June 28, 2009

Monday, 6/29

BEQ 5:32
LAT 3:11
NYT 2:51
CS 6:49 (J―paper)/2:45 (A—Across Lite)

I tried waiting out the migraine, but it's not going anywhere. So let's blog this puzzle, people.

Paula Gamache's New York Times crossword

The theme is as simple as can be, and yet I had a little trouble finding it. The three 15-letter terms begin with GOOD, BETTER, and BEST:

  • 17A. GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP is [Seven or eight hours, typically].
  • 35A. To build a BETTER MOUSETRAP is an [Inventor's goal].
  • 52A. BEST-KEPT SECRETS [rarely see the light of day].

That's fairly basic as themes go, but did you get a load of the fill? Look at everything that makes Paula's puzzle really shine. SOUSE is a great old word (Middle English, in fact) meaning [Drunkard]. The dictionary tells me that sot dates back to Old English, which makes me love that word a little more. (TIPSY is just [A little drunk], and the word's only been around since the 1600s.) ON THE SLY is an absolutely terrific crossword entry, and it means [Furtively].

An [Early delivery in the delivery room] is a PREEMIE; my son was 8 1/2 weeks early. ["Hey, way to go!"] clued "NOT BAD." In the "nothing doing" category are LOLL, or [Do nothing and like it], and SAT HOME, or [Did nothing] and probably didn't like it so much. GENIUSES make up a [Brainy bunch]—"Here's the story / Of a lovely lady / Who was heading up three very lovely labs..."

MOOT, or [Not worth debating, as a point], resembles MOTT, clued as [Rock's ___ the Hoople]. Moot the Hopple, anyone? OLD HABITS are those [Things that die hard]. [Prepares to streak] clues STRIPS. "NO BUTS" is a colloquial phrase conveying ["Forget the excuses!"]. My grandmother's version was "But me no buts." STAR TURNS are [Bravura performances]; this puzzle is Paula Gamache's star turn as a top-notch Monday constructor. LOW-KEY joins all those other phrases in the category of "great fill"; it's clued as [Hardly ostentatious].

I can't say I remembered that E-TYPES were [Classic Jaguars]. I did, however, remember that an ETUI is a [Decorative needle case]. The latter is today's Hardcore Crosswordese Word New Solvers Need To Learn.

Updated Monday morning:

Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Yadda Yadda Yadda"―Janie's review

Before this phrase became popularized by its use in a segment of Seinfeld (then in its eighth season), it had been uttered (decades before) by the likes of the equally well-known (but decidedly less "popular") Lenny Bruce. It's used in place of details―on the assumption that the listener knows how to fill in the blanks. It's the 20th century version of "et cetera," or ETC [List abbr. (and what's hidden in the answers to this puzzle's four starred clues)]. And what is hidden therein? Let's take a look:
  • 16A. [*Part of a homemade harmonica] POCKET COMB, making its major-puzzle debut.
  • 27A. [*Fiscal crisis] BUDGET CRUNCH. I could stand not being reminded that we're still in the throes of one here... Will the members of the New York State Legislature please go back to work and do what they were elected to do?
  • 44A. [*"If They Could See Me Now" musical"] SWEET CHARITY. Before this was a Shirley MacLaine movie, it was a big ol' Broadway hit. Another big ol' Broadway hit? ["Mamma ___!"] MIA. And even the alluded-to The King and I, in which the King learns from Anna Leonowens ("I")―and uses, sometimes to comic effect―the phrase "et cetera," as in "When I sit, you sit. When I kneel, you kneel. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!"
  • 55A. [*CQN ZDRLT KAXFW OXG SDVYB XENA CQN UJIH MXP, e.g.] SECRET CODE. Anybody figure it out?! The fill, btw, is a CS-first. And I'm bettin' the clue is, too.
The remainder of the fill is loaded with pop-culture references, which keeps things breezin' along quite nicely. From the silver screen (large and small) we get: SETHS [Actors Green and Rogen]; PRIESTLY [Jason on "Beverly Hills, 90210"], a CS debut and the first time priestly has been clued as a name and not as an adverb; WALSTON [Ray of "My Favorite Martian" and "Picket Fences"]; RAES [...and performer Charlotte]; ERIC [Idle...]; WENDT [George of "Cheers"], who has been seen on Broadway as well in Art and as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray; and shows Kate and ALLIE and even (if indirectly)―since it's the equivalent to the clue for EARTH―3rd Rock from the Sun.

