August 27, 2009

Friday, 8/28/09

NYT 7:20
BEQ 6:22
LAT 3:20ish
CHE (?) tba—nothing posted since Aug. 7
CS untimed (Downs. Mostly...)
WSJ 8:10

Are you out west? Do you like crossword tournaments? Then go to the Bay Area Crossword Tournament on Saturday, September 12, at Alameda High School. All the info is right here. The basics: $25 to register in advance, or $30 at the door. Proceeds benefit the California Dictionary Project, "whose mission is to put a paperback dictionary into the hands of every California third grader." The contest puzzles include three NYT puzzles from the following week and a Sunday-sized crossword by local yokel Tyler Hinman. Prizes for winners!

David Quarfoot's New York Times crossword

Why, just the other day there was a puzzle with a D.Q. theme, and now, after a long wait, we're treated to a D.Q. themeless. Good to see your byline again, David! Is it just me, though, or does Will Shortz have his days mixed up a bit? I could swear this is a Saturday puzzle, and yet it purports to be a Friday one.

But look at this beautiful beast. It's insane, this guy's crossword! I'm not going to check a database, but I'm guessing that the following entries are all (or mostly) shiny, new crossword answers. There are so many of them, I will barely have time to mention anything else in the puzzle.

  • 1A. "FREE TIBET" is a [Rallying cry supported by some monks], monks of the lama type rather than the Friar Tuck type.
  • 17A. THE GRUDGE is a [2004 horror film about a passed-on curse]. Not the timeliest mention, but awesome nonetheless in a "this is not your father's Oldsmobile nor your grandma's crossword" way.
  • 24A. [Chilled], idiomatically, means TOOK IT EASY.
  • 53A. In a computer, [A bug may cause it] refers to a FATAL ERROR.
  • 62A. I love the word SIMPATICO, which means [Congenial].
  • 67A. The Beatles' PENNY LANE is [Where "all the people that come and go stop and say hello"]. You're kinda singing the song to yourself, aren't you? Me, too.
  • 1D. FATHEAD is...not necessarily a word I'd ever use in lieu of [Dolt].
  • 2D. Pop singer RIHANNA is a [One-named Grammy winner of 2007]. The clue may allude to two years ago, but she's every bit as current now. I still haven't heard that "Umbrella" song, though.
  • 21D. JINXED combines J and X goodness, and it can mean [Under a whammy].
  • 40D. Donna SHALALA called. She wants to know why she lost out to [Title syllables in a hit 1964 song]. "Sha la la, the Reflex, is a..."—sorry, wrong song. Also not to be confused with Sha Na Na, which I was reminded of by the BAD DOG clue, 7D: [Rebuke to Bowser].
  • 47D. The U.S.S. COLE is the [Destroyer in 2000 headlines]. It's the one that was bombed in the port of crosswordese Aden, killing 17 U.S. sailors. Aw, so sad. Also not the timeliest inclusion in the crossword, but any sooner and it would definitely have been too much.
Least familiar (to me) things in this puzzle:
  • 63D. ["Que ___?" (Jose's "How's it going?"] needs TAL to be complete.
  • 45D. ADELINA is the first name of [Legendary soprano ___ Patti]. See? That's totally a Saturdayesque entry.
  • 13D. [Two-time president of Romania] is ILIESCU. Why, yes, I did first opt for the playwright Ionesco. Whoops.
  • 30A. [He sighted and named Natal on Christmas Day of 1497] clues Vasco DA GAMA. Coming at that answer from the back end, I was working the crossings a lot.
  • 22A. How much do I bristle at the random [Book of Mormon book] clues? So much. This one's Sheriff ENOS, ENOS the space chimp, ENOS from the Bible, and baseball's ENOS Slaughter. (Other 4-letter books in the Book of Mormon include Omni and Alma, but those, too, have other cluing options.)
I love [Swiftly done?] as the clue for 41D: SATIRIC—as in "done by satirist Jonathan Swift." And I always like to be reminded that the VATICAN is the 46D: [Swiss Guards' setting]—you just know a lot of people will scour their brains for 7-letter Swiss locales. Another clue I like: 56A: [All of them may be off] for BETS, as in "all bets are off."

Welcome back to the puzzle page, Mr. Quarfoot! I hope you've got more in the pipeline because I do appreciate your constructing style.

Updated Friday morning:

Gail Grabowski's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Not Quite White"—Janie's review

