May 06, 2009

Thursday, 5/7

NYT 6:42
LAT 3:06
CS 8:02 (J, paper)/2:51 (A, Across Lite)
Tausig (untimed)

Elizabeth Gorski's New York Times crossword

Gah. Don't you love it when it takes a minute to a minute and a half to figure out how the applet wants you to hand some special squares? I started with beautiful round O's, which looked good in the grid but didn't take. Hmm, maybe 0? No. C for circle? No. Finally I went with H for HOOP in the upper left and lower right, and R for RING in the other two corners—that worked. Yeah, should've tried the first letters first—but each rebus square stood for one thing Across and another thing Down. In the upper left and lower right corners, we have the following:

  • 1A: [HOOP]STER is a [B-ball player]. The HOOP crosses a CIRCLE in 1D: The [CIRCLE] LINE, a [New York City tour provider]. I got slowed down by having Gray Line in mind, not being a New Yorker.
  • 68A: [1950s fad item] is HULA [HOOP]. 55D: CROP [CIRCLE] is clued as [Mysterious art visible from the sky].
In the upper right and lower left, here's how it plays out:
  • 6A: [Like the Grand Canyon or Fourth of July fireworks] clues AWE-INSPI[RING], crossing 14D: [ZERO] HOUR, or [Showtime, at NASA].
  • 67A: [Welcome January 1, say] is [RING] IN THE NEW, and 47D: SIZE [ZERO] is a [Teeny dress measurement].
And why are all these zeroes, circles, rings, and hoops lurking in the corners? To illustrate the phrase ROUNDS THE CORNERS, or 40A: [Gets past a last difficulty...or a hint to this puzzle's theme]. Hey! That's how I finished the puzzle in the applet. Had to properly round the corners.

Miscellaneous other clues and answers—many of 'em tough:
  • 16A: [Phobic sort] is a NEUROPATH. That's a bit of a Saturdayish word for the crossword.
  • 22A: ["Burma Looks Ahead" author] is U NU. Makes perfect sense to pair him with ["American Pie" actress Tara] REID, no?
  • 26A: [Picasso's muse Dora ___] MAAR has a name I learned from crosswords.
  • 31A: PROUD PAPA! He's a [Cigar distributor, perhaps], after the baby's born.
  • 43A: HIS OR HERS is clued as [Unisex]. Great entry.
  • 47A: A ["Notch" on Orion's belt] is a STAR. Lovely clue.
  • 61A: ZEPPELINS were the [Means of some W.W. I raids].
  • 64A: [Complete, quickly] clues THORO, short for "thorough." Aptly, this crosses THRU, clued as [Dolly Parton's "Travelin' ___"].
  • 66A: CRUMP is a [Crunching sound].
  • 2D: SOMAS are [Bodies of organisms].
  • 26D: MYRRHS are clued as [Some aromatic resins].
  • 38D: DER is [Part of many Dutch surnames]. Paging James Van Der Beek...

Updated Thursday morning:

Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Captain's Courageous"Janie's review

Nupe. This was not a shout-out to Rudyard Kipling's 1897 novel or to the 1937 Spencer Tracy movie of the same name. Instead Ray gives us a fine assortment of three two-word titles/names and one two-word object, the second half of which is the name of a fictitious captain. A fierce foursome. Who are they?

  • 17A: making its CS debut, [Movie about a lost clownfish] FINDING NEMO
  • 28A: in its major-puzzle debut, [Needlecraft tool] CROCHET HOOK
  • 45A: [Competition originating in Atlantic City in 1921], "there she is," MISS AMERICA
  • 62A: also making its CS debut, [Perry White's workplace] DAILY PLANET

Captain Nemo is a character I've encountered only in the movie of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (and man, did those giant squid freak me out!). I can't think of Captain Hook without also thinking of Comden and Green's "Hook's Waltz" from the popular musical Peter Pan: "Who's the slimiest slime of them all? Captain Hook! Captain Hook!" And while I'd heard of Marvel Comics' Captain America, TBS's Captain Planet was brand new to me. Did you know these guys?

Am also imagining the "also ran" list that Ray must've had: 'Round Midnight, audio-video, short-order cook (oops, he's a real guy...). Any others come to mind?