From the world of baseball there are two kinds of heros: one ya love to love, STAN [Musial of the Cards] a/k/a "Stan the Man"; and one ya love to hate, [Dominican slugger Sammy] SOSA.

From the music world, there's: ["A Whole New World" singer Bryson] PEABO; [Hall's singing partner] OATES; and [...Clapton], the other ERIC, whose Unplugged album I was listening to just yesterday.

Other fill that felt fresh and that caught my fancy: RUSTIC, TREACLE, GEISHA, BOBBIN, CARLOADS. Also love the pairing in the grid of GEAR and ENVY, though I suspect it was unintentional. Gear envy: what men (and probably not a few women) who are jealous of their friends' cell phone/stereo/computer/home improvement equipment suffer.

Samantha Wine's Los Angeles Times crossword

I never found my Monday groove in this puzzle. It felt more like a Wednesday crossword. It felt a little old-fashioned, too, like an '80s crossword. I mean, answers like DIY and IN N.Y.C. and IAMS pet food probably wouldn't have shown up in an older puzzle (and IMHO definitely wouldn't have), but somehow there was an old-puzzle vibe for me.

The theme is "___ in the [dirt]":
  • 21A. [Overtaken and easily surpassed] clued LEFT IN THE DUST.
  • 38A. GIANTS IN THE EARTH is the [Classic 1924 novel by Ole Rolvaag].
  • 56A. An [Old fogy] is a STICK-IN-THE-MUD.

I like "DON'T RUSH ME" (["I'll finish it when I finish it!"], ["Play It As It Lays" author Joan] DIDION, and THE FBI ([J. Edgar Hoover's org.]). And check out the dueling James Earl Jones evocations—there's DARTH, the [Evil Vader] voiced by Jones, and Othello the MOOR, whom Jones has portrayed on stage. Sure, MOOR is clued as a [Heath-covered wasteland], but don't let that throw you.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Monday"

Via Twitter and Facebook, Brendan asked people to send him the words and phrases they'd love to see in a themeless. One of my suggestions, SONY PLAYSTATION, crisscrosses the other 15, AS THE SAYING GOES. (The clues are [Genesis challenger] and ["You know what it means"], respectively). The TWITTERATI shine at 1-Across, clued with [They've got many followers]. PETA gets the timely clue, [Org. that wasn't too pleased with Obama's fly-swatting skills]. HOODWINKED is a great word, meaning [Duped]. FLESH is a [Skinemax showing]. And ELBA gets a fresh clue: [Island whose population triples in the summer due to tourism]. The same factoid probably holds true for hundreds and hundreds of islands, but when's the last time you learned anything new about ELBA? People like to vacation there, but I hadn't known that/

Neither a lifetime of crosswords nor an adult career as a medical editor has taught me about ORA [___ serrata (retina part)]. Boo, hiss. Suffixes are bad enough in the singular, but reach a new level of irksomeness in the plural—ENES are [Organic suffixes]. At least the [Glandular prefix] ADRENO is (a) more familiar and (b) not plural.

Music clues stymied me throughout. Who calls the [Tuba] a BASS HORN? Not I. KID A is a Radiohead album that has been in other alt-crosswords, so at least I'd seen that one before. Never heard of EDAN, the "alternative hip hop artist" clued as ["Beauty and the Beat" rapper]. I know MGMT as the abbreviation for "management," sure, but not as the [Band with the 2008 single "Time to Pretend"]. A [Quick chord] is a STAB? I'll take your word for it, BEQ.