May 11, 2009

Tuesday, 5/12

Jonesin' 3:18
NYT 2:45
LAT 2:36
CS 6:38 (J—paper)

Ooh, sorry I'm a little late tonight. I got distracted by the Blackhawks game, which is so unlike me. Hockey? It moves too fast. (Baseball? It moves too slow. Call me Goldilocks the reluctant sports fan.)

Wayne and P.K. King's New York Times crossword

I figured a theme like this had surely been done before, and it has, back in '99 and also in 2006, but with entirely different sets of DISsed theme entries. The Kings' fresh foursome follows:

  • 7A: DISARM AND HAMMER is clued cleverly as ["Beat swords into plowshares"]. The answer's made by adding DIS to the beginning of Arm and Hammer, the baking soda brand. I like that the clue includes a familiar phrase, though it leaves me wishing the other theme clues could manage that too.
  • 17A: ["Ignore the red, white and blue"] clues DISMISS AMERICA. 
  • 45A: ["Oust from practice, then interrogate"] is DISBAR AND GRILL. I suppose that's kinder than disbarring an attorney and then tossing him on the barbecue grill.
  • 61A: DISBAND ON THE RUN is clued ["Scatter while fleeing"]. Who doesn't love Paul McCartney and Wings' "Band on the Run"? I'm sure that earworm can gain admittance to your head without a YouTube clip.
A few other clues:
  • [Fist ___ (modern greeting)] clues BUMP. The fist bump is also called a dap.
  • RAMSES is [Any of several Egyptian kings] as well as a condom brand.
  • The ghost of Cecil Beaton may be sad that he didn't make the puzzle. Instead, BEAT ON is two words, clued with [Bang, as a drum].
  • [Marx Brothers-like] clues ANTIC. Anyone else start with COMIC? Thank you, [Vodka brand, informally], for fixing that. STOLI works but SMOLI doesn't.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Stella Daily & Bruce Venzke's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Back Biters"—Janie's review

Looking for a little flash in your Tuesday puzzle? Look no further. The dynamic duo of Daily & Venske provide it in the very first themed entry:

17A: [Electricity in the sky] BOLT OF LIGHTNING

The gimmick, however, is not about brilliant displays of light, but what's [...found at the end of this puzzle's longest answers]. At the back of these four answers are biters of sorts: BUGS!! Two of them are of the insect variety; two—and these are the far more insidious sort—are of the human variety.

The companion to our friend the ...LIGHTNING bug, emerges here at 27A [Cousin of the Etch A Sketch] MAGNA DOODLE. And behold, we now have the DOODLE bug.

But beware the LITTER bug and the FIRE bug!!

The former comes to us via 49A: [Cat owner's purchase] KITTY LITTER; the latter from 63A [Oscar-nominated Clint Eastwood thriller] IN THE LINE OF FIRE.

("FIRE bugs" also puts me in mind of Swiss playwright Max Frisch's play Biedermann and the Fire Bugs. Though, all things bein' equal, I think I'd be happier recalling Johnny Mercer's tribute to LIGHTNING bug larvae, "Glow Worm".)

What's so good about this theme-fill is that, once again, it's very fresh. BOLT OF LIGHTNING is making its first appearance in a CS puzzle (and has appeared in only one other major puzzle—nearly ten years ago); MAGNA DOODLE and KITTY LITTER are complete newcomers. I like that!

What else do I like? Well, there are some charming crosses within the grid: RENT and DENT; LIMIT and EMIT; SKEE and KNEE. While not clued as such, we also get a theme-related bonus in PEST. We get a pair of past-tense complaints, too: MOANED and NAGGED.

SNAFU showed up four days ago in Randall Hartman's "Cheese Heads," but then it was clued as [Major miscue]; today it's a slangy [Hot mess]. And yesterday, Doug Peterson gave us COMP for [Freebie]; today we have ANNIE for [Oakley of the range]. Whaddaya call a comp ticket? An ANNIE Oakley. Scroll to the end to find out why!

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Pig Out"

Yes, "pig out" is a familiar phrase, but I can't get too excited by this sort of theme—long phrases that begin with PI and end with G or begin with P and end with IG. Matt adds another title-related element to the theme—the first four theme answers center on eating and the fifth is the results of "pigging out." Three of the five theme answers are rock solid, and some seem to be pig-related in a way:
  • 16A: [Pick some date fruit off the tree] clues PLUCK A FIG. This is not "in the language" and I don't know of any pig/fig connection. The other theme entries are edible things, but this one's a verb phrase involving an edible thing.
  • 19A: PINK FROSTING is a [Cupcake topper for some girls' birthday parties]. Not "in the language" as a stand-alone concept, but the stereotypical cartoony pig is pink.
  • 36A: [Baked ham garnish] is a PINEAPPLE RING. Great entry, and ham is from pigs. (Poor Babe. This makes him sad.)
  • 56A: [Sausage or mushrooms, e.g.] are a PIZZA TOPPING. Pork sausage?
  • 61A: [How your waistline may get if you pig out?] is PRETTY BIG.
[Gwyneth Paltrow's website] is I haven't explored the site—just read things where people make fun of it. Favorite answers: UFF-DA is ["Oh no!" in Norwegian areas of the Midwest]. At Carleton, we made fun of St. Olaf with "Uff-da!" chants at football games. GIFTED KIDS is a great entry' [They may be placed in a higher class]. DANGER ZONE is, apparently, a [Song that elicits images of "Top Gun"]; don't know the song, am glad to have never seen the movie (also missed Cocktail). The BUZZER is a [Game show device]; Jeopardy! likes to call it a "signaling device," perhaps because it doesn't buzz, but come on, we all know it's a BUZZER. I liked the [Brothers with a 2009 movie] clue; it had me thinking of the Hughes, Coen, and Farrelly brothers, all directing teams, but no—it's the teen-idol JONAS Brothers.

Don Gagliardo's L.A. Times crossword

Gagliardo's theme is occupationally oriented ways to say "shut up":
  • 20A: PIPE DOWN is ["Shh!" from a plumber?].
  • 26A: PUT A SOCK IN IT is ["Shh!" from a hosier?]. I am not personally acquainted with any hosiers.
  • 20A: ZIP IT is ["Shh!" from a mail carrier?]. Whoever named the ZIP code (short for Zone Improvement Plan) did a good job, because it's catchy, connotes speed, and remains in the vernacular over 40 years later. Imagine if there were a short, catchy name to replace "Social Security number."
  • 42A: SHUT YOUR TRAP is ["Shh!" from a hunter?].
  • 20A: BUTTON UP is ["Shh!" from a seamstress?].
Lots of good long answers in the fill—the HEAT INDEX is [Wind chill factor's opposite]. Winnie the Pooh's beloved HONEY POT should really be spelled HUNNY to capture Pooh's vibe. ZOOM LENS is a camera [Attachment for closeups]. SET UP SHOP means to [Go into business]. And old Mother Hubbard's [Bare fixture of rhyme] is her CUPBOARD.