April 29, 2009

Thursday, 4/30

CS 3:50
LAT 3:43
NYT 3:33
Tausig (untimed)

Greg Kaiser and Steven Ginzburg's New York Times crossword

Previously published constructor Ginzburg partnered with newcomer Kaiser on this geographic pun puzzle. Hooray, geography theme! And it's a cool one—they riff on CAPITAL OFFENSES, or [Pun-crimes committed by the answers to the six starred clues?], by featuring six countries' capital cities that sound like phrases:

  • 15A: [Final resting place for old autos?] is KHARTOUM, Sudan. "Car tomb."
  • 24A: [Father of the Ziploc?] clues BAGHDAD, Iraq. "Bag dad."
  • 49A: TRIPOLI, Libya plays on "triple-E" and is clued as [Wide shoe specification?].
  • 63A: A [Recently opened sandwich shop?] would be a NEW DELHI (India), or "new deli."
  • 2D: DUBLIN sounds like "doublin'," and it's clued as [Multiplyin' by 2?].
  • 48D: [Base of a fragrant tree?] is BEIRUT, Lebanon, or "bay root." This one feels a little iffy because who talks about, say, an oak root? But the others are solid.
I usually enjoy a theme custom-made for the geographically inclined, and I did indeed enjoy this puzzle. Let's see what else this crossword's got. There's more geography! [Congo tributary] is the UBANGI. [Like Gamal Abdel Nasser's movement], PAN-ARAB, sort of fits that category. There's ASIA [___-Pacific]. OKRA's clue tells us the word's place of origin: [Food whose name comes from a language of West Africa]. SIBERIA is the [Home of the 2,700-mile-long Lena River]; LENA is one of those Russian crosswordese rivers, along with NEVA, URAL, and OKA. IDAHO is the [Home of the Sawtooth Range], and MTN. is an [Atlas abbr.].

Other clues of note: [Wm. H. Taft was the only U.S. president born in this month] is SEP. ALFA is a [Preceder of bravo in a radio alphabet]. [Long key] isn't an island off Florida, it's the SPACE BAR on your keyboard. DART is clued [It has feathers and flies].

Updated Thursday morning:

Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Yucky Yuks"—reviewed by Janie

Wanna hear a dirty joke? Boy fell in the mud.

Wanna hear a clean one? Boy washed up.

And that, dear readers, usta give me real "cause to crack up." In the second grade...

How nice to be a (chronological) grownup and still be AMUSEd by the very clean "dirty" jokes that unify Randolph Ross's puzzle:

  • 17A: [Cleanliness legislation?] -- add one letter to a small firearm and you get GUNK CONTROL LAWS.
  • 25A: [Target for an Apple polisher?] -- well, that would be the punny, quasi-homonym COMPUTER GRIME.
  • 41A: [Cleaning challenge in a very old kitchen?] -- and this would be the punny, true-homonym ANCIENT GREASE.
  • 54A: [Getting rid of sticky stuff in one's home?] -- drop one letter from the title of the magazine whose "seal of approval" has been synonymous with consumer confidence since 1909 and whaddaya get? GOO HOUSEKEEPING.

Since I basically never met a pun I didn't like, this puzzle had a high smile-factor for me.

And there's lots to love in the range of the non-theme fill as well --
mythology's CYCLOPS [One-eyed giant]; music's MOOGS [Some synthsizers] "Switched-On Bach", anyone?; philosophy's Immanuel KANT ["Critique of Pure Reason" author]; television (Sesame Street) and filmdom's (It's a Wonderful Life) [Bert's buddy] ERNIE. There's even a sports reference: GOAL!

Clue/fill pairs that just sat right: [Concentrate]/FOCUS; [Something to blow when angry/GASKET; [De-tension camp?]/SPA (since I basically never met a pun I didn't like...); [Vanity cases?]/EGOS; and
the "bonus" [Dirty stuff]/SMUT.

Fave cross: AGRA/AMES. Exotic India and heartland Iowa. Quel juxtaposition!

And with the shout out to GELATI and DOVE chocolate, consider this post to be a RAVE!

