July 26, 2009

Monday, 7/27

BEQ 5:03
NYT 3:34
LAT 2:35
CS 7:09 (J—paper)

Warm thanks to Dean Olsher for filling in on the Sunday puzzles. I like Dean's writing (have you read From Square One? It's unlike any other crossword nonfiction book you've read—thoughtful divagations plus interviews plus memoir, all in all an engaging read) and his turn here at Crossword Fiend was funny.

Over at his own blog, Dean wants to hear about your favorite crossword clues now. Go pay him a visit and tell him why you love that particular clue.

Here's what I did instead of blogging yesterday: I went on a Wendella boat tour up the Chicago River and out through the locks into Lake Michigan on a perfect afternoon, the warm July sun and cool lake breeze hitting the sweet spot. Then the local relatives, out-of-town relatives, my son, and I walked up the Magnificent Mile to the Hancock building. We spent three hours on the observation level, the 94th floor, enjoying the views as the sun dropped lower in the sky. The sun did one of those West Coast/oceanside things, a red ball dipping below the horizon. The city lights twinkle after dark, and usually I get to see that for only as long as it takes a jet to descend to the tarmac. And then! Yesterday was Chicago's annual Venetian Night, when a parade of lighted boats heads across a stretch of Lake Michigan before the fireworks show. Have you seen fireworks from above? It's cool.

Allan Parrish's New York Times crossword

Hey! Spoiler in the byline! That's kinda funny, that Allan Parrish made a PERISH/PARRISH/PARISH theme. It took me a Wednesday amount of time to piece this puzzle together, as my clue reading comprehension plummeted. The [Highly collectible illustrator] MAXFIELD PARRISH is familiar to me only from crossworder Nancy Shack's tale of recognizing a Parrish picture that had been donated to a white elephant shop; the hospital sold it outside of the shop for thousands of dollars. Alas, in my head, the clue was looking for a kind of illustration that's highly collectible, or the collector herself. See? Not reading properly. I skipped right past the [College professor's mantra] so I ended up getting PUBLISH OR PERISH after MAXFIELD. And [Lafayette or Orleans] is a LOUISIANA PARISH, or county, but I blanked on needing anything other than a 6-letter word for "city." I did a little better reading the non-theme clues, but sheesh. My first thought for [One of the Wise Men] was NESTOR from Greek mythology rather than the Biblical CASPAR, whom I wanted to be GASPAR.

Things that seemed to be supra-Monday to me:

  • 6A. [Sword handles] are HAFTS. I always want HILTS first.
  • 30A. [As, chemically] is the symbol for ARSENIC. "As," of course, is also a word, so I continued with my misreading-of-clues thing here and needed lots of crossings.
  • 52A. [Gird oneself] sounds more like steel oneself, brace oneself, prepare for an onslaught. To me, GET SET just means "get ready."
  • 5D. [Rum and lime juice drink] is a DAIQUIRI, which is a familiar enough word but I'll bet trying to spell it gives a lot of people fits.
  • 24D. [1944 Jean-Paul Sartre play], 6 letters starting with N? Easy! That's NAUSEA. Except when it's NO EXIT. Totally mucked up the left side of the puzzle with NAUSEA.
  • 39D. [Nancy's 56-Down in the comics], 6 letters? Oh, she knew SLUGGO. Alas, it was her AUNT / FRITZI. Getting a few crossings reminded me of the name, but I have to wonder how many people under 40 know this.
Updated Monday morning:

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy/Washington Post Puzzle, "Seating for Eating"—Janie's review

