August 11, 2009

Wednesday, 8/12

BEQ 5:01
Onion 3:58
NYT 3:54 (Across Lite file here)
LAT 3:46
CS 8:56 (J—paper)

Peter Collins and Joe Krozel's New York Times crossword

Did you ever read Moby Dick? I read it in a college American lit class. If you ask me, you can save a lot of time by skipping the chapters on whaling techniques and stick to the character- and action-driven parts.

The theme here all relates to the Melville novel:

  • 9A, 59A. [With 59-Across, novel of 1851] is MOBY / DICK.
  • 31A. Character in 9- & 59-Across] is CAPTAIN AHAB, the monomaniacal whale hunter. He was all about asking everyone, "Hast seen the White Whale?" Must've gotten old for his shipmates, no?
  • 6D. The GREAT WHITE WHALE is what Moby Dick, or [9- & 59-Across], is.
  • 54A. SLANT is clued as [Incline (and a hint to the location in this completed puzzle of the first line of 9- & 59-Across)]. That line is "CALL ME ISHMAEL," and it runs diagonally from northwest to southeast between the corner black squares. The Carleton English majors made departmental t-shirts one year. Many of us wanted "Call me Ishmael" on the front and "...but call me" on the back, but one prudish student didn't want to be so forward and risk getting propositioned when wearing the t-shirt, so instead we went with...who can remember? Whatever it was, it was neither funny nor memorable.

Okay, I admire the theme and I do like plenty of the fill, but I wish the constructors had found a way to root out fill like ORLE ([Shield border]), RETRIM ([Stylize anew, as a car seat]), and -ERY ([Fish tail?]).

Five highlights in the fill:
  • 27A. WHOOSHED means [Rushed (by)]. Awesome entry.
  • 10D. The last name of [Jerry of "Law & Order"] is ORBACH. That's my 7/5/09 NYT co-constructor Tony's dad.
  • 35D. BIRDSEED is presented as [What a swallow may swallow]. The clue is about 99% inaccurate. Swallows swoop around in the air eating insects. Some African swallows eat the seeds of the Acacia tree but they're famously the sorts of birds that fly around eating bugs.
  • 41D. NAPOLI, or Naples, completes the line ["In ___, where love is king" (start of "That's Amore")].
  • 42D. IRENIC is a lovely word meaning [Peaceful].

Updated Wednesday morning:

Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Idiot's Delight"—Janie's review

Idiot's Delight is the the name of a Pulitzer prize-winning play (1936) by Robert E. Sherwood. It is about the foolishness of war, and in 1939, on the eve of WWII, it was made into a movie with Clark Gable and Norma Shearer. But for the title, Sherwood's Idiot's Delight has little to do with Hamel's. But what a great title—and how beautifully Ray's played it out in the grid, where each of the four lively theme-phrases ends with yet another epithet that you might want to bestow on the person who cuts you off in traffic, calls you as you're enjoying dinner to sell you property in Florida, rejects the manuscript for your novel. You get the drift. Here's how Ray does it:
  • 17A. COLD TURKEY [John Lennon song or Dick Van Dyke movie]. I do know that crossword databases are not the be-all and end-all of accuracy or a set-in-stone way to gauge "freshness," but I found it really interesting in this case that (according to the Cruciverb database) Cold Turkey or cold turkey has appeared in twelve other puzzles—for a total of thirteen. With all those appearances, never has it appeared as non-theme fill. And never has it appeared in the context of today's theme. I think that's pretty cool actually.
  • 27A. TAILOR'S DUMMY [Mannequin]. This one looks to be making a major puzzle debut—and oh, boy, does the dummy portion recall Don Rickles. Even the description of the material will offend, so visit the link at your own risk.
  • 45A. CLEAN AND JERK [Olympic weightlifting event]. I posted a link to the way to perform this move when it was part of Ray's 7/31 "Foodie Workout." But for the puzzles, I'm not sure I'd know the term. Love the Olympics but can't say I've watched a lot of the weightlifting events... This is the third time this fill has surfaced in the puzzles, the third time it's been theme fill and the first time it's appeared in this kind of theme. Any die-hard Steve Martin fans out there? This one's for you.
  • 59A. INSIDE DOPE [Scoop source]. I think this might have been better clued as simply [Scoop] or [The scoop], and I had trouble finding an actual dictionary definition—though the phrase is by no means new to me. It's not in, but I did find a definition at (really) Definition 4 definitely helps me better understand the clue as written.! Oh—and inside dope has appeared in two other CS puzzles, but this is the first time it's done so as theme fill.
There's lotso strong fill and strong grid-making craft thoughout the puzzle as well. A [Mohawk, e.g] is a HAIR-DO you might have asked a STYLIST [Salon employee] to fashion for you. ART DECO on the other hand, is a style—and its distinctive lines may be seen in paintings, jewelry, fashion items and even structures [Like the Empire State Building]. Structures that are likely to leave you less AWED include the LEAN-TO and MODEST [Not pretentious] HUTS. Then again, there are huts and there are huts...

