November 17, 2009

Wednesday, 11/18/09

BEQ 6:58
NYT 4:35
Onion 4:29
CS untimed (J)/3:44 (A)
LAT 3:14

Paula Gamache's New York Times crossword

This keeps happening—my kid has a hard time falling asleep, and in the effort to set a good example for him, I get so dang sleepy that when I rouse myself to do the NYT crossword, I'm not at full speed. The wheels did not spin at their usual clip, and stray typos find their way into the grid more easily than they find their way out. I had "CAN O?" ([Childish plea], CAN I) crossing OCHABOD ([Washington Irving's Crane], ICHABOD), and didn't see it until the grid was filled. Then when I fixed that, my grid was still wrong—BOY TOT/RET instead of BOY TOY ([Young stud])/REY ([Palacio resident]). Adjacent-key typos, my nemesis today.

The theme hinges on a poker phrase, which is something I often find alienating. The [Five-card draw variation] and hint to the theme answers is JACKS TO OPEN, but man, I was stuck on the last letter. (See? Tired.) "JACK STOOPER?" I asked myself. The other four theme entries begin with words that can follow an opening JACK:

• 17A. HAMMER THROW is an [Olympic track-and-field event]. Jackhammer.
• 30A. FROST/NIXON is a [Play and film about a noted 1977 series of interviews]. Jack Frost, nose-nipper. FROST/NIXON is a great-looking answer, isn't it?
• 36A. [Loosely woven cotton fabric] is CHEESECLOTH. Monterey Jack cheese is often called Jack cheese.
• 44A. [Indoor dipole antenna, colloquially] clues RABBIT EARS. Jackrabbit. If you're like me, you always see "rabbi tears" (and "superb owl" for that NFL game).

Ten quick clues:

• 27A. ROTI means [Roasted, in Rouen].
• 35A. DEICE a plane to [Make ready for winter flight].
• 57A. NOOSES are [Causes of some untimely ends]. That's dark.
• 2D. HIALEAH, Florida, is a [Historic racetrack site]. Is it no longer so?
• 3D. ARMAGNAC is an [Eau de vie from Gascony].
• 11D. MAALOX completes ["___ moment" (ad catchphrase)]. Oprah does not lay claim to the Maalox moment.
• 22D. An ARIETTA is a [Short opera piece].
• 25A. Ford MODEL A'S were [1903-04 cars sold only in red].
• 39D. HOUSE PET is a [Collar wearer, often]. Kinda wanted this to be PRIEST.
•42D, 63D. [Roll call response] is PRESENT in, perhaps, a classroom, and NAY in a legislature.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Go Ahead, Shoot!"—Janie's review

I'm happy to say today's title has nothing to do with firearms, in case that's what you were thinking. That imperative is also something you might say when you want you listener to tell you something. Or ask you something. Today it's the latter, and the colorful theme phrases all start with a word that also describes a particular kind of query. The phrases are unified, too, by the clue and fill at 63A., [Objection elicitor, and what the first words of 17-, 26-, and 47-Across could be doing]—and that would be LEADING QUESTION, and LEADING "QUESTION." The additional questions in question are:

• 17A. Trick question, by way of TRICK OF THE TRADE [Professional's shortcut].
• 26A. Burning question, from BURNING RUBBER [Peeling out].
• 47A. Loaded question, which comes to us from the great phrase LOADED FOR BEAR [Livid]. Never heard the expression before and love making its acquaintance. It sure has a lotta character.

So, too, does the cluing, which keeps the play in "wordplay." F'rinstance, the sequential linked-pair [Absent animation] for the lovely LANGUID and [Animation still] for the oft-seen noun CEL. Not only do we get the repeated word in the clues, but something that's "still" is also "absent animation." So we get some double-play action here.

Then we get both [Coiled choker] right next to [Coiled coif], or a BOA beside a BUN. With vocabulary that shows up as often in puzzles as these words, it really is refreshing to have cluing that shortchanges the solving process. Like [Undying dying words] for ET TU, or [Promise at the table] for OLEO (where "Promise" is the brand-name noun and not a verb), or [Net sales?] for E-TAIL (where "net" is short for "internet" and not the opposite of "gross"), or the lengthy but lyrical [Where to house cows once they browse] for BARN.

Other combos that appealed (by no means exhaustive): [Short pants?] for TROU (think about it...), [The same partner] for ONE (ditto), and [Concluding letters for proof reader] for Q.E.D. That's the reader of a mathematical proof and the letters stand for quod erat demonstrandum meaning "which was to be demonstrated."

Fave crossing today: SCHWA [Stress-free sound symbol] (ə) and "SH-H!" [The sound of "Silence!"]. If I omitted your faves, by all means: speak up! ([Ladies in wooly cotes] EWES, anyone?)

Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword

As usual on Wednesdays and Saturdays, this writeup is drawn from my L.A. Crossword Confidential post.

The theme could be called "Barflies"—Six famous people's last names form new phrases or compound words with BAR. Here are the theme answers:

• 18A: [*"Seven Year Ache" country singer] (ROSANNE CASH). My high-school reunion had a cash bar.
• 20A: [*"All I Wanna Do" singer] (SHERYL CROW). Crowbar. I just reviewed (for work) another puzzle with a theme of female vocalists that included both CASH and CROW, so I couldn't help expecting the other theme entries to follow suit. Nope! In that other puzzle, I changed the clue to include this song instead of some other song I'd never heard of. Good call, right?
• 32A: [*Longtime "American Bandstand" host] (DICK CLARK). The Clark Bar is, it as good as a Butterfinger? I do like me a Butterfinger bar, and I ate all the minis my kid got for Halloween.
• 45A: [*Notable member of The Second City improv group] (JOHN CANDY). The Clark Bar is a candy bar. Rex Parker feels it's redundant to have both generic CANDY BAR and specific CLARK BAR in this theme. My feeling is that you can never have too much chocolate, and that Rex's suggestion (in the comments at L.A.C.C.) that Barbara Hershey and the fictional Veronica Mars could have joined Dick Clark is a good one (if only the word lengths matched up—and if only there were a famous person with the surname Snickers).
• 59A: [*French writer who befriended Chopin] (GEORGE SAND). Don't ground your boat on a sandbar. This is the only theme person who's more high culture than pop culture.
• 63A: [*"The Mark of Zorro" star (1940)] (TYRONE POWER). A Power Bar is one of those horrible things I never eat. I hear people like them.
• 65A: [Happy hour site, and word that can follow each last name in the answers to starred clues] (BAR).

