June 10, 2009

Thursday, 6/11

NYT 4:00—don't believe the applet, because it took me 39 seconds to get the dang grid enlarged and then the browser hung for a few seconds mid-solve—Click that "Enlarge grid" option before pressing start if you're using the applet
LAT 3:34
Tausig tba
CS 6:48 (J—paper)

Alex Boisvert's New York Times crossword

Aargh. Surprises are fun except when they cost you time and you're racing the clock. I know a lot of you can't relate. You use Across Lite. You print out the puzzle. You do the puzzle in the newspaper. I know.

So! I had to resize the grid because it's 19 squares wide and 13 squares high. Why is it rectangular? Because the finished crossword turns into a coloring project to make a rough facsimile of the United States flag. In the upper left corner of the grid, you're to color the circled squares blue, leaving the other 13 squares in that 5x5 block white, like the white stars on the flag. And every Across answer that contains an "R"—that'd be every single Across answer in alternating rows—is to be colored red, forming 7 red stripes alternating with 6 white stripes, as on the flag. Of course, back when the flag had 13 stars, those stars appeared in a ring and not in staggered rows as in the current flag. Didn't they? Apparently Alex's star layout was in use on the U.S. flag from 1777 to 1795. Why have I never seen that flag?

In addition to the R-containing answers that make up 7/13ths of the Across entries, there are three long theme entries:

  • 30A. MOUNT RUSHMORE is clued as ["Heads for the hills" locale?]. Giant stony president heads in the Black Hills?
  • 36A. The song "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL" is [Whence "Thine alabaster cities gleam" lyric].
  • 49A. The [1775 flag motto] was DON'T TREAD ON ME.

All righty, what else is in this puzzle? In the Across dimension, there's this: A [Track branch] is a SPUR, and I'm not sure what kind of track we're talking about here. TONTO was a [Film character played by a full-blooded Cherokee] rather than Hollywood's standard dark-haired white guy with a tan. [It may be fired] refers to a ceramic TILE—I think. The adjective [Stock] means USUAL. [Bikers may have them] is about bike LANES, which Chicago has plenty of now. [Pupil, in Picardie] clues ELEVE, which used to be Franco-crosswordese but doesn't show up quite so much in the puzzle these days.

Moving to the Downs: ATLANTA is a [Hawk's home] if you're talking about the NBA's Atlanta Hawks. [Lined up the cross hairs] clues the good verb phrase TOOK AIM. To GO SOUTH is to [Turn bad]; is that what happens to all the snowbirds who head to Florida, they turn bad? I've heard stories. KILAUEA is a [Hawaiian tourist attraction] and, at 7 letters, it's not our standard Hawaiian crosswordese (LOA, KEA, UKE, LEI, ALOHA). A [Rugby scuffle] is a SCRUM—have you watched rugby in person? REESE gets a current pop-culture clue that I had no idea about—["The Terminator" man Kyle ___]. I've heard of NUEVO [___ Leon (Mexican state bordering Texas)]. [Oil production site?] is where oil paintings are made—the artist's ATELIER. [Operator's need] is a weird clue for BANDAGE—"operator" as in surgeon? I kinda don't think the surgeon handles the bandaging afterwards. [Like Bar-Ilan University] clues ISRAELI—if this school had an American campus, do you know how often we'd see ILAN in our crosswords?? [Rodeo rings?] are LASSOES and not, as I first thought, LARIATS.

Updated Thursday morning:

Lynn Lempel's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Me First!"—Janie's review

Take the personal pronoun "I," put it "first"—in front of four in-the-language phrases—and four new and very freshly-rendered phrases result. Complete the remainder of the puzzle with strong fill and you've got the makings of another fine Lempel opus. Let's look at the theme fill first.
  • 17A. I + con artists = ICON ARTISTS [Some graphic designers?] This one is so good because the new phrase really exists. There are people who design icons and there are some 16,600 Google hits for "icon artists."
  • 28A. I + ran out of gas = IRAN OUT OF GAS. Journalists have used this provocative headline, though you won't find lots of Google hits for it. This is the only one of the theme answers that starts with a verb phrase—a small BLEMISH—and in my heart of hearts, I wish Lynn had found a mate for it or another entry altogether. Or four entirely different kinds of base-phrases, because a consistent theme is just about a puzzle's best friend.
  • 44A. I + deal breaker = IDEAL BREAKER [Surfer's dream wave?] Poetry, this one. Sure, you can find the phrase in electronics catalogs, but like the search for the perfect wave in the movie The Endless Summer, this is finer fodder for the imagination.
  • 59A. I + rate-setter = IRATE SETTER [Furious dog?] Good luck finding one in this lot! Lots of talk of rate-setters in the last nine months or so, btw. These are the folks within the financial community whose job it is to talk to one another and then determine what a bank's interest rate should be.
Highlights of the non-theme fill include TIME FLIES, with its wistful plaint, ["The days just whiz by!"]; (CS debut) WORK LATE [Burn the midnight oil]; PEKING MAN, debuting in a major puzzle and clued as [Set of human fossils from China]; IT'S A BOY (and not IT'S A JOB as I kept foolishly insisting...) for [Words often heard after hard labor?]; REDHEAD [Lucille Ball, for one] (and [Country crooner] REBA [McEntire] for another!).

There's a bevy of bad-/odd-guy types: the ASS [Utter idiot], the HEELS [Cads], the FREAK [Ardent fan, slangily], the [Shakespearean scoundrel] IAGO, SATAN.........; and two athletic titans [..."Sportsman of the Century"] ALI and FLO-JO [...Olympic sprinter...], the late Florence Griffith Joyner, known not only for her speed, but for her distinctive style—in the fingerNAIL department especially. In the synchronicity department, I like that these two appear so soon after boxer TYSON (6/10) and track star GAIL Devers (6/8).

And wouldn't you love the 6/6 "Boston Accent" treatment for a reading of [Bobber in a harbor]? BUOY oh boy...

["Hasta mañana"], all—ADIOS!

James Sajdak's Los Angeles Times crossword

I spent the morning proofreading after sleeping in, so I'm late getting to the puzzles. Sajdak's theme is comic book "oofs": each theme entry begins with a hidden comic book sound effect you'll see after someone's been HIT ([Smite, and a hint to this puzzle's theme]).
  • POWERBALL WINNER is an [Overnight millionaire, probably].
  • [One-time East Asian barrier] is the BAMBOO CURTAIN.
  • One [Pacific swimmer] is the SOCKEYE SALMON.
  • The BOOMERANG EFFECT is an [Unintended upshot].

I like this theme—it was just sitting there quietly, waiting for me to notice it, when suddenly POW! BAM! SOCK! BOOM! it hit me.

Weirdest answer in the grid: LAY FOR, clued as [Wait to attack]. I can't say I've ever encountered this verb phrase.

There's more from PuzzleGirl at L.A. Crossword Confidential.