June 30, 2008

Tuesday, 7/1

Onion 4:53
Tausig 4:53
NYS 4:28
NYT 3:43
CS 2:49
LAT 2:35

There's a new online crossword game called Crosswords Cubed, developed by Andy Harrison. Each puzzle plays out on all six sides of a cube (4x4 sides on weekdays, 6x6 on Sundays, I think), in standard crossword style. There's a long theme entry of sorts—two phrases—that wraps around the cube, and you complete that by working back and forth between the crossing answers and the partially completed phrases, a bit like when you're solving an acrostic. Does that make any sense? Give it a whirl and you'll see what I mean. Clicking the mouse will toggle you between Across and Down, and hitting the return key will jump you to the next clue.

Whoa. Ken Bessette's New York Times puzzle seems out of place on a Tuesday. There's definitely some Wednesday-plus fill—phrases, words, and abbreviations that strike me as beyond what we expect to see on a Tuesday. The three theme entries are phrases formed by zapping a double letter in the first word, changing arresting to A RESTING OFFICER ([Retired general?]), account to A COUNT PAST DUE ([Late nobleman?]), and appeal to A PEAL TO THE CROWD ([Carillon call?]). The trickier bits of fill include the following:

  • AVILA not clued as [Teresa of ___] but [Kansas City university formerly known as College of Saint Teresa].
  • Spanish AERO ([Commercial prefix with mexico]) and ESO ([That: Sp.]).
  • Two-word TULSA, OK, or [Part of the mailing address to Oral Roberts University].
  • Chinese food's Kung PAO chicken and General TSO.
  • ASHPIT, or [Residue locale]—rather nonspecific clue.
  • [Seven-year stretch] as a kinda tough clue for the TEENS (age 13 through 19).
  • VIRTU clued as [Objets d'art].
  • Clunky abbreviations for ALT clued as [Optional hwy. route] and SOR clued as [Sisters org.].
  • [1970s Japanese P.M. Kakuei ___] TANAKA—who??
  • RAILBIRDS, or [Horse-racing devotees, slangily]. Does everyone else know this slang?
  • TYPE A apparently clued as a noun, [Impatient sort].
  • HIHO crackers, an [Old cracker brand].
  • RIPON, the [Wisconsin town where the Republican Party was born]. Also the home of Ripon College, where Harrison Ford went years before a friend of mine matriculated.
  • ICE SHEETS are [Giant glaciers]? Did not know that, I don't think.
  • The old-school crossword answer ETUI, or [Decorative sewing kit]. It's generous to exclude this type of word from Monday and Tuesday puzzles, though beginning solvers will need to learn it eventually!

Will be back for the Sun puzzle after I tuck my son in.

And now, for the Sun:

Kevan Choset's New York Sun crossword, "One for All?", evokes The Three Musketeers' motto but puts an old-school Disney touch on it by featuring 3 MOUSEKETEERS in the theme. (Yes, the numeral 3, crossing 3COM [Park where the Giants used to play].) Three famous ex-Mouseketeers fill out the theme in this 15x16 grid: ANNETTE FUNICELLO starred in the original '50s version of the Mickey Mouse Club, while BRITNEY SPEARS and JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE launched their careers in the '90s version (along with Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, Keri Russell, and JC Chasez). If you don't care for pop-culture trivia, then this was not the crossword for you! It also skews serious with TAMMANY Hall, DIES / IRAE, Dostoyevsky's heroine SONYA, TOSCA, and ELLA Grasso. MOMMY and DADDY anchor two corners of the grid, apparently just for the hell of it. Utterly unrelated wordplay fact: BRITNEY SPEARS anagrams to PRESBYTERIANS. (Justin Timberlake's anagrams are clunky phrases. And Annette Funicello = INTONE FLATULENCE.)

Updated Tuesday afternoon, quickly:

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Onion A.V. Club crossword inverts some W's and turns them into M's. Tiger Woods, for example, becomes TIGER MOODS, a [Zoo psychologist's concern?]. A policy wonk turns into an [Ascetic responsible for abbey rules?], or POLICY MONK. Brendan's showing off by including seven theme entries, three of them just 7 letters long (THE MIRE, MOE IS ME, and SEA MALL). Excellent theme and execution, and lively fill (SKYLAB and ZONK, a 9-letter PAPERCLIP and a PB AND J sandwich.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle, "Multiplicity," tacks an S onto the end of a word to alter its meaning. "Long story short" is an informal way of introducing a statement, whereas LONG STORY SHORTS are [Cutoffs with a complicated history?]. "Full of crap" means lousy, but FULL OF CRAPS could mean [Like some casinos?]. SLOTS CAR relates to gambling too, and there's some gambling in Goodfellas, the basis of GOODS FELLAS. The tour bus that turns into a French TOURS BUS could also transport folks to a casino, couldn't it? The shorts are the odd man out here. Favorite bits: [Yellow- and blue-haired family, with "the"] for SIMPSONS; and BFFS, or [Like, total bosom buddies 4 life] (it's short for "best friends forever," if you were wondering). Seeing that [Centers of intellectual activity] clues CEREBRA, it occurs to me that I would be drawn to a bra called the CereBra.

Gail Grabowski's LA Times crossword is easy-peasy compared with today's NYT. The theme entries are six commercial phrases that convey urgency—ONE DAY ONLY! ORDER NOW! LAST CHANCE! DON'T DELAY! GOING FAST! CLOSE-OUT! Suddenly I feel like making a purchase. I don't know what I'll buy, but I must buy something. Just waiting for the items I've already ordered seems inadequate.

Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Listen Here...", talks it up with four loquacious people: the VERBAL KINT character, a CHATTY CATHY doll, evangelist ORAL ROBERTS, and movie cowboy GABBY HAYES. Cool theme! The Down fill includes some juicy long answers, like TERRA FIRMA and WELLESLEY. Among the shorter pieces of fill are some pairs that perhaps don't belong in the same puzzle—ANTON Chekhov and Cleopatra's ANTONY, the prefix IDEO- and IDEA. I do like the double "cooler" references in the clues—[The cooler] is the STIR, and there's actor ALEC [Baldwin of "The Cooler"].