December 01, 2009

Wednesday, 12/2/09

NYT 4:38
BEQ 4:04
Onion 3:57
LAT 2:59
CS untimed

Jack McInturff's New York Times crossword

I've noted before that Jack McInturff's fill tends to run old-school, and this puzzle is in that vein. The theme involves a letter change from H to W, as in HASTE MAKES WASTE ([Advice to the rash, and a hint to this puzzle's theme]). In the other theme entries, an H in a familiar phrase becomes a W:

• 17A. PICTURE OF WEALTH is clued as [Bill Gates snapshot?]. Base phrase is "picture of health."
• 28A. [Banshees' boast?] is SO PROUDLY WE WAIL. So Proudly We Hail is a 1943 movie, and part of a lyric from "The Star-Spangled Banner.'
• 39A. BASE WIT, playing on base hit, is a [Comedic soldier during training?].
• 47A. [Words to estate attorneys?] is HEAD FOR THE WILLS. "Head for the hills" is familiar, but legal documents are a weird thing to "head for," aren't they?

Among the fill that's reminiscent of '80s crosswords are these words: AGHA, or [Turkish V.I.P.]; N-TEST, or [Mushroom producer, for short]; ARLENE [Francis of "What's My Line?"]; ENOS, [Son of Seth]; OAKIE, or [Jack of "The Great Dictator"]; LADES, or [Does dock work]; ILEA, or [Sections of digestive tracts] ("Let's all put our ILEA together and see if we can't come up with a solution that works for all of us"); RAJA, or [Big Indian]; [Mata ___] HARI; SKAT, the [Game with 32 cards]; and ESSO, the [Old Sinclair rival]. Two or three of these are plenty for any 15x15 crossword. The biggest blast from the past is ASE, [Mother of Peer Gynt]. She says, "You may remember me from such crossword clues as ['___ Death']." Pop culture tidbit from Wikipedia: Extracts from "Åse's Death" are played in a Simpsons while Norwegian workers are leaving their town. This may mark the first time this blog has wielded an Å.

I'm not familiar with O'SHEAS Casino, the [Irish-themed Vegas casino]. Apparently it targets gamblers in their 20s and 30s and features a heavy metal star's tattoo parlor. I'm guessing Celine Dion doesn't sing there and that there's no fancy art gallery. Don't recall seeing [Pikake garland] as a LEI clue, though the only other common 3-letter garland is the boa.

There are two women with Ys in place of Is. LYNDA, [Actress Carter who was once Miss World USA], is best known for portraying Wonder Woman. SYD, usually clued as Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett, is clued as the [Lead role on "Providence"]. Remember that show? Ran from '99 to '02? Her dad was played by B.J. Hunnicutt.

Deb Amlen's Onion A.V. Club crossword

In Deb's theme, phrases that begin or end with double-E words turn into double-O words:

• 21A. [Golfer?] is a WOOD WHACKER (weed whacker). Let us not speak of Tiger Woods, whose Escalade whacked a tree.
• 26A. [Stress of being strapped?] is POOR PRESSURE (peer pressure). Topical!
• 43A. [Jerky doctor's office combo?] might be SHOT AND A BOOR (shot and a beer).
• 50A. [Prize for the ultimate sulk?] is BEST IN BROOD (best in breed).

Oniony highlights:

• [Teeny problem?] is ACNE, a problem for teens (among others). A unit of ACNE is a ZIT. Watch out for the kilozit.
• [Buck passers?] clues ATMS. Is this a new clue? It stumped me, so I feel as though it is.
• [His middle name was Milhous] refers to Richard NIXON, not Milhouse Van Houten.
• "YEAH, SURE" is a terrific entry. The clue is ["I bet!"].
• BRAS are [Support systems, of a sort].
• "I'M ON FIRE" is the [Springsteen song that starts, "Hey, little girl, is your daddy home?"]. The "little girl" part sounds creepy.
• Unfamiliar OHIO clue: [Kent State tragedy song].
• The F-BOMB! Another great answer. Clued thus: [One might get dropped, to everyone's shock].

You know, Deb's got a humor book coming out next June: It's Not PMS, It's You.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "In Position"—Janie's review

Ya gotta think very literally with this one as the first word of each of the theme phrases corresponds to its position in the grid. In today's case, that also mean that those terrific theme phrases are all oriented vertically. And they are:

• 4D. LEFT HEMISPHERE [Brain area]. Yes, this map of the human brain is sexist and wrong but it still makes me laugh. This map is more to the point.
• 7D. MIDDLE-AGE SPREAD [Weight gain, of a sort]. Not a pretty subject, but the fodder for lotso "humor"...
• 16A. RIGHT VENTRICLE [Heart part]. Here's a cutaway view.

