April 07, 2009

Wednesday, 4/8

BEQ 5:37, sorta
Onion 5:12
LAT 3:05
NYT 2:47
CS 2:35
Tausig --> thursday

joey weissbrot's new york times crossword

today's puzzle is, i believe, a debut for this constructor. i think i remember reading that this puzzle was used at the recent brown crossword tournament, and that the constructor is a student there. in any event, congratulations to joey weissbrot on at least his NYT debut.

the puzzle's theme is spelled out at 69a: [Element that can precede the starts of 20-, 31-, 47-, and 54-across]: IRON. what are those four theme answers?

  • LUNG CAPACITY, clued as [An Olympic swimmer needs a big one]. an iron lung is an old (and huge) device for artificial respiration. i associate them with the film the big lebowski.
  • [It may be over a window] is the MENU BAR. no, just kidding, it's a CURTAIN ROD. the iron curtain is the name given to eastern europe during the cold war.
  • [Sound practical judgment] is HORSE SENSE. the iron horse was lou gehrig's nickname, among other things. it may also have been a 19th-century steam engine.
  • [Fateful event for the Titanic] is a 1997 MEGA-BUDGET FILM. either that, or its MAIDEN VOYAGE. iron maiden is not only a medieval torture device but the name of a 1980s death metal band, much beloved of bill and ted in bill and ted's excellent adventure. excellent!

we don't see this type of theme all that often in the NYT; i associate it more with the LAT and CS puzzles. but this one is deftly executed. i especially like that MAIDEN VOYAGE entry because it reminds me of a fun bit of trivia: the titanic's MAIDEN VOYAGE was on the same day as the opening of fenway park: april 14, 1912. and today, i watched the red sox play their opening day game (postponed from monday due to rain) at the same fenway park. i always thought that was neat... until just now, when i found out from the internet that the red sox didn't play their first home game in 1912 until april 20. what gives? okay, forget i ever mentioned this trivia thing.

the grid is slightly unusual in that the NE and SW corners are connected to the rest of the grid only via a single word each (10d and 48d). that's usually something to avoid, but those answers were quite easy (CANYON and SAMSON), so i don't think it's a big deal. actually, the whole puzzle was quite easy—i set my wednesday personal best time, despite tripping up on these two clues:

  • [Tailless Old World mammal]? apparently it's a LORIS. i had no idea. i tried LEMUR, although lemurs are manifestly not tailless. then when the OR showed up i almost thought it might be LORAX, which exists only in dr seuss, as far as i know. luckily none of the crosses were hard.
  • my favorite clue in the grid was [Less than 1%] for SKIM, as in milk. i tried SLIM, because hey, less than 1% is pretty SLIM as chances go. but then i stared at LABOOM and wondered why that didn't make any sense.

ooh, i just noticed a clue i hadn't seen while solving that made me chuckle: CASH is clued as [Mattress filler during a recession, maybe]. hopefully that's not cold, hard CASH, because that sounds like it would be uncomfortable to sleep on.

i'll be back later tonight (i think) with the onion puzzle, and then the rest tomorrow morning.

brendan emmett quigley's onion a.v. club crossword

this puzzle had a music theme that i was only half in-tune with. (no, that pun was not intentional. would i do that to you?) six songs get their Bs changed into Ps (kind of like in the mccune-reischauer romanization of korean):

  • [1997 Hanson song shilling Pepsi?] is MMM POP. the original is, of course, MMM BOP.
  • [1984 Springstein tune shilling domestic smut?] is PORN IN THE USA. moving right along,
  • [1977 Ramones single about fuzzy fruit from Long Island?] is ROCKAWAY PEACH. i think of rockaway as being part of brooklyn, but a) maybe it's not, and b) brooklyn is really on long island anyway. i did not know the song "rockaway beach." apparently it's from before my birth.
  • [1983 hit with the lines "Dreams stay with you / Like a lover's oink / Fires the mountainside"?] is IN A PIG COUNTRY. i guess i dimly recall the song "in a big country" (by a band called big country, which i did not know) but i still needed almost every crossing on this one.
  • [1994 R.E.M. hit about a gut feeling toward CIA spy Valerie?] is PANG AND PLAME. like the previous entry, i remembered "bang and blame" only after filling in the answer. boy, that song sucked.
  • [Michael Jackson classic about gardening?] is PEAT IT. this was by far my favorite of the theme answers.

