August 19, 2009

Thursday, 8/20

NYT 4:23
LAT 3:33
CS untimed (downs only)
Tausig untimed

Elizabeth Gorski's New York Times crossword

If only the word PARALLELOGRAM—[What's revealed by connecting the special squares in this puzzle in order]—weren't so long, it would fit inside the connect-the-dots parallelogram formed by joining the numbered rebus squares. Yes, that's right: Liz has once again crafted a smooth puzzle with a visual kick. (Edited to add: Those numbers in my grid? I put 'em in after the fact. The NYT applet doesn't accept numerals. I used the first letters of the numbers, O, T, T, F, and F to get the applet to accept my solution.) The entries containing those number rebuses are as follows:

  • 1. To DR{ONE} is to [Be an utter bore?]—as in "bore people with your every utterance by droning." This crosses a {ONE}SIE, or [Toddler's attire]. The number goes where 15D meets 20A.
  • 2. Move right to the end of that row for 2 in Clint EAS{TWO}OD, the [Best Director of 1992 and 2004], and AGE {TWO}, a [Time for potty training, maybe]. The {ONE}SIE needs to go once the kid needs to drop trou quickly.
  • 3. Head down on a diagonal to the BIG {THREE}, [G.M., Ford and Chrysler], and those [School basics], the {THREE} R'S.
  • 4. Straight over to the left you'll find IN {FOUR}THS, [How mini-pizzas are usually cut], and a [Nice kind of workweek], the {FOUR}-DAY week.
  • 5. Moving diagonally back towards the 1, TAKES {FIVE} means [Rests] and {FIVE}FOLD is [Like the symmetry of a starfish]. Marine biology nerds will tell you it's a sea star, but I still call it a starfish. So sue me.

The number rebus bits usually refer to the number; only in EAS{TWO}OD and DR{ONE} are they used as non-numeric chunks of letters. Remember the Eastwood flick, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly? Here, I'll present The Good, The Weird, and The Unfamiliar.

The Good: [The fool in "A fool and his money are soon parted"] is the ANTECEDENT, grammatically speaking. [Tube top] clues CAP, as in a toothpaste tube. You don't need the number in the clue [Eight producers?]—those are ICE SKATERS making figure eights. [Hawaiian strings?] with a question mark aren't UKES, they're LEIS. INVITE plays the part of a noun today: [You might get one before a party]. Frank LANGELLA is the [Tony-winning "Frost/Nixon" actor]. [P.D.Q. Bach's "Sanka Cantata" and such] are PARODIES; leave it to violist Gorski to go with classical PARODIES rather than Weird Al Yankovic. Lots of showy longer answers in this puzzle—I like that.

The Weird: "I DON'T DRIVE" is an odd phrase to see in a crossword; it's clued as an [Excuse given for asking for a ride]. Also odd: "BE ORIGINAL," [Advice for essay writers]. These are weird entries, but I like having stacked pairs of 10-letter answers. [Free of charge] clues AS A GIFT, which is much less in-the-language than a phrase like "as a rule" or "as an example."

The Unfamiliar: IRENA [___ Szewinska, Olympic sprinting gold medalist of 1964, 1968 and 1976]. Who? Never heard of her. But look what a rock star she is: She medaled seven times in four consecutive Olympiads (and also competed in a fifth Games) and in five different events, and during her career she broke six world records. Good gravy, crosswords should be including this notable IRENA all the time!

I also didn't know NED [Washington in the Songwriters Hall of Fame]. He wrote the lyrics for "Rawhide", the theme to the EAS{TWO}OD TV series. [Constellation] clues ASTERISM, which I've seen before but very seldom. SARANAC is a [Beer from upstate New York]; I recognize Saranac as a geographic name but still had to wait for crossings to finish the word. The [Final words of Numbers 5:22] are AMEN, AMEN, they say. I know ABBIE Hoffman and newish actress ABBIE Cornish, but not the [Old comic strip "___ an' Slats"] sort of ABBIE.

Updated Thursday morning:

Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Paper Trails"—Janie's review

I'm gonna say this at the start and get it over with: I didn't ADORE this puzzle. I didn't hate it or find it anything short of professional—the theme fill has some fine rewards for the solver—but on the whole, I felt it lacked some needed TANG.