A [Business combine] is a CARTEL; on a smaller scale, a [Jointly-owned business] is a CO-OP. John Lennon gets a mention in the clue for 17A, and YOKO is present in response to ["Walking on Thin Ice" artist Ono]. We also get a pair of extraterrestrials, one "bad" and one "good": NERO [Romulan villain in "Star Trek"...] and KLAATU [Alien visitor in "The Day the Earth Stood Still"]. "All [he was] saying is 'give peace a chance.'" If you haven't seen the 1951 version, do. It's filled with holes but it'll give you great insight into the period.

A couple of clue observations: first the [Ceases]/[Cease] sequence (for ENDS and STOP); and then [Put the whammy on] for HEXED. The tricky part here is figuring out that this needs the past tense.

Love the punchiness of RAT-A-TAT, TRESTLE and EXTINCT; and love the way MOOR, MOOD and YOKO line up beside one another for a total of six O's in a 12-letter block. Seeing JEWISH clued as [Kind of calendar] made me sit up some, too. Guess it's that I think of the "Jewish calendar" as the "Jewish calendar." As for the "kind of calendar" it is, well, it's a lunar calendar—which the Chinese and Hindus also use to mark time.

Finally, a shout-out to THESE, (yes..."THESE") clued within the quote that is today's bonus entry: ["Lord, what fools] THESE [mortals be!"]. Author? Source? Speaker? No artificial intelligence, please!

James Sajdak's Los Angeles Times crossword

My complete writeup is at L.A. Crossword Confidential. We'll stick with theme explication here:
  • 17A: ["That fact is worth considering"] clues A POINT WELL TAKEN. In basketball and Scrabble, among other games, you might win by A POINT.
  • 26A: It's ["Brilliant!"] It's A STROKE OF GENIUS! In golf, you win by at least A STROKE.
  • 47A: [Wall Street nightmare] is A RUN ON THE MARKET). In baseball and softball, the team wins by A RUN, if not multiple runs.
  • 64A: [Winning difference—a small one starts 17-, 26- and 47-Across] clues the unifying phrase MARGIN OF VICTORY.
More at the other blog.

Deb Amlen's Onion A.V. Club crossword

Deb's theme involves parsing various words or phrases as entirely different phrases that they kinda sound like:
  • 20A. "Stark-raving mad" can sound like STAR CRAVING MAD, or [Celebrity really wants to read a parody magazine?].
  • 34A. [Regret losing some guy during long-winded speech?] clues RUE MAN BORED (room and board). That needs more words to sound like something someone might say: "rue that a man was bored."
  • 43A. [Korean kids, e.g.?] are YOUTH IN ASIA (euthanasia). An oldie but a goodie.
  • 59A. EYES SCREAM "CAKE" is clued as a [Desperate dieter's stricken facial expression?]. Now, I'd pronounce that "ize cream cake" rather than "ice cream cake," so this one's a notch less successful for me.
This grid is packed with pop culture, which I enjoyed.

Two bits of careless cluing: AIMED is in the grid but TRUE is clued by way of Elvis [Costello's "My Aim Is ___"]. There's also a missing blank at the beginning of the NEIL clue, [Patrick Harris of the "Harold & Kumar" franchise].

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Jiminy Cricket"

The theme The theme entries probably begin with words that mean something in cricket. Wicket and bowler, I recognize—but not crease, stump, slip, or ashes. Zero entertainment value in the theme for me. Plus: WICKET DOOR ([Small gate, usually part of a larger gate]) is a thing? The dictionary says yes, it is, but it's not a term I recall encountering before.

This puzzle was more filled than usual with names I didn't know. O'NEIL is [Model Linda], and the avant-garde filmmaker Paul LENI is no Riefenstahl in the Leni Familiarity Sweepstakes. The lower right corner was slow to fall. DRE, sure; [Rap producers ___ & Vidal], I drew a blank on. ["The Slider" glam band] is T. REX. AROSE is clued as [Broached in conversation], but the clue needs to start with "was" in order to have equivalency. Why does XEROX use the British/Canadian spelling in the product name in [WorkCentre 4150 maker]?