May 31, 2009

Monday, 6/1

BEQ 3:51
NYT 3:08
CS 6:59 (J—paper)/3:00 (A—Across Lite)
LAT 2:42

John Farmer's New York Times crossword

John's crafted a perfect and timely theme, filling 66 symmetrically placed squares to honor the hosts of THE / TONIGHT SHOW on the occasion of CONAN O'BRIEN taking over the show. Since 1-Across and 6-Across's clues tipped the puzzle's hand, I knew early on where the puzzle was going. I just couldn't get my cold fingers (brr! c'mon, meteorological summer is starting!), keyboard, and mouse to work together to get through this puzzle in a Monday amount of time.

Heeeere's the theme!:

  • 58A, 59A. THE / TONIGHT SHOW is the [TV home for this puzzle's five featured TV personalities]. Maybe we don't need "TV" in the clue twice, eh?
  • 17A. [Fifth in a series of five TV personalities (starting June 1, 2009)] is CONAN O'BRIEN, whom I adore. It'll be nice to see his show without staying up so late. But I'm torn! I like Dave Letterman too, but I suspect Conan will pull me away.
  • 19A, 22A. Stacked short answers spell out JAY / LENO. He's the [fourth in a series of five TV personalities (1992-2009)]. Not gonna miss him, though his attention to hilarious typos and elucidation of the average American's ignorance of current affairs were appreciated.
  • 34A, 35A. [Third in a series of five TV personalities (1962-92)] is JOHNNY / CARSON. Three decades! I wonder if Conan will last as long. Probably not, given broadcast TV trends.
  • 6A, 65A. JACK / PAAR is [second in a series of five TV personalities (1957-62)]. That was before my time.
  • 1A, 66A. STEVE / ALLEN was [first in a series of five TV personalities (1954-57)], getting the show off to a good start. He's even further before my time.
  • 53A. Filling out the spot opposite LENO is the unifying answer HOST, a [Desk job at 58 & 59-Across?]. Cute clue.

Remarks on assorted clues and fill:
  • 21A. The two-word IN AGES is clued [Since way back when]. As in "I haven't lived in Minnesota in ages/I haven't lived in Minnesota since way back when."
  • 24A. The AESIR are a [Norse race of gods]. Apparently some crossword dictionaries will send solvers to VANIR, which were another Norse race of gods, not all the famous ones.
  • 30A. [Free from worry] is an adjective here, not a verb: AT PEACE. I was thisclose to trying to make APPEASE work with the crossings.
  • Hats! 40A [Scot's cap] is a TAM, while a BEANIE is 11D [Close-fitting cap].
  • 50A. The answer to [Taunt] is a verb phrase, GIBE AT, and not a noun. In the grid, I'm reading that as GI Beat, a military version of Tiger Beat magazine.
  • 63A. Again, a two-word answer has a clue that can be more than one part of speech. Unusually tricky for a Monday puzzle, no? [Prompt] is the adjective ON TIME, not a verb or noun.
  • 3D. Crosswordese! [Sea eagles] are ERNS, sometimes spelled ernes.
  • 22D. A [Good place to have a cow?] is in the LEA, or meadow.
  • 29D. This one's tough: INCE is [Early film director Thomas H.].

Updated Monday morning:

Tony Orbach's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Chalk It Up"—Janie's review

What a great way to start the week. This puzzle is loaded with lively fill and clues, and from beginning to end was simply fun to solve. The theme? As hinted at by the title (and revealed at 66A), POOL. The last word of each of the theme phrases is an object related to that [Game played in a hall]. Brilliant device? Nah. We see it all the time. But look at the fill. This is terrific stuff and contributes to the way this puzzle "pops." Each theme phrase makes a strong showing—and each is appearing for the first time in major puzzle.
  • 17A. [Hint from the band] MUSICAL CUE. The CUE, of course, is the stick used in the game (and also the name of the white round thing [tba] that's used to get the game goin'). Nice, too, the way COPA [Club of song] emerges from the C in MUSICAL.
  • 28A. [Handy periodical holder] MAGAZINE RACK. This is that wooden (or plastic) triangle that's used to contain/arrange the objects of the CUE's strikes.
  • 48A. [Fundraiser for a local brigade] FIREMAN'S BALL. Finally, the object(s) in question! Love this clue/fill pair. Do any of you live in places where this is still a tradition? I tried to find info on the Internet, but pickin's were slim—though not for this Milos Forman classic.
  • 64A. [Middle Eastern sandwich bread] PITA POCKET. Ya pick your CUE, RACK the BALLs, then do your best to get each BALL into a POCKET. And that's POOL. All of which kinda makes me wanna see The Hustler again!
I think the only non-theme fill that raised a flag for me was (CS debut) BAKE PAN—which is not a phrase I'm accustomed to using. Especially for meatloaf. Then I use a loaf pan... Otherwise I call that "vessel" a "baking pan." In the strictly for-what-it's-worth column, BAKE PAN gets 1,480,000 Google hits; "baking pan," 4,970,000.

And since we're in the kitchen...toques off to EMERIL, fried RICE and carne ASADA—which was new to me. Looks good!

The shout-out to sports comes by way of SKI, CFL [ north of the border] (Canadian Football League), NHLER [Ranger or Duck for short] (National Hockey LeaguER), TAMPA [Buccaneers' home], SUMO (playfully clued as [Big sport in Japan]), and golf [...links] term MAKE PAR (another CS first).

We get a PAIR of movie stars, too: the adorable Alan ARKIN and the controversial (the-less-said-the-better, SHO 'nuff...) Mel GIBSON.

Other happy-making examples:
  • SEALEGS, in its CS debut;
  • TINKERBELL (I mean, who doesn't love Tink?!)
  • PEZ
  • IN A TUB (and its clue: [Place for a nursery rhyme trio]). My first thought on this was "Wynken, Blinken and Nod"—but no way was WOODEN SHOE, with or without the IN A, gonna fly. And yes, yet another CS debut.
  • GOOP and its clue [Gunk].
Cluing (not previously mentioned...) that caught my attention: 38A [Words of agreement] for AMENS followed by 40A [Sign of agreement] for NOD; [Come to] for EQUAL (I was thinking AWAKE...); [First name in moonwalking] for NEIL (and not MICHAEL); and [Hit with a low blow] for KNEE. Ouch.

Because I know almost nothing about photography, ASA clued as [Film speed letters] was completely new (not merely NEWISH) news; and ["The Whole] NINE [Yards"] put me in mind of this whole etymological conundrum. Discuss amongst yourselves!

Orange here again. Following up what Janie said, "bake pan" in quotes gets just 66,000 Google hits, vs. nearly a million (surprisingly low, if you ask me) for "baking pan." "Loaf pan" (which is what I call the thing) garners 460,000.

Now can we get an air hockey theme? Or will someone give me an air hockey table of my own? My hand-eye coordination stinks for POOL, but I like air hockey.

Gary Steinmehl's Los Angeles Times crossword

Gary Steinmehl's theme feels a little bit hit-or-miss, but overall smooth and entertaining. The theme clues are all commands involving the word hand:
  • 20A. ["Hands up!"] clues REACH FOR THE SKY, which is a wonderfully colorful phrase. Isn't that one of Woody's pull-my-string lines in Toy Story?
  • 39A. ["Hands down!"] is what a teacher might say in lieu of saying NO MORE QUESTIONS. This clue/answer combo sounds contrived to me.
  • 55A. ["Hands off!"] is equivalent to LEAVE THAT ALONE, and that answer also feels contrived.

The iffiness of those theme entries is offset by the long Down answers in the fill and the pop culture material. I love EMILY [___Litella: Gilda Radner's "Never mind!" character]. There's NESTEA echoing the playful clue for ICE-T: [Refreshing rapper/actor?]. Jimmy Durante's "INKA Dinka Doo," Christopher REEVE, a TALKIE, [Old-time drummer Gene] KRUPA, Bobby FLAY from the Food Network, John LOCKE from Lost (oh, wait, it's clued as [English philosopher John]), and Jay LENO. Two answers in the top row are young animals, a FAWN and a CALF. And those long answers—the CAFETERIA is a [Food fight site], DOUGHNUTS are [Dunked snacks], a VIDEO GAME is a [Purchase for your Xbox], and [Years on the job] are one kind of LONGEVITY.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Monday"

Yay! Themeless Monday! Brendan was shooting for easier clues, and he did pull that off. So if you're afraid of Friday and Saturday NYT puzzles, try this themeless.

The fill's mighty splashy. Who's that at the bottom? Sonia SOTOMAYOR, crossing emo boy eyeliner, or GUYLINER. There's an IPHONE APP, GAPKIDS and a HANGOVER (clued as a [Morning sickness?]), AL D'AMATO near SADR CITY, L'CHAIM crossing UNITARIAN in ecumenical corner, MEGADETH and JUVENILE, and a pair of verbs that go well together, BELABOR and DEIGN TO.

I didn't know IAMBUSES was a word—these [Metrical feet] are also called iambs or iambi. And STORIETTE, a [Brief tale], is not a word we used in our college lit classes.


May 30, 2009

Sunday, 5/31

PI 9:03
LAT 7:41
NYT 7:32
BG 6:29
CS 3:27
NYT diagramless 16 minutes

Kelsey Blakley's New York Times crossword, "Odd One Out"

Well, you can fill in the whole puzzle without reading the Notepad note and without having the faintest idea of what the theme is. Then you can read the Notepad and get an anagramming puzzle...for which you don't need to do any work because 68- and 70-Across can be filled in via their clue (68A. [With 70-Across, some people are ___ crosswords]) and the easy crossings. Each of the eight long starred answers contains each of its letters twice, except for one solitary leftover letter. The eight leftovers can be anagrammed to spell NUTS OVER, but you don't need to pull out those letters and anagram them, do you? And knowing the letters-appear-twice gimmick probably wouldn't speed solving because those answers have straightforward clues and mostly easy crossings. I am left wondering what the point is, as the theme didn't give me any "wow" effect. Oh, well.

