August 16, 2008

Sunday, 8/17

NYT 8:48
PI 8:36
BG 8:02
LAT 7:42
CS 3:32

(updated at 11:15 Sunday morning)

There's a new magazine supplement appearing in some major metropolitan newspapers. Rise Up focuses on diversity, and it's got a pertinent daily-sized crossword by Vic Fleming. If you don't get a newspaper that contains the magazine, you can click the crossword picture at the bottom of that page to get a PDF of the puzzle and a comic strip beneath it, which 'll need to scale to fit on a letter-sized page before printing. The current puzzle, "Colorful Clan," features a "paraphrased comment" theme, an Obama quote adapted to fit the grid. Seemed like a Wednesday/Thursday level to me. Congrats on the new gig, Vic.

I solved Merl Reagle's weekly crossword before my nap this afternoon, and boy, was I tired. That didn't interfere with liking the theme (more on which later) a lot, though, and my post-nap self is equally fond of the theme in Caleb Madison's New York Times crossword, "Fade-Outs." This theme lops a letter off the end of eight movie titles:

  • [Movie about "Sopranos"-like actress from the Mediterranean?] is THE MALTESE FALCO (Falcon, Edie Falco).
  • [Movie adaptation of "L.A. Law"?] is CALIFORNIA SUIT (Suite).
  • [Movie about a time-share?] is THREE DAYS OF THE CONDO (Condor). Hey! People live year-round in condos too, y'know.
  • [Movie about the coming of difficult times?] is A HARD DAY'S NIGH (Night). This one made me laugh.
  • [Movie about one of Dumbo's parents?] is THE ELEPHANT MA (Man).
  • [Movie about a narco's worst dream?] is NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEA (Dead). Now, DEA is an abbreviation rather than a word, so I think this works a little less well than the others.
  • [Movie about a bus. on Rodeo Drive?] is BEVERLY HILLS CO (Cop). Another abbreviation, same opinion thereof.
  • [Movie about the zoo's most punctual simian?] was my other favorite theme entry: A CLOCKWORK ORANG (Orange). 

I got off to an errant start with 1-Across and 1-Down. [Edges at the track] means "advantages," I guess—TIPS. And [Rapper with the 1996 nine-times-platinum album "All Eyez on Me"] is the late TUPAC. In the same section, I was thinking of a place with chairs for [Seats site] rather than PANTS. [Many a Turk] is an ANATOLIAN.

Favorite fill:
  • STRAY CAT, or [Lost Persian, e.g.].
  • AL FRESCO, [Like a picnic].
  • The GUEST STAR, clued with ["Saturday Night Live" has a new one every week].
  • SAINT OLAF, namesake of a Minnesota college and also a [Canonized Norwegian king].
  • A SHMEAR of cream cheese is a [Bagel topping].
  • UNCLE SAM is a [Pointer on a poster].
  • Clues of note:
  • [Scores 100 on a test] means one ACES IT.
  • [Sugar in tea, e.g.] is a SOLUTE.
  • [The original Jefferson Airplane, e.g.] is a SEXTET, crossing the plural [French waters], EAUX.
  • [Latin 51-Across] and [English 8-Down] are SUM and I AM, as in "Cogito ergo sum," or "I think, therefore I am."
  • [Meat Loaf's "Rocky Horror Picture Show" role] is EDDIE. Anyone know this one off the top of their head?
  • SIXTY is the [Highest score achievable by a single dart in darts].
  • [Information technology giant] is UNISYS. That's not my field, so I leaned on all the crossings. One of those was pretty darned unfamiliar, [TV's "___ Derringer"] or YANCY.
  • [Handle, in archaeology] is an ANSA. Crosswordese!
  • ["Oh, pretty please?"] is the two-word plea, "CAN'T I?"
  • ["Oil!" author Sinclair] is UPTON Sinclair, and that's the book that There Will Be Blood was based on.
  • [Potty] is the Brit-inflected adjective meaning DAFT.

