March 13, 2008

Friday, 3/14

NYS 5:47
LAT 5:46
NYT 5:31
Jonesin' 4:22
CHE 3:45
CS 3:39

WSJ 7:16

Spring break is coming! Whoo-hoo! Goin' to Florida! Wearing short sleeves without a winter coat! Avoidin' the beaches! (The in-laws have a pool.) I'll be off the grid this weekend, so Al Sanders will blog about the Sunday puzzles and Dave Sullivan will handle the Monday duties. I want you all on your best behavior—don't give these fine gentlemen any trouble, you hear now?

If you've been reading Linda G's blog, Madness...Crossword and Otherwise, swing by to say hi and bye—Linda's taking a break from blogging. Hopefully she'll find the time to return to the crossword blogosphere soon.

The Friday New York Times crossword is a 70-word themeless from Kevin Der. My favorite entry would be METONYM, ["The White House" for "the Presidency," e.g.], if it weren't for good ol' 61-Across—"UH-OH, SPAGHETTIOS!" The clue confused me for the longest time. In [Refrain from eating pasta?], refrain is a noun, not a verb. Cute entry! Its A crosses MARYJANE, clued as a [Small round sponge cake topped with fruit and whipped cream] (?) rather than the Tom Petty song or pot. The other cake clue is [They're seen around some cakes] for the not-so-tasty SOAP SUDS. [One who doesn't chew the fat?] is SPRAT (though of course, the other SPRAT could eat no lean). I like DECENT's cue, [Ready to receive visitors, say]. And [One known for finger-pointing] for UNCLE SAM. I think crosswords have taught me that "long green" is slang for money, so [Long green box] had to be ATM. To [Choose not to pick?] is to STRUM a guitar instead. I rather like [In up to one's neck] for DELUGED, but only if it's metaphorical.

Three main answers in the "Huh?" category: Never heard of this building, [Los Angeles's ___ Tower] or U.S. BANK, but with a few crossings it wasn't too hard to guess. Perhaps Kevin Der or another of you MIT grads can explain why [M.I.T.'s class ring, familiarly] is BRASS RAT. Who is this [Preacher Beecher] named LYMAN? He sounds like a real S.O.B., but was the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Patrick Blindauer's New York Sun puzzle isn't as challenging as many Friday Suns, but it's as fun as a pajama party. (And it's still tough, just not killer tough.) The "P.J. Party" theme swaps Js for Ps and vice versa. It's a tight theme: Two J-for-P changes, two P-for-J changes, a central entry in which the P and J trade places, and absolutely no Ps or Js elsewhere in the grid. All of theme entries nicked my funny bone. Pedicures? No, JEDI CURES! And a WANDERING PEW that won't stay put. A JIGGY BANK is a [Place of interest for wildly exciting dancing?]. Jam-pack turns into "PAM, JACK," which might be overheard when Pam Grier and Jack Klugman are introduced. Toughest fill/clues: ERINYES, or [The Furies]; BLACK MARIA, or [The queen of spades, in hearts]; AJA, ["High Tension" director Alexandre] and not the Steely Dan album; [Bill of divorce, in Jewish law] for GET; [Echo punisher] for HERA; and [Its flag consists of a crimson St. Andrew's cross on a white background: Abbr.] for ALA. Favorite clues and answers: HAD OVER; EYE CONTACT; [A student's pride] for GPA (about an A student, not "a student"); [Warp zone?] for LOOM; [Sneakers from long ago?] for NINJAS; [Arab's greeting] for NEIGH; [Diplomacy, for example] for a board GAME; and "I'M READY." How fun

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Wiig Party," alludes to Kristen Wiig, a comedian and actress who's on Saturday Night Live, with a pun on the Whig political party. ("Wiig Party" is the puzzle found via Cruciverb's Jonesin' PDF link on Thursday—the Java link is for a different crossword.) Six theme entries contain puns spun off from the names of other SNL cast members past and present. There's Amy POEHLER BEAR (plus my first name included within AMYL and spelled variantly as AMI elsewhere in the grid, and Amy Tan mentioned in the WRITERS clue—if I had a more outsized ego, I'd suspect blogger pandering here) for polar bear, Will FERRELL CAT for feral cat, Horatio SANZ OF TIME (sands of time), Jane IRON CURTIN (Iron Curtain), Jay GIVE ME MOHR (more), and Bill PLAYER HADER (player hater). Favorite bits of fill and cluing: SCHNOZZ; FRIZ Freleng of animation fame; [It holds one of your balls] for TEE (golf!); ["Buns of ___"] for STEEL; ["Million Dollar ___" (2006 "Simpsons" episode featuring Homer's dad)] for ABIE (not an "Abie's Irish Rose" reference for a change!); [Give a skeezy look] for LEER; and [Stick in the trunk] for STOW (not OLEO—and saying that is now making me think of Last Tango in Paris, unfortunately).

[Vasectomy sound] is Matt's clue (or his editor Matt Gaffney's clue) for SNIP. Now, I know it's colloquially referred to as "getting snipped," but is there an audible snip? Can anyone confirm or deny? Because an audible snipping sound would be alarming, I'd think.


The title of Dan Fisher's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Wherein the Green," sounds like "wearin' the green," and GREEN is inserted into base phrases to create each theme entry. English horn is tinted green to make ENGLISH GREENHORN, someone just learning English. [Scraps of a torn dollar bill?] are QUARTER GREENBACKS. There are eight of these theme entries, each with a satisfying little "aha" moment of its own.

Lee Glickstein and Nancy Salomon teamed up to make the LA Times crossword. I filled in the explanatory theme answer, EFFORTLESS, after I had just one of the other four theme answers. I had FRENCH DIP instead of FRENCH PAS, which didn't help shine a light on the theme. And then I parsed the explanation as "eff- or t-less" and began looking for missing F's or T's from the theme entries. Er, no. Effort = TRY, and TRY was lopped off each theme phrase. POE IN MOTION, poetry. FRENCH PAS, pastry. Aha!

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy crossword, "Turnaround," inverts three "__ of the __" phrases. Enemy of the state turns around to become STATE OF THE ENEMY, or [Foe's condition?]. Tons of smooth and lively fill of the longish variety, such as TALENT SCOUT, "GET REAL," the THREE R'S, SURINAME, and PETER PAN.

Mike Torch's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Solidarity," summons up geometry knowledge. The five theme entries end with solid shapes: PYRAMID, CONE, SPHERE, CUBE, and CYLINDER. Wow, I've never heard of an armillary sphere. Astrolabes and orreries, yes, but not this doodad. Hooray for gettable crossings!