it's a fancy construction, with six theme answers packed into a 70-word grid. given those constraints, awkward fill words like POULT, RUINATE, OBESELY, OSA, LANI, and NTS are probably to be expected. but i was surprised to see the 8-letter geographical partial STE MARIE. AIN'T HAY and SEE HOW also struck me as essentially partials. on the good side, the stack of PAIRED UP, AT NO TIME, and RESPONSE in the southeast was pretty nifty. and april O'NEIL of teenage mutant ninja turtles fame! i heartily approve.

well, i'm too tired to do the tausig puzzle, and tomorrow will be pretty busy already. i'll push it off until thursday.

brendan emmett quigley's blog crossword, "Oi! Oi! Oi!"

brendan's pulling double duty today, and his regular M/W/F blog crossword is in some ways quite similar to the onion puzzle: lots of theme squares jammed into a low-word count grid. the theme of the puzzle is a long A -> "oi" vowel shift, and brendan's got four 15-letter theme answers:

  • [Advice to those who dawdle?] is SAVE IT FOR LOITER.
  • the bank chase manhattan becomes a CHOICE MANHATTAN, or [The best whiskey and sweet vermouth drink?]. i liked this one.
  • [Lacy article runners?] are DOILY NEWSPAPERS. this one is probably the silliest of the theme answers.
  • and my favorite: a [Vague piece of advice?] is an ABSTRACT POINTER. sounds more interesting than abstract painters, anyway. i never really understood the work of pollack and rothko, to be honest.

with 60 theme squares and a 70-word grid, there's some fancy constructing, and i think the fill is considerably cleaner than in the onion puzzle. my 5:37 solving time is for an earlier version with somewhat more questionable fill (and fewer cheater squares).

favorite answer: the BEE EATER, a colorful bird. in his first blog puzzle, brendan introduced the word WIIITIS, with its three consecutive Is. BEE EATER isn't quite as flashy, but still, three of the same vowel in a row doesn't happen all the time.

favorite clue: [Ship that may be blown up] for RAFT. it took me a long time to get my brain off of "you sunk my battleship!"

patrick jordan's LA times crossword

cute theme today from patrick jordan, whose byline i normally associate with the crossynergy puzzle. patrick plays on state nicknames, but uses "state" in the sense of "condition":

  • the ["Show me" state?] is not missouri but SKEPTICISM, as in, "i won't believe it until you show me."
  • [Empire state?] is SUPREMACY, not new york.
  • [Volunteer state?] is WILLINGNESS, not tennessee.
  • [Beehive state?] is DILIGENCE, not ... uh ... utah? the diligent beehive motif is echoed in the fill with APIARIES, which are [abuzz with activity].
  • [Granite state?] is DURABILITY, not ... vermont, i think. or maybe new hampshire. no, dammit, it is new hampshire.

patrick's puzzles are usually pangrammatic, but this one isn't very scrabbly at all. nonetheless, the fill is quite good, especially the triple-stacks in the NE and SW. i especially liked STOOD UP, clued not in the boring sense of [Rose to one's feet] but as [Failed to meet as planned]. oh, and how could i not mention the city of my birth there at 65a? (answer: i couldn't (not mention it).)

one unfamiliar name in the grid: [Stacy who played Mike Hammer] is KEACH. don't know him (at least i assume it's a him).

oh yeah, and even though i'm not part of the LACC blogging team, you can still read more about the LAT puzzle over there. i think today is rex's turn.

paula gamache's crossynergy crossword, "Yes Sirree!"

cute, fun theme from paula today: four expressions that are essentially equivalent to the title: NOW YOU'RE TALKING, THAT'S THE TICKET, SOUNDS GOOD TO ME, and WITHOUT QUESTION. as usual, paula's fill is smooth as butta. i was pleased to see EWING clued as [Former Knicks star Patrick] and not the TV family from dallas, which is how it's usually clued. my earliest sports memories are of watching EWING's georgetown teams while my mom was a grad student there.

there's a fun column of crazy TS__TS__ words: TSKTSKED on top of TSETSE, with the anagrammatic SESTET nearby. the coolest word in the grid is probably SOUSCHEF, or [Second in the kitchen]. my favorite clue was [Thing in a chest] for LUNG.

last updated noon eastern