September 24, 2009

Friday, 9/25/09

NYT 6:23
LAT 2:47
CS untimed
BEQ 8:08
CHE—9/18 puzzle available here, but I'm not blogging it
WSJ 7:52

Robert Doll's New York Times crossword

I feel slightly like I've been run over by a bus—you know how you feel when a cold first settles in, and the sinus pressure and overriding malaise compete for attention? Let's see how much of this 70-worder I can chat about before the enticing arms of Morpheus beckon me.

  • 1A. [Informing, with "in"] clues CLUING. And just when I finally quit spelling it that way and switched to "clueing."
  • 14A. [Where cells don't work] is mobile phone DEAD SPOTS. I tend to go with "dead zone" myself, but both are lively, no? In a dead way.
  • 16A. IT'S A ZOO OUT THERE is clued as a [Frazzled commuter's comment]. Where is the "out there" that it's a "zoo"? This seems more like a suburban driving thing than a mass transit thing.
  • 25A. MAUL is a big hammer-type tool to pound in stakes, a [Tent erector's tool]. Did you erect a little tent with your tool? (Insert juvenile Beavis & Butthead–type laugh here.)
  • 29A. Ah, our old friend SAL [___ ammoniac (mineral found around volcanic vents)] pays a visit. He is good pals with Sal Volatile (pungent-smelling solution) and Sal Soda (sodium carbonate). They have a social club, The Friday/Saturday Clue Sals.
  • 38A. I always love [Nigerian native] cluing IBO since I know an Ibo family down the block.
  • 43A. Ooh! [Q&A part] kept me guessing way too long. The AMPERSAND! I like it.
  • 54A, 53D. Grr on the mappy abbreviations. [Atlas abbr.] is STR., for strait, and [Dots on some maps: Abbr.] are STNS., or stations. Has anyone encountered a Stn. in real life, or just a Sta.?
  • 52A. Say what? ALBAS are [Serenades for lovers parting at dawn]? Who knew? If you did know, what's the derivation or reference?
  • 55A. THE POWERS THAT BE is a fantastic entry. They're the [Big decision makers].
  • 1D, 12D. The top of the grid's bookended by the Kansas City CHIEFS, [AFC team that has won one Super Bowl], and the Pittsburgh STEELERS, [AFC team that has won six Super Bowls]. I pay little attention to the AFC.
  • 11D. Holy cow, really? [Ancient Lusitania, now]—the place, not the ship—is PORTUGAL? Never knew where Lusitania was. I'm more of a Prussian myself.
  • 14D. [Memorable catchphrase of 2007] feels a little dated now, as DON'T TASE ME, BRO was in a Matt Gaffney puzzle (Onion A.V. Club?) back then. See the hidden crosswordese river at the end?
  • 33D. [Ball measure] is DIAMETER. In Chicago, softball sizes are given by circumference. They play 16" softball here, no gloves. My doctor broke his finger playing 16" within a few months of moving to Chicago, so he's earned his local cred.
  • 34D. [Gull's cry] is not, I don't think, about birds. If you're a gull or sap who's been taken advantage of, you might exclaim I BEEN HAD. Or, if your grammar's better, "I've been had."
  • 42D. Don't know [L'___ du Tour (annual cycling event)]/ETAPE. Wikipedia to the rescue! It "allows amateur cyclists to race over the same route as a Tour de France stage [and] takes place each July, normally on a Tour rest day."

