April 09, 2009

Friday, 4/10

WSJ 7:40
NYT 6:09
LAT 5:03
BEQ 4:18
CS 3:28
CHE 3:14

we haven't seen manny's byline recently, have we? his friday NYT puzzle is a good one, though, as you'd have every right to expect. it's anchored by a central triple-stack of 15s, all of them good:

  • to [Be doomed] is to NOT STAND A CHANCE.
  • [Obtain service from] is GET MILEAGE OUT OF.
  • and [Felt bitter anguish] is ATE ONE'S HEART OUT. i feel like this expression is used more often in the imperative than in the past tense. but still, it's a lively phrase.

to me, though, the marquee answer is the one i've highlighted in the screenshot: MINESWEEPER! it's clued as the [Popular computer logic/guessing game]. i won't divulge how many hours of my existence i wasted on this popular computer logic/guessing game back in high school. (was it that long ago? goodness.) my physics teacher aptly dubbed it "mindsweeper."

this wasn't exactly a smooth solve for me, but i got through it okay. fits and starts included TANG for MING, the [Chinese dynasty during which trade with Portugal began]. that was kind of a dumb guess, because the TANG was way too early (i think it ended in the 8th century), but then i had the G confirmed by INGEST for [Swallow]. of course, INGEST wasn't right either (ENGULF), although ironically, the G was.

other answers that caught my eye:

  • LESS SALT is a [Food label for the health-conscious]. it's also got three consecutive Ss.
  • i really like the stack in the SE consisting of LIMEADE, BRONZED, and JESTERS. the latter is clued as [Court figures], which is a clue recycled elsewhere in the grid for CENTERS.
  • [Like the pop group the Pussycat Dolls] clues ALL-FEMALE. i have a feeling orange would like this answer.
  • FAT LOT is a fun answer, clued as [Not much, with "a"]. that's kind of ironic, isn't it?
  • there were a few words i wasn't thrilled with in the grid: WANS, REGLAZE, and APISHLY would all rank pretty high on my "awkward inflected forms" list. and there were three plural names, which i never particularly enjoy seeing. INGAS was clued as ["Young Frankenstein" woman and others]. LIONELS was redeemed by a non-person-specific clue, [Toy trains]. and TEDS ... well, TEDS is clued as [Dries, as hay]. really? i wish i could claim that was an interesting word, but in fact it's about as interesting as watching hay dry.

clues that caught my eye:

  • [Occasion to drop one's arms] is a CEASE-FIRE. terrific misdirection here.
  • [Burrow : rabbit :: holt : ___] clues OTTER. i did not know that, but once i got the OT___ it really wasn't going to be anything else.
  • [Like rivals, often] clues COMPARED. a perfect clue.
  • [___ gin fizz] has to be SLOE, right? 100% has to, always, no exceptions? but this time, it's 5 letters, and the answer turns out to be RAMOS. what the? can somebody explain this?

clue i did not like: [Electric device with terminals] is an ELEMENT, i guess like the heating ELEMENT in an electric kettle. guess what, though: every electric device has terminals. am i missing something clever, or was this clue just indescribably lame?

john lampkin's chronicle of higher education crossword, "Geometric Progression"

fun math theme in the CHE puzzle today:

  • [Look at a zero-dimensional entity?] is VIEW POINT.
  • [Map out a one-dimensional entity?] is PLOT LINE.
  • [Catch sight of a two-dimensional entity?] is SPY PLANE.
  • [Exert influence on a three-dimensional entity?] is WORK SPACE.
  • and capping it off, [Ancient Greek mathematician whose work inspired this puzzle] is EUCLID, whose work the elements became the basis for all geometry until the 19th century.

the grid has stacks of 8-letter fill abutting the 9-letter theme answers in the NE and SW, and several other fill words of 7 or more letters. there seem to be matched pairs of interesting answers:

  • two painters: henri toulouse-LAUTREC and jan van EYCK
  • two long geographic answers: the TRANSVAAL region of south africa and the DEAD SEA, [The world's lowest lake]
  • two names from greek mythology: ARES, whom [Aeschylus called the "gold-changer of bodies"], and OCEANID, [A daughter of Tethys, in myth]. i don't know what the ARES clue means. elsewhere, there's also THOR, but he's clued as ["Kon-Tiki" author Heyerdahl].
  • two biblical references: HOSEA, the [First of the minor prophets], and SERAPH, a [Celestial being in Isaiah's vision]. today is good friday; if you wander into a catholic liturgy today, you'll hear the "suffering servant" reading from isaiah. (no SERAPHs today.)
  • two actors, which is pretty rare for the CHE puzzle: james SPADER and sean ASTIN.
  • two place names from military history: the [Range crossed by Hannibal] is the ALPS, of course, and the [Site of Burgoyne's surrender] is SARATOGA. (i suppose you could sort the TRANSVAAL into this category, too.)

clever clue: [Something you get on your birthday?] is OLDER. true dat.

brendan emmett quigley's blog crossword, "Ze Puzzle"

brendan has a light, fun theme today, which involves changing an S-spelled Z sound into a Z-spelled Z sound:

  • an [Icebox?] is a FREEZE-UP SPACE, playing on "frees up space."
  • [What a flesh wound may do?] is GRAZE ANATOMY (grey's anatomy). this one was my favorite.
  • [XXL tag on Depends?] is SIZE OF RELIEF (sighs of relief). eww.
  • [Drug-soaked raver's autobiography?] is DAZE AND NIGHTS (days and nights). another clue you won't see in the gray lady.

the fill skews much more literate/cultural than i normally associate with a BEQ puzzle:

