June 16, 2009

Wednesday, 6/17

BEQ 4:45
Onion 3:41
NYT 3:21
LAT 3:21
CS 6:57 (J—paper)

Peter A. Collins and Joe Krozel's New York Times crossword

That's a cool visual twist, sketching a tree with its parts labeled descriptively in the grid. Running straight down the middle of the puzzle are a central LIMB ([Life's partner]), the TRUNK (a [Magician's prop]), and one ROOT ([Cheer (for)]). Extending out from the TRUNK are four more LIMBs, running across and diagonally, and two more diagonal ROOTS. All of the letters in these tree pieces are circled for the solver's convenience, as not everybody wants to play word search after finishing a crossword. Rounding out the theme, there's the word TREE clued as the [Thing depicted by this puzzle's circled letters] and, rather beside the point, the NESTS that might be found in a tree.

The constructors filled the corners with two 6x4 chunks and pairs of 8-letter answers crossed by single 8's. Highlights in the fill:

  • 17A. ["Rikki-___-Tavi"] is completed by TIKKI. My son just watched Rikki-Tikki-Tavi on DVD for his first time. I suspect it was not as memorable for him as my childhood TV viewings of it had been for me.
  • 27A. My, the BALLADE, or [24-line verse form], is quite literary for a mid-week puzzle.
  • 60A. OLD AGE gets a good clue: [It beats the alternative, in a saying].
  • 63A. TANGO is the [Radio letter after sierra]. I can't think what U is. Upsilon?
  • 3D. "TAKE CARE" is a horribly trite way of saying "Bye, now." And I am guilty of saying it.
  • 4D. ALKALINE means [High-pH]. It's also the closed-up name of an old baseball player, Al Kaline.
  • 10D. Ah, ILOILO, [Philippine seaport] of crossword fame. There once was an art supply store in my neighborhood called Ilo-Ilo, so the name sticks in my head.
  • 13D. EASTER is [Egg roll time]. So is ANY DAY WE ORDER CHINESE.
  • 29D. [One might pass for these, briefly] clues TDS, or touchdowns.
  • 47D. The combination of WETTED and [Licked, e.g.] is grossing me out. I'm trying hard to think of envelopes or old postage stamps.
  • 55D. RAN BY is clued as [Told in order to get a quick opinion]. I'm feeling like there's a prepositional or object non-parallelism here. You can run it by someone, but you have to tell it to someone. Do we want to in the clue?

Updated Wednesday morning:

Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Body Language"—Janie's review

I know I must sound like the world's crankiest solver, but once again I feel that the talented Mr. H. has delivered a "close-but-no-cigar" theme. And because the CrosSynergy puzzles receive peer review, responsibility for that falls on the peers-in-question as well. The idea of the theme is friendly if not "brilliant," and perfectly fine: four figurative (and familiar) phrases that also name body parts. The problem is that we don't use these phrases in the form we receive them in the puzzle. The only way I can get them to sort of work is if I take the clue/fill combo as infinitives. But there's nothing to clarify that in the cluing.
  • 20A. SOAK TO THE SKIN [Drench]. This can actually be a literal phrase, and in common usage we'd say, "It was raining so hard I got soaked to the skin." We get drenched, or we drench ourselves in something. We don't ordinarily "drench" sans object. And in my experience, we don't soak [anything] to the skin.
  • 27A. CHILL TO THE BONE [Make very cold]. "I was so drenched I got chilled to the bone." Again, we get chilled, but we don't chill [something] to the bone.
  • 43A. STICK TO THE RIBS [Be substantial, as a meal]. This one is better, but more often than not we say that this substantial meal is so hearty it'll stick to your ribs...
  • 51A. ARM TO THE TEETH [Provide many weapons]. Hmmm. Sadly, it's primarily in conjunction with suicide bombers that I can hear someone say, "You must arm yourself to the teeth" but ya gotta have that direct object in there for the phrase to make sense; otherwise the sentence we're more likely to hear is "The madman was armed to the teeth." (What I do like in this particular phrase is the bonus body part: ARM...)
Three of the four phrases make the most sense in their passive-voice forms; and the result is that the promise of a solid theme is skewed. If you think I'm on the wrong track here or am being hyper-critical, please speak up and set me straight!