I was churning through it at breakneck speed until I hit the midsection of the right side. Ye gods, that zone worked me over:

  • 46D. [*Real work] is STRENUOUS EFFORT. (The U stands alone.) I had the bottom part early on.
  • 47D. [It may be tapped] clues a TREE TRUNK yielding maple sap.
  • 55A. ["Gloria ___" (hymn)] is completed by PATRI.
  • 60A. [King of England, 946-55] is EDRED. He is not among the most famous 20 or 30 English kings.
  • 65A. [Montana Indians] clues CREES, which are much more often clued as being in Canada.
  • 56D. [Italian Renaissance composer Banchieri] was named ADRIANO. He is not among the most famous 20 or 30 Italian Renaissance creative types.
  • 84A. [You name it] cleverly clues a NOUN.
  • 35D. The [1967 #1 hit whose lyrics begin "What you want / Baby, I got it"] is RESPECT. I know, you all got that one right off the bat. I'm terrible with lyrics, and wasn't sure if RES**** might be a two-word song. Those crossings were not helping me!
  • 72A. [Paint choice] is the TINT you have the paint colored rather than a kind of paint.
It wasn't all a grumblefest, I promise. I liked these things:
  • 23A. I like the theme entry UNITARIAN CHURCH, the [Religious affiliation of John Adams and William Howard Taft], because a couple gay friends have found the Unitarians to be welcoming. ATHEISM, a [Lack of faith], also pleases me.
  • 94A. The SKY is the [Ocean's reflection].
  • 4D. A [Dead giveaway?] is the deceased's ESTATE.
  • 7D. [The Osmonds, e.g.] are UTAHNS.
  • 25D. [Sea lily, e.g.] is a CRINOID. Crinoids are also called feather-stars, and they're cousins of starfish. Excuse me, sea stars. But on SpongeBob, they're starfish.
  • 45D. [Beta blocker?] without a question mark would be a blood pressure medicine. With it, it's the VHS, which conquered the Betamax videotape format.
  • 117D. Why did I know with just the first E that [She can be polled] clued a EWE? I couldn't tell you. What is polling? Oh! The dictionary tells me it's cutting off an animal's horns.
In the underwhelming category, we have some -ER people and an -EST superlative. A [Telecaster] is an AIRER. A [Jester, e.g.] is an AMUSER. An ENTICER is a [Siren] luring the DESIRERS, or [Those with yens]. The superlative is MINUTEST, or [Least]. It's got plenty of Google presence, but some of those hits are typos for "minutes."

There's some crosswordese sprinkled throughout the grid, too—OLEO and STERE, STRIAE and NEE, that sort of stuff. And DIESEL OIL is clued as [Semi fill-up]. Is there such a substance? If there is, I don't think it's what truckers buy at the gas pump—that'd be diesel fuel or diesel. Diesel oil may be motor oil designed for diesel engines.

Francis Heaney's NYT second Sunday puzzle, a diagramless crossword

Diagramless fans are especially fond of puzzles that draw a picture, aren't we? Here, the diagram ends up depicting a spiral, which adds visual oomph to the theme. My spiral spills over by two columns on the right side of the grid because I settled on a starting square after figuring out the first four and a half rows, and I assumed the answers would spill to the left more. (The correct starting square is the fifth one.) Not a tragedy, as there's plenty of room in the right margin for a couple more answers.

The theme entries are:
  • 12A. [Source of an osmena pearl] is the NAUTILUS SHELL. Raise your hand if you have no idea what an osmena pearl is. *raising hand*
  • 32A. CEPHALOPOD is a [Creature in a 12-Across].
  • 40A. [Shape of a 12-Across] is a SPIRAL, visually represented by the spiraling shape of the diagram.
  • 56A. [Like a 12-Across] clues CHAMBERED.
  • 61A. Just for the hell of it, OCTOPUS is stacked below CHAMBERED. It's a [Kind of 32-Across]. Kudos on the 100% defensible "kind of ___" clue, Francis.

The nonthematic fill is colorful. NICK FALDO ([Three-time Masters winner who's now a TV golf analyst]) and DANIEL BOONE ([Eponym of a Kentucky national forest]) sit up top. There's a DOPE FIEND who's a [Candidate for rehab]. [Vacation spot for people who like to pack light?] is a NUDIST CAMP. A plain old MUSIC BOX is a [Portable player that has only one song]—great clue, as it evokes questions about which iPod or MP3 player has such a limit. KUDZU ([Comic strip that shares a name with an invasive plant]) shares a Z with Tony DANZA (["Taxi" co-star] back in the day). The craziest answer is RAGNAROK—[Cataclysmic even in Norse myth that inspired "Götterdämmerung"]. There are also a lot of 3-letter answers to facilitate the spiraling diagram, which helped me a lot in solving because many of them had fairly easy clues. I was led astray by the clue for 24A, though—the [Traditional July birthstone] I know of the RUBY, but the answer here is ONYX, also 4 letters. Apparently the onyx is linked to the zodiac sign Leo, which begins in late July, but the clue borders on unfair because most sources will say July's birthstone is the ruby.

Edited to add: Holy cow! Reader Matt points out that two short answers also look to be part of the theme. The APEX is the innermost empty chamber, clued here as [Tiptop] rather than duplicating the words shell, chamber, or nautilus. I don't know if the outermost part of a nautilus creature or its shell is called END, but END is at the end of the spiral clued as [Wind up].

Edward Sessa's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, "Double Plays"

There's a critical mass of L.A. Times crossword bloggers (well, three of us—me, PuzzleGirl, and Rex) who blithely pay little attention to Broadway shows and fail to work up much enthusiasm for themes centered on them, especially when it comes to musicals. Today's theme entries combine the titles of two plays (some musicals, some not) and concoct a clue for the resulting phrase. [Munchkin femmes fatales?], for example, are WICKED LITTLE WOMEN, combining Wicked and Little Women. The latter was made into a play? I didn't know. My favorite theme entry wins for its "ick" quotient: HAIR GREASE is clued as [Inferior pomade?], and Hair and Grease are both quite familiar. I didn't know there was a show or play called Fanny, so FANNY-PROOF, [Like sturdy chairs], didn't readily come to me. And [Jazz lovers on the Mississippi?]—BIG RIVER CATS? Yes, I know about Cats, but I can't say Big River rings a bell at all.

Interesting word of the day: ALLONYMS, clued as [Ghostwriters' noms de plume, say]. As A.Word.A.Day explains, it's "the name of a person, usually historical, taken by an author as a pen name (as opposed to using a fictional pseudonym)." Orange is a fictional pseudonym, but I read another blog where a writer uses an allonym. You know what would be a great pseudonym? Mac Homan. That's what 3D, the [1978 Village People hit], looks like when spaced differently. I envision Mac Homan as not at all a MACHO MAN.

There's more on the puzzle from PuzzleGirl at the other blog.

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Going into Overtime"

Merl is the master of the entertaining Sunday theme. Sometimes his puns are groaners, yes, but he shines when it comes to cracking wise via a crossword theme. The title's a little backwards, as the OT goes into each theme answer rather than the reverse:
  • 22A. [Something Iago probblyl never said?] is "OTHELLO, IT'S ME." Is "Hello, it's me" suitably in-the-language to serve as the basis of a theme twist? I say sure, if the result is funny.
  • 26A. [Singer who's never forgotten her roots?] is VIKKI CARROT. Does anyone younger than me have any familiarity with Vikki Carr? She lives in the same part of my brain as Vicki Lawrence, which is to say that I don't really know anything about Vikki Carr either. Slightly before my time, I think.
  • 41A. ["Okay, dog, you happen to be eating my most valuable baseball card"] clues MEL OTT'S IN YOUR MOUTH. Thank you for getting the dog concept in there, Merl.
  • 55A. THE OLD BALLOT GAME is [Chad checking?].
  • 69A. [Why I'm still waiting to take off?] is that GODOT IS MY COPILOT. I laughed out loud at this one, and so did my husband when I read it to him. Waiting for Godot + aviation + cheesy "God is my co-pilot" bumper stickers = win.
  • 85A. [Studies helicopters?] is THINKS ROTATIONALLY.
  • 102A and 110A are a father-and-son pair, Carl and Rob Reiner. ROBOT REINER is [Artoo Detoo's favorite director?] and CAR LOT REINER is a [Director who's been around the block a few times?].

In the shorter answers, I duped myself into thinking the 3-letter [On-the-rack item?] (17A) was a BRA...but the answer turned out to be HAT. Whoops. Looking at 62D, I assumed there was an adjacent-key typo in the clue for GATES. Robert GATES is the [DOD boss], after all. But what Merl was going for was Bill GATES, the Microsoft [DOS boss].

Favorite non-theme clue: [Rocky greeting] for YO, ADRIAN. When I see "rocky" in a clue, I think of IBEXes gamboling on the TORs. WHO'S NEXT is a seminal album by The Who, but it's clued as [Waiting room query]. Thanks to songs like "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again," I like WHO'S NEXT even with a waiting room clue.

Toughest clues: [Samoa's monetary unit] is the TALA. GEMSBOK is a [Large antelope]. ALTHORNS are certain [Brass instruments]. There are two old-school crosswordese actresses: THEDA Bara is clued as the [First name of "The Vamp"], and [Actress Negri] is POLA.

