March 30, 2009

Tuesday, 3/31

Jonesin' 4:28
CS 3:16
NYT 2:43
LAT 2:41

Allan Parrish's New York Times crossword

Parrish's puzzle features an anagram theme—the four theme answers begin or end with anagrams of BAER. Hey, if this crossword had a title, it could be "Baer on the Ropes." The theme entries are:

  • BROCCOLI RABE is a [Bitter-tasting vegetable]. Do not want!
  • RUNNING BEAR is a ["Young Indian brave" in a 1960 Johnny Preston #1 hit]. None of this rings a bell for me. Apparently it's a love song in which the couple drowns. My breakfast-test radar is pinging.
  • The BARE MINIMUM is the [Least acceptable amount].
  • REBA McENTIRE was a [Country singer with a hit sitcom]. She still is, but the show ended two years ago. When will I remember that the word entire is the end of her name? I blithely filled in REBAMCINTYRE first.
There's a ton of good fill here. DId you notice that? The SOLE of your shoe leaves the next answer, a SCUFF. SASHAYS, or [Steps nonchalantly], bounces off IMPETUS ([Driving force]) and BOREDOM ([Yawn inducer]). Nobody wants to eat the DREGS ([Bottom-of-the-barrel stuff]) of the RIGATONI ([Tubular pasta]). Yes, indeed, I have a PENCHANT ([Strong liking]) for these answers.

If you're newer to crosswords, here are some answers that you'll see again and again:
  • EIRE is the Irish name for Ireland. It's [Where Donegal Bay is].
  • [Abbr. in a help wanted ad] clues EOE this time. It's equally likely to be EEO—you can't fill in the whole thing without using the crossing answers.
  • The RUHR is [Essen's region] in Germany. If the clue is for a Ruhr city, consider ESSEN.
  • [Village Voice award] is the OBIE, for off-Broadway productions. It's the off-Broadway version of the Tony awards.
  • [Vessel by a basin] is a EWER, an old-fashioned water pitcher.
  • APIA is a [Samoan port]. This one used to be much more common in crosswords than it is now—but it will eventually resurface again.
  • [Peace Nobelist Root] is ELIHU Root. The other famous Elihu in crosswords is Elihu Yale, the namesake of Yale University.
  • OBOES are [Slender woodwinds]. With those three vowels, the OBOE is probably the most common musical instrument in the crossword.
Take a minute to commit these to memory, and I promise you, it'll pay dividends. Not cash dividends, mind you, but crossword-answering dividends.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Go Digital: Turning over a new page in technology"

Isn't a Thursdayish gimmick puzzle a welcome sight this early in the week? Matt's puzzle ends the clues for the theme entries with the phrase "after the digital conversion?" and that "turning over" in the title's blurb is key to interpreting that. You take the number in the answer and turn the digits upside down—and then spell out the number in the grid. The longest answer, 17- and 52-Across, is SIXTY-SIX BOTTLES / OF BEER ON THE WALL (that [song for long road trips, after the digital conversion?]); 66 is 99 upside down. Here are the other theme entries:
  • [Get rid of, after the digital conversion?] is DEEP-NINE (deep-six).
  • [Nick Lachey's former boy band, after the digital conversion?] is EIGHTY-SIX DEGREES. 86 is 98 upside down, and Lachey was in 98 Degrees.
  • [Do a basic surfing move, after the digital conversion?] converts "hang ten" into HANG OH-ONE (10 to 01).
  • [Cat food brand, after the digital conversion?] is SIX LIVES, upending Nine Lives.
  • after the digital conversion?] 
Matt packs 71 theme squares into this puzzle, which is an awful lot. That's facilitated by the inclusion of fill that works for the alt-weekly audience but would cause grumbling in an older newspaper crowd. WASD is clued [Letter presets used in place of arrows in keyboard-based computer games]; the W, A, S, and D keys can be accessed easily by the left hand and are in the same basic layout as my keyboard's four arrow keys. (I pieced the answer together with the crossings and didn't understand it until I looked at my keyboard.) ROLLA is clued as [Rockn ___ (2008 U.K. movie)]; it's also a college town in Missouri. Jack Black's [Tenacious D bandmate Kyle] GASS and [Grateful Dead bass guitarist Phil] LESH have 4-letter last names that are tough to clue any other way. Reality TV accounts for MIRNA, [Charla's taller racing partner, on "The Amazing Race: All-Stars"]; Charla's a little person and Mirna is her cousin. AIBOS are those [Sony robotic pets], robo-dogs. GOT BUSY means [Started in on lovemaking]. And ASSY is ["___ McGee" (2006 animated series about a detective with no head, torso or arms]. These not-ready-for-NYT answers are joined by more standard crosswordese like OONA, ERLE, ILIE, ALAI, and ETO. There's also a rather (to me) obscure answer, IBLIS—[Satan's equivalent, in Islam]. I am considerably more familiar with DIG'EM, the frog [Mascot of Kellogg's Honey Smacks].

Steve Dobis's Los Angeles Times crossword

I suspect this is Steve Dobis's newspaper crossword debut. Congrats!

The theme was laying itself out nicely from top to bottom, with phrases starting with assorted male terms of nobility. That doesn't sound so fancy, but then the theme's tied together by THE KINGSMEN, ["Louie Louie" singers, and this puzzle's theme]. Nice touch, eh? The king's men are:
  • KNIGHT RIDER, the ['80s TV series with a talking car named KITT].
  • COUNT FLEET, a [1943 Triple Crown winner]. Not a horse whose name I knew.
  • PRINCE OF WALES, or [England's Charles, since 1958].
  • DUKE OF EARL, clued with ["Nothing can stop" him, in a 1962 doo-wop classic]. Great song—and two king's men in its title.
Highlights in the fill:
  • The RED SCARE was [McCarthy era paranoia].
  • MADCAP means [Zany]; I love both words.
  • VOODOO is a [Kind of doll used in magical rites]. Speaking of voodoo, I'm heading to New Orleans this weekend for spring break.
  • LAKOTA is [Sitting Bull's language].
  • "IF ONLY" is the equivalent of ["I wish it could be!"].
I'm having trouble making the clue for 1-Down work. AS FACT is clued as [To be the truth]. Let's see..."I take your story to be the truth" = "I take your story as fact"? It feels a little clunky, but its neighbors, VOODOO and EXODUS, rock.

For more on this puzzle, don't miss PuzzleGirl's post at L.A. Crossword Confidential.

Randy Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, "What's in Your Wallet?"

The theme is money, money, money. Actually, there are six words for money at the end of the theme answers:
  • COOKIE DOUGH is a [Ben & Jerry's ingredient].
  • FRIED CLAMS are a [Seafood selection].
  • [Broadway handouts] are PLAYBILLS.
  • [Where one may place a tall order?] is at STARBUCKS.
  • JOHNNY CASH is an [Oscar-nominated role for Joaquin Phoenix].
  • [Flavored makeup products from Bonne Bell] are LIP SMACKERS. I'm not sure lip balm counts as makeup, but boy, LIP SMACKERS sure do come in a lot of flavors. Oh, how I loved them when I was 13.
This is one of those rare themes in which the answers would make great entries in a themeless crossword. And they all end with slang terms for money? Well done. The theme would've been less fun with, say, ROEBUCKS, GAS BILLS, and PETTY CASH—the phrases Randy Ross chose are much livelier.