May 20, 2009

Thursday, 5/21

NYT 3:55
LAT 3:20
Tausig untimed
CS 7:12 (J—paper)

Newsflash! Did you know that this weekend is Memorial Day weekend? This came as no small surprise to me last night.

Patrick Blindauer's New York Times crossword

Yesterday's puzzle seemed a little harder than the usual Wednesday, and this one's easier than the usual Thursday. Perhaps there's a new two-day period called Thednesday or Wursday with this intermediate difficulty level?

This theme doesn't lend itself to a concise description. The theme entries are phrases that end with assorted 4-letter words, and the last 2 letters are transposed to alter the meaning, but there doesn't seem to be anything else that unifies them. The transpositions are FE to EF (changed pronunciation), NE to EN (changed pronunciation), EK to KE (same sound), ET to TE (changed pronunciation), another NE to EN (slight or no change in pronunciation, I dunno), and another NE to EN (changed pronunciation). The original and changed phrases don't appear to share any other commonality. Am I missing something (which may be the case, given Patrick B2's propensity for elaborately wrought themes), or is this simply a transposition theme with a moving E?

Here are the theme entries:

  • 17A. [Name of Lord Rubble's feudal estate?] is BARNEY FIEF. Barney Rubble, of course, is Fred Flintstone's buddy.
  • 26A. [Air in a sooty shaft?] is a COAL MIEN.
  • 33A. [Sly little dog?] is a SNEAK PEKE. Hang on, SNEAK isn't an adjective.
  • 46A. [Celebration for a Disney dwarf?] is HAPPY FETE.
  • 51A. To [Bamboozle a "Fargo" director?] is to SNOW COEN, Joel or Ethan.
  • 65A. [Property claim along the Rio Grande?] is a BORDER LIEN.

Assorted clues: [What a loose thread might be is] is a CLUE. [Rio crosser] is PUENTE, Spanish for "bridge" as well as Tito's last name (but not the Tito from the Jackson 5, whose 1970 hit was "ABC"). [Nest egg protectors] are HENS, silly, and not IRAS. [Slurs, in music] are ARCS; man, musical notation is not my forte. [Like words?] are SIMILES, which liken one thing to another. [Alchemic knowledge] clues ARCANA. I was torn with ["Money, Money, Money" band]—4 letters starting with A, is it ACDC or ABBA? (It's the latter.) I wouldn't call the [Hot dog coating at a county fair] CORNBREAD, but then, I have no idea what difference there may be between corndog batter and cornbread batter. LE ROI means "the king" in French, and [Choisy-___ (Paris suburb)] is Choisy-LE-ROI—are we supposed to know this? Weird cluing direction. [Pawnbroker, in slang] is apparently called UNCLE, and I daresay this is new information for me. [Meadow voles] clues FIELD MICE. A [White-cap wearer] is a NURSE in some countries but not this one. I think this clue is a refugee from the Margaret Farrar era.

Updated Thursday morning:

Lynn Lempel's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Don't Get Me Started"—Janie's review

Okay, I'll say it and say it with conviction: I love a good quip or quote puzzle. I also love a good step-quote. The former, when witty, gives me something pithy to mull over; the latter, delivers that and a feat of construction as well. I know these puzzles have their detractors, but you won't find me in their number! Especially not when Ms. Lempel's name is attached.

Our four-part "tip" is doled out in two 14s and two 15s, and the word to the wise for "speechifiers" is:

This puzzle is teeming with clever cluing and fill:
  • For starters, there's the [Trip to the Mount Everest summit, say] for ASCENT right next to [High times] and UPS. Ya can't have a much higher time than scaling Everest!
  • [Meal opener?] I'm hard-pressed to think of a 3-letter soup or appetizer, but that question mark is the tip-off that we're to dig deeper. OAT is the "opener" in question—as in OATmeal...
  • We get two cracks at [Pack away], one yielding STOW; the other, EAT;
  • and two cracks at [Dunderhead], OAF and DOPE. My first fill for the latter was DOLT—but that didn't last too long.

I'm rather pleased, too, that we're reminded that NIKE is the [Shoe brand named for a goddess]. And while SNAP is a common enough fastener, did you know "Onesie"?

