October 06, 2009

Wednesday, 10/7/09

Onion 5:29
BEQ 4:42
NYT 3:27
LAT 2:29
CS untimed

Timothy Wescott's New York Times crossword

America's pastime! Glorious baseball! It's that time of year, when the excitement grows to a fever pitch!

Yeah, I don't really care about baseball, so the "wow!" factor of this puzzle drops down a notch for me though I expect others will ooh and aah over the pictorial representation of their beloved BASEBALL DIAMOND (57A), where a WORLD SERIES GAME (20A) will necessarily be played. At the appropriate places, there's a MOUND (42A: [Center of a 57-Across]) and then all four bases (HOME, FIRST, SECOND, THIRD) rounding the corners in V-shaped segments of circled squares. The fill is surprisingly decent given the constraints of three-way checking and those two 15-letter theme entries locking things down. Plus! The first and last letters of SECOND base appear in symmetrical points within 20A.

Favorite answers and clues:

  • 10D. SPYGLASS is a [Hand-held telescope]. We have a brass corporate swag SPYGLASS but never remember to spy on the neighbors with it.
  • 4D. BEDLAM is [Pandemonium]. Both words are perennial favorites of mine. (As are vex, jettison, and flotsam.)
  • 5A. EMMAS, a plural first name answer, is saved by the literary trivia quiz of [Austen and Flaubert heroines]. Austen's Emma, Flaubert's Madame (Emma) Bovary.
  • Football corner! SACK, PRAY, and YELL sit atop the GAME in 20A. And then the Chicago [Bear's landing place?] is 26D: O'HARE Airport.
  • 45A. [When repeated, statement after an explosion is "TEMPER, temper."
  • 9D. [Pen filler] clues SHEEP. It's frustrating when the wool gunks up the ink, isn't it?
  • 41D. SEE BELOW is just goofy enough as a crossword answer to be good. It's a [Referral for further information].
  • 49D. Oh, ROB! I didn't even see [Laura's 1960s sitcom hubby] when working this puzzle.
Nominee for people's least favorite crossing: The X where AXON, or 58D: [Dendrite's counterpart], meets AXIL, or 64D: [Botanical angle]. The existence of a botanical ARIL (seed covering) threw me for a moment.

No, wait. Maybe it should be where people meet, not scientific terms. 54D: [Actress Kruger and others]? Well, there's Diane Kruger, but that won't fit. ALMAS? Who is Alma Kruger? Is she new? No, she was born in 1868. Her first letter crosses 54A: [Finnish architect Alvar ___] AALTO. I know my vowel-rich crosswordese architect names (Ieoh M. Pei, Eero and Eliel Saarinen, Alvar Aalto), so Alma could not hurt me.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Bridge Keepers"—Janie's review

No. Not like the troll in "Three Billy Goats Gruff." Instead, each of today's two-word theme-phrases contains (keeps) a word that can be followed by bridge. The results of the first three entries are related as they each describe something that spans two points; the last... takes a different approach. Taking it from the top:
  • 20A. [Migration vehicle] COVERED WAGON → covered bridge. Here's a really scenic one in New Hampshire's Franconia Notch State Park—probably getting close to looking just the way it does in this picture.
  • 27A. [Claim jumper] LAND-GRABBER → land bridge. Think of Alaska and Russia and the Bering land bridge, which is believed to be the way peoples from Asia made their way over to North America in the days before there were ocean-worthy "migration vehicles."
  • 43A. [Waxed string] DENTAL FLOSS → dental bridge. This one may be a tad too clinical, but... mod'ren dentistry can do some amazing things. You won't be able to use dental floss between your dental bridge teeth, but don't neglect the rest of your pearly-whites! (While it's clued as [Surface decoration]—and it is—INLAY is also a dental term referring to a cavity-filling process. Here's a link for [probably more than you want to know about] crowns, inlays and bridges.)
  • 50A. [Place to do one's bidding] AUCTION HOUSE → auction bridge. This is the only non-physical bridge in the lot and is instead a variation on the standard bridge card-game—although, if I understand correctly, auction bridge is a bridge itself of sorts, between standard and contract bridge. Works for me.
What else works for me? Well, it seems Ray has this barnyard mini-theme going. Going sequentially from [Farm sound] to [Farming song refrain], we have the pig's OINK and E-I-E-I-O. It's not impossible that Old McDonald also had a BRANT, a [Small dark goose] running around, or collected STUD FEES [Thoroughbred breeding costs] on the side. (He might've had a thing for racing—ya never know...) We know he had chicks, whose parents certainly made use of the ROOST (the cleverly clued) [Night stick?] come sundown. And sheep—and perhaps a CORGI [Welsh canine] to assist with the herding the sheep or, yes, the chickens. (TIM ["Wild Hogs" costar Allen] was not in a movie about four-leggeds, btw, but about motorcycle enthusiasts. From what I've heard, this movie is for cyclying fans only...)

