March 24, 2009

Wednesday, 3/25

BEQ 4:58
CS 3:38
NYT 3:29
LAT 3:21
Tausig — wait for Thursday post

The theme entries in Jerry Rosman's New York Times crossword almost demand not to be read aloud in series:

  • 17A. [Debugs computer programs, e.g.] is CATCHES GLITCHES. Hey, that's my husband's career in a nutshell. And mine too, as an editor.
  • 24A. [Responds to rashes] is SCRATCHES ITCHES. Now I want my back scratched. Is this like reading the word "yawn," in that it inspires you to do exactly that?
  • 41A. [Does some mending] is PATCHES BRITCHES. When's the last time you referred to pants as "britches," aside from the "too big for his britches" idiom?
  • 54A. [Lines up the sewing] is MATCHES STITCHES. This could work with a surgical sutures clue, too.
See what I mean? By the third or fourth one, it sounds like you're lost in a sea of tongue twisters. Don't do it! Just read them silently. Don't challenge your tongue that way.

Let's put the spotlight on some of the fill in this puzzle:
  • Uncommon nouns: BOLE is word that means [Tree trunk]. It's sitting right up top at 1A, demanding that you know it. How many of us know BOLE from anywhere other than crosswords? CHICLE was a [Raw material for Wrigley's, once].
  • Repeated ETs: JET SET, or [Glitterati], stands beside ETC., ETC., or [Blah, blah, blah, for short]. Hey, saying "et cetera, et cetera" takes more syllables than "blah, blah, blah" does.
  • Geography: The CASBAH is a [Quarter of Algiers]. Ah, the Casbah. Beloved by my generation thanks to the Clash song, "Rock the Casbah." ANSELMO completes [San ___, Marin County], in California; the [La ___ Tar Pits]/BREA are also there. ANTIGUA is [One of the Leeward Islands] in the Caribbean.[The Carolinas, e.g., to the French] would be ETATS. Also in the American South is ALA., or Alabama—[Tuskegee's locale: Abbr.] Okay, so those shorter answers find their way into the grid often enough.
  • Europe: [Road, in the Rheinland] clues BAHN, German for "road." The Italian word ARTISTA is clued [Da Vinci or Michelangelo, to Romans]. Oh, hey, would you look at that? That answer loses a T to become a crossing answer, ARISTA, a [Record label owned by Sony].
Cool entries/clues: U CONN is the basketball powerhouse that's a [Nutmeg State sch.]. I have U CONN going to the Final Four in my bracket. [Return to one's seat?] clues REELECT. If one is a politician, one is reelected by one's constituents. WHARTON is a [Prestigious business school] and not a name we often see in the grid. Literature fans are sad that Edith Wharton didn't get the nod this time.

When I see a clue like [Umiak passenger], 5 letters, you know what I do? I fill in a T at the end and wait for the crossings to reveal whether it's INUIT (as it is here) or ALEUT. Just another one of those "hang on, you can't be sure which one it is" pairs of answer words.

I think we can all agree that ALB isn't something we love to see parked in a crossword grid. Can we also agree that it's poor form to make up abbreviations? The [Neighbor of B.C.] in Canada is Alberta, which is abbreviated Alta. ALB. can stand for Albania, but it's not Alberta's abbreviation. Sheesh, I blogged about this three years ago and three Canadian commenters backed me up.


Dang, I still have this many puzzles to blog this morning? I stayed up way too late working on my L.A. Crossword Confidential post, and now I see that I still need to blog the LAT puzzle over here.

Up first: Brendan Quigley's puzzle. It took me a while to tune into Brendan's frequency this morning (one [Unit of frequency] is a MEGAHERTZ) and see what the "National League" theme was all about. I figured 'tis the spring training season so it must be baseball, but no. National is a car rental agency, and so are parts of these theme entries:
  • 35A. U.S.S. ENTERPRISE. This one's cross-referenced with BEAM at 10D.
  • 43A. TOP DOLLAR is [Maximum price].
  • 5D/56D. [One of a kind] is a rare bird or, in Latin, RARA / AVIS. RARA clued as [___ avis] is old-school crosswordese, and I always like it when crosswordese gets elevated to the theme level in some way. It's a small reward for knowing mostly-useless junk for years. At last! A wee pay-off.
Brendan's packed the grid with a lot of groovy fill. UGG BOOTS and UTZ CHIPS, two horrible-sounding brand names that haven't gotten in the way of success in the marketplace. IN A JAM and ON A JAG aren't so great by themselves, but the two together in one corner, both with J's? I like that. E-TAIL is horrible, but it's salvaged somewhat by being linked to STORE, a [Blog section emphasizing 38-Down]. I don't have a blog store, but Brendan sells t-shirts at his. The Hawaiian goose NENE doubles as the [Single name that Denver Nuggets player Maybyner Hilario goes by]. Now, why would a guy named Maybyner want a nickname? "Maybyner" is awesome!

