June 23, 2009

Wednesday, 6/24

BEQ cryptic 9:57
Onion 4:45
NYT 3:53
LAT 3:01
CS 5:57 (J―paper)

Wow, I had my low-key Wednesday all planned out. Rush-rush puzzle books all done, at last! Time to enjoy a day of medical editing in air-conditioned comfort. And then...the car's "check engine" light dinged on during the drive home from dinner. Who doesn't love taking the car to the shop and hailing a cab when it's 92° out? I know I do—not love that, that is. I expect my bilious mood to follow a sine-wave pattern. Right now it's in a dip, but I predict a rise by 9 a.m.

Oh! Maybe if I remind myself of this, I can keep the crankies at bay: Next Sunday, July 5, the crossword that Tony Orbach and I constructed will appear in the New York Times. Now I'm nervous. What if the other bloggers find things to complain about? What if they're underwhelmed by the theme? What if outraged blog commenters try to eviscerate Tony and me? How do constructors handle criticism with equanimity?

And another thing—Dean Olsher's book, From Square One, was officially published yesterday. Buy it now! I read it in galleys and found it most engaging, and I'm not just saying that because Dean says nice things about me in the book. Honest. (More info about the book and Dean's public appearances here.)

Corey Rubin's New York Times crossword

The phrase TAKE OUT AN AD inspires this theme, in which the letter pair AD is taken out of each theme entry:

  • 16A. Drug addiction turns into DRUG DICTION, or [Talking like a junkie?]. Unfortunately, this one makes me sad because an acquaintance just lost a nephew to an overdose.
  • 23A. [Agnostic's display?] is a SHOW OF A DOUBT, which is an AD-less SHADOW OF A DOUBT. Yes, there's another AD in the remaining answer, but that's fine, isn't it? Nobody said you had to take out two ADs in order to [Promote one's business, maybe...].
  • 30A. [Sunbathing at Ipanema, e.g.?] is a RIO ACTIVITY, and coincidentally there's a single UV RAY ([Tanning element]) elsewhere in the puzzle. Sunbathing is only a little healthier than radioactivity.
  • 41A. Skating [Rink jewelry?] is ROLLER BLING (rollerblading).
  • 47A. MAILING DRESS is a [Letter carrier's uniform?]. Actually, I envision a MAILING DRESS as the outfit Ellen Ripstein wears when she goes to the post office to mail back the at-home ACPT puzzles. (If you've never attended the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, you should definitely try this year's puzzles via the solve-at-home-by-mail route.)

Favorite clues and answers:
  • ROTH probably gets clued more as novelist Philip or the Roth IRA than as [Rock's David Lee ___]. Is anything more quintessentially '80s than the "Jump" video?
  • ["The Hot Zone" virus] is EBOLA. I read that book. There was another infectious disease epidemiology book I read around the same time that was much better. I wonder what it was.
  • I could do without the clue [Vanessa Williams/Brian McKnight duet] because I don't know the song at all. What a missed opportunity for a shout-out to the horrible "LOVE IS" comic strip! You know the one—the tubby naked couple delivering hackneyed platitudes about love?
  • The EYES were [Targets of a Moe Howard poke] in many a Three Stooges episode.
  • To ROISTER is to [Whoop it up]. I learned the word from a seafood restaurant that had an annual oyster-related Roister.
  • The ELKS are a [Group with a Grand Lodge in Chicago]. Yep, that's the building with a dome you can see here. The Elks put up a black fence around the building to keep skateboarders off the grand staircase, so it's kinda ugly now. Oh! Fences! That reminds me—[Fence supplier] is a THIEF, but at first I thought this would be some horrible answer like GATER.