  • the marquee fill answer is the JAZZ SINGER, [The first talkie]. historically relevant, and extra-scrabbly to boot.
  • the seer TIRESIAS is the [Blind prophet who underwent a seven-year sex change in Greek mythology]. okay, so brendan puts his own unique spin on even the high-culture answers.
  • E.B. WHITE gets his full (sorta) name into the grid. he's the ["Charlotte's Web" author].
  • [Cassio's inamorata in "Othello"] is BIANCA.
  • edward ALBEE is in a puzzle not for the first time. i didn't recognize the play in the clue, though (the goat). does anybody else know this work? in other literary crosswordese, faulkner's EULA varner puts in an appearance. i'm waiting for EULA to be clued as the end-user license agreement, that little box with all the fine print that nobody ever reads before installing software.
  • the NE corner is especially high-class, with fin-de-SIÈCLE, the venerable ST. BEDE, and an answer i did not know: [1818 Lord Byron poem subtitled "A Venetian Story"], which i guess is BEPPO. if you're curious, the full text is available online.

of course, it wouldn't be a BEQ puzzle without its share of pop culture names and modern fill. these include the GZA, the [Wu-Tang Clan member who released the classic album "Liquid Swords," 1995], OMAR little from the wire, and IRISH rockers U2 (or in the grid, U-TWO), plus the ridiculous acronym ROTFLMAO and the wonderful verb SNARK, or [Make catty remarks]. and scrabble enthusiasts everywhere (a group which does not include brendan himself) will rejoice to see ZAS ([Brick oven pies, for short]) in the grid.

favorite clue: [Rules of music?] for STAFF LINES.

nora pearlstone's LA times crossword

nora pearlstone (anagram of "not a real person") is one of rich norris's crossword aliases. as is often the case with the friday LA times, there's a tricky wordplay theme, and as is often the case with rich's puzzles, the clues are pretty tricky as well. let's look at the theme first, which involves insertion of a K after an R:

  • [Sightseeing at The Steppes?] is STARK GAZING. i don't know what this means. what's The Steppes? is it like borodin's in the steppes of central asia?
  • [Dog's communication systems?] are BARK CODES. this was the first one i got, and it led me to think that perhaps the K was going to come before a K sound anyway, so that it wouldn't change the pronunciation (much). nope, this was the only one like that.
  • [Creative executive compensation techniques?] are PERK-FORMING ARTS. a highly topical theme answer, to be sure, but i didn't like it because this is the only one where the K goes into the middle of a word instead of the end. that made it very hard to figure out the base phrase.
  • [Price of the village green?] is PARK VALUE. my only quibble with this one is that "price" and VALUE aren't really the same thing.
  • [Ones who never know what to use for their salad?] are FORK DUMMIES, playing on the "for dummies" series of books. (gratuitous plug here: patrick berry's >crossword puzzle challenges for dummies is nothing at all like what the title suggests. it's got 70 great PB puzzles and a terrific explanation of all the details of constructing puzzles from arguably the best in the business. oh, and patrick's new book is pretty spectacular as well.) this was my favorite theme answer—fun base phrase, and an amusing transformation.

the fill contains some good stuff, including GRAND PRIX (recently seen as a crossword answer on "jeopardy!") next to CRIKEY, SKULK crossing two theme answers (both at the K), and a composer i'm not familiar with named MOZART. is he as famous as thomas ARNE or erik SATIE? or maybe a lesser light, like camille saint-SAENS?

there were also several names i didn't know. [Swing era bandleader Cates] is a new clue for OPIE. two swedish names, ["La Dolce Vita" actress] EKBERG and actress ESSY persson, were totally unfamiliar. ["L.A. Law" co-creator] BOCHCO... well, i might have seen it before, but there's no letter in it that i could guess if i had the other five. well, maybe the H.

for more on this puzzle, which featured some knotty clever clues, check out LA crossword confidential.

raymond hamel's crossynergy crossword, "Sleepy Heads"

the theme here is phrases whose first word starts with a place to sleep:

  • ["You and me against the world" attitude] is a BUNKER MENTALITY.
  • [Where the Statue of Liberty was erected] is, apparently, BEDLOES ISLAND. that's new to me. nowadays, they call it liberty island.
  • one [Card game accessory] is a CRIBBAGE BOARD.
  • and a [Home-based business] is a COTTAGE INDUSTRY. this was a theme answer in the puzzle that al sanders solved in 2:02 in wordplay. the theme in that one was kinds of cheese.

the clues were kind of knotty in places (it took me a full minute longer than most CS weekdays), but not really much fun. [Rose by any other name?] for ALIAS is kind of cute, i guess. [Uses a straw] isn't how i'd clue SUCKS, but i guess that's how you have to clue it in mainstream newspaper puzzles.

myles callum's wall street journal crossword, "Tax Breaks"

myles's puzzle has 8 answers of varying lengths which include the letters T, A, and X in order. the most entertaining one has got to be GRODY TO THE MAX, and i like the unusual consonant clustering in FRENCH CHATEAUX, but the others left me a little cold. and i'm sure i'm a little grumpy because when i finished, i had some mistakes, which were a combination of words i didn't know ([Character actor J. Carrol] NAISH; [Salad bar tidbits] = BACOS), clues i don't get ([Took a position] = HIRED ON? [Dodger base] = CORN?), stuff i know i've seen but can never remember ([Papuan port in which Amelia Earhart was last seen] = LAE; [Icelandic post-rock band Sigur] ROS) and careless errors (RATIES? why would i think that could be an answer?).

lest i be all negative, let me add that i enjoyed much of the fill in this puzzle, including the place where LIESL crossed KVASS (KVASS! again!) and the EXTRA EXTRA-scrabbly NW. but i am just about blogged out. luckily, there's only one more puzzle i have to do today, and i don't have to blog it until tuesday.

see you tomorrow.

last updated: 11:50 am eastern