October 11, 2009

Monday, 10/12/09

BEQ 4:38
NYT 2:38
LAT 2:24
CS untimed

Did you notice the new Diary of a Crossword Fiend mascot in the sidebar? My husband drew her for me.

Richard Chisholm's New York Times crossword

This vowel-progression theme runs the gamut from A to U in phrase-ending B*N words:

18A. SWIMMING BAN is the [Likely result of pollution along a beach]. In Chicago, swimming bans generally mean sewage overflowed into Lake Michigan because of a rainstorm or the seagull poop has jacked up bacterial counts. Breakfast test! Are SWIMMING BANs in the vernacular for people who don't live near beaches?
23A. GENTLE BEN is the [Title bear of 1960s TV]. I've only seen the show dubbed into German, never in English.
41A. USED CLOTHING BIN just doesn't feel like a solidly in-the-language phrase to me. It's a [Receptacle for some donations].
54A. "C'EST SI BON" means ["It's so good," in Paris]. That's a lotta French to throw at solvers who never studied French, isn't it?
62A. HOT CROSS BUN is a [Lenten treat].

The fill's got a lot of multi-word entries, some of them partials and some complete entities. I like EVEN UP (8A: [Make equal, as the score]), MODEL T (44A: [1910s-'20s flivver]—three cheers for crazy old word flivver), and GO SOLO (4D: [Leave the band and strike out on one's own]). I'm neutral on AT SEA (59A: [Bewildered]), LED TO (36D: [Caused]), and I GET IT (40D: "Aha!"]).

I could do without the partials and more lackluster (lacklusterer?) phrases. AS A (48A: [Center of a simile]) is fairly common fill. ARE SO (20A: ["You ___ wrong!"]) and BY NO (25D: [___ means (not at all)]) are a little jarring. IS OUT (35D: [Has left the office]) practically looks like the opposite of IS INTO (51D: [Really digs]). As for N.Y. MET (58D: [Citi Field player, for short])—how often is the singular "N.Y. Met" used? Is this a mainstay of New York conversation?

My favorite entries are the two 8-letter Downs. 9D: [Abigail of "Dear Abby"] clues VAN BUREN and CLAPTRAP is a great word meaning 42D: [Nonsense].

Updated Sunday night:

David Cromer's Los Angeles Times crossword

In the surrender/backtrack theme in this easy puzzle, the three longest answers end with synonymous words:

• 20A. COMPANY RETREAT is a [Corporate-sponsored vacation].
• 40A. The dry clue [Retirement account transaction that may incur a penalty] goes with EARLY WITHDRAWAL.
• 59A. a [Local airline trip] is a COMMUTER FLIGHT.

Let's spotlight three other clues, shall we? (1) ESTES, clued by way of 8D: [Colorado's ___ Park], is a an old stalwart. There's also the Estes Kefauver who was Adlai E. Stevenson's running mate in the AES-vs.-DDE race, and crossword constructor Harvey Estes, who was the ESTES in a Matt Gaffney contest crossword in August, not to mention actor Rob Estes who was on the original Melrose Place series.

(2) KART is 66A: [Go-___: small racer]. That can also be spelled go-cart, but not a single one of the 77 CARTs in the Cruciverb database gets a fill-in-the-blank [Go-___] clue. Why? Because CART can be clued better in other ways. KART usually gets the go-___ treatment or a clue like [Miniature racer] (plus one [Mario ___, Nintendo racing game]).

(3) CYPRUS is a 28A: [Mediterranean island republic]. Don't forget Cyprus and Malta when you're doing the Sporcle.com quiz on European countries.

Updated Monday morning>

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Fluid Dynamics"—Janie's review

Breaking it up into four easy pieces, Patrick poses the immortal question:

  • 17A. IF A PRUNE IS
  • 31A. A DRIED PLUM,
  • 41A. HOW DO WE GET
This one'll keep ya goin', huh?... At any rate, if this is the sort of query that keeps you up at night, Cornell University's "Uncle Ezra" has the poop. So to speak. (Oh, grow up, Jane!)

Patrick "Pangram" Jordan has left his mark once again and is to be LAUDED once again for his alphabet-inclusive grid. I liked the topographical pairing of MESA [Steep-walled elevation] and CRAG [Rugged cliffs]. And among the better clues: [Only state with homonyms] for MAINE (mane, main and mein [as in chow...]); [Londoner's line] for QUEUE (and not anything like the too long BLIMEY or CHEERIO); and [Rarities on the links] for ACES, which holes-in-one—which was news to me.

Oh—and we get some bonus fruit to go with those prunes: FIGS [Pear-shaped fruits], delicious fresh or dried!

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Quick, Call the Enquirer!"

Brendan's taking the day off, so this puzzle's a Time Out New York repeat rather than "Themeless Monday." "Themeless Wednesday" is promised, though.

I like the ELVIS SIGHTINGS theme, with three other Elvises (movie CRITIC MITCHELL, ICE SKATER STOJKO, and POP STAR COSTELLO), and was surprised at how long it took me to cotton on to it. Some of the fill is terrific—the SPHINX meets GAS-X with its "that can't be right" SX ending, SPECIAL K, DO SHOTS—but overall the fill was less Quigleyesque than we are accustomed to. Nobody's excited by ESTOP, ODE TO and A COP (those two should be combined), GRES, prefixes/suffixes (-DERM, ETHNO-), and AXER.