Elsewhere in the grid I'm a happier camper. From the art world: Salvador DALI is clued in reference to "Eggs on a Plate Without a Plate" which I'm quite certain will not stick to the ribs...; and RODIN in conjunction to "The Kiss". Seeing OYL ["Thimble Theatre" family name] so close to Rodin made me laugh. If any sculptor were to render Ms. Olive as a statue, it would not be Rodin, whose healthy figures represent well-nourished bodies. Giacometti on the other hand...

I also like the punchiness of the ONE-TWO [Ring combo]; and if boxing's not your thing, perhaps you'd be happier to see Kobe Bryant score, make a BASKET or three (and a very timely clue/fill pair that is). After last Sunday's championship game, I imagine the[Sports-team execs], the Lakers' GMS, are still a pretty happy group.

We get three authors, two well-known to me, the third not. In the former category are Harper LEE of To Kill A Mockingbird fame and thus [Atticus Finch's creator...], and [Nancy Drew writer Carolyn] KEENE. You may know this but "Carolyn Keene" is really a succession of several writers. If you care to delve further into the mystery, Melanie Rehak has written a wonderful book on the subject aptly called Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her. The name I needed the crosses for was ["The Pilot's Wife" author] SHREVE. Anita Shreve actually, though not to be confused with ["West Side Story" role created by Chita Rivera] ANITA.

There's a sweet crossing of two kinds of rides: SEMIS and the LIMO—and two kinds of vocal styles: you can CHANT text or you can INTONE it. We also get two shades of questionable activity: DICEY [Doubtful] and TABOO [Forbidden]; two internet references: AOL and URLS; and an assortment of names: actor LEW Ayres, the silver-screen's first Dr. Kildare, TESS Trueheart [Dick Tracy's wife], ANAKIN Skywalker [Luke and Leia's father], and [Soccer great] PELE.

I hope/trust that Ray and his esteemed colleagues will take my SNIT in STRIDE. But I also hope it's something they might take to heart!

Hello, Orange here again. I slept in. I love summertime! (If only the climate would recognize that meteorological summer began June 1, because it still feels like April.)

I haven't done today's CrosSynergy puzzle, but in reading Janie's write-up, I laughed when I encountered ARM TO THE TEETH. It sounds like a modification of the slangy "Hell to the naw!"

Mike Peluso's Los Angeles Times crossword

I pre-blogged this puzzle last night at L.A. Crossword Confidential and I must say, I suspect it was easier than my relative solving times suggest. I had this bizarre experience in which I kept reading entirely wrong clues and filling in answers in the wrong places. Really wrong. Like putting ALMS (10A, [Donations to the needy]) at 58A, which is LEVY ([Assess], as taxes). And putting 1A, [Rock concert equipment], into 1D; the singular AMP works with the clue just as well as the correct plural AMPS. Usually one solitary beer has no such effect on me as a solver. Weird.

The theme didn't do much for me. All three phrases have the same clue: [Angel]. This theme type is #6 on Brendan Quigley's list of 10 bullshit themes that do not represent the apotheosis of thematic creativity. But still, it's only Wednesday, and plenty of staid themes are always going to find their way into the Monday-to-Wednesday slots. Today's three [Angel]s are a HEAVENLY SPIRIT, an AMERICAN LEAGUER, and a BROADWAY BACKER—you know, the sort of Broadway-show-backing angel whose favorite sign is "SRO" in crosswords.

