August 08, 2008

Friday, 8/8

NYT 32:03
NYS 28:09
WSJ 25:10
LAT 21:20
CHE 18:16
CS 5:00

(post updated at 11:30am Friday)

Numbers that big at the top of this blog can mean only one thing! Hi, everyone. PuzzleGirl here to talk you through today's puzzles. I was a little nervous about taking on a Friday because I'm not always able to finish the late-week puzzles, but how could I say no to hanging out with you guys again when we had so much fun last time? So let's get to it, shall we?

Not too many items on my list of awesome things rank higher than a Friday Nothnagel puzzle. Thank you, New York Times, for making my day. I had to set this puzzle aside twice, but finally cracked it on the third try. I'm nothing if not persistent.

Here's what tripped me up:

  • SOLID FOOD is [Something to chew on]. Did you know that answer has the same number of letters as toothpick and bubble-gum?
  • [Pump alternative] was looking for a type of shoe: T-STRAP. I couldn't stop thinking diesel.
  • A [campus hangout] is a REC HALL. With no crosses in place, I wanted it to be the quad. Is that ... something?
  • HERO sandwiches are [alternatives to wraps]. I was thinking poncho, cloak, saris…. Does anyone besides PuzzleHusband and me hate how they (whoever "they" are) started calling tortillas wraps? Tortilla is a perfectly good word.
  • To [not tread lightly] is to CLOMP. Stomp fits here too, right? That's what I had at first.
Excellent question-marky clues include:
  • [Sold all one's stock?] = RAN OUT. One of PuzzleHusband's pet peeves is when a server at a restaurant tells us they've "run out" of something. He thinks if they say they've "sold out," it sounds more like they did an awesome job preparing a delicious food item. Instead of, ya know, that the manager had some planning issues.
  • In the Olympics, if you've [Gotten beaten by two people?] you've WON BRONZE. Depending on the sport, I suppose, that clue may or may not need a question mark. (The Olympian I'm keeping an eye on this summer is University of Iowa Assistant Wrestling Coach Doug Schwab. When he beats his opponent … he beats his opponent.)
  • A new baby calls his dad [Early pop?] DADA.
  • A LOVE SCENE might, indeed, steam up the camera.
  • [Introductory course?] isn't Math 101 in this case, but SALAD.
My Three Gimmes:
  • [1985 Golden Globe-nominated role for Eddie Murphy] is AXEL FOLEY. I dug Beverly Hills Cop, but Eddie will always be Reggie Hammond to me.
  • [Drop shots] in tennis are called DINKS.
  • Informal basketball games are often played shirts vs. SKINS.
With ENAMELS [Gives a glossy coat to] at 1A and E-FILE [Submit taxes with a click] at 1D giving me the first letter (which is all I needed) of IWO JIMA MEMORIAL, I thought Barry C. Silk's New York Sun puzzle was going to be a piece of cake. But, as is so often the case, I was wrong. The rest of the puzzle was quite a bit trickier.

Here's what I learned:
  • ELSA, the lion Joy Adamson wrote about in "Born Free," is buried in Kenya's Meru National Park.
  • The very first game of the annual NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament ("March Madness"), a contest between the 64th and 65th seeded teams, is called the PLAY-IN game. The winner of that game goes on to play the number one seed. I bet they can't wait.
  • Having never heard the phrase before, at one point I guessed that [Gave up the ghost] meant passed on. When I figured out from crosses that it actually means CASHED IN, I felt stupid. But doing a quick Google search tells me it can mean both. Whew!
  • Jalapeno poppers and MOZZARELLA STICK have the same number of letters. Of course, if the clue is obviously singular, like [Batter-fried snack], the answer is probably the cheese.
  • Sugar apple, custard apple, and SWEET SOP? Yeah, they're all the same thing.
  • CHER used the pseudonym Bonnie Jo Mason for her first solo recording, "Ringo, I Love You." (I knew it was going to be awful and yet … I couldn't help myself. I just had to go find it.)
  • [Airmen's USMC equivalents] are PFCS. When you start in with the military stuff, you lose me. What can I say? My parents were hippies.
  • A [Piton] is a rock-climbing tool that acts as an anchor when a ROPE is inserted in it.
  • Although the only thing I remember about her in the movie is that she rode around on a bike with Butch, ETTA Place apparently had a little thing for Harry Longbaugh (a/k/a The Sundance Kid).
Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle, "First Aids," features phrases that start with a word meaning something helpful. ["Neutron Dance" singers] are POINTER SISTERS, [Tiny fraction] is TIP OF THE ICEBERG, and [Cause a catastrophe] is LEAD TO DISASTER. Am I the only one who initially thought this puzzle's theme was … pencils?

