April 02, 2008

Thursday, 4/3

NYT 6:16
NYS 5:29
Onion 4:14
LAT 3:51
CS 3:50

Ahh, it's nice to get a little rebusoid butt-kicking from a Thursday New York Times puzzle, isn't it? Kevin Der built his crossword around the [1980s catchphrase] from the Wendy's commercial, "WHERE'S THE BEEF?" (Greatly overrated commercial via YouTube in that link.) The beef is on the hoof, as it turns out, in the form of eight [cow] rebus squares that graze throughout the grid in random locations. One [COW] per long Across answer, one [COW] apiece in symmetrical squares 9 and 68, and four other [COW]s meandering elsewhere. Now, if the rebus squares held the word [OUT] or something, it would make no organic sense that they were strewn about at random, but cows? How're you gonna get the cows to mind you when you're a crossword solver and not a cattle farmer?

The toughest hidden [COW]s were in [COW]PEA, clued as [Soup or salad ingredient]; LO[COW]EED, about which we learn [It makes livestock go crazy]; and [Its coat of arms features a horseman spearing a dragon], specifically a basilisk, for MOS[COW]. A few of the rebus squares actually stood in for the word COW: HAD A [COW], [COW]HIDE, DAIRY [COW] crossing [COW]SHED, [COW] PASTURE, and my personal favorite, "RIDE 'EM, [COW]BOY" (clued as [Cry just before someone gets big bucks?], as in the tossing of a bucking bronco).

Notable non-bovine clues: [Benjamin Harrison's vice president, ___ P. Morton] for LEVI (wow, look at that facial hair); the vague [Out] for an ALIBI; [Car with an acronymic name] for SAAB (short for Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget, which I never knew); [Victor Nunez title hero] for ULEE (trickier to clue with the director's name rather than star Peter Fonda or bees); the noun [Drinks with a spoon, maybe] for COCOAS; [Mexican silver dollars] for DUROS (huh??) crossing another Spanish word, CUESTA or [Hill, in Spain]; ["Die Meistersinger" soprano] for EVA (much harder than going with the multitude of Evas in today's pop culture); [Spring break?] for THAW; the cross-referenced [With 52-Down, hangs out] for AIR and DRIES; [Knife, slangily] for SHIV (ah, Law & Order lingo—somebody was always getting shanked with a shiv in the showers at Rikers); [Eye in the heavens] for the HUBBLE telescope; ["As a matter of fact, I do"] for "WHY, YES"; and [Pond, in Liverpool] for MERE (I dig the geographically inclined Wikipedia article about meres).

Here is a description of the ALLA prima painting technique. In short, the artist lays down brush strokes of paint and goes with it, rather than reworking the painting over time. Say what you will about the madness of Peter Gordon's penchant for Roman numeral math—those clues are more gettable than something like [Midmillennium year], which is DII (502) here. Which millennium? The 500s or the 1500s? Grr.

Alex Boisvert's New York Sun puzzle is a 14x16 one. "Raise Your MLB IQ" explains what the INFIELD FLY RULE is, with key phrases included as six 14-letter Across entries, with the top and bottom pairs of entries stacked (!). To accommodate these 84 theme squares, the grid's sort of split into cantilevered extensions (like the section of the Guthrie Theater that juts out vertiginously over open air, and helped architect Jean Nouvel win this year's Pritzker Prize). That cantilevering means you really need to figure out the theme entries to break into the eight side sections of the puzzle. Excellent longer fill running alongside the theme entries—if you haven't seen AKEELAH and the Bee, make a point of renting it. (Spelling-bee drama!) There's also the musical SARAFINA, the song remake "LEAN ON ME," and HOTTIES crossing TATTOOS.


I'm volunteering at my son's school this morning, so time is short and I won't get to Francis Heaney's Onion puzzle 'til later.

Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke put their earrings on the LA Times crossword's lobes. The theme entries end with STUD, DROP, HOOP, and CLIP—all styles of earring, as hinted by the last Down entry, EAR, clued as [Where you might see the last word of ...] the theme entries. (Drop earrings are dangly ones, and clip earrings are for non-pierced ears.) Lots of Zs and longish answers in the fill, which are good to see, but also what felt like more than the usual ration of OGEES, ESTER, ESTEE, Will GEER, and ENID, Oklahoma.

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy crossword, "Changes in the Weather," scrambles up RAIN, SNOW, and HEAT at the beginning of each theme entry, thereby altering familiar phrases. [Pets in modern-day Persia?], for example, are IRAN (rain) CATS AND DOGS. I'm not crazy about HATE (heat) OF THE MOMENT's built-in negativity, though. Plenty of longish answers in the fill today.

Updated again:

Okay, I'm going to school tomorrow instead. My sesamoiditis is acting up today. Must be the onset of the new baseball season that's responsible. And no, this doesn't make me old. It makes me athletic.

The Onion A.V. Club crossword by Francis Heaney has a cute theme—a public marriage proposal. Two straightforward clues have "(or the sender of the message)" and "(or the intended recipient of the message)" appended to them—those answers are GLENN and HELLENE. GLENN is proposing marriage to his beloved. The long theme spells out a quip that's funnier than most proposals—I'M SORRY, BUT THE / N.Y. TIMES / WAS TOO EXPENSIVE. / WILL YOU / MARRY ME ANYWAY? I don't know that the rare proposal that runs in a newspaper crossword actually costs the proposer any money, but we'll go with it. The lower right corner of the grid contains SAY YES, [Advice to 25-Across]/HELLENE. Right next to that answer is ENAMOR, which is so much better than, say, something like ABASED would be. Moving beyond the proposal, have you heard of VERNA, ["The Last Temptation of Christ" actress Bloom]? Oh! She played Marion Wormer in Animal House. (She had the classic No, vegetables are sensual. People are sensuous" line.) Dean Wormer's wife and Jesus's mother—now, that's range. Favorite clue/answer: ["You don't have to keep explaining"] for "I GET IT." If I were single, I'd want my proposal crossword to be like a Friday Sun puzzle or an ACPT puzzle #5, something you really have to work to solve.