December 03, 2009

Friday, 12/4/09

CHE 5:51
NYT 4:17
BEQ 4:15
LAT 3:58
CS untimed
WSJ 7:30

The Oregon/Oregon State football game is on TV right now. Jacquizz Rodgers just had a 14-yard rush. Husband reports that Rodgers is only about 5'8" so he might not make it to the NFL. But I want him to be famous enough to appear in a Karen Tracey crossword!

Martin Ashwood-Smith's New York Times crossword

Martin Ashwood-Smith, a pioneer in triple-stacking 15-letter entries, returns with a smooth sextet of 15s. (Minus two points for having ONE'S in the middle of two answers.) Here are the long ones:

• 1A. AS OLD AS THE HILLS means [Antediluvian].
• 16A. [It's served in parts] clues a THREE-COURSE MEAL.
• 17A. OUT OF ONE'S LEAGUE means [Completely unqualified for competition]. Terrific, in-the-language phrase.
• 50A. [Framing need] isn't about picture frames—it's a TRUMPED-UP CHARGE. I have a slight preference for the plural of this, but the standard crossword isn't 16 squares wide so this will do. Why plural? If you're taking the trouble to frame someone, surely you can come up with multiple trumped-up charges.
• 55A. WATERLOO STATION in London is a [Railway terminus with the Victory Arch].
• 56A. OPENED ONE'S HEART is clued as [Became emotionally receptive].

None of these entries is on the list of the most common 15-letter NYT answers, so the whole triple-stack enterprise feels fresh.

Mystery people! I had three of 'em tonight. 27A: ROSA is ["The Accumulation of Capital" author Luxemburg]. She was a "was a Polish-Jewish-German theorist, philosopher, and activist" who cofounded the Spartacist League in Germany in 1914. 40A: JOSH WHITE is [Singer of the 1940s blues hit "One Meat Ball"]. I have to say, that's one meatball too many for me. 48D: IGOR is [Real-estate tycoon Olenicoff]. He's still a billionaire despite losing a couple hundred million bucks.

Comments on other answers and clues:

• Not crazy about the short two-worders. 29A: "DO IT!" is clued with ["Get cracking!"]. 1D: [Rafts] clues A TON. And 3D: ["... ___ go?"]—what is that, Morse code? The ellipsis replaces "for here" and the blank's filled with the partial OR TO.
• 35A. TASTE BUDS! [They may be excited by dinner]. Lively answer.
• 11D. [Laugh syllable] is HEE. (And 31D: HAHAS is [Music to a comic's ears].) If you are typing "he" as a laugh syllable, I must insist that you stop immediately. "Hee hee" and "ha ha" are laughs, "heh heh" has a less jocular air. "He he" or "hehe"? That's no laugh—that's a pronoun for a gay male couple.
• 15D. SLEETIER is clued as [More like a cold shower?]. I Googled the word and the first 60 hits gave the impression that this is not a word anyone actually uses, but on the seventh page, lo and behold, we find that the word appears in a Ted Hughes poem, "Tractor". I will use the word in a sentence that contains another phrase in the poem: "Sleet is SLEETIER than cast-iron cow-shit."
• 29D. I wanted the [Perilous place] to be AT DEATH'S DOOR, but that doesn't fit. It's a DEATHTRAP.
• 30D. Medieval! [Competition among mail carriers?] is a JOUST—mail as in chain mail.
• 32D. [The second part] is STAGE TWO. That feels arbitrary.
• 37D. Excellent use of the definite article in THE SHAH, a [Leader exiled in 1979].

My nomination for trickiest crossing is the M where 46A and 46D meet. ["___ Fate" (Andre Malraux novel)] crosses an [Unstable particle]. MAN'S and MUON, but if you're thinking the Malraux title will include a proper name or a common noun and you're not up on your atomic particles, DAN'S, FAN'S, JAN'S, and NAN'S don't look completely implausible. Heck, the author's got a French name, so why not "SANS Fate"? (Thank you, puzzles I have done previously, for teaching me the word MUON.)

John Lampkin's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Baroque Embellishments"

Boy, pun themes are hard when you're not that familiar with all the words in the answers, when the base phrases are more oblique, and when the sound changes are a mixed bag. I gather than the theme entries end with two baroque dances and two forms of baroque music:

• 17A. [Baroque dance full of hostility?] is BITTER ALLEMANDE. I think this is a play on "bitter almond," with an added vowel syllable.
• 27A. [Eco-friendly baroque dance?] clues GREEN BOURRÉE. Bourrée? This is not a regular part of my vocabulary. Lovely sound play on "Green Beret," though. The first vowel in the dance shifts from "beret."
• 46A. [Baroque song that's less than a masterpiece?] is THE O.K. CHORALE (the O.K. Corral). Okay, that's kinda funny. Great sound-alike play.
• 61A. [Offering at the Baroque Music Hotel?] is A ROOM WITH A FUGUE. Wait! FUGUE and "view" have markedly different pronunciations. This one doesn't feel close enough for solid punning, especially not with 27A and 46A's closer sounds.

Gotta love a puzzle that includes the [Burp]/ERUCT combo, though. (Still holding out for BORBORYGMUS to make an appearance somewhere.)

Trickiest clue for me: [One that goes to school regularly] for BUS. "That" was a tip-off that we're not looking for a person, which would be "who," but I contemplated fish here.