This puzzle has a lot of 3-letter fill (about a third), so it stands to reason we're gonna see a lot of familiar friends—and we do: AYN, ALI, SAL; MAE; TET; ITT; OSS; STE; NEO, etc. But we also get the very fresh ROSEBUD and BABUSHKA, both of which are making their CS debuts. A quibble about the cluing for the latter, however [Scarf for a Moscow matron], which seems to come from the "Department of Redundancy" Department. BABUSHKA is the Russian word for "grandmother" or "old lady." It's only in English that it's come to mean "head scarf."

[Depilatory maker] starting with N? Gotta be NAIR or NEET. Today it's NAIR. 4-letter [Bean variety]? If it isn't LIMA, it's probably MUNG. And it is. [Leaves out]? Not OMITS, but SKIPS. [Move to a new country]? Not the generic RELOCATE but the specific EMIGRATE. [Aware of]? Not ON TO, but IN ON. Oh, the multiple choices we have to run through to make everything mesh. But that's the fun of it.

The poetic TWILIGHT in the SE and its opposite in the NW, the fully-named CISCO KID, make for a lively grid-pairing, with the latter in its second major-puzzle appearance (more often than not we get only CISCO) and its CS first. In the NE, there's the colorful KITSCHY. (Sometimes it's just so hard not to be judgmental where kitsch is concerned...)

I couldn't find a source for the quip, so I'm gonna guess "Anon." has struck again—or perhaps this is an aphorism of Lynn's own making. Regardless, it sure works fer me. Though, as the song says, "knowing when to leave" is part of the art as well. Or as a mentor of mine was famous for saying, "Quit while you're behind." And so—ciao, ciao!

Sefton Boyars' L.A. Times crossword

This puzzle's theme is sheep-related puns, with the wordplay progressing from the beginning of a phrase to the middle and then the end:
  • 17A. [Wonderful sheep-fleecing job?] is SHEAR PERFECTION, playing on "sheer perfection."
  • 38A. [Gets Dolly the sheep to defect?] clues MAKES A EWE TURN (U-turn). I'm not sure where the ewe is defecting to, or what place she's leaving—but I have to say that sheep have never struck me as particularly trustworthy. This may account for why so few of them obtain CIA positions.
  • 60A. [Use a young sheep as a beast of burden?] is to TAKE IT ON THE LAMB (lam). I'm not sure what you're strapping onto the lamb's back here, but I hope the poor dear is sturdy.

There's more on this puzzle at L.A. Crossword Confidential (post by PuzzleGirl today). I'm distracted by my son's fever and cough and haven't got anything scintillating to say.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "First Graders"

The theme isn't six-year-olds, it's letter grades appearing first in the theme entries to change their meaning:
  • 20A. A + Ryan Seacrest = ARYAN SEACREST, the hypothetical [Host of "Fascist New Year's Rockin' Eve"?]. I liked this one the best for its degree of surprise and cognitive dissonance. Seacrest doesn't seem fascist to me, but I could see him being conscripted and proving to be quite effective.
  • 25A. B + union boss = BUNION BOSS, or [Head podiatrist?].
  • 37A. C + age/sex/location = CAGE SEX LOCATION, or [Datum on an S&M event invitation?].
  • 46A. D + art critic = DART CRITIC, or [Bar game connoisseur?]. It's plausible that there might be darts players who are persnickety about the dartboard and the people who play darts at a particular bar.
  • 52A> F + loss of vision = FLOSS OF VISION, or [Forward-looking plaque remover?].

Answers I needed plenty of crossings to figure out included the names of people and bands. [Musician Meg on Drag City records] is BAIRD. [Thomas who invented the modern notion of paradigms] is KUHN. [Les Savy ___] is completed by FAV. SWV is a [New Jack Swing trio]. In the non-name category, there were other slow spots for me. [Good bud] clues KINE; both are marijuana slang. [Breaking a tie, for short] is IN OT, or in overtime. [Fancy occupational suffix] is ISTE, as in artiste or cruciverbiste.

Favorite clues and answers: [Shamed, with a dental click] clues TSKED. OSCAR NIGHT is a [Big annual moment for E!]. There's ALTA [___ Vista (search engine that still exists, for whatever reason)]—the smart folks insisted on using Alta Vista back in around 1995. [McCarthy bogeymen] are the REDS from the Red Scare. I thought ["Drag Race" host] was going to be some guy I never heard of from the Speed channel, but the show's more drag than race—the host is RUPAUL.