October 29, 2009

Friday, 10/30/09

NYT 5:15
CHE 3:50
LAT 3:19
CS untimed
BEQ 5:38 (joon—paper)
WSJ see next post

Good news! Although the Newsday website has erected a pay wall ($5 per week), the Newsday crossword's still available for free via Stan Newman's site. As with Newsday's site, each day's puzzle comes in online and PDF options (no Across Lite, alas), and you can access the last two weeks' puzzles via pull-down menu. Thanks, Stan.

I'll be handing out Halloween candy and chaperoning a fourth-grade field trip tomorrow, so the BEQ and WSJ blogging will have to wait until late in the day...unless one of the charming and delightful Crossword Fiend team members is in the mood to fill in. If one of them is, please be sure to butter them up with fulsome praise.

David Levinson Wilk's New York Times crossword

Insane grid—six 15-letter entries going across and six 15s going down, divided by rows and columns of 3s and framed with corners of 5s. Getting each 15 to intersect six other 15s—all of them solid answers—does mean that those 3s are a hot mess. But let's focus mainly on the big guns:

• 17A. [Whitney Houston hit recorded for the 1988 Summer Olympics] is ONE MOMENT IN TIME. One wonders: Can a moment be in anything other than time?
• 24A. I do not know this "DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO," a [1974 Rolling Stones hit]. Apparently it is subtitled "(Heartbreaker)."
• 31A. THE SAHARA DESERT is [Home for an addax and dorcas gazelle].
• 41A. The PL and X pointed me towards DUPLEX APARTMENT, but I didn't know precisely what [Maisonette] meant.
• 48A. Don't know the novel or the Bible quote. STRAIT IS THE GATE is an [Andre Gide novel whose title comes from Matthew 7:14].
• 58A. The SWIMSUIT EDITION is a [Big newsstand seller for some magazines]. I never miss The Economist's swimsuit issue. Hot!
• 3D. [Bailiwick] is a cool word that means AREA OF EXPERTISE.
• 5D. CHOCOLATE KISSES are [Sweet little things with points to them]. Chocolate! 'Tis the season. I have Kit-Kats, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and Snickers Almond bars in the house. None of them will go to trick-or-treaters because we don't get any.
• 6D. Our unfamiliar technical term for the day is FIELD CAPACITIES, or [Soil water saturation limits]. Chicago had a ton of rain about a week ago (2" to 4") and another 1" to 2" is expected in the current rainstorm. I suspect the FIELD CAPACITIES are nigh unto bursting.
• 8D. NATIONAL ANTHEMS are [Country music], in a sense.
• 9D. If you've [Taken things a bit too far], you've GONE OVER THE LINE.
• 11D. [Like grandchildren] clues THIRD-GENERATION. Immigrants are first-generation, their kids are considered second-generation Americans, and the grandkids are third.

There is no shortage of ugly fill in between these sparkling 15s, but there are some beauts like the clue for 1A: [It no longer circulates around the Seine] clues the FRANC, an ex-unit of currency. Here are 10 toughies:

• 23A. RPS is [Turning meas.]. Revolutions per second?
• 28A. FIL is [Thread: Fr.]. Filament is a related word.
• 38A. TEP completes [Im-ho-___, Boris Karloff's role in "The Mummy"].
• 39A. LER is [Celtic sea god]. Not to be confused with a Roman household god, LAR.
• 62A. ANSAE are [Looped handles]. Old-school crosswordese.
• 63A. EDM is clued as [Teacher's deg.]. Sometimes it's M.Ed., sometimes it's Ed.M., and sometimes it goes all the way to MAEd. or MSEd.
• 67A. Always remember that kites can be birds of prey. [Kite relatives] are ERNES here, without any mention of "sea" or "eagle."
• 10D. The baseball [Diamond figure on a 2006 postage stamp] is Mel OTT.
• 18D. MAO quote: [He said "Learn from the masses, and then teach them"].
• 26D. [Canto contraction] clues O'ER. Why "canto"? Specific way to clue the generic concept of "words used in old poetry"?
• 43D. [Hearing aids, briefly] are big PAS, or public address systems, and not little hearing aids worn in the ear.
• 52D. [Odds' end?] is TO ONE, as in "the odds are a hundred TO ONE." Eh, it might've been kind to just go with a fill-in-the-blank clue instead of using trickery to obscure the partial.

TDS, or touchdowns, are clued by way of [Bears make them, in brief]. My son has a brand-new Chicago Bears jersey, which brings grief to his cheesehead father. I like HAL's clue: [Anthropomorphic film villain]. The suffix -INE stinks as fill, but it's salvaged by the clue, [Salt additive?] (saltine crackers). I also like the [Bookie's charge, for short], the VIG (short for vigorish).

