September 06, 2007

Friday, 9/7

NYT 6:18
Jonesin' 5:01
NYS 4:48
LAT 4:19
CS 3:32

WSJ 8:01

Well, the New York Times puzzle is on the tough side for a Friday, but much less tough than last Friday's! Barry Silk has packed his 70-word grid with a slew of Scrabbly entries. For starters, that pack of Zs in the middle involves three double-Z answers and two single-Z ones—we've got the UTAH JAZZ and FRIZZLE ([Curl tightly]) crossing FUZZY MATH, the [Approach to arithmetic that emphasizes underlying ideas rather than calculations]—wha? QUARTZ (which is [Tiger's-eye, essentially]) reaches upwards from the Z circus to cross QUI VIVE, the [French sentry's cry]. Elsewhere there's GORE-TEX and TWINKIE, and FJORD partying with the JAZZ.

Favorite and/or interesting clues and/or entries: the colloquial I REPEAT and BE GENTLE; [Purely physical] for BRUTE, as in strength; [Court] for SUE; the German [When Holle freezes over] for NIE, meaning never; [Fat cat] for MONEYBAGS; [Make tracks] for the verb RECORD; [Concavo-convex lens] for MENISCUS in this sense, though the word also means some knee cartilage that my brother-in-law had surgery on; [Memphis's locale] for the NILE in Egypt; [One raised on a farm] for BARN (who doesn't love a good barn raising?); [Schwarzenegger title role] for CONAN, giving Conan O'Brien the day off; [Hides from the enemy, say] for ENCODES; SHIATSU massage ending with a U; [Old sticker] for the old, old SNEE (what I wouldn't give for an OLEO clue that came right out and called it an old word); [Helped someone get a seat] for VOTED (not USHED, which I tried first); [Abbr. before many state names] for USS, as in the U.S.S. Maine and other ships; CRANKED up; [One beaten by a beatnik] for BONGO; [Not split] for STAY; and [No. of People?] for CIRC, as in magazine circulation. I tried to do a little fuzzy math on 45-Across, [If it's regular, each of its angles is 144 degrees]; hmm, it's more than 90 degrees, so it's beyond a square and has got to be a something-GON—DECAGON, it turns out. Oh! Remember the other weekend when I didn't much care for the verb BLARNEYED in the hidden-head puzzle with the EARs and EYEs and whatnot? [Blarneyed] pops up here as a clue for COAXED.

Frank Longo's Weekend Warrior is the first of three planned asymmetrical themeless puzzles the New York Sun is publishing this fall. The top and left sides of the grid have triple-stacked 15-letter entries (making that upper left corner a tour de force in crossword construction), the right side has double-stacked 15s, and the bottom has black squares cutting the space into shorter answers. It turned out to be a little on the easy side for a Weekend Warrior.

I started with a lucky guess that SULTANATE OF ____ would work for 2-Down (OF OMAN, it turns out), got AFLAC to cross it, and the rest unrolled from there. The 15s include fresh phrases I don't recall seeing lurking in previous triple-stacks—AS I UNDERSTAND IT, "A BUSHEL AND A PECK," IT TAKES A VILLAGE (great clue: [One of Clinton's titles]), DOESN'T MAKE SENSE, and IMMEDIATE DANGER.

My favorite clues: [Circle's lack] for ENDS; [Nurses, e.g.] for FEEDS; [Failed to abstain] for USED (as in "He thought he could quit the sudoku, but he's still using"); [It lobbied for MLK Day to become a national holiday] for the NEA, presumably meaning the National Education Association rather than the National Endowment for the Arts; and [Barcelona busts, e.g.] for ARTE. [Part of UT] was the clue for UNIVERSAL; perhaps it refers to Universal Time? I don't know anything about Universal Time, but who's not fond of Hammer Time? I quaked to think of what sort of Google hits I'd get for a bearded tit search, but just this bird, the [Bearded ___ (reedling)]. DOIS was clued as [Number between um and três]; here, you can quiz yourself on your knowledge of Portuguese numbers. I'd never heard of [Sports journalist Hammond of the Golf Channel], INGA. Worst entry: CO-LED, clued as [Chaired jointly]; it seems awfully jargony, but I suppose this is the price to pay for having only three black squares interrupting the highway of white squares zooming around the grid's periphery. I like clever clues, but I don't care for clues that posit a particular bit of dogma, as in [Big race's starting point?] for EDEN. I am not a Biblical literalist, and crossword clues that dis Lucy are pesky.

