September 09, 2009

Thursday, 9/10/09

NYT 6:37
Onion 4:45
CS untimed (J)/3:09 (A)
LAT 3:01
Tausig untimed

Kevan Choset's New York Times crossword

All righty, I have company over, so let me provide a cursory overview of the Thursday puzzle. Choset's theme is the EIGHT NOTES (4-Down) of the MAJOR SCALE (30-Down). Now, as a musical illiterate, I had no idea what exactly MAJOR SCALE meant, but my musically literate husband explained, "It's that song—'Do, Re, Mi.'" Precisely! DO, RE, MI, FA, SOL, LA, TI, and DO occupy rebus squares ascending diagonally from the bottom left corner. They make a nice visual representation that reflects the scale's musical upward mobility.

And look at me! I finally remembered in the midst of a rebus puzzle how to enter multiple letters in a single square on the NYT applet. I typed an invisible + sign and then two letters (or, for SOL, two invisible + signs followed by three letters). It slowed me down a little, but given that the rebus's musicality didn't dawn on me right away, it was helpful to have all the letters in those squares rather than only the first letters.

The four toughest spots I encountered:

  • 15A. [CNBC host ___ Regan]'s name is TRISH. Surely I'm not the only one who watches the cable news channels about once every two or three months? Luckily, her crossings did not give me any guff.
  • 20A. WISHBONE is clued as a [Football formation]. Again, the crossings bailed me out.
  • 13D. [Half a ring] is a {DO}NG. *snicker* The other half is ding.
  • 34A, 24D. The {SOL} crossing that I wasn't expecting before I'd figured out the theme. [Shoe part] is IN{SOL}E, and [Smirnoff competitor] is AB{SOL}UT. Sole, inch, arch, Stoli—none of those were working for me.
And now, a few favorite answers:
  • 29A. The three-word A BIT MUCH, or [Somewhat overdone].
  • 40D. [More nervous] clues ANTSIER. Superlatives aren't typically great fill, but I like antsy as a word.
  • 52A. LAST CALL is a [Bartender's call].
  • The two inconvenient [Pain]s, the NUISANCE and the HASSLE.

I'll be back with more crosswords in the morning.

Updated Thursday morning:

Tony Orbach's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Final Answer"—Janie's review

One thing I can say unequivocally about this puzzle: it sure has MOXIE [Spunk]. Now, Ed Asner as Lou Grant may have said, "I hate spunk!" to Mary Richards (played by Mary Tyler Moore) when she interviewed for her position at WJM-TV, but me—I'm all for it. Especially when it gives so much life to the fill. First of all, we get a grid with lots and lots of edgy, high-scorin' Scrabble letters: four Ks, four Xs, a J and a Z. There's some K action in the cluing as well, with [Keystone character] for KOP and [Keystone State founder] PENN (of course that's William of Pennsylvania...).

Then we get a bunch of explosive/slangy expressions and words: "WHAM!" ["Kapow!"], WIPEOUT (vividly clued as) [Go down when the surf's up?], GONZO [Really out there] and YUCKY [Gross]. Even DORKS [Uncool customers]. These words cut across the solving population to include latter-day surfers and hippies as well as GEN X-ERs [...born in the late '60s or early '70s] and beyond. That's the kind of inclusiveness I like to see.

I also like the mellifluence generated by all those entries ending in -O: MONACO [Riviera principality], GERALDO [Rivera on TV], ["]I'M SO [Tired" (Beatles song)], NINO, OTRO, GONZO, ZERO, OSLO, ST. LÔ, XENO- [Prefix with phobia]. What with Monaco, Oslo, St. Lô and ASIA [Home of the highest and lowest points on earth] (can ya name 'em?) in the mix, clearly this is no place for a xenophobe! Ooh—a place I'd never heard of? (Surprise, surprise...) Scotland's [Royal] TROON [, site of several British Opens].

And then there's that oh-so positive theme, where the "final answer" is the -yes that appears at the end of the theme names and phrases, as in:
18A. POINT REYES [National seashore park North of San Francisco].
28A. TEARFUL GOODBYES [Weepy send-offs].
50A. STARS IN ONE'S EYES [Enchantment, figuratively]. Is that a beautiful phrase or what?
63A. ISAAC HAYES ["Shaft" Oscar winner]. "John Shaft." This one looks so great—almost unpronounceable—in the grid. It all comes down to the parsing...

