April 25, 2008

Saturday, 4/26

NYT 8:50 (really—the applet added 13 lousy seconds)
Newsday 6:09
LAT 5:38
CS 3:04

I am scarily behind on so many things. For instance, I wanted to tell you my first published crossword is in the Simon & Schuster Mega Crossword Puzzle Book #1, which was published in January. It was a joint effort with Vic Fleming from about two years ago. It had been long enough since I saw the puzzle that I had no idea it wasn't a 15x15. So when I bought the book to look for my puzzle, I couldn't find it in the 15x15 section. Someone else pointed me to puzzle #166, a 19x19. Aha! This same book has a crossword by editor John Samson called "Premier Puzzlers," with an insidery theme of ACPT winners—mostly the champions but also two B Division winners (*waving hello*). So Vic, thanks for the coaching and collegiality. John, thanks for publishing the one puzzle and aggrandizing me in the other. If you'd like a crossword book with 300 puzzles for about $10 from Amazon—that's about 3¢ a crossword, people!—click the link above and go buy this one. The pages are perforated so you can tear pages out for solving...if you can bring yourself to remove pages from a book. (If you can't rip, you can still work the puzzles bound in the book.)

More recent news on the crossword construction front: My first Sunday puzzle, a joint venture with Tony Orbach, will be appearing in the New York Times. When? I don't know. Sometime. On a Sunday. And yes, I am exactly as excited as you suspect. Thanks, Tony, for getting the ball rolling, doing the heavy lifting, and not mixing metaphors.

And now, on with a crossword with which I have had no involvement other than solving—Brad Wilber's New York Times puzzle. I was surprised to see the time the applet standings listed for me, because the applet is lying. Really. Here's my answer grid with a modestly better solving time shown. (9:03, my foot.)

Granted, I did get off to a slow start with a sleepy head, but eventually I found answers I could build off of and made it through even the most mystifying answers with the help of crossings. What's mystifying? Oh, I think you know: CURATE'S EGG is [Something damned with faint praise, in British lingo]. I won't Google this one, but I hope one of you has heard this phrase before and has something edifying to say about it. There were assorted other clues that rang no bells for me—[Swedish soprano noted for her Wagnerian roles]? Well, NILSSON sounds Swedish and the crossings pointed that way. [Gunsmith Remington]'s first name was PHILO? I'm tapped out after Philo Vance and philo majors. [Its currency unit is the ariary] could've been insoluble except once I had the MAD, MADAGASCAR asserted itself. [Time of Ta'anit Esther] shouts "Hebrew month!" and it looked to start with an A, which pretty well narrowed it down to ADAR. WEBER is the [Max who wrote "Politics as a Vocation"]; I knew it couldn't be artist Max Ernst, but it still took a while to extricate WEBER's name from the recesses of the brain. There's a TREE RAT ([Small, furry African climber])? Great. It can join tree snakes in my nightmares.

Favorite clues:

  • [Pound sign letters] didn't fool me for long—it's the SPCA.
  • [Galley output] made me think of galley proofs for books and rowing rather than a boat's kitchen producing CHOW.
  • When HIVE is in the grid ([Center of industry]), it's hard to see that [Drones] are non-apian MENIALS.
  • The [O. Henry specialty] was 5 letters too long to be IRONY—PLOT TWISTS works nicely.
  • [Cell's lack] is a PHONE LINE. Remember when those gadgets were called "car phones" and they were gigantic? Only the fancy people had that antenna plunked on the trunk of their car. (If you are under 25, you may have no idea what I'm talking about.)
  • [Green dragon and skunk cabbage] are ARUMS. Yay, botany! I don't know the green dragon but I know smelly skunk cabbage. (Jack-in-the-pulpit is related.)
  • ["Lose" at the office] addled me by making me think of "I gave at the office." It's MISFILE.
  • [Replacer of the Humble brand in the early 1970s] is EXXON. Too bad they changed. An oil spill from the Humble Valdez would have been easier to accept.
  • I drew a blank with [Douglas is its capital]. Even when ISLE filled in at the beginning, I wasn't sure where it was going. Eventually I deduced that OF followed, and that left 3 letters for MAN. Cool! A geography tidbit I didn't know.
  • [High-occupancy vehicles?] here are CLOWN CARS and hence not ideal for the carpool lane—though I suppose there's no reason a street-legal clown car couldn't drive in the HOV lane (which, by the way, is not a concept that's used in Chicagoland).
  • [Cavernous opening] is a MAW. I just like that word.

