July 24, 2008

Friday, 7/25

NYS 6:46
LAT 5:00
NYT 4:53
CHE 4:39
CS 3:19

WSJ 6:06

(post updated at 2:35 p.m. Friday)

Wow, it is tough to concentrate on crosswords when a member of the household insists on watching a TiVoed episode of Wipeout at the same time. I had to pause the Across Lite timer multiple times during the Sun puzzle when my husband was pointing out particularly hilarious tumbles on the part of the contestants. (They end up in mud or water if they don't safely complete each step of the obstacle course, and there's a lot of bouncing off giant balls.) I'm just lucky he didn't turn the show on until after I'd finished the NYT puzzle, as the applet offers no pause option.

John Farmer's New York Times crossword has some really impressive quadrants. Look at those corners with triple-stacked 9-letter entries crossed by a six-pack of 6's! That's some good-lookin' white space in this 66-worder. The marquee entry is JUMPIN' JACK FLASH, the [Rolling Stones hit just before "Honky Tonk Women"]. Did the Stones do HASHEESH ([Weed])? My favorite entries and clues are:

  • UP A CREEK is clued with an equivalent idiom, [In Dutch].
  • A [Turkey's dewlap] is a WATTLE. Dewlap and wattle are both great words, and came to mind when I saw Michael Douglas on TV yesterday.
  • BOS are [Baseball's Belinsky and Jackson]. Remember the "Bo knows" commercials? If not for those, I'd have been lost here.
  • Plenty of *IS entries get "[letter] Is for [word starting with letter]" references in the clue. Here, the Sue Grafton title trick is flipped—[Sue Grafton's "N"] is for NOOSE.
  • MOE is the ["Calvin and Hobbes" bully]. All of his dialogue is written in messy printing to reflect his bullying dimness.
  • RICE-A-RONI is now a [Quaker Oats product]. Nice to get the product's full name in here, rather than [Rice-___].
  • The [Ill-fated NASA effort] was APOLLO ONE. Anyone else looking for a three-space Roman numeral?
  • I know the [Five-time Horse of the Year, 1960-64] strictly because the name has been in enough crosswords. KELSO is also the name of the character pretty Ashton Kutcher played on That '70s Show, and the last name of the fusty, evil chief of staff on Scrubs.
  • [Some court contests] are ONE-ON-ONES in basketball.
  • The verb [Intimate] is to SUGGEST.
  • I'm oddly fond of PLINTH, an architectural [Base of support]. Does anything rhyme with that? There's hyacinth.

I also want to mention these:
  • [Got by] is the non-ED past tense, DID OK. Who doesn't love those late-week non-ED past tenses and non-S plurals?
  • [Bank of America Stadium] team is CAROLINA. The Carolina Panthers? I don't know. I miss the days when stadiums weren't corporate trollops.
  • Are [Attire] and ENROBE both the same kind of verb? I'm having trouble finding a satisfactory equivalence.
  • Scotland gets two shout-outs, the [Celtic canines] called SKYES (Skye terriers) and ROB ROY, the [Legendary MacGregror].

Unfavorite answers (but I can forgive 'em all, because I like the stuff that surrounds them):
  • MENDER, clued as [Cobbler, at times]. I don't think of shoes as being mended.
  • TRIM WAIST is a [Goal of middle management?], but does anyone actually say they're striving for a "trim waist"?
  • SOBERNESS is a [Dry state], but sobriety is a much more commonly used word. Yeah, soberness is an inflected form listed in the dictionary, but it sounds off to me.

Moving along to the New York Sun "Weekend Warrior," we have a joint production from Doug Peterson and Barry Silk. The grid's anchored by a pair of intersecting 15s, the CHICAGO WHITE SOX and a NUMBER TWO PENCIL. The SOX clue was [Team with the 1980s mascots Ribbie and Roobarb], and neither my husband nor I remembered this one. Which is fine—we live in Cubs territory. Speaking of baseball, 1-Across is [Turns up], and "turns" is a noun there—they're AT-BATS. Lots of short 'n' slangy clues right off the bat—[Bunk], [Heaps], and [Nuts] sounds like a breakfast cereal, but they're CLAPTRAP (a fun word), CRATES, and MADMEN (non-S plural—hello, Friday!). My favorite clue is at 2-Down: [What this clue have] are BAD GRAMMAR.

Other favorite clues:
  • A [Second, e.g.] is a UNIT of time. It took me a long time to understand how the clue and answer went together.
  • [Pinched the cheek of] is GOOSED—and the cheek in question is a buttcheek.
  • A political party's [Ticket's target] is the VOTER. This clue also took me forever to parse properly.
  • [Did a line, say] is SNORTED, as cocaine. !!
  • [Made up, maybe] in the adjectival sense means NOT SO. It'd be easy to misled into thinking of one-word adjectives like PHONY or past-tense verbs, wouldn't it?