It's weird to have three German words in one puzzle. TOD is [Death, in Deutschland]; Mann's Death in Venice is translated from Tod in Venedig. DER is clued as an [Austrian article]—speaking of Austria, did you hear about Gov. Schwarzenegger's obscene acrostic lurking in a note to a Democratic S.F. assemblyman? Wordplay! EINES is a [German indefinite article].

Trip Payne's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Poetic Couplets"

This is, I believe, the third in Trip's series of literary-themed CHE puzzles. Each theme entry is a made-up phrase consisting of two poets' names that are also common English words. Can you believe there are at least 10 such poets? And that their names can be combined in this fashion? The theme didn't strike me as particularly entertaining, but that could just be my mood. Much more appealing are the nonthematic fill and clues. We'll save that for dessert. Here's the meat/tofu of the puzzle:

• 17A. [Get the bartender's attention during Oktoberfest?] is POUND STEIN. Ezra P., Gertrude S. Nice visual/aural entry.
• 25A. SWIFT BROOKS (Jonathan S., Gwendolyn B.) is clued as [They're hard to ford?]
• 37A. [Dismal winter weather?] is GRAY FROST. Thomas G., Robert F.
• 52A. A [Valet?] is a GUEST PARKER. Dorothy P. was a wit and a poet. Who is Guest? Wikipedia suggests Barbara Guest and Edgar Guest, both American poets, and Harry Guest, a British poet. Is one of them markedly more famous than the others? Here is Barbara G.'s "Finnish Opera."
• 61A. STRAND POPE is clued [Leave Benedict XVI in the lurch?]. Alexander P., of course. Google points me towards Mark Strand, who was awarded the '99 Pulitzer for his poetry.

Either 30% or 40% of the theme's poets are women—nice to have a theme with less of a gender imbalance than we often have.

Time for dessert, some cruciverbal creme brulée:

• 33A. [Lab fuel, perhaps?] is ALPO. Dog food for Labrador retrievers.
• 51A. [Be with someone else?] clues ARE. "I" or "you" or "she" am, are, or is, but when any of us pair up into a "we," plural "you," or "they," then "be" conjugates to ARE.
• 3D. STUCK-UP is [Snobbish]. Great fill.
• 11D. [Where a peripheral may connect] is your computer's USB PORT. Raise your hand if you always try to jam things into the USB PORT upside down.
• 28D. I was briefly stumped by [Musical nickname of the 1960s] with ***FOU* in place. FAB FOUR! Of course.
• 45D. Did you contemplate any wrong answers for [Body part that may be "free" or "attached"]? Eventually I remembered the EARLOBE. (Mine's attached. A clear mark of superiority.)
• 53D. [Ctrl-V, in Windows] is ⌘-v on a Mac: PASTE the text or image in the virtual clipboard.

Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword

Here's a theme that did amuse me. Phrases that begin with a Q lose the Q's K sound but retain the W:

• 17A. [Drones losing their pep?] are WILTING BEES (quilting bees).
• 23A. [Train former senator Dole to do without?] is WEAN ELIZABETH (Queen Elizabeth).
• 33A. WAKING IN MY BOOTS (quaking...) is [The first indication that I had one too many last night?]. This one's my favorite.
• 48A. [Earp in a stage show?] is WYATT ON THE SET (quiet...). I like the surprise of the radical spelling change here.
• 56A. [Skater Katarina enjoying a Camel?] is WITT SMOKING (quit smoking). There's an ice-skating move called the camel, isn't there? The Hamill camel? Nice double-action for the camel/Camel.

When I was a kid I loved the [Tubular chocolate snack] (really more of a roll than a tube), the Hostess HO-HO. And now? Blurgh. Maybe they're more palatable when used in recipes. Favorite fill/clues:

• 45A. You know the phrase "rich as CROESUS"? He's the [Lydian king known for his wealth].
• 63A. [Sentence units: Abbr.] are YRS., or years in a prison sentence. Not words in a written sentence.
• 3D. Super fresh! HELL WEEK is a [College hazing period]. Anyone see the sorority hazing on Heroes? Hazing is even worse when the hazer is invisible.
• 22D. "I BEFORE E" is the [Start of a rule that keeps you from spelling weirdly?]. The expanded rule, "I before E except after C, except when said 'ay' as in 'neighbor' and 'weigh,'" still doesn't cover all the exceptions, such as "weird." In the clue, "weirdly" is a word you'd misspell when following the rule rather than an adverb modifying "spelling."
• 42D. TWIGGY is an [Aptly named mod model].
• 43D. An OYSTER is a [Pearl harborer]. Cute clue.

