September 13, 2009

Monday, 9/14/09

BEQ 3:59
NYT 3:29
LAT 2:35
CS untimed

Psst: Constructors who like making Monday puzzles, send some of 'em to Rich Norris for the L.A. Times. He's been short on solid Monday contributions lately.

Bernice Gordon's New York Times crossword

The Notepad above the crossword says that this week is "Half-Century Puzzlemakers' Week":

All the daily crosswords this week, Monday through Saturday, are by puzzlemakers who have been contributing to The Times for more than 50 years. Bernice Gordon, 95, of Philadelphia, had her first Sunday crossword published on January 23, 1955. Her first weekday puzzle appeared three years earlier. She is the oldest known puzzlemaker in the newspaper's history.
Can you imagine any 95-year-olds you've known constructing crosswords at that age? That's phenomenal.

The theme shifts the S at the beginning of four people's surnames to an apostrophe-S at the end of their first names:
  • 17A. Oliver Stone becomes OLIVER'S TONE, or [Film director's sound?].
  • 26A. Margaret Sanger has her controversial aspects, but you gotta love anyone who brings the Pill to the people. [Birth control advocate's fury?] is MARGARET'S ANGER.
  • 43A. [Jazz pianist's court appearance?] clues GEORGE'S HEARING, and I have not heard of George Shearing. Wikipedia tells me he is five years younger than Bernice Gordon, he's been active in jazz as long as she's been active in crosswords, he's mentioned in Kerouac's On the Road, his albums have charted as recently as the 1990s, he's blind, and he was knighted recently. Okay, then!
  • 57A. In the Heather Has Two Mommies category, we have TOM'S MOTHERS, clued as [Comedian's parents]. I like to call him Tommy Smothers.
I'm going to blame that glass of wine for the typographical impairment that (together with George Shearing) nudged me into a Wednesday-level solving time. I know a couple other people who landed in Wednesday World on this one. How about you? Was this a Monday puzzle?

Trickier bits for Monday solvers:
  • 20A. A stealth two-word answer with an abbreviation: ST. TERESA was the [Nun from Avila].
  • 33A. ELIEL is one [Architect Saarinen]; his son Eero shows up even more often in crosswords. Let us all give thanks that Eero's parents did not give him a 5-letter name or we'd be stuck checking all the crossings whenever a Saarinen clue popped up.
  • 35A. C.O.D. is clued as [How some mail-order packages arrive, for short]. Does anyone still ship things out C.O.D. (cash on delivery)? I'm pretty sure Amazon insists on being paid up fron.
  • 60A. Actress LIV [Ullmann from Norway] might be tough for younger solvers. I like to call her "54."
  • 62A. ROANS are [Horses with speckled coats].
  • 1D. I love the word [Foofaraws] and a number of its colorful synonyms (e.g., hullabaloo, brouhaha, hubbub). ADOS is more the un-colorful crosswordese black sheep of that family of words.
  • 10D. CREMONA is the [Onetime center of Italian violin manufacture]. Other Italian violin words you may see in puzzles include AMATI and STRAD(ivarius).
  • 24D. [Venomous, as a snake] clues ASPISH. Cleopatra was killed by the bite of an asp, or venomous snake.
  • 26D. [Ancient Persian] is a MEDE.
  • 30D. [Dabbling ducks] are TEALS. In the rest of the world, teal is a color. In crosswords (and, uh, ponds), it's a type of duck.
  • 39D. SURE SHOT is clued [It's guaranteed to hit the mark]. "Sure Shot" is also a Beastie Boys song, and then there's the Canon SureShot line of cameras. Not sure I'm familiar with the phrase in a shooting context.
  • 44D. [Antiquated] clues OLD—which will describe many of this week's constructors! (The youngest began working with Margaret Farrar at age 13 and may still qualify as middle-aged.)
  • 45A. EZIO is [Basso Pinza]. He left opera in 1949 and moved on to Broadway, where he starred in South Pacific. (That may come up in a clue someday.) Wikipedia tells me he died in Stamford, Connecticut, erstwhile home of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.
  • 54D. ORNE is a [French department], French departments being something like states or counties. Old-school crosswordese, that.

