September 20, 2009

Monday, 9/21/09

BEQ 5:16
LA 3:16
NYT 2:42
CS untimed

Mark Feldman's New York Times crossword

Today's NYT theme is MAGAZINE READERS, and three familiar phrases (clued straightforwardly) could be reinterpreted to mean "a fan of a particular magazine." Oh, and there's a fourth phrase, markedly less familiar, that plays the same game:

  • 17A. [Official with a stopwatch] is the TIMEKEEPER. I finally quit keeping magazines I've finished reading. To the bin with you!
  • 20A. [Bragging sort] is a SELF-PROMOTER. If I had to promote one women's fashion magazine, it'd be Mademoiselle. Less in the way of exercise tips, more news of women around the world.
  • 56A. [One good at forming connections with others] is a PEOPLE PERSON. I do like that phrase. What's the plural? "Angela and Dave are really people people." "I'm better one-on-one. I'm more of a person person."
  • 60A. [Miser, e.g.] is a MONEY LOVER. Is that an actual, "in the language," crossword-worthy phrase?
Glancing over the grid to see what else is in the puzzle, I laughed when I noticed the nexus between CARESS and ASS ([Nincompoop]). It's a nice touch that GOES EASY slips right in there too.

Absolute best answer in the fill: AL CAPONE, clued as [Gangster a k a Scarface]. And the worst: TIN ORE, or [Cassiterite]:

Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost TIN ORE!'
Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.'

Updated Monday morning:

Gail Grabowski's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Full of Flaws"—Janie's review

HUH? Those four theme-phrases may contain an "imperfection" at the end, but truly—this is one polished puzzle. Let me not POSTPONE pointing out its strengths:
  • 17A. [Starting at the beginning] (..."a very good place to start"...) is FROM SCRATCH. Before I had the correct fill, I was looking for a way to make (the too long) from the get-go work. Guess I'll have to settle for that OUT-GO [Expenditure] above and get going myself!
  • 28A. [Tex-Mex dipper] TORTILLA CHIP. You might find more than one—indeed, you may find 'em by the bowlful at your local
  • 48A. [Site serving brewskis] WATERING HOLE. Terrific clue/fill combo here. Nothin' like salty chips washed down with a cold, crisp draft. Or you and your friends might want to try the ALES as your [Stein fillers].
  • 62A. [Fall short] MISS THE MARK. That's something this theme-fill does not do. (You're familiar with the saying "A miss is as good as a mile." See that EMILE [Novelist Zola] just below the theme fill? I keep parsing it as E-MILE... Is that the distance I traverse in cyberspace trying to justify my thinking on-line?)
If you're traveling around in your MOTOR HOME [Recreational vehicle], it might be a good idea to carry a MAP or two. As a [Tourist's aid] it sure makes a reliable alternative to a gps system... And if you don't have a full-blown (gas-guzzling...) motor home, consider what this enterprising couple did, traveling across country in their Toyota minivan.

I enjoyed seeing HATTER clued as [Mad acquaintance of Alice], especially as it sent me back to the source material. I was hoping there were cakes with ICING at the table. But no... only tea. And bread and butter. If you haven't looked at the Carroll in a while, here's a link to "A Mad Tea-Party" from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. "Mad" only begins to describe its brilliance.

Some word-playful clue/fill combos I especially liked: [Splits to form a bond]/ELOPES, [Duel-purpose equipment]/EPÉES, and [Gp. with brass]/ORCH.

Finally, ORAL is a [Kind of testimony]. Would that include "MEW" [Cry from a litter] or "ARF-ARF!" [Sounds from a Shih Tzu] (or even a SKYE [Kind of terrier], or "MAA" [Cry from a calf]? I suppose that a ROI [Lyon king] could roar as well as a "lion king'; and what does the AMEBA have to say for itself? ("HA-HA-HA!"... ["Ver-r-ry funny!"].) (IMO...)

Mel Rosen's Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme entries begin with UP, UP, and AND AWAY:
  • 21A. UP TO THE TASK means [Capable of doing a job].
  • 37A. UP FOR A PROMOTION means [Next in line to advance at work].
  • 48A. The [Jackie Gleason catchphrase] is "AND AWAY WE GO."
I really don't know what the clue for 13D is doing there. With all the ways to clue DISK, [Floppy with data] should have been retired several years ago.

The highlights in the fill are ODE TO JOY and ENCUMBER. Then there's PESTY ([Annoying, like a kid brother]), which is a much clunkier word than PESKY. UNSKILLFUL ([Not practiced]) also felt, well, unskillful. Its opposite in the grid is PAIRED WITH ([Assigned as the partner of, as in dance class]), which is on the dry side—when there are 10-letter answers in the fill, I like them to spice up the puzzle, but these ones left me cold. The shorter fill has such E words as ELY, ELKO, ELBA, and ESSO, as well as APER, OLEO, DII, AAA, EQUI-, and partial IT MAY.

At least there's Brendan's "Themeless Monday" to pull me out of the Monday crossword doldrums.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Monday"

I love the three showiest answers—SIR MIX-A-LOT, the POPEMOBILE, and GOOGLE MAPS. I love Google Maps, too, except that it's convinced that the driveway by my kid's school is actually a road called U.S. Public Health Hospital—apparently decades ago, before there was a school there, it was the site of a hospital. Sometimes Google wants me to drive on it to take a crazily indirect route to Lake Shore Drive. Why is there no button to click that says "hello, Google, this is crazy"?

Aside from those three fantastic entries, I also liked IRISH ALE and RANGEROVER, but lots of the shorter fill [Rankled] (FESTERED). OROS and OPAH, ISER and OLAV, TARE and E. LEE, and the abbrevs/prefixes ATMO, ANS, SCH, and SYST. Also, I poked around Wikipedia and I don't think IRANIS are [Azeri speakers]; some Iranians are Azeri speakers, but the Iranis appear to be Zoroastrians in India and Pakistan who speak Dari. IRANI ≠ Iranian.