Updated Friday morning:

Donna S. Levin's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Picnic Invasion"—Janie's review

Really, there's nothing like the appearance of those pesky insects at the left to spoil a perfectly lovely picnic. But the good news is that when they colonize in well-known phrases—as is the case in today's puzzle—they make themselves more than welcome and become the source of more than one real or [Cyberchuckle] (LOL). How does Donna do this? It's a familiar formula: well-known phrase + ANT = new and whimsical phrase. Two of the critters invade at the middle, two at the end for a most successful attack. Hold the Raid and regard:

•20A. "Adam-12" (the late '60s-mid '70s tv show about LAPD patrol officers) + ANT = ADAMANT TWELVE [Strong-willed jury?]. Or perhaps the gender-neutral version of Twelve Angry Men... Nice that the very next clue references another judicial body with [Mo. the Supreme Court convenes], which is OCT.
•32A. Page break + ANT = PAGEANT BREAK [Commercial during the Miss America telecast?] "We interrupt the Talent Competition to bring you these words from..."
•41A. Green peas + ANT = GREEN PEASANT [Ecofriendly field laborer]. Oh, good. Glad this wasn't clued as [Field laborer with upset stomach] or [Field worker from Mars]...
•55A. Perfect ten + ANT = PERFECT TENANT [Landlord's desire?]. This is terrific.

Terrific, too, are such combos as: [Beat] for TIRED (where the correct fill is an adjective and not a verb), [Great gobs] (as in "Great green gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts...") for OODLES, [Giddyap's opposite] for WHOA, and [Corner] for TREE (verb, not noun).

There are also two mini-themes running through the non-theme fill today—one for the scholars, one for the athletes. For the scholars: there're the Hamlet double-bill of "TO BE..." [Start of a famous soliloquy] and RUB [Difficulty]—as in "...ay, there's the rub," which occurs in the eighth line of that same soliloquy. There's also a nod to Arthur Miller's third Tony-winning Best Play with SALEM ["The Crucible" setting]; and to another giant in the history of American dramatic literature with ELECTRA [Mourning becomes her, per Eugene O'Neill].

For the athletes: that [Hockey infraction] is ICING (sorry, food-lovers!); NCAA is the [March Madness org.] (go there—you can sign up now!); NLE (National League East) is the [Marlin's and Mets' div.] (ALE, ALW, NLE, NLW, etc., etc.—you knew all those additional franchises and league subdivisions had to be good for somethin'...); and for those times when you're not sitting on the couch, there's the GYM [Place to pump iron]. I'm also going to include SARATOGA here, for while it's certainly the [Site of a pivotal 1777 battle], the Saratoga Race Track, which opened in August of 1863, is the "oldest organized sporting venue of any kind in the United States."

Finally, for everyone else... Donna has included or referenced two very colorful characters amidst the fill: CHARO, kitschy [Celebrity known for her "cuchi-cuchi"] and with TRIX, the [Cereal with a spokesrabbit].

Brendan Emmett Quigley's blog puzzle—joon's review

joon here, filling in. i'd have been here earlier, but i just got around to today's puzzles. anyway, this is my favorite themeless BEQ in weeks, maybe months. maybe ever! it was that good. this is definitely not a newspaper crossword, what with OH SHIT and BITCH-SLAP enlivening the grid. my favorite entries, in no particular order (other than those two): KNAPSACKS; ADUMBRATE, an unusual word that means [Foreshadow]; ESOTERIC; EGOSURFER, one who googles his own name; EATS CROW; evil HR director CATBERT; and the janis joplin classic ME AND BOBBY MCGEE. other fresh answers included ARIANNA huffington of the huffington post; PODCASTS; rapper LIL KIM; brendan's favorite show THE WIRE; and FACE PALM, an [Act of exasperation, in modern-day slang]. i did not know that last one at all. other less familiar answers:

  • ORATORIES are [Small private chapels]. for once it's not APSE or NAVE, or even NARTHEX (NARTHEX!).
  • [Excessively devout] is RELIGIOSE. i like this word too. both it and ORATORIES were semi-familiar enough that i was able to sneak them into the grid with only a few crossings.
  • completing the religious trifecta, [Confirmations, e.g.] are RITES.
  • YEANS has a great clue, [Has a little lamb]. but it's a weird archaic word meaning to give birth to a lamb or kid. i wanted the answer to be EATS or something, but not only would it not fit, EATS CROW was right next to it.
  • if you didn't learn botanist ASA GRAY from the last time he was in BEQ's puzzle (earlier this week, wasn't it?), this was your second chance. it's just bizarre that his full name showed up twice in a week, but he's a good one to keep in mind for late-week ASA clues.