August 20, 2009

Friday, 8/21

NYT 5:25
LAT 4:23
BEQ 4:04
CS 9:25 (J—paper)
CHE awol
WSJ 8:34

Patrick Berry's New York Times crossword

Patrick Berry's slacking off with a ridiculously high word count of 66 in this puzzle. A 66 is actually quite low by anyone else's standards, but Berry has spoilt us with his smooth 64-and-under creations. This one's got only two 3-letter answers, and while there are some tacked-on word endings (OPENEST, REMOTEST, CRASSER), they don't overshadow the livelier fill.

I got myself mired in the upper right quadrant, where I opted for OCEANIA for 12D: ["1984" superstate dominated by Neo-Bolshevism]—I needed EURASIA there. That E made me assign 17A: [Cuban-born jazz great Sandoval] a wrong first name of MIGUEL (he's ARTURO). Then the two-word HAUL UP for 15A: [Call on the carpet] just wasn't happening. HAUL UP? That sounds off to me. I also wanted 13D: [Like some pinto beans] to be REFRIED rather than SPOTTED; tonight's bean tacos from Taco Bell were yummy.

Favorite answers and clues:

  • 1A. An ACROSTIC is not just a word puzzle but also a [Feature of Psalm 119]. Aww, I'd rather have had a clever clue about the puzzle.
  • 14A. "THE NERVE!" That means ["How rude!"].
  • 32A. JACK DEMPSEY was the [First athlete to appear on the cover of Time magazine]. Lots of names in this puzzle besides DEMPSEY—there's also Lawrence WELK, Count BASIE, LORNE Michaels, IVAN REITMAN, plus Jim Carrey in the LIAR, LIAR clue and Pablo Neruda in the CHILEAN clue. Have I mentioned that I like names in a crossword? I have?
  • 50A. [It's unbelievable] clues a TALL TALE. Just a coincidence that this entry appears opposite LIAR, LIAR? I suspect not.
  • 8D. [Post boxes' contents] is a great clue for breakfast CEREALS. Extra advantage to fully American solvers who don't know that "postboxes" are what the British call mailboxes.
  • 22D. SKIPS A GRADE is clued as [Goes from first to third, say]. I know a guy who skipped a grade and was traumatized as a result.
  • 30D. SKELETON is [One hanging around med school?] so that students can ogle the bones.

Mystery word of the day: [Premonish], the clue for 9D: WARN. I know admonish, sure, but never knew there was a premonish dating back to 1526. The word's page tells me it anagrams to morphines.

Updated Friday morning:

Nancy Salomon's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Throwbacks"—Janie's review

Boy, did I feel DENSE [Slow on the uptake] in the course of solving Nancy's puzzle and trying to put the theme together. But once I stepped away from the puzzle, I got a true appreciation of this wordplay-rich creation. It's SUPER.

I'm not sure how succinctly I can do this, but bear with me. Each of the four theme-phrases ends with a word that is a synonym for "throw"; it's at the "back" of the phrase—whence "throwbacks"... Each theme-phrase has a meaning that has nothing to do with throwing anything but has a self-contained meaning of its own. Each of the theme-phrases is both really fresh in its conventional meaning and really visual in its themed meaning. The cluing of each theme-phrase begins with the words [Hurl of a ...]. So how does this play out? The [Hurl of a...]
  • [...Slinky?], 17A, is SPRING FLING. The two independent meanings: a party or bash or special event that takes place any time from mid-March through mid-June; and tossing a coiled child's-toy.
  • [...master to be copied?], 28A, is ORIGINAL-CAST. Had so much trouble making sense of this one. The non-puzzle phrase is typically used to describe albums of recorded Broadway or Off-Broadway shows. In long-runs (where the cast members are likely to change), it also refers to that group of people who were in the company on opening night. In the context of the puzzle, the phrase tells us that, for instance, the "master" of that B'way recording (the tape or cd from which all copies of the album will be made) has been discarded. In my overthink way, kept trying to find the tie-in to sculptors' casts—from which copies of the artists' work are made. Wrong.
  • [...noisy insect?], 48A, is CRICKET PITCH. The "real" meaning refers to the "bowling" delivery-style of the ball made in the game of cricket; the puzzle's meaning: "Bye-bye, Jiminy"...
  • [...some sod?], 62A, is GROUND CHUCK. The literal meaning: hamburger meat; in Nancy's world, it's the tossing of rolls of sod. The visual this one brings up is my fave of the lot. Yours?
Other strong fill includes FANFARES [Trumpeted flourishes], MINI-DRESS [Outfit that shows a lot of leg] and ARMCHAIRS [Places to take a load off]. I also like the musical E-G-B-D-F for [Lines of the treble clef] and the way the mention of LAURA [Otto Preminger film noir classic] automatically starts this song on the juke-box in my head. Back to the former: is "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge" (or "...Favor") still the mnemonic-of-choice among music teachers or has it been given some sort of 21st century spin?

There's more music to be found in HARPO [The silent Marx brother] who...played the harp (when he wasn't honking his horn), ["Rigoletto" composer] Giuseppe VERDI (a/k/a Joe Green), "HE'S [ ___ got the whole world..."], and ["When will they] EVER [learn?"], a line from Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" (I don't think we can legitimately include the kinda kitschy [Lady of Spain], since the correct fill is DONA—but, hey, here it is anyway.)

Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme is doubling an N to change the entire meaning of a phrase. Dan's got six theme entries, two of them stacked in the middle, and the only way to stack two answers in the middle is to have a grid with an even number of rows—this puzzle's 15x16. I wasn't quite as fond of the puzzle as Rex was, and I've got a migraine, so I'll let his L.A. Crossword Confidential post do the heavy lifting for me today.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Questions for the Death Panel"

This theme is not about killing Grandma. Rather, it's death-related idioms that might be used innocuously by "death panels" to answer innocuous questions. For example, if you're looking to move to Iowa, you might consider trying to BUY THE FARM. And you'd PULL THE PLUG on your alarm clock if the alarm won't turn off.

What, no KICK THE BUCKET, Brendan? ["I want to water my garden, but that pail's too heavy to lift. What should I do?"]

Favorite answer/clue: [Completely insufferable] clues UNGODLY.

Dan Fisher's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Over-the-Counter Investments"

Various phrases become invested with OTC: the letters OTC are inserted within them, changing the gist of the phrase. For example, freak shows become FREAK SHOT COWS, clued as [Mutant wielded his ray gun in the pasture?]. There are six other theme entries throughout the puzzle.

Favorite clues: [Work from a folder] is ORIGAMI. Usually I'm not a big fan of cross-referenced clues, but I enjoyed the three-part 105D: [Famous final question], ET TU, spoken by 17D: CAESAR, the [105-Down utterer], of OLD ROME ([49D: [Where 17-Down ruled].