August 12, 2009

Thursday, 8/13

NYT 4:01
LAT 3:35
CS untimed
Tausig untimed

Patrick McIntyre's New York Times crossword

I believe this puzzle marks the debut of another crossword-constructing Patrick, and I'm pleased to see that it fits in with the quality we have come to expect from Patricks. This Thursday puzzle has just 70 words, meaning that the grid's packed with longer answers—look at that white space sprawling across the southwest and northeast of the diagram.

The applet claims my finishing time was 4:13, but the applet also told me it took me 4:01. Shall we spot everyone 12 seconds for technical malfeasance, or is it just my computer with a lag tonight?

The middle of the five theme entries is COIN FLIPS, which are 32A: [Starts of some games...and of the answers to 16-, 22-, 48- and 56-Across?]. The first four letters of the other four theme entries are anagrams of COIN, not always forming a stand-alone 4-letter word. The clue does a good job of tying the theme together, with the start of a game and start of a theme answer. There's a loose logical connection between the two concepts, but I think the "start" aspect gives adequate rationale for the puzzle's existence. The four answers beginning with flipped COINs are:

  • 16A. NICOTINE is an [Ingredient in some gum].
  • 22A. [Oscar Wilde or Bill Maher, for example] are both all or part Irish as well as being ICONOCLASTs. Now, that's a word that doesn't get nearly enough play in crosswords.
  • 48A. [Like some passes] in football = INCOMPLETE. This is in contrast to the TDS, or touchdowns, that are a New England [Patriot's concerns, briefly].
  • 56A. [Cedar and hemlock] are CONIFERS.
I don't know about you, but I had the whole puzzle done before I really read the 32A clue and understood what the theme was. And I liked the puzzle both before and after seeing the theme. Other highlights:
  • 27A. [Like some announcements that have been lost] is the clue for REPOSTED. I'd have preferred a blog/comment-related clue—I suspect there are more things reposted online than on bulletin boards each day now. It looks like a crappy RE-{random verb} word, but I repost links and whatnot plenty often.
  • 39A. I like the French in the ROI clue, [Holder of le trône]. That's "the throne," I gather. And no, not that "throne."
  • 40A. [Minnesota college] is ST. OLAF, a terrific entry but a far inferior institution among those located in Northfield, Minnesota. I went on a date with an Ole once. He drove a pickup.
  • 44A. I had JUST A SEC instead of WAIT A SEC at first. ["Hold on!"] works for either.
  • 55A. [Fang] clues CANINE. Dentistry! See also 43D: FLOSSES, or [Gets ready to brush, maybe].
  • 1D. Good clue for SUNSETS: [Hackneyed movie endings].
  • 7D. LEE is the [Family name of about 15% of Koreans]. My dentist, Dr. Lee, is Asian. There was once an African-American guy working at her reception desk whose last name was also Lee. And then there's the Robert E. Lee sort of Lee. Someday I'll write a novel in which the protagonist's surname is Lee, and I'll let the readers confuse themselves over the character's presumed ethnicity.
  • 15D. SYNOPSIS is a great word. Clued as [TV Guide info].
  • 20D. [Buck ___, first black coach in Major League Baseball (Cubs, 1962)] clues O'NEIL. He was the most memorable face/voice in Ken Burns' Baseball documentary. The twinkle in his eyes, his first-hand historical experience? Yes.
  • 37D. BAND-AID is [Not a long-term solution]. I'm glad it's clued as the non-trademark noun.
Craziness: EMIL is clued as 58A: [Mathematician Post or Artin]. I guess I'm not up on my mathematicians because I've never heard of either. And the Roman numeral gets a "year of the king" clue that doesn't narrow things down all that much if you're not up on your kings of early England. [Third year in the reign of Edward the Elder] is CMI.

Don Gagliardo's Los Angeles Times crossword

Happy 110th birthday to ALFRED HITCHCOCK! [Born 8/13/1899, he directed the answers to the starred clues], and there are seven such movies in the grid. When you include Hitch's CAMEO / SCENEs, there are 71 theme squares in this puzzle. As a visual representation of the director's brief CAMEOs in his films, his name passes briefly through five of the movies in the puzzle. I was actually a tad disappointed that Hitchcock also made cameos in REBECCA (clued as [Sunnybrook Farm girl] and VERTIGO ([Dizziness]) because his name doesn't intersect those entries. Those movie titles are right next to the words CAMEO and SCENE, though.