PETE ROSE and UNCLE SAM make a nice symmetrical pairing here, and their vertical neighbors LEER AT and GROVEL make a disturbing pair.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Teenspeak"

Brendan rated this one "medium" but I dunno, I thought it was kinda hard. I didn't even understand what was happening with the theme entries until after I finished the puzzle—and it wasn't a case of racing through the puzzle too fast to bother with the theme. I pondered the theme while solving and didn't grasp it. But now I do:
  • 19A. [Compared with Sorry! and Simon?] clues LIKENED GAMES. This is teenspeak "like" appended to the beginning of "end games." The phrase LIKENED GAMES doesn't do anything for me, though.
  • 36A. The [Hopeful answer to "How will you fund that study?"] LIKELY GRANT. Which nobody would say. Maybe "likely a grant," but not LIKELY GRANT. Is that short for "a likely grant"? Because that's just as stilted as LIKENED GAMES. This theme entry is built from "like" + actress Lee Grant.
  • 54A. [In addition to the thing over there?] clues LIKEWISE, THAT. Oh, look, Brendan's three for three with weird, stilted phrases. Do not like. The base phrase here is "Why's that?"

I took a wrong turn at 63A [Doesn't dwell on]—it's SEES PAST, but putting in GETS OVER mucked up that corner for me. I got the final R from USSR, a [Cold War side], but alas, the actual answer was the WEST.

Let's eyeball the best and the worst in this puzzle. First, the worst:
  • 17A. RECOIN is [Define again, as a phrase]. Wouldn't that be redefining an already-coined phrase? I don't think you can RECOIN a phrase.
  • 18A. ALAMANCE is the [County of Burlington, NC]. This is not a famous county.
  • 39A. I take plenty of taxis, being a city dweller, and I have never encountered the word CAB-MEN. On the plus side, [Guys with medallions] made me think of men wearing disco medallions.

And now, the best:
  • There's the DOW JONES average, a [Wall Street average].
  • I like O. HENRY, ["The Gift of the Magi" author].
  • TWO is clued as ["___ Buck Chuck" (Charles Shaw)]. Did you read the recent New Yorker article about the Franzia wine business and their Two Buck Chuck? Good read.
  • A [Home body?] is an UMPIRE at home plate.
  • The [2003 World Series champs] were the Florida MARLINS, who destroyed the Cubs en route to the Series. Now, if Sammy Sosa hadn't been taking performance-enhancing drugs that season, there's a good chance the Cubs wouldn't have made it to the post-season, and Steve Bartman would never have caught the ball that ruined his life and sent him into hiding. I think Bartman should sue Sosa.
  • ROCKY BALBOA is a terrific entry. [His statue is just outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art].
  • JAMES IHA! I bought the solo album by this [Longtime guitarist for The Smashing Pumpkins]. It had a mellow '70s singer-songwriter vibe.
  • The clue for HEY references itself twice, as "Hey, hey, hey!" was Fat Albert's catchphrase.

Deb Amlen's Onion A.V. Club crossword

The theme entries this week tell a timely story, and each of those theme answers is made by adding a G to the front of a word in a familiar phrase:
  • 20A. [Title for an (as-yet) unmade show about being duped into buying unaffordable real estate] is THIS GOLD HOUSE. This Old House was that Bob Vila show on PBS.
  • 36A. [Name of the bank on 20-Across where buyers would get their mortgages] is CAPITAL GONE. CapitalOne is one of those credit card issuers that advertises heavily on the TV.
  • 54A. [Sewer entrance through which buyers would throw their money] is the INTEREST GRATE.

Aww, look at the Wordplay shout-outs in this puzzle: CAKE is the [Band whose "Shadow Stabbing" is featured in "Wordplay"]. Here's a homemade video for the song:

And then there's EELS, clued as [Band whose "Saturday Morning" is featured in "Wordplay"]. In their officia; video, pancakes are made:

Favorite clue: [Delighted condition?] for a power OUTAGE in which the lights are de-lit. Favorite fill: EITHER/OR, clued as ["Whatevs"].