April 30, 2008

Thursday, 5/1

NYT 5:47
NYS 5:30
LAT 4:21
CS 2:57

Happy May Day! Workers of the world, foundering ships, and maypole fans unite.

It's Thursday, and the New York Times crossword by Jim Leeds serves up a rebus challenge that I will call Tribute to Ellen Ripstein. (Ellen is wont to say things like "Smoking, ick." She has not, to my knowledge, said "Rebus puzzles, ick.") GROSS parks itself in the middle of the grid to spotlight all the [ICK] rebus squares. Let's gather them all up here, since it's hard to see them in the applet grid where a plain old letter I stands in for each [ICK]:

  • MR. PICKWICK is the [Club founder and president in an 1836 Dickens novel]. He crosses STICKS (the [Boonies]) and SNICK ([___ and snee]). (You can read about the phrase snick or snee here.)
  • CHICKEN LICKEN is a [Hysterical hen of fable]. She crosses a DROP-KICKER ([Field goal attempter, once]) and MONICKER ([Handle], or name).
  • [Awkward situations, informally] are STICKY WICKETS; this phrase crosses a SNICKERS candy bar and a BUICK [Century, e.g.]).
  • An [Easy winner in bridge] (about which I know nothing) is a QUICK TRICK, which crosses PICK AT and a [Game show gizmo] that's a CLICKER.
  • Those double-ICK entries were placed in symmetrical spots in the grid. For an extra [Crispy appetizer], there's also a one-ICK BREADSTICK crossing a TICKET.

I usually don't second-guess answers with small duplications, but the "good to the LAST DROP"/DROP-KICKER combo did give me pause. Other trouble spots and/or clues of note:
  • [Chest: Prefix] tempted me to thinking of STERNO-, relating to the sternum, rather than the correct STETHO.
  • Those who were vexed by SFC the other day will be grateful for easier crossings for MSGTS, [Ones graded E-8 in the Army].
  • [Cry at a doctor's office] seems to be a popular clue for NEXT, but doesn't pretty much every doctor's office summon patients by name rather than expecting the folks in the waiting room to jockey for position?
  • SEXT is [Noon service, to ecclesiastics]. I've heard of the other time-bound services more—this reference mentions Vespers in the evening, Compline at bedtime, Midnight Office for monasteries, Matins at sunrise, and Prime, Terce, Sext, and None (first, third, sixth, and ninth hours after dawn, roughly) taking you to 3 p.m. TERCE rarely shows up in crosswords, but I'm ready for it now.
  • A [Draper's offering] is CLOTH.
  • [You may get an extended one at a salon] is LASH. Say what? I had no idea that eyelash extensions were a salon service. Talk about your asinine wastes of women's time and money. Is it just me, or are those fake, permanently affixed lashes strongly reminiscent of Alex in A Clockwork Orange? Creepy.
  • ALSTON is the last name of [Ex-Dodger manager Walter]. Never heard of him—baseball that doesn't take place within a mile of my house is of little interest to me.
  • [Sir Thomas who introduced the sonnet to England] is WYATT. He's the poet who wrote the famed "Noli me tangere" sonnet. Strangest trivia question from last night's trivia contest: What's the last line following "So long as men can breathe or eyes can see" in Shakespeare's sonnet no. 18? That's the one that starts out, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"—but the final line is somewhat less memorable.

Alan Arbesfeld's New York Sun puzzle bears the title "6 x 8." Within the crossword are six 8-letter ANAGRAMs, all clued in reference to another of the group. The family of anagrams includes two mathy words—TRIANGLE, INTEGRAL; three verbs—RELATING, ALTERING, ALERTING; and the oddball TANGLIER. In the fill sits some SOY MILK, clued as [Drink for the lactose intolerant]; I am delighted to tolerate lactose, personally. A goodly quantity of longish fill fleshes out the grid here.


In Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Inner Ability," he hides his ESP (63-Down) abilities in the midst of each theme entry. The four ESP answers (e.g., TRADES PLACES, FREE SPEECH) are supplemented by some lively long fill—ALEX HALEY and an ALMA MATER, Hamlet's ELSINORE Castle and "JUST A SEC." I'm glad to see A TEST clued as ["This is only ___"] rather than the played-out atomic test; if only N-TEST and H-TEST could also be spiffed up with an alternate clue. The BUICK [Century, e.g.] goes out for a spin again (see the NYT), only without rebus action. My enjoyment of this crossword was diluted a bit by the inclusion of some blah crossword regulars—OGEE, OTOS and a UTE, ULNA, ICER. A QUONSET hut and a GNOME do help allay that, though.

The LA Times crossword is credited to "Sir Barton Giacomo (1919-2005)." That's not a deceased constructor—it's the names of the 1919 and 2005 winners of the Kentucky Derby (link is updated only through 2006). The theme entries are eight other horses that have won the Derby (which takes place this weekend) and have names that can be plausibly clued as regular words or phrases. The theme's explained by the clue for DERBY WINNER: [Each one in this puzzle has its year in parentheses]. So [Unison cheer (1894)] is CHANT, and [Tax law provision affecting prior years (1961)] is CARRY-BACK. I recognize that the inclusion of so many theme entries and the innovation of the non-horse cluing are cool but...but...I just don't care about horseracing. Or "motor sports," boxing, poker, or bridge. Many of the horses' names were unfamiliar to me: STREET SENSE (2007! How quickly I forget, or how thoroughly I paid no attention a year ago), SWALE (1984), SWAPS (1955), CHANT, REAL QUIET (1998), and CARRY BACK. Looking at the list of past winners, I've heard of the most famous ones from the '70s, a handful of older ones, and a couple of the recent ones. The rest? Whatever. (As for who constructed the puzzle, my guess is LA Times crossword editor Rich Norris, but it could be someone else tickled by the idea of a two-horse pseudonym.)