March 23, 2009

Tuesday, 3/24

Onion 4:35
Jonesin' 4:33
LAT 2:58
NYT 2:55
CS 2:35

Pancho! Pancho Harrison popped up with the LAT byline yesterday, and here he is again with the New York Times crossword. The theme is slang terms for the POLICE (62D)—and no, there are no pigs in the theme. Too derogatory. The theme entries are as follows:

  • PEACH FUZZ is an [Adolescent boy's growth]. Cops are known as "the fuzz." Curious about the phrase's origin? Me too. Read more here.
  • COPS A PLEA means [Bargains for leniency]. Derived from "copper."
  • [Musial's nickname] was STAN THE MAN. Are you running from the man? Give yourself up.
  • [Dehydration may help bring this on] clues HEAT STROKE. How come the Miami cop show was called Miami Vice while the NBA team is the Miami Heat?
My personal favorite term for the POLICE is po-po, which is documented in Grant Barrett's Double-Tongued Dictionary. There's no POPO in this grid, alas, but we do get PUPAE ([Cocoon occupants]), which is close enough.

The two words in the "least likely to appear in a Tuesday NYT puzzle" category are NARD and ALGID. Wouldn't they make a great superhero duo? Nard Woman and Algid Boy, to the rescue! NARD is an aromatic ointment from antiquity and also a plant that's a [Source of a fragrant oil]. ALGID means [Chilly] or cold, and it's from the Latin. I say we all start using "algid" to mean "cool"—who's with me?

Among the more algid answers are these: EL NINO is a [Cause of weird weather]. [Dukakis in 1988 and Dole in 1996] were ALSO-RANS. It's not Tuesday-easy to parse the answer to [It's observed on Oct. 24], as UNDAY looks meaningless but U.N. DAY makes sense. U.S. STEEL takes a similar form; it's a [J.P. Morgan co.]. A [Wink in tiddlywinks, e.g.] is a plastic DISC. A [Goofball] is a DOOFUS; that OOF part makes the words work, doesn't it? I like crossword answers from German 101; GUTE ["___ Nacht" (German words of parting)] qualifies, as "good night" is the sort of phrase you pick up in the first month. The KANGAROO is [Emblem on the Australian coat of arms].


Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Green Space," uses the term TRAILER PARKS to describe the other three theme answers, each of which has a park name as its "trailer," or last word:
  • [Big Apple station] is GRAND CENTRAL. The most famous Central Park is the one in Manhattan.
  • [Henry Jekyll's alter ego] is EDWARD HYDE. London's Hyde Park is a lovely place to while away an afternoon. Chicago's Hyde Park is a neighborhood and not a park.
  • [Small source of energy] is an AAA BATTERY. I've never been to Battery Park, which occupies Manhattan's southern tip—but I've been to the other Parks in this puzzle. So while it's a fairly pedestrian theme type, its execution evokes happy travel memories for me.
I like the theme in Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle, but oy! That fill. The coolness of GEDDY LEE ([Rush's lead singer]), JORDACHE jeans ([Label on many asses in 1980s fashion]), and ICE CREAM ([It can give some people a headache]) is offset by the spelling variations and 3-letter trivia tests. One theme answer, [Pets that are low to the ground], has a variant spelling: WEINER DOG. (I prefer "wiener dog," paying tribute to the word's Germanic roots.) ["The Prophet" author Gibran: var.] clues KHALIL—Gibran became famous with a "Kahlil" spelling but apparently he had changed it from the original KHALIL. The mystery 3's included these:
  • AUN is clued as [Samael ___ Weor, founder of the International Gnostic Movement].
  • RIE gets the clue [___ fu (pop artist on the Sony Japan label)].
  • DR. K is [Dwight Gooden's "medical" nickname]. His other "medical" nickname is Doc, which also has 3 letters.
The latter two cross MEKONS, which is clued as [Early punk rock band with the song "Never Been in a Riot," with "the"]. If you didn't know the MEKONS, guessing that E could be tough.

