October 25, 2009

Monday, 10/26/09

BEQ 5:43
NYT 2:54
CS untimed (J)/2:54 (A)
LAT 2:36

Mike Nothnagel's New York Times crossword

I feel like I'm missing the point of this puzzle. Four men—two real, two fictional—whose 3-letter first names end with an X are unified weirdly by the X FACTOR, a [Mystery quality...or what 18- and 55-Across and 3- and 32-Down have?]. But these guys don't have the X factor. They just have names with an X in them, don't they? The fellas are as follows:

• FOX MULDER, [Dana Scully's sci-fi partner] on The X-Files. Hey, another X.
• MAX YASGUR is the [Owner of the farm where Woodstock took place]. Is he Monday puzzle material? Shouldn't Woodstock be Woodstox to ramp up his X FACTOR?
• LEX LUTHOR is the main ["Superman" villain]. Too bad he doesn't wear a costume with a big X on his chest.
• TEX RITTER is the [Cowboy who sang the title song from "High Noon"] and actor John Ritter's father. High noon on a clock with Roman numerals has an X: XII.

Lots of 6-, 7-, and 8-letter answers in the fill, not par for the course on a Monday. But everything's clued at maybe a Tuesday level, and the fill is pretty accessible. The toughest answer may be 10D: [House style with a long pitched roof in back], or SALTBOX. Also on the more difficult end of the spectrum:

• NEMEA is the [Ancient Greek city with a mythical lion].
• LAPP is a [Northern Scandinavian]. These indigenous people prefer to be called Sami rather than Lapps.
• OSIERS are willow [Twigs for baskets]. Classic crosswordese: commit to memory.
• [John of colonial Jamestown] is John ROLFE. I get the Johns Rolfe and Alden mixed up.
• [Learn secondhand] clues the phrase HEAR OF.
• EASY ON is apparently the [Start of a billboard catchphrase meaning "close to the highway"]. Easy Off is an oven cleaner, and I don't think I've seen billboards promising "easy on..." and whatever else the billboard is supposed to say.
• Don't like AS FAT ([Equally plump]) as a crossword answer.
• [Coat named for an Irish province] is an ULSTER. I think I may have learned of the little-U ulster from crosswords.
• Bible trivia I didn't know: [Esther 8:9 is the longest one in the Bible] clues VERSE.

Updated Monday morning:

Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "What's Eating U?"—Janie's review

Learning how to read the titles of the CS puzzles is half the fun sometimes. Today's is a little bit cryptic and a little bit text-y and in its cryptic/text-y way alerts us to the fact that—almost as if it'd been eaten up—the letter "U" has been dropped from four well-known names and phrases to create the fresh 'n' funny theme fill. That's how:

•17A. Gingerbread house → GINGERBREAD HOSE [Cookie conduit?]. A visual and very funny concept.
•30A. Jelly donuts → JELLY DON'TS [No-nos for a sweet spread?]. "Don't lick the spoon that goes in the jelly jar," "don't spread jelly on your hamburger," "don't put the jelly in your sister's hair," etc.
•48A. Lady Capulet → LADY CAPLET [Pill for women?]. Um, guess that'd be something like this...
•63A. "Popular Mechanics" → POPLAR MECHANICS [Those who repair aspens?]. I suppose tree surgeons are mechanics of a sort.

What I particularly like about the way Patrick's filled the grid is his success in excluding the letter "U" altogether—which explains in part why we're seeing U-less fill like E-I-E-I-O (yet) again and (pick-any-number) CLI (Roman 151). The crossing of ESQS. and IRAQ is a great example of how to use "Q" sans "U."

The puzzle is filled to the brim with cultural and entertainment-industry fill of the higher and lower varieties, such as:

•LA BOHÈME [1896 Puccini premiere] (the opera that was also a Broadway offering in the 2002-03 season playing the Broadway Theatre, as did) EVITA [1980 Tony-winning musical];

•musicians and vocalists (all of whom produced their share of SOLI [Songs for a single performer] and well more than one B-SIDE [Half of a 45]) EDIE Brickell, the great BO DIDDLEY ["Have Guitar Will Travel" performer], ["Mama" Cass] ELLIOT, (one-time voice of Chevy) Dinah SHORE, and AMY(S) [...and Grant];

•cinema's DENNIS Quaid, Pam GRIER, Barbara EDEN [Hagman's co-star], glam sisters EVA and ZSA [Twice a Gabor], CHICO MARX, and IDA(S) [Lupino and...];

•the written word's: IDA(S) [...and Wells], AMY(S) [Tan and...], Pulitzer-winning [Columnist Herb] CAEN, (Thomas) [Hardy girl] TESS, and of course, Shakespeare's Lady CapUlet...