When do you encounter the plural MODI [___ operandi (methods)]? Not often, not often at all. Remember MABEL [Normand of old movies]? Me neither, other than from crosswords. We have a variant spelling of tyro: TIRO is a [Newbie: Var.]. And rounding out the category of "answers that I wasn't so fond of," we have [Chantilly's department], OISE.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Nancy Salomon's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Short Stuff"―Janie's review

Oh, boy―is this one lovely LEAN-machine of a puzzle; the solving is swift and the fill is fresh as can be. Today, the word short can precede the first word in each of the theme phrases. In this way:
  • 17A. COMING OF AGE [Getting past puberty] yields short-coming;
  • 11D. HAND-IN-GLOVE [Intimately associated], shorthand;
  • 25D. WAVE GOODBYE [Signal sayonara], shortwave (as in radio); and
  • 63A. STOP ON A DIME [Halt hastily] gives us shortstop.
Coming of age appears for the first time in a major puzzle, and both hand-in-glove and stop-on-a-dime are appearing for the first time in a CS puzzle, all of which makes for some really good stuff.

And so does the remainder of the fill―with the likes of EVIL EYE, LOOPHOLE, (CS-debut) STAMP TAX, JANE DOE, McJOBS and MUD BATH especially. I keep thinking of those cagey colonists who, in response to the stamp tax imposed by the Stamp Act, spoke up and won the right to for "no taxation without representation." What a loophole that turned out to be!

Where else but in the puzzles will you find T. S. ELIOT of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" fame in the company of COSMO [Mag famous for sex quizzes]? Hmmm. Maybe next April, for National Poetry Month, Cosmo will create "The Love Quiz of J. Alfred..." And where else but in the puzzles have most of us ever seen an OKAPI [Relative of a giraffe]? Here's an illustration of the two of them together from J. Arthur Thomson's 1922 tome, The Outline of Science. (Though it might be more fun to see an illustration of a ZANY YENTA...)

Anyone out there ever sing madrigals? That's where I first learned the word TABOR, as in Thomas Weelkes's:
Strike it up Tabor and pipe us a favour,
thou shalt be well paid for thy labour:
I mean to spend my shoesole to dance about the Maypole,
I will be blithe and brisk, leap and skip, hop and trip,
turn about in the rout,
until very weary joints can scarce frisk.
I like [Start of something big?] for MEGA―and its placement beside ONE TON in the grid. That's fairly mega! I also like [Months and months] as the clue for YEARS; [Head line?] for PART; and the reminder that [Tangles or disentangles] are synonymous for RAVELS.

If the constructor has OUTDONE herself, well, that seems to be a pretty regular occurrence. I wonder about the theme-fill that didn't make it in this time: breadbasket, change of heart, division of labor, order in the court, etc., etc., etc. This is not to find fault! This is a lively theme and it makes me think about it―beyond what I see in the grid on the page. ["Well done!"], Nancy, BRAVO!

Sharon Petersen's Los Angeles Times crossword

My full write-up of this puzzle is over at L.A. Crossword Confidential. The theme is a David Bowie-less LET'S DANCE, with four phrases ending with the names of dances. It felt a little hit-or-miss as the theme phrases weren't all familiar and one of the dances was unknown to me (according to L.A.C.C. reader Carol, I'm just not old enough to remember the Pony). Here's what I said about the theme over there:
  • 18A: [Good horse for a kid] is a WELSH PONY. There's a dance called the Pony? There's an equine called the Welsh pony? Both are news to me.
  • 23A: [Fiery chip dip] clues RED HOT SALSA. Hmm, I can't say I've seen RED HOT SALSA. Mild, medium, and hot salsa, yes. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, yes. Have you seen those "literal video versions" on YouTube? They've got one for the Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" and it gave me the giggles.
  • 37A: CHARLIE HUSTLE is the famous [Pete Rose nickname]. Ah, the Hustle! That takes me back to my '70s childhood. I'll do you a favor and not post anything that will implant that horrid little tune in your head. It's there anyway, isn't it? I know it wormed its way into my head in the middle of doing this crossword. DOO-doo, DOO-doo, DOO-doo-doo DOO-doo...you can fill in the rest, can't you?
  • 51A: I had a couple answers in mind for [Dickens orphan]. Is Tiny Tim an orphan? No, and his name is too short. Pip? Definitely not 11 letters. It's OLIVER TWIST, and I wonder how many people have ever thrown out their back by doing the Twist.
  • 58A: Tying everything together is the [Ball offer, and a hint to this puzzle's theme], LET'S DANCE. That "ball offer" probably didn't make many of us instantly think of the answer.

