July 14, 2009

Wednesday, 7/15

BEQ 4:58
Onion 4:48
NYT 3:15
LAT 3:10
CS 6:38 (J—paper)

Joon Pahk's New York Times crossword

Joon interprets the concept IT MAY BE TAKEN OUT by listing four things that fit that categorization:

  • 17A. A [Feeling of nonfulfillment] is FRUSTRATION. You don't take frustration out without taking it out on someone/-thing.
  • 24A. [Frequent home acquisition] is a MORTGAGE. Hey, Joon, did you just take out a mortgage for your new abode?
  • 49A. [Burgers and fries, often] constitute FAST FOOD. They're "take-out," yes, but I don't think of it as "taking out fast food."
  • 59A. Take out a LIBRARY BOOK, an [Item that may have a date stamp].
Tons of lively fill here, particularly the longest Down answers. TEMPTS FATE (with five consonants in a row) is clued as [Maybe takes one risk too many]. An [Internal memo?] that's so internal, it doesn't leave your brain, is a MENTAL NOTE. There's THE / X-FILES, the ["Trust No One" series]. ON THE SLY means [Surreptitiously]. I can't say I really know that a FUNGO is a [Bat used for fielding practice], but it's clearly the coolest word in all of baseball. MUSTARD gets clued by way of Clue, the board game: [Colonel suspected of murder]. (I hope some people put SANDERS here.)

Favorite clues: [It may be hand-picked- refers to a BANJO. MUM's ["The word"]. MRS. is clued with the Virginia Woolf book, ["___ Dalloway"]. The most important MELINDA in the world is Melinda Gates of the [Bill & ___ Gates Foundation], which does tremendously useful work in battling disease in Africa. [Whites or darks] make up a laundry LOAD. And OCT. is the [Mo. of Indigenous Peoples Day], offsetting Columbus Day.

I gotta dock Joon a few points for a couple dupes. IT MAY BE TAKEN OUT echoes MAY I, or [Polite request for permission]. And two cognates pop up: REX is a [Kingly title in Latin], and EL REY is a [Kingly title in Spanish].

edited to add: joon here with a couple of "behind the music" notes (but no actual musical notes). i wrote this one with thursday in mind, and as such there was a fairly mild theme gimmick: all four theme answers were clued merely as [See 38-across]. i liked the idea of putting the clue in the grid, the way mike nothnagel did in his IT GOES UP AND DOWN puzzle from last year, but in a somewhat easier way. the editorial change to clue the answers straightforwardly is a good decision given the wednesday context, although that MORTGAGE clue is rather non-specific, isn't it? it could as easily describe a DESK LAMP or NINTENDO WII. anyway, i must take responsibility for the mild awkwardness of FRUSTRATION not having its "on" attached, and the two unnoticed-by-me dupes. i could easily have changed the X at REX/HEX (to D, F, M, N, P, S, T, W). or just clued REX via harrison or stout. instead i went for the matching pair, and for some reason it didn't even occur to me that they were cognates. MAY I would have been harder to grid out, but it looks doable. most of my tricky clues were kept, but my favorite that didn't make the cut was [Not just] for UNFAIR. it's subtle, but just misleading enough... i thought. the similar [Another time] clue for AGAIN and [Not express] for LOCAL did make it, though, so that made me happy.

Updated Wednesday morning

Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "U and Me"— Janie's review

The only thing that gently surprised me today was the title of the puzzle itself. Yes, the first word in each of the two-word theme phrases begins with U and the second with ME, but each of the first words also begins UN. Now nobody asked me, but I think there's more mileage to be had here with the title "U 'n' Me"... That said, nice goin', Randy, on giving us four 15-letter phrases, each of which appears to be making its major-puzzle debut. That's 60 squares of fresh theme-fill. Bravo! And those phrases are:
  • 17A. UNIVERSITY MEDAL [College graduation award]. While the clue and the fill don't entirely match (is this a college honor, a university honor or is the "mixed metaphor" a cluing necessity?...), I never heard of this award. Did my small college confer this medal on a classmate? I don't remember. Still, I always like picking up new information through the puzzles.
  • 28A. UNION MEMBERSHIP [Closed shop requirement]. Aha. As a card-carrying member of three performers unions, this one I know.
  • 44A. UNITED METHODIST [Protestant church]. As a Jewess... Well, I'd be a pretty provincial kinda gal if I said I'd never heard of this Protestant sect. But I have, so I won't!
  • 58A. UNCHAINED MELODY [Hit for the Righteous Brothers]. A hit for just about anyone who recorded it, starting in 1955. Today's version, though, was the "theme song" for my high school class's Senior Prom (well before Demi, Patrick and Ghost re-popularized it, yet again...).
In the non-theme fill, there are several dynamic duos throughout the puzzle, too:
  • [Celtic rival] PACER and [Magic's teammate] KAREEM for basketball fans;
  • [Three-time Masters winner Nick] FALDO (new to me...) and [Repair a fairway] RE-SOD for golf enthusiasts;
  • IDEALLY [Just the way it should be] and EDEN [Idyllic place] for utopians...;
  • ERIC (sometimes ERIK...) [___ the Red] and SWEDES [ABBA, e.g.] for lovers of all things Scandinavian; then
  • [ABBA, e.g.] SWEDES and [Barry, Maurice, or Robin] GIBB for pop fans (sorry, no match for the TECHNO crowd); and saving the best for last, the pair that's also a crossing,
  • [Guessing game question] WHO AM I? and "I'M AN [___ Old Cowhand"]. Sweet.
There's also a cluster of related words: if you're a ROUÉ [Casanova], you may [Look like a wolf] and OGLE. If you do, don't be surprised if the object of your attentions [Looked back in anger] (great clue!) and GLARED. The unwanted attention might even cause the recipient to JEER [Hiss and boo]...

