November 15, 2009

Monday, 11/16/09

BEQ 4:50
LAT 3:12
NYT 2:43
CS untimed

James Mulhern and Ashton Anderson's New York Times crossword

This pair of cruciverbal newcomers have crafted a puzzle with an "_OCK AND ___" theme:

• 17A. COCK AND BULL is [Like a story that can't be believed].
• 27A. [Military strategy during the 2003 invasion of Iraq] is SHOCK AND AWE.
• 45A. [Subject of a 1950s "revolution"] is ROCK AND ROLL. I don't think rock was the "subject" of the revolution—I think it was the engine that drove the revolution.
• 61A. LOCK AND LOAD is clued with [Prepare to use a rifle].

A novice puzzler in my living room found the common ANDs to be helpful. This is why it's a Monday theme and not a Wednesday theme. The novice thought she wouldn't get too far in the puzzle, but she actually polished it off in a matter of minutes. Thank you, Monday puzzles! You help lure people into the crossword habit, give them their cruciverbal sea legs.

Updated Monday morning:

Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "K-K-K-KT"—Janie's review

One of the most enduring songs to have emerged from the World War I era was "K-K-K-Katy," also known as "The Stammering Song." With a wink to that title, Ray has found four well-known phrases whose first word ends with the letter "K" and, with great success, has "re-purposed" them to end with the letter "T." So, doing the K/T swap out:

• 17A. Pack of lies becomes PACT OF LIES, a [Worthless agreement?] containing a pack of lies, too, no doubt.
• 11D. Track record turns into TRACT RECORD, a [Log of land sales?]. This example and the ones that follow are more successful for me as they go farther afield from the context of the base phrase.
• 25D. Duck hunting metamorphoses into DUCT HUNTING, or [Looking for new gutters?]. This one is sounds plain silly and I love it for that.
• 50A. Pickpocket changes to PICT POCKET, [Where an ancient Brit kept his wallet?]. Not only silly but conjures up a strong image. Although... did you know that the Picts (among other peoples) are reputed to have been unclad warriors? Some say that they are known as Picts for the body-paint that covered them... I think my favorite line from the first linked article is the observation that the down side of naked combat is that "the combatant misses the practicality of hiding/carrying objects in pockets attached to clothes." Knew that "tract" could get this discussion back on "track"!

There's some very nice longer, non-theme fill that deserves mention. First the playful sounding, symmetrically-placed pair: DOO-DADS [Gizmos] and BON-BONS [Chocolate goodies]; and then the symmetrically-placed cinematic pair: tv WESTERNS ["Bonanza" and "Gunsmoke"] and WARNER [Surname of Hollywood brothers] fave PORKY PIG [Stuttering cartoon character] (who would have been right at home singing "K-K-K-Katy"...).

While its roots are in the word for "entreaty" and its first meaning has to do with prayer, I loved seeing the word LITANY, which is also accurately defined as a [Long list] (as in a "litany of complaints"...). Other fill/clues that caught my fancy would include:

• PANCAKE [Flapjack]
• OLD SALT [Ancient mariner]
• IVY [Wrigley Field wall covering] crossing IVES [Currier's lithography partner]
• NOT clued as [Undoing word], as in, "Tampa Bay's Bucs look to be having a great season so far. NOT!" Apparently they're having trouble meeting requirements related to their [Passing goals (abbr.)] TDS.
• JAUNT [Pleasure trip]
• SPLAT [Pie in the face sound] (We saw this not too long ago clued in connection with the sound an ice cream cone makes when it hits the floor; both work fer me.)
• And while I'm not wild for SHOER [Village smithy, e.g.], [Writer of sweet words?] for ICER really delights me.

Nancy Salomon's Los Angeles Times crossword

The title for this puzzle could be "Doing It in Grand Style," as each theme entry adheres to the "___ing [synonym for big]" format:

• 17A. WALKING TALL is [Striding self-confidently].
• 60A. LIVING LARGE is [Enjoying an extravagant existence].
• 11D. AIMING HIGH is [Shooting for the stars].
• 29D. TALKING BIG is [Carrying on conceitedly].

The theme's straightforward, so I'm not quit sure why this puzzle took me as long as a Wednesday crossword. I derailed partially with SUGAR BEET in lieu of SUGAR CANE ([Crop yielding a common sweetener]), and [Whammies] didn't shout HEXES at me like a [Bad spells] clue might've. I also didn't quite know that the [Game in which "bullets" can be whatever card you decide] is called ACES WILD. Deuces wild is more familiar, and it's got a definition link on Google, whereas "aces wild" doesn't. Not that this is the most reliable indicator of a phrase's solidity, but I've heard of deuces wild while aces high is more familiar to me than aces wild.

A few two-word answers:

• 53A. WAS ON is clued as [Aired, as a TV show].
• 46A. "TAKE THAT!" is [Words while delivering a blow]. 4D: MAKE TIME has the somewhat ungainly clue [Provide a schedule slot (for)]. I think the 8-letter TAKE and MAKE phrases swirled around in the theme part of my brain with WALKING and TALKING and made it a little harder for the theme to stand out clearly.
• 42A. ICE AX is a [Climbing tool for frozen surfaces].

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Monday"

No time to blog now! In short:

• Terrific topical long answers, GOING ROGUE, BALLOON BOY, and SWINE FLU VACCINE. PENIS ENVY isn't topical, but also sparkles.
• Yay for a return to "Themeless Monday"!
• Boo to fill like U-TWO (the band always uses a numeral) and ONER, and to a couple clues. OVA aren't exactly [Places where it all began]—they're wee little cells. The Fallopian tubes and the uterus feel more like the "places" to me. OXIDE is clued as [Iron compound]. While iron oxide is a compound, this just feels wrong to me—oxides are oxygen compounds, no? Chemists, please explain.