June 10, 2008

Wednesday, 6/11

Tausig 5:02
NYS 4:52
CS 3:56
Jonesin' 3:53
Onion 3:48
NYT 3:14
LAT 3:09

Because I am in a good mood this evening, let me share my son's cheery poem from earlier in second grade:

cherrys are red
Sweet and juicy
a grate cherry
Cool and shiny
I could eat
a hundred cherrys.

I meant to tend to this week's Jonesin' puzzle when it was e-mailed out from the Jonesin' Google Group on Monday, but I forgot. And I usually blog about the Tausig and Onion puzzles on Tuesdays, but when I'm minutes from heading to the NYT applet for the Wednesday puzzle, it seems silly to continue updating the Tuesday post. So the Wednesday post will cover seven puzzles this week. Wednesday's a busy day for me, though, so I'll need to be brief.

Matt Gaffney's Onion A.V. Club puzzle has a wonderfully fresh theme. Four phrases adopt an MC to turn them into things that might be associated with McDonald's. [Sandwich eaten in Eden?] is ADAM'S McRIB. [Sandwich only eaten in May?] is a SPRING McCHICKEN. [Mile-high mystery meat?] is DENVER McNUGGETS. And ["Congratulations on finishing this puzzle!"] gets you a "GREAT McJOB!" pat on the back. I can't say that the [Spider-Man villain] KAINE came to my mind. [Taste for fine art] is VIRTU, which seems a mite fancy for the Onion. More in line with the publication is MEH (["Whatever"]), and that is indeed a useful word, capturing an unenthusiastic disdain in a way no other word quite does. Favorite clue: [Parting shot?] for NIGHTCAP. I really like this puzzle, so I'm saving a copy in my "favorite mid-week puzzles" folder.

Patrick Blindauer cools off the June heat with his New York Sun puzzle, "Freeze Frames." This has nothing to do with the J. Geils Band song called "Freeze Frame." Nope, it's a rebus puzzle with six ICE cubes. [Booking agents?] are POLICE OFFICERS; [Van de Graaff generator generation] is STATIC ELECTRICITY; [It might have integral roots] is an incomprehensibly mathy clue for ALGEBRAIC EQUATION; and [Uses a knife, maybe] is SLICES AND DICES. I like how the 15s each contain a single rebus square (so they're really 17-letter phrases), while the 10s each have two ICEs (so they're 14s). The rebus revealed itself early, with the crossing between POLICE-something and ALICE, the Lewis [Carroll character] wedged into three boxes. Most surprising fill entries: EPISODE I, ["The Phantom Menace" title part] (though I think that's been in a couple crosswords before), and UV RAYS, [They're blocked by the ozone layer]. Did you know that GORDON was a [Name that's Old English for "round hill"]? I'll bet Sun crossword editor Peter Gordon did.

Daniel Kantor's New York Times crossword has a colloquial theme of white lies, or "LIE-ABILITY"—[What 17-, 23-, 37- and 51-Across may demonstrate?]. Those lies include the [Debtor's avowal], IT'S IN THE MAIL; [Doctor's assurance], WON'T HURT A BIT; [Gift recipient's declaration], JUST WHAT I WANTED; and [Prankster's denial], I DIDN'T DO IT. In the fill, I'm glad to see IRON clued as [___ Man, comics hero]; it's a good movie. [They're worth 1.0] means DEES, or D letter grades in a GPA. TO DIE FOR is all right, but I kinda wanted the answer to be as delicious as the clue, [Super-scrumptious].

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle, "Enqueued," modifies phrases that end with words or syllables that start with W, turning that W sound into a Q sound. Harry Potter's school, Hogwarts, becomes HOG QUARTS, or [Jars of bacon grease?]. Two of the theme entries are doubly Scrabbly—SEX QUIRK (sex work) is [Fetish?], and Cheez Whiz becomes CHEEZ QUIZ, a [Test on processed condiments?]. There are 14 fill answers that run 7 or 8 letters (SODA JERK! AIRHEAD! CARLS JR!), which gives the puzzle a fillip of Friday-style fill. Favorite clue: [Job tester] for GOD, as in the characters from the Bible's Book of Job, and not a lowercase-j job. CUBICLE clued as [Farm unit?] is good, too.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Fools on Film," bundles together a trio of items used to fake people out in movies. For example, a CARDBOARD CUTOUT is [put in front of a window to fool people into thinking someone is standing there (as in "Home Alone")]. Most surprising entry (ahem): the [Bank deposit] is SPERM. This puzzle's got the standard Jonesin' pop culture and slang fill, with entries like MEL C ([Sporty Spice's nickname]) and DORKY ([Out of style]). The [1990s sitcom character who had his own breakfast cereal] is URKEL; here's an entertaining writeup from a guy who ate a 13-year-old box of Urkel-O's and lived to tell the tale. The last name of ["Dirty Jobs" host Mike] is, of course, ROWE. Dirty Jobs is this household's consensus favorite, beloved by parents and child alike. If you've never seen it, here's a clip of Mike's visit to a worm ranch.


I was halfway through Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy puzzle before I noticed the byline. Yeah, that makes sense—I was already enjoying the clues and they were making me think. The "In the Hole" theme includes four words or phrases that begin with HO and end with LE. It's not my favorite type of theme, but anything that brings HORNSWOGGLE, HONEYSUCKLE, and HOT TAMALE together is OK in my book. The clues tell us about two Benjamin Franklin inventions: DST (daylight saving time) and the bifocal LENS. Bracketing the right-hand corners are the quasi-related [She's got milk] and [Big jugs]—COW and EWERS. [Dangerous mate] means the mate of the word "dangerous"—"ARMED and dangerous." The preceding clue is [Mate's agreement], meaning AYE, what the captain's first mate might say. That's a Klahn trick, the evocation of different meanings of a word in successive clues. Usually a suffix is a lousy entry, but here IAN (which could be clued as the first name) is clued [Follower of Adler, Freud, or Jung?], so flexible thinking is needed. [Walk on water?] is a noun, not a verb—PIER.

Jack McInturff's Los Angeles Times crossword hid its grand unifying answer, PEN at 67-Across, in the very last corner of the grid I looked at:
  • POINT SPREAD = [Oddsmaker's concern]
  • LIGHT TOUCH = [Pianist's attribute]
  • PAL JOEY = [John O'Hara classic]
  • NAME-CALLER = [Nasty campaigner]—although these days, nasty campaigning goes way beyond name-calling
  • KNIFE PLEATS = [Clothing folds]

I thought PEN POINT sounded awkward and contrived, but it turns out to be a self-contained dictionary entry so I can't complain. Just above PAL JOEY is STATE MAP, and when I wasn't looking at the PEN clue, I nearly convinced myself that PEN(N) STATE was part of the theme.