October 08, 2009

Friday, 10/9/09

NYT 4:52
CHE 3:38
LAT 3:24
BEQ 5:12 when I gave up on 2 squares, which eventually came to me
CS untimed
WSJ 8:24

David Quarfoot's New York Times crossword

Yay! A new David Quarfoot puzzle! If you know his work, you got what you were expecting: A crossword filled with lively phrases and names, with plenty of Scrabbly letters in the mix. There's so much juicy stuff here. To wit:

  • 1A. [Composer of a famous ring cycle] is J.R.R. TOLKIEN of The Lord of the Rings. Not Wagner's musical Ring Cycle. Is it fair to use "composer" to mean writer?
  • 15A. COUNT BASIE—full name counter stands at 2. He was the [Musician with the 1939 hit "Jumpin' at the Woodside"].
  • 17A. [Drugs, say] are CONTRABAND. Glad this isn't the verb.
  • 28A. Fresh clue for SARIS. I didn't know [They're usually worn over petticoats].
  • 30A. MR. OCTOBER is Reggie Jackson, the [All-time strikeout leader's nickname].
  • 44A. SPEEDO isn't just a skimpy little brief—it's also the [Maker of the LZR Racer suit] seen in the Olympics.
  • 46A. I think we've seen DEAR SANTA in the puzzle before, but aww, what a sad clue: [Letter greeting never read by its intended recipient].
  • 55A. PASEOS are [Scenic walks]. If you've been a San Antonio tourist, you've probably strolled the Paseo del Rio, or River Walk.
  • 61A. PETE SEEGER, the [Musician called America's Tuning Fork], was a childhood favorite of mine. My sister and I loved this kiddie folk album. (Actually, it was an old record with about half of those songs on it.) If you've got preschoolers in the house, pick up this album. (Full name counter moves to 3.)
  • 67A. MASS EXODUS is a great phrase, but I wouldn't want to be in one. It's the [Result of a hurricane warning, maybe].
  • 1D. JC CHASEZ used to be an ['N Sync member], but the group disbanded in 2002. Is he still somebody, or a has-been? (Full name #4.)
  • 2D. Terrific clue for ROOMMATE: a [Joint letter?]. A different kind of letter's in the SPAM clue, 56D: [Unwelcome letters].
  • 7D. KABOOM! That's a [Big blast].
  • 8D. ISADORA Duncan is the [1968 Vanessa Redgrave title role]. No last name in the grid, alas. Same with 33D, ELLA Fitzgerald, [Self-titled album of 1969].
  • 11D. "IT'S A BOY!" are [Words on some blue balloons].
  • 12D. [Hit makers?] clues THE MOB. I wasn't expecting the definite article and had the mystifying TH*M*S for a bit.
  • 22D. Who doesn't love WETNAPS? They're [Messy meal handouts].
  • 31D. [Cooler fill] clues CONS because convicts fill the "cooler," or prison. I wonder how many people had CANS here.
  • 42D. DR. SEUSS counts as a full name (#5!) because that was his byline. ["Oh Say Can You Say?" author] is the clue. I'll tell you this, squeezing five full names into a freestyle crossword is not common.
  • 43D. Hah! ST. KITTS is the [Island with the capital city Basseterre]. Wish I'd known that yesterday when I did the Sporcle quiz for North American capitals (including Central America and the Caribbean islands).
  • 46D. The [Blue Demons' home], of course, is Chicago's DEPAUL University. My parents met there, and I grew up watching DePaul basketball.
I had a big "huh?" moment with 27A. Were you hoping for a fresh clue for EBOLI, like ["Don Carlos" princess]? Or were you hoping not to see that answer at all?

This one settled in at the usual Friday level of toughness for me. How about you?

Cathy Allis's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Roman Numerals"

Oh! Another Cathy Allis crossword. Seeing her name in the byline spurred me to go print out the last couple GeoPuzzles from National Geographic. (October's puzzle is about the Sahara and September's is orchids.)