Finally, because they take some thought and/or bring a visual to mind, here are some fave clues: [Penn name] for SEAN (a pun on "pen name"); [Wise guy?] for SAGE (like Solomon the wise...); [Revolutionary time] for YEAR (since it takes the earth a year to revolve around the sun); [Do a double take?] for RE-FILM; and [Hustle to first base] for SPRINT.

George Fitzgerald's Los Angeles Times crossword

I've already written about this puzzle over at L.A. Crossword Confidential. In the interest of having plenty of time for medical editing or crossword cluing today, let me simply refer you there rather than writing about it here. In 25 words: Theme is "___ level" phrases, fill includes wildly unfamiliar BITT ([Ship's post that secures cables]). New constructor? Congrats! Like to see smoother fill in subsequent puzzles.

Francis Heaney's Onion A.V. Club crossword

Francis includes two spelled-out letter names for the purpose of explaining the theme. ESS is the [First of a pair of letters swapped six times in this puzzle's theme entries], and TEE is the other. The six swaps appear in five answers:
  • 20A. THIS FOR BRAINS plays on "shit for brains" and is clued ["Here's what I'll give you if you'll feed my pet zombie"?]. The clue doesn't quite add up for me, but I like the play on the original phrase.
  • 28A. [Description of a balloon race lost due to lack of wind?] is NO GUST, NO GLORY. Solid. ("No guts, no glory.)
  • 36A. LAST TSAR-FIGHTER is a [Holdout against the Romanovs?]. One point off for the unswapped S and T in LAST. If only the L.A. Times were commonly called the L.A.T. and had a proud history of fighting Russian despotism. (The Last Starfighter was a cheesy '80s movie that my son would probably love.)
  • 45A. Hah! DON'T SATE ME, BRO is clued ["Dude, I hate feeling full"]. Funny answer, funny clue, funny (but painful) original "Don't tase me, bro" line.
  • 56A. [What high-priced strippers who cater to dweebs see a lot of?] clues TWITS AND THOUS, playing on "Twist and Shout."

Five favorite clues: (1) OLAF is clued as [Norwegian king who...oh, as if you know anything about Norwegian kings]. Gotta love a clue where the constructor breaks the fourth wall (in a TV show or movie, an ASIDE is a [Remark that breaks the fourth wall]) and talks to the solver. Crosscan tweeted about this clue last night, calling it "the clue of the year." (2) [Scandal-ridden preacher Haggard] is named TED. One of my Facebook friends thought of that TED when I posted this photo. (3) Mighty long clue for a 4-letter answer: [Country that recently certified its election results, thus forever ending any doubt about the legitimacy thereof, totally] is IRAN. (4) [Crabs, e.g.], hmm, crustaceans? Grumpy people? Complains? No, an STD. (5) UHS are [Sounds from someone not good with, you know, word things].

Good fill, entertaining but mildly uneven theme, and terrific clues? Chalk this one up as a win for Francis.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Keeping It Short"

What he's "keeping short" is an I sound: the original phrases for the theme entries have a LONG I sound, and Brendan changes it to a short I, adjusting the spelling as needed.

A biker gang becomes the BICKER GANG, or [Quarrel crew]. (I'm skipping bullets because that dratted Safari 4 makes me add all sorts of other code to make the posts display properly for Safari 4 users, and then everything gets mucked up until I add still more extraneous bits of code, and it's driving me nuts.) That [Guy who exaggerates how much he can bench press?] is a MUSCLE FIBBER (muscle fiber). The [Grim Reaper's prop?] is a VICIOUS SICKLE indeed (vicious cycle). Brighton Beach turns into BRITAIN BEACH, or [Place where blokes and birds sun?]. And [Disease one gets from a watering hole?] is a DIPPER RASH (diaper rash). Cute theme, particularly the VICIOUS SICKLE.

Favorite clues/fill: (1) SNL is the [Show from which Adrien Brody and Martin Lawrence are banned for life]. (2) IGGY POP is the ["Lust for Life" singer]. (3) ZAGREB is the [Croatian capital] city.

Most-likely-to-vex-solvers clues: (1) [Cheap cigar, slangily] is EL ROPO. You know what? STOGIE is also 6 letters long. (2) [Bandleader Skinnay] ENNIS is someone I know about only from crosswords. (3) AIN is the [Department of Bourg, France]. (4) [Medallion makeup] is VEAL, not GOLD.