September 12, 2009

Sunday, 9/13/09

NYT 11:33
PI 7:16
LAT 5:45
CS 3:20
BG tba—file not found

Congratulations to Eric Maddy, champion of Saturday's Bay Area Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I haven't heard any other details, such as who the finalists were and whether Tyler Hinman's Sunday-sized tournament puzzle will be published in a newspaper or online. I'll share what I learn.

Todd Gross's New York Times crossword, "Let's Play Bingo"

I've seen a few of Todd Gross's unpublished (or not yet published) puzzles, so I know he's drawn to gimmicks. Gimmicks can be highly polarizing, but I had fun with this one. The bingo gimmick is that a dozen interlocking entries are unclued, and you have to piece them together with the crossings and check to see which letter/number combos on the bingo card in the middle of the grid will fit in those spaces. When you fill in, say, B-SEVEN, you circle B-7 on the bingo card (the clue says Mark your card! for each). Play the crossbingo game right, and you'll get bingo. The last bingo number I filled in in the crossword was N-FORTY at 124-Across, and that won bingo for me. Congrats on your debut, Todd.

The bingo entries lack any sort of wordplay, of course, as you're looking at the bingo card to see what those answers could be. They are:

  • 1A. B-SEVEN
  • 60A. I-SIXTEEN
  • 73A. B-FIFTEEN
  • 124A. N-FORTY
  • 1D. B-TWELVE (this one is also a vitamin)
  • 16D. O-SIXTY-ONE
  • 92D. I-TWENTY
Suddenly I feel like I'm blogging about sudoku...but I did enjoy teasing out the bingo entries. Plus, I got bingo, so I assume the New York Times will be sending me my prize money shortly.

Returning to crosswordland, the least familiar word in the whole puzzle was in the 119A clue: [What an aurilave cleans]. That is a dreadfully obscure word! But the auri- root shouts EAR, and -lave covers the washing part of the word. Also on the unfamiliar side is 33A: [Third year in 31-Across's reign]. Cross-referenced Roman numeral clue? Good gravy! The year is LVI, for NERO, the 31A: [Emperor who married his stepsister]. (Ick.) Then there's 44A: [Manfred ___, 1967 Chemistry Nobelist] EIGEN. And I'm not sure I've seen NET TV used; that's 50A: [Hulu, e.g.], a website on which you can watch TV shows and clips. DARE ME as a 13D: [Statement of self-confidence] sounds weird, too. Moreover, I hadn't heard of either of the early 20th-century pop culture bits—94D: [Popular 1940s radio show "___ Alley"] is ALLEN'S, and then there's 100D: ELSIE [___ Janis, star of Broadway's "Puzzles of 1925"].

This could be a horrible class of clues, but I dig genealogy and geography so I liked 26D: [Second-most common Vietnamese family name, after Nguyen] for TRAN. If you're curious about the most common surnames in various countries, Wikipedia has a compilation.

Ooh, U.S. Open play has resumed after lengthy rain delays. Must go!

Updated Sunday morning:

My husband offered to pay me a dollar if I'd take his turn putting the kid to bed so he could watch tennis. I fell asleep before the kid and missed the dramatic end to the S. Williams/Clijsters match. Oh, well. I still think Serena is a phenomenal athlete.

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "See You in September"

