April 08, 2009

Thursday, 4/9

NYT 5:03
Tausig 3:47
LAT 2:58
CS 2:41

patrick blindauer and tony orbach's new york times crossword

the dynamic duo are back with a fun thursday theme involving the insertion of OZ into various phrases. there are a whopping six theme answers, all of which have some sparkle:

  • [Nickname for a dwarfish piano prodigy?] is MINI-MOZART, playing on mini-mart.
  • [Sleeping cave denizen?] is DOZING BAT. i like the base phrase "ding bat" here.
  • [Pickled pub quiz winner?] is BOOZY WONDER. the boy wonder is, among other things, robin's nickname.
  • [Ships carrying a smelly gas?] is OZONE LINERS. one-liners is another great base phrase.
  • [Comfy kids?] goes with the tricky S-less plural COZY YOUNG. this is my favorite theme answer. not only does it play on cy young (of baseball fame), it's got the crazyy letter combination ZYY in the middle.
  • [Pride of 12?] is a LION'S DOZEN, playing on a lion's den.

to top it all off, the lower-right entry is [Contented sighs (and a homophonic hint to this puzzle's theme], or AAHS. perfect! i think it's the best wordplay theme of recent weeks.

the grid ended up a little funny-looking because of the demands of the seven theme answers, with weird utah-shaped clusters of black squares at the top and bottom (normally only seen bracketing a central 11-letter theme answer) and two more cheater squares in the NE and SW. when i first opened it up, i thought there might be some rebus action going because of the strange-looking grid and lack of very long answers. (i also thought there might be some rebus action because i figured there was probably some reason we didn't get a thursday puzzle at the recent boston tournament.) but no, just an ordinary masterpiece.

highlights from the fill: NOVA/SCOTIA (with parts separated but both present); INSOMNIA, with the great clue [People with this don't go out for very long]; and DITZ, which provides the Z interrupting DINGBAT in a nice NW corner.

favorite clues (other than INSOMNIA): [Garland native to Minnesota] is actress JUDY garland, not a plant; BRINE [can cure many things]; and the PSALM clue, [One begins, "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down"]. that's PSALM 137, which is a very fertile ground for naming great works of literature: the post-apocalyptic short story "by the waters of babylon" by steven vincent benét, and the very strange novel if i forget thee jerusalem by william faulkner, to name two. on top of that, there are some great musical settings. i'm partial to "on the willows" from godspell, but there are excellent versions of it going back to the renaissance and super flumina babylonis.

one mystery name for me in the grid: k.t. OSLIN of country music. i so wanted this to be k.d. lang (hey, did you see that? i got the capitalization right!) even though it obviously couldn't be for any number of reasons.

ben tausig's inkwell crossword, "Quick Change"

great puzzle this week from ben tausig, who changes a CL sound to a Q sound to create four funny theme phrases:

  • [Witticism at the Raid factory?] is a ROACH QUIP.
  • [Unabashedly out?] is LOUD AND QUEER. this one definitely brought a smile to my face, as did the recent legislation in vermont and iowa. needless to say, this won't be a NYT theme answer any time soon.
  • [Royalty in need of oiling?] is a SQUEAKY QUEEN. bonus points for the extra non-thematic Q here.
  • [Join the other waiters?] is GET A QUEUE. this clue didn't quite work for me, as it really should be GET IN A QUEUE in order for it to match the clue. but that's a bit of a nitpick. i like the idea of playing on "get a clue."

the fill in this puzzle was also top-notch. check out some of these glitterati:

  • [The glitterati] is BEAU MONDE. nice high-class phrase there.
  • [As needed, as salt] is TO TASTE.
  • [Line likely to lead nowhere] is "HAVE WE MET?"
  • [Un-PC high school class] is HOME EC. it's so un-pc that they didn't offer it at my HS, although it was offered at my junior high.
  • ANAL is back, but ben has free rein to clue it as just [Super uptight], which is how i use it. none of this dangling -retentive is necessary.

how did you guys feel about EQED, or [Fine-tuned the bass, say]? i guess it's short for "fiddled with the equalizer" on a stereo, but i don't think i'm comfortable with that usage. yet.

donna s. levin's LA Times crossword

donna's puzzle has four long theme answers, each clued simply as [Tack]: TEMPORARY STITCH, CARPET FASTENER, SAILOR'S HEADING, and STABLE EQUIPMENT. you're probably sick of hearing me say that i'm not a fan of themes like this, so i won't repeat it. i did find these four answers to be even less interesting than usual for a theme of this sort; in fact, i couldn't even remember any of them when i started this paragraph, even though i did the puzzle five minutes ago. i did enjoy seeing the HADJ (one of several widely-used spellings, along with HAJ and HAJJ) and graham greene's THIRD MAN in the fill. for more bloggerly action about this puzzle, see puzzlegirl's write-up over at LA crossword confidential.

patrick blindauer's crossynergy crossword, "Come Again?"

PB2 is back with another puzzle today. his theme is a cute one: four expressions of the form "double ___" are instead rendered with a repeated word, like so:

  • [Kitchen device made from two saucepans, literally] is a double boiler, but it's rendered in the grid as BOILER BOILER.
  • [Two strokes of bad luck, literally] is a WHAMMY WHAMMY.
  • [Two games between the same two teams on the same day, literally] is a HEADER HEADER.
  • [Seeing two of the same thing, literally] is VISION VISION, and that's pretty much what we're being treated to in this puzzle, isn't it?

those of you who did this year's ACPT puzzles will note a certain similarity to a theme you've seen before, but in case you're (still) trying to remain spoiler-free, i won't say any more. in any event, i'm sure patrick came up with this theme before the ACPT, and it's a clever idea of its own merit.

favorite tidbit from the fill: the [Weird Al Yankovic hit that's all about food] is EAT IT. i can't embed the video, but i encourage everybody to watch it (again). on the heels of BEQ's onion puzzle yesterday, now i'm wondering if somebody will make a video for PEAT IT.

updated: 11:30 am eastern