Updated Friday morning:

Randall J. Hartman's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "The French Connection"—Janie's review

We know the formula for this theme very well: the first word of the well-known theme-phrase can follow a word hinted at or spelled out in the title to create another well-known phrase. In this case, it's that word French that makes the connection happen. I know—you were thinking this would be a puzzle related to William Friedkin's 1971 film. But no. The closest this puzzle gets to that would be the clue at 7D [Bong producers]. But the correct fill there is GONGS and not a reference to the head-shop paraphernalia you can see in the link... Let's take a look at the lively phrases and images Randy has given us, both before and after:
  • 20A. French + DRESSING DOWN [Scolding] = French dressing. Tasty.
  • 35A. French + KISS OF DEATH [1995 Nicolas Cage movie] = French kiss. Sexy.
  • 42A. French + BREAD-BASKET [Gut] (Not sexy...) = French bread. M-m-m-m-m.
  • 59A. French + HORN OF PLENTY [Cornucopia] = French horn. Music to the ears.
The liveliness of the theme fill finds a complement in much of the non-theme fill as well. I especially liked the colloquial clue/phrase pairs: ["Hear! Hear!"]/"I AGREE!" and the snarky (also [Impertinent] / FORWARD) ["Shut yer yapper!"]/"ZIP IT!" This is something you never want to say to the [Head honcho]/MR. BIG. Unless you're hoping he DEMOTES you.

I liked seeing ASTA clued as [Hammett hound]. So often that pooch is clued in connection with either The Thin Man or Nick and Nora Charles—and I think we forget that that book and those characters were the creations of the hard-drinking master of the noir-genre detective story, Dashiell Hammett. I also liked seeing O'NEAL [Ryan of "Peyton Place"] (that would be the '60s television series...] crossing NEIL [Rocker Young] (who's been rocking since the '60s...).

Finally, my two fave combos, both a tad on the, uh, "randy" side. One would be [Moon shot?] for RUMP; the other (this is the best), [Secret target?] for ARMPIT. ["Good going!"] "NICE!"

The decongestant is doing nothing for Orange's sinus discomfort, so the remainder of this post will be brief.

Kurt Mueller's Los Angeles Times crossword

My eye just read 57A: SNEAK INTO as SNEAK KIN INTO, which is what's happened to the theme entries. [Gear up for Halloween?] clues PRIME THE PUMPKIN, building on "prime the pump." "Bump on a log" + KIN = BUMPKIN ON A LOG, or [Yokel resting in the woods?]. [Steals the dinner cloth from Garfield's lap?] clues TAKES A CAT NAPKIN ("takes a catnap"). Hmm. Now, there's no underlying reason to insert KIN into these phrases, the KINs appear at the end twice but in the middle the third time (inconsistent structure), and the NAPKIN one seems too surreal. Is Garfield depicted as having a napkin on his lap? Cats don't have laps.

Dan Fisher's Wall Street Journal crossword, "There's an App for That"

Each theme entry is made up of APP + a familiar phrase, yielding something entirely different. Favorite examples: 82A: [What a mattress salesman might do?] is APPROACH MOTELS, and the juxtaposition of mattresses and roach motels is suitably creepy. 33A: APPROVING EYE is [Favorable look?], reworking "roving eye."

I had no idea that JADE was a synonym for [Harlot]. Y'know, with JADE also being a green gemstone and a verb meaning "to wear out, as by overuse," why on earth go with archaic sexist words? Pfft. Really, women don't need extra reminders of sexism

I'm deducting a couple points for ENDS ([They may be loose or tight]—good clue) appearing in the same puzzle as theme entry APPEND TABLES, based on "end tables"...although the theme answer has APPEND and not END, I know it's in there.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Barbershop Quartet" (19x19)

The theme is barbershop-related puns on song titles. The songs are split into two or three entries apiece, so there's a lot of hopping around the grid to assemble the titles. My favorite's GOD SHAVE / THE QUEEN, or [Barber's song about taking care of Elizabeth's mustache?]. Next favorite is the [Barber's song about nothing but passion for his work?], TOTALLY CLIPS / OF THE HEART. Why? Because of these videos. Always loathed the song, but these videos bring joy:

And this one, for which embedding is disabled—a Welsh men's choir, Only Men Aloud, singing the song over a Lego version of the video.

The other theme songs are HAIR THERE AND / EVERYWHERE and DAMN, I WISH I / WAS / YOUR LATHER.