April 24, 2008

Friday, 4/25

NYT 5:32
NYS 5:28
LAT 5:26
CHE 5:16
CS 3:26
Jonesin' 3:12

WSJ 7:01

I've shorted myself on sleep for the last two nights and am off to a late start on the Friday puzzles (on Thursday night!), so I don't trust myself to solve the Friday Sun in a sentient fashion tonight. In the morning, with all the rest.

Mike Nothnagel's New York Times crossword was right in my Chicago wheelhouse. There's NAVY PIER, the [Landmark on the Chicago shoreline]; Henry HYDE, [1995-2001 Judiciary Committee chairman]; and ex-Cub Sammy SOSA, [Future star athlete who debuted with the Rangers in 1989]. Chicago's Field Museum also has the Sue skeleton, Sue being one of those T. REXES ([Some natural history museum attractions]). This 68-worder is dressed up with a mini-theme of sorts, the 24-letter phrase "PENNY WISE AND / POUND FOOLISH" split among two entries. Those are crossed by the [Long-running Art and Chip Sansom comic strip] THE BORN LOSER and [Fictional secret agent] MAXWELL SMART, and all four of these long answers hook up with chunks of 8-letter answers in the corners of the grid in a lovely sprawling fashion.

Favorite clues (and there are quite a few of them):

  • [Tournament organizer's concern] is BRACKETS. I also considered TOP SEEDS.
  • [Simple inflorescence, as in a lily-of-the-valley] is a RACEME. Don't you love botany quizzes?
  • ["___ Kommissar" (1983 pop hit)] is completed by DER. "Alles klar, der Kommissar"! Here's the truly insane MTV video that I probably saw dozens of times in '83. Also from the '80s: ["T.J. Hooker" actor Adrian] ZMED.
  • [Food described in Exodus] is MATZO. Am I the only one who went for MANNA first? Timely, given that Passover is running until April 27 this year. What the heck is a pope doing next to the MATZO? LEO I is clued [He was succeeded by his archdeacon Hilarius]. 
  • [Start to salivate?] is the letter ESS, of course.
  • [Work out] could go in a number of directions; here, it's SOLVE.
  • [Its logo is a goateed man in an apron] for...what? Oh, KFC! Of course.
  • [Two strikes?] of a billiards ball could be a CAROM.
  • [Fill up with gas] is AERATE; man, I hope I'm not the only one who thought anatomical and INHALE.
  • [Rushing home?] is the football field, or GRIDIRON.
  • [No Oscar contender] for a B MOVIE. I'm just glad it wasn't EMOTER.
  • An ECG, or electrocardiogram, is indeed a [Thing that keeps track of the beat?: Abbr.]. Also from the medical arena: STEROID, an [Inflammation reducer].
  • [Dinar earner], ending in B, was tricky. I went straight for ARAB, but the answer is SERB.
  • [Need to get hitched: Abbr.] is a marriage license, or LIC. for short.
  • [It's never right] is ACUTE, because an acute angle is less than 90°.

Favorite answers:
  • MUCHACHO is an [Hombre-to-be].
  • GO AWOL means to [Disappear, in a way].
  • ST. PETER'S Basilica—[Its dome was designed by Michelangelo].
  • ICED TEAS and OOLONGS ([Gunpowder alternatives]) give the one-two caffeine punch.

My biggest "Huh?" answer was ETTA, or [Editorial cartoonist Hulme]. Who? Apparently She's Texas-centric, so I don't know how well-known she is nationally. Etta James can't take the lead every time, I suppose. And Ettas Place and Kett, I could do without.


I need to buckle down and do some editing, so super-short writeups of the puzzles are all the work procrastination I can spare today.

Kelsey Blakley's New York Sun crossword, "Like Heads and Tails," gathers four two-word phrases in which the beginning and end of both words are the same letter: the RUHR RIVER, TEMPEST-TOST, EDDIE EAGLE, DROPPED DEAD, SEES STARS, and, split into two entries, PHILIP PIRRIP (Pip of Great Expectations). A couple favorite clues: literally/scientifically [Tinny] for STANNIC; literally/scientifically [With feeling] for SENSATE; and the German [Sechs + fünf] for ELF (that's six + five = eleven—twelve is even better because zwölf is fun to say).

I really enjoyed Gary Steinmehl's LA Times puzzle. Each theme entry's missing an O, which is the FIFTEENTH LETTER. A BETTER MUSE TRAP (mousetrap) is a [New device that can capture Euterpe?], for example, and [Fencing displays at Nevada's Excalibur?] are VEGAS LUNGE ACTS (lounge acts). Sort of tough fill (TELA is a [Honduras seaside city]? New to me) and clues throughout—perfect on a Friday! What's harder to notice without reading the full clue for FIFTEENTH LETTER (and Across Lite on screen on a Mac makes it hard to see those long clues) is that the letter O is also left out of the grid and every single clue. The clues felt hard, but not crazily stilted as can happen when there's a constraint like this. RHEE can't use "Korean" in the clue because it has an O, and [Asian president, 1948-1960] involves a much broader category—but the clue didn't read weird because of the lack of an O.

Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy crossword's called "Dis, Dat, and De Udder." The theme entries turn TH into D: a thumbnail image becomes a DUMB NAIL IMAGE, and thirty-five is DIRTY FIVE. My favorite clue was the first one: [AC/DC output]. Not electricity, but ROCK music. D'oh!

Jack McInturff uses literary puns for his Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "Author, Author." [Authors who collaborated on "The Civil War Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"?] parses as the author of the first title in there, Shelby Foote and the author of the second mashed-up title, Anita Loos: FOOTE LOOS, which sounds like "footloose." "The Mammoth Lassie Hunters Come Home" merges Jean Auel and somebody Knight: KNIGHT AUEL sounds like "night owl." I like this theme—fun and erudite at the same time, like most of the Chronicle puzzles.

I made it through Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle quickly despite the inclusion of music names I didn't know. The "Hard Body" theme entries combine one metal and one body part: IRON LUNG, the band NICKELBACK, BRASS BALLS ([What closers need, per "Glengarry Glen Ross"]—isn't it fun to withhold something from someone and explain that it's because "cake is for closers" or "the remote control is for closers"?), and three more.

Liz Gorski's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "You Can Blank on It," turns B-words into BL-words. My favorites: BLESS TRUMAN and THE BANANA BLOAT SONG. Had no idea that BAZOOM completed the [1954 hit "(___) I Need Your Lovin'"]. TRIPES are [Popular French dishes]? Ick! I started out with CREPES because organ meats are generally far from my mind.