The theme's got nothing to do with I, V, X, L, C, D, M Roman numerals—instead, it's the numbers used in modern Rome, in the service of puns:
  • 17A. SERVING TRE (3) is [Waiting on a group at a Roman trattoria, perhaps?]. Pun on "serving tray."
  • 28A. [What a double chorus could sing in a Roman church?] is OTTO (8) PARTS. Four members in each chorus, times 2. Pun on "auto parts." If you know a man named Otto, please do not think about his PARTS.
  • 46A. [They might be found in a Roman hotel suite?] clues DUE (2) BIBLES. "Douay Bibles" is something. It's a "translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English."
  • 60A. "Has one's say" turns into HAS ONE'S SEI (6), or [Equally shares a dozen Roman doughnuts?]. If I'm going to have my six doughnuts, it's going to take a concerted effort to eat them all.
Rome came into play elsewhere, too. LATIN is 52A: [Source of much legalese], ET TU is 23D: [Ides rebuke], ERAT is 23A: [Part of QED], and the TOGA is 50A: [Forum wrap]. Scooch over to France for ADIEU, or 26D: [Farewell], and to partially Francophone Canada for 45D: [Former Canadian Prime Minister Lester] PEARSON. Head back to Europe for ODESSA, a 33A: [Ukraine port], and the TSAR, or 55D: [Ruler's title derived from "Caesar"]. Then head down to the Middle East—EL AL is 13D: [Matmid Frequent Flyer Club airline], the RIYAL is 30D: [Saudi coin], and everybody's near Turkey. I wasn't sure which IRA* country I needed for 14A: [Neighbor of Turkey]—IRAQ or IRAN? It's IRAN here, but down at 59A, the other [Neighbor of Turkey] calls for IRAQ.

Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword

I love this "GO crazy" theme. There are five familiar phrases to which you can append a GO and completely change the gist of the phrase:
  • 16A. [Tropical fruit that grows underground?] clues CAVE MANGO (caveman).
  • 21A. [Church game played with cans and bottles?] is not a churchy variant of "Spin the Bottle" but rather, RECYCLE BINGO.
  • 37A. SOUTHEAST ASIAGO is clued as an [Italian cheese from the Florida Keys?]. Who knew Southeast Asia and GO could combine so pungently?
  • 44A. [Fled what was once Zaire?] is ESCAPED CONGO. This answer's not kidding around. If you'd like to help some of the many victims of the conflicts in the Democratic (!) Republic of Congo, considerWomen for Women International.
  • 57A. MAYA LINGO is clued as [Jargon of ancient Yucatan?]. I hope architect Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, gets tipped off that she's famous enough not only to be in a crossword, but to have a theme entry riff on her name.
I went to onelook.com to find other ___go words that could lend themselves to this sort of theme. Sheepish grin(go). Clown car(go). "Hola, chica"(go). Deafening din(go). Duran(go) Duran(go), with lead singer Simon Le(go) Bon(go). A Bridge Too Far(go). "Ain't we got fun"(go). "Bain de Soleil for the St. Tropez tan"(go). So Dan didn't exhaust all the possibilities, no, but he did come up with a fun way to build a theme and created some surprising combos. The mental whiplash from Asia turning into ASIAGO and Maya Lin becoming MAYAN LINGO was terrific, just what I like in a late-week themed puzzle. Ideally, the non-theme clues would be tougher, but it was still a satisfying solve.

Highlights in the fill: DENNY'S restaurant, the TOP BRASS, ANN ARBOR, WHISPERS (clued well as [Library volumes?]), and T.S. GARP ([Fictional author of "The World According to Bensenhaver"] in the John Irving novel The World According to Garp).

Updated Friday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Just Visiting"—Janie's review

That is one beautiful, open grid. Don't let it frighten you! Yes, the word count is a low-end 72 (low-end for a themed puzzle), but don't let this frighten you either! In fact, any words of advice I can give you as you approach this puzzle can be paraphrased by incorporating today's theme-fill (if not the theme) itself. The theme sketches out the three phases of a visit with three little words in long and lively phrases. And they are:
  • 16A. COME TO THE RESCUE [Engage in heroism]. When you see a puzzle with lots of long "across" fill, the "down" clues come to the rescue. They're your friends as you try to crack the longer fill.
  • 34A. STAY THE COURSE [Remain focused]. Don't give up the ship. Just keep at it and you're likely to make your way to solving this one in its entirety.
  • 53A. GO OFF THE DEEP END [Lose it]. Of course, for the purposes of constructive words of support, I'd amend this one to say: no need to go off the deep end! Solving is meant to be fun. Do your best to 34A it and you should be fine!
While perhaps not imbued with the immortality of "veni, vidi, vici," the tri-part "come, stay, go" will resonate with anyone who's been a house guest or been host to one—and the one-two (-three) punch made me laugh out loud. It also made me think of (what sounds to me like) the verse to "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" from the Marx brothers' Animal Crackers, which begins with Groucho's singing "Hello, I must be going." (This lyric is also the title of a Groucho biography). If you're unfamiliar with the song or would like a reminder of what zany is all about, this link's for you.

When a composer's or [Musical arranger's work]—a SCORE—has been performed particularly well or is particularly crowd-pleasing, the audience may register their enthusiasm by shouting "ENCORE!" in their quest for ["More!"]. Stage actors sometimes hear this after a performance. I imagine (Sir) LAURENCE [Actor Olivier] heard it more than once in his long and illustrious career.

While most of the cluing is pretty straightforward today, I'll just list some of the other fill that helped give this puzzle its oomph—namely, COCONUTS ([with "The"], the title of another Marx brothers movie in fact), TAPESTRIES, ANIMOSITY, JUICE and JOTTING, and TIME BOMB, of course. Some serious "oomph" there!

