July 27, 2009

Tuesday, 7/28

Jonesin' 4:18
July 24 CHE 4:02 (available here)
NYT 3:51
LAT 3:09
CS 7:44 (J—paper)

Tony Orbach's New York Times crossword

I was zipping through this puzzle, feeling frightfully clever, when I hit the skids in the Balkans corner of the grid. I put GAPERS instead of OGLERS for 48D: [Gawking sorts], which made NEAR perfect for 52A: [Close by]—but that was supposed to be NIGH. My second straight day of having a Wednesday experience on a pre-Wednesday puzzle. Um, I'm tired. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Now that I've got my whinging out of the way—This crossword really has remarkably smooth fill for a puzzle with 75 theme squares. Those five 15-letter entries are locked into that order, too—the phrases progress from the greatest to the lowest probability. Like so:

  • 17A. ["Sure thing"] clues WITHOUT QUESTION. Definitely yes.
  • 28A. IN ALL LIKELIHOOD means ["Chances are good"]. Probably yes.
  • 35A. ["It could go either way"] is the utterly equivocal MAYBE YES, MAYBE NO.
  • 43A. ["Doubtful"] clues NOT LOOKING SO HOT. Probably not.
  • 56A. ["Forget it!"] means AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN. Plain and simple, no.

There's a slight evocation of the Magic 8-Ball, but more direct.

Yeah, the fill has a lot of short answers that aren't particularly exciting. But there are high points. I like the one-two punch of 1D and 3D, MOWGLI and MOTHRA—["The Jungle Book" hero] and [Insect monster of Japanese film]. Favorite clues: 8A: [Seven-up and crazy eights] are GAMES; 21A: [Word before sheet or music] is RAP; 41A: [Like dessert wines] means SWEET (yum!); 54A: [Counselor's clients, perhaps] is a plural clue for COUPLE; 66A: [Had a bawl] clues WEPT; and ["Stat!"] clues three answers, 7D: PDQ crossing 4A: ASAP and also 60D: NOW. Two neighboring answers transported me to my salad days. There's 46D: ["Movin' ___" ("The Jeffersons" theme)] for ON UP beside 47D: [Cheech or Chong persona] for HIPPIE. Mind you, STONER is also 6 letters long.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Flip It"

The theme entries take 5-letter words, split 'em into two parts that can be words, and make a cockamamie sentence or phrase with the full and split words:
  • 17A. GOT IN INGOT is clued as [Boarded a gold bar-shaped vehicle?].
  • 58A. [Bans all alcoves?] is OKS NO NOOKS. A one-syllable word turns into two one-syllable words.
  • 11D. [Really tiny amt. of a form of oxygen?] is ONE OZ. OZONE.
  • 29D. SUE IS ISSUE is a complete sentence provided that you don't mind leaving out an article. [The debate topic: Grafton, the author?] is the clue.

JIM CROCE (38D: ["Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" singer]) is a good first/last name combo. I loved that song when I was a kid. You know why? Because we said "damn" when we sang along. It was a hit the summer I turned 7.

I especially liked CAYMAN, or 10D: [___ Islands (British territory near Cuba)] because earlier this evening I found a Cayman Islands nickel on the floor by my desk. Why don't I remember getting any Cayman cash during the cruise stopover last December? The dime-sized nickel surprised me.

9D: [Flat, messy do on a hot day, perhaps] is HAT HAIR. Around these parts, HAT HAIR is a much bigger issue in the winter.

At 47A, QUINOA ("keen-wa") is a ["Supergrain" used in some gluten-free recipes]. Try it if you haven't; it's tasty.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Lynn Lempel's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Just Getting By"—Janie's review

Imitation, it's said, is the sincerest form of flattery. In which case, fellow CSer Bob Klahn should feel mightly flattered indeed. He published CS a puzzle titled "Getting By" with the exact same gimmick (adding "BY" to well-known names and phrases) in November of 2003. Borrowing one of Bob's theme phrases, Lynn has made this rendition all her own and for me, the smile-factor ran high. It's hard to resist theme fill the likes of:
  • 17A. TABBY HUNTER [One looking for a lost pet?]. Though for years he was closeted in Hollywood, Tab Hunter (born Andrew Arthur Kelm...) managed to get a lot of hearts beating more rapidly, carve out a more than decent career for himself, even to out himself proudly—and keep on working. (Sometimes confused with the late Troy Donahue.)
  • 27A. AIRLINE HUBBY [Spouse of a Delta or United worker?] The spouse or the worker himself? Or is the male spouse an airline hubby in the way that come Superbowl Sunday, many a woman is said to be a "football widow"? Regardless... did you know that while Atlanta is still the busiest passenger hub, Dubai is looking to become the world's busiest hub? Anywhere?
  • 44A. PERSIAN RUGBY [Sport played in Iran?]. This is the one example of repeat fill, but Lynn's provided an entirely different clue.
  • 58A. FURBY TRADER [Merchant dealing in an old toy?]. Another winner. The Furby first appeared in 1998, and by 2005, this electronic toy had been programmed with voice recognition capability. Its native tongue is, uh, Furbish..., but the more you interact with it, the more English it uses in response. Really.
If you're more attracted to reading than to playing with Furbies, you're in luck. Lynn has given us two high-profile characters from different ends of the "classic" spectrum: GLINDA [Good Witch of Oz] and AENEAS [Virgil's hero]. We also get two classic-type authors: J.M. BARRIE ["Peter Pan" penner] and Edgar Allen POE ["The Tell-Tale Heart" writer].

