July 13, 2009

Tuesday, 7/14

Jonesin' 3:15
LAT 3:04
NYT 2:51
CS 7:15 (J—paper)

Donna Levin's New York Times crossword

"Allons enfants de la patrie-ee-ee..." Yes, it's a special Bastille Day mot croisé. Donna's theme entries celebrate the day like so:

  • 18A. The [Dickens novel with the 56-Across as its backdrop] is A TALE OF TWO CITIES.
  • 27A. Before the Revolution, there was that famous [Declaration attributed to Marie Antoinette just before the 56-Across]: LET THEM EAT CAKE.
  • 43A. The French national anthem is LA MARSEILLAISE, the [Song of the 56-Across].
  • 56A. And it's the FRENCH REVOLUTION that these other three entries refer to, an [Event that began in 1789].

This mot-croisé's difficulty level is keyed perfectly to a Tuesday, but if it took you a smidgen longer than you thought it would, that could be because the grid's 16 columns wide, not 15. Outside of the theme, the only French content I notice is Jacques CHIRAC, [Sarkozy's presidential predecessor].

I'm watching a TV show, so quickly, five other clues:
  • 49D. The TROP, or Tropicana, is a [Classic Vegas hotel, with "the"].
  • 15A. HAREM is a [Dwelling section whose name comes from the Arabic for "forbidden place"].
  • 10A. [Leftovers from threshing] are CHAFF.
  • 4D. [___ B or ___ C of the Spice Girls] clues MEL.
  • 33A. The WALRUS is an [Oyster eater in a Lewis Carroll verse].
Updated Tuesday morning:

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Why? Why?"—Janie's review

Another solid puzzle is ours to enjoy today. The theme entries are strong and the fill throughout benefits from this one's being a pangram. "Why? Why?" refers to the double-Ys that appear in each of the four theme answers. That makes for eight Ys there—and there are two more in the grid as well, for an impressive total of 10. "Why? Why?" "Why not?!" Additionally, three of the four theme phrases (all but 42A) appear to be making their major-puzzle debuts—which (in combination with the full range of high-scorin' Scrabble letters) adds to the overall fresh feeling here.
  • 20A. CHERRY YOGURT [Fruity dairy treat]. Yum. One of my fave flavors anyway. Crankin' it up a notch: Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt.
  • 31A. PAPPY YOKUM [Al Capp character]. Had MAMMY in there at first. Needless to say, the crosses told me otherwise. Here's a link to a site that will tell you all you want to know about who's who in the Yokum family and in Dogpatch, U.S.A.
  • 42A. BY YOURSELF [Without assistance]. Or [Preferred way to solve the crossword puzzle, perhaps]
  • 53A. CANARY YELLOW [Bright color]. This is a color immortalized by Oscar Hammerstein in South Pacific's "Cockeyed Optimist" which begins: "When the sky is a bright canary yellow..."
Because odd associations do tend to POP UP in my mind (and going back to those additional Ys...), it occurs to me that there's another YY in THY YETIS. Something Biblical, perhaps, like "Thou shalt not PIQUE thy Yetis"... Or not...

The bottom half of the puzzle seems to be crawling with insects: we've SLUGS [Garden creepers], a SCARAB [Egyptian beetle] and LARVA [Caterpillar...]. This array must be very pleasing to entomologist solvers (me, I'm lookin' for the Off!)!

Sunday's NYT clued TEXTS as [Tweets, e.g.] and today, Patrick clues TWEETS as [Twitter messages]. It's a new world...but I wonder long it'll take for these techno-speak entries to hit Matt Groening's "Forbidden Words" list.

It took me a while to dredge up (CS first-timer) BABY GAP, having first tried OSHKOSH and KIDS R US... And what a funny complement it is to TINY TIM. I'm so glad Victorian England didn't have this store as I don't believe Bob Cratchit's salary would have gone very far there and I'd have hated for the kids to feel they were missing something. And apropos of just about nothing—well, Cratchit domestic life, perhaps—just want to add that I liked seeing WASH DAYS in the puzzle. This seems to be a major-puzzle debut, too.