What dragged it down? Now this may be the biggest challenge of constructing "easy" puzzles, but most of the cluing was of the most straight-forward variety: [Pecan or cashew] for NUT, [Unit of land area] for ACRE, [Foal's mother] for MARE, e.g.; and clinical/technical fill like UTERI, MACRO and NACRE, and old-school crosswordese like ATTAR, ERRS, NEBS and AGUE.

What did ELATE me? The more lively BOUNCES and KARAT, the colloquial "NO WAY!," and a clue like [Digs in Derby] for FLAT; the almost word-ladder result of finding A NET, NEBS, NUBS and NUTS in the grid. Ditto NARC, NACRE and MACRO (yes, even with that less-than felicitous fill...).

I also liked the theme fill, which is comprised of four phrases (two grid-spanning 15s and two 11s) whose last word can follow ("trail"...) the word "paper." And the guilty parties are:
  • 17A. THROW IN THE TOWEL [Give up], which gives us paper towel. This is a great phrase, with its prize-fighting origins. Although it's not clued that way, I smile, too, to see how A ROLL (what paper towels come on...) crosses ...TOWEL.
  • 26A. BENGAL TIGER [Big cat of India], for paper tiger. This is a person or an idea that looks formidable "on paper" but is, in fact, highly limited in power to be effectual.
  • 42A. AMERICA'S CUP [Yachting prize] yields paper cup. Remember this "groovy" Jimmy Webb/Fifth Dimension song? Psychedelic!
  • 55A. THE COLOR OF MONEY [1986 Newman/Cruise film] produces paper money. That movie was released 23 years ago?! Where, oh, where does the time go?!
I really was able to solve this one on the basis of the "downs" only—but not without a dopey mistake. For reasons simply not worth investigating deeply, I'd entered CUSP where BUSY lives. This gave me CARB for BARB and GORP of GORY. I couldn't find BUSY in my brain, and all of the letters interlocked to make actual words. But ya know, sometimes that's just not enough!

Todd McClary's Los Angeles Times crossword

In this MIDDLE EARTH themed puzzle, four other theme entries contain EARTH in their midsections, broken among two words in the three longer ones but not in the 7-letter 26-Down. BEATRICE ARTHUR! Who doesn't love the late great ["Maude" actress]? CLEAR THE AIR and I DIDN'T HEAR THAT also have a middle EARTH, as does the central down entry, 26D: DEARTHS, or [Scarcities]. I think I'd like the theme better without DEARTHS' interruption of the theme's consistency; let's leave DEARTHS (or HEARTHS) as the answer to a word puzzle about which word contains just two other letters wrapping the name of a planet. You know some people's lips would start moving as they pondered whether SMERCURYX and MURANUSE were words.

Favorite clue: [Sound quality?] for SANITY. Love it!

For more on this crossword, see PuzzleGirl's L.A. Crossword Confidential post.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Really Too Bad"

Fun theme! What's "Really Too Bad" includes the worst movie, TROLL 2, crossing 2 AM, which is [When bars close, in most U.S. cities]. There's a bar in Chicago, Carol's Pub, that's open 'til 5 a.m. on weekends. I bet some people opted for TROLL 3/3 AM here. The worst TV show of all time, some say, is THE JERRY / SPRINGER SHOW. Taped in Chicago! [The worst song of all time, according to Blender], is Starship's "WE BUILT THIS CITY"; I cannot disagree. MOOSE MURDERS is such a woeful Broadway play, I'd never heard of it before this crossword; what's the worst long-running Broadway play? And is CARRIE indeed the worst musical ever? Teen vampire novel TWILIGHT is [The worst book of all time, according to readers]. "Worst of" lists are always fun, so I liked this theme.

I like the trio of German filmmakers' first names: UWE [Bolll whose films are so badly reviewed that he challenged his most severe critics to a boxing match]; WIM, or ["Buena Vista Social Club" director Wenders] (he also made the memorable Paris, Texas and Wings of Desire); and LENI, ["Triumph of the Will" filmmaker Riefenstahl]. There aren't many good ways to clue UWE, WIM, or LENI aside from these three people, are there?