April 23, 2009

Friday, 4/24

NYT 7:21
BEQ 4:30
LAT 3:52
CS 2:53
CHE (untimed)
WSJ 9:19

Happy birthday to three of my favorite puzzle people! Evad, Byron, and PuzzleGirl were all April 24 babies, as was my son. Luckily, only one of the four expects me to present him with Legos tomorrow.

Barry Silk's New York Times crossword

Apparently I shouldn't fritter away an hour on Lexulous and phone calls before making it to the puzzle, because I got trounced by Howard Barkin to the tune of 3 minutes plus, and 4 minutes plus by Dan Feyer ("fredwbear" clocked in between Howard and Dan but I don't know that I buy that 3:20 time.) I took any number of detours in this crossword—RENTA instead of ECONO [___-Car], CREW instead of NAVY for the [Sub group], LAST WEEK instead of LAST YEAR, BIOLOGY instead of ZOOLOGY for [Alfred Kinsey's field], and my favorite wrong turn, BIKINI instead of INNING for [It has top and bottom parts]. Either answer is good for that last one and they share a couple letters.

I was also looking for 18A [Running] to end with a long A sound (the answer turns out to be ON THE LAM) because it sits opposite FIND A WAY, and SUSAN DEY and ENOLA GAY ([Carrier of very destructive cargo]) are another pair of long-A rhymes.

My favorite clues and answers follow:

  • 1A: [Now out...or "it"] is TAGGED, as in baseball...or tag.
  • 7A: [Its flag features an image of a stone-carved bird] clues ZIMBABWE. Here's the flag. Wish I'd known this bit of trivia because it really would have paved the way in the northeast corner. Quibble about the clue: Shouldn't it be "carved-stone bird"?
  • The northwest corner has not one but two Q's. T-SQUARES and AQUILINE ([Hooked, as a nose]) go down; SQUATS and QUAINT go across.
  • 20A: [Jambalayas] clues OLIOS, and I'm not sure why. Is jambalaya slang for a miscellany or is olio an edible stew? Olio seems to be related to olla podrida, which is a stew.
  • [Way up state?] isn't talking about a place in northern New York or a place like Tibet that's at a high elevation. It's MANIA, a state in which one is feeling up, way up.
  • U.C. IRVINE is where some of my cousins went to school (the cousins who are friends with ACPTer Eric Maddy). I had no idea they were [The Anteaters of the Big West Conf.]. Their school T-shirts must be hilarious. Yep, they are.
  • GUANACOS! These mammalian [Residents of dry, open country in South America] can be found at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans sharing living quarters with the crossword's second-favorite large bird, the rhea. Did you know male rheas sit on nests filled with a bunch of different females' eggs, and the females can cavort with other males while he's keeping watch over their eggs? Avian awesomeness.
  • DST, or daylight saving time, is a [Reason to do a 2 a.m. shift] of your clocks' settings.
Answers I didn't know:
  • Katarina Witt wants some respect. What's her last name doing assigned to [1984 perfect game pitcher Mike]?
  • RIC completes [Rapper ___-A-Che]. The Cars' frontman Ric Ocasek and wrestler Ric Flair are feeling put out.
  • GREGG is the [Texas county named for a Civil War general, with its seat in Longview]. Gregg shorthand and Gregg Allman want some props here.
  • [What wisdom outweighs, according to Sophocles] is WEALTH. But if you're wealthy, you can have a YACHT ([Millionaire's plaything]). Wisdom doesn't buy a lot of yachts.
  • I am part Lithuanian, sure, but I didn't know that [Like Old Prussian] would be BALTIC.
  • EMMETT fills in the blank in [Daniel Decatur ___, minstrel who wrote "Dixie"].
  • I got the M in [Physics Nobelist Simon Van der ___] MEER strictly by figuring out MANIA. That M gets my pick for toughest square.
  • [Pair of elephants?] is the BIG EARS possessed by elephants. I don't know that BIG EARS qualifies as a crossword-worthy phrase.
Updated Friday morning:

That rapper in the NYT puzzle, Ric-A-Che? I guess the name's supposed to be pronounced like "ricochet," but I see Che and hear the "Che Guevara" pronunciation. This puts me in mind of the little Pokemon critter called Pikachu, and I'm thinking that's not what any male over the age of 10 would wish his name to evoke.

Robert Wolfe's L.A. Times crossword

The theme doesn't seem to signaled in any way at all. Each theme entry contains an abbreviation for a road of some sort (abbreviations you'd see in a street address), but taking the place of words that aren't normally abbreviated in phrases. There's no hint that there will be abbreviations, no unifying entry whose clue explains it all. And that is why this puzzle's running on a Friday and no earlier in the week. Did you like the theme? It did not move me (or my car). Here's the theme:
  • 18A: To [Speed?] is to BURN UP THE RD. (road).
  • 24A: [Average Joe?] is a MAN ON THE ST. (street).
  • 35A: [Badly fluster?] is DR. TO DISTRACTION (drive).
  • 50A: [Excessive charge?] is HWY. ROBBERY (highway).
  • 57A: [Way out?] is AVE. OF ESCAPE (avenue).
Does SOEVER work for 47A: [In any way] without a preceding what? My dictionary says yes: adverb, archaic or poetic/literary, "of any kind, to any extent." Hey, how did you like 51D: [Lincoln-to-Cheyenne direction]? Four letters...hmm, that won't work for something like NNE, so what could it be? Just plain ol' WEST. I don't recall seeing a cardinal direction clued in relation to the space between two geographic points before. 7D: [Edwards who played Ben Casey] is VINCE, and I sure didn't know that one.