Two opera heroines find their way into the puzzle as well: AIDA from the [Opera featuring a captured princess] and GRETEL [Girl enticed by an edible house]. No, Gretel isn't clued in relation to the opera, but Humperdinck made her a star in seasonal favorite Hänsel und Gretel. Even if you hate opera, I'm going to bet you're familiar with (and like...) the "Evening Prayer" from H&G (starts at about 4:20).

In the fresh-fill department, DAY-SHIFT and its opposite in the grid, our friend J.M BARRIE, both look to be making CS debuts, and PARTY BOSS and ANGRY LOOK (also grid opposites) major-publication debuts. CAN IT BE? Yes, it can (in another CS first). I love the word GENERIC in this mix, and will close out with a look at what seems to be a very first-timer: CRABBER, that [Net wielder on the Chesapeake, maybe]. The life of a Chesapeake waterman is rich in lore, but oh, by no means is it an easy one!

Scott Atkinson's Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme is "things you might say after WAIT" (49D: [Bide one's time, and a word that may precede the answers to starred clues]). Here are those expressions:
  • 17A. IT ISN'T OVER yet. ["We aren't finished here"].
  • 53A. I'M NOT READY! ["Give me another sec!"]
  • 11D. Like the public radio quiz show, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me says, wait, DON'T TELL ME. ["It's on the tip of my tongue"].
  • 28D. But wait, THERE'S MORE! ["I haven't told you everything yet!"] Not only do you get the ShamWow, we'll throw in four mini-ShamWows at no extra charge. But that's not all. You also get the handy Ginsu knife.

Highlights in the fill include GO SOUTH ([Deteriorate, slangily]), LUMP IN ([Group together]), [Puerto Rico's capital] SAN JUAN, and BEATNIKS ([Bongo-playing '50s-'60s stereotypes]).

Is it just me, or did this one feel more like a Wednesday puzzle too? Maybe I'm in the summer crossword-solving doldrums this week.

Joon Pahk's July 24 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Mythaphorically Speaking"

The Chronicle's crossword didn't make it onto the publication's redesigned website last week but there was, in fact, a CHE crossword. It's par for the CHE course, with a literary-minded theme and plenty of literary and artsy clues in the fill. The fill answers with clues from literature, music, and theater include UDAY, LISA, IAN, RACE, ART SONG, EDDA, ADANO, KYD, LESSON, OJIBWA, CLAIR, LES, ADA, SON, STANDS, EDGARS, and KEY—that's 17 answers. The five theme entries are metaphors derived from Greek (all Greek, yes?) mythology:
  • 18A. PANDORA'S BOX is the [Source of many troubles].
  • 23A. A [Small cause of a major conflict] is the APPLE OF DISCORD. Eris, the goddess of discord, caused all sorts of trouble with that golden apple.
  • 38A. The SWORD OF DAMOCLES hanging over your head is [Disaster waiting to happen].
  • 54A. The PROCRUSTEAN BED is an [Arbitrary standard that everyone must conform to]. Hmm, I don't think I knew this phrase. Sounds like the No Child Left Behind–mandated standardized testing to me.
  • 61A. A [Seemingly insoluble conundrum] is a GORDIAN KNOT. Gordius, the king of Gordium, tied an intricate knot and said whoever could untie it would become the ruler of Asia. Alexander the Great apparently had little patience for knotwork and slashed the knot with a sword. That's totally cheating, man.

What I liked: Including both LARVAL, or [Premetamorphic], and PUPAE, or [Chrysalides]. The AFL-CIO, a [Gp. created by a 1955 merger]. More mythology: [Mars's Olympus Mons, for one] is a VOLCANO. Oh, wait. That's astronomy and not myth, isn't it? The first name that came to mind when I saw the ****P* pattern for [Beijing Games superstar] was pre-Beijing swimming star Ian THORPE; did you notice that PHELPS shares the H and P in the same spots?