July 16, 2009

Friday, 7/17

NYT 6:33
BEQ 5:17 (not including meta)
LAT 4:52
CS 7:13 (J—paper)
WSJ 8:54

Doug Peterson and Barry Silk's New York Times crossword

Yeah, so earlier on Thursday, I chided Rex Parker about his brain wanting to shut down at the sight of all the multiple cross-reference clues in the Gorski puzzle. And then I waded into Doug and Barry's themeless, and I'll be darned if those cross-reference clues weren't awfully vexing. Really, 4D and 15A intersect and both send you across the puzzle to other clues? Fie on that!

Then there's the utterly unfamiliar KENTUCKY COLONEL (with no reference to fried chicken!) at 8D, clued as the [Honorary title bestowed on Bill Clinton, Muhammad Ali and Mae West]. Beside it is the short ERTE with an unfamiliar clue: ["Manhattan Mary V" artist].

The cross-refs line up like so:

  • 63A. OLD SCHOOL is the [Opposite of avant-garde]. In one of the earliest Bernie Mac Show episodes, Bernie's fourth-wall speech included this: "Don't touch my old school, my new school, my slow jams, my party jams, my happy rap, and you bet not touch my James Brown...or somebody is really going to get hurt." As I recall, he held up a Kid & Play album to illustrate "happy rap." I miss Bernie Mac.
  • 15A. I don't recall seeing the cross-referenced question-marked clue before. [63-Across?] is one's ALMA MATER.
  • 24A, 54D. [With 54-Down, approach with a line]/[See 24-Across] clues COME / ONTO.
  • 4D. [62-Across offerings] are RAPS, and yes, I finished up in that corner thanks to the assorted x-refs.
  • 62A. And who produces those RAPS? It's DR. DRE, [Artist with the 1999 6x platinum album "2001"].
Favorite entries:
  • 1A. I would like FAIR SHAKE ([Reasonable treatment]) better if preceded by the article A. How awkward to place PEENS right after that FAIR SHAKE.
  • 17A. I like the word CORPULENT because it's so similar to the Simpsons coinage "cromulent." It's clued as [Having a lot to lose?].
  • 36A. SLIPPERY WHEN WET is clued as a [Highway caution]. Sounds more like a custodian's sign than a highway sign to me, but it looks good in the crossword.
  • 41A. STEELE! [Michael of the G.O.P.]! I just had a good laugh at this parsing of his recent remarks. Seems to be a tad off with his timeline. 12D EISENHOWER made more sense: [He said "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both"].
  • 51A. [Lucy and Ricky Ricardo's residence, e.g.] was a BROWNSTONE.
  • 53A. BOHO! Slang for Bohemian, an [Eschewer of convention, in slang].
  • 13D. NE'ER-DO-WELL is clued as a [Bum].
  • 22D. [Some Cherokees]...hmm, what tribe fits that clue? Whoops, vehicles: JEEPS. (But 44A OTOS are [People of the Platte, once].)
  • 25D. The OUIJA BOARD is a [Means of getting some answers?]. This toy is now available in an all-pink edition. You know—because it was such a total boy toy, and it needed to be pinkified in order for girls to feel comfortable using it. /snark
  • 53D. [Some like it hot] clues a BATH.

Boo on 6D, [Berry with juicy parts?] for actress HALLE. Have her acting parts really been all that juicy? Or are the fellas talking about her body parts? This clue had better be an overestimation of the roles she's gotten.

I had some trouble spots. I decided the PSAT had [180 is its max. score], which made the [Kind of door or window] into a POUVER—they're actually LSAT and LOUVER. I was willing to consider POUVER because I'd just done a 2007 Games 21x21 with eight completely unfamiliar answers. These were the wickets and mallets game ROQUE; LAKE SUCCESS, the UN headquarters in '46-'51; [Merengue singer Crespo] for ELVIS; IGY for [Jul. 1, 1957 to Dec. 31, 1958]; BANON, everyone's favorite [French goat cheese dipped in brandy]; SPLATS clued as [Chair pieces]; [Early American philanthropist Stephen] GIRARD; and my personal favorite (though it's hard to top IGY!), TELPHER, or [Cable car]. I am not making this up. (And the page before had legalese MESNE and CERAM, one of the Molucca Islands!)

Looking back at the NYT, a 43D [Crash site sight] is a TOW CAR? What is a TOW CAR? I know tow trucks. 60A LORAL is a [Big maker of communications satellites], and I should try to remember this one because it's been in crosswords before. COLD HARBOR sounds very Long Island/New England to me. Why is it the [Site of Robert E. Lee's last victory]? Am I thinking of Cold Spring Harbor? 3D [Hungarian writer Madach]...hmm, if you're looking for a Hungarian 4-letter name, try Bela, Erno, or IMRE. (IMRE Nagy is the usual crossword IMRE.) Ryan and Brian say Barry's puzzles always have at least two baseball references; I was stumped by one of 'em, 52D [Outfielder Francona], or TITO. I wouldn't call any of these things unfair, but I would say the puzzle's more Saturdayish than Fridayish. One can only hope this means there's a super-duper killer crossword in store for Saturday!

