September 16, 2009

Thursday, 9/17/09

NYT 5:30 (joon—paper)/4:53 (A—applet)
LAT 3:07
CS untimed (J)
Tausig untimed

Go ahead and discuss amongst yourselves. I'm heading to bed super-early to catch up on sleep. Maaaaybe I'll pop back before morning, and maaaaybe another member of the Crossword Fiend blogging team will ride to the rescue, and maybe you'll just all talk behind my back whilst I snooze. G'night!

today's notepad tells us:

Arthur Schulman, a retired psychology professor at the University of Virginia, had his Sunday Times debut on September 14, 1954. The puzzle below should be easy for solvers who remember their old-fashioned crossword vocabulary.

could it really be a puzzle whose theme is ... crosswordese? yes, yes it could. and not just any crosswordese, but we're kickin' it old-school! (by the way, in case it isn't blindingly obvious yet, you've got joon here filling in for sleepy amy.) the theme answers:

  • [Ocas] are WOOD SORRELS. yep, remembered this one... but if you put a gun to my head, i couldn't really tell you what a sorrel is. is it like a chipmunk? a bird? some kind of bug?
  • [Moas] are FLIGHTLESS BIRDS. they're extinct, too. other flightless birds you see in puzzles include DODOS, RHEAS, and especially EMUS. ostriches and cassowaries are also flightless, but they're rarely seen in crosswords. and they're not happy about it.
  • [Eri] is the ASSAM SILKWORM. i needed the crossings for this one. i think i've seen ERI clued as [Silkworm] in an old frank longo puzzle, but every time i've seen it in a newspaper puzzle recently, it's been clued as part of the verdi aria "eri tu" from un ballo in maschera. i certainly never knew the "assam" part.
  • [Ara] is a CONSTELLATION. the altar constellation, in fact. this one was probably the easiest of the bunch, since it still gets clued that way. okay, maybe [Moas] was easier. anyway, COACH PARSEGHIAN wouldn't fit, although that's 15 letters if anybody wants to make another version of this puzzle.
  • [Ers] = BITTER VETCH. what does this mean? i have no idea. you could show me a photograph of a sorrel and a vetch together and i couldn't tell you which one is which. unless a vetch is something intangible like a complaint (but that's kvetch), in which case you really couldn't show me any such photograph. anyway, nowadays, ERS gets clued as either [Hesitant sounds] or [Hosp. areas].
  • crossing all five of those long downs in the center of the grid, we have [Ais], which are THREE-TOED SLOTHS. scrabble to the rescue! i've never seen this word in a crossword but in scrabble, you gotta know your two-letter words, and AI is one of them. (i suppose you don't have to know the definitions, but if you ever play scrabble against a normal human being and bust out AI, you have to explain yourself somehow, don't you?) and if you're curious, UNAI is a two-toed sloth. i think UNAU is, too.

okay, i
think those are all the theme answers. the fill has its share of crosswordese, too, of course, but at for those, the crosswordese word is the answer and not the clue: ATTAR, APO, -ULE, O-LAN, I-BAR, OLEG, OSSA, TAU, MEA, HOD. there are a pair of beautiful long acrosses, PROSCENIA and PRISMATIC, that aren't related to the theme at all.

one answer was totally unfamiliar to me: [Massenet opera based on a Daudet novel] is SAPHO. i know a couple of massenet operas, but not that one. and i've never heard of daudet. i was expecting it to be MANON, one of massenet's most famous works, but that's based on a novel by a different french dude, the abbé prévost. (and yes, i remember having to read it for AP french lit.) the crossing of SAPHO with ORSINI, the [Noble family name in medieval Italy shared by two popes], could be a tough one for lots of people. i think O looks like the best guess, but A and maybe I are also somewhat plausible. i know i've seen ORSINI somewhere in the past couple of weeks, but i can't remember which puzzle it was in.

anybody care to guess why most of the theme answers read down rather than across? that goes against the usual stylistic norms, but my wild-ass guess is that it's because 1d, SAPHO, is so out there that will didn't want to put it at 1a.

Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "And/Or"—Janie's review

The clever title tells the tale (yet again): familiar phrase and (+) or (at the end) = fresh and amusing theme fill. The formula may be "standard"—the results? Anything but. Ditto the dee-lightful clues. Behold:
  • 20A. The Dapper Don + or = THE DAPPER DONOR [Title for a natty backer?]. Before I knew exactly where this was going, and having filled in THE D___, I started to pencil in THE DUKE OF... I wasn't aware of having seen 42D either. Imagine my surprise when I finally did. That "Dapper Don," btw, is none other than New York's (in)famous John Gotti.
  • 35A. King Tut + or = KING TUTOR [Private teacher for Elvis?].
  • 40A. Faux fur + or = FAUX FUROR [Imitation anger?]. Is this anything like "much ado about nothing"? And while we're in faux territory, I like that Patrick also gives us [Pseudologist] as the clue for LIAR. Then, by transposing the inner letters, we also get LAIR for [Animal shelter].
  • 51A. Chemistry lab + or = CHEMISTRY LABOR [Work force at a dating service?]. And is this something like "love's labors..."? It definitely calls to mind the lyric from Guys and Dolls in which the suave gambler Sky Masterson explains to chaste Salvation Army-doll Sarah Brown that when it comes to recognizing the love of his life:
Mine will come as a surprise to me.
Mine I leave to chance and chemistry.
"Chemistry?" saith Sarah. "Chemistry," saith Sky.
There are several other clue/fill tie-ins and/or combos that keep this puzzle far AWAY from EDSEL TERR. To wit:
  • I suspect that [Former science magazine] OMNI could have been found in the home or office of Carl SAGAN [Host of TV's "Cosmos"]. He was the astronomer who was parodied by the likes of Johnny Carson and Mike Myers for his use (and pronunciation) of the phrase "billions and billions of stars." [It gets sent to the stars], however, does not refer to some kind of intergalactic spacecraft but (nice!) FAN MAIL.
  • The [Mad Hatter's beverage] was TEA; folks with a preference for something more "bracing" might prefer SLOE [___ gin]. Those [Bottled spirits?] on the other hand are neither alcoholic nor potable at all. They're GENII who may grant you three wishes. One never know...
  • [The Sci-fi princess with a cinnamon bun hairdo] is LEIA. While you don't want to be ingesting her coiffure, don't rule out OREOS if you have a sweet tooth. As Patrick suggests, [They can take a licking?], and it may be he's telling us about his personal style of sandwich-cookie consumption.
  • ELMER'S GLUE is punnily stuck with [Big name in bonding], and the equally playful [Chow chow] clues ALPO.
  • Last week in his "Cloud Nine" puzzle, Patrick clued scrawniness as [Feature of a "string bean"]. Today he gives us the clue [Someone called "Slim," most likely] for the aptly vertical-running STRING BEAN. And on the subject of beans (and/or their effects on the digestive tract...), that [Beano alternative] is GAS-X...
  • In the weaponry department, [Shot, e.g.] is a noun here and it's AMMO; that [Sharp rifle attachment], a BAYONET.
  • In the almost-an-anagram department, UGLI [Tangelo's trademarked cousin] + I = LUIGI [One of the Mario brothers].
And just because it's such a good tune, here's a link to ["Is You Is or Is You] AIN'T [My Baby?" (Louis Jordan song)].

Thanks to Joon for filling in last night on the crosswordese nostalgia NYT puzzle. Would you believe I was sound asleep before the crossword came out?

And thanks, as always, to Janie for blogging the CrosSynergy puzzles.

Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword

This seven-part theme is tied together by 61A: TABLE, or [Postpone, as a motion (and word that can follow the last word of answers to starred clues)]:
  • 18A. [Singly] clues ONE AT A TIME, and a timetable is a schedule.
  • That's stacked atop 20A: NEWS CONFERENCE, or [Gathering of reporters]. What office worker doesn't love a conference table?
  • 31A. [Workplace gambling group] is the OFFICE POOL, and you play billiards or pool on a pool table. This answer is stacked on top of SOLITAIRE ([Game for one]), which in turn is stacked on top of...
  • 40A. IN ADDITION, clued as [Furthermore]. What's an addition table? Oh, this? Like a times table only for simple addition? They didn't bother with addition tables in my son's first-grade class.
  • 52A. PLEA BARGAINING, or [Negotiating for a lesser sentence], gives us the bargaining table.
  • Right beneath that is 57A: [Credit company with a "Priceless" ad campaign], or MASTERCARD. Do you know anyone with a card table that isn't a folding table?
There are plenty of 7-letter answers in the grid's corners. Two animal terms: TOMCATS ([Alley prowlers]) and an OLD GOAT ([Nasty geezer]). Two cleaning terms: SPIN-DRY ([Washer setting]) and DAMP MOP ([Janitor's tool]). Two "___ of" phrases: THINK OF ([Envision]) beside TIRED OF ([Fed up with]). It is no mean feat to build a crossword with all those stacked 7s crossing two theme entries apiece, and with that 9-letter SOLITAIRE sandwiched between two theme answers. Plus the unifying TABLE appears below two longer theme entries, with solid crossings (ARTE, RCAS, GABS, EARLE, and WIDEN all appear in plenty of other puzzles without binding together three theme answers).

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "All New"

The theme takes phrases with words beginning with an N sound and a short O sound and changes the sound to that of "new" (with the nū pronunciation I use, not the nyū pronunciation):
  • 18A. [One who tokes before lunch?] is a NOON SMOKER (nonsmoker).
  • 23A. [Person still figuring out the ins and outs of getting in and out?] is a DOOR NOOB, "noob" being Internet slang for "newbie" (doorknob).
  • 39A, 54A. ["Taste a little before you put that in the microwave"] clues DON'T NUKE IT 'TIL / YOU TRY IT. I prefer 'til to till, so I'm happy to see that in there. (Don't knock it...)
  • 59A. [Clothing-optional resort?] clues LAND OF NUDE (Land of Nod). If you're in the market for kids' furniture and accessories, check out Land of Nod, which feels a little hipper than Pottery Barn Kids.
Favorite clues:
  • 69A. [Mephitic cartoon character LePew] is PEPE. Isn't mephitic a great word? It means foul-smelling or noxious, in the gas/vapor department.
  • 29D. SYLLABI are [Where courses are charted?], academically.
  • 46D. What's a [Snicker-inducing bird]? The TIT, of course.
  • 49D. NOODGE is a great answer. It's [One who's just reminding you because they care, perhaps].