Dan Naddor's L.A. Times crossword—back to Orange

This unusual theme hinges on 73A ATE, a [Word that homophonically forms a familiar word when attached to the end of the answer to each starred clue]. How does that work? Like this:
  • 18A: ["Unforgettable" singer] is NAT KING COLE. COLE + ATE sounds like "collate."
  • 24A: [Cold War European] is a WEST GERMAN. "Germinate."
  • 31A: [1940s-'60s Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback] clues Y.A. TITTLE. "Titillate."
  • 40A: [Branch source] is TREE TRUNK. "Truncate."
  • 42A: [Florida city near Fort Myers] is CAPE CORAL. "Corollate."
  • 48A: The [House speaker before Newt Gingrich] was TOM FOLEY. "Foliate," less familiar than "exfoliate."
  • 58A: [Covered with black dots] is FLY-SPECKED. "Spectate."
  • 67A: [1976 Olympic decathlon champ] is BRUCE JENNER. "Generate."
Eight theme entries! Plus a theme that goes beyond the "same old, same old." Dan Naddor continues to put out interesting, well-crafted puzzles.

After I finished this crossword frowning at the unfamiliarity of CAPE CORAL, I returned to the April 20 New Yorker article "Swamp Things" (abstract here) and the very next section focused on Cape Coral! The town was built with 400 miles of canals, which makes it a homey place for the Nile monitor, an invasive species of lizard that can reach 7 feet in length and eats anything that moves. Now I'll remember Cape Coral.

What else?
  • 14A: EELS gets a fresh clue: [Rock band with a fishy name]. The band is not so well-known, but if you've seen Wordplay you might recognize their "Saturday Morning" song.
  • 54A: [Gaseous: Pref.] seems iffy. Is AERI a prefix, or simply the word root for "aerial"?
  • 74A: [Crude cabin] is SHANTY. Have you ever noticed that LEAN-TO and SHANTY share three letters?
  • 4D: BEN is clued as [Deadpan Stein]. Ben Stein has stomped on my fondness for his movie and game show persona by embracing spurious defenses of intelligent design and equating Darwinians with death-camp Nazis. 
  • 31D: [Song spelled with arm motions] is the Village People classic YMCA. Over at L.A. Crossword Confidential, PuzzleGirl included this sort of profane rendering of the "Y.M.C.A." moves that makes me laugh.
  • 36D: RUN LIKE MAD is clued as [Dash].
  • 43D: An ETRUSCAN was an [Ancient Italian].
  • 51D: The ORCS clue, [Tolkien henchmen], makes it sound as if J.R.R. Tolkien wandered around the Oxford campus accompanied by bloodthirsty orcs. His students were probably never late with their term papers.
  • 53D: [M.'s counterpart] has nothing to do with James Bond's boss. The answer is MLLE.
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Broken Bones"

The theme here is bones that are "broken" by having their letters spaced out within the four longest answers. In my solution grid, I've circled the bone letters. The clues indicate how many places each bone is broken—so a bone broken in two places is in three pieces, and a bone with three breaks is in four pieces. RIB appears in the RUSSIAN MOB ([Certain Grand Theft Auto antagonists]). The FEMUR is in FORCE MAJEURE, or [Act of God, e.g.]. [Biased coverage of a court case] is TRIAL BY MEDIA, in which TIBIA is broken. And UNCLE VANYA, the [Chekhov classic], hides crosswords' favorite bone, the ULNA.

Assorted clues and answers:
  • [Like "Colored"] clues UN-PC. When my grandmother got senile, she went back to that word, which was...awkward.
  • ERSE gets an interesting clue: ['Whiskey" source]. Don't say the ERSE language never did anything for you.
  • [Rod Blagojevich's parents, e.g.] were SERBS. Every now and then in test solving for Ben, I suggest a new clue and he goes with it. Did you know this particular trivia? 
  • [Pro-black capitalist clothing company] is FUBU.
  • [Cobra's genus] is NAJA. If this is old crosswordese, it slithered under my radar.
  • FORT APACHE was a [1948 John Wayne western]. Not to be confused with Fort Apache, The Bronx.
  • ENNE is a [Suffix that may be considered condescending].
  • DEBT? [America exports a ton of it].