June 29, 2009

Tuesday, 6/30

LAT 3:02
NYT 2:50
CS 7:35 (J―paper)
Jonesin' tba

Steve Dobis's New York Times crossword

So I Googled the term "ELOCUTION PHRASE" and got a minuscule 85 hits, including pages where those words were separated by a comma. Is this a familiar phrase to you? It's an [Exercise in pronunciation...like the first words of the answers to the starred clues]. Those first words make the phrase "How now, brown cow?" Now, the latter phrase was a theme entry in Nancy Salomon and Harvey Estes' 9/14/04 NYT puzzle, also a Tuesday, and the clue was [Traditional elocution exercise]. "Elocution phrase" feels much more clueish than answerish.

The other four theme answers are:

  • 17A. [Informal greeting] is the lively "HOW GOES IT?"
  • 30A. [At times] clues NOW AND AGAIN, which is just as idiomatic as 17A.
  • 47A. BROWN-BAGGER is [One not using the company cafeteria, maybe].
  • 64A. [Bay Area concert venue] is COW PALACE.
Favorite fill and clues:
  • 5A. FIJI is the [Island neighbor of Tonga and Tuvalu]. Okay, that gives you 3 of the 14 answers in the Oceania Sporcle quiz.
  • 23A. [It may be stacked or cut] refers to a DECK of cards and not anything else you might've been thinking of.
  • 1D. [Ottoman Empire V.I.P.] is the AGHA. I always like an AGHA, AGA, PASHA, or BEY. Not so much an EMIR.
  • 3D. The [Elevator direction half the time] is DOWN.
  • 9D. Who doesn't appreciate a BIRDBATH, or [Small pool site in a yard]? I mean, other than the person who has to clean it out and refill it.
  • 27D. ACERB means [Sharp-tongued].
  • 55D. Actress JERI [Ryan of "Boston Public"]—what has she been up to lately? This former National Merit Scholar will be appearing on Leverage on TNT starting in a couple weeks, according to the news of June 26.
  • 63D. [1978 Diana Ross musical, with "The"] is The WIZ. The clue relates to the movie adaptation, not the Broadway show. The late Michael Jackson played the Scarecrow in the movie.
What else is RUNNY besides undercooked eggs? Because that clue has eggs in it and EGGED is also in the grid, clued as [Prodded, with "on"]. Did you know that egg-the-verb comes from a Middle English word stemming from Old Norse, meaning "incite," whereas egg-the-noun follows the same language path but has a different root word? Wow. I never knew "egged on" had nothing to do etymologically with eggs.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Have a C.O.W., Man!"―Janie's review

With this directive in mind, Randy has given us four three-word phrases; the first letter of each word in the phrase being C, O and then W. In this way, our bovine bounty includes:
  • 17A. CASUALTIES OF WAR [1989 Sean Penn film]. Also Michael J. Fox, John Leguizamo and John C. Reilly among many others. This title did not come easily. Especially since I was trying to make Casual Ties Oscar make sense... Today is the first time this title/phrase has appeared in a major puzzle.
  • 25A. CORD OF WOOD [Winter purchase]. Coat of wool, anyone? Where this CS debut is concerned, was so glad I was so wrong here.
  • 44A. CAN OF WORMS [Pandora's box]. Only difference being that there was hope to be found at the bottom of Pandora's box. At the the bottom of a can of worms? More worms―or to continue the analogy, more ills... I know this clue has been used before for this fill, but I'm not sure that's a strong enough argument for continuing to use it.
  • 57A. CHOICE OF WEAPONS [Decision in a duel]. And here we have another major puzzle first-timer.

This theme, if solid, is also somewhat stolid. The theme-fill is all perfectly fine by way of fulfulling the assignment, but to my eye/ear doesn't sparkle, and is beleaguered with negative connotations: weapons, war, casualties, worms. The cluing is very straight-forward and there's something less than fully satisfying about the concept. Perhaps if there were an actual tie-in―in the puzzle―to cows (and not simply the phrases that can be abbreviated "C. O. W.") it would have been more fun. Bottom line: enjoyment of a theme is a terrifically subjective experience.

This doesn't mean the puzzle isn't without its TREATS. SHALLOT, TWO PAIR and JACK WEBB are all appearing for the first time in a CS puzzle. And I also enjoyed seeing MASTODON in there. ACT NOW! DO IT! I like these two "up-and-at-'em" phrases, side-by-side in the grid, both clued as ["What are you waiting for?"].

We have a few real leaders in the mix, too: ALLAH, OBAMA, OBIWAN... ROB ROY, too, if you change the clue.

"PIMP [___ My Ride"] is a phrase I'd heard, but until I looked it up, had no idea of its origin. Ditto ECHO in the context of [Project Genesis model]. The former is an MTV auto makeover show; the latter an actual automobile. And here I was thinking "runway model" for some show called Project Genesis...

JASON of Friday the 13th fame is the [First name in slashers]―so this would not be Mr. Priestley, who factored into yesterday's puzzle. Thanks to (poster) Jangler for reminding me and constructor Patrick Blindauer of the "e" that belongs in the last name of 90210's Jason. Thank you, Patrick, for taking responsibility for the goof and for graciously apologizing twice. That was above and beyond. I didn't catch it either. Things happen. This does not signal the end of life as we know it and happily, in this scenario, no one dies!

Timothy Meaker's Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme is four B's:
  • 20A. BE MY VALENTINE is a [February greeting card request]. Anyone else try HONOR PAST PRESIDENTS here? No?
  • 30A. [Utah's nickname] is the BEEHIVE STATE. I suspect this relates to hairstyling, because the only Utah bug that's really famous is the Mormon cricket, a plague of which was eaten by seagulls.
  • 39A. One ["Petticoat Junction" star] is BEA BENADERET. I learned this name from some crossword several years back. The name wasn't remotely familiar to me then, and I suspect Ms. Benaderet lacks Tuesday-level household nameness.
  • 51A. B IS FOR BURGLAR is [Sue Grafton's second Kinsey Millhone novel]. Is "Millhone" a real surname?

PuzzleGirl and Rex and I had an e-mail roundtable last night about 25A. ["Mamma Mia!" trio?] clues EMS, the letters, but there are four M's in "Mamma Mia." Too bad the clue didn't say "quartet," because ABBA has 4 letters and seeing the 3-letter space would have been vexing for many a solver. But ABBA's elsewhere in the grid, 23D [Palindromic pop group].

I gotta run my son to day camp, so check out PuzzleGirl's L.A. Crossword Confidential post for more nitty-gritty in this puzzle.