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.