The theme's solid (WEINER aside), though. It's "Revenge!" of the NERDs, with 67A's NERD clued as a [Square hidden in each of the five long across answers]. "Hidden square" evokes something other than "hidden word," doesn't it? Delicious mislead. The hidden NERDs are in a DINNER DATE, the irritating-to-watch-unless-you-like-the-sort-of-animation-in-Schwab-ads A SCANNER DARKLY, DESIGNER DRUGS, ABNER DOUBLEDAY, and the aforementioned WEINER DOGS. It's a great assortment of answers (WEINER spelling aside), and I give Matt bonus points for splitting all the NERDs across two words (no BraiNERD, Minn. here).

I had to save Dan Naddor's LA Times puzzle until later because I kept wanting to check in on PuzzleGirl's post at L.A. Crossword Confidential—so twice I clicked over and saw the byline and the word "state" in her write-up before averting my eyes. Maybe I finished a few seconds faster than I would if I didn't have a vague "state" sense percolating up to the surface. Anyway, the theme: Geography! Four city/state combos are flip-flopped so that the state is the location of the noun that the city's name doubles as. Here's the quintet:
  • [Centennial State rock?] would be a COLORADO BOULDER.
  • [Wolverine State fire starter?] is a MICHIGAN FLINT.
  • [Peach State wide open spaces?] are GEORGIA PLAINS. Plains, Georgia, isn't too famous aside from being the hometown of President Jimmy Carter.
  • A [Cotton State sculpture?] that moves would be an ALABAMA MOBILE.
  • [Cornhusker State Town Car?] would be a NEBRASKA LINCOLN.
The NEBRASKA LINCOLN seems a little bit off, as nobody would describe a car by the state it was in. But the other theme answers could plausibly be state rocks (Michigan prefers the Petoskey stone), places on the map, scenic attractions. The grid has a definite ugliness to it, with those big chunks of black squares setting off the middle theme entries, but once you get started you stop noticing the black squares and zoom in on the white squares. The toughest clue is the verb phrase [Copy cats?], cluing MEWS. Favorite fill:
  • WALLENDA is [One in a "Flying" circus act].
  • UNANIMOUS is [Like a 12-0 verdict] from a jury.
  • OSSO BUCO usually appears in puzzles as ___ buco, doesn't it? The full term for an [Italian veal dish] is served today.
  • EGAD and LORDY cross one another in Quaint Slang Corner. The first is clued as a [Quaint "Holy moly!"] and the second as ["Mercy me!"].
This week's Onion A.V. Club crossword is from Byron Walden. The theme in this 15x16 puzzle is given in 22D: BROS BEFORE HOS. Each of the other theme entries has a BRO__ word before a HO__ word. That's fine and dandy, but I am so over the "bros before hos" phrase. Yay, men banding together and demeaning women in the process. Deplorable! The phrases that start with those fragments are these:
  • [Hulk's daughter, and FHM's first cover model younger than 21] is BROOKE HOGAN. Never heard of her. And yay for FHM for objectifying those who are not yet old enough to buy a beer. Class act, that magazine.
  • [Lifted the downtrodden] clues BROUGHT HOPE. A little arbitrarily phrased as crossword entries go.
  • The Down theme answers appear in stacked pairs, which is fancy constructin'. The first one BROAD HORIZONS, or [Vistas of ample opportunity]. That also feels a little arbitrary to me.
  • I had no idea that [Fat Albert's favorite superhero] was called the BROWN HORNET. That's awesome.
  • BROKEN HOMES is completely "in the language," and the clue presents some trivia: [Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama came from them].
Tough stuff: STEARNES, or [Negro League great Turkey ___, 2000 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee], was new to me. I haven't seen the movie, so I didn't know COORS was the [Product boycotted in "Milk"]. ([Detroit beer baron Bernhard] STROH's beer was not boycotted, apparently.) An [Ankaran of color] might be an AFRO-TURK. Cool word, but not one I'd ever encountered. [Some college lecturers] clues NON-PH.D.'S, which I needed nearly all the crossings to see. [Identify, as a botanical sample] is KEY OUT—not a phrase I knew. 58D, the ['80s band named for a Star Trek character] is cross-referenced with an answer that crosses it, ["Heart and ___" (1987 hit for 58-Down)]. It is not TPAI who recorded "Heart and SOIL," no—it's T'PAU and SOUL.