The non-theme fill does a grand job of unifying the puzzle as well. There's a bit of a journey 'round the ...PLANET in here. Taking off from O'HARE (or possibly JFK...), we go to INDONESIA, ASSAM, HANOI and KENYA, and perhaps study at an ÉCOLE, where our DIGS are DORMS. On a student budget? Well then, we can feast on CHILI, JELL-O, a WEDGE of pie and OREOs. [Which reminds me: did you see Dinner: Impossible?! Fabulous. And Andrea? A star is born!]

Music weaves though this one, too: barbershop SONGS, the OZARK Mountain Daredevils, SKA; Kiki DEE; STRAD.

An air of mystery pervades the cluing, where we encounter ["Monk" and "Mannix"] and Ellery Queen. It was in trying to solve the former where I ran into problems. SHOWS did come to mind, but somehow felt so generic, given the specificity of the clue. Was not helped by its cross with SONGS either, clued as [Barbershop quartet numbers], which I also overthought. Ditto [Can opener?] for HARD "C." When will I ever learn?!

STOW IT was new to me—but I'm so glad to learn there's yet another way to say "Put a sock in it!!" ;-)

And finally, [One way to Staten Island] gave us FERRY. Here is Millay's "Recuerdo" (cited in the article) in its entirety. Enjoy!

Orange here again. Morning, folks!

Occasional commenter KarmaSartre noodled around with and came up with this:

Jack McInturff's L.A. Times crossword

The theme is sort of pulled together by 57A: HERD MENTALITY, or [Pressure to conform, and a hint to the hidden word] in the other theme entries:
  • 20A: [Ralph McInerny's priest/detective] is FATHER DOWLING. I like to call him Mr. C.
  • 27A: The KOSHER DELI is a [Place to order gefilte fish].
  • 51A: In Gone With the Wind, ANOTHER DAY is clued as [Scarlett's last words]. No! Her last words were the line "After all, tomorrow is another day." You can't just yoink the last two words out of their context and call them "her last words."
The theme's not working for me because there's no reason for HERD MENTALITY to be there instead of just an explanatory HERD at the bottom of the grid. There's no "mentality" of any sort that ties the theme phrases together.

Favorite clue: ESSAY is ["A literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything": Huxley]. And did you know ORAL-B was the [First toothbrush to go to the moon]? [Winner over Alexander in 1804] is AARON—Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, I presume, usually referred to by last names and not first. We've been seeing ERIEPA (...the Environmental Protection Agency for old crosswordese silkworms?) a lot lately—here it's clued as a [Port ENE or Cleveland, O.]. We also had NONHERO in another recent puzzle; it's an [Unlikely protagonist]. BOB FOSSE, the [Choreographer with nine Tonys], gets the full-name treatment. There's a fictional character pile-up in the upper middle—ULEE the [Peter Fonda role] abuts YGOR the [Lab assistant in a 1939 film], and the OLGA who's [One of Chekhov's "Three Sisters"] crosses them. I don't recall ever seeing ACTE clued as [___ de vente: bill of sale]; that's odd.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "International Fare Mixup"

The mixup in international fare has nothing to do with AIR TRAVEL (19A). Rather, the nationalities in various foodstuffs are mixed up by anagramming:
  • 16A: SHINGLE MUFFINS, or [Rainproof one's pastries?], scrambles the word ENGLISH.
  • 24A: [Prepare uneaten kalamatas for the next frat party?] clues REKEG OLIVES, with an anagrammed GREEK. Bonus points for the echoes between Greek olives and fraternity "Greek life" and the associated keg parties; one point off for the "rekegging" of olives. It's beer that's in a keg, not olives.
  • 47A: SWISHED FISH anagrams SWEDISH FISH, that abysmal candy. The clue is [Halibut prepared by being shot through a net?]. I like the mislead here with fishing vs. basketball nets.
  • 60A: AMERICAN CHEESE turns into IN-CAMERA CHEESE, or [Gruyere, framed]?].
My very favorite clue in this puzzle is [I.M. with family members in China?] for architect I.M. PEI. Brilliant! I also like TACKY's clue, [Like pretty much everything in Graceland]. Today is Tom Bosley Day, apparently: His Father Dowling made it into the L.A. Times puzzle, and his Happy Days character MR. C is here ([Howard Cunningham, to Fonzie]).