For me, this puzzle brought back a lot of fond memories. [Autos taken from defaulters] reminded me of "REPO Man" -- awesome flick. I recall I spent many hours playing the [Pioneering video game] PONG at our local racquet club as a kid. Around that same time, I also watched many episodes of "Hogan's Heroes," featuring Werner Klemperer as the bumbling COL. Klink. And the top ASCOT-wearer on my list is, and always will be, Fred from Scooby-Doo. As for more recent associations, we've had TIVO for seven years, but just gave it up for the Verizon-issued set-top box with DVR, which makes me very nervous. And the clue for IDIOT, of course, brings to mind my favorite [Dunderhead], Regional Manager Michael Scott of Dunder-Mifflin.

Randolph Ross's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Hair Lines," takes familiar phrases and, with just a few simple folds, magically transforms them into something related to a hair salon.
  • [Where the hairstylists held their Vegas convention?] = SCISSORS PALACE
  • [Movie in which 007 takes on a hair colorist?] = LIVE AND LET DYE
  • [Hair product for a Wall Street optimist?] = BULL MOUSSE
  • [Natural offering at the hair salon?] = HERBAL TEASE
  • [Motto of the Pope's hairstylist] = LET US SPRAY (my favorite of the bunch)
  • [Work on a radio personality's hair?] = BRUSH LIMBAUGH (seems like there wouldn't be much to work with there)
  • [Cold treat for a hairdresser?] = DRYER'S ICE CREAM
  • [Cable talk show about hairstyles?] = HANNITY AND COMBS (this puzzle is a little heavy on the conservative blowhar--er, pundits!)
  • [Insect found at the hair salon?] = TINT CATERPILLAR (got it from crosses, but had to look it up; never heard of the tent caterpillar)
Bonus fill includes L'OREAL [Maker of Vive shampoo], STROP [Barber chair attachment], and how about TÊTE [Chapeau setting]? I also recall that Eva GABOR had some fancy hair in "Green Acres" and that Shaquille O'Neal, who went to LSU, doesn't.

Jim Holland's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "Furnishing an Education," uses familiar phrases the final word of which can mean a piece of furniture and makes it mean, ya know, a piece of furniture. But not just any old piece of furniture: a piece of furniture found in a particular university department (this is The Chronicle of Higher Education, after all).
  • [Piece of furniture suitable for meteorology departments?] = WEATHER BUREAU
  • [Piece of furniture suitable for chemistry departments?] = PERIODIC TABLE
  • [Piece of furniture suitable for poli-sci departments?] = SHADOW CABINET
  • [Piece of furniture suitable for physics departments?] = GEIGER COUNTER
The only real problem I had with this puzzle was at the crossing of Former Nebraska governor Kay A. ORR and "CHARRO!," the 1969 Elvis movie in which he never sang. Did you guys get that one? Hey, guess what. "Charro!" is a western with an awesome tag line: "On his neck he wore the brand of a killer. On his hip he wore vengeance." The suspense is killing me!

Let's wrap things up with Dan Naddor's LA Times puzzle. Here, the theme answers are familiar phrases with the letters ENT omitted.
  • [Prison ultimatum?] = CON'S(ent) DECREE
  • [Golf lessons?] = PAR(ent) EDUCATION
  • [Adonis at the helm?] = STUD(ent) PILOT
  • [What concertmasters adhere to?] = STRING(ent) STANDARDS
  • [Ad copy for a citrus drink?] = TANG(ent) LINES (mmm, Tang!)
  • [Bowing?] = VIOL(ent) BEHAVIOR
  • [One with kids who never kids?] = MOM(ent) OF TRUTH
In each case, the first syllable of the resulting phrase is pronounced differently than the first syllable of the original phrase. Nice.

  • If you tell me you didn't want to enter Alex instead of MERV at 1A ["Jeopardy!" first name], I'll call you a liar.
  • [Job for Men at Work] is a great clue for a great word: GIG.
  • No idea why I still know (or ever knew!) that Clinton's transportation secretary was Federico PEÑA.
  • I've seen U-boat in the puzzle plenty of times, but don't recall seeing the [WWII torpedo craft] E-BOAT.
  • I'm pretty sure real cowboys don't consider LEES an alternative to Wranglers.
  • Learned about [1930's heavyweight champ] Max BAER, Sr., from crosswords. His son, Max Baer, Jr., played Jethro on "The Beverly Hillbillies."
That's it for me. As always, I've had a blast -- but with any luck, Orange will be back tomorrow. Thanks, everyone!