Henry Hook's Boston Globe puzzle in Across Lite, "Big Bucks"

The theme is a little flat, as it looks like most of the theme entries are about wealth, but then MISS MONEYPENNY doesn't connote wealth. And ROLLING IN DOUGH means "wealthy," but most of the other answers just include words that mean "wealth." So it feels uneven. And then there are a handful of woeful entries that make me say, "Oh, Henry, you're better than this." ELEMI and ANENT at least are old-school crosswordese that long-time solvers don't blink at. But VENITE? That's the [95th Psalm] and not a familiar word or crossword entry. UPOLU? It's a [Volcanic Samoan island], apparently. Better are ZAFTIG, MCGRUFF, TYLENOL, and even the Sea of OKHOTSK (Russian inlet).

You know, I'd write more about the puzzle if there were more of an audience for it. But when it's been a month and a half since it was in the newspaper and there are just those of us who use or Will Johnston's Puzzle Pointers page who are still thinking about the puzzle...the motivation dwindles.

Updated again Sunday evening:

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy themeless "Sunday Challenge"

Aww, another easy themeless? I crave crazy-tough clues, I do.

The QWERTY KEYBOARD is a [Standard typing setup], all right. Joining it among the more lively answers here are these:
  • JAKARTA is [University of Indonesia location]. Never heard of the school, but Jakarta's the best-known city in Indonesia so that was inferrable.
  • WARNER BROTHERS has certainly done a lot since then, but back in the day it was the ["Casablanca" studio].
  • You'd think TIBETAN would be a common 7-letter crossword answer with the alternating consonant/vowel pattern and nothing more unusual than a B, but it really isn't. Clued as [The Dalai Lama, for one].
  • What's [Gumption]? It's MOXIE or spunk.
  • Samoa's crosswordese capital Apia moves to the clue side of things. [Apia natives] are SAMOANS.


May 29, 2009

Saturday, 5/30

Newsday 7:47
NYT 6:56
LAT 4:17
CS 7:23 (J—paper)

Matt Ginsberg's New York Times crossword

Write-up and answer grid coming later tonight, after raspberry shortcake and putting my kid to bed.

But first:

48A. [Chain of treeless rolling hills] is a WOLD.
44D. The W's crossing is a [Metalworking tool] called a SWAGE.

Now, TOLD/STAGE would fit there and could lend themselves to interesting cluing riffs, but no, we get WOLD and SWAGE, neither of which I've heard of. After decades of crosswording!

Aside from that, there are about a dozen Z's in the grid, which is just insane, so I enjoyed the puzzle. The "pick a random letter and see if the applet likes it" game got old pretty quickly, though. W?? Maybe it's a product placement for the W Hotels.

—Okay, I'm back, and my kid's still not in bed! This puppy's a 72-worder, which means it was probably easier to fill the grid in mondo Scrabbly fashion than it would've been for a 68-worder. I have no objection to hitting the ceiling for themeless word count, especially not when the fill boggles the mind. Favorite answers, enjoyable clues:

  • 12A. [Just over a minority] is ONE HALF, which is also just under a majority in that awkward in-between stage.
  • 16A. JACUZZI is the ["Water that moves you" sloganeer]. Luckily, this isn't the slogan for a laxative beverage.
  • 17A. CHORIZO! Great word, but I'd never eat [Spanish pork sausage]. I'm so sausage-averse I don't even like vegetarian sausage.
  • 19A. YITZHAK Rabin has a first name that is perhaps more fun to spell than any other. He was [Shimon's predecessor].
  • 21A. [Sucker, quickly] is a VAC, or vacuum. I almost went with POP, short for lollipop.
  • 34A. Anyone who would CLAP to [Summon a servant, maybe] should be slapped. Although...after my tonsillectomy and wisdom tooth removal, I absolutely clapped to summon my husband.
  • 40A. Another puzzle recently, maybe not an NYT, had PETARD clued as a bomb of some sort. Here it's a [Gate-breaching bomb].
  • 45A. ZOG is the [Planet visited by Spaceman Spiff in "Calvin and Hobbes"]. There was also a King Zog of Albania.
  • 56A. The [Drink with lemon juice] is a GIN FIZZ. Does the sloe gin fizz also have lemon juice? SLOES are three rows above, clued as [Sour fruit].
  • 60A. Emilio ESTEVEZ was a [Brat Pack member] in the '80s. Anyone else try to think of a Rat Pack member ending in Z? No? JUST ME? (That one's clued as a [Response to "Is anyone else here?"].)
  • 1D. JOJOBAS are [Southwestern shrubs yielding a cosmetic oil], the jojoba oil seen on many a label. What exactly is it? Who cares? It has two J's.
  • 6D. Popeye [Cartoonist Segar]'s first name was ELZIE. Is it any wonder he's typically credited as E.C. Segar?
  • 14D. [Junk] is SCHLOCK. I like all those Yiddishy sch-words.
  • 27D. In slang, RULES means [Is way cool].
  • 35D. The four-Z spelling of PIZZAZZ is the one I like. It's [Flair].
  • 53D. The queen bee clues fool me a lot. [Queen's quarters] are the HIVE.
  • 54D. GIRO is a [Big name in cycling helmets], and so is Bell.

Here are a few answers that demanded that I work the crossings a good bit: MAZY is an odd little word, clued as [Tangled and interwoven]. [Clyde ___, "Beau Brummell" playwright, 1890] is Mr. FITCH. (Who?) I know what pomades are, but POMATUM—[Fragrant hair dressing]—is unfamiliar. In music, [Larghetto] means SLOWISH.

Updated Saturday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Pig Farm"—Janie's review

Anyone who attended this year's ACPT should remember Merl Reagle's puzzle #3: "Lipstick on a Pig" which gave us lots of cosmetic-treatment puns with a porcine twist. When I saw the title of today's puzzle I was immediately reminded of it. Once I started solving, however, it became clear that Martin's approach would be uniquely his. In three grid-spanning entries, Martin gives us some insight into what remains of a pig once it has gone to, and is resting in, Hog Heaven. And what might those options be? Our first choice is :
  • 17A: GREEN EGGS AND HAM [Dr. Seuss classic]. My usual method of solving is to do the first row of acrosses, left to right, and then start with the downs, going from right to left. So today I saw ANDHAM emerge and quickly summoned up the title in question (and felt brilliant, I tell you! [Really...sometimes it takes so little...]). Still, I wasn't certain what to expect for the remaining theme fill, the next of which is:
  • 37A: PORK BARREL BILLS [Sources of government waste]. Exactly. Now here I was able to enter PORKBARREL right away, but BILLS was to come later. All I could summon up at first was SPENDING—which wasn't gonna work... Leaving only:
  • 57A: SIR FRANCIS BACON ["Novum Organum" author]. Had no idea, but once SIRF emerged, knew exactly what was required and entered it with confidence.

With two CS debuts (the first two) and one major puzzle debut, this theme fill is both fresh and a lot of fun to boot.

But it's not only the quality of the theme-fill that makes this puzzle so good. The lengthy non-theme fill stands on its own and it, too, is fresh as can be. There are three CS debuts here:
  • OPOSSUMS [Pogo and others]. Like our friend the "koala," whom we encountered yesterday, another folivore, another marsupial;
  • BRIC-A-BRAC [Curios]. I love this one. Makes me think of "tsotchkes" and "etagères." And
  • EXHIBIT A [Most damning evidence, maybe].

And two major-puzzle firsts:
  • MCGREGOR ["Trainspotting" star Ewan]. Given the title of today's puzzle, I was thinkin' "Farmer"...; and
  • JOHN MILLS ["Oh! What a Lovely War" star]. Also father of Juliet and Hayley. While O! WALW is cited in its film incarnation, it came into being on stage under the aegis of Britain's astonishing director, the late Joan Littlewood.

Three other astonishing women—all born within 20 years of each other—get first-name mentions, and I'll mention 'em, too: hostess PERLE Mesta (1889-1975), aviator AMELIA Earhart (1897-1937) and author EUDORA Welty (1909-2001).

Some clues that shone: [Joltless joe] for DECAF (remember when Joltin' Joe was the spokesman for Mr. Coffee?...); and [Letters on a Cardinal's cap]. I really FALTERED with this one. What sort of religious esoterica is this? How am I supposed to...? Oh. Baseball's St. Louis Cardinals. STL. Nevermind...

And have no idea why I like this particular pair of words, but I do: SPINAL and BUNION. Go figger.

This was a not-too-difficult puzzle with a lotta meaty fill. A Saturday treat (sorry, vegetarians!!). Need more? There's a CD that pokes fun of the ultra-earnest (Gregorian) Chant disc that was so popular for a while. This is called Grunt and is a recording of Pigorian chant...

Robert Wolfe's Los Angeles Times crossword

I've got a longer write-up of this puzzle L.A. Crossword Confidential today. One thing I didn't mention over there is my unease with the clue for 1-Across, WADES IN. Yes, the dictionary says it does indeed mean [Begins energetically], but that just seems wrong. If you're enthusiastic about getting into the water at the beach, you'll move beyond mere wading and splash in for full immersion. Whoever decided that wading in represented a "vigorous attack or intervention" was clearly on drugs. Is there a word for "idiom that seems patently backwards"?

EXTRA-LARGE is clued as a [Soft drink order]. I order that size only at the movies, and refer to it as "a trough of Diet Coke." (ASPARTAME!) [Philippine bread] is Philippine currency, the PESO. My mother-in-law doesn't bake much so I haven't had any Filipino baked goods, but that's not what this clue is about. [Caesar's tax form?] is 1040, or MXL—the clue is just nutty enough that I like it, even though it works that question mark hard. (Caesar did not complete any IRS forms.) The [Burrowing rabbitlike mammal] called the PIKA is adorable. It lives out west in the Great Basin, the area between the Rockies and Sierra Nevada. And, as I learned when reading about it for my L.A.C.C. post, it eats its fresh poop to extract more nutrients and only the second-round poop becomes the familiar pellets of rabbit poop. Shouldn't the pika have evolved a more effective digestive system so it could get all the nutrients out the first time? I'm relieved that humans' GI tract evolved past that.

