September 23, 2009

Thursday, 9/24/09

NYT 3:47
CS untimed (J)/ 3:32 (A)
LAT 3:03
Tausig untimed

Brendan Quigley's New York Times crossword

The applet's fubar again tonight.

All righty, Brendan said about this puzzle "the test solvers have told me it's brutally nasty. Near-Saturday-ish level." I don't know what they're talking about. Maybe Will eased up the clues because it fell faster than the usual Thursday NYT does for me.

The theme? Ah, yes. Add an S to the end to completely change a word's meaning. Excellent theme here, with a decent payoff for each answer.

  • 17A. The Beatles + S = THE BEATLESS, a [Band without a drummer?].
  • 24A. ["See ya, idiot!"?] clues SO LONG, ASS, which is "so long as" with a double-S at the end. A little more cussy than the NYT puzzle usually goes, but I'm fine with that.
  • 35A. [Mission of an Army officers' school?] is TRAINING BRASS, or training bras + S. Good one!
  • 47A. "Who cares?" + S = WHO CARESS, a [Nice touch from Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend]. Hello! NYT people! Is anyone awake? That's Daltrey with an E. It's misspelled, at least in the Across Lite version.
  • 54A. Shuttle bus + S = space SHUTTLE BUSS, or [Playful kiss on the Discovery?].
There's no shortage of zippy fill. Top six answers:
  • 1D. KITSCH is that crap like [Garden gnomes and such].
  • 4D. BABA WAWA, Gilda Radner's Barbara Walters–inspired character, is delightful. North Americans can enjoy this video. The clue is [Classic "S.N.L." character who spoke with rounded R's].
  • 11D. JET PACKS! Who doesn't want a jet pack? These are [Aids for spacewalkers].
  • 13D. Gotta love the near twinning of SOUP'S ON (["Let's eat!"]) and soupçon.
  • 38D. DAWDLED and lollygagged are both great words. Don't often see the variant [Lallygagged], do we?
  • 30A. WHAT A GUY is clued with ["Gotta love him!"].
But it's not all cake and ice cream. The six least-known names, facts, and words for me:
  • 34A. KEN is [N.F.L. coach Whisenhunt]. Never heard of him. New? Old? From a city I have zero interest in?
  • 9D. MOSSO is [Rapid, to Rossini]. Wow, I don't recall seeing this one in a puzzle (or life) before.
  • 1A. Somehow I dredged [Former "Meet the Press" moderator Marvin] KALB out of my brain. I'm not sure how.
  • 25D. Aw, one letter off from being ORANGES. This is [1975 U.S. Open winner Manuel] ORANTES. Golf or tennis? Tennis; he beat Jimmy Connors.
  • 31D. I know the word HIM, I do. But I am not so familiar with it as a [1927 E. E. Cummings play]. Ooh, the new york times capitalizes the poet's name. Or should I say, the playwright's name.
  • 16A. Completely unfamiliar trivia factoid in the clue, but what other three-letter name could this be but ENO? [Musician who started the Obscure Records label] sounds way Enoesque.

Updated Thursday morning:

Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Print Shop"—Janie's review

The Walt Disney version of Snow White introduced the vibrato-rich rendition of "Some Day My Prince Will Come." Inspired by today's puzzle, I keep thinking of the title as "Some Day My Prints Will Come"... They're here, friends—four different kinds of 'em, each appearing as the first word in the four outstanding theme phrases, each able to precede -print or -prints. And they'd be:
  • 20A. BLUE ÖYSTER CULT ["(Don't Fear) The Reaper)" rockers]/blueprints. This band has been around since the '70s, is still playing and I've still never heard of 'em. And it's not like they're not mainstream. They are! Now I knew CLANG ["The Trolley Song" sound] without batting an eye—all of which makes me feel verrrry STONE AGE... (Though if he'd clued STING as [Police man] instead of the smart [It may make you smart], I probably coulda come up with that...)
  • 24A. FINGER SANDWICH [Popular tea party snack]/fingerprints. I especially love the contrast of the dainty finger sandwich to the
  • 42A. FOOT-LONG HOT DOG (and its lol-funny clue) [Hardly teeny weenie]/footprints. Nuthin' dainty about these puppies!
  • 48A. VOICE OF AMERICA [Shortwave broadcaster in 45 languages]/voiceprints. The VOA has been around since 1942 and has an estimated worldwide audience of some 125,000,000. The technology of speaker recognition and voice printing is (relatively) more recent. Yes, you will find citations for the term that date back to 1918, but mostly as a futuristic concept. The term is not to be found in my Webster's New World Dictionary (1966), but does show up in The American Heritage Dictionary (1992) that sits on my bookshelf.
As with his choices in music, Bob really does span the pop-culture gamut in the movies and talent he gives us. There's:
  • [Slimy sci-fi menace of 1958]/The BLOB. There was a 1988 remake (and apparently another one in the works...), but that original had Steve McQueen, and Burt Bacharach worked on the score.
  • LILA ["Torn Curtain" actress Kedrova] (1966).
  • LAURENCE [Fishburne of "The Matrix"] (1999).
  • LENA OLIN (her whole name!) ["Chocolat" actress] (2000).
  • ANG ["Taking Woodstock" director Lee] (2009).
The puzzle is bursting with terrific clue/fill combos. If I omit your faves, please feel free to add to the list:
  • The alliterative [Fuel-filled floater] for OILER, followed by [Flowing forward forcefully] for ON-RUSHING.
  • [One-million joiners] does not refer to the first wave of Taylor Swift's fan-base. It's the words IN A. (As in the phrase "one in a million"...)
  • [One with a lot to choose from?] (Oh, I love this one.) It's CAR DEALER. (Then there's also [Dealmaker extraordinaire]/CLOSER—which that car dealer aspires to be.)
  • [Key anthem opener] for O, SAY—so that'd be Francis Scott Key.
  • [Move like a cat] for SLINK followed by BELL [ ___ the cat]. (Here's a link to the origin of the phrase.)
  • [Snow place like home?] for IGLOO.
  • [View not found in foxholes?] for ATHEISM. Great combo, but here's a link to a monument to those who say otherwise.
  • [A pox on your locks] for LICE. I can't decide which is worse—the clue or the fill. And I mean that as high praise!

