July 28, 2009

Wednesday, 7/29

Onion 4:55
BEQ 4:11
NYT 3:40
LAT 3:17
CS 7:44 (J—paper)

Tim Wescott's New York Times crossword

Themes with circled letters aren't too tough to figure out. This time, the circled letters spell out various MLB team members. And despite the constraints of having (1) six theme entries (2) occupying 70 squares (3) with each Down theme entry intersecting two Across theme answers, the fill's pretty smooth. Here's the theme:

  • 17A. To MAKE A STRONG CASE is to [Argue forcibly]. The Astros play in Houston.
  • 28A. The Tampa Bay Rays figure into the [Pesticide spreader, e.g.], or CROP SPRAYER.
  • 48A. SHORT-WINDED is clued as [Terse]. My dictionary says "short-winded" means out of breath or apt to be out of breath rather than being the opposite of a long-winded speaker. Does anyone really love the Minnesota Twins?
  • 61A. Okay, NORWEGIAN THRONE doesn't feel so "in the language" to me. Then again, I've never been Norwegian. It's [Where Olaf I or Olaf II sat]. San Francisco Giants play baseball, New York Giants prefer football, Andre the Giant liked wrestling.
  • 11D. ORANGE RINDS are [Juicer remnants]. Hey, look! A bonus baseball reference in the clue! See also 10A: SOSA, [Baseball star in Senate steroid hearings]. I often forget the Texas Rangers exist.
  • 24D. To COME TO TERMS is to [Shake hands] and agree. There's a New York Met in the phrase's midst.

I gotta dock Mr. Wescott a couple points for one of the six theme players (RAY) being embedded inside a single word when the other five are split between two words. The only other baseball reference I noticed was 71A: [Like Yogi Berra, physically] for SQUAT. SHORT and STOUT were my first two guesses. Oh, wait, there's also 22A: SAC [___ fly (run producer)].

Football interjects itself. Talk about your manly-man sports-nut puzzles, eh? There's an ONSIDE kick, a Denver BRONCO (...clued as the horse, [It's most useful when it's broken]), and SCHULZ, the [Charles who created Peppermint Patty], who was fond of Charlie Brown, who could never quite manage to kick the football. There's also a DEKE fakeout from hockey.

Assorted crosswordese repeaters rear their ungainly heads here. The ERNE, or [Fish-eating raptor], crosses EIRE and NÉE. NORA of The Thin Man meets IRMA la Douce. Better are the longer fill answers, such as ONE-SIDED [Like a Mobius strip] and a slew of 6s. Does ONE-SIDED duplicate ONSIDE too much? I know that tie the knot is 100% "in the language, but to literally take a rope or shoelace and [Finish lacing up] by deciding to TIE A KNOT...I'm not sure TIE A KNOT is a lexical entity unto itself.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Direct Overhead"—Janie's review

"Direct overhead" is a business term that refers to the "expense directly associated with the production of goods of services," such as the cost of electricity, maintenance or rent. As a kid, I had no idea what it meant, but I think I first became aware of the word "overhead" in the commercials that used to run for Robert Hall clothing stores:
When the values go up, up, up
And the prices go down, down, down.
Robert Hall this season
Will show you the reason
Low overhead! Low overhead!
Sarah Keller's "direct overhead," however, has no association with matters financial, though (broadly speaking) there is a sartorial connection. Here we're dealing literally with items that go on (or in one case, over) your head. I like the way none of the cluing tips Sarah's thematic hand and the fill itself is quite nice. In this way:
  • 17A. [Palace display] gives us CROWN JEWELS; and
  • 27A. [Jaguar on a Jaguar, e.g.] yields HOOD ORNAMENT. Credit for this particular combo probably belongs to Paula Gamache, who used it years ago in a similarly themed puzzle (for another publication). But a great clue is a great clue is a great clue and this seems to be the only other time the fill has made a puzzle appearance.
  • 46A. [Stuffed animals that were a '90s fad] renders BEANIE BABIES. Yesterday it was Furbies, Beanie Babies today. Both have earned a rightful place in The Bad Fads Museum.
  • 61A. [Mine that Bird, in 2009] produces DERBY WINNER . This fill, too, is making its CS debut.
I don't have lots and lots to add today. The remainder of the fill is perfectly fine, mind you, just not particularly sparkly. There's nothing wrong with PETER OUT, NADIR, LESSENS, RESIDUE, and ABSENCE individually—but seeing all of them in one puzzle weights it down some.