Updated again Saturday afternoon:

Doug Peterson's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

This is among my least favorite Doug Peterson themelesses (answer here), but it's still pretty good. (Doug's set his bar high.) And I like this difficulty level. First, let's look at the parts I liked most:
  • SNOW JOB is a colorful phrase. Not crazy about the clue [Hustle], as a hustle and a snow job don't feel quite the same to me.
  • BAILING could've had a horrible, lifeless clue, but [Taking off] means BAILING's slangy sense is what's in play here. "This symposium blows. I'm gonna bail."
  • THE WILD, WILD WEST is a cool 15. I know it from the crappy movie with, if memory serves, Will Smith and Kenneth Branagh, but that conveyed some time travel, I think, so ['60s (sort of) sci-fi series] worked for me.
  • Who doesn't love MELANCHOLY? (The word, not the feeling.) It's clued simply as [Low]. [Lowers] is unrelated. The word that means SCOWLS rhymes with cower and flower, not mower.
  • I love AWKWARD SILENCES, which are [What hosts may fill].
  • SCTV, short for Second City Television, is [Letters on Ramis's resume]. The very funny Harold Ramis was on SCTV back around 1980 or thereabouts.
  • I like JAILBIRDS, but the clue [Losers] sure doesn't seem to equate. JAILBIRDS has a degree of specificity that isn't matched by [Losers].
  • OGLING is indeed [Unwelcome attention]. I like the negative aspersions in the clue.
  • Free [Weights] in the weightlifting area of the gym are IRON, as in "pumping iron."

What worked less well here? This stuff:
  • [Baroque, in a way] clues FUGAL. Music isn't my area, true, but the dictionary definition of baroque says nothing about fugues and the fugue/fugal definitions don't mention the baroque style.
  • If you're going with finance, then the typical IRA probably isn't a [Place for cash]. A saving or checking account is a place for cash, but my IRAs are invested in mutual funds. And that money isn't exactly the same as cash because, well, a good 40% of it vanished, and cash doesn't tend to vanish. I suppose the intent here was to trick solvers into trying ATM, but...meh.
  • GEYSERS aren't "stuff." They may be "things" but they're not "stuff," so [Hot stuff] fails as a clue if you ask me.
  • Doug tries to get cute with ULNAE. [They're up in arms]? No. What are up in your arms are your humeri. The ulnae and the radii are down in your arms, closer to the ground.


May 28, 2009

Friday, 5/29

BEQ 6:46
NYT 6:12
LAT 5:12
CHE 4:37
CS 14:18 (J—paper)/4:36 (A—Across Lite)
Tausig untimed
WSJ 8:30

Randolph Ross's New York Times crossword

The applet timer read 5:39 when I went to click "done!" and wouldn't you know it? Typo! No, [From this moment on] doesn't mean ANYLLNGER, it means ANY LONGER. Figures the typo was in the bottom row when I started scanning my answers at the top. That ANY LONGER—that goes with the negative, right? "I'm not doing that any longer?" I like "anymore" to stay in the negative too, but people've been using that non-negatively of late.

This 66-worder has some killer answers, some surprises, and a handful of entries with word endings that stretch things a bit (though truthfully, I didn't mind SPARERS and SLATING today). There are also several apt pairings:

  • 12D. [With 20-Down, kiddie-lit counterpart of Sherlock Holmes] is NATE / THE GREAT. I'm a hair too old to have read this when I was a kid, and now my son's a little too old to read the Nate books, if Amazon's age 4-8 range is to be believed.
  • 16A. [Equal, essentially] is ASPARTAME, an ARTIFICIAL ([Like 16-Across]) sweetener.
  • 39A. [Kennel clamor] is a bunch of WOOFING dogs. I don't know why 31A. DOG'S AGE is a [Long while]—dogs have much shorter lifespans than people.
  • 26A. Herb CAEN is the San Francisco [Columnist who wrote "Don't Call It Frisco," 1953], and Frisco is where the GOLDEN GATE is. I'll dispute that it's a [Sir Francis Drake discovery of 1579]—first, because the area had been inhabited by the Ohlone before the Europeans' arrival, and second, because that Wikipedia article goes to the trouble of saying that Drake didn't find it. Any locals know the deal?
One answer I got strictly through its crossings surprised me when I saw it in the finished grid. Another EERO: 14D [Finnish pentathlete Lehtonen]. Hey, we need all the famous EEROs we can get. Among my favorite answers and clues were these:
  • 1A. [Place holder?] is a DIGIT. I get to practice my tens place and my hundredths place thanks to my son's homework.
  • 6A. ["Lost" category] looks like it's about the TV show, but it's actually about the word "lost"—it's in the PAST TENSE. Brilliant clue! Kudos to Randy or Will or whoever came up with that one.
  • 18A. Corporate trivia: RCA VICTOR was the [Introducer of 45's in '49].
  • 26A. [Middle of the British Isles?] is CENTRE spelled the un-American way.
  • 33A. SALERNO was an [Allied landing site of September 1943], but I like it because of my nostalgia for Salerno butter cookies, wearable as rings. This may be a local thing.
  • 44A. [Some are blank]...hmm, can't very well be SLATES when it crosses SLATING. Blank STARES are good.
  • 52A. HENRY VIII is a great entry. The clue, [Charlton Heston's "The Prince and the Pauper" role], was of no help to me here.
  • 1D. Another terrific answer is DEAR OLD DAD, clued with [Pops]. I wonder if anyone was lured by the ASPARTAME into putting DIETPEPSIS here.
  • 24A. The Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans has an impressive SEAHORSE collection. I don't recall learning there that the seahorse is [Cousin of a stickleback], but seahorses are insanely cool creatures.
  • 27A. [One that's stalked] is a LEAF. This reminds me of the lame "make like a tree and leave" line. "Make like a leaf and be stalked"?
Then there are these three clues, which were not gimmes for me. I wonder how many solvers will have been stumped by these:
  • 35A. [Derby dry-goods dealer] is a DRAPER. Thank you for sticking with an old-fashioned noun instead of going with the Mad Men character. I have thus far had zero interest in watching that show.
  • 9D. TAV is [Torah's beginning?]. That's a letter in the Hebrew alphabet and not one of the ones found on the dreidel.
  • 49D. We dodged a bullet here. Imagine if the clue and answer rivers had been swapped. The URAL is familiar crosswordese, but [The Ilek is one of its tributaries] rings no bell for me. [Ural tributary] for ILEK would just be mean.

Updated Friday morning:

Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy Puzzle, "Mixed Green Salad"—Janie's review

Anyone who solves cryptic puzzles can tell you: the word "mixed" in the clue is the tip-off that the solution involves an anagram. And the "mixed" in the title of today's puzzle is no exception. Take the ten letters of "GREEN SALAD," toss 'em up and whaddaya get?
  • NAG DEALERS, [Old horse traders] 17A. An "old horse" is a NAG—as in "bet my money on the bob-tail NAG"...
  • SAGE LANDER, [One dispatching wise guys to the moon?], 10D. I hate to admit how much time I spent on this one (uh—see above...), but that's because I attempted to complete it before I was aware of the anagram angle. My thoughts were more along the lines of getting the 12 letters of RALPH KRAMDEN to fit into the 10-square allotment. Anyone else? When I finally did know what was required, and entered SAGE (for those "wise guys"), it still took me a while to understand this one. It feels like the most forced of the otherwise natural-sounding theme fill.
  • SAD GENERAL, [Lee at Appomattox?] 28D. See what I mean? This one doesn't take nearly as much parsing to make sense of.
  • LEA DANGERS, [Cow cookies, meadow muffins and pasture patties?], 54A. The best. If you need a clearer picture, then here 'tis...

Not only do we get this anagram quartet, we also get the centrally-located and unifying ANAGRAM, [What each of this grid's ten-letter entries is] at 38A.

And to balance the word-playful theme fill, there're two 9-letter major puzzle debuts: the perfectly idiomatic I'M ON TO YOU ["You can't fool me, buster!"] and the precise CLOCKED IN [Began the shift]. TEND BAR, B-MOVIE (in a CS debut), THE RAVEN, BOGUS, HOYLE, YAYAS—all of these add to the overall quality of the fill.

Then, there a couple of "mini-theme" clusters: PUMA, (CS first) SHE-BEARS and KOALA are all mammals. (And how about the cunning way that last one is clued—[Fetching furry folivore]. "Folivore"?! Well, of course—foliage eater!) The other little grouping includes A-BOMB, NUKE and ACID—all explosive (in their own way) and all of which can be "dropped."

Before taking a look at a few of the many-splendored clues, here's one grid-bit: the happy crossing of SHEBA with SHE-BEARS.

And now, to focus on some of those quintessentially-Klahn clues:
  • [Little scrap] SPAT, followed by [A little lamb?] CHOP
  • [Peak piled on Pelion] OSSA
  • [Partner of Lewis or Lois] CLARK
  • [High on the hwy.] DWI. This one took me a while...part of the 11D debacle...
  • [Mason mysteries monogram] ESG (for Erle Stanley Gardner)
  • [Where you can hear pins drop] ALLEY (love this combo)
  • [One-time science mag] OMNI, followed by [One-time flight attendant, in slang] STEW
  • [Ketchikan canoe] KAYAK
  • [Styptic pencil stuff] ALUM, followed by [Pencil stuff out] EDIT
  • [Ball material] SNOW (d'oh!), followed by [Bale material] HAY

If I omitted your fave(s), by all means: speak up!

Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword

Wow, is it just me or was today's LAT tougher than any Friday LAT of recent vintage? As denizens of the L.A. Crossword Confidential comments know, some of the newspapers that picked up the LAT crossword after the demise of the Tribune daily crossword are getting noisy complaints from people who want a more Maleskan experience, a crossword that's amenable to crossword-dictionary solving. I'm assertively post-Maleskan and prefer clues with wordplay, clues that require flexible thinking, and interesting phrases in the grid. Today's was tougher than I was expecting, but tough = good in my book.

This puzzle's theme passes the buck and says it's not I, it's U—each theme entry changes a familiar phrase's I to a U, thereby reworking the meaning:
  • 17A. [Flared garb for Tarzan?] are JUNGLE BELLS, as in bell-bottom pants. Were these called BELLS for short in the '70s? I don't recall that. "Jingle Bells," of course, is the classic Christmas-time carol.
  • 24A. MUSTER COFFEE plays on Mister Coffee. The clue's [Manage to provide morning refreshment].
  • 37A. [Scarf makers?] are BOA CONSTRUCTORS. This is the first theme entry I completed, but a couple wrong answers at the top got in the way of deciphering 17A and 24A.
  • 46A. [Wrinkle on a dessert topper?] is CHERRY PUCKER. That sounds faintly obscene.
  • 57A. [Wolves full of themselves?] are a BLUSTER PACK, playing on a medicine packaged in a blister pack.

What were my hitches? EBRO instead of ARNO for 3D [Florentine flower?], TELL US instead of CALL US for 5D ["We want to hear from you"], YET instead of BUT for 12D ["Despite what I just said..."], all in the same area. (Ouch!) And then at 48D, with U*SET, I went with the not-at-all-the-same-thing UNSET for [Discomfit] instead of the now-obvious UPSET, even though ONART was patently wrong and 52A [Off-the-wall piece on the wall?] clues OP ART. It didn't help matters that I wanted PLODS or PLOPS instead of the correct POURS for 47D [Falls heavily]. I usually have far fewer wrong turns in a themed L.A. Times crossword.

There's a bit of a French vibe here. 13D [Cafe cup] is a TASSE and 42A [Silk, in St.-Etienne] is SOIE. And the YSER, a mostly Belgian [River to the North Sea], originates in France.

The interlock of the vertical 10-letter answers with the long Across theme answers suggests to me that Dan Naddor should be making themeless puzzles—but he oughtn't stop the themed puzzles because he comes up with so many new angles that he's one of the people keeping me interested in themed puzzles. MY LEFT FOOT is the [1989 Daniel Day-Lewis film] about an artist/writer with cerebral palsy. [It's hoisted on the ice annually] clues the super-timely STANLEY CUP; alas, the Chicago Blackhawks will not be vying for the Cup. I'm familiar with the "swords into plowshares" phrase, but had not realized that PLOWSHARES were [Cutting-edge farm parts], a plow's main cutting blades. The "shares" part is related to "shears," which makes perfect sense.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Friday"

I always read Brendan's post about the puzzle after I've solved it, and whaddaya know? He says he's had this one in his file for a while, perhaps not sold elsewhere as a result of the answers he singles out—most of which I did indeed have to hammer away at via the crossings. LIMOUSIN is a [Hardy cattle breed named for a region of France]? I'll take Brendan's word for it. QBERT'S QUBES was a [1983 arcade game sequel]? Never heard of it. A [Customs document] is a CARNET? Dictionary says it's a customs permit for taking a vehicle across the border. I also didn't know ARKY, [Baseball Hall of Famer Vaughn], having only the faintest sense of recognition.

  • TOOK A HEADER means [Fell]. I started with TOOK A TUMBLE here.
  • [Fish ___], TA**? Surely that's TAIL? Nope, fish TACO.
  • [Rambam adherent] is an ORTHODOX JEW. You don't see a lot of XJ combos in the crossword.
  • [Very expensive contest prizes?] are SENATE SEATS. You know how you can save a lot of money? Just pay off one person to get appointed to a Senate seat rather than spending millions on a campaign. I can't help thinking that Blagojevich appointed Burris out of spite for Burris. You want a Senate seat that's effin' golden but you can't come up with big money? Fine, we'll talk about how much you can pay. Then I'll be indicted and appoint you with assurances of your rectitude. Eventually those wiretaps will come out and you'll look like an ass. If you'd just rounded up a lot more money, I could've appointed you before I was indicted, but noooo.
  • [Beach community near LAX] is PLAYA DEL REY, best known to me from its appearance in Merl Reagle's Wordplay crossword.
  • [On the way out?] clues DROWSY.

Pancho Harrison's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "Travel Gear"

I slowed myself down in a few spots by mistyping things and failing to notice the errors for a while. ENSERD in lieu of ENSERF ([Make a slave of]) blocked FIGURE ([Illustration in a set of instructions], which was looking incomprehensibly like DIGURE. And then I inverted the vowel pair in ANTOINE into ANTIONE (the fingers, they are familiar with -TION, are they not?), which mangled its crossings too.

Theme? Oh, theme! Yes. The titular "Travel Gear" is five things that start with words/names that are also the names of noted explorers. Marco POLO SHIRTS are [Clothing to wear while exploring the Orient?]. PIKESTAFF is the wooden shaft of a pike, and the guy Pike's Peak is named after might use a PIKE STAFF as a [Walking stick for exploring the Colorado mountains?]. [Drying cloths to use while exploring the Antarctic?] are SCOTT TOWELS, also a brand of paper towels. COOK STOVE might be a [Piece of caping gear for exploring Newfoundland?]. And Stanley, the "Mr. Livingstone, I presume" guy, has a [Drinking vessel to use while exploring deepest Africa?], hockey's STANLEY CUP.

Favorite non-theme clue" [Contractors, e.g.] for MUSCLES.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Internal Medicine"

As I mentioned a couple days ago, when I test-solved this puzzle, it had no circles in the grid, and I only noticed half of the theme answers, the ones in the longest four entries. Each of the eight themers is a two-word phrase with the words joined by a two-letter abbreviation for a worker in the medical field: MDs are doctors, RNs are registered nurses, PAs are physician assistants, and NPs are nurse practitioners. So these "medicine" folks are "internal" to their entries. Do you think you would have seen them all in the absence of circled letters or, say, asterisked theme clues?

Highlights: Theme answer WHOOP-ASS is clued as [Can's contents, in belligerent slang]. IRS is [R.E.M.'s label, once]—much more entertaining than the Internal Revenue Service. Theme entry DENVER NUGGETS are a [2009 Western Conference Finals team]; my kid was rooting for the yellow team (Lakers) until I told him that the blue team was the one his auntie Pia likes, and he switched allegiances straightaway. [Playing the ___ (improvised verbal contest)] is the DOZENS. Another lively hidden-professional answer is SPERM DONOR, [Person paid by the bank to make deposits]. I like that GENDER-NEUTRAL ([Like some PC toys]) clue for SPERM DONOR. [Abraham or Homer] sounds a little Old Testament and classical Greece, but they're SIMPSONs. Three Star Wars references: LANDO Calrissian, HAN Solo, and Reagan's SDI.

Tony Orbach's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Technobabble"

It wasn't until I pieced together the hey-that's-not-a-real-thing VIRTUAL UV TRIAL ([Simulated sun exposure study?]) that I discovered this was an anagram theme. Unlike the Klahn CrosSynergy puzzle, these anagram answers don't all have the same letters—rather, each theme entry begins with a 6- or 7-letter tech term followed by a one- or two-word anagram of that term. The most impressive find is the wireless HOTSPOT POTSHOT, or [Stab at a wireless connection?]. I'm also fond of the E-TAILER ATELIER, or [Online merchant's workshop?], just because I love the word ATELIER. I am pleased to report that despite the many hours I log at my blogs, I have not developed WEBLOG BOW LEG, a [Deformity caused by excessive posting?].

A few highlights:
  • SWEET TEA is a [Southern pitcherful].
  • A LEFT JAB in boxing is clued as a [Match staple], and wow, that clue did a good job of keeping me from understanding it.
  • [Source of "The True North strong and free!"] is the national anthem O CANADA. Do people in other countries make fun of "The Star-Spangled Banner" lyrics? Because that Canadian line seems cheesy to me. Do the bombs bursting in air get mocked similarly?
  • Better to clue FLAKED as [Failed to follow through, in slang] than as [Chipped off, like paint]. If you have a crossword dictionary, tell me: Does it include the slangy meaning of FLAKED?
  • Assorted 7- and 8-letter answers in the fill are particularly lively ones: SCOT-FREE, FACE LIFT, EGGHEAD, SLIP-UPS, LOOK AT ME, the BLUE FLU.


May 27, 2009

Thursday, 5/28

NYT 3:48
CS 7:28 (J—paper)
LAT 3:33
Tausig tba

Eek! You know what I should've done today? Gotten myself all squared away for tomorrow morning's Jeopardy! audition. I need to fill out the form with my anecdotes and get to bed, so let's do the short-form blogging.

Gary Cee's New York Times crossword

That's an unfamiliar name in the byline, and it's great to see a cool theme from a newcomer. The central answer, GET OVER IT—[Advice for the brokenhearted...or one of four arrangements found literally in this puzzle]—explains the theme, which is entries with an embedded GET appearing OVER a phrase with a hidden IT. To wit:

  • 17A PAGE-TURNER, or [Something that's hard to close?], is above 20A IMITATE, or [Mirror].
  • 21A ROGET'S, or [Editor's resource], is over 26A SUITOR, or [George Knightley, to Emma Woodhouse].
  • 50A BEGETS, or the verb [Fathers], is over a 55A BITMAP, or [Certain computer image format].
  • 57A SAGE TEA, or [Herbal beverage], is over 60A INQUISITOR, or [One in search of heretics].