Jack Sargeant's Los Angeles Times crossword

This puzzle adds a twist to the "all the theme entries have the same one-word clue"/"clues and answers are flipflopped" theme by hiding that clue in the bottom half of the grid at 48D. [Ball carrier, and clue for 20-, 40- and 59-Across] is a RUNNER, and a RUNNER can be an ICE SKATE BLADE, a TRACK COMPETITOR, and a LONG, NARROW RUG. The challenge lies in guessing that those things are RUNNERs before getting to 48D, but the puzzle didn't have a huge payoff in that the long theme entries are so flat and un-crosswordy (like clues tend to be).

This is the fourth puzzle this week keyed to the exact same difficulty level—my solving times for the Monday-through-Thursday LATs have been within 16 seconds of each other, with three of 'em within 3 seconds. I miss the graduated difficulty. Is the publisher specs page recently updated? It says daily LAT puzzles should be no harder than a Wednesday NYT, and the Saturday puzzle should land at a Wednesday/Thursday NYT level (and I think the LAT used to hew closer to NYT levels). Kinda feels like we're getting a slew of Tuesday puzzles followed by a Wednesday themeless. Boo!

For another take on this puzzle, read PuzzleGirl's LACC post.

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

If you thought this theme was tough to figure out, boy, you should've seen it before the circles were in the grid. The "Convertibles" theme entails converting metric units to non-metric units, changing the phrases those letters appear in:
  • 18A. [Sign on a vacationing atmospheric scientist's office? (mass)] clues OZONE FISHIN'. There are about 28 grams (g) in an ounce (oz.), and the base phrase here is gone fishin'.
  • 29A. [Missouri-based paddling team? (distance)] is the ST. LOUIS RAFTS. The St. Louis Rams have an m for meter, and there are about 3 feet (ft.) in a meter.
  • 49A. [Hallucinogen from another planet? (volume)] clues GALACTIC ACID. The basic metric unit of liquid measure is the liter (L), whereas America is still fixated on the gallon (gal.) for milk and gas. The original phrase is lactic acid, the stuff that builds up in your muscles with strenuous exercise.
  • 62A. [Celebrity Ramadan? (temperature)] is an ALL-STAR FAST. The U.S. uses Fahrenheit (F) where pretty much everyone else uses Celsius (C). This theme entry was horribly misleading for me, and by "horribly" I mean deliciously. The All-Star break in baseball and breakfast formed a perfect storm of wrong-wayness that was hard to push out of my mind. Oh! An all-star cast. Sure. That makes a lot more sense than trying to figure out what word can follow "ozone" and precede "fishin'."
In the fill, we've got the topical YOU LIE (39A: [Claim shouted by Joe Wilson on September 9, 2009]). 4D: ["Dumb" vowel sound] kinda feels like it's seeking a drawn-out "uhhhhh," but it's the SHORT U in the word "dumb."

In the grid 61D: DROZ looks goofy; it's DR. OZ (not an abbreviation for "ounce"), the [Pharmaceutical-rep-in-disguise on Oprah] who now has his own show. You know who's even more of a shill/quack? Dr. Christine Northrup, one of Oprah's regular experts who says that women get thyroid problems "because of an energy blockage in the throat region, the result of a lifetime of ‘swallowing’ words one is aching to say.” !! I am reasonably certain she didn't learn that hooey in med school. Thanks, Ben, for your occasional clues in the pro-science and anti-sexism veins.

24D: PINEAL is the [Gland where Descartes thought the soul was]. If only he were alive today to share such wisdom on Oprah's show.

13D: The answer to [Robbery, casually] is BANDE, or B AND E, or B&E, or breaking and entering. Ah, the stealth three-word entry masquerading as one word.