September 07, 2009

Tuesday, 9/8/09

Jonesin' 3:44
NYT 3:24
LAT 3:07
CS Untimed (J)

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Tune In, Drop Out—Who needs high school?"

Hmph! The theme is famous people who found success in their careers despite having dropped out of high school. Oh, man, What timing—this puzzle comes out (via the Jonesin' Google Group) on the eve of President Obama's speech to schoolchildren, which says in part "You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it." Here are the people who didn't heed that advice:

  • 17A. JOHN LANDIS is the movie and ["Thriller" director who dropped out of high school].
  • 25A. The late TUPAC SHAKUR was a [Rapper/actor who dropped out of high school].
  • 36A. [TV chef and author who dropped out of high school] is BOBBY FLAY. I learned from Onion crossword constructor Deb Amlen (who blogs here) that his name anagrams to FLABBY BOY.
  • 50A. The late EVEL KNIEVEL was a [Daredevil who dropped out of high school].
  • 60A. WALT DISNEY was an [Animator who dropped out of high school to join the army (but was rejected)]. Hooray! Tomorrow is the first day of school for my son, who attends a school named after this famous dropout.
Despite the glorification of dropping out inherent in this theme, it's a good crossword.

In case you were wondering, FLAV (38D: [Rapper in a Viking helmet, familiarly]) has never appeared in the New York Times crossword. The (mostly older) folks who complain about the inclusion of rappers in their crosswords may well have no idea just how many notable rappers there are who aren't in those puzzles.

Alan Arbesfeld's New York Times crossword

What the...? Why did it take me a Wednesday amount of time to do this Tuesday puzzle? Maybe it was that "slow down and try to figure out the theme while you go along" thing. Honestly? I don't think there's any substantive advantage to figuring out an easy puzzle's theme before you finish it vs. afterwards. Speed solvers know exactly what I mean, and the rest of you think I'm on crack. I wonder if Doug P. and Howard B., who posted their usual speedy Tuesdayish solving times, noticed the DANCE theme along the way.

DANCE is 71A: [Word that can follow the ends of 17-, 21-, 36-, 44-, 54- and 64-Across]. Those other six theme entries are:
  • 17A. [Borrower's limit] is CREDIT LINE. Never been a fan of the line dance, though my son knows the Electric Slide.
  • 21A. POTBELLY, or [Joe Six-Pack's protrusion], made me think of Potbelly Sandwiches and potbelly stoves rather than belly-dancing. Any of you know how to belly-dance?
  • 36A. A [Harmless-to-humans slitherer] is a GARTER SNAKE. We don't get much in the way of snakes in Chicago, but I recently read a couple other bloggers' tales of encountering a bigger-than-garter snake on the basement pantry shelf beside the cans of albacore and discovering a rattler just off the front porch in Texas. If you're ophidiophobic and you're reading this before bed, I apologize. Please dream of sugar plum fairies.
  • 44A. [Typical visitor to Cooperstown] is a BASEBALL FAN. Would you believe you can see Sally Rand's 1934 World's Fair fan dance on YouTube?
  • 54A. [One cause of deforestation] is ACID RAIN. I can't say I'm a believer in the power of a rain dance to make it rain.
  • 64A. Whoa, the CRIMEAN WAR is not standard early-week crossword fare. It's the [Conflict settled by the Treaty of Paris in 1856].
The BASEBALL FAN doesn't get as much attention here as the tennis fan, thanks to some timely (U.S. Open tennis is going on at this very moment) tennis references. Arthur ASHE Stadium is the [Queens tennis stadium] where the biggest U.S. Open matches are played. I know two crossword constructors with tickets to women's matches—one to the finals, which I presume will be played in ASHE. ACED is clued as [Hit a serve past]. I haven't really been following tennis this week, so I don't know who the splashiest acers have have been. Actually, [Fit to serve] is the old military draft's ONE-A, so the tennis answers don't outnumber baseball—we have an always underwhelming NLER, or [Pirate or Padre, for short]. Ice sports also get their due, with hockey's Toronto MAPLE LEAFS and a figure skating AXEL ([Jump on the ice]).

Spicy SATAY (the [Skewered Asian fare] I had for dinner tonight, dipped in yummy sweet/spicy peanut sauce) segues into spicy SALSA ([Chips go-with]), which might be found at a Mexican restaurant that serves NACHO ([Cheesy snack]) platters, and that rhymes with MACHO ([Like many a Clint Eastwood character]).

