August 10, 2008

Monday, 8/11

CS 4:25 (on the phone all the while)
NYT 3:25
NYS 3:20
LAT 3:04
Jonesin' 6:33 (Evad)

Updated 9:30 AM EDT and 11:15 Central time

If you live in the Chicago area, get tickets for Cirque Shanghai Gold at Navy Pier's Skyline Stage before they leave the U.S. after September 1. Jawdroppingly cool—in fact, early on, my kid's jaw dropped at a particularly impressive feat at today's matinee performance and his lollipop fell to the ground. I'm not sure, but I have my suspicions that the second tier of Chinese gymnasts are shunted to the Olympic team while the folks with the very best strength, balance, and aplomb get circus/acrobat training.

Speaking of Chinese gymnasts, now there's a commercial break from the Olympics, showing women's gymnastics. But now the commercials are distracting me from the blogging... Onward! The New York Times crossword by Thomas Heilman has a laundry theme. Wait, hold on. I need to move the clothes into the dryer now. Oh, look—now the Olympic coverage has resumed. Focus, Orange, focus! The crossword theme progresses through the stages of laundry:

  • First it's washed, and the theme entry is BRAINWASHED, or [Psychologically manipulated].
  • Second, it's dried. CUT AND DRIED means [Formulaic].
  • Next, if you can stand ironing, it's pressed. HARD-PRESSED is [Put-upon].
  • Last, it's folded. [Like players in pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey] means BLINDFOLDED.

Housework is no fun, so I made a few wrong turns in this puzzle. The worst mistake was answering [No matter what] with AT ANY PRICE rather than AT ALL COSTS. Let's see: that's seven incorrect squares! I also plunked in HIP instead of RAD for [Way cool] and KABALA for CABALA, the [Jewish mystical doctrine]. A few wrong answers really do add to solving time, don't they? And on a Monday! *sigh* Favorite bits:
  • BLOWS A FUSE, or [Loses it].
  • ["Don't tase me, ___!"] for BRO. (Putting aside that viral video, here's some info on taser misuse and fatalities.)
  • The CASINO is a [Place to play twenty-one]. Anyone else read Charles Van Doren's New Yorker article about his time on Twenty-One (the Quiz Show scandal)?
  • CANTED means [At an angle]. Is that a little fancy for a Monday crossword?
  • A REDHEAD is a [Fiery-tempered sort, they say]. LEO wouldn't fit.
  • ["This puzzle is really, really hard," e.g.] is a LIE.
  • The pair of Scrabbly F-words that intersect in the lower left corner. No, not that Scrabbly F-word—FLAX and FJORD, the [Linen source] and [Norwegian coastal feature].

The New York Sun crossword by Justin Smith is called "Words on Play." The theme entries are phrases that end with types of playground equipment. LET IT SLIDE means to [Ignore a problem. An [Airport conveyor] other than the people mover is the LUGGAGE CAROUSEL. MOOD SWINGS may be a [Symptom of bipolar disorder]. A couple down answers sort of fit the theme, but they haven't got symmetrically recreational partners: THUMB A RIDE and GENE POOL. Two corners of the grid have triple-stacked 8-letter entries, which is nice to see in an easy puzzle. A few faves: [Like some bad situations] is LOSE-LOSE; ERICH SEGAL, the ["Love Story" author]; and an ELLIPSIS [...indicates an omission from a quote].


Evad here...Orange had to sit out today's Jonesin' puzzle Report Card with an ankle, that's the USA women's gymnastic team! Orange guest-edited today's Jonesin' puzzle, and if today's offering is any indication, she can leave her medical journals behind and eke out [Barely manage] a living with gigs like this.

The four theme entries in this puzzle with left-right (mirror) symmetry (thanks, Matt, for the correction!) are appropriate to the back-to-school set—"grading" phrases based on the adjective that starts them.
GREAT SCOTT merits an "A" for "Dilbert" cartoonist Scott Adams. A "B" is AWARDED (56A) to the webspinner of kiddy-lit (not actress RAE for a refreshing change) GOOD CHARLOTTE (check out this site to learn more about this "pop punk" band). Those not doing so well in class (maybe they were working on crosswords when they should've been studying?) include: AVERAGE JOE (singer Cocker, who is now touring with the Steve Miller Band...there's a blast from the past for you!) and POOR RICHARD (Branson of all things Virgin), who though he may not have done well on this test proves you don't have to do well in school to excel in the world of business. And perhaps some gratuitous product placements: "Brand that pops up frequently in crosswords?" for EGGO and "Brand with the discontinued flavor Grape Watermelon" for SNAPPLE.

Updated again, this time by Orange:

Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Not!," is a delight. The title parses as "no T," and each theme entry has lost its final T.
  • Baker's yeast becomes BAKER'S YEAS, [Okays from the kitchen?].
  • Second sight turns into SECOND SIGH, or [The "oh my" of "oh me, oh my"?].
  • Box office hit is transformed into BOX OFFICE HI, or [Acknowledgment from a ticket agent?].
  • Heavenly host sure could have been clued another way, but HEAVENLY HOS are [Angelic exclamations?].

The coolest answer in the fill is SPY VS. SPY, the [Mad magazine cartoon]. I also liked the supra-Mondayish ABSCISSA, or [Graph coordinate]. (The CrosSynergy puzzle targets more like a Wednesday NYT level all week, so that's not out of place here.) There's a SNOWSHOE, or [Ski lodge decoration, perhaps], and "DOE, A DEER," a [Refrain lyric from "Do-Re-Mi" ("The Sound of Music")]. DAMNS means [Curses]. And the [Old-time Cincinnati ballplayer], the REDLEG, picked up its name when the 1950s Communist scare inspired a change from "Cincinnati Reds." Wow, that's some paranoia for you, the fear that continuing to call a team the Reds would alienate Americans during the Cold War. Nobody ever bothered to change the Cleveland Indians' name or racist logo, alas. Thanks to Paula for a fun crossword!

Samantha Wine's Los Angeles Times crossword has a theme of...what? I finished the puzzle without really noticing the theme. GROUCHO is in the middle, clued as [Funny Marx, and a hint to the puzzle theme in the starts of 17-, 25-, 51- and 64-Across. Those answers are:
  • YOU ARE HERE, or [Mall map sentence].
  • BET IT ALL, or [Go for broke at the casino].
  • YOUR MOVE, or [Words after taking one's turn].
  • LIFE JACKET, or [It'll keep you afloat].
Taken together, those first words spell out You Bet Your Life. I know some people are huge Marx Brothers fans, but I've actually seen very little of Groucho et al so this theme didn't leap to the fore. Favorite clue: [One hanging out in an alley] for BOWLER. I was thinking of tomcats and considered both HOWLER and YOWLER, but the [Wall St. hedger] helped me out—that's an ARB, short for arbitrageur.