Finally, there's that EXTRA [Bonus] YES [Fitting final answer for this puzzle?]. All those yeses do put me in mind not only of one Molly Bloom, but also of one Liza Minnelli singing Fred Ebb and John Kander's "Yes," written for the show 70, Girls, 70.

Bruce Venzke's Los Angeles Times crossword

There've been one or two commenters over at L.A. Crossword Confidential who've been clamoring for more quote/quip themes—I think they'd been longtime TMS solvers before their papers changed over to the L.A. Times puzzle. I hope today's puzzle will hush them up for a while, because I don't often enjoy quote/quip themes. Today's "investor's quip" is I BOUGHT STOCK IN A / BLANKET / FACTORY / BUT IT SOON FOLDED. Har, har.

UTES gets an updated clue: [Western team that beat the Crimson Tide in the 2009 Sugar Bowl]. Sure, the clue's specifics are of little help to anyone who doesn't follow college football, but it's a nic change-up from the usual stale UTES clues (Western tribe, Salt Lake City college team).

At 31D, LOOIE is clued as a [Certain NCO, slangily]. It was brought to my attention last night that this clue is flat-out incorrect. LOOIE is short for lieutenant, the lowest rank among commissioned officers, and NCOs are noncommissioned officers. Is this just a slip-up, or is there some roundabout explanation that makes the clue accurate in some circumstances?

Francis Heaney's Onion A.V. Club crossword

The theme entries turn __ED words into __EED words, but that escaped me even after filling in HIPSTER CREED for 20A: ["I will always wear black; even when I enjoy a concert I will never do more than sway disaffectedly," etc.]. Hipster cred just doesn't have enough cred in my circles to jump out as an obvious base phrase. Plus, there was no question mark flagging the clue as not-a-real-phrase. Luckily, LICENSE TO WEED (37A: [Document held by a gardener with a double-0 rating?]) was a good bit more obviously license to wed with a double E. It took longer to piece together the third and funniest of the bunch, 53A: [Nickname for critic Rex who doesn't sexually excite anyone?]. A common road sign turns into NO TURN-ON REED. Awkward phrasing in terms of how people actually talk, but I like TURN's movement from "no turn" to TURN-ON; quite a different meaning there.

Highlights in the fill:
  • 31D. [Energy] clues GET-UP-AND-GO. I need more of that, I tell ya.
  • 3D. TORPOR is clued as [Lassitude], and TORPOR is perhaps my favorite of the -por words. Stupor can't compete.
  • 30D. Video game CHEAT CODES? Yeah, my son appreciates those greatly. Whatever game of yore had [Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start; etc.], I don't know, and I doubt my kid has played it. But he's got a book of cheat codes for today's games. Does that make me a bad parent? Or an awesome one?
I love PASHA when clued as a historical Turkish officer (the word is so handy around the house), but had no idea that it was also the first name of 40A: ["So You Think You Can Dance" competitor Kovalev]. I also didn't know that a 15A: [Poem-ending stanza] is called an ENVOI. You know who knows poetry? This week's constructor, Francis Heaney. His parodic anthology Holy Tango of Literature is a hoot for literature fans.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Puzzle Princess"

What does this crossword's title suggest to you? If it made you think of the queens of crosswordese, then you were on the right track. Yma SUMAC (67A: [Vocally versatile, cruciverbally useful singer Yma who would have turned eighty-seven this week]) gets her first name inserted into three phrases to alter their meaning (circles not in original puzzle):
  • 20A. A salad plate becomes a SALAD PLAYMATE, or [Miss Newman's Own 2009, say?].
  • 36A. [Caribbean island used for landfill?] turns a garbage can into GARBAGE CAYMAN.
  • 55A. Double dare with YMA added is DOUBLE DAYMARE, or [Bad vision that strikes twice?]. Could also be baseball creater Abner's horse, DOUBLEDAY MARE.
It bears noting that YMA is AMY backwards, so my name is practically the theme's hinge here. I consider myself more of a Crossword Queen than Puzzle Princess. Or can I be a Puzzle Pasha? Can pashas be gender-neutral?