As you probably know, I tend to take a lot of enjoyment in (what I perceive to be) mini-themes and connections within the grid—and today's puzzle delivers nicely. Two of the theme fill are anatomical (referencing the brain and the heart), but look: there're also optical allusions with CORNEA [Pupil's cover] and EYED [Gave the once over]; and [Win by ___ ] A NOSE. That's nothin' to sniff about!

There are ethno-geographic connections, too, as the grid contains ASIA [ ___ Minor]; and from Southeast Asia, HANOI [Vietnam's capital] and [Vietnam's] NGO [Dinh Diem] (who was assassinated in 1963). (Have you ever wondered about Asia Major? While it's not a term we ordinarily use, it's east of Turkey and Asia Minor, and refers to the "heartland of the Persian Empire.") From Europe, there's FLORENCE [Italian city on the Arno]; and from Mexico, AZTECS [Montezuma's people]

Another set of connected fill contains exhortations: the JEERS (and not MEOWS) for [Catcalls], the NOES [Refusals] and "EGADS!" the [Edwardian outburst] ("Edwardian" standing in for "quaint"...).

And in "sacred" territory, there's DIES IRAE [Solemn hymn], MITER [Bishop's hat] and even betrayer-Apostle [Judas ___ ] ISCARIOT.

When I saw SAFE SIDE [Cautious people try to stay on it], my first thought was that it was more theme fill. SNOW TIRE [Winter traction provider] proved not to be a symmetrical match, however, so let's chalk up the former to "bonus fill." To be on the safe side, let's also hope that as the inclement weather driving-season approaches, your snow tires have lotso good tread on 'em—especially for any STOP-GO driving you may have to do!

Ed Sessa's Los Angeles Times crossword

Especially in the Monday-to-Wednesday stretch, there are so few crossword themes that feel new, so this one's a delight. The phrase RAIN CATS AND DOGS can be parsed another way in the punctuation-free zone of the crossword grid: as if it's three entities, RAIN, CATS, AND DOGS. Those three entities are clued by the other three theme answers, which are clued straightforwardly. Kind of the multi-level marketing scheme of crosswords.

• 17A: [*Nightly news show segment] is the WEATHER FORECAST. In Seattle, the forecast often includes rain.
• 27A: [*Big Apple show] clues BROADWAY MUSICAL. One musical I've never seen is Cats.
• 49A: [*1955 Disney animated film featuring Darling Dear] is LADY AND THE TRAMP. Lady and Tramp are both dogs.
• 65A: [Come down in buckets; also, when applied in sequence to the answers to starred clues, this puzzle's theme] clues RAIN CATS AND DOGS. RAIN in the forecast, CATS on Broadway, AND DOGS in the cartoon.

For fill highlights and videos featuring the legendary Pete Seeger, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald, please hop over to my L.A. Crossword Confidential post.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "The In Crowd"

In Brendan's post, he says his test solvers thought this puzzle was super-easy, suitable for solving Downs-only to avoid having the puzzle be merely a speed test. I would have been in a total snit if I'd read and followed the "go Downs only" advice because it wasn't all that easy. Maybe other people are finding this a Monday-level venture, but it hit Thursday medium for me.

Perhaps I'm just slow today, because the 35A clue says "two show up in this grid unannounced," but the only DINNER CRASHERs I can find (TAREQ and MICHAELE) are clearly announced as being 35-Acrosses. Are there other hidden answers the 35A clue is referring to? WHOLESALE PRICES and FAIRBANKS, ALASKA don't seem to contain "dinner crashers." What am I missing? (Edited to add: Brendan explains that the crashers' last name, SALAHI, is hidden in stacked halves in WHOLESALE/WAHINE and FAIRBANKS ALASKA/TAHITIAN. What, we're supposed to know the spelling of their first names and what their last name is? Boo!)

I like the GLAMOR/ENAMOR combo, but not the OKED/I'M OKAY pair. Hey, where are the quotation marks of sarcasms in the FEMA clue? [Hurricane Katrina helpers]? Really? Unless the implication is that the agency helped the hurricane carry out its mission. That would be the Army Corps of Engineers, though.

Plenty of Polynesian action today. The Hawaiian word KAHUNA is clued with [Big ___ Burger (fictional chain of "Pulp Fiction"]. WAHINE is a [Female surfer] or a Polynesian woman/wife (esp. in Hawaii and New Zealand). And TAHITIAN is the [Language that gave us the word "tattoo"].