August 04, 2009

Wednesday, 8/5

NYT 6:02
LAT untimed
Onion untimed
BEQ untimed
CS 7:15 (J—paper)

Hey, everyone. PuzzleGirl here off the bench for a couple days. I've unpacked, gotten most of the laundry done, and made a successful excursion to the grocery store (doing what I like to call a Full Shop (tm)), so I guess I'm not on vacation any more. Might as well do some puzzles.

Ya know who Donna S. Levin's New York Times puzzle was easy for? Rex Parker and the rest of you who enjoy comics. Me? Not so much. I enjoyed the puzzle, but the theme did Absolutely Nothing for me. Never heard of Perry White or his well-known exclamation. When it comes to comics, the only thing I know that I didn't learn from crosswords is Jimmy Olsen. From crosswords? Well, mostly the dogs: Snert, Otto, Dawg, Odie, etc. Also Kato is some kind of sidekick for some superhero or other. I know. I've lost quite a bit of my dork cred right here in this paragraph.

So, Perry White is a comic book guy. He is known to exclaim "Great Caesar's ghost!" Which I learned from figuring out the theme answers:

  • GREAT LAKES [America's so-called Third Coast]
  • CAESAR'S WIFE [One who must be above suspicion, in a saying]
  • GHOST WRITER [Many an autobiographer's need]
  • PERRY WHITE [Character known for exclaiming the first words of 20-, 28- and 46-Across]
And just in case you were worried that this would be the first post ever where I don't publicly announce many, many things that I don't know, I'll just say right off the bat that I didn't know that the Great Lakes are called America's Third Coast, and I've never heard any saying about Caesar's Wife. Let me be clear: I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the puzzle. I'm just saying ... "Huh?"

Did I know any of this stuff? Well, sure. I knew BENNIFER [Affleck/Lopez as a tabloid twosome], Y.A. TITTLE, who's [known for well-thrown pigskins], and [Early Beatle] STU Sutcliffe. So, yeah, basically the people. The fluff. That's what I know. And I know it well!

Not to give away too much about my politics, but I found it interesting that Bill O'Reilly's "no-spin zone" clue didn't get a "so-called." [Ex-governor] SARAH Palin's appearance gave this puzzle even more of a rightward tilt, but I think it was balanced out with the two [Wack job] answers: NUT and KOOK. Before I get myself in too much trouble, let's move on to the next puzzle.

Gary Steinmehl's L.A. Times puzzle has a cute theme. I mean, what's cuter than monkeys? Theme answers all end with words that come after the word monkey in familiar phrases. Did you guys know Vena CAVA? I sure didn't and the obscure cross didn't help either. Oh, I know. There will be some 100-year-old shutterbug who can't wait to tell me how well-known the ANSCO brand is in camera circles. (Not saying there's anything wrong with 100-year-old people, just making the point that the company is not exactly modern.) Anyway. You are encouraged to talk about this puzzle here, but you'll have to go to our other blog if you want to read my sparkling commentary.

Awesome Guitar Hero–themed AV puzzle today by Tyler Hinman. Theme answers are a little ... off-color. Heh. See what I did there? The original phrase includes a color but the new, Guitar Hero'ed phrase has the color wrong. It's like when you play the stupid game and can't get the stupid button at the right stupid time. Or so I've heard. From people.

What phrases do bad Guitar Hero players screw up? The Classic English ballad Greensleeves becomes REDSLEEVES. A red-eye (i.e., overnight) flight becomes a YELLOW-EYE. YELLOWKNIFE, capital of the Northwest Territories, becomes BLUEKNIFE. And, keeping with the Northern theme, a player on Toronto's baseball team, known as a blue jay, becomes an ORANGE JAY.

Loved the pop culture references in this one. And if you don't like pop culture references, well, you probably shouldn't be wasting your time on the AV puzzle in the first place, right?
  • IVANA Trump preceded Marla and Melanie.
  • KAREEM Abdul-Jabar was a Magic (Johnson) partner.
  • I have to admit I'm a fan of the [Popular reality show] American IDOL. This is the first year I've watched because the PuzzleKids are now old enough to enjoy it. Taking them to see the Idols tomorrow night in Baltimore. Woo-hoo!
  • Gabrielle REECE made her way into my consciousness once when I read that she's married to a surfer and now I always connect her with Kelly Slater, who she is not, in fact, married to.
  • When I saw the clue [Whence "Heart-Shaped Box" and "Pennyroyal Tea"] I thought, "Well, Pennyroyal Tea is a Nirvana song, but I'm sure it's not referring to that."
  • I was just looking up information about NIA LONG for today's Crosswordese 101 lesson over at our other blog. Otherwise I would not have known she was [Will Smith's love, for a while, on "The Fresh Prince"]. Interesting (?) tidbit: Jada Pinkett was supposed to play that role but she was "too short." I like to think that when she and Will were pronounced husband and wife, she turned to the crowd and said "Guess I'm not TOO SHORT for THIS, bitches!"
  • I did not, however, know [Superman's foe] ZOD. If you were paying attention to my post a little earlier, you already knew that.
I also like the two horse-racing clues right next to each other. ALSO-RAN [Loser] and BY A NOSE [How some win]. And, of course, we all loved the clue for JOULE, didn't we? Yes, we did.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Positive Thinking"—Janie's review