At the CAFÉS [Informal restaurants] you frequent (bonus-fill), what's your seating preference? At a table? In a booth? On a stool at the counter? You can't fully appreciate it in this picture, but NYC's Café Edison a/k/a the Polish Tea Room, offers you all three. Come on down to West 47th Street and give it a try! If you're not in the area, you can appreciate your options as Patrick presents them in today's theme fill:
  • 17A. TABLE OF CONTENTS [Book list]. Not a list of books, but a list that appears in a book. I like this clue.
  • 35A. STOOL PIGEON [Snitch]. So often this clue leads to a three-letter answer: rat. I like this a lot better. My American Heritage Dictionary tells me that a stool pigeon is "a person acting as a decoy or as an informer, especially one who is a spy for the police" and that this slang term came into being "from the practice of tying pigeons to a stool to attract other pigeons."
  • 52A. BOOTH TARKINGTON ["The Magnificent Ambersons" author]. Put that one on your "book list"—or Penrod or Seventeen or Pulitzer Prize-winner Alice Adams. Not to be confused with Fran Tarkenton...
If the Cruciverb Database is correct, today is the ninth time stool pigeon has appeared in a mainstream-newspaper puzzle. And the fifth time in connection with a "seating" theme—but a first for a CS theme. EVEN SO, there was nothing OLD HAT about the solving experience. There's fine fill in CS first-timer HELIPORT, the ominous MIASMAS [Foreboding atmospheres], MÉNAGE [Household to Henri] , and the shout out to IRON MAN [2008 Robert Downey Jr. hit] (a movie I had great fun watching). JOINING UP is now joining databases. Let's hear a "RAH!" [Quaint cheer].

  • The humble EGG is a not only a [Custard ingredient] but also goes into making eggnog. So don't forget the NUTMEG [Eggnog sprinkle].
  • Harry Potter might want to try some ALOE on that SCAR...
  • And [Handel contemporary] (J.S) BACH wrote many concerti that featured an OBOIST [Woodwind section member]. Here's the 1st movement of the Oboe and Violin Concerto.
Oh—and I'll take a booth, please!

Updated Monday afternoon:

Samuel Donaldson's Los Angeles Times crossword

I slept too late to do the puzzles this morning, and went straight from taking my kid to day camp, to seeing one of those 69A: [Salon colorists] (DYERS), to snarfing down a quick lunch and heading to the gym. TCB! That's 25A: [Getting the job done, briefly], or "taking care of business." More B remains to be T C of, so I'd best be quick with the blogging.

The theme goes halfsies, dropping by half with each step:
  • 20A. That TWENTY MULE TEAM serves as [Borax haulers, in classic ads]. I opened up a fresh box of that brand of borax yesterday, it just so happens. Helps keep towels fresh, they say.
  • 31A. [Cowboy's topper] is a TEN-GALLON HAT.
  • FIVE CARD DRAW is a [Poker game where one might stand pat].
  • The surprising part of the theme is where it ends up, with a mixed number (a fourth-grader should be able to tell you what that is if you've forgotten the math lingo). TWO AND A HALF MEN has been a [CBS sitcom since 2003].

Highlights beyond the theme: (1) Down at 46-Down, CATNAP is clued as [Forty winks]. Half of forty, of course, is twenty, where today's theme began. (2) Compound words and phrases in the grid include DOG FOOD, the SLOW LANE, the OPEN SEA, EYELASH, and "ETC., ETC." They liven things up, don't they? On the "meh" side, it felt like there were a lot of partials (A SLIP, IN A, ERE I) and clunky abbrevs/plurals (APBS, OOFS, NEGS, ONS).

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Monday"

The last word I filled in was 38D. [It'll keep you up] is not, I don't think, a medically sound clue for APNEA. The clue probably works fine for anyone who isn't, say, a doctor or medical editor who's familiar with sleep medicine. Grr. The crossings were nutty, too: CAMASH? A [Lily plant with edible bulbs]? Never heard of it. [1968 Turtles hit] ELENORE?

Loved CHILLAX, which is clued as [Calm down], but my friends and I use it more along the lines of "What are you doing this weekend?" "Oh, just chillaxing."

Loved the up-to-the-minute clue for White Sox pitcher MARK BUEHRLE, who threw a perfect game last Thursday. I'm not a Sox fan, and this morning by son told me he'd dreamt that a baboon was attacking him because he was a Cubs fan while the baboon liked the Sox. But there were other non-attacking baboons who were Cubs fans.

Loved GHIRARDELLI chocolate. Oh, I can spell that all right. And I can eat it. Num.

Loved TIME SINK—[Overly engaging websites with little value, say] are collectively a huge TIME SINK. You ever lose an hour of your day looking at LOLcats or Go Fug Yourself? Yeah. I'm not sure if Facebook counts as a TIME SINK. Does social networking have more than "little value"?

I like Brendan's Themeless Monday puzzles. They always seem to be labeled "hard," but often take me less time than the "medium" themed puzzles. I do so enjoy a good themeless crossword.