AGASP vs. AGAPE: Have any of you figured out the difference between clues for AGASP (here, [Visibly shocked]) and those for AGAPE? Let's have a look-see in the databse. AGASP has 23 appearances, with the commonest clues being [Shocked] and [Showing shock]. A couple times it's been clued as [Audibly shocked], which makes a helluva lot more sense than today's [Visibly shocked] clue because gasping is much more a sound than a sight. AGAPE is the more common entry, with 122 hits; [Wide open], [Slack-jawed], and [Open-mouthed] lead the AGAPE clue pack, with a few [Visibly shocked] clues trailing behind. Zero AGAPE clues include the word audibly.

Gail Grabowski's Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme here works much the same as the NYT theme, only PANTS are a (57D: [Garment that can follow the starts of the answers to the starred clues] rather than following the ends of the theme entries. Our pantsy answers:
  • 17A. KNEE-SLAPPER is a [Hilarious joke]. I hadn't realized that knee pants had currency; I thought the term was for short pants from a hundred years ago.
  • 39A. [Worry, slangily] clues SWEAT IT. I do not own any sweat pants. There are much more attractive options out there for comfy pants and workout attire.
  • 63A. [Frosted Lenten pastry] is a HOT CROSS BUN. Hot pants! Click here to see some really sexy 1970s hot pants.
  • 11D. RIDING OUT is clued as [Enduring, as a storm]. Ah, REO Speedwagon's "Ridin' the Storm Out."
  • 34D. [Freight-bearing vessel] is a lifeless clue for a blah answer, CARGO SHIP—but I'm still hanging onto those brown cargo pants despite the fraying. Is it time to let them go?
I really wanted a couple more Across answers to be part of the theme. Who wouldn't appreciate SALAD (OIL) PANTS? Or some ethereal/invisible AIR(HEADS) PANTS?

Pluralized crosswordese alert! TARES are 71A: [Shipping weight deductions] today.

GOTIN is clued as 47A: [Arrived], but I like to move the word break over one letter. GO, TIN! Three cheers for a useful but oft-maligned metal.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "The Thriller is Gone"—Janie's review

Well, Ray's puzzle today is a veritable TROVE [Treasure pile] for fans of the late, astonishingly great-at-times Michael Jackson. Now I was never his most avid fan, but I generally liked what I heard. A lot. I just didn't go out of my way to tune him in. So when it came to today's hit parade of eight songs, I found myself saying (while solving), ["] I CAN [name that tune..."] in, hmmm, just how many letters will it take me after all? It took a number of crosses in some cases because there were some titles I simply didn't know. The hit songs in the grid are:
  • 20A. BAD (1987)
  • 21A. ROCK WITH YOU (1980)
  • 26A. BLACK OR WHITE (1991) (Was this perhaps an edgy homage to 1982's McCartney/Wonder hit "Ebony and Ivory"?...)
  • 33A. JAM (1992)
  • 40A. P.Y.T. (1983, "Pretty Young Thing")
  • 43A. GOT TO BE THERE (1971)
  • 50A. HUMAN NATURE (1982)
  • 53A. BEN (1972) (This is from the movie of the same name about a boy and the rat [Ben] he befriends...)
The bonus fill comes to us by way of LUNAR [Like moonwalking?] and ICON [Michael Jackson was one]. It's not only the list of hits and bonus fill that makes this construction so cohesive, however. There're several sub-themes across a variety of subjects, which do their part as well to both liven up the grid and pull it together. There's:
  • the (implied) apian pair—HIVE [Scene of much activity] and NEST [Hornet home];
  • the agrarian grouping of the BOTANIST [Plant studier]; LOAM, the [Rich soil] those plants may be rooted in; and HOES [Soil busters] for tending the earth itself;
  • the Human Nature tie-ins (or human anatomical nature anyway): [Rods' counterparts] CONES (eyes...) and directly below it, HEART [Pumping organ]. There at the center of the puzzle is also BEATS [Pulses], which bridges the theme and this sub-theme. I must say though, that given the theme, the crossing of BEATS and EAT [Put on the feedbag] did send my (twisted) mind to dear old Weird Al's "Eat It"... (I know, I know—"All those great Michael Jackson songs and this is what she links to?!"); and
  • the comic strip/book shout-out with LUANN [Comic strip by Greg Evans], GLORIA [Richie Rich's girlfriend], and even ["]LARA [Croft: Tomb Raider"]. Oh—and I nearly forgot TOON [Roger Rabbit or Bugs Bunny]. If I haven't touched on your favorite part of the fill, by all means, speak up; but since I've landed in Warner Bros. territory, let me take this opportunity to say that where today's write-up is concerned, "That's all folks!"