The title of today's puzzle is not an assessment by Elmer Fudd on, say, the conditions in Hamlet's Denmark, but a hint to the various shades that appear as the first words in the four theme-phrases—each a variation of "off-white." While there's something a tad "beige" in this theme idea, there's some nice fill—themed and un-—to be enjoyed. Namely:
  • 17A. [Aquaculture site for pearl producers] OYSTER FARM. A variation of this oyster farm is the controlled area for raising the mabe pearl producer, our friend the ABALONE [Edible mollusk].
  • 10D. [Versatile pasta topping] CREAM SAUCE. Not pesto sauce...
  • 30D. [Early-model bicycle, quaintly] BONESHAKER. This one's a beaut. This does refer to a specific bike style, but just think of a ride over cobblestones (on that uncomfortable, wrought-iron framed high-wheeler...) and the nuances of the phrase should be pretty apparent.
  • 61A. [West African republic] IVORY COAST. Also two bars of soap...
There are some of the TAMEST, most EARNEST clues in this puzzle, but really there's a lot of good fill:
  • If you're going for a SLED RIDE [Snowy day downhill diversion], you and your friends may want to have your LIP BALMS [Chapstick Classics, e.g.] handy. And it would be best to dress for the weather, lest you develop certain SYMPTOMS [Sore throat and sneezing, for a cold].
  • An OPEN CASE is an [Unsolved burglary, e.g.].
  • SAY "UNCLE" is a way to [Surrender, in a way]
  • TIP-TOE is a way to [Walk quietly]
  • DATA make up [Spreadsheet fill], which may be converted to GRAPHS [Sales meeting diagrams]
  • INGOTS [Gold bars] provide a little sparkle, and CURRY [Indian seasoning] a little "zing."
Would love to have seen more clues like [Overcharge] for SOAK, [Flat substitute] for SPARE (tire...) or [Futures analyst?] for SEER. In an "off-white" puzzle like this one, I think they'd give it some much needed color. Mind you, I'm not at all CROSS [Annoyed]. I'm just sayin'...

Elizabeth Long's L.A. Times crossword

This one's pretty easy for a Friday LAT. If newspaper solvers complain that it's too hard, I just don't know what to tell them.

The theme involves lopping off the first S in phrases starting with ST- words:
  • 17A. [Insect's working hours?] is a TICK SHIFT. Yo, constructors, editors, and clue fact-checkers: Ticks are arachnids, not insects.
  • 24A. [Seaman who saw it all?] is a TAR WITNESS. Crossword tropes (do you know anyone who uses "tar" to mean a sailor?) promoted to star billing always amuse me.
  • 34A. [Split end?] clues TRESS FRACTURE. My son hasn't had a haircut since April '08—I'll bet he has a lot of split ends.
  • 46A. [London museum's hidden camera locations?] is a TATE SECRET. I would have been delighted if this clue were about ad-man Larry of Bewitched. Or the Tate family of Soap, for that matter.
  • 53A. [Where two-wheelers aren't allowed?] is the TRIKE ZONE. I have no explanation for why I first went with TRUCK. What familiar noun phrases begin with "struck"? In another version of this theme, you might have a TAR TRUCK.

I noticed that the two S's that begin words in the top row of this puzzle could also be dropped—SASS and SAUDI would become ASS and AUDI, and SMELT and STILT would be MELT and TILT, all legitimate fill.

44D: [Former NBA star Mourning] is named ALONZO. He got quite ill with kidney disease, had a transplant, and returned to the NBA. That's impressive.

A commenter on Rex's L.A. Crossword Confidential post noted that TRESS FRACTURE duplicates a clue word: CAST is clued as a [Fracture treatment]. Is it just me, or is this sort of duplication popping up more frequently this year?

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Friday"

Not my favorite themeless BEQ, thanks to some out-there names, but there's some terrific fill for sure:
  • 25D. POOHBAH! I love that word. POOHBAH and PASHA are both delightful. Clued here as [One running things].
  • 17A. [Face plants?] is a tricky clue for BOTOX INJECTIONS, which may be planted in the face.
  • 12D. [You can dig them] is a rather vague clue for the au courant phrase SHOVEL-READY JOBS. I've been surprised at the number of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act repaving jobs I've seen around town. Chicago has many potholed roads that haven't been redone, sure, but it's good to see a few arteries getting much-needed updating.
  • 3D. GET INTO ONE'S HEAD is a solid, colloquial phrase, clued as [Gain a psychological advantage over an opponent, say].

On the blah side are things like TIN PLATE, REWELD, a WAXER crossing a COAXER over yonder from the SASSERS, variant AMEER, and the [Naples resort] called ISCHIA. The ischia are also your butt bones. The unfamiliar people hanging out in the grid include NIELS Mueller (I know Bohr), ['70s All-Star Ralph] GARR (I know Teri), and [Rangers reliever Darren] O'DAY (I know Anita).

Harvey Estes' Wall Street Journal crossword, "My 8 Favorite Texting Words"

You know how kids these days use "gr8" as a texting shortcut for "great" and "h8" for "hate"? They may or may not be using the other 8-for-"ate"-sound substitutions in Harvey's puzzle. Me, I can't bring myself to use numbers instead of sounds, or "u" for "you"—but I do get lazy about capitalization when texting. I admit it.

The theme entries are eight phrases that intersect at an 8 rebus square, where it may stand in for ate, eat, at, or ait. There are a bunch of sections in this grid with 7-, 8-, and 9-letter fill hanging around the theme entries. Can you tell that Harvey is good at making wide-open themeless 25x25 puzzles for Games magazine? I do love me an Ornery Crossword, and Harvey's one of the more regular Ornery contributors.

I'd go into the specifics of this puzzle but you know what? You should just solve it yourself. It's smooth, it's got some entertaining clues, and the rebus theme has its little surprises.