July 20, 2009

Tuesday, 7/21

Jonesin' 4:30
LAT 2:54
NYT 2:39
CS 7:10 (J―paper)

Hey, I'm looking for a couple fresh voices to guest-blog the August 3 and 4 puzzles. If you're interested, leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail. Edited to add: I've got three volunteers to cover six puzzles, so we're all set this time. I'm hoping to take some time off again in late December...if not sooner. Thanks!)

Donna Levin's New York Times crossword

Aha, so the Times is going with the 40th anniversary of the next-day Times headline for its moon landing crossword theme:

  • 20A. The [New York Times headline of 7/21/69] was MEN WALK ON MOON. This is in counterpoint to the page from the Onion's Our Dumb Century (see photo), in which understandably astonished swear words issue forth from the "newspaper" and the imagined quotes from key players. That was my favorite page in the book, though I feel no need to buy a print of it since I have the book. (Apologies to the more sensitive among you for the rough language.)
  • 28A. In both the Onion and the NYT, Neil ARMSTRONG is near the headline, the [Subject of a photo beneath 20-Across].
  • 45A, 55A. The [Message left by 28-Across for future explorers] was WE CAME IN PEACE / FOR ALL MANKIND.
Moving along beyond the timely theme, we have a mix of solidly Tuesdayish fare, high-end and not-often-in-the-puzzle vocabulary, and old-school crosswordese. The first category needs little discussion. Here's the fancy stuff:
  • 59A. Latin! A FORTIORI means [Even more certain: Lat.]. I...did not know that. Have seen the phrase, can spell the phrase, honestly could not have defined it before now.
  • 6D. We get plenty of SASS in crosswords, but hardly any TALK BACK, or [Sass, with "to"].
  • 8D. MAGNUM is a [Large wine bottle]. That's the 1.5-liter bottle. Not quite a Galloesque jug.
  • 36D. Jim ROCKFORD! That's the [1970s James Garner TV title role]. Even when I was a kid, I was prone to having crushes on wry men.
  • 38D. DOPAMINE is a [Pleasure-associated neurotransmitter]. How many people tried to wedge ENDORPHIN into that slot? Endorphins are more famously pleasure-associated, I think.

In the crosswordese zone, there are a few notable answers:
  • 40A. LSTS, or "landing ship, tank" in the plural, are those [D-Day vessels] seen in the long opening battle of Saving Private Ryan, aren't they?
  • 66A. ESNE! We rarely see the ESNE anymore. That's an [Anglo-Saxon laborer].
  • 29D. EDINA is the crossword's favorite [Minneapolis suburb]. (Hi, Cinedina!) I knew the name from crosswords long before I went to Minnesota for college.
  • 39D. Our [Inscribed pillar] is a STELA. This can also be spelled STELE, so I usually leave the last letter blank.

Cute stuff: 34A: [Soprano ___ Te Kanawa], or KIRI, is from New Zealand. So is the KIWI, or 34D: [Fuzzy fruit], that she intersects. I'm partial to the pop culture vibe; ELAINE from Seinfeld, MARLO Thomas (her husband Phil Donahue does the NYT crossword), the XBOX, the movie D.O.A., a Disney ALI, and EMILIO Estevez show up in the grid. If you think that's too much, don't complain—I see a good dozen other answers that could have been clued as pop culture names but weren't. (The DOORS! MAGNUM, P.I.! ABE Vigoda! Growing Up GOTTI! The TOMS Petty and Waits!)

Updated Tuesday morning:

Gail Grabowski's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Beginning at the End"—Janie's review

Last week Sarah Keller gave us "Starting Ends," in which in the starting word of the theme-phrase could be paired with the word end. Though there's something similar in the titles, Gail does go a different route. The end word in each of her theme phrases is a synonym for the word beginning. Sorta...
  • 20A. PROMISING START [Favorable approach]. A beautiful phrase and a great way to get the ball rollin'.
  • 36A. SHUTTLE LAUNCH [Cape Canaveral event]. I'm still with ya, but am sort of wishing for a less direct clue...
  • 56A. OPENING KICK-OFF [Initial football play]. Um. Department of Redundancy Department... Both words—not merely the one promised in the title—fit the description. Perhaps you view this as a bonus. I might have if the title had been "Beginnings"—but that "...at the End" part gives us the rules of the game, no? I love the fill itself—it's active, it summons up a strong and very specific image—but I'd have preferred something like SEASON PREMIÈRE that kept to the pattern already established. On the positive side, all three phrases are fresh and look to be making making a major-puzzle debut.
Of the non-theme fill, I particularly liked seeing the compounds: STARFISH, COLD FEET and HOLD FAST. And it seems to me that participants in an ARMS DEAL (CS-debut) may be represented by LAW FIRMS (major-puzzle first). Sometimes after the fact... Regardless, you can be sure there's going to be a healthy FEE [Attorney's charge] attached.

