September 15, 2009

Wednesday, 9/16/09

Onion 5:37 with one wrong square
BEQ 5:37 with one wrong square
NYT 3:12
LAT 2:30
CS untimed

Happy birthday to constructor Kevin Der! Caleb Madison and Michael Sharp's present is a crossword for Kevin, posted at the Crossword Fiend forum, and you can do the puzzle too. (Available in Across Lite and printable PDF.)

Maura Jacobson's New York Times crossword

Today's Notepad says, in part:

Maura Jacobson, of Hartsdale, N.Y., published her first crossword in the Sunday Times on March 6, 1955. Her popular weekly series of puzzles for New York magazine began in 1978.

Maura has also been the traditional constructor of puzzle #6 at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and she's made an ACPT crossword for something like 31 straight years.

Today's offering riffs on the title of a movie which which I have no familiarity, making it part of an arithmetic story:
  • 64A. TWO FOR THE SEESAW is a [1962 Robert Mitchum/Shirley MacLaine film...or the outcome of 17- and 40-Across?]. The movie came out about seven years after Maura started constructing crosswords.
  • 17A. [Playground situation #1] is TWENTY-ONE SWINGS. Hey, wait a minute. Swing sets generally have swings in batches of four or six, don't they? And the typical playground doesn't have anywhere near that many swings. Maybe six big-kid swings and four to six baby swings; that's it.
  • 40A. [Playground situation #2] is TWENTY-THREE KIDS, leaving those TWO kids left over FOR THE SEESAW.
Where do Americans usually bathe? IN A TUB ([Place for three men of verse]) IN THE U.S.A. ([Where Springsteen was born]), that's where. Would you label both of those partial entries, or just the latter?

Answers that might be unfamiliar to newer solvers, but that old hands probably know by now:
  • 28A. EDOM is the [Land of Esau's descendants].
  • 35A. NOLI [___ me tangere (touch-me-not)] is from the Bible, but I learned it in high school English (Wyatt's "Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind" sonnet).
  • 69A. [There's nothing like it] clues a ONER, classic crosswordese. Means "a one-of-a-kind."
  • 27D. [Coeur d'___, Idaho] is completed by ALENE.
  • 55D. ST. LO is a WWII [Battle town of 1944].
  • 63D. [Washstand vessel] clues EWER. That's a water pitcher.
Michael Blake's Los Angeles Times crossword

The "five things that mean the same thing" theme can play out as uninspired, but I like the idiomatic zing of 80% of this theme. [Really exhausted] clues these five answers:
  • 36A. ENERVATED. This one's just a plain ol' word.
  • 47A. TUCKERED OUT. I like to precede that with "plumb." This theme is getting to me with the power of suggestion—is it bedtime yet? I think it is.
  • 56A. WORN TO A FRAZZLE. I don't say that one at all. "I'm frazzled," sure. Friend of mine recently wrote on Facebook that she'd "edited her brains to a nub." I like the "brain worn to a nub" image.
Like Monday's L.A. Times puzzle, this one is pretty easy and has a bundle of 7-letter answers in the corners. Is it really Wednesday?

BULWARK! That's a cool word. It means 41D: [Defensive wall]. I haven't got much else to say about this puzzle, but I did like the colorful theme entries. Also? I wasn't kidding about feeling all TUCKERED OUT. See you tomorrow!

Updated Wednesday morning:

Randall Ross's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Play Me a Couple of Bars"—Janie's review

This is a very ambitious puzzle which, while it does offer us a SERENADE, has little to do with bars of music. Instead, each word of the two-word theme phrases can be followed by the word bar (or bars) as in something you can hold on to or a counter where you can order food or drinks or... Well—there's a lot of theme fill and a wide variety of bars, so lets take a look at:
  • 3D. [Take care of money] HANDLE CASH --> handle bar and cash bar. This crosses
  • 42A. [Rice and fish concoction] SUSHI ROLL --> sushi bar and the (automotive) roll bar.
  • 18A. [Small order of veggies] SIDE SALAD --> side bar (think of the trial portion of Law & Order and the request of either the DA or the defense attorney for, "Side bar, Your Honor?") and salad bar.
  • 36A.[Clearing] OPEN SPACE --> open bar (a fitting complement to 3D's cash bar) and space bar (look at your keyboard and not to the heavens...). This crosses
  • 30D. ["American Graffiti" actress] CANDY CLARK --> candy bar and Clark Bar (itself a kind of candy bar...).
  • 61A. [Extravagant instrument once owned by Elvis] [GOLD PIANO --> gold bar and piano bar. This is my fave.
Why did I call Randy's effort ambitious? Because at times I feel the reach of the theme exceeds its grasp. Handle cash has the sound of a contrived phrase. To my ear—which says that handle the cash is the idiomatic phrase. Then there's that clue for side salad: [Small order of veggies]. A "small order of veggies" could be broccoli, or half an ear of corn or a YAM. Why not something like [Small order of leafy greens] since lettuce equates with salad more naturally than, say, cauliflower...