Hmmm. So it looks like we've got another recycled CS theme here. Maybe I'm too much of a PURIST [Strict adherent]—and not to ACCOST one of my fave constructors—but CS published colleague Martin Ashwood-Smith's "Movie Ratings"—with the identical thematic progression and gimmick (with a slightly different collection of films [but one repeat title...])—less than two years ago. Seems like only yesterday, don' it? It's hard for me to believe it's in CS's best interests to "repurpose" so basic a theme idea (and fill) so soon. Whaddaya say, team? Isn't there a way to monitor what-gets-published-when a bit more carefully? Okay, so that's the less-than-good news and now I'll move on to the puzzle itself.

To take a tip from the title, let's look at this puzzle's strengths and work from there. Spanning the range of comparatives, Patrick takes us from good to better to best by way of some well-known movies and their promotional taglines.
  • 17A. GOODFELLAS [1990 Ray Liotta film with the tagline "Three Decades of Life in the Mafia"]. Saw this one—on the BOOB TUBE [Idiot box] with most of the language deeply sanitized and still liked it a lot.
  • 38A. BETTER OFF DEAD [1985 John Cusack film with the tagline "Insanity doesn't run in the family, it gallops]. Never saw it but do consider myself a John Cusack fan. Say Anything (in which he starred with [Actress] IONE [Skye]) was a movie that I loved seeing when it came out. Ditto Bullets Over Broadway and High Fidelity. What's he been up to lately anyway? IMDB tells me he's working on a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine. I think I'm very afraid...
  • 61A. BEST IN SHOW [2000 Eugene Levy film with the tagline "Some pets deserve a little more respect than others"]. Saw it and wanted to like it a lot more than I did. I'd maybe rate it a good. Give me Waiting for Guffman (better)—or best of the (Eugene Levy) bunch (imoo...), A Mighty Wind.
Taking off from those musically-oriented movie titles, here's some musically-oriented fill: ["Champagne music" maestro Lawrence] WELK, his near-polar opposite ELTON [John who sang "Levon" and "Daniel"], and the Danny and the Juniors song from 1957, AT THE HOP which, we are reminded, was the [#1 hit between "April Love" and "Get a Job"].

I like it when the clues give us a juicy bit of tid like that. For example, did you know that GOBI is [Mongolian for "place without water"]? Does that make Gobi Desert a redundancy? (My Mongolian is just a little weak, or I'm sure I'd know...) It also came as news to me that [Fictional explorer] DORA [...also plays the flute]. What a plucky gal! Of course, I was kind of hoping that she'd visited the Gobi—or carried a HELLO [___ Kitty...] lunchbox or backpack or mobile even. But I couldn't match her up with either.

The SW and NE corners are especially nice with those triple sixes; and the placement of STATUE besides TITAN conjures up the colossal Boteros at the Time-Warner Center in NYC.

["Like" things?] are SIMILES and in another thought-provoking clue, [Springs from a cooler?] is not a noun for something you might want to find at a desert oasis, but a verb for PAROLES.

Finally, we get a pair of rhyming fill, playfully clued: GNU [Modern-sounding creature?] (gnu/new—get it?) and STU (Name that's an alphabet trio). Sweet.

Updated Wednesday afternoon:

Brendan Emmett Quigley (thankfully) offers us an Easy-rated puzzle for today called "With a Name Like That." Very clever theme in which famous people are matched up with the famous books they should have written. (Funny, I was just today thinking about whether boys named Hunter all grow up to be hunters. No idea where that came from, but there you have a little glimpse into my brain.)

  • NOËL COWARD should have written "Fear of Flying."
  • STEPHEN HAWKING might have written "Death of a Salesman." With STEPHEN and KING in place, I thought, "Does he have a middle name?"
  • ROBERT GRAVES would have been a good author for "Pet Sematary."
  • NORMAN MAILER has a perfect name for "Postcards From the Edge."
  • CHRISTOPHER FRY might have written "Fahrenheit 451."
And, of course, no BEQ puzzle would be complete without a little something to make those of us on the prudish side blush:
  • E. E. CUMMINGS goes right along with "The Joy of Sex."
Typical solve for an Easy BEQ puzzle for me today. Fits and starts all over the place, frustration at not knowing all the musicians, but everything eventually falling into place. I don't care how you clue it, I'm never going to like the word COWPEA. But any puzzle that includes Jimmy CHOO is okay in my book.