The theme in Jack McInturff's L.A. Times crossword is RULEs: What the four theme entries have in common is that their first word can precede the word RULE, which appears at 62D. Here are your theme answers:
Government regulations may be a gag rule. Home rule is a system of local government. The ground rules are the basic principles at play. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is the Golden Rule. Cute how the Golden Delicious apple and Golden Rule both have a capital G, while the other theme answers and their associated "rules" are lowercase.

One of the clues that snagged me was right there at 1A, Blue or brown follower. It took having most of the crossing answers in place to see EYED. Biblical clues are one of my weak spots, so 31D: Land where Moses died was tantamount to Random four-letter place name in the Bible. MOAB is also a place in Utah. And HATLO! My goodness. 27D: "They'll Do It Every Time" cartoonist Jimmy clues HATLO, which is not a name I recognize from anywhere. Oh, here's why: He drew that cartoon from 1929 to 1963, before I was born. The A in HATLO has a tough crossing, too—33A: Finance major's deg. is BBA, or bachelor's of business administration (the baby sister of an MBA). 10D: School play prop is a PAPER HAT, and that just wasn't coming to mind. I think my kid's school shows have involved real hats, not paper facsimiles. I hadn't seen 23A: Donizetti aria "Regnava __ silenzio" (NEL) while I was working this puzzle, and it's just as well. More commonly, NEL's clue evokes the "Volare" lyrics "____ Blu, Dipinto Di Blu." (Yes, I know the text styling is different in this paragraph than the rest of the post. I'm baldly plagiarizing myself and not covering my tracks by reformatting everything.

Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy crossword, "Beer Blast," has a theme I didn't think about at all while solving. The theme entries were clued straightforwardly, so figuring those out didn't require thematic thoughts.
  • Ice beer is, I think, more potent than regular beer. A [Party picker-upper] is an ICE BREAKER.
  • Near beer is much less potent. The NEAR FUTURE is clued with [It's coming soon]. Did you want it to be a movie in a theater near you?
  • Light beer is less caloric. Our fridge has Amstel Light right now. Tasty. [One may tell you where to go] signals a LIGHTHOUSE.
  • Draft beer is whatever's on tap. The DRAFT BOARD was a ['70s lottery support group].
The Three Favorite Cluing Habits of Successful Klahns:
  • 1. All the clue pairs. This is a Klahn trademark. For example, 26A is [Little dickens] (IMP) and the following clue is 28A [End of a seasonal Dickens title] (CAROL). 10/14A, 8/9D, 25/27D, 37/39D, and 59/63D are other paired clues. These are fun because they mess with your head. Often the way you have to interpret the clue is completely different in the two. And then there are the synonyms at 40/48D, [Utter nonsense]—both nouns and not verb phrases, for the answers BLATHER and TWADDLE (BLATHER can also be a verb, so you know what? Bob probably meant the verb and wanted to mess with your head here, too.)
  • 2. Alliteration. If you have only a couple clues that alliterate in a puzzle, they look cheesy. Bob goes whole hog on the alliteration and somehow makes it work. [Mythological maiden] (NYMPH), [Sinister cinematic street] (ELM), [Broad-brimmed beach bonnets] (SUNHATS), and [Fiddle with a fiddle] (TUNE) play peppily.
  • 3. Question-marked clues and other tricky clues. [PC that finds favor with farmers?] is DELL, as in "The Farmer in the Dell." [Leading figure?] is the number (a.k.a. "figure") ONE. [Snow place like home?] sounds like Dorothy's mantra in The Wizard of Oz, but it clues an IGLOO. [Something to spare?] is THE ROD. [Yankee follower, to radiomen] clues ZULU, as in that alpha, bravo, charlie alphabet. Sorta tricky, right? New York has a lot of followers of the Yankees.