With 63 theme squares, you expect to tolerate a few "blah" entries in the fill. I dunno. This one felt a little heavier on "blah" than usual for a Dan Naddor puzzle: L-DOPA, UTA, L.I.U., ENID, ADE, ADJ., K.P.H., the weird ANC. (Short for "ancient"? Not the much more famous African National Congress?), MAU, SEP., and TRAC are the sort of answers a constructor isn't striving to use, just ends up using to make the fill work.


• 42A: [Bette's "Divine" nickname] (MISS M).
• 50A: [Time-share units] (CONDOS). Hey! Plenty of us city-dwellers live in condos year-round. Are the suburbanites unaware of this? Is it the New Yorkers who ruin everything, by "buying apartments" rather than "renting apartments"/"buying condos"?
• 10D: [Bach work] (TOCCATA). I don't know classical music much, but this answer always makes me think of veal. (Piccata.) Which I don't eat.
• 21D: Gibraltar landmark (ROCK). This gave me a chance to include a photo of Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson in my L.A.C.C. post. He sure was cute in that Disney movie, Game Plan.
• 30D: [King Arthur's meeting spot] (ROUND TABLE). This is where King Arthur hung out with Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley, at the Algonquin.
• 43D: [Chat idly: Var.] (SHMOOZE). I prefer the schmooze spelling.
• 46D: [Official emergency status] (CODE RED). My kitchen was at code red last week. It's down to the standard code orange now.

Tyler Hinman's Onion A.V. Club crossword

Tyler's theme is "potentially disastrous neighbor"s, #1 through #5: Your MOTHER-IN-LAW (I'd be fine with mine living nearby, honest), a smelly RENDERING PLANT (I would move), a SEX-CRAZED COUPLE (I highly recommend hearing loss so you won't hear them), a CRYSTAL METH LAB (eek), and PUNK ROCKERS (hey, it's fine so long as they're not rehearsing at home).

Favorite clues/answers:

• 6A. KITES are [Some quadrilaterals].
• 14A. I like the German in the clue [Unterwasser vessel], but it makes me want the answer to be U-BOOT instead of U-BOAT.
• 56A. COLD gets clued in a sporting sense: [Not shooting well]. Basketball, not guns, right?
• 2D. The ABO blood grouping system is a [System that helps you determine if someone's your type].
• 13D. [Animal that hisses], 5 letters, ends with E...SNAKE? Try a GOOSE.
• 27D. [Back], adverbially, clues IN REPLY. "In reply," of course, is the adverbial form of the adjective "in rep."
• 42A. Hey! Fresh ELBA clue: [Porto Azzurro's place].
• 60D. The NFL is [Ochocinco's org.]. His number, of course, is 85. What would your Spanish number name be?

I thought [Iranian city, or its river] would be QOM rather than QUM, but there's no unterwasser O-BOAT. Did you know the city—a holy city and a center of learning for Shiites—can also be spelled KUM?

Updated Wednesday evening:

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Letter Rip"

The theme involves ripping a letter into two, but it's hard to visualize this in Across Lite or if you print your answers in capital letters. The breakage involves lowercase letter strokes:

• 18A. [Huge scissors?] are the BIG clIPPER. See how a lowercase cl, when squished together, looks like a lowercase d? The Big Dipper is the original, pre-ripping phrase.
• 20A. Double Dutch is a jump-rope game. DOUBLE clUTCH is clued as [Extremely reliable under pressure?]. Not too familiar with clutch as an adjective. Is that a sports usage?
• 38A. [Cornfield bunched together?] is CROP clUSTER (crop duster).
• 55A. [Starting up a digital stopwatch?] is LOADING clOCK (loading dock).
• 59A. [Muhammad Ali?] is BOXING clAY. Excellent combination of the Boxing Day holiday that people in other countries may celebrate after Christmas and boxer Muhammad Ali's birth name, Cassius Clay. I didn't love the rest of the theme, but I'm glad it built up to this one. If this one had come first, the rest would've felt like a letdown.

Brendan labeled this one medium difficulty, but it smacked me like a hard puzzle. Toughest spots for me:

• [Snatch beneficiary] is a DELT, or deltoid muscle.
• TEN CC is the British rock band at 39D. Boo! It's 10cc, just as U2 is not spelled U-TWO. I don't recall "I'm Not in Love" at all, but "The Things We Do for Love"? Oh, yeah.
• My Star Wars-fu is down. The scoundrel in 21A is LANDO Calrissian. I barely remember the movie he was most prominent in, so I tried JANGO Fett first.
• That 1D-2D-3D group of two-word phrases that we don't see much of in crossword grids.
• At 56A, wanted [Athlete's handlers: Abbr.] to be MGRS or MGMT instead of AGTS. Abbreviations that only save one or two letters are dumb. (See also Jun., Jul.)
• The answer for [Knocker holder] is incorrect. It should be DDCUP, not DCUP.