November 26, 2009

Friday, 11/27/09

CS (Janie)
WSJ (Sam, separate post)
CHE 4:14 (joon, paper)
BEQ 5:33 (joon, across lite)

Hi, everybody! PuzzleGirl here continuing the Thanksgiving Weekend Potluck here at the Crossword Fiend. Amy is off somewhere without internet access which, seriously. I don't even like to talk about it. It must be what hell is like. Our electricity was out yesterday for about three hours and all I can say is Thank God For My iPhone. Not sure I would have survived without it.

Ed Sessa's New York Times crossword puzzle

So what do we have going on today? Well, this week's Friday themeless NYT is pretty fun. I finished it in a little over half an hour, but just knew there was something wrong up there in the NE corner. The doctor's name [DENTON] was somewhere waaaay back in my brain, but when it made it all the way up to the front of my brain it was spelled Dennon. Which made 11D look like it was going to be SNAP-something for [Fasten with a click], right? Perfectly reasonable! But then ... it didn't work. So I tried enable, because an E in that spot seemed okay even though it gave me an artist named Libpi, who is, unfortunately, equally as known to me as Fra Filippo LIPPI. So 11D went from SNAP ON to ENABLE to the finally correct STAPLE. What else did I have trouble with up there? IDA seemed like a good name for a county in Idaho and since there was nothing resembling ARISTOS at 8A [British V.I.P.'s, to Brits], the I seemed perfectly fine to me.

More trouble spots for me include the NW where I had DOGS instead of BOGS for [Things near Baskerville Hall]. Obviously, thinking "The Hound of the Baskervilles," right? And I can never remember how to spell [1950s-'60s NBC host] Jack PAAR's name. I've convinced myself that it's the more "normal" Parr, so I get it wrong every time. I have the same problem with Ryan O'Neal and Tatum O'Neal. I know how Shaquille O'Neal spells his name so every time I'm faced with Ryan or Tatum, I can never remember whether it's the same as Shaq or different. (The only reason I got it right this time is that I looked it up.)

I like all three of the long answers: A WING AND A PRAYER for [Hope born of desperation] is awesome. A LEG TO STAND ON for [Justifiable basis for one's position] is typically only referred to in the negative, right? As in "He doesn't have a leg to stand on." And TURKEY LEFTOVERS for [Post-Thanksgiving fare]? Let's just say I'm totally looking forward to those tomorrow!

Also enjoyed seeing LOW MAN as a figurative figure on a totem pole, and colloquial phrases like LET 'ER RIP ["O.K. ... go!"] are always welcome.

Dan Naddor's syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword

Ya know, there have been times when I've thought to myself "This puzzle has an old-timey feel to it." Well, today is definitely one of those times. This one is chock full of puns on things from, well, centuries ago! Looks like Dan finally decided to go medieval on us!

  • 17A: Medieval commuter between Dover and Calais? (CHANNEL SERF [surf]).
  • 22A: Medieval castle owner's view? (BARON [barren] LANDSCAPE).
  • 34A: Manages medieval real estate holdings? (MINDS ONE'S MANORS [manners]).
  • 46A: Medieval lord's efforts? (FEUDAL [futile] ATTEMPTS).
  • 53A: Weapons for medieval warriors? (KNIGHT [night] CLUBS).
Seems to me the LAT is continuing the trend of raising the difficulty level. There weren't a whole lot of across answers I could get with none of the crosses in place, and that's usually a good indication of difficulty level for me. Of course it might just be because of the five long theme answers and the funky, chopped-up grid, but whatever. It felt a little more difficult than we've seen the last couple months and that's a good thing.

Not a lot really jumped out at me on this one, but that's probably because I'm in a turkey coma and it's late. So I'll just mention a few things and then get my butt to bed.

  • I've never heard of Jack OAKIE [Jack of "The Great Dictator"] and am going to guess that's age-related.
  • KENYA is a [Country known for its distance runners]. Have any of you read the new book about the Indian tribe in Mexico that runs barefoot? I think it's called Born to Run. Ah yes, here it is. I haven't read it yet, but it looks pretty interesting. One of the main points the book makes is that the worst thing a runner can do is buy expensive, overly engineered running shoes. If you're interested in running, check it out.
  • I know how much people love to see rappers in the grid, and today we get two! NAS ["Thugz Mansion" rapper] and DIDDY [Bad Boy Records founder, as he's now known]. I will never — ne-Ever — understand why he wants to be known as DIDDY. Just doesn't make sense to me.
  • And, finally, I'll leave you with this musical interlude. Hope you enjoy it. [Cereal bit] = FLAKE.

Tyler Hinman's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Internal Dialogue"—Janie's review

Taking the cruciverbal baton from Patrick, Tyler continues with another puzzle that has the puzzle's key concept word embedded in the theme phrases. Yesterday we had multiple opportunities to eat; today, as we learn at 37A., we have several ways to SPEAK [A synonym for it can be found inside this puzzle's four longest entries]. By way of an "internal" word for "dialogue," we can chat, talk, jaw or yak. And here's how it's done:

• 17A. PITCH A TENT [Set up camp]. I like the way chat spans the three words of the phrase.
• 23A. "MORTAL KOMBAT" [Violent video game franchise that debuted in 1992]. Wanna guess what I've never played?... This game is available, btw, through SEGA [Company that released the unsuccessful Saturn and Dreamcast consoles]. Gamers probably knew this, but it was news to me that not only is there a "Superman" video game, but there's also "'Mortal Kombat' vs. DC Universe" in which Superman is a featured player—which I mention because of the [Comics character with a secret identity]/CLARK KENT combo that's also in the puzzle. I do like the skillful way Tyler uses fill skewed to younger solvers within well-tried theme ideas. Same goes for:
• 46A. NINJA WARRIOR [Japanese TV import involving obstacle courses]. If you say so. It is for real (you can even watch full episodes on line), the base phrase is solid, of course, and at least I have heard of "The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."
• 57A. "GO FLY A KITE!" ["Buzz off!"]. See 17A. for why this one also appeals.

