August 18, 2009

Wednesday, 8/19

BEQ 3:58
Onion 3:57
NYT 3:28
CS 7:57 (J—paper)/3:26 (A—Across Lite)
LAT 3:14

Doing crosswords and blogging 'em while my son and his friend watch the Simpsons movie and show zero signs of growing tired. It's my kid's first sleepover!

Peter Collins' New York Times crossword

You know, ever since Brendan Quigley (with an assist from Francis Heaney) compiled that list of Ten Bullshit Themes, I cast a jaundiced eye at certain themes. Today's NYT theme (#4 in BEQ's list) is THE SECRET GARDEN embodied in spaced-out GARDENs appearing in circled squares in three longer (and unrelated) phrases:

  • 21A. [Hamid Karzai, starting in 2004] is the AFGHAN PRESIDENT.
  • 26A. GREAT-GRANDPARENT is [One of four generations in a photo].
  • 45A. [Driver's electric convenience] is a GARAGE DOOR OPENER. WIth the GAR in place, my first thought was GARMIN GPS DEVICE—not every driver has a garage.
  • 52A. [Frances Hodgson Burnett kid-lit novel...and a hint to 21-, 26 and 45-Across] is the aforementioned THE SECRET GARDEN.
  • 38D. THE DEAD is a great entry, whether it's [Jerry Garcia's band, for short] or the James Joyce short story.
  • 4D. WASH SALE is utterly unfamiliar to me—[Stock transaction made to claim a tax deduction].
  • 5D. STENOG, short for stenographer, is a [Court worker, for short]. I believe they call themselves court reporters these days. Stenographer/stenog/steno are largely outdated terms for people who use shorthand—the court workers aren't doing pen-on-paper stenography any more.
  • 8D. [Dots over eyes?] are ACNE. Eww.
  • It's un-PC corner! The animal called a STOAT is boiled down to mere [Brown fur] at 5A, and right below that is the animal called a TOMCAT clued as a [Philanderer, in slang].
  • 6D. I love the word TORPOR, which means [Sluggishness]. Here's hoping TORPOR overcomes the children in my living room soon.
  • 16D. Uh, TWIN-PAC? A [Promo container that's a twofer]? I wanted TWIN-PAK first.
  • Intersecting spelling variations! The [Gaucho's gear], RIATA (27D), can also be spelled reata. This crosses 34A: [Iranian cash], or RIALS, which could also be riyal (not to be confused with the Cambodian currency unit called the riel).
  • 17A: HOMO is [Our genus] (as in Homo sapiens), and 61A: SEXY is clued as [Like a hottie]. Put those together and what do you get? #36 on the Hot 100 list. OH, DEAR (["Mercy!"]).
Oh, hey, I just noticed that this is the second day in a row with a 16x15 puzzle. Those aren't 14s and 15s in the theme, they're 15s and 16s.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Heads of State"—Janie's review

Patrick's "heads of state" are not individuals who govern political territories, but represent instead the two-letter state postal abbreviations we use when addressing envelopes or referring (in print) to a state in combination with a city or town in that state. The formula today is [Abbr.] + [name of something that carries the state's name]. The five eponymous phrases that result are:
  • 17A. CA GOLD RUSH [It started at Sutter's Mill]. 1849. The California Gold Rush.
  • 29A. ME LOBSTER [Coastal crustacean]. Maine lobster. Drawn butter. Heaven.
  • 39A. OR TRAIL [Major overland migration route]. That'd be the Oregon Trail and its heyday was in the 1840s and -50s.
  • 46A. AL SLAMMER [Alcoholic beverage with Southern Comfort]. Alabama Slammer. No LIME [Cuba libre ingredient] required. Also not A.L. slammer, as in Joe Mauer...
  • 62A. LA PURCHASE [Land transaction of 1803]. The Louisiana Purchase. Some wild bang-for-buck on that little deal. Far more than an L.A. purchase, I'd venture to say!
Ther are some mighty fine clue/fill combos today. Among my faves are [Roman two-by-four?] for VIII (in other words, this was not about Roman lumber, but Roman numbers: II x IV = ...); [Biblical birthday party] for MAGI (the "party" of the three kings who came to Bethlehem to honor the birth of Christ); [Letter shaped like a horseshoe] for the Greek OMEGA; [They have brand names, often] for RANCHES (think "branding irons"—ouch!!); [Snapped] for LOST IT (i.e., your cool, your composure); [Peak] for ACME (in a possible shout-out to Patrick's sometime cunning co-constructor and partner-in-crime Andrea Carla Michaels); and [Balancing pro] for CPA.