We do get an array of names: AGNES [Choreographer de Mille] (niece of Cecil B., too!); AMOS ["Famous" cookie maven]; ELSAS [Martinelli and Lanchester] (the former was a model before enjoying a small screen career, the latter a first-rate character actress); EMIL ["The Last Command" Oscar winner Jannings] (and Marlene Dietrich's co-star in "The Blue Angel"); and CLARA [Barton or Bow]. But AMOS aside, there's something dated in the feel here that, once again, grounds the fill.

Where we do get some lovely leavening is in the cluing: [Good, in the 'hood] for BAD; [Musical firsts] for DO'S; [Left on a map] for WEST. Now that's more like it!

Jerome Gunderson's Los Angeles Times crossword

My longer L.A. Crossword Confidential writeup is over there. The theme, in 25 words or less: Synonyms for "tease" are embedded at the start of four phrases, within longer words. JOSH, RAZZ, RIB, KID. Highlight: RAZZLE-DAZZLE!

Brendan Quigley's Onion A.V. Club crossword

Brendan's muse this week is the abbreviated phrase, "WTF?" That's clued as ["Huh?"...and the theme of this puzzle]. The five theme entries do not include the standard WTF with the F-bomb in it, but rather, are phrases with W.T.F. initials:
  • 21A. [1997 classic rap double album] is WU TANG FOREVER.
  • 29A. "WHAT'S THIS FOR?" is a common [Question on encountering an unfamiliar object].
  • 39A. If you [Made fun of someone's mother, say], you probably WENT TOO FAR.
  • 52A. [Defends with zeal] clues WAVES THE FLAG. I don't quite get this one. Is flag-waving about defense or about rah-rah jingoism?
  • 59A. "All right, buddy, WHERE'S THE FIRE?" is a [Question to a speeder].

Too bad 11D isn't clued as the singer/poet JEWEL (rather than [Ring binder?], which doesn't quite work for me—the ring binds the jewel, the jewel doesn't bind the ring). Then the upper right corner could be filled wall to wall with famous people in the Down direction. OLIVIER! COLETTE! KID ROCK! Is this KID ROCK's crossword debut? Certainly it must be WIIWARE's debut—that's a [Nintendo download service].

I hear the A.V. Club constructors peer-edit their puzzles. Wouldn't you think that with eight smart people checking over this puzzle, JOCK wouldn't be clued as [High school type with cache, often]? A one-syllable cache is a stash. The two-syllable cachet is the word that connotes prestige.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Wednesday"

Yay! Themeless Monday is followed by Themeless Wednesday! This one's got 20 long answers (7 to 15 letters), including five 15s. HENRY LOUIS GATES, sans the "Jr.," is a perfect 15. He's clued as the [Educator who once famously compared the lyrics of 2 Live Crew to Shakespeare's (sic) "O my luve's like a red, red rose"].

INFOMANIA is clued as a [Continual and excessive quest for knowledge]. This has got to be a shout-out to Brendan's demi-celeb fan, Sarah Haskins. She's a comedian who makes incisive and funny videos about the crap the media and advertisers put out there for women. Click that link for access to Haskins' "Target Women" videos as well as a bunch of InfoMania videos that...I never watch. But do watch the "Target Women" clips. My personal favorite is the one about the sexification of cleaning product commercials.

Least familiar answers: URIM is clued [___ and Thummin (Judaic objects)]. [Longtime Beatles "road manager" Evans] was named MAL. CARA is the [Oldest daughter on "Jon & Kate Plus 8"]. I know about A-1 steak sauce, sure, but AONES clued as [Some steak sauces] had an unfamiliar feel to it. [___ prole (without offspring)] clues SINE.

Today's "Ask a Medical Editor" science lesson: BACILLI are rod-shaped bacteria. Viruses are not bacteria at all. Thus, [Virologist's subject] is not a good clue for BACILLI. [Antibiotic targets, sometimes], sure. [Troublesome rods], sure. But [Virologist's subject], 7 letters, wants to be VACCINE.