It's September, and the "See You" of the title can be read as "C.U."—the letters that begin the words in each two-word phrase in this theme. Although the entertainment oomph of such initials themes can be lacking, most of the phrases here qualify as lively fill. Merl being Merl, the top and bottom pairs of theme entries are stacked.
  • 19A. [Surrenders] clues CRIES UNCLE.
  • 23A. A fun [Drink addition] is a COCKTAIL UMBRELLA. If I get one of these umbrellas, I have to bring it home for my son. Kids love cocktail umbrellas and yet are not the usual market for cocktails. They should be milkshake umbrellas, not cocktail umbrellas.
  • 32A. I love the term COME UNGLUED, meaning [Fall apart]. Imagine if your arms were glued on but would fall off when you lost your composure.
  • 44A. CORNELL UNIVERSITY is the [Home of Big Red], the college team and not the chewing gum.
  • 57A. COFFEE URN? Boring. That's a [Catering need].
  • 69A. [Its 10 Down station is WILL]—and 10D is NPR—clues CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, home of my state's flagship school, the University of Illinois. My friend's sister-in-law is traveling to today's game to watch her nephew play. He's a freshman starter who passed up full scholarships to Stanford and a couple Ivies to play for Illinois, where his dad went.
  • 87A. CATCHES UP means [Pulls even].
  • 94A. CONDUCT UNBECOMING is a [1975 courtroom drama about Bengal Lancers]. I have no idea what that drama is (play? movie?), but highly recommend Randy Shilts' book Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military.
  • 104A. [It makes low-interest loans] refers to a CREDIT UNION.
  • 123A. Hang on, I don't think CAFETERIA UNIFORM is "in the language." It's clued as a [Certain server's outfit].
  • 129A. A [Human being, in sci-fi movies], is a CARBON UNIT. Which sci-fi movies might those be?
I did this puzzle last night, so it's not fresh in my head and I can't think of anything else to say about it. Onward to other crosswords!

Pamela Amick Klawitter's syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, "Rainbow Connection"

Whoa, nelly—the only Sunday puzzles I've finished this fast are Frank Longo's Premier King crossword and the Newsday puzzles. The sixth clue I read was for RED HERRING, and with the title, I skipped to the next long answer and filled in the ORANGE through INDIGO theme entries right away. Didn't see the VIOLET one and couldn't have filled that in with no crossings, but it made a huge difference to have the theme entries anchoring large swaths of the grid. Here are the theme answers:
  • 49D. [Mnemonic for this puzzle's theme] is ROY G. BIV.
  • 22A. [Fake footprint at the murder scene, e.g.] is a RED HERRING.
  • 28A. [Tea type] is ORANGE PEKOE. Yum!
  • 33A. [Coward, slangily] is a YELLOW-BELLY.
  • 66A. [Anne's home, in a 1908 Montgomery classic] is GREEN GABLES.
  • 98A. Another term for [Aristocratic] is BLUE-BLOODED.
  • 107A. ["Closer to Fine" folk-rock duo] are INDIGO GIRLS, of Wordplay fame.
  • 115A. The [Ponytailed pal of Lucy Van Pelt, in "Peanuts"] is named VIOLET GRAY. I sure didn't know that last name.
Not all of the fill was so easy (particularly the lesser-known names in the grid), but the color spectrum theme was a romp in a way very few themes are. It's kinda fun (sometimes, not all the time) to have a puzzle that's markedly easier than the norm, isn't it?

Paula Gamache's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge"

This grid's anchored by the four 14-letter answers that criss-cross around the center square. (Do you see the spirit of Paul Lynde in that black square?) Today, though, let's focus on the entries that evoke other languages.
  • Latin: 44A: [Final episode of a Monday-Friday miniseries] is PART V. Roman numeral! 56A: [Coach Parseghian] is named ARA, which is also the Latin name of the constellation known as the Altar. 9D: ECCE ["___ homo"], that's Latin too. 15D: IN LOCO PARENTIS is [How a babysitter may act (Latin)]. LOCO refers to location, not craziness, in Latin. 60D: Today's random 60D: [Mid sixth-century date] is DLI, or 551 in Roman numerals.
  • Spanish: 7A: [Guadalajara greeting] is QUE PASA. Terrific entry, that.
  • Italian: 37A: [Stella ___ (Italian food brand)] is D'ORO. The company name means "star of gold" in Italian.
  • French: 20A: SALIC [___ law (early Frankish legal code)] is a French historical term. I'm guessing the Franks themselves (back in the sixth century—see 60D!) had a different form of the word; the modern French call it loi salique. 32A: ILE [___ de la Cité (where Notre Dame de Paris stands] is fairly common crosswordese French, as is 51A: ETRE, clued by way of [Raison d'___]. 13D: [Fictional gentleman thief Lupin] has a French name, ARSENE. 24D: TARTE [___ Tatin (French apple dessert)] is probably tasty.
  • German: 8D: [German connector] is UND, meaning "and."
  • e-Crosswordese: 22A: ENOTE is clued as a [Cybermemo]. This word and ETAIL don't seem to have much traction in the real world.