Updated Friday morning:

Doug Peterson's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Goth Milk?"—Janie's review

Wow. The last time we had a Peterson puzzle was just over a month ago, but I have to say: it was worth the wait. Doug's given us an "add a letter" theme, which we're familiar with. But in contriving an "add an 'H' to a word ending in 'T'" approach, he's managed to come up not only with a very humorous title but also a great variation on this familiar trope. Look what happens as:

• 17A. Vampire bat + h → VAMPIRE BATH [Tub shaped like a coffin]. The visual leap from beginning to end is what gives this one its punch. (And that is one scary lookin' creature—yowzuh.)
• 27A. Slot machines + h → SLOTH MACHINES [Exercise equipment for lazy people]. The perfect complement to "lose weight while you sleep" pills...
• 44A. Wrestling mat + h → WRESTLING MATH [Subject covered in "Geometry for Grapplers"?]. Or: Jane vis à vis higher numbers...
• 59A. Boot polish + h → BOOTH POLISH [Diner owner's spiffer-upper]. Anyone else grow up in a home where every two weeks, for purposes of spiffing up, the furniture got a going over with Jubilee Polish?... Seems it's no longer available, but that's the recollection this clue and fill brought to mind.

Other goodies in the grid:

• [Mad scientist's milieu] LABORATORY and (speaking of mad scientists) ["Young Frankenstein" assistant] IGOR.
• [Its color indicates rank] KARATE BELT.
• Phrases TAGS UP [Touches a base on a fly ball] (oh, great—only four months til opening day...) and "TRY ONE!" ["Have a sample!"].
• THUMP clued as [Soundly defeat] (with the emphasis on sound, no?).
• The colloquial contexts for "UNFAIR!" ["You cheated!"], "I CAN'T!" [Defeatist's cry] and "HEY!" ["What's the big idea?"].
• The group of "heads of state" types: SHAH [Former Iranian monarch], EMPEROR [Nero, for one] and TSAR [Erstwhile Russian sovereign]. (Each was part of a DYNASTY of sorts, though not the [Joan Collins TV series]). I'm guessing that only the tsar (as a child anyway...) may have had a head-covering with an [EAR-FLAP] detail. It gets pretty nippy in Mother Russia—and that can be a nice [Winter cap feature]!

Jack McInturff's Los Angeles Times crossword

My son's friend is coming over for a play date (no school today) any moment, so only cursory blogging this a.m. Theme entries have a CK inserted into them. E.g., [Take down by Tinker Bell?] is a FAIRY TACKLE. The theme answers tended to feel a tad strained to me, though, and the little hitches in the fill (SFC, not SGT, for [Army E-7: Abbr.] and CLK for [Court recordkeeper: Abbr.]) were found mainly among the 29 3-letter answers in this grid. Offsetting the 3s are the pairs of 9-letter answers that intersect two of the five theme answers—that's a lot of real estate occupied by the nine longest entries. Favorite clue: [Former pen pal?] for EX-CON.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Tiger Trap"

As I said in a comment at Brendan's blog, this week's easy BEQ puzzles all require an obsessive attention to tabloid-ready names that aren't remotely inferrable if you haven't been following the stories closely. I knew 20A/ELIN NORDEGREN, but the other women? They have weirdly spelled first names and/or uncommon last names (like Wednesday's couple, Michaele and Tar...eq? Salihi). This gives today's puzzle the air of a quote puzzle in which the quote's half in Hungarian. I didn't know if 28A should be parsed as KALI KAMOQUIN (no) or KALIKA MOQUIN (yes). JAIMEE GRUBBS or JAIME E.? RACHEL UCHITEL? Uchitel? Sounds like a Japanese hotel chain.

B'NAI BRITH and QUINTUPLE are lovely, but there weren't enough such entries to grab me today. Thematic SCANDAL is balanced by nonthematic E.B. WHITE, and thematic LIE by nonthematic MIN. With 26 3-letter answers (NEA! KEA! MEA! UBI UZI!) and old crosswordese ISTLE ([Agave fiber]), I say boo to this puzzle. I'm sure I'd have loved it if I were closely following the Tiger Woods scandal, but I'm not, so...half-Hungarian quote puzzle.

Looking forward to a "Themeless Monday"!

Patrick Blindauer's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Scrambled TV Signals"

Hey, this is a fun puzzle. All of the theme entries are TV show titles in which one word's been anagrammed, changing the gist of the show. For example, Arrested Development becomes SERRATED DEVELOPMENT, or [TV show about a breakthrough in knife research]. I had part of DEVELOPMENT and set to work pondering anagrams of ARRESTED that could relate to knives. The game show Deal or No Deal becomes LEAD OR NO LEAD, a [TV show about a filling station choice]. Retro clue—didn't leaded gasoline disappear in the '70s? Also retro: cluing SSR as [Moldova, e.g.: Abbr.]. Moldova hasn't been an SSR since '91.

Favorite clues, answers, and combinations:

• 73A. [Possible reading of a Brannock Device] is EEE. Clue sounds medical, but the Brannock is the metal shoe-size doodad in the shoe store. I like how EEE crosses EERIE.
• 43A/44D. [Foe of Popeye] SEA HAG meets HAGEN, [Golf legend Walter].
• 24A/14D. CLARITIN crosses CLARETS—[Allergy medicine brand] and [Some red wines].
• 83A. A [Cel body] is a TOON, or cartoon character.
• 36A. DO SHOTS! That's to [Toss back some Stoli, say].
•  96A. CHALUPA! A [Taco Bell offering] I've never tried.
• Longer fill that shines includes SOFT SELL, RIFFRAFF, DAME EDNA, and LOSE SLEEP. (Should've clued SLOTHS as something other than [Arboreal sleepers], though.)
• 121A. Au courant clue for TBS: [Home of George Lopez's talk show]. I should watch that.
• 77D. [Ball-bearing creatures] are trained SEALS balancing a rubber ball on their snouts.
• 103D. YELLS is clued as [Makes a long-distance call].