Though it's not in infinitive form, as I read it, we also get a bonus with SEZ [Utters, informally], first person singular of say...

I was surprised to see SOWN clued as [Placed, as seeds]. When I think of something being "placed," I see it being done in an orderly way—and often seeds are "placed" very carefully in the ground or in containers. But when they're sown, they're scattered or strewn, no?

And I have to wonder if there's an "anger management" issue being hinted at as a sub-theme. After all, the grid presents us with TIRADE [Angry outburst] which crosses RIOT ACT [It's read to a misbehaving child] (please, oh please read the kid a fairy tale instead!). Additionally, there's [Gets in a lather] for RILES and [Battling] for AT IT. (I was actually relieved to see EAT AT clued not in connection with annoyance but quite directly as [Go to, as a restaurant].) What's the source of the anger? Sometimes we direct it at ourselves when we [Mess up], or ERR; sometimes it's directed at others, like the pitcher who [Messes up on the mound], or BALKS.

My suggestion? "Breathe in green; breathe out blue." Listen to music that soothes you, like maybe an OPERA [Diva's setting] or a single ARIA [Diva's highlight]; make like a tourist and visit a museum. MoMA, perhaps? Yes, it's an [N.Y.C. attraction...] but it's not only [...for aesthetes] (thinking here of the negative connotation of the word).

Oh—and thanks for (the) MEMORY/[Something's that's banked?]. Some days mine seems to be double-locked in a seriously subterranean vault.

Did you know CINC? It's clued as [Prez] and I needed to look this one up. It's an acronym not unlike POTUS (President of the United States). Except this time the letters stand for Commander in Chief. Oh—and on the topic of acronyms, I smiled to see FIAT [Italian carmaker that recently partnered with Chrysler]. Seems those letters have come to stand for Fix It Again, Tony...

Ed Sessa's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "Natural Progression

happy day after thanksgiving, everyone. joon here with the lowdown on two more puzzles today. we get a double dose of ed sessa today, as he pairs his clever subtly-themed NYT with a nice CHE puzzle whose theme is a "natural progression" given by the puzzle's seven circled three-letter answers. it's a word latter from APE (14a, [Beginning of a natural progression]) to MAN (70a, [End of the natural progression]). the word ladder goes APE -> APT -> AFT -> OFT -> OAT -> MAT -> MAN, but the five words in the middle are all embedded in longer entries:

  • to [Change with the times] is ADAPT.
  • [Glider's booster] is an UPDRAFT.
  • a [Marshmallow], metaphorically, is a SOFTY. i like this word, but i think i'd normally spell it SOFTIE.
  • [Thick breakfast] is OATMEAL. this is the only one where the embedded word is etymologically related to the longer entry. i didn't really mind, though.
  • my favorite of the theme clues was [Stick in a book] for MATCH. great misdirection there! not only does it sound like a verb, but you don't normally think "matchbook" when you see "book."
to top it off, the two longest answers in the puzzle form a two-part companion to the theme: the [1859 publication concerning this puzzle's natural progression] is darwin's THE ORIGIN / OF SPECIES. that's 150 years ago; wikipedia tells me it was published on november 24, so this is an anniversary puzzle of sorts (or at least, the closest that the CHE could get given its once-a-week basis). very cool. what else was notable about this puzzle? the crazy plural MENISCI [Cartilaginous crescents] is not often seen; MENISCUS, of course, is common enough, although i associate that word with graduated cylinders and/or capillary rise rather than connective tissue. (i know it means both, but i've just finished teaching the unit on surface tension, so the latter meaning is on my mind.) speaking of irregular plurals, i wanted [Forearm bones] to be ULNAE, but it's ULNAS this time. the crossing letter is "Ambition should be made of STERNER" stuff from julius caesar; that's a good shakespeare quote. there were a few unfamiliar clues and answers. ["Gift from the Sea" author Lindbergh] is ANNE. [19th-century African-American congressman Joseph] is RAINEY; that's the sort of academic trivia i love about the CHE puzzles, but i had no clue on this one. it was all crosses. and the word that gave me the most trouble was CAUSERIE, an [Informal chat]. never heard of it, and i was waffling on C vs L for the first letter, where it crossed NFC, clued as [The Minn. Vikings belong there]. once i had the rest of the letters, though, C looked much more likely. Brendan Emmett Quigley's themeless blog crossword brendan goes asymmetric with this 64-word themeless, resulting in very smooth fill for such a low word count. i liked CALLED IT, ["As I predicted"], best, but overall the fill was more notable for lack of crap than for brendan's usual pizzazz. there were some pained inflections, of which my least favorite was REMELT, and a couple of abbreviations i didn't like (NAV for navy being the worst), but it's really quite clean for a grid this demanding. clue of the year nominee: [Pass the bar, perhaps] for TEETOTAL. loved it! i also liked how the miami HEAT, clued as [2006 NBA champs], are opposite in the grid from WADES, or [Gets cold feet?]. anybody who watched the 2006 NBA finals knows that dwyane WADE (we really need to get his crazy first name into more puzzles) carried the HEAT to the title that year with an insanely dominant postseason.