Invariably I misspell this constructor's last name with an -son ending. I did so in my L.A.C.C. post (since corrected). Thanks to Doug Peterson-with-an-O for correcting me all the other times so that I could finally get it right today.

Matt Jones's Onion A.V. Club crossword

Aha! While working this puzzle, I was feeling as though some of the numbers were arbitrary, but now I see that they follow the familiar 2-4-6-8 pattern, so I can better appreciate the construction. Here's the theme:
  • 23A. [How to designate that your order is for bomber planes?] is to MARK IT WITH A B-2. This plays on the "patty-cake" game for young kids. Now, I don't pay much attention to military jet names and numbers, and the 2's crossing, [Clapperboard operator's cry], could have included any number. "TAKE 2," sure, but if the movie director wants a lot of takes, it could be TAKE 17 for all I know. This is where seeing the 2-4-6-8 pattern helps. That, or knowing your military plane names. Aren't there other B-_ planes? Or are those other numbers for the B vitamins?
  • 29A. The number that's added here is 4. I don't really know my explosives any better than military jets, but the 4 crossing was easy. [Highly explosive science fiction author?] is ARTHUR C4 CLARKE, crossing the 4TH of July, [Occasion for fireworks, briefly, with "the"].
  • 40A. [Located a place to park one's Pontiac?] clues FOUND THE G6 SPOT. I kinda forgot there was such a thing as the Pontiac G6—that's the car Oprah gave away a bunch of. [Key breakdancing moves] are 6-STEPS, but I do not recall learning this in Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. My 6 confusion temporarily got in the way of my appreciation of the "found the G-spot" base phrase. Nice one, Matt!
  • 47A. The comic book and movie V for Vendetta fed V8 FOR VENDETTA, or [Tomato drink used in retaliation?]. I don't like tomato juice or V8, so I can easily imagine a scenario in which it's part of a revenge plot. The 8 crossing here was much easier for me—["Magic" toy that uses a die in blue dye] is the 8-BALL.

This crossword had all sorts of small bits of weirdness that I didn't know. [Georgia State's conf.] is the CAA. [Ookla the ___ ("Thundarr the Barbarian" character)] is MOK. JAM IT and DIG ON were unfamiliar verb phrases—the former completes ["I wanna ___ with you" (Bob Marley lyric)] and the latter means [Enjoy, slangily].

I did know the [L'Oreal hair color line] FERIA and the [Japanese poetry similar to haiku], or SENRYU—if you've written or read haiku that's funny, it might actually be senryu. I also liked the MAXI clue—[Absorbent pad]. No, references to menstruation in crosswords don't alarm me. MAXI dresses are back in style now, so constructors can once again clue this word with reference to fashion without looking outdated.

Brendan Quigley's blog puzzle, "Cryptic Wednesday"

Dang, I forgot about Brendan's puzzle and thought I was done blogging. Will be quick about it and just list a few of my favorite clues. Be sure to read the comments at Brendan's post—British cryptics guy Peter Biddlecombe gives an educated critique of Brendan's first cryptic, and he says it all so much better than I could.

23A. [Subway mascot shows a container to Mad man] (5). I was thinking that "subway mascot" was part of the wordplay, but that's the straight definition for JARED, the guy from the Subway restaurant ads. The container is a JAR and a man at Mad magazine might be an editor, or ED.

3D. [Desires sexual attraction for losers, probably] (4,5). "Desires sexual attraction" is redundant (and so, as I learn the lingo from Biddlecombe, maybe the surface reading of the clue suffers a bit), but it's split into two distinct parts. Desires = LONGS and sexual attraction = the HOTS. LONG SHOTS are probably going to lose a contest.

16D. [Dope! Callas is lying about Peron] (9). MARIA Callas is "lying about" JUAN Peron to make MARIJUANA, or dope.