May 03, 2009

Monday, 5/4

BEQ 4:19
Jonesin' 3:08
LAT 2:59
NYT 2:28
CS 6:31 (J -- paper)

Happy 18th anniversary to my husband, who is remarkably tolerant of my crossword avocation. Thanks, hon!

Mark Milhet's New York Times crossword

Today's theme is hesitant trepidation: All three theme entries are clued with [Succumbing to second thoughts]. The answers are GETTING COLD FEET, CHICKENING OUT, and LOSING ONE'S NERVE. Some of the fill in this puppy might give a crossword newbie second thoughts, although the puzzle's an easy one for the seasoned solver. Here are some words that flirt with the "crosswordese" category:

  • 46A: EMI is a [U.K. record label]. Yes, it's still a major player in the recording industry, but I suspect it gets nearly as much attention in crosswords as in the music press, and is considerably more prominent in crosswords than in everything else I read.
  • 58A: ITERS are [Anatomical passages]. I encounter this far more in crosswords than in medical editing.
  • 6D: ERGS are [Energy units] or units of work. Outside of physics and crosswords, I can't say this word gets much play.
  • 38D: NIBS are [Writing points], as in the points for a fountain pen. Nibs are also those terrible cherry licorice bits that I can't get enough of. Twizzlers, you are no Nibs.
  • 40D: FERULES are [Old schoolmasters' sticks], handy for thwacking recalcitrant pupils. This isn't common crossword, no, but neither is it usual Monday fare.
  • 56D: ENOL is a [Certain alkene]. Not your usual [Organic compound], [Carbon compound], or [Hydroxyl compound] clue. The dictionary on my Mac doesn't include this word, so it's got no business being in a Monday crossword—except for the LEGION ([Veterans' group, informally]) of regular solvers who reflexively fill in ENOL for any 4-letter chemical-sounding clue. If you didn't know this answer, jot it down in your brain—it'll be coming back to a puzzle near you quite soon.
There are three Bible answers today, but luckily they're not the more arcane ones like SELAH or NEH. or TAMAR. EDEN is the [Genesis garden]. SINAI is the [Mount ___, where the Commandments were given to Moses]. And NOAH was a [Biblical captain for 40 days and 40 nights].

Milhet's three-part theme leaves plenty of room for more interesting fill in the corners. There's ["Gesundheit!"], or "BLESS YOU"; CORNPONE, or [Dixie bread]; MARVEL [___ Comics, home of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four]; plus ICE SHEET, HARASSED, and TOTTERS.

Updated Monday morning:

Will Johnston's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Measuring Up" -- Janie's review

Nice to start the week with this puzzle by esteemed moderator of the erstwhile
New York Times Puzzle Forum -- and creator of the invaluable page of Puzzle Pointers. (There's also a link in Orange's column of "Crossword Links" at right.)

And it's also nice to see the ways this puzzle lives up to its title. Will gives us three grid-spanning phrases, each of which starts with a type of "measure":
  • 17A: LENGTH OF SERVICE [Factor in employee recognition awards] -- LENGTH being a unit of distance -- or, as in this case, time.
  • 37A: AREA OF EXPERTISE [Professional's specialty] -- AREA, as we learned in geometry, refers to a plane's size and is determined by multiplying (class?): "length by width." Unlike the previous example (or the next...), this fill does not describe a literal measurement but gives us a strong "in the language" phrase, where "area" means "field." As the exception, it is perfectly placed at the puzzle's center.
  • 59A: VOLUME OF TRAFFIC [Commuter's concern] -- VOLUME being a measure of capacity (or sound amplitude). Again -- we're talking about the amount of traffic here -- or possibly the noise generated by it. This commuter is assaulted less by the sound of above-ground traffic than by the decibel level of the subways (and confesses she carries earplugs.....).
SPEED and NANO also come from the "measure" vocabulary pool -- so Will gives us a double bonus.

Three favorite clues: [High wind?] for FIFE, [Pen name] for
CROSS and [Worldly wisdom? (abbr.)] for GEOG.

And speaking of GEOG, between the fill and the clues, we get a bit of a world tour here with: SARI [Delhi wrap], NILE [Luxor's river], IRAQI [Baghdad native], USSR [Cold War inits], AMIN [Former Ugandan tyrant]; and foreign phrases [Cul-de] SAC and [Pâté de] FOIE [gras].