This puzzle's asymmetry did not in any way impede my enjoyment of the puzzle. There'll be more on symmetry and the lack thereof in the next post.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle, "Whackronyms: familiar phrases, incidental initials" expands one abbreviation I've seen (PITA as a short form for PAIN IN THE ASS) and two I haven't (NOT UP TO SNUFF and TALK OUT OF TURN). I don't think any of these entries are intended to represent phrases that actually do get abbreviated, but that PITA is handy sometimes. Favorite clues: [Book that makes you look] for WHERE'S WALDO; [Smack ___ the head] for UPSIDE; and the cross-referenced French and German opposites clues for OUI and NEIN. Newer-generation fill: HOTTIE and PRICK.


The title of Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Behest Behavior," might make you think there's an EH or HE added to each theme entry, but as it happens, they're all straightforwardly clued phrases that end with words that mean "behest." Knowing the constructor's propensity for making pangrams (puzzles that contain every letter of the alphabet at least once) and having already used Q and X, I was on the lookout for a Z in the last corner I was working on—but Patrick skipped the pangram chase this time. (Which is fine! Totally fine!) I take issue with [Ineffectual types] being clued as NERDS. What, do nerds make ineffectual engineers and writers? Call them socially ineffectual if you must cast aspersions, but ineffectual in general? I think not.

I just looked up ineffectual in the Mac OS X Dashboard widget that combines a dictionary and thesaurus. I asked lexicographer Erin McKean what online thesaurus she recommended, and she said she used this one and, in fact, had worked on it. I tested it out by looking up terrific and boring, and it disgorged two to three times as many synonyms as Roget's II online. So OS X users, rejoice! (Alas, it's not a website so I can neither copy and paste the text nor provide a link to it. But when I'm writing, boom, it's right here.)

The LA Times puzzle by Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke offers this quip: IF YOU GAVE / HIM A PENNY FOR / HIS / THOUGHTS, YOU'D / GET CHANGE. Favorite and/or notable clues and/or answers: [Auto repair company since 1971] is CAR-X—that X looked wrong after an R. [Teamster's pair] means OXEN—Teamster is mainly used to mean a unionized truck driver these days. (Another antiquated term with an updated meaning is livery—originally it had to do with a stable of horses used to pull carriages and whatnot, and now the word seems to apply mainly to limousine service.) Speaking of unions, there's [Union jack?] for DUES—clever! [They're stereotypically green] means ETS, or extraterrestrials. [Make malteds, e.g.] is JERK—as in soda jerk. [Short turns?] are REVS—short for "revolutions," as in revolutions per minute, or rpm. [Plain] is usually an adjective, but here it's the noun SAVANNA. [Fish dish] is SUSHI—anyone else try to think of a 5-letter cooked fish dish? I had to Google afterwards to understand [Beavers, perhaps] as a clue for hats. Beaver fur hats? Nope: felted beaver fur, popular before silk hats took over. [It's not good to be left in it] means the LURCH.

Randolph Ross's Wall Street Journal puzzle is called "Double-Crossed" because a double-T gets inserted into each theme entry's base phrase. [Eskimo parkas and the like?] are FRIGID ATTIRE, [Lewinsky works out a lawsuit] is MONICA SETTLES, and there are six other theme answers. Good crossword! [Two-cup container] is BRA—so how come nobody ever calls a bra a pint? I'd say more about other clues and answers I liked, but I promised myself I'd finish solving and blogging by 9:00, and it's 9:03 already so I've got to run. (Or not run so much as edit.)