly, not just for TV sports).
  • [One who should beware] is the BUYER, as in caveat emptor.