October 19, 2009

Tuesday, 10/20/09

Jonesin' 5:46
NYT 2:57
LAT 2:36
CS untimed

Gary Cee's New York Times crossword

Wouldn't it be great if some of Gary Cee's relatives became wildly famous? Finally, constructors could clue CEE as something other than the pretty-much-only-in-crosswords spelled-out form of the letter C. Then we need to work on finding the Ess family and spurring them to greatness.

The theme is explained by SHIFT GEARS: In each of the other four theme entries, the letters of GEARS are scrambled up into non-words that are buried within longer phrases. SHIFTing GEARS could also mean that each letter would shift over one space, but that's not what happens here. The [View from the Oval Office] is the ROSE GARDEN. Hey, look! It's Popeye creator E.C. Segar, lurking on the White House lawn! CHIVAS REGAL (in which the final A could be circled instead of the other A) is a [Premium Scotch whiskey] brand. OLD-TIMERS GAME is an [Event featuring sports stars of yesteryear]; I'll take the puzzle's word for it that this is an actual thing. The final scramble is in SAUSAGE ROLL, or [Pastry sold at pizzerias].

What I liked:

• 50D. TOFFEE gets a weird clue: [Chewy coating for an apple]. Naw, that's caramel. TOFFEE is delightful, but I haven't ever seen a toffee apple. If I did, mind you, I would pay good money for it. Num. Toffeeeee.
• 15A. [Dame who's a hoot] is Dame EDNA Everage. The most hoot-associated of all the EDNAs who show up in crosswords, for sure.
• The combination of the CAT ([Litter box visitor]) and FETAL ([Like an unborn baby's position]) reminds me of these little fetuses made of polyfleece and stuffed with catnip.
• 12D. Nobody loves a plural first name answer, but CARLAS goes au courant when clued as [France's Bruni-Sarkozy and others].
• 22D. The ORANGE is a [Tropicana fruit]. Technically, I'm more of a Copacabana girl.

I wasn't so fond of the abbreviations (ORIG. DEPS., Athens airport code ATH, ASST. D.A., LT. GEN.) and partials (A BITE, A PAR, ARE UP) but overall, a solid Tuesday presentation.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy/Washington Post Puzzle, "Foodies"—Janie's review

Well this was one surprisingly odd solve. And I'm not sure I mean that in the kindest possible way. Martin's finely crafted puzzles ordinarily delight me; today's left me confounded. The theme is very straight-forward: food last-names of four high-profile types from different walks of life. They are:

• 17A. CONDOLEEZZA RICE [She preceded Hillary Clinton]. A great and scrabbly name, to be sure—15 letters, too. But she appeared as theme fill just less than two weeks ago (also clued in connection with H.C.), which kinda diminishes the impact of her appearance today. Sorry, Condi...
• 24A. KEVIN BACON ["Loverboy" star]. Star and director. A project the whole family looks to have been involved with. Until today, never heard of it...
• 46A. HALLE BERRY ["Catwoman" star].
• 59A. "MEADOWLARK" LEMON [Basketball's "Clown Prince"]. He was new to me, too, but not the Harlem Globetrotters, whom he played for.

"What's her problem? What's wrong with the theme?" Everybody's reasonably well-known; and yes, all of the surnames are foods—but not in any way that adds coherence to the theme as a whole. Or in any combination that sounds palatable. I kept hoping for something that would tie these disparate ingredients together, and did have a modicum of success finding recipes combining rice and bacon, e.g., or rice and lemon, or wheatberry, rice and lemon. But it shouldn't take a scavenger hunt to try to synthesize the elements of the theme. So that's my problem.

That said, I did appreciate the amount of (what I see as) theme-related bonus fill. In a puzzle about food, we get [Twinge], which takes us to PANG, which leads me to think of "hunger pang." What does a hungry person do to attend to that pang? In an ideal world, s/he [Chows down]/EATS. Perhaps some BRIE [French cheese]—and shares with an AMIE [French friend]. [Then there's MAPLE clued as [Syrup flavor], conjuring up blueberry pancakes topped with maple syrup. Meadowlark Lemon comes into play once again, this time as a [Drink garnish], or PEEL. And how is all of this served up? Why, it's [Easy ___ ] AS PIE (not to be confused with AS PER [In accordance with]).