[Serious drinkers] SOTS are followed by [Serious ceremonies] RITES. Seems to me there are many not-so-serious drinking rituals. Here's something that should help to ELUCIDATE—an illustrated list of 21 drinking rituals from around the world. Is it my imagination or does more than one of these resemble an ORGY [Wild party]?

Lee Glickstein's Los Angeles Times crossword

(Taken from my L.A. Crossword Confidential post.) Last Wednesday was mustaches; today we have an unusual collection of 15-letter answers (all rock-solid) that start and end with A. The Wednesday puzzles are still skewing easier than one might have expected (solidly Mondayish in difficulty), but maybe the Wednesday themes are a bit more inventive than the Monday and Tuesdays? Thursday and Friday L.A. Times puzzles just irk me because I want them to be markedly more challenging, the way they used to be. And then I cry on Saturday when a themeless puzzle rolls in at Monday difficulty. But Wednesday! It's not a grievous assault on nature for Wednesdays to be this easy.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: [49th state's largest city] (ANCHORAGE, ALASKA). Can you see Russia from there? Maybe from the rooftop?
  • 27A: [E.M. Forster classic set in fictional Chandrapore] (A PASSAGE TO INDIA).
  • 47A: [Classic Italian "farewell" song] (ARRIVEDERCI, ROMA). '50s movie musicals are not remotely in my wheelhouse, but the title is eminently familiar. I think I thought it was a song title, not also a movie. Here's the title tune.
  • 63A: [Two-part drama that won two Best Play Tonys and a Best Miniseries Emmy] (ANGELS IN AMERICA). Incredible play—I saw the HBO adaptation. Here's the scene where James Cromwell as an M.D. gives Al Pacino as Roy Cohn his AIDS diagnosis (adult language warning):
  • 39A: [Houses with sharply angled roofs, and what this puzzle's four longest answers literally have in common] (A-FRAMES). Now, one could argue that this clue could have dispensed with everything after the comma, requiring the solver to ponder what the four long answers have in common, lay eyeballs on A-FRAMES, and have an epiphany about what the theme entailed—but for a puzzle that's now shooting at Monday easiness, the solver's asked to do less thinking.

Brendan Quigley's Onion A.V. Club crossword

Each theme entry takes two NBA players and smushes them together into one new phrase:
  • 17A. [John McCain, after not shaving for a few days?] is a GRIZZLY MAVERICK.
  • 23A. The SUN KING is not only an established phrase, it's [Louis XIV's nickname], hence no question mark in the clue. There's some inconsistency here because this one not a newly concocted phrase.
  • 34A. WIZARD MAGIC is [Merlin's expertise?]. What is one member of the Orlando Magic called? Is he a Magic the way a Washington, DC, player is a WIZARD?
  • 50A. NET BUCK is clued as [Busker's take-home after paying for a street performance license, say?]. Would anyone ever claim to have "a net buck"? Feels stilted.
  • 56A. [Albert Ayler, e.g.?] is a JAZZ TRAILBLAZER beyond my ken. He was, apparently, an OHIOAN (61A). As with 34A, I question the combination of JAZZ + singular TRAILBLAZER—but the phrase is lovely and laden with Zs. (Plus GRIZZLY and WIZARD also bring Zs to the game.)
Hot word of the day: QUIDNUNC, or 10D: [Busybody]. It's an archaic noun I've never had cause to use, from the Latin for "what now?" Last answer I figured out—and that only after I had it filled in and stared at it: WHITE ZIN, or 34D: [Pink blush] wine. I was parsing it as one word, as makeup or skin tone. The last square was the T in 49A: [Dis opposite], or DAT. I was thinking of dis, the verb, not this wid a D sound.

For me, this one was on the challenging side for an Onion puzzle. How about you?

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Rotation—Make that sideways"

Put this in the category of "puzzle titles you should pay attention to": the answers to the five question-marked theme clues are familiar phrases in which the Ns have been rotated 90° to become Zs. PAT BOOZE, or [Alcohol that's exactly right?], plays on straight-arrow Pat Boone. A crane operator on a construction site turns into CRAZE OPERATOR, or [Fad runner?]. [What the bearded lady has?] is a FUZZY FACE (funny face). The L.A. Times crossword had both NIT and ZIT, and this puzzle converts one into the other with HAS A ZIT TO PICK, or [Sporting a whitehead?]. Ick. The alliterative [Vermin's verve?] clues RAT'S ZEST (nest). It took me a while to see what was going on in the theme entries, what with paying no mind to the title, but when I saw boozy Pat Boone in the puzzle, the payoff was good. Seven Zs in this puzzle, six in BEQ's Onion puzzle.

Please don't grumble that PAT BOOZE and basketball's Carlos BOOZER cross. They're not the same word. BOOZER clued as a sot would be a duplication; this isn't.

Favorite clues: [Overnight] shipping is NEXT-DAY. [Court do-over] is a RETRIAL, as this is not a tennis court we're talking about.