I like how the seven movies are clues in non-Hitchcockian veins. For example, THE BIRDS is an [Aristophanes comedy] as well as the movie with Tippi Hedren that I wish to never see again. Birds! Coming at ya! Once is enough for me.

Three entries I wish to comment on:
  • 58D. The YWCA is clued as [Fem. advocacy group]. The YW is also active in anti-racism. A friend of mine works for the Chicago branch and is hoping the state budget crunch doesn't cost her her job this month. The group does good work; learn more here. Donations always welcome.
  • 46D. T.S. ELIOT is a great entry. Not a new one, no, but I like it anyway. He's the ["Four Quartets" poet]. Did you know the poet's name anagrams to "Toilets"? Francis Heaney did. In his hilarious book, Holy Tango of Literature, Francis riffs on T.S. ELIOT's style in a poem called "Toilets." A sampling:

    Let us go then, to the john,
    Where the toilet seat waits to be sat upon
    Like a lover’s lap perched upon ceramic;
    Let us go, through doors that do not always lock,
    Which means you ought to knock
    Lest opening one reveal a soul within
    Who’ll shout, “Stay out! Did you not see my shin,
    Framed within the gap twixt floor and stall?”
    No, I did not see that at all.
    That is not what I saw, at all.

    If you loved your English lit classes, you ought to go buy at least two copies of Francis's book.
  • 44A. GO GET is a surprising little entry. It's clued as [Fetch], but the phrase looks weird as a crossword answer.
Updated Thursday morning:

Stella Daily & Bruce Venzke's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Fruit Filling"—Janie's review

I'm untimed today because I decided that "for fun" I'd work only with one set of clues. I chose "across" and all things bein' equal, uh, this was not such a good choice. I was correctly able to fill in just half of the clues, and even suss out some of the correct "downs" in the process, but the (lack of) theme fill did me in and I had to selectively resort to the down clues. Note to self: try this again but start with the "downs"...

But what lively fill Stella and Bruce have given us. The theme is pretty standard: there's a word (hint, hint—a fruit) that can precede the last word of each of the theme phrases. As we learn at 71A, that fruit "fill" is the BANANA, but the theme phrases—and the new ones that result—are a pretty tasty bunch. Here we go. BANANA +
There are so many good visual/aural connections with this theme-fill—and that's what makes this puzzle so lively. It has a fresh feel to it, too, with ejector seat and chemical peel looking to be complete first-timers and miss the boat a CS debut; lickety split's only been in two other puzzles, both CS, both as theme fill—but this theme is a first here.

Elsewhere, the non-fruit fill is quite solid, too. There are a lotta good fives and sixes (among them, RAJAS, FIONA, ICEMAN, ADONIS, RAVISH) and a little end-of-the-alphabet action as well (EXTRAS, SURTAX, IZOD). A [Little earthquake] is a TREMOR. Earthquakes lead to [Breaks in the earth's crust] or RIFTS.

[Comparable to punch?] is a dandy clue for PLEASED (as in "pleased as punch"); and I know that the three-letter limit makes ROE the only right fill for [Wade's court opponent]—but that didn't stop me from thinking about Billie Jean King, whom Virginia Wade defeated in her first U.S. Open. Or even Margaret Court, Wade's doubles partner.

Fyi—where I went off the track in my "across only" approach: had both TEEMED and POURED penciled in lightly where RAINED lives, IN RE for AS TO, FRODO for FREDO, MA'AM for SIRE... Them's the RISKS, eh? 'Til next time...

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Getting High"

In each theme entry, the word UP moves up ("gets high") by one word. For example, "it'll turn up" becomes IT'LL UPTURN, a [Promise to a rhinoplasty patient with a droopy nose?], and "Step right up!" becomes STEP UPRIGHT, or [What bipeds do?].

Tougher stuff:
  • J AND B (better known as J&B) is a [Blended whisky brand].
  • ARECAS are [Betel nut trees]. This one was actually a gimme for me. It's one of those crosswordese words that I encountered plenty in the '80s—strictly in puzzles, of course.
  • OLID means [Reeking]. The ol- part comes from the Latin olere, "to smell"; the same root is in olfactory. I think this word crossed ALIOTO at the L in a 2008 ACPT puzzle and gave fits to people who weren't up on their San Francisco history.
  • The opposite of unruly is RULY, or [Obedient].
  • A [Eucharist box] is called a PYX.

Seeing RETINA ([Eye part that may become detached]) in the grid makes me think that RE: TINA should be the name of a Tina Turner biography, just as I, Tina is the title of her autobiography.