Finally, for the classicists, there's LEDA [Zeus seduced her as a swan] and AJAX [Trojan War hero]. Through the magic of the Internet, I found pictures (and an explanation) of the "Achilles and Ajax Amphora." On one side, as noted, Achilles and Ajax; on the other, Leda with Castor and Pollux. For your consideration.

Chuck Deodene's Los Angeles Times crossword

It feels like it's been a while since we last saw a vowel-progression theme. Deodene's theme contains five phrases that end with M*SS words and travel from A through E, I, O, and U:
  • 20A. MIDNIGHT MASS is a [Christmas service]. I went to a midnight mass back in the '80s. The priest intoned "...piece of Prince." Prince is only, like, 5'3", so a piece of him would be small indeed. (What's the term for a phrase in which two words are transposed? Like a spoonerism, only for whole words, not sounds.)
  • 23A. Stacked below the beginning of 20A is our next theme entry, FINE MESS. [With "A," 1986 Ted Danson film]? I think I'd like this better as an 8-letter partial completing the Laurel and Hardy line, "Here's another ___ you've gotten us into!" Does anybody remember this '86 movie? Too bad the MOSS entry isn't 9 or 15 letters long to balance AFINEMESS or ANOTHERFINEMESS. The I'M A partial crossing this is clued ["___ bad boy!": Lou Costello catchphrase], so it would resonate to toss Laurel and Hardy in here.
  • 38A. [The Rebels of the Southeastern Conference, familiarly] are OLE MISS. Hey, John Grisham went there. A crossword clue told me that recently.
  • 52A. KATE MOSS is a [Waifish supermodel from Britain]. Helped popularize the "heroin chic" look.
  • 54A. [Easy to use, in adspeak] clues NO FUSS, NO MUSS. I filled this in, before I saw how the theme worked, as NO MUSS, NO FUSS, which is how I say it. In adspeak.
I love 5D's clue and answer—[Poppycock] is FOLDEROL. They're in my second favorite thesaurus grouping, with words like tommyrot and malarkey. (My most favorite is the hullabaloo, hooha, brouhaha, hubbub category.) 44A is BUMS OUT, or [Saddens, slangily]. Seeing this in the grid after finishing, I read it as including a noun. "BUMS OUT, everyone! Drop those drawers!" 9D TEN-HUT is a cool answer; it's the [Opposite of "At ease!"].

At L.A. Crossword Confidential, PuzzleGirl has more on this crossword.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Yes We Can: An international movement"

Matt takes familiar names, prefaces them with "yes" in other languages, and clues the resulting mashup phrases:

• 17A. Eve Plumb of The Brady Bunch and the Spanish si create SIEVE PLUMB, a [Level draining device, to a Spanish yes-man?].
• 30A. [Selassie's NYC restaurant, to a Japanese yes-man?] is HAILE CIRQUE, building on Japanese hai and Le Cirque. I don't like that there's no good way to repurpose the CIRQUE part of Le Cirque—it's still a restaurant instead of becoming something entirely different.
• 44A. DATED KNIGHT comes from Russian da and Ted Knight of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It's clued with [Went out with the chivalrous type, too a Russian yes-man?].
• 62A. [U.S. uncle's "Friday the 13th" character, to a German yes-man?] is JASON OF SAM. Double gruesomeness for fictional slasher Jason merged with serial killer Son of Sam. We...don't see a lot of gruesomeness and serial killers in the crosswords.

Old-school crosswordese INGLE is here, clued as [Fireplace spot]. I haven't seen DERIVATE before; it's a [Word that comes from another word]. I don't have time to check, but this puzzle's probably a pangram because the main rare letters, ZQXJK, are all represented.

Until tomorrow—