Coolest answers:
  • I AM A CAMERA and MRS MINIVER are works of stage and screen featuring women, and they're stacked (together).
  • WAX POETIC, or [Rhapsodize], is a great phrase.
  • C'EST SI BON is the [Song title followed by the lyric "Lovers say that in France"].
  • There are two birds in a row, the [Raspy flier] RAVEN and the [Cousin of a sandpiper] called a CURLEW (the etymology is Middle English from Old French, in case you wondered).

I didn't care for the [Buds]/MACS pairing. The disdainful "Listen here, bud" and "All right, mac" work in the singular, but does anyone ever talk about MACS in the plural, aside from computers or raincoats?


Cruciverb.com, the exclusive source of Los Angeles Times crosswords in Across Lite, isn't working at the moment. Pooh.

Doug Peterson's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" wasn't as fun as most of his themelesses. That's no slam on this puzzle—it's praise for Doug's prevailing style. This one, CORN CHEX or no (that's a [Party-mix ingredient]), struck me as a little drier than usual. Favorite clues: [Kept informed, in a way] for CCED; [Spoke harshly] for CAWED (wow, that's underused in referring to speech; I'm gonna start using that more!); [King's home] for CNN (that's Larry King); [Struck] for EDITED OUT; [Was thick with] for KNEW (that one didn't come naturally to me); and [Ones with big food bills] for TOUCANS.

Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy crossword, "Tin Types," has theme entries with the following clues: [Tin star], [Tin hat], [Tin foil], and [Tin can] (the answers are expansions of those—ALUMINUM FOIL and FOOD CONTAINER, for example). I'm not sure if there's a good way to define "tin ear" in 15 letters or less, but I halfheartedly looked for an EAR in the grid. There's EER, RARE, EARL, and ERR, but no EAR. Words I learned from crosswords long ago abound: ASTI, ALIT, ERNS, SLOE, STERES, and TAW. These are the sorts of words an American schoolchild is not likely to be exposed to (though I'll bet marbles-playing kids of the generations before me knew TAW).

Updated again:

Robert Wolfe constructed today's LA Times crossword. The grid is anchored by three 15-letter colloquial phrases: "HOLD THAT THOUGHT" (["We'll get to it"]), "EAT YOUR HEART OUT" (["Neener neener!" cousin]), and "NO CONCERN OF MINE" (["I don't care"]).

There are some Newsdayesque short and ambiguous clues:
  • [Works] is the verb phrase HAS A JOB (not a plural noun).
  • [Smashed] is IN PIECES (not "drunk").
  • [Fast] is PRONTO (not the verb or the "tight" sense).
  • [Turns] is ROTS (not "rotates" or the at-bats/dice rolls sense).
  • [Intimate] is the verb GET AT (not the adjective or noun).
  • [Corner] is the verb TREE (not the noun).

Other clues of note:
  • [Saltwater phenomena?] for TEARS.
  • [Bad-looking ones?] for OGLERS.
  • [Larry David HBO sitcom, initially] for CYE (Curb Your Enthusiasm).
  • [Blacks in literature] for the pluralized poetic color EBONS.
  • ["The Flying Dutchman" soprano] for SENTA.
  • [Opposite of a standing order?] for "BE SEATED."
  • [Short-lived team nickname used in response to McCarthyism] for REDLEGS" the Cincinnati Reds began as the Red Stockings but shortened it to Reds in 1890; being worried that people would associate the team with Communism is as ridiculous as renaming french fries "freedom fries."
  • [1962 Best New Artist Grammy winner] is Robert GOULET: Although Wikipedia puts him in 1963. It's an amusing list—sometimes the award goes to an artist of lasting influence (Mariah Carey over Wilson Phillips? Good call), and sometimes it's clearly wrong (A Taste of Honey over Elvis Costello?!?).
  • [Pianist Ciccolini] for ALDO: he sounds eminent, though I'd never heard of him. We share a birthday.
  • A [News show quickie] is not sex during Nightline—it's a SOUNDBITE.
  • [Word with hard or head] is LINER; I cannot explain why I confidently entered LIGHT first. Hard light?