It's probably serendipity, but where the demise of Cleopatra is concerned, invert the clue numbers and notice that 36A [Venomous viper] ASP has a complement in 63A's [Luxor's river] NILE.

Never heard of GINO Vanelli, but the crosses allowed me to find the correct fill. Will's a Boston guy -- and it seems there's a special
Celts-Gino connection! Also tripped myself up some, trying to make MINI work for NANO; then NEWBIE for NOVICE.

Has anyone ever
seen TRON? Ah, well -- perhaps it'll show up on AMC. ;-)


Los Angeles Times crossword by Rich Norris's alter ego, Gia Christian

I can't help thinking of the power ballad "Sister Christian" when I see this one of Rich's pen names. (Skip to about 4:05 in the video to see how dramatically the vocalist belts out "You're motorin'.")

Let's call this theme KABOB (41A: [Skewered meal])—each theme entry is a B-to-B kabob:
  • 17A: [Excellent performance] is a BANG-UP JOB.
  • 29A: [Sci. class where many an "Eeuw!" is heard] is BIO LAB.
  • 46A: [Bill for what you drank] is BIXBY. No, not really. BAR TAB.
  • 62A: A catchier name for [Satan] is BEELZEBUB.
  • 11D: To [Betray by bad-mouthing] is to BACKSTAB.
  • 39D: The [Angels or Dodgers] are a BALL CLUB in the L.A. area.
Smooth fill, as we expect from Rich, with 14 6- to 8- letter non-theme answers classing up the joint. And six theme entries! Favorite answer: KIBITZ, or [Be a nuisance at the card game], connecting two theme entries. Favorite clue: [Host who expects you to question his answer?] is Alex TREBEK. Just a few more weeks 'til my Jeopardy! audition in Chicago...

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Inside Jobs"

The theme is "Inside Jobs" and one job is hidden inside each theme vertical entry in this 15x16 grid:
  • 3D: ["Pan's Labyrinth" director] is GUILLERMO DEL TORO.
  • 18D: [Plants with purple flowers] are the unknown-to-me FOXTAIL ORCHIDS. Slightly better known to me: the [South African iris cousin] called the IXIA, which I saw recently in another crossword. It's on the crosswordesey side.
  • 8D: [SUV that was a prize during "Survivor 2005"] is the PONTIAC TORRENT.
  • 10D: [Acts of desperation] are LAST-DITCH EFFORTS.
Those 11-letter answers at 17A and 62A? Not part of the theme. They're just there to interlock nicely with three theme entries apiece. Favorite fill: Where ASHKENAZ, or [Group of European Jews], meets MATZOH, or [Seder staple]. I bought that record my senior year of high school—the [1983 Huey Lewis and the News album]—and yet I blanked on the title. SPORTS!

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Pardon My French"

Matt's theme this week is couleurs—color phrases with the colors translated into French. Like so:
  • 17A: [Bugs Bunny, most notably?] clues BLANC RABBIT. He's a gray rabbit, not a white one, but (a) "White Rabbit" is a familiar phrase and (b) Mel BLANC did the voice for Bugs.
  • 32A: [Fear that you'll smear your makeup?] is ROUGE SCARE. Brendan's puzzle has the original RED SCARE in it today.
  • 41A: [The woman that seduces hard-boiled film detectives?] turns the equine Black Beauty into a film NOIR BEAUTY. This puts me in mind of Kim Basinger's character in L.A. Confidential and nudges me to link to L.A. Crossword Confidential (Rex covers today's puzzle).
  • 57A: [Extreme skateboarder who shreds on the halfpipe?] clues VERT MONSTER. The Green Monster is that wall at Fenway Park in Boston. I'm guessing VERT = short for "vertical" in skateboarding argot.
Notable stuff in the fill: A marijuana [Joint] is a DOOBIE, but one [In need of joint relief] is ARTHRITIC. Trade names abound—we see CESSNA jets, GUMMI Worms, Mr. PIBB, KOOL-AID (a [Drink that's stirred, but not shaken]), BUGATTI (the [Sports car manufacturer now owned by Volkswagen], maker of the super-fast Bugatti Veyron), and TOFUTTI. Plus the SEATTLE P.I., or Post-Intelligencer, the [Washington newspaper that ended its printed version in March 2009, for short]. For a foreign vibe, we get FUGUS, the Japanese [Poisonous blowfishes], and PRAHA, [Czech Republic capital, to locals]—one of my dearest friends lived in Prague for a decade, so that was a gimme for me.