Mike Torch's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Rock Festival"

All right! A puzzle for the geologically inclined out there! You don't see that too often. The theme answers are puns with the names of minerals (or a rock) substituted for words that sound similar:
  • 17A: [Put a gem on display?] clues ROLL OUT THE BERYL. This is a play on the "Beer Barrel Polka," also called "Roll Out the Barrel" ("We'll have a barrel of fun"). When I was a kid, Chicago TV channels would have commercials for record compilations of polka hits. This one's the most memorable; the misogynistic, fat-phobic "Too Fat Polka (I Don't Want Her, You Can Have Her, She's Too Fat For Me)" is in second place. Did the rest of you learn polka from commercials, or is that a regional thing?
  • I'm sorry—where were we? Oh, yes. 24A: [Man famous for his rock collection?] is MR. GNEISS GUY (Mr. Nice Guy). Gneiss is a metamorphic rock with a silent G.
  • 43A: [Mineral used to build residences?] is HOUSE BLENDE. Blende is a mineral also called sphalerite. Pitchblende apparently is a different mineral. House-blend coffee is the base phrase here.
  • 58A: [Sharpen a stone?] clues WHET ONE'S APATITE (appetite).
I did this one on paper last night while putting a birthday boy to bed, so I have no solving time to report.

Brendan Quigley's blog puzzle, "Going Through Hoops"

I finished the little bitty northwest corner, the PBJ/BOZO/JOSS stick corner, and moved along to 20A: [Sugar-covered peanuts]. Well, it doesn't take a Bostonian to know those are called BOSTON BAKED BEANS, but that wouldn't fit. It started with BOS, though, so that confirmed the answer and shouted "rebus" at me. "Hoops" in the puzzle's title? OK, so it's an NBA rebus. The other long rebus theme answers are AMERICAN BANDSTAND, which Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon appeared on a record 110 times. Is it OK that I've never heard of him? I know only Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington from Welcome Back, Kotter. Then there's BENJAMIN BANNEKER, the [African American mathematician who purportedly surveyed the District of Columbia. There's an extra rebus in the southeast corner, with no long answer anchoring it into place; Brendan wants to know if you felt that was fair. I wasn't on the hunt for symmetry, so I didn't mind it.

Among the flashiest answers were these:
  • T AND A is [Some erotica, briefly]. T&A was also observed on Charlie's' Angels in the '70s, years before Baywatch added shirtless men to the T&A mix. Do those shows count as erotica? With Hasselhoff?
  • EVAN BAYH is an [Indiana senator] with an NBA in his name.
  • The Elton John song "ROCKET MAN" is a classic.
  • RIGHT JABS [might set up crosses] in boxing.
  • [Versatile musicians] are ONE-MAN BANDS.
Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy crossword, "Roomful of Roses"

Ray Hamel is one of those legends in the trivia world, and this puzzle's theme answers could be a tough trivia question: "What do BETTY WHITE, the KEWPIE DOLL, the country GEORGIA, BING CROSBY, and UMBERTO ECO have in common?" The word "rose" or the name "Rose" ties them all together:
A couple of the fill answers relate to rose, too. A [Rose supporter] is a STEM. WILTS is clued [Droops, like an old rose]. And SMELL completes the phrase ["Stop and ___ the roses"]. Unusual theme but not a difficult puzzle; good fill. Two thumbs up.

Harvey Estes' Wall Street Journal crossword, "The Bases Are Loaded"

Boy, I could've save myself a lot of time and mystification if only I'd paid attention to the puzzle's title. It didn't take me forever to find the rebus square with THIRD in it, and eventually I found FIRST, but it didn't occur to me that they were in symmetrical spots and would be accompanied by SECOND base and HOME plate, the four rebus squares forming a baseball diamond. I was just thinking of ordinal numbers. 'Tis the season for baseball themes, and even without the New York Sun delivering a barrage of them, there are still so many. (Sigh.)

The long theme entries weren't straightforward answers at all, so there was a gimmick underlying the gimmick:
  • 24A: [Serious grilling by the cops?] clues MAJOR THIRD DEGREE. I know what the third degree is, but "major third" is a mystery. Hmm, it's one of those musical things I have no grasp of.
  • 113A: [Historic way to increase women in the army?] is a "LADIES FIRST" DRAFT, joining "ladies first" and the first draft of a paper.
  • 3D: [Western facility for seniors?] is a whopping 21 squares long: RETIREMENT HOME ON THE RANGE.
  • 16D: [De Gaulle, early in his career?] is CHARLES THE SECOND LIEUTENANT, combining Charles the Second and a second lieutenant. Raise your hand if the collision of De Gaulle and something-LIEUTENANT made you try to get the guy from The French Lieutenant's Woman in there somewhere. This answer was tough to piece together because the rebus crossing was a cooked-up phrase while the other rebus crossings weren't: [Motion to secede endorsed for a vote?] clues SPLIT SECONDED. Ouch!
I'm past being out of time to blog this morning, so I'll sign off here. Hope your Friday will be unseasonably warm but not too hot!