July 29, 2008

Wednesday, 7/30

NYT 3:53
NYS 3:50
CS 3:47
LAT 3:43

(post updated at 11:30 Wednesday morning)

The byline above the New York Times crossword got nudged out of the window in the applet—it's Elizabeth Long. The puzzle's got a quote theme, and the subject of the [quote attributed to Sam Goldwyn] is spelled out (from top to bottom, left to right) in circled letters strewn throughout the grid: SHAKESPEARE. The quote is "FANTASTIC! AND / IT WAS ALL WRITTEN / WITH A FEATHER." Quote? Meh. The fill's got some mighty nice stuff in it, along with some tough nuts.


  • PASSEL is a [Large quantity]. Do you use this word? 'Cause I do.
  • SMACKDOWN is clued as a [Wrestling show]. Crossword tournaments also have their share of smackdowns.
  • [Irish red, for one] is ALE, as in Killian's Irish Red.
  • GODS is clued ["___ and Monsters" (1998 film)]. It's got Ian McKellen and Brendan Fraser, and uses the word "et." Orange recommends!
  • SLAUGHTER sounds violent, but [Cream] moves it into the realm of sports and games.

  • SADA [Thompson of TV's "Family"] is an ironclad gimme for anyone my age, but maybe semi-obscure to the younger contingent.
  • [Foxtail feature] is an AWN. I would've had no clue about this, but I just read a blog post about a particularly wicked foxtail (this is a plant thing) that got stuck inside a dog's ear. An AWN is, of course, "a slender, bristlelike appendage found on the spikelets of many grasses."
  • ARHAT is an [Enlightened Buddhist]. I usually try to sneak ATMAN in where ARHAT belongs. I'm not sure if that's Buddhist or Hindu or what.
  • [Early colonists along the Delaware] were SWEDES, apparently. I didn't know any early colonists hailed from Sweden.
  • SWALE is a [Low marshland]. I thought it was more grassy, but I may be thinking of sward.
  • [Jacob's-ladder] and PHLOX are both plants, but I didn't know they were interchangeable.

The New York Sun puzzle by Alan Arbesfeld is called "Oops!" [Making a blunder (and this puzzle's theme)] is DROPPING THE BALL, and the other four theme entries drop a BALL from established phrases. You know what a ballpark figure is—a PARK FIGURE is a [Ranger?]. To [Do masonry work on brick enclosures?] is to POINT PENS, as in tuckpointing (ballpoint pens). [Wading places?] are FOOT POOLS (playing on football pools for wagering). And a pinball machine turns into a PIN MACHINE, or [ATM?]. I found the [Missile pact of 1972] to be tricky—it's SALT I, the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. And [MVP of Super Bowl XXI] is somebody named SIMMS, whose first name I can't begin to guess. An investment that [Appreciates] RISES in value. The [Hebrew toast] L'CHAIM has a nice batch of initial consonants, and it's followed by UIES with a bundle of initial vowels. The [Sighed line] "AH, ME" crosses "OH, MAN!" (["Holy cow!"]). If it's [Curtains] for you, it's THE END. This summer, I bought a copy of a PIPPI book ([Longstocking of kiddie lit]) for Ben—I loved the movie when I was his age.


Wow, four Wednesday puzzles, and I solved each in the same amount of time—the toughest took me 10 seconds longer than the easiest. If you time yourself, did you find all the puzzles to be perfectly keyed to a Wednesday level of difficulty?

Pancho Harrison's LA Times crossword has a Hollywood theme and a bit of a show-biz vibe to the fill. The theme entries are clued as blanks with years in parentheses, the years being when the answer movies were released. The 1984 movie at 17-Across with the missing clue is MISSING IN ACTION. The LOST IN YONKERS (1993) clue is lost from 36-Across. And 56-Across's clue is pretty much GONE WITH THE WIND, from 1939. Other cinematically linked answers include OATER ([Shoot-'em-up]), TEEN IDOL [Miley Cyrus, e.g.], Leonard NIMOY (["Three Men and a Baby" director]), ANN [Sothern or Jillian], the musical RENT, LILI [Taylor of "The Haunting"], actor John RHYS-Davies, and AMANDA [Blake of "Gunsmoke"].

The fill includes plenty of 6- to 8-letter answers, many of which intersect with theme entries. Highlights include GAMBOL, a FAT LIP that's a [Shiner accompanier, maybe], BATBOYS, HAS-BEENS, ESCHEWED, and a NAKED LIE ([Bald-faced fib])—the latter is the top slice of bread in the LOST IN YONKERS sandwich, with ENTITIES below that theme answer. The only answer that seems to stretch the limits of Wednesday is ["Mon Frere Yves" author Pierre] LOTI, whose name was unknown to me.

Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy crossword, "Out Cold," has a quip theme. You know what? I think a little context helps quip/quote themes go down better. Having a title for the puzzle helped point me towards some of the words. It looked like LOG was at the end of the first part of the quip, and the "Out Cold" title strongly suggested it would be I SLEPT LIKE A LOG rather than, who knows, something about sawing logs or making log cabins. The quip continues, ...LAST NIGHT / AND WOKE UP / IN THE FIREPLACE. I think another factor that keeps me from saying "meh" about this one is that the quip splits at natural points, between clauses.

I do wish to carp a wee bit about the clue for ADOPT: [Rear as one's own]. This suggests that an adopted child doesn't become "one's own" child, but merely serves as a facsimile. Parents who have adopted children tend to resent such distinctions. And boo to all the celeb news articles that describe Nicole Kidman as having recently "given birth to her first child." No, this baby is her third child. It's just the first time she's given birth. Her older kids were adopted, yes, but dammit, they count!