And then we come to 40D [Raymond Burr detective role]... which is IRONSIDE. Now the first thing I noticed here was -SIDE—which repeats the theme fill at 18A. This gives us two side bars. And what's this? Now we have IRON BARS as well. Additionally, this "bonus" crosses two "official" theme-fill entries. I may be in the minority here, but I wish Randy had resisted the temptation to include this quasi-bonus theme fill. For my money, it's a pretender and with that repeated -side especially, muddies the impact of this theme-rich puzzle. How do you feel about this?

Other items in the plus column (and there are several):
  • "I MADE IT!"/[Cry after a tough journey].
  • AT LUNCH/[Out for a bite during the workday]. (At a sushi bar, perhaps.)
  • SKI SHOP/[Vendor of gloves, boots, and poles]. Took me a while to get the drift here...
  • SPOT ON/[Exactly]. I have a thing for this phrase. Just love it.
  • DEAL IN/[Give a hand to]. Fine misdirect here. Not assist or applaud (too long anyway), but cards. Nice.
  • PUN/[Something that may not be intended]. But just as often is.

Deb Amlen's Onion A.V. Club crossword

A few weeks ago, Deb reported on Facebook that she was stuck on a final theme entry for a puzzle, so we IMed and brainstormed until I thought of what became 42-Across and she liked it (after pooh-poohing, rightfully, the other things I came up with). My first time having my words published in the Onion! Would you believe that's not my favorite theme answer, though? True story. Here's the theme:
  • 1A, 64A: [Source of inspiration for this puzzle's theme] is OBAMA / DRAMA.
  • 17A. [Presidential concern about insufficient checking account funds?] might be a BANK CARD FAILURE, playing on bank cards and bank failure.
  • 25A. [Presidential concern about a conflict between tall, skinny dogs?] is the AFGHAN HOUND WAR (Afghan hound, Afghan War). This one's my second favorite theme entry.
  • 42A. [Presidential concern about biased reporting on bloodsports?] is FOX HUNTING NEWS (fox hunting, Fox News).
  • 56A. [Presidential concern about the wizard lobby influencing health care legislation?] is DEATH EATER PANEL (the Death Eaters from the Harry Potter world, "death panels"). I like this one best.
With two 15s, two 14s, and a pair of 5s, this is a hefty theme. Sixty-eight squares? That is what accounts for a few more unfamiliarities than usual. 6A: ["There is no Dana. Only ___!"] is...well, it's not from The X-Files, that much I know. I don't know where ZOOL is from. Google tells me it's Ghostbusters, which I just watched a couple weeks ago, but it's spelled Zuul. (Whatever the spelling, I wouldn't have gotten it unless you asked me right after I saw that movie.) The second O begins OLF, or 8D: [Odor emission unit]. It's derived from "olfactus" so it makes sense but it was completely unknown to me. I guessed right there, but had a rougher time where 32A: [Brand of aseptically packaged tomatoes and sauces]/POMI met the last letter of 19D: [Rastafarian phrase expressing oneness between God and humanity]/I AND I. Both are new to me.

Most embarrassing wrong idea: For 4D: ["Love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend" speaker, familiarly], M**, my first thought was MR T. Er, no. 'Twas MLK.

I like 27D: [Beginning, slangily]/GIT-GO. Did you know 6D: ZEROTH is a word? It's an [Ordinal that kind of seems fake but isn't].

Updated Wednesday afternoon:

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Something for Nothing"

In a weird parallel, this puzzle took me exactly as long as the Onion puzzle, I had one wrong square in both, and I knew one entry in advance. I wouldn't have known that [Press and hold the Play/Pause and Menu buttons on an iPod, e.g.] meant RESET without that foreknowledge. The wrong square was where NAS meets NANS. I read the "moms" in [Mom's moms for short] as the urban singular, as in "my moms" referring to one parent. NANS? What the hell is that? Who calls their nana "nan"? Yes, I've heard of NAS, but figured [Member of the hip hop supergroup The Firm] could just as well be an unfamiliar NAA. *grumble*

WHOMSO, the dictionary tells me, is an archaic word. The clue, [Someone, objectively], doesn't hint at the word's archaic nature. *grumble*

The theme is a JOHN CAGE quote, IF SOMEONE SAYS / "CAN'T," THAT / SHOWS YOU / WHAT TO DO. The layout and the awkward split (CAN'T and THAT want to be split up thanks to the comma) and the very quoteness of the theme? *grumble*

Love the word JEJUNE, which is clued as [Kinda blah]. How many TVs these days still have a HOR(izontal) control? That's the old [TV measurement]. Couldn't think of what the [Company with the five-pointed crown logo] was until the crossings gave me the ROL and then it was so obvious: ROLEX. "FERNANDO" is [ABBA's biggest-selling single of all time]? That seems wrong. I'd choose "Knowing Me, Knowing You" or "Dancing Queen."