April 26, 2008

Sunday, 4/27

PI 9:13
BG 8:29
NYT 7:55
LAT 7:15
CS 4:07

The Sunday New York Times puzzle by teenaged constructor Oliver Hill captivated me. The "Oops!" theme shines a cruel spotlight on IMPROPERLY SPELLED words. Wow, there are so many words that are so frequently misspelled, it must've been tough to narrow the list down to just 10. (Wait, the clue specifies that these were the top 10 from a 1999 study of the most frequently misspelled words. That'll narrow it down pretty effectively!) The shortest theme answers are 9 letters long, but look down there at 105-Across—WAVERS means [Is undecided], but how often have we seen waiver and waver interchanged? Further mixing things up, TOOTSY, or [Foot, slangily], asked me to spell it TOOTSIE, an accepted alternative. And DOPY, [Half-baked], wanted to be DOPEY. (Either is correct.)

A couple of the misspellings gave me pause. I know how to spell inoculate, but is the misspelling Hill is looking for the one with two Ns or two Cs? Google, after the fact, demonstrates that the two-N spelling that makes it look related to innocuous is the most common booboo, and indeed, INNOCULATE is what's in the puzzle.

Let me spell the theme out for you, and try not to spell those words correctly:

  • [Long, long time] should be millennium but is MILLENIUM. Crikey, that misspelling Googles up about 25 million hits of wrongness.
  • [Stick with a needle] is the aforementioned INNOCULATE (inoculate).
  • [Absence at a nudist colony?] is EMBARASSMENT (embarrassment).
  • [Bugs] is HARRASSES (harasses).
  • [Wee] is MINISCULE (minuscule).
  • [Conspicuous] is NOTICABLE (noticeable).
  • [Supplant] is SUPERCEDE (supersede). Antecede, precede, intercede...and proceed and supersede. If you haven't got a knack for memorizing exceptions, being a good speller in English is tough.
  • [Doggedness] is PERSEVERENCE (perseverance). I half expected an extra R, in "perserverance" or "perserverence."
  • [Oblige] is ACCOMODATE (accommodate). This one burned my mom in a grade-school spelling bee, and she was scarred for life. (My spelling-bee bĂȘte noire was sergeant.)
  • [Event] is OCCURENCE (occurrence).

Favorite clues and answers, and things I feel like commenting on:
  • [Tribal council makeup, often] is ELDERS. I racked my brain trying to figure out what they call the contestants on Survivor.
  • [Like the carol "Away in a Manger," originally] is LUTHERAN. Different sects had their own carols? Huh.
  • [What a Tennessee cheerleader asks for a lot?] is AN E. ANE is lousy fill, but a good clue like this can redeem it.
  • [Suffix not seen much in London] is IZE. Again, an unmoored suffix is lousy fill, but I like it with this clue.
  • [Attempts] is HAS A GO AT, which looks like HAS A GOAT every time I see it in the grid. Did you have a goat? It's only fair for everyone to get a chance to have a goat.
  • [Like some pens] means ERASABLE. For my paper-based crossword solving, I waver between Erasermate pens and the Pentel TwistErase 0.9 mm mechanical pencil. You were dying to know that, I'm sure.
  • [Symbol of happiness] is a CLAM, but might also be a lark, no?
  • [Mustang competitor] is the Pontiac GRAND AM? Hardly! My son says, "That doesn't look like a fast car."
  • [Tops] is ONE-UPS. I was so tempted by OUTDOS once the O was in place, but no no no. That would be IMPROPERLY SPELLED.
  • [Disarming words?] to someone with a gun: DROP IT!
  • ["Bro!"] left me wondering for a while. "MY MAN!"
  • [Cliff] is SCAR, and I'm not quite sure why. Can you explain it?
  • [They're seen in many John Constable paintings] is ELMS, and I don't recall seeing such a clue before. 
  • [Orator's no-no] is a MONOTONE.
  • [Target of many a Bart Simpson prank call] is MOE Szyslak.
  • [Rare imports] are EXOTICA. Why was I trying to think of another word for an vinyl record from abroad?
  • PERK UP is the [Opposite of "nod off"]. I need to perk up.
  • [Parish priests] pulls double duty for VICARS and the French-sounding CURES.
  • [Matriarchs] can be DAMES, but also MAMAS. I wonder how many people didn't find their way to the correct DAMES.
  • [International chain of fusion cuisine restaurants] is NOBU? None of Nobu's 20 or so restaurants are in the Midwest.