Updated Friday morning:

Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Birds of Prey"—Janie's review

This is a muscular, lean and terrific puzzle whose four theme-phrases all name different sharp-taloned, strongly hook-beaked, swooping flyers that feed on the weaker of their species—and other species as well... Today's birds of a feather are represented in the following:
  • 20A. FALCON CREST [Prime time soap that starred Jane Wyman]. I don't think I ever saw a complete episode... The fill looks to be a CS first.
  • 11D. EAGLE SCOUT [Boy with many badges].
  • 28D. KITE-FLYING [Skill never mastered by Charlie Brown]. For the purpose of the puzzle, a kite is a type of hawk.
  • 53A. VULTURE FUND (oh, boy, do I love this one!) [Concern that invests in distressed companies]. Highly controversial subject and worth reading about. In the "fresh-fill department," both this phrase and the preceding one look to be making major puzzle debuts, btw.
For good measure, Ray disguises some bonus fill with the clue [Rent-a-car option] for AVIS—but let's not forget, that word is Latin for bird.

Elsewhere in the puzzle, Ray does lots to [Invigorate] PEP UP the solving experience. Did you have trouble coming up with the answer for [GPA booster]? I sure did. It's EASY A, but failure to come up with SWABS for [Cotton bunches] and the decision to enter PUTS IN instead of BUYS IN for [Joins a poker game] definitely threw me off the track. Ditto the RR start to "R" RATING for the teasingly suggestive [What nudity may lead to]. RR? Ohhhhh. Now I get it. (And back to BUYS IN for a second—notice the nice complement it has in ANTE [Build the pot].)

I do own an iMac, but not an IPOD [Apple product]. I do know, though, that the iPod runs on battery power and more specifically, the nickel-cadmium variety—or NICAD [Battery type]. Nice how IPOD and NICAD sit next to each other in the grid too.

A [High point] is a VERTEX—not to be confused with a VORTEX, which is another word for whirlpool. A [Thin pancake] is a CRÊPE, a food we get from France. And while we're over there, I was surprised to see LOUVRE clued as [Parisian art gallery, with "The"]. The Louvre is a "gallery"? Yes, it's a place where art is exhibited and in that sense a "gallery," but doesn't the word "gallery" kinda diminish the Louvre, which is one of the western world's consummate museums? Just sayin'...

The delicacy of that TUTU [Frilly little skirt] is offset not only by the theme creatures, but by the likes of such brawny fill as ALL-PRO [Like an excellent NFL player]; ODIN, Norse god of art, culture and war and [Father of Thor], god of thunder, war and strength; ORCA [Killer whale]; and [Formula] ONE [racing].

That [Kind of mirror] is REAR-VIEW; and I know that TREFOIL describes a [Clover shape]—but it's also one of a variety of Girl Scout cookies. I rather doubt that [Alice B.] TOKLAS [, companion of Gertrude Stein] enjoyed them. No, her non-liquid TONICS [Pick-me-ups] were more of the WEEDY sort...(and I'm not talkin' [Overgrown, as a garden]).

Finally, perhaps it was seeing [Killer whale] and ["Monty Python and the Holy ___"] GRAIL so close in the list of clues to [Wool from a rabbit] (for ANGORA), but really—all I could think of was that killer rabbit....

GROAN. And TGIF, all!

Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword

Crikey, this puzzle took me longer than the Saturday LATs have been taking me. It didn't take me all that long to understand the theme, but knowing the theme didn't make it all that easy to fill in the other theme entries. And overall, I think the cluing was on the tough side. The theme entries have a TT changed to a DD:
  • 17A. I don't use the phrase "put on the dog" (meaning to put on ostentatious airs), so PUDDING ON THE DOG was slow to develop. That's [Evidence of a spilled dessert?] and an almost surreal image.
  • 22A. [Nervous ticks?] plays on "nervous tics" and clues SHUDDER BUGS, which plays on "shutterbugs." I like the dual levels of wordplay here.
  • 35A. With the RAC part in it, I wanted RACE or RACING to be a component in the answer, but it isn't. OFF-TRACK BEDDING is clued as [Linens for jockeys?].
  • 51A. Notting Hill is a London neighborhood and the title of a Julia Roberts/Hugh Grant movie. NODDING HILL is a [Slope where sycophants hang out]. I'm glad the clue didn't use the "drowse off" meaning of nod, because I'm picturing bobble-headed people on a hill.
  • 57A. [What a yenta exam does?] is TEST ONE'S MEDDLE. "Meddle" isn't a noun outside this crossword, but this theme answer's a cuter concept than testing metals or medals would be.
Spots that snagged me:
  • 1A. [Per se] means IN ITSELF. When do you ever see IN ITSELF in a crossword? I wasn't expecting it.
  • 16A. [When some shifts start]? Why, that's AT NOON, of course. In Amyland. The rest of you probably live where AT NINE makes more sense.
  • 32A. [They're usually rolled out] clues TARPS. With several letters in place, I went with HARPS. What? You don't hoist a harp on your shoulder and carry it, do you? That messed up 29D, [Suffix which may be 24-Down (UN-PC)]. I wanted ENNE, which made me ponder whether NARCS are rolled out. Eventually the ETTE/TARPS combo found its way into my puzzle, but sheesh.
  • 41A. [Miss equivalent?] with a question mark...hmm. I contemplated putting MLLE here, but it's MILE, as in "a miss is as good as a mile."
  • 38D. [Site of the active volcano Mount Agung] is BALI. Strictly from the crossings, this one.
My favorite fill includes STAR TREK, AMY TAN, L.A. LAKER, and potato LATKES. Least loved: RESEEK, or [Look for again], with an extra demerit for duplicating the word in LOOK UP.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Character Study"

Brendan's having a crossword contest along the lines of Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest. Solve the puzzle, then solve the meta-puzzle within it, and send your answer to Brendan. Five randomly chosen correct respondents will win a prize—and anyone who has plugged Brendan's site gets put in the pot 10 times. Whoo hoo! I have established my link-to-Brendan's-blog and post-to-Twitter-and-Facebook credentials.

No answer solution here, no chitchat about clues and answers. You're on your own, folks.

I filled in the puzzle but...I am still pondering the meta. Maybe the answer will come to me in a dramatic epiphany later.

Tony Orbach's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Moonlighting Serenaders"

Ah, this is a theme I have been waiting years for without knowing it. The Mariah Carey/pariah and Beyonce Knowles/fiancé(e) rhymes have been crying out to be used together, and Tony figured out how to make a "nouns that rhyme with singers' first names" theme for them. The title is perfect, as it plays on "Moonlight Serenade" and aptly describes a unifying concept for the theme:
  • 23A. [Shuttle buses from Houston?] are WHITNEY'S JITNEYS. Man, I thought this was about Houston, Texas, for the longest time.
  • 37A. Mandy Moore figures into MANDY'S CANDIES, or [Moore's confectionery?].
  • 48A. An American Idol singer, Jordin Sparks, plays into JORDIN'S WARDENS, [Sparks's placement service for prison personnel?].
  • 66A. [Parton-sponsored theatrical revue?] is DOLLY'S FOLLIES. It's completely plausible that they'd have this at Dollywood.
  • 87A. This one's a stretch as far as moonlighting occupations go, but as I said, the Mariah/pariah rhyme is a must. MARIAH'S PARIAHS are [Carey's wedding band service made of outcasts from her band?].
  • 96A. NELLY'S JELLIES are [Furtado's plastic footwear line?]. Fruit spreads would also work okay.
  • 117A. Tony saved the best for last: [Yenta services from Knowles?] are BEYONCE'S FIANCES.

Highlights in the fill, things that stymied me, and other items of note:
  • 19A. ["Antigone" playwright Jean] ANOUILH has the trickiest spelling of all the French writers, no? We read Antigone in high school. It's short!
  • The one-two golf punch stopped me cold. 1A [Driving reminders] are DIVOTS and 26A GOLF TEES are clued [Use of them may prevent 1-Across].
  • 84A. LESE is [Literally, "injured"]. Lèse-majesté means "the insulting of a monarch or other ruler; treason" and I can't believe that all these years I've been filling in LESE [___-majesté] in crosswords, I never looked up the definition.
  • 101A. ROSARIO is [Karen's maid on "Will & Grace"]. It's also the name of the third largest city in Argentina, an inland port on a river. Everyone knows that, right??
  • 125A. [Frist's predecessor in the Senate] is SASSER? Who? This doesn't ring a bell at all.
  • 10D. SINBAD is a [Fabulous sailor] in that he's a sailor in fables. Cute!
  • Last but not least, I love the double-double rock action at 15D and 73D. "REBEL, REBEL" is a [1974 David Bowie song] and DURAN DURAN is the ["Hungry Like the Wolf" band] whose album Rio was in the July 5 NYT puzzle Tony and I made. (I wrote the RIO clue, and I loved that album when I was 16 or 17.)