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Back and Forth Again," is like a baby-steps tutorial for people who haven't ventured into cryptic crosswords. If you relished this theme but have no idea how to solve cryptics, do yourself a favor and buy 101 Cryptic Crosswords: From the New Yorker, edited by Fraser Simpson, and get cracking. You just may turn out to love cryptics. (All the cool kids do, you know.) Merl's theme, further elucidated in the Across Lite Notepad, does some word reversal and addition to produce an existing phrase. Now, Merl's gone off the deep end and included 17 (!) theme entries, mostly on the short side, so the grid's a little ugly (the black C's in the corners, four sets of black-square stairs) to accommodate them.
  • 17A. [Famed (reversed) + Consumed = Go off]. Famed = noted, which is DETON bakwards. Add ate, and you get DETONATE, or "go off."
  • 19A. [Uses stickum (reversed) + Sushi need = Prepares to sell]. Pastes backwards + rice = SETS A PRICE.
  • 21A. [Supposing (reversed) + A general = Bait buyer]. If backwards + Sherman = FISHERMAN.
  • 22A. [Kazan (reversed) + Howard = Plane part]. Elia and Ron Howard, AILERON.
  • 23A. [Slogan (reversed) + One = Relaxer's prop]. Motto, an, OTTOMAN.
  • 30A. [Busters? (reversed) + A weight = A city]. Narcs, ton, SCRANTON.
  • 53A. [Vaughan (reversed) + Emulate Vaughan = Badgering]. Ooh, the addends are related! Sarah, sing, HARASSING.
  • 55A. [A bird (reversed) + Fragrant compounds + Takes on = Meat topping. I think the third part should be "Take on," as it's crow, esters, hire, WORCESTERSHIRE.
  • 66A. [Pain reliever (reversed) + Certain antibiotics = Hit song of 1959]. Tylenol, eardrops, LONELY TEARDROPS.
  • 80A. [Called (reversed) + Challenge + A nobleman = Close-election advice]. Named, dare, count, DEMAND A RECOUNT.
  • 85A. [Less loco (reversed) + Penny = Showing new life]. Saner, cent, RENASCENT.
  • 102A. [Part of NEA (reversed) + "Huh?" = Boater]. Arts. what, STRAW HAT.
  • 112A. Write (reversed) + Ditty = Sea god]. Pen, tune, NEPTUNE.
  • 114A. [Relay prop (reversed) + A pronoun = In no way]. Baton, it, NOT A BIT.
  • 118A. [Hung on to (reversed) + London gallery = Ravage]. Saved, Tate, DEVASTATE.
  • 120A. [Girl's name (reversed) + Girl's name = Radio network since 2004]. Like 53-Across, the clue ingredients are related. Maria, Erica, AIR AMERICA.
  • 122A. [Dick's sibling and others (reversed) + A pronoun = Dick's last name]. More thematic unity. Dick Smothers' brother Tom pluralized is Toms. Hers is a pronoun. SMOTHERS is that Dick's last name.
I love the theme entries that are multi-word phrases with word breaks shifted around from the clue pieces. The three clues with a thematic unity between two pieces of a clue are also cool.


I'm short on time this morning, between catching up on yesterday's Olympics coverage plus today's, and planning to head out to the Chicago Air and Water Show after lunch.

The theme in Alan Arbesfeld's syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, "Final Touches," entertained me. The final letter, Z, is inserted into 10 phrases to change them, and the results are funnier than in many other add-a-letter themes. These ones were my favorites:
  • ["To Kill a Mockingbird" clown?] is BOZO RADLEY. Imagine the new angle the novel would've had if Boo had been Bozo the Clown.
  • "The It Girl" turns into THE ZIT GIRL, [Clearasil commercial model?].
  • To HIT LISZT is to [Punch a legendary pianist?].
  • ["Delete slapstick sketch"?] is "ZANY THING GOES."
  • [Colorful Congresswoman's memoir?] is ABZUG'S LIFE.

I feel like most themes don't give me five that amuse me, so well done, Mr. Arbesfeld.

Henry Hook's Boston Globe puzzle, "Solving for Y," adds the letter before Z to each theme entry. The eight phrases that adopted a Y didn't catch my fancy the way Arbesfeld's Z's did. [Horse at a party?] is CAYUSE FOR CELEBRATION, and the Cayuse Indian pony is not well-known to me. That and the other 20-letter theme entry appears stacked with another theme entry and crosses yet another, and such intricate theme layout is tough to carry off. My favorite evocation in the grid was [With 53-Across, controversial 1971 book], GO ASK / ALICE. Is there anyone in their 40s who didn't read Go Ask Alice during their adolescence? I had no idea it wasn't real at the time.

I'm a little disappointed by Rich Norris's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge," but only because it was too easy and I didn't get to spend more time unwinding it all. Favorite entries/clues:
  • "SURELY YOU JEST," or ["That's not serious, right?"].
  • MIXED METAPHOR, or [Incongruous juxtaposition of a sort].
  • [Cheaters, to teachers] for ANAGRAM.
  • [Unexpectedly, it's usually made in Ecuador] for a PANAMA HAT.
  • YANGTZE, or [World's third longest river].
  • FLAPJACK, or [Round breakfast fare].
Lots of short abbreviations and suffixes here add no zest. I like the Hawaiian/Russian corner, though, with WAHINES crossing a BIKINI and LAVA, and IVAN III above TATIANA.