There's also a tip o' the hat to the boob tube with AIRS [Shows on TV] (verb, not noun) and HSN [Buying channel on TV]. Unless (yet) another award category is created, this show is (mercifully) not likely to win an EMMY [TV trophy].

If you do "See the USA in Your Chevrolet" (see 38 ACR), you might pass through MOAB [Utah city near Arches National Park] or TENN. [Chattanooga's home (abbr.)]. Like that [Word before cheese or eagle], they're all-AMERICAN.

And that, folks, is my SPIN [Interpretation] of today's puzzle!

Hi, it's Amy again. Patrick, what a delightful crossword! Funny theme (particularly LADY CAPLET and POPLAR MECHANICS), kickass fill (BO DIDDLEY and CHICO MARX, together again!). A great way to start the week.

Jerome Gunderson's Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme is Ahnuld Schwarzenegger's famous line, "I'll be back," from The TERMINATOR, which was released 25 years ago today. Whoo, does that make you feel old or what? The other three theme entries are phrases that begin with the words in that catchphrase"

I'LL FLY AWAY is a [Hymn whose title follows the line "When I die, Hallelujah, by and by"]. I don't know this song at all, but I think there was a TV show by that name. Yep, early '90s, with Regina Taylor and Sam Waterston, before Sam began his Law & Order run.
BE PREPARED is the Boy [Scout's motto].
BACK TO BACK is [How duelists begin]. Minus one point for having BACK in there twice, slightly muddying the theme consistency.

Highlights in the fill include KID ROCK ([Duettist with Sheryl Crow in the song "Picture"]), POP-TART ([Kellogg's toaster pastry]), T.S. ELIOT (["Cats" poet]—you know you've been doing crosswords too long when you see TSE and automatically fill in TSETSES before reading the clue), RUGRATS ([Toon babies of '90s-'00s TV], and an actual word aside from the cartoon), and a GERBIL ([Rodent kept as a house pet]). Summertime bonus points for clueing JUICY as [Like ripe peaches].

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Monday"

If you don't follow today's pop culture, you might have had a tough time with the letter in square 3. I sure as hell never heard of ZAP MAMA, [Belgian singer with the 2009 album "ReCreation"], and I've never watched TMZ ON TV ([Syndicated trashy gossip show]) but I know TMZ is the trashy gossip website with a TV show spinoff. It's quite possible that nobody anywhere has ever put either of those answers into a crossword before. Other slappably fresh stuff:

• QB RATING is a [Sports metric where a perfect score is 158.3]. Football fans probably got that a lot faster than I did. I wasn't sure if it would be QADDAFI at 8A, or KADDAFI, or GADDAFI. And I know nothing about how the QB RATING works so the clue wasn't helping me much.
• PAY CZAR is [Kenneth Feinberg's title]. Ripped from the headlines + a Z = natural fit for a BEQ puzzle.
• THE HUMP—is that a 7-letter partial or an entity unto itself? This [Most difficult moment, in a phrase] is what you have to get over.
• ZETA PSI? Really? I had the Z from JAZZ BAND so the ZETA part was obvious, but I needed the crossings to figure out the second Greek letter in the [Fraternity to which Alfred Kinsey and Benjamin Spock belonged].

I gotta Google this clue for A RAT now. ["___ in the house may eat the ice cream" (spelling mnemonic)] is not remotely familiar to me. The answer is in an an exterminator's page, but his A.R.I.T.H.M.E.T.I.C. teacher used "Tom" in place of "the." I was always a good speller so maybe that's why I missed this one. Or maybe my teachers never needed us to be able to spell "arithmetic" because really, when does a kid need to do that?