I don't have lots more to say about this one, but there's a nice cluster with the crossing of LONG U [The vowel sound in "lute"] with GOOF and TULLE. That double "O" of the former and the "U" of the latter share that long "u" sound as well. Oh―and so does the "U" in the adjacent SNAFU. WOW ["I'm impressed!"]!

Orange here.

Hey, some of you may have noticed that in addition to today's NYT puzzle being made by a woman, there were four women in the NYT crossword bylines last week. This should be unremarkable, unsurprising, an ordinary occurrence. The Times averages about two weeks a year in which at least half the names in the constructor byline belong to women—so absent any changes, it'll probably be months before we see such a thing again. I hope it becomes more common. I also hope:

(1) That Will Shortz encourages talented, experienced female constructors to send him more puzzles.

(2) That those women who've cut back on submitting to the NYT will redouble their efforts.

(3) That Will publishes plenty of puzzles by women. It does make a difference to women to see themselves represented, as seeing two weeks straight of male bylines can subconsciously dampen the sense of possibility for a woman. (My son and I just talked this morning about the message a MEN WORKING sign sends to boys and girls: "This work is for men only." What a slap in the face to women working on a construction crew that sign is.)

(4) That more women will get into crossword construction. Buy Patrick Berry's constructing guide. Join Cruciverb.com, read the many valuable "Sage Advice" essays, and sign up for the Cruciverb-l mailing list to see what issues constructors deal with. And before you submit a crossword to an editor, run it by experienced people who can critique it honestly and help you polish it so it's more likely to get published.

Bruce Venzke's Los Angeles Times crossword

This theme reminded me of early-week Newsday crosswords, which seem more apt to run the spiraling-four-entries pattern than the other newspapers do. Is it my imagination? Perhaps. The four theme entries are phrases that end with words that also mean "boat"...though in one case, the "boat" word means BOAT, too. WITCHCRAFT was a [Salem trials crime]. BLOOD VESSEL is clued as the [Aorta, for one]. CENSORSHIP is [Press suppression]. And ROCK THE BOAT, which is a figure of speech using words that do indeed have to do with rocking boats, means [Shake things up].

I like BOB DOLE as a crossword answer; he was the [1996 loser to Bill Clinton] and appeared in Wordplay. I was a sucker for those Ripley's Believe It or Not books when I was a kid, but would have also liked an Alien/Sigourney Weaver clue for RIPLEY just as much as ["Believe It or Not" guy]. [Rocker Elvis] COSTELLO has a new album out and I nearly bought the CD for my husband but figure he can buy it from iTunes. SHINDIGS is a great word for [Galas]. SCHLEPS and (the depressing) SKID ROW are also lively entries.

Less likeable: the stuff like plural OLES, Bambi's aunt ENA, ENHALO, ELOI, TATS clues as crosswordese [Makes doilies], OLLA, NEE, OCTAD, ETHANE, and SEAWAY. I should hate the old PASHA, that [Old Turkish VIP], but it's a word we've taken to using around the house.

Matt Jones's themeless Jonesin' crossword, "A Buncha—words, that is"

(Public service announcement: If you want to get the Jonesin' puzzle as soon as it's available, join the Jonesin' Google Group. There are Across Lite and printable jpeg options, and the puzzles are usually sent out on Mondays. If you wait for the puzzles to appear on alt-weekly papers' websites, you'll probably be waiting until Thursday or Friday and won't be in synch with the blogging coverage.)

'Tis a promising start to the week, with Brendan Q's Themeless Monday followed by Matt's themeless today. Jonesin' puzzles usually have themes but I guess Matt sometimes gets a wild hair and gives us a themeless puzzle—I, for one, am glad. I'm short on time, so here's a list of clues and answers:
  • 1A. [Fine] can mean SMOKIN' HOT. Super-fresh fill.
  • 15A. The record TURNTABLE is [Dan the Automator's instrument]. Who? Don't know him.
  • 34A. [It was big news in 1999] clues the NEW MILLENNIUM. I tried THE MILLENNIUM first.
  • 37A. EASY BAKE OVEN! Terrific crossword answer! That's a [Toy that originally used a 100-watt light bulb].
  • 7D. One [Cable network unlikely to air repeats of "The Sopranos"] is HBO FAMILY. I started with ABC FAMILY, which is even more unlikely on account of not being part of HBO.
  • 33D. PEA GRAVEL is [Small rocks in a walkway]. Nice and rounded little pebbles.
  • 40D. I don't at all understand why [Cleveland's home] is QUAHOG. My guess turns out to be correct—it's cartoon character Cleveland Brown, from Quahog, Rhode Island. He's getting a spinoff from that show that isn't Family Guy, right? Is it American Dad?
  • 46D. I will be surprised if more than two people reading this already knew the word CULOT, or [Lamp base, in French, from the French for "ass"].