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Progressive Thinking—Flute solos optional"

The subtitle reminded me that Brendan was crowd-sourcing prog rock bands via Twitter and Facebook this week. So he wasn't looking for iTunes recommendations, he was looking for theme fodder. I ponied up with "ELO?" and was pleased to see it made the cut—repurposed as the chess term ELO RATING (36A: [Gary Kasparov's was 2853]). The other theme entries:
  • 19A. ["Sonic the Hedgehog" and "Golden Axe"] are/were Sega GENESIS GAMES. I'm more familiar with Phil Collins–era Genesis; I know Peter Gabriel mostly as a solo artist. I had his 1992 album, but had no recollection of the cut "Steam" when the video played at a fairly gay bar Wednesday night. Is this somehow a classic gay bar video?
  • 27A. TRAFFIC COP is a [Ticket issuer]. I confess I don't really know Traffic's oeuvre.
  • 47A. Omigod, this clue and the crossings for the first two letters brought me to a dead halt. [Yankees broadcaster], (something) NETWORK? How the hell should I know what the Yankees broadcaster is called? 47D: [Montana has 40,551: Abbr.] killed me. I was thinking of the state (RDS.?) but that was wrong. 48D: [It's the same as an F], (something) SHARP, gotta be in A through G, but I don't know which letter is right because musical notation is so far out of my wheelhouse, I don't even know the way to that wheelhouse. RGS NETWORK? Er, no. I stopped the clock and went to Brendan's Facebook post to see what bands people suggested, looking for 3-letter names other than ELO. Still didn't see the answer. Eventually it dawned on me that Montana = quarterback Joe, that 40,551 would be too high a number for TDS, and the answer was YDS. Y*S, duh, YES NETWORK. Which I still don't know anything about. Why would I know that? Hmph.
  • 53A. With RU in place, I figured RUSH (something) before I even read the clue. [Radio personality who s...]—LIMBAUGH. No need to read the rest of the clue.
My favorite word in the fill: 44D: OROGENY, or [Mountain-making process, in geology]. Orogeny recapitulates...no, that's not right. Someday I'll make a science nerd puzzle with OROGENOUS ZONES in it.

Harvey Estes' Wall Street Journal crossword, "Come Together"

The grid's got left/right symmetry instead of the standard rotational crossword symmetry, and the theme entries don't occupy much real estate. That means there's more room for lively fill, and Harvey's also loaded up on great clues. The drop-a-letter theme has a grander purpose—the letters dropped from each song title, in order, spell out something apt. Here's how the theme unfurls:
  • 26A. [Song centered on a rooster?] drops an L from "Rock Around the Clock" to become ROCK AROUND THE COCK. When I got that answer and looked back at the puzzle's title, my eyebrow shot up.
  • 42A. PIECE OF MY HART (Heart – E) is a [Song about a venison serving?].
  • 61A. BAD ON THE RUN (Band – N) is a [Song about evil in retreat?].
  • 80A. [Song about a jabberin' parent?] is RAMBLIN' MA (Man – N).
  • 95A. [Song about a divine earthquake?] is GOD VIBRATIONS (Good – O). I hadn't figured this one out until after filling in the unifying LENNON at 125A, Had been thinking the song was "Gold (something)," so understanding the theme helped a bit.
  • 113A. DOW-TOWN (Downtown – N) is a [Song about New York City and its investors?].
  • 125A. John LENNON is clued [Letters dropped from six answers "come together" here], aptly using the Beatles song "Come Together" as part of the overall theme concept. Nice!
Among the zippier fill were words and phrases like GET BENT, DINGBAT, SHEBANG, and SOAPBOX, along with these ones with clues I enjoyed:
  • 12D. [What happened?] HISTORY is what happened.
  • 7D. POTATOES are [Shoestring material]. Oh, how I loved crunchy shoestring potatoes when I was a kid. If you were at the ACPT luncheon this year, TV chef Robert Irvine's "on a shoestring" potatoes were yummy. (And poor Andrea Carla Michaels had to peel potatoes on KP duty.)
  • 68D. [Someone on the board] is SURFER. No board of directors here.
  • 99D. [Medium alternative] in the psychic energy department is a OUIJA board.
  • 105D. [Indian, e.g.] clues OCEAN. How many people went with ASIAN first?
  • 90D. [One who has a guest for dinner?] is a CANNIBAL. This one definitely violates the dinner table test.
  • 16D. Among constellations, PISCES is a [Star fish].
  • 20A. [Its coat of arms features a bear, a deer and a moose] clues ONTARIO. Who knew? Do Canadians know this?
Overall, I'll give this puzzle a solid A for excellence.