They're aligned G over I twice and E over I twice.

Five clues: [Diggers' org.] is UMW, the union of mine workers. [Hungarian Communist leader ___ Kun]'s first name is BELA. John Philip SOUSA was a [Bandmaster from 1880 to 1931]. BREA is a not-so-well-known [City in Orange County, Calif.]. [Shoe part that touches the floor] is the OUTSOLE.

That's all the time I've got for this puzzle. Tune in Thursday morning for Janie's take on the CrosSynergy puzzle and sometime in the afternoon for the LAT (PuzzleGirl will have her solution grid and write-up at L.A. Crossword Confidential in the a.m.) and Ben Tausig's Ink Well puzzle (which originally did not have circles in the grid, so I completely missed half of the theme entries).

Updated Thursday morning:

Randall J. Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "May the Fors Be With You"—Janie's review

What we have here is a fine example of verbal "for"-play. Randy has given us one noun phrase and three verb phrases, and altered each by placing the word "for" in the, um, forward position. In this way:
  • AGE LIMIT becomes FORAGE LIMIT [Extent of a search for food?] (17A). What I particularly like about this one is the way AGE loses its English-language meaning to the new, unrelated word (from the French fourrage) it's now a part of. This is the only one of the theme fill to do so and it's also the sole noun phrase. I'm not sure if, in the big picture that's a good thing, but still it's probably best that (when working with even numbers of theme fill) the exception holds the first or last place. And it had better be darned good. This one is.
  • GET THE AXE becomes FORGET THE AXE [What an absent minded Paul Bunyan might do?] (27A) What a great clue—we get the whole scenario most amusingly. Am envisioning Paul slapping his head and letting out with a good "d'oh!"
  • GIVE CHASE (an idiomatic way of saying "pursue") becomes FORGIVE CHASE [Pardon comedian Chevy] (47A). Oh, and there've probably been one or three people in his life who've done just that...
  • GOES NUTS becomes FORGOES NUTS [Eschews cashews?] (64A). Another clue fave.

The strength of this puzzle is in the theme fill and cluing. The remainder of the fill is absolutely fine but with a few exceptions, not strikingly fresh. I loved seeing DEAR DIARY in there (a CS first); and WEED EATER, too. Did you know there's a band by that name? By the looks of things, however, this is a different kinda weed...

And there are several skewed clues that help give this puzzle some nice AHA moments: [Call at home] for SAFE, where "call" is a noun and not a verb; [Filing aid] for EMERY, not some kind of 5-letter organizer; [Split ingredient] for BANANA, as in, "My dessert choice is the banana split"; [Tiger or woods, e.g.] for NOUN (see [Call at home]).

I'd even go so far as to say there's a mini baseball sub-theme, with the clue [Bull pen] (for CORRAL), that [Call at home]/SAFE combo, and the [Stat for CC Sabathia]/ERA pair. Where Sabathia is concerned, I'm afraid I've been living under a rock...

And for anyone who didn't know, Wikipedia tells us that "Romain de Tirtoff (November 23, 1892 – April 21, 1990) was a Russian-born French artist and designer known by the pseudonym ERTÉ, the French pronunciation of his initials, R.T." Forsooth!

Updated again Thursday afternoon:

Tom Heilman's Los Angeles Times crossword

Yeah, boy, it wasn't until I pieced together the theme that I truly accepted that the wrong-looking HOTBOILER actually was wrong. Al Hirt is probably the most frequently seen trumpeter in crosswords, so it took me forever to change [Hack's output] to the so-very-right POTBOILER. Yes, I know who Herb ALPERT is, but my HIRT impulse kicked in when I read ["Spanish Flea" trumpeter]. And then the [Film feline], yes, I filled in ILSA and pictured Ingrid Bergman's Casablanca character, utterly disregarding the inclusion of "feline" in the clue. ["Born Free" lioness] or [Designer Schiaparelli] would've been a safer clue.

The theme is POT CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK—those are the first words of five theme entries and they evoke a HYPOCRITE. Kudos to Heilman for including six theme entries and having the top and bottom pairs partly stacked together. Smooth, interesting fill—BANJOS, CHICANO, RANSACKS, TICKLE, POTSIE from Happy Days, a NERF ball, and some MOOLAH all have zing.


May 26, 2009

Wednesday, 5/27

Onion 5:07
BEQ 4:26
NYT 4:01
LAT 2:49
CS 8:20 (J—paper)

Crikey, my kid still had a fever today, for the sixth straight day. Apparently there's a non-flu virus superimposed on the strep infection, producing a sloooowly resolving fever and cough. You can't go back to school until you've been afebrile for 24 hours, so he'll be home again on Wednesday. Day 7!

Corey Rubin's New York Times crossword

Did this feel a little more like a Thursday degree of difficulty to you? It definitely felt Thurednesdayish to me. The theme is super-clever: familiar American phrases with limey equivalents swapped in for key words. Here are your theme entries:

  • 20A. [Words of encouragement to a Brit?] might be KEEP ON LORRYIN'. Mind you, truck = lorry as a noun, not a verb, so it's truck and not truckin' that's changed.
  • 29A. [Group of dancing Brits?] is a CONGA QUEUE rather than a conga line.
  • 46A. [British smart alecks?] could be WISE BLOKES instead of wise guys.
  • 56A. [Sleep like a Brit?] clues CATCH SOME ZEDS (zees). I love this answer.

One thing that made this feel a little tougher than the standard mid-week puzzle is the inclusion of a few oddball words. [Extract with a solvent] clues ELUTE; very science labby. [Stands at wakes] are BIERS, which is a not-too-common word; its similarity to PYRE makes me think BIERS are set on fire, but no, they're just stands used before burial or cremation. (Cheerful!) A [Playground retort] has plenty of options, and the first crossing is a fill-in-the-blank partial I didn't know—[Bernstein/Sondheim's "___ Like That"] is missing A BOY and the retort is AM TOO. (Other retorts: IS TOO, I AM SO, DO TOO, I DO SO, etc.) TENABLE is not all that common a word, is it? It's clued [Like a solid argument].

Highlights: [Cattle-herding breed] is CORGI, and I liked this because it snagged me into a misread (I went with ANGUS, which don't usually herd themselves, do they?). An OPT-OUT clause is split into two intersecting cross-referenced entries, [With 30-Down, kind of clause]. The Scrabbly JACK UP is clued with [Hike, as a price]. A GO-ROUND is a [Bout]; how many go-rounds did you need with this puzzle? I like IN DRAG, but the clue, [Clad like some Halloween paraders], seems faintly prudish in its avoidance of year-round drag queens. Ooh, here's MIX IT UP, or [Have a tussle]—terrific crossword answer. [It may have a spinning ballerina] clues a MUSIC BOX; remember that insane instrumental song that was a hit in the late '70s? Go ahead and
get your "Music Box Dancer" groove on. (It's more mind-numbing than you remember.)

Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Final Strategy"—Janie's review

The concept for this theme is quite straightforward: the end ("final" part) of each phrase of theme fill is another way of looking at the word "strategy." The execution is also straightforward, as most of the theme fill represents actual strategies. But what fresh and specific theme fill we get! The two 11s are CS firsts, while the two 13s are making their major-puzzle debuts. There's also a seven in the middle, bringing the total number of theme squares to a healthy 55. And what are these five "strategies"? We have a:
  • 17A: PENSION PLAN [Retirement revenue arrangement]; a
  • 24A: GUNPOWDER PLOT [1605 conspiracy led by Guy Fawkes]; a far less incendiary
  • 38A: ROADMAP [Aid for the directionally-challenged]; a
  • 52A: COSTUME DESIGN [Category for which Edith Head won eight Oscars]; and the still painfully current
  • 62A: PONZI SCHEME [Certain investment swindle].

There is also a lot of non-theme fill that adds to the overall quality of the solve. I loved that the puzzle began with GAMUT—and that it's clued as [A to Z], since more often it's the other way around... Off of GAMUT we get MONOGRAMS (in a major-puzzle debut), clued as [Fashionable initials]. Before I saw how many letters were required to solve the clue, I was certain I was going to enter YSL. I disabused myself of that notion pretty quickly—though it took longer than I'd have liked to see what the clue was aiming at. This is a plus.

Another plus? The way MONOGRAMS' opposite number in the grid is the CS first-timer, ADORNMENT. Nice, too, that MONOGRAMS are traditionally used as ADORNMENT—on towels, on shirts, on any number of garments. Right next to that is the lively MEGAHIT with its peppy [Blockbuster] clue. Crossing the two of them towards the bottom, PINCE[-nez] (that's French for "pinch-nose"—which those specs do); and towards the top, sans specs, [Encyclopedist and leading figure of the French Enlightenment] DIDEROT. Took me a long time to get that right. Et pourquoi?

Well, I really didn't have a grip of the theme as I was solving (because there's something mildly inconsistent about the theme fill). So there I was at 38A, where the clue is [Aid for the directionally-challenged] and I think "easy" and confidently enter COMPASS... 41D is [Prefix for cure], there's the final S, so of course the fill must be SINE... Yes, it was that kind of solve for me. Before I had PONZI..., I tried to use PYRAMID... Needless to say, with this UNSOUND fill, I was [Likely to fail]. Happily, I finally did come out ON TOP.