Then, didja notice all the names?? The ladies include EVE Harrington, RAQUEL Welch, Betsy ROSS, and Ms. MONA Lisa (or her smile as part of a film title at any rate). The gents are out in even fuller force: Felipe ALOU, Jamie FARR, PETER Graves, EMIL [Jannings or Zápotek], OREL Hirshiser, TIM [Rice or Curry], BERT the Chimney Sweep, DANNY Partridge, and—lookee here—BOB SLEDS (okay... BOBSLEDS) and EVEN-STEVEN (who's apparently fit-to-be-[Tied])...

There's some standard crosswordese with ERSE and ERST and EERIE. All that's missing from this group is aerie.

Went off the track a bit, initially making GRADS and not MAMAS those [May honorees], and going OUT ON that [...tangent] rather than OFF ON it. We do, however, go out on a limb. Just not today...

Sam Donaldson's Los Angeles Times crossword

I like this puzzle, which sent me off to YouTube to watch Pink, Seal, and Jewel videos (...and the OZARK Mountain Daredevils) and bemoan the lack of Prince videos.

The theme hinges on recognizing that Pink, Jewel, Seal, and Prince are all singers and not just the second word in assorted phrases. Each is a CLOSING ACT in those phrases. For more detail on the theme and the fill and clues I liked most, please see my L.A. Crossword Confidential post.

Matt Jones's Onion A.V. Club crossword

Matt has "tagged" each theme entry's original phrase with GRAFFITI by inserting a TAG:
  • Weather vane + TAG = WEATHER VANTAGE, or [Edge for a meteorologist?].
  • Garden hose + TAG = GARDEN HOSTAGE, or [Missing primrose with a ransom note, for example?].
  • Strike a pose + TAG = STRIKE A POSTAGE, or [Knock out some stamps?].

Around my neighborhood, we've seen three different places where someone's spray-painted FORGIVE in black. I like to think this graffiti's from a conflicted individual—driven to tag, but remorseful. Or maybe there's a street gang whose M.O. is the promotion of forgiveness and letting go of anger.

A few favorite bits:
  • A Vera [Wang creation] is a DRESS.
  • [Eliminates waste] sounds like it's about efficiency, but surprise! It's EXCRETES.
  • BROWN BAG: It's not just for lunch anymore. It's also an [Unsubtle public consumption disguise] hiding a bottle or can.
  • GERMAN is clued with [Like "Run Lola Run"], the Tom Tykver movie. Love the pounding soundtrack.
  • DETHKLOK is the [Fictional band on the Cartoon Network show "Metalocalypse"]. I think Matt's included Dethklok in his fill or clues before. Yes? No?

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Wet Bodies" in bodies of water. Each of five theme entries embodies a "C-SPAN" in that the name of a sea spans two or more words in a longer phrase. It took me a while to grasp the theme and find the hidden seas, which I've circled in my answer grid. I'm partial to [NPR correspondent since 1985] MARA LIASSON hiding our crosswordese ARAL Sea.

There's a bit of crosswordese-style stuff in the fill, too—ARISTAS, RAJAHS, SERAPE, and ASTA pop out. But I like NO-NAMES clued as [Walk-ons, e.g.], the combination of ALCOHOL and T-PAIN the ["Buy You a Drank" rapper], and the clue [12, 13 and 14 in a series] as the clue for the (otherwise meh) alphabetic run NOP.