September 27, 2009

Monday, 9/28/09

BEQ 6:53
LAT 2:43
NYT 2:24
CS untimed

Lynn Lempel's New York Times crossword

What a lovely Monday puzzle. It's filled with fantastic answers that are there just because, and the theme entries are the sort of lively terms I like to see in a themeless crossword. Now, the puzzle hits the easy/Monday bullseye, so it's eminently possible to complete the puzzle (as I did) without taking note of the theme. The theme is a big stinkin' failure, which is to say it successfully includes five phrases that end with synonyms for "failure":

  • 17A. An [Abrupt way to quit] is to go COLD TURKEY. If you're trying to quit drinking, do not go cold duck.
  • 40A. One [Chocolaty morsel munched at the movies] is a MILK DUD. I used to love Milk Duds. Do you suppose that has anything to do with my history of tooth decay?
  • 63A. [Round, red firecracker] clues CHERRY BOMB. I have a scar on my leg from something like that. It came from above and I never saw it before it blew up. Illegal firecrackers and fireworks are prohibited for a reason, folks.
  • 11D. [Narcs' raid] is a DRUG BUST.
  • 39D. FLIP-FLOP is one of a [Beach footwear pair].
The Scrabbliest highlight in the non-theme fill is ZAMBEZI, [Africa's fourth-longest river and site of Victoria Falls]. There are two more Zs in the grid. One's in GEEZER, or [Old, crotchety guy], and the other's in AZALEA, or [Relative of a rhododendron]. Other bright spots: JOSHES means [Teases playfully]. BATS IN is [Brings home for a score] (and no, that's not about dating). RAMADAN is a [Month-long Islamic observance], which ended with the Eid holiday last week (belated "Eid Mubarak" greetings to those of you who celebrated). A [Close-fitting sleeveless shirt] is a TANK TOP. FLIES is an ordinary word, but the clue's fun: [Gets around like Superman]. And look, we've got [One of the Redgrave sisters], LYNN. That's probably as close as Ms. Lempel will get to including her name in the grid. Hah! I just noticed a word I had filled in via the crossings and never looked at—CRAP is a [Losing roll in a casino].

Thanks, LYNN, for a fresh and entertaining Monday puzzle.

Updated Monday morning:

Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "C & W"—Janie's review

A shout-out to a musical genre (Country & Western)? A shout-out to a puzzle genre (crossword)? I think Vic Fleming took care of both at the 2005 ACPT with "If You Don't Come Across (I'm Gonna be Down")—but leave it to Paula to find a third way to apply those letters. Today she presents four two-word phrases (two 15s, two 11s) whose first word begins with C and whose second begins with W. And the guilty parties are:
  • 17A. CARBONATED WATER [Perrier or Pelligrino]. Now that's what I call bubbly theme-fill...
  • 24A. CALL WAITING [Phone service option]. And a feature that's made itself a necessary evil. Of sorts. While my phone service provides it (and I have it), I also have "call answer." If I choose not to interrupt the call I'm on, the new caller can leave voice mail and I can call back. When the "new caller" is a telemarketer, this is an especially handy feature.
  • 46A. CARNAUBA WAX [Durable coating from a palm tree]. While this palm product is available in any store that sells automotive products, I have an image in my head of a sign outside of one of those automated car wash places offering, as a finishing touch, to treat the freshly cleaned exterior to a coating of "hot carnauba wax." Now I've heard of Mother's Oats, but I had no idea she was into carnauba wax, too. Busy mom...
  • 61A. CONCEALED WEAPON [Bulge under a hit man's jacket, maybe]. Wonder how the NRA, the perfectly clued [Piece-keeping group?] feels about that...
There's a lot of strong non-theme fill here, too. I'll start by pointing out the symmetrically placed phrases "WHO'S NEXT?" with its vivid, story-telling clue [Reigning champion's question to challengers] and SWINGS IT, clued not in conjunction with Benny Goodman's musical style, but as [Manages to succeed]. I also liked the GAS PEDAL/[You can step on it] combo, and the adjacent proximity of [Rampaging]/ARIOT to MANOLETE [Noted matador]. One of the greatest bullfighters of the mid 20th century, Manolete met his death at age 30, gouged by a bull running ariot.

[Joe with no jolt] is DECAF, "joe" being slang for "coffee" (and which you might have as a TALL [Starbuck's size]). Remember, though when Joltin' Joe DiMaggio was the spokesman for Mr. Coffee?

DAME [British title] is poised atop EDAM [Red-rinded cheese]. Dame is also an anagram of Edam. Or wait—is it the other way around?

And hello, HUGH [Jackman of film]. Let's not forget he won a [Tony...] AWARD for his portrayal of Peter Allen in The Boy from Oz and is currently starring on Broadway with Daniel Craig in A Steady Rain. The gents fairly embody the word "boffo": they are the essence of box office certainty!

Fred Jackson's Los Angeles Times crossword

Wow, this puzzle was scarcely any easier than the last Saturday LAT crossword! Which is to say that the whole week of L.A. Times crosswords are hitting the Monday/Tuesday difficulty level, thereby removing intriguing clues to talk about. If your local paper runs this puzzle (syndicated by Tribune Media Services), please send a letter/e-mail decrying the loss of the graduated difficulty curve and the more challenging Friday and Saturday puzzles.

The theme entries begin with related words:
  • IMAGINARY FRIEND is [Hobbes, to Calvin]. Not the philosopher and theologian—the stuffed tiger with a sassy personality and the comic-strip boy.
  • DREAM VACATION is an [Ideal getaway]. Where's yours?
  • FANTASY FOOTBALL is many an [Armchair quarterback's hobby].

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Monday"

Hooray! Themeless Monday! A puzzle that takes longer than the usual Monday puzzle! This one was labeled as "medium" difficulty but I dunno, I thought it was on the hard side.

There are a few highlights, but this 70-worder had more fill that underwhelmed me. The good stuff: CULT STATUS, the CN TOWER, AFRO PICK, SHEBANG. My son's 4th-grade teacher is a man, which occasioned my sister to tell him that her 4th-grade teacher had been not only a man, but a man who sported a pick in his Afro in the classroom. Ah, 1970s! How we loved you. Favorite clues: [Holy figure?] for a holy TERROR, and the noun phrase [Play uncle] for Chekhov's Uncle VANYA.

There's a surprising amount of lackluster fill given that this is a 70-worder. MISTAKABLE without an un-? The [Short cloak] called a MANTELET? AREOLE, ENLISTEE, and SETS OUT? Then there are the little words: STS, ASTA, INRE, ENOS, LER, OLEO, CLE.

ESURIENT isn't too familiar; it means [Very hungry]. The dictionary tells me it's an archaic word (boo) that means "hungry or greedy."