Updated Monday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "No Standing"—Janie's review

is a traffic sign directed at motorists that used to baffle me. "No Idling" might be closer to the truth; or "No Standing Still"... No problem where today's puzzle is concerned, as Martin has given us three places to park it. Not your car, however—your butt. The last word in each of the three, colloquial 15-letter theme-phrases (all in gerund form) names a place where you can "put 'er down":
  • 17A. TAKING A BACK SEAT [Letting others have the responsibility].
  • 41A. PULLING UP A CHAIR [Joining the group].
  • 66A. WARMING THE BENCH [Not playing].
I love seeing 15-letter phrases in a grid, although I'm A TAD iffy on the "success" of the theme overall. That back seat is far more figurative in its meaning than the chair or the bench... Someone late to a gathering is asked to "pull up a chair"; the kid on the sidelines (or even the pro) does sit on the bench and therefore is known for "warming the bench." Still, the phrases themselves are lively—and look at the great, phrase-y 9- and 10-letter fill we get as well: MAKE A PILE [Get rich], TALK SENSE [Be reasonable], NIGHTLIGHT [Small bulb in the bedroom] and NEAT AS A PIN [Free of clutter]. A tidy collection indeed.

Also nice are those pairs of sevens stacked in the corners. In combination with the 15s at 17A and 66A, they do their part in giving this grid a lovely open feel at top and bottom. I especially like the four at the top: A.A. MILNE, STARE AT, NET LOSS and the poetic ESSENCE.

I'd love to see this puzzle with some twistier cluing. It's quite straightforward today, perhaps as a trade off for the healthy amount of longer fill—but it couldn't hurt. Something like [Result of a crash, perhaps?] would work for NET LOSS. I know it's a question of balance. Still, the pleasure of solving a puzzle with lots of stronger, longer fill (like this one) is only improved with a complement of edgier clues. Imoo...

Had never before heard of the spicy Spanish stew known as OLLA [___ podrida]. ¡Caramba!

Los Angeles Times crossword by Lila Cherry, or "really Rich" Norris

The theme here is a vowel progression theme with phrases that start with T*T. The vowel sounds that replace the asterisk are all long:
  • 17A. TATE GALLERY is the [London art museum, as it was formerly known]. It's now a group of four museums collectively called the Tate: Tate Britain and Tate Modern in London, Tate Liverpool (I visited in '07—all modern art), and Tate St. Ives in Cornwall.
  • 25A. [Its seat is Jackson, Wyoming] clues TETON COUNTY. I figured it had to end in COUNTY and then gambled on TETON and a vowel progression theme..
  • 35A. The TITLE PAGE? [It shows a book's name, author, publisher, etc.].
  • 52A. TOTAL RECALL is a Schwarzenegger movie as well as [Photographic memory].
  • 59A. One [Multi-flavored ice cream] variety is TUTTI FRUTTI.
Highlights among the triple-stacked 7s in the corners:
  • 46D. An AIR KISS is a [Smooch that even misses the cheek].
  • 13D. I'D SAY SO is another way of saying ["Sounds about right to me"].
  • 41D. NITROUS [___ oxide (laughing gas)] is a boon to those of you with dental anxiety. If you avoid the dentist, make an appointment and let them know that you're terrified and ask what they can do for you. They've got a whole bag of tricks to alleviate pain and anxiety. /public service announcement
  • 40D, 45D. The North American folks in uniform are out in full force. A [State cop] is a TROOPER and a [Canadian cop] is a MOUNTIE.
Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Monday"

Ahh, I love a themeless puzzle spicing up my Monday morning.

Top six entries:
  • 17A. The IKEA CATALOG is a [Periodical where you can find a Jerker desk or Fartfull workbench]. We're partial to the Poäng chair and ottoman. Fun to say, fun to sit in.
  • 33A. SHEENA ["___ Is a Punk Rocker" (1977 The Ramones single)] is much better than going with Sheena Easton. My dad had a thing for her in the early '80s. It was creepy.
  • 39A. DR. ROMANO was [Paul McCrane's "ER" role]. Remember how we all hated him and then his arm got chopped off by a helicopter blade and we still didn't like him?
  • 67A. The MADDEN CURSE is the [So-called explanation for an athlete's off-year after appearing on a video game cover].
  • 22D. PEARL JAM is the [Band with the 2009 album "Backspacer"]. My son has Eddie Vedder hair, only with a little more curl and a little less length now.
  • 39D. I've never heard of DJ QBERT, but that was easy enough to put together with the crossing Q from QATAR and the clue, [Turntablist Richard Quitevis who took his stage name from a video game].
Favorite clue: The reality TV–inflected [Survivors?] for TRIBE.

I didn't know the CATALPA tree was also called the 12D: [Indian bean tree]. Those long pods are something else.

2D is "LIKE, HUH?" clued as ["Howzzat again?"]. Can't say I've ever heard anyone say that.

The entries that scored highest on the Meh-o-meter are AMERCER ([One who fines in a court]), OSIERED ([Made of certain twigs]), and the plural ANAS ([Literary miscellanea]).