Because I amuse easily, the combo of [Traveler down a fallopian tube] and OVUM keeps conjuring up something like Fantastic Voyage. I'm imagining this little egg with its little ROADMAP and tiny valise making its way to its destination. Or getting lost... I enjoyed seeing COPSE in proximity to STAND—because a COPSE can be defined as a "STAND of trees"; and CLAIM just above insurance-giant AETNA. As for clues that amuse: [It's next to nothing] for ONE; [Body of some art] for TORSO; and [Word repeated in prayer] for MANTRA. All three are so right and all three made me have to stop and think.

That, dear reader, is the mark of a top-notch puzzle (imoo...)—and this one's a GEM!

Brendan Quigley's Onion A.V. Club crossword

A reader has already posted a complaint about tastelessness in the Onion puzzles this morning. (Thanks, "fed up," for not including any spoilers.) This week's theme is T-to-D puns on band names, and the first of them is indeed tasteless: Playing on Boyz II Men, [NAMBLA's favorite R&B group?] is BOYS DO MEN. I'm going to have to agree with "fed up" that this is horrible—does anyone need to give the slightest affirmation to pedophile fantasies? Ick.

The second theme entry is ADD THE DRIVE-IN, or [Band that can retrofit your theater to accommodate automobiles?]. I suppose there's a band called At the Drive-in, but I couldn't tell you a single thing about them. Talking Heads gets a pun that changes both a consonant and a vowel sound (aw to ah) to become DOCKING HEADS, [Band with lots of songs about the French Revolution?]. Is there a Heartbreakers apart from "Tom Petty and"? HARD BREAKERS is an awkward-sounding phrase, clued as [With "the," backing band beloved by surfers?]. Is "hard breakers" a surfing term? I don't know surfing lingo, and I'm not crazy about promoting a backing band to theme entry status. (Sorry, guys.) [Band that treats phobias by hunting?] is DEERS FOR FEARS. The plural of deer is deer—is this the contraction, DEER'S FOR FEARS? Meh. Conor Oberst is Bright Eyes, and BRIDE EYES is clued as a [Band seen through a white veil?].

Kudos for packing in six theme answers, Brendan, but overall I GOTTA ([Must, slangily]) give you a C on this one for the theme and the inclusion of "meh" fill like OSTE, variant TEENIE, RESOW, TWO-A, and a bunch of abbreviations.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Predictive Text Movies"

This theme wasn't a natural one for me to grasp, even with the note above the puzzle on Brendan's blog tipping me off that "The theme entries are titles of movies typed out in the predictive text mode setting on a cell phone. Obviously the phone guessed the movies wrong." I didn't begin texting until I bought an LG enV with a full QWERTY keyboard, so I've never done this predictive text bidness. The theme clues are nonsense phrases that contain some correct letters from movie titles and some wrong letters, the wrong letters being other letters found on the same numeric phone button. (E.g., the 4 has GHI, so if you're typing 4 for any of those letters, the phone might assume you wanted a different letter. But I'm thinking the technology favors the most common words, so I wonder if anyone intending to type "the" actually gets "tie" instead.)

Hang on. 24-Across looks off-kilter. The USUAL SUSPECTS would come off as VID TRUCK PUP SEATS? Why would US come out as VIDTR? If predictive text adds letters in unpredictable ways, I would want to stomp on my phone.

Things I liked in the fill include MR. BIG STUFF (song I'd never heard of, sure, but so lively), FULCRA (plural of fulcrum, and who doesn't love Latin plurals?), UNINTENDED puns (and consequences), and J-LO clued as the [Richest person of Latin American descent in Hollywood, according to Forbes]. I didn't quite know where [Bellybutton lint] was going until SCUZZ emerged from the bellybuttoncrossings. It looks like an arbitrary spelling, but the Mac's Oxford American Dictionary gives that spelling a definition of "something regarded as disgusting, sordid, or disreputable." Indeed!

Toughest clue for me: [Air thrust backward by a plane] is JETWASH.

Doug Peterson's Los Angeles Times crossword

This Wednesday puzzle was Monday/Tuesday easy, unless you add in the time it took me to understand the theme—in which case it was Thursday hard. After reading the theme answers aloud to my husband several times, the synonymity of the first words in the theme entries finally dawned: BEAT, SLEEPY, WHIPPED, and DEAD are all slangy equivalents of "tired." But within the confines of the theme entries, they don't have that connotation:
  • 20A. [Journalists with specialties] are BEAT REPORTERS.
  • 33A. [Washington Irving title setting] is SLEEPY HOLLOW. That's the story with Ichabod Crane, the Headless Horseman, and Ichabod's rival Brom Bones.
  • 41A. [Dessert topping] is WHIPPED CREAM.
  • 57A. DEAD MAN'S CURVE is the [Title place you "won't come back from," in a 1964 Jan & Dean hit].

I had more to say at L.A. Crossword Confidential, and I'm feeling all blogged out this morning so I'll end here. Cheers!



crossword 15:55, with several googles
puzzle 9:30

hi, everybody! welcome to the 51st installment of matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest. this week's puzzle is an old-fashioned "clue" murder mystery: who killed mr. boddy, in which room, and with what murder weapon? to solve the mystery, let's look at the one overt theme answer in the grid: the central theme answer, clued as [What to look for to discover whodunnit, where and how], is EIGHT THAT END IN 2. this answer took me quite some time to piece together because of that final 2, which crossed R2D2, with the tough clue [Character played by the English dwarf Kenny Baker]. the second 2 of R2D2 cross PART 2, clued as [Second half, perhaps]. i don't know why that was so hard to suss out when i had PART_, but it was. i tried PART B (wrong, but oddly, it presaged the appearance of PART B in today's mike nothnagel NYT) and was then stumped by __DB until finally the light dawned.

so, EIGHT THAT END IN 2. what does this mean? my first thought: the answers to clues 2, 12, 22, etc. as this is an 80-word grid, it includes clue numbers all the way up to 73, so let's have a look at those clues:

  • 2d: [Ark. neighbor] = OKLA. i briefly considered that the murder was committed in oklahoma, but ... that's not one of the rooms in mr. boddy's mansion.
  • 12d: [___ fever] = RUNS A. when i finally figured this out, i googled RUNSA fever, expecting to learn about some kind of unusual tropical disease. instead, google politely asked me, "did you mean: runs a fever?" yes. yes i did. anyway, this is an ugly answer, but there's a good reason for it.
  • 22a: [Fashionable] = MODISH
  • 32d: [Word in the name of the band who did "London Calling"] = CLASH. this is an oddly worded clue. why not just ["London Calling" band, with "the"]? or [The ___ ("London Calling" band)]? well, you'll see why.
  • 42d: [___ card] = HIGH. HIGH card is the most basic form of poker, which is not very interesting. but it's more fun when it's indian poker.
  • 52d: [Accompanying] = ALONG.
  • 62d: [Hot drink in France] = CAFÉ, or coffee. you know, this clue is commonly used for THÉ (tea), since it can be awkward to clue the oh-so-common english word THE. but this isn't one of matt's answer-specific traps; the answer is clearly four letters long, so it can't be THÉ. so why the strange clue? (the light started to dawn for me as i pondered this question.)
  • 72a: [Hitchcock film] = TOPAZ. embarrassingly, i had this wrong on my first pass, despite its appearance in the hitchcock puzzle from last month. the A and Z crossed SIRENA and NO-DOZ. i'm not 100% sure i understand the SIRENA clue: [Earthling related to Venus]. i had SIREN and thought that it might just be SIRENS and there was a typo in the clue. i don't know what SIRENA is. does it refer to this young adult novel by donna jo napoli? and NO-DOZ was tough because i had the first letter wrong, since i had guessed -ITE instead of -INE for [Suffix meaning "resident of"]. i had no idea what prescription drug named TODO_ might be a [Vivarin rival]. after googling TOPSY and finding that it was not, in fact, a hitchcock film, TOPAZ finally came back to mind and i polished off that troublesome nook, correcting the T to N in NO-DOZ. update 12:41 pm: it's SERENA (williams), not SIRENA, and yes, i'm a moron. thanks to alex for the correction.

okay, enough of my troubles with the crossword. i think this is the most interesting/amazing meta of any of the 51 MGWCCs so far. after fruitlessly staring at OKLA, RUNS A, MODISH, CLASH, HIGH, ALONG, CAFÉ, and TOPAZ for quite some time, i realized that i'd neglected the most important advice in solving a meta: the instructions and the puzzle title. the instructions aren't all that illuminating: This week's contest is a murder mystery based on the game Clue. Somebody killed Mr. Boddy -- but whodunit, which room did they do it in, and with what weapon? This week's contest answer is the answer to all three of those questions. but the title? "Clues are Clues" ... hmm. notice it deosn't say "clue"; it's definitely plural. that's the big hint that instead of looking at the answers to clue numbers 2, 12, 22, etc., we're supposed to look at the clues. lo and behold, every single one of those clues could be answered with a totally different word:

  • [Ark. neighbor] = MISS
  • [___ fever] = SCARLET. not too many other ways to clue SCARLET, so i can forgive the RUNS A partial.
  • [Fashionable] = IN
  • [Word in the name of the band who did "London Calling"] = THE. so that explains the strange clue for CLASH.
  • [___ card] = LIBRARY
  • [Accompanying] = WITH
  • [Hot drink in France] = THÉ. aha! there it is. for the purposes of the meta, of course, this is just THE again, not THÉ.
  • [Hitchcock film] = ROPE. this was the answer to the hitchcock meta, and here it is again, reprising its role as a murder weapon.