Assorted minutiae:
  • I don't have a clue what Steak-UMM is, but there's a website.
  • ["Labor omnia vincit" is its motto: Abbr.] refers to OKLA. How nice is it to not have to cobble together the right Latin word missing from a state motto? So nice.
  • I've read some Henry James, haven't I? And I majored in English. I still needed a zillion crossings to find out that the [1890 Henry James novel, with "The"] was TRAGIC MUSE.

Robert Doll's LA Times puzzle changes a J into an H, sort of as if the J's needed to be pronounced the Spanish way. ["You Can Heal Your Life" author Louise on a constitutional?] is HAY WALKING (jaywalking), but I don't know that Louise Hay is well-known enough to anchor a theme entry. Wikipedia informs me that her publishing company published Deepak Chopra. [Assembly of radio operators?] is a HAM SESSION (jam session). [Camel rider's attire?] is a HUMP SUIT (jumpsuit). HOLLY ROGER, HACK CHEESE ([Cabbie's snack?]), and HUNK BOND round out the sizeable theme. Several clues really made me work for the answers:
  • [Coram nobis et al.] are WRITS.
  • [It may be partly set on a stage] is an OATER, or Western, which may take place partly in a stagecoach.
  • [Reaction to a big library volume?] refers to noise, not tomes—it's SHH.


Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Sounds Simple to Me," features five phrases in which the first word contains a series of letters pronounced like the word "easy," spelled five different way. There's a CHEESY JOKE, or [Bad attempt at humor] (what is it about cheese and corn that allowed them to be redefined as good-natured badness?). BREEZY WEATHER makes for [Good conditions for kiting]. An [Unscrupulous person] is a SLEAZY CHARACTER. [Seasickness] is a QUEASY FEELING (Sing it with me: "I've got a peaceful, queasy feeling..."). And the EZ-PASS LANE is the [Fast way through a toll plaza in some states; Illinois uses the I-Pass instead. Favorite entries: ZOHAN, Adam Sandler's title character this summer (Nobody Messes With the Zohan); the CYRILLIC alphabet; and ["Right Place, Wrong Time" singer] DR. JOHN.

Sharon Peterson's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "Home Finance," has a quote theme that isn't new to me, but I had a rough time piecing it together thanks to the Down clues crossing the quote. For example, [Macgillicuddy's ___ (Irish mountain range)]—with *E*K* in place, it sure looked like PEAKS. Nope, it's Macgillicuddy's REEKS. For [One of three virtues mentioned in Corinthians], I entered LOVE instead of HOPE, which mucked up the top middle for a bit. I was at a loss for [You might get one to spare?] for far too long—bowling, yes, but TENPIN wasn't coming to mind. Favorite clue: [It's on the school board?] for CHALK. More erudite entries include words from classics—HESIOD, ["Theogony" poet]; geography—KARST, [Area likely to have sinkholes]; and lit—["Lord Jim" ship], PATNA. The quote spelled out in the theme is "THE TIME TO / REPAIR / THE ROOF IS WHEN / THE SUN / IS SHINING," spoken by JFK (33-Down, right in the center of the grid).

Last update:

Sorry for the delay in posting about Pancho Harrison's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Union Perks." I went to the gym and then out to lunch, where the waitress opted to give us a leisurely paced European experience. But hey, at least we were sitting on the restaurant's patio on a beautiful day. Anyway—in the comments, Dan mentioned a lightning-speed solving time for this puzzle, which indicated that it was going to be unusually easy for a WSJ puzzle. It was (though I haven't yet cracked the 5:00 mark on an easy Sunday-sized crossword). The theme provided little help in solving—I mean, I noticed the precious materials included in the theme entries, but had no idea why there were parenthetical numbers after the theme clues or why the title was "Union Perks." Oh! ANNIVERSARY GIFT, of course, the years associated with the gift given in parentheses. I'm just now realizing that each theme phrase is actually a famous person's name, which explains why the paper anniversary is omitted—and the name aspect makes the theme nice and tight. I'm partial to RUBE GOLDBERG and SHEL SILVERSTEIN, with their gifts embedded in their last names rather than standing alone (as in BILLY CRYSTAL, MINNIE PEARL, ELIJAH WOOD, JAMES IVORY, and NEIL DIAMOND). Favorite entries: SCOT-FREE ([Totally unscathed]); the villainous ["Les Miserables" inspector] JAVERT; Uncle Scrooge MCDUCK; and BLUEBEARD.