In his Boston Globe puzzle in Across Lite, "What's On?", Henry Hook comes up with workable puns for seven words that mean "clothing." My favorite is the long one in the middle, EVERYBODY LOVES RAIMENT, clued as [Why no one opts to go nude?]. The other ones didn't grab me as much, but look how fancy—at the top and bottom, there are stacked theme entries. The time the theme did take a while to work itself out, but it finally became clear midway through the puzzle. Strangest word in the grid: CAMBS, or [Ely's county in Eng.]. The abbreviated "Eng." must mean the answer is an abbreviation too—indeed, Wikipedia confirms that it's short for Cambridgeshire. Two favorite clues: [Period ending a sentence?] for PAROLE and [Many end with "ite"] for ORES.

Updated again Sunday morning:

I solved Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Dressing the Part," last night. Like the Hook puzzle, this one also had a clothing pun theme—this time, with specific parts of a hypothetical outfit included. MY CUFF RUNNETH OVER swaps in a cuff for a cup, and the other theme entries contain a SLEEVE, BODICE, LAPEL, V-NECKS, POCKET, COLLAR, ad BUTTON. THE SLEEVE TRADE fails my breakfast test, as it's punning on the slave trade. (I'd take ENEMA over the slave trade any day, unless the theme is, say, about the history of the abolitionist movement.) I was nodding off whilel I was doing the crossword last night, so I regret that I don't remember any favorite answers or clues. The relatives are coming over today for Ben's familial birthday party, so I'm too short on time to review the puzzle now.

Tyler Hinman's syndicated LA Times crossword, "Foreign Exchange," meets me in my wheelhouse. Geography plus anagramming? Count me in! The 11 theme answers (one in the middle split into two entries) consist of a short country name followed by a one-word anagram of it. For example, [Way to get to Asia?] is NEPAL PLANE, [Red Sea region invader?] is YEMEN ENEMY, [Mideast soap?] is ISRAEL / SERIAL (wow, I spent a long time thinking of 6-letter words that meant "soap you clean with" rather than "soap opera"), and [Dance in Oceania?] is TONGA TANGO. The theme was fun and (at least for a fan of both anagrams and geography) easy. The fill and clues were definitely Hinmanesque—plenty of sports, colloquialisms like "NO BIGGIE" and"NO SHIRT, no shoes, no service," a touch of tech with JPEG, PIXEL, ISPS, and [Phishing, e.g.] for SCAM. Favorite clues: [Toe or two] for DIGIT (isn't that a fantastic clue?); [Phrase in which "of" may be mistakenly inserted?] for "AS YET"; and [Kind of dog?] for SLY.

Randy Ross's CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" is fairly easy owing to the cluing, which tended to be direct. Direct, but not boring—and linked to some lively fill. Favorite parts: [Red Bull ingredient] for CAFFEINE; [Part of FWIW] for IT'S (FWIW is shorthand for "for what it's worth"); the JAGUAR XKE ([1961 U.K. auto debut]) crossing XTERRA ([Nissan SUV])—both Xs isolated away from vowels; ["Doctor" friend of 29-Across] for Dr. DRE, friend of ICE-T; [Reason for a Hail Mary pass] in football, DESPERATION; LOVED ONE; ELEVEN A.M., the [Time marked on Veterans Day]; and LIMA PERU and SE-RI PAK in their complete incarnations.