there you have it: miss scarlet, in the library, with the rope. case closed. when this finally hit me (like the proverbial ton of bricks), i was floored. there's a teeny tiny flaw in that the clue for (the first instance of) THE also includes the word THE. still, this meta is so amazing that i'll gladly let that slide. if you were wondering why some of the clues seemed awkward, or why there was only one theme answer in an otherwise unambitious 80-word grid, there's your answer. there were actually nine theme answers, and eight of them had to be at specific clue numbers. incredible.

well, a couple weeks ago, i said, "i found this puzzle surprisingly difficult for the second week of the month. (i shudder to think what it's going to be like the fourth, or even fifth, week of may!)" i guess that was a prescient comment, although last week's puzzle being on the easy side may also have had something to do with it, judging from matt's comments in his blog post. (and yes, i am positively terrified of next week's puzzle.) i've already explained the difficulties i had with the northeast, midatlantic, and south regions. the only other part that gave me a ton of trouble was the north, where i couldn't piece together the following:

  • [Bruno, really] is SACHA (baron cohen). apparently this is a character from da ali G show who will apparently be the subject of a feature film. tough clue.
  • [Member of the A-team?] is a TUTOR who might help you study for an A.
  • [Wall Street bank, familiarly] is CITI. why couldn't i get this off of _I_I? i was thinking it was going to be something like WaMu or some other shortened form.
  • ["Curb" company] is HBO, the network of "curb your enthusiasm." not sure how i feel about this clue. i definitely could have gotten it, but i had a wrong crossing letter which obscured the correct answer. the same is true of...
  • [Weather map blobs], or AIR MASSES. what was the problem here? easy clue, and a nice answer. well, i'll tell you the problem...
  • i'm an idiot. i had put ALIAS in for [It may check out on "Law & Order"] very early on and never thought to question it. the answer, of course, is ALIBI, which is something that may actually check out. an ALIAS can't really check out, since it's a fake name, whereas an ALIBI might be true or false.

that's enough out of me for this week. i'm curious to hear about your experiences with this week's meta. pipe up in the comment box!


May 25, 2009

Tuesday, 5/26

Jonesin' 4:01
LAT 3:18
NYT 2:40
CS 6:46 (J—paper)

Mike Nothnagel's New York Times crossword

Most of Mike's puzzles are themeless, so it's a bit of a departure for him to show up on Tuesday. But the six-part theme's augmented by Nothnagelian fill, in addition to being a flawless theme. The theme entries are:

  • 1A's clue is [With 67-Across, an appropriate title for this puzzle?]. 1A and 67A are SWAP / MEET.
  • 17A. [Where to learn a vocation] is TRADE SCHOOL. "Trade" means "swap."
  • 28A. The [Basis for a moneyless economy] is the BARTER SYSTEM, with "barter" joining the SWAP MEET.
  • 44A. [Two dollars per pound, say] sounds like a unit price, but it's a currency EXCHANGE RATE.
  • 58A. ["On/off" surrounder] is a light SWITCH PLATE. So that's the fourth of the two-word phrases beginning with "swap" synonyms.

Highlights in the fill, quickly: NANCY DREW's the [Character who first appeared in "The Secret of the Old Clock"]. DOT MATRIX is an [Early printer type]. [Annotates, as a manuscript] clues MARKS UP. K-PAX! That's the [Title planet in a 2001 Kevin Spacey movie]. Tony DANZA is the ["Who's the Boss?" co-star] who, by the way, looks like he could be Rahm Emanuel's brother. Crosswordese name NYE graduates to full-name BILL NYE, [TV's Science Guy]. And a TWINGE is a [Sudden, sharp pain]. Plus we have colloquial language like "GOT ME" and "I KNOW" ("IT IS I" is a lesser caliber of fill). Seeing EGEST in the grid just now made me imagine it as an E-word: E-GEST, a notable adventure or exploit on the Internet.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Donna S. Levin's CrosSynergy puzzle "Going Once, Going Twice,..."—Janie's review

For the second Tuesday in a row we have a CrosSynergy constructor debut. A hearty welcome to Donna, yet another skillful, clever, well-published constructor, whose puzzles have been seen extensively as part of the Creators Syndicate (Newsday), the L. A. Times, the Sun, and more recently in the NYT. Her inaugural summons up the auction block. Live auction, not this kind... Each theme phrase ends with a word related to auctions and the first three of them are appearing for the first time in a CS puzzle; the last is making its major-puzzle debut. Whaddo-I-hear, whaddo-I-hear, whaddo-I-hear for:
  • 20A: [Machinist's tool] BALLPEEN HAMMER. Items, that are being auctioned—like, oh, Queen Victoria's brooch, for example—are said to be going "under the hammer."
  • 30A: [Stephen King novel] SALEM'S LOT. Each item being auctioned (or collection of items) belongs to a LOT.
  • 43A:[Simple swimming stroke] DOG PADDLE. Raise your PADDLE and you've expressed yourself. In other words, the PADDLE is used for visibility when
  • BIDDING—53A:[Performed as ordered] DID ONE'S BIDDING. I kinda wish this could have changed places with our friend the HAMMER, so that we'd opened with the BIDDING and ended when the HAMMER came down, but sometimes these things just can't happen. No one dies.

And the beauty parts of the grid-as-is are many:
  • First, there's that NW corner where IRAN and ARAB cross, and (while we're in that neck o' the woods) where we're reminded of stories from both The Old Testament (that golden CALF in Exodus) and The New Testament (the MAGI, who appear in Matthew). Working off of the final "I" in MAGI is INFLAME at 4D, which is a CS first.
  • So, too is BAD PRESS at 5D. What a great phrase to have in a puzzle with CELEB (nicely clued as [Fodder for the tabs]). Most folks say, however, that there's no such thing as [Unwanted ink]. Hmmm. I wonder what Ms. Hilton or Ms. Lohan or Ms. Speers (either one actually) or any one of a number of folks in the spotlight/hot seat would have to say about that.
  • Then, at 10D, we get AUDEN, whose poem "Funeral Blues" (a/k/a "Stop All the Clocks") is capable of summoning up buckets of real (not crocodile) TEARS, and expresses the feelings of a WRETCH, not only [A pathetic one], but here, a person "in deep distress or misfortune."

Some clue-cogitatin':
  • [Destroy] at 58A first had me entering RUIN for DO IN.
  • Then, at the risk of being called a hair-splitter... [Mona Lisa's portraitist] at 45D is LEONARDO. His hometown, on the other hand, is DA VINCI.
  • And at 61A, do I LOVE [Articles in "Paris Match"?] for LES (as in more than one "le" [or that's how I read it anyway...])? A resounding "mais oui!"

Clocking in at 7:30 (they ain't called INXS fer nuthin'!), here's a link to signature song "Need You Tonight" as the band performed it at Wembley Stadium in the early '90s.

All in all, one PRIMO premiere—and (fair warning) I am going, going,...

Fred Jackson III's Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme here is old musicals whose titles end with women's names:
  • 18A. KISS ME KATE is the [1948 Porter musical inspired by "The Taming of the Shrew"].
  • 26A. [1925 musical that spawned the unsuccessful "Yes, Yes, Yvette"] is NO, NO, NANETTE.
  • 44A. [1953 musical with the song "No Other Love"] is one I've never heard of, ME AND JULIET. Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," sure—but not ME AND JULIET.
  • 56A. HELLO, DOLLY! is the classic [1964 musical starring Carol Channing].

Favorite entry in this puzzle: the ELKS CLUB, or a [Fraternal group, familiarly]. Super-fresh—or as fresh as a group of mostly older men can be. Biggest fake-out: I combined the Y from HELLO DOLLY and the clue for 46A, [Stevenson's ill-fated doctor], and automatically filled in MR. HYDE, grumbling that this alter ego wasn't a doctor. D'oh! It's Dr. JEKYLL, who has a Y in the same place.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "That's B.S.!—at least it's broken up"

Matt's puzzle has seven theme entries in which the first word ends with B and the other word begins with S, so there's a broken-up B.S. in each. Alas, there is a Down answer outside of the theme in which there's an unbroken BS—BEAR CUBS, clued as [Den mother's group]. The theme lacks a certain rationale, as we don't typically think of breaking up bullshit. Here are the theme answers:
  • 17A. To JOB SHADOW is to [Sit in with a worker, perhaps]. The first 6 letters had me thinking of job-sharing, but the clue's about tailing someone, not doing the same job at different times.
  • 21A. COBB SALAD [includes bacon, lettuce and avocado]. I'll pass on two counts.
  • 28A. CLUB SODA is a [Drink that supposedly helps remove most stains].
  • 36A. THUMB SUCKER is [One whose habit may cause dental problems].
  • 49A. SOB STORY is a [Tale lost on the heartless].
  • 56A. WEB SEARCH [may be done inside a toolbar].
  • 62A. The BOMB SQUAD is [called in to check suspicious packages].

There are always some bloggable clues in a Jonesin' puzzle—interesting or unusual answers, oddball names, etc. ["Hinky Dinky Parlay ___" (WWI song)] is completed by VOO (parlez vous). SAL ["___ the Stockbroker" ("The Howard Stern Show" personality)] is nothing I've ever heard of. BOPGUN is a [1977 hit from George Clinton and Parliament] and I can't say I recognize the title. What's a [Rounded architectural framework in cathedrals]? It's a RIB VAULT. LOW BP is clued as a [Healthy heart rate, on a doctor's chart], though actually, blood pressure can be dangerously low too. JOYSTICK, or [Arcade game control], is a terrific-looking crossword answer. I think Brendan Quigley might've had [Aladdin ___ (David Bowie alter ego)]/SANE in a puzzle recently, and yet I still forgot it. "A lad insane"? I'm not convinced that ZOOMANIA, or [Animal fanatic's condition], is a real English word; it might be a Spanish one.