I think I'd have preferred seeing "THE SWAN" (a tv show I'd never heard of...) clued in connection with mythology's Leda or the Molnar play rather than the poorly-rated [Fox reality TV series of 2004], which one viewer described as "a shrieking abomination of a show." Well, I suppose the pairing does have some kitsch value...

Several clue/fill combos I did like include: [Winter coat?]/SNOW (for the wordplay), [Poise]/APLOMB (because aplomb is a great word, being tied in as it is with plummet and plumb line), and [Brought forth, as a memory]/EVOKED (this combo has a nice, poetic feel). The puzzle isn't without its merits. The theme as executed today, however, simply isn't not one of them. Imoo, of course.

Bruce Venzke's Los Angeles Times crossword

Did you ever notice that the entry **TSUP can be completed with two permutations of the same pair of letters? I filled in CATSUP before seeing the clue, [Acts bratty], indicating ACTS UP.

The theme entries are clued with [Suffering writer's block]: If you are COMING UP EMPTY, FRESH OUT OF IDEAS, and DRAWING A BLANK, your creative endeavors may not be progressing well. These woes can strike crossword bloggers, too. A few highlights:

• ARMY MULE is a [Military mascot]. Like its fellow lively 8s TOP-NOTCH and EATS DIRT (and the less exciting INDEBTED), ARMY MULE hooks two theme entries together.
• 10-Down PASTA is a [Carbo-loader's choice] and Dr. ATKINS was the [Diet guru who wouldn't have recommended 10-Down]. Mmm, carbs.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Mixed Reviews"

Was this puzzle uncommonly tough for a Jonesin' or was I just sleepy last night when I solved it? I was too tired to blog the crossword by the time I finished it. The theme is movie titles clued by their anagrams, in the guise of what a reviewer might've said. I'm fond of anagrams, but when the answers aren't familiar and the clues don't give much away (other than which letters are in the answer, in some order), it's tough. I've heard of 2.5 out of the five movies:

• 17A. I know there've been a few Madea movies by Tyler Perry, but MADEA GOES TO JAIL? Not ringing a bell. The clue is [Review #1: "I, a male? A good jest."]. The MADEA part was signaled by the clue (Madea is Tyler Perry in drag), but the JAIL portion? I had no idea.
• 23A. [Review #2: "Filmy ennui, sir."] clues MY LIFE IN RUINS. No idea what this movie is.
• 36A. [Review #3: "O, burn!"] clues BRUNO, this year's Sacha Baron Cohen movie.
• 43A. ["Review #4: 'Dat the 'S.N.L.' fool?"] points towards the Will Ferrell (ex-SNLer) movie, LAND OF THE LOST
• 53A. [Review #5: "Re-perks, eyes mist"] relays zero information about the movie. Lemme look up MY SISTER'S KEEPER. Oh, it's that one. Tearjerker about a girl conceived to serve as a tissue donor for her ill sister. OK, the clue does provide salient information. The title made me think it was a horror movie for some reason.

I see a couple dictionaries telling me that blowsy and blowzy work for 39D: [Unkempt], but BLOUSY...isn't that a casual word describing anything that blouses out like a blouse?

I knew 27D: [___-1 ("Ghostbusters" vehicle)] right off the bat—my son plays the Ghostbusters video game and tells me about ECTO-1.

Not a fan of the answer Y KEY. 24D is clued [You can't type "you" without it]. The Y KEY? Boo! I don't want to see 25 other _KEY answers popping up in crosswords.

Took me a while to summon up CLORETS, the 40D: [Breath mints brand since 1951]. No wonder: Wikipedia tells me "It is widely available in South America, the Middle East and South East Asia. The largest markets for Clorets are in Mexico, Thailand, Egypt and Japan." I haven't seen CLORETS in years.