August 23, 2008

Sunday, 8/24

NYT 14:53—try printing the PDF version rather than using the applet or Across Lite
LAT 8:42
NYT cryptic crossword 7:48
BG 6:06
CS 5:15
PI untimed

(post updated at 10:30 Sunday morning)

First off, if you're the "r larson" who posted a solving time for the NYT, your time can't possibly be right. Sure, 28 minutes is plausible, but not as an applet time posted less than 20 minutes after the puzzle was released online. And certainly not in the applet, where at 6:21 Eastern, only two finishers are listed, neither named "r larson." Were you reporting your Saturday time just after 6 Eastern, when my standings widget flipped over to Sunday?

Second, Will, what's with throwing two hard Kevin Der puzzles at us in a single weekend? Ouch! Two days after Kevin's 18-block themeless, he's got a plus-sized (23x23) Sunday New York Times crossword. The "Come Fly With Me" theme is explained in the theme entries, which spell out [instructions for what to do when this puzzle is done]. We are to CUT ALONG THE DOTTED LINE first. Um, what dotted line? There must be one in the NYT Magazine, but it's not there in the applet. Next, FOLD THROUGH EACH / PAIR OF NUMBERS / IN THE GRID SEQUENTIALLY. Finally, GO THROW THE PAPER AIRPLANE. Just this afternoon, coincidentally, my husband was folding a fancy paper airplane for our son. Since I have the puzzle on screen and not on paper and since there's no dotted line for me anyway, I'll skip the instructions altogether. (Edited to add: I looked at the PDF, and the dotted line simply circumscribes the grid. So if you cut out an Across Lite grid, you're good to go.)

As for the puzzle itself, aargh! Effing hockey! It took me an extra two minutes to hit on the correct [Common hockey power play] numbers, 5 AGAINST 4. It would have helped if I'd noticed the sort-of-symmetry of the numbers in the grid and seen that the 5 and 4 in the top row needed to be paired with a 5 and 4 down below in the hockey answer. The numbers that tell you which folds to make when are:

1: In the middles of 8- and 149-Across. [Belonging to] is AS 1 OF, crossing 1 EYE, [Cyclops' feature]. And [Slay somebody] is DO 1 IN, crossing AT 1, or [In accord (with)]. This is messing around with convention a bit because these phrases don't generally include a numeral. It's sort of rebusoid, I guess. The phrase do one in sounds unnatural, but I concede that the inclusion of numbers in predetermined spots in this grid dictate this sort of mild compromise.

2: The 2's are on the right, in 83- and 113-Across. [It follows the initial part of a procedure] means STEP 2, crossing WW2, the [1940s conflict: Abbr.], which is usually seen as WWII. [How one must win in ping-pong] is BY 2 points, crossing 2 UP, [Like a team that's ahead by a safety], which is worth two points in football. Sports non-fans having a meltdown yet?

3: The 3's are on the left, opposite the 2's, in 78- and 109-Across. [Need for the winner of a Wimbledon men's match] is 3 SETS, crossing an MP3 [File on an iPod]. [Staples of early education] are the 3 R'S, crossing 3 A.M., [N.Y.C. time when it's midnight in L.A.]. Sports non-fans beginning to fall to their knees.

4: The 4's are at the top and near the bottom on the right side of the grid, in 13- and 127-Across. [July holiday, with "the"] is the 4TH, of course, crossing 4 ACTS, the [Structure of Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard"]. The other 4 is in the aforementioned hockey clue, crossing 4-LANE, [Like the majority of Interstate highways].

5: The 5's are opposite the 4's on the left, in 5- and 127-Across. The [U.K. counterespionage agency] is MI5, crossing 5-CENT, which is not a cut-rate rapper but means [Costing a nickel]. The hockey 5 crosses 5-STAR, or [Highest-rated, as a hotel]. If you're not a sports fan but stay in luxury hotels, you had a shot here.

Putting aside the various wickednesses of the entries with numbers and, essentially, 90-some unclued squares in the instructions, what else was hard here? Picking a spelling for ["Stupidest thing I ever heard!"]—here it's PUH-LEASE. Sometimes you see a Z, or a double-E. ["A Little Princess" heroine and others] are SARAS; I had no idea. I didn't exactly know that [Sequoyah, for one] was a CHEROKEE, but it was simple enough to guess it with some crossing letters. As for ["___ et manus" (M.I.T.'s motto], well, I never heard the motto (all right, Der, that's enough with the MIT stuff! You made us learn that the school ring was called the BRASS RAT in a previous puzzle, but now I'm full up on MIT trivia. No más!). Looks like Latin for "something and hands," so it must be the mind 'cause it ain't gonna be the feet: MENS. Would you call PAPAYAS [Orange and green fruits]? Yeah, I guess so. Most of the nonthematic clues in this puzzle were quite accessible, I thought. The junkiest-looking entry was perhaps KUM, but clued as ["___ Ba Yah" (campfire song)], it was a quick gimme.

I was thoroughly enjoying this puzzle until I futzed around with various alternatives for the hockey clue, like 3 AGAINST 4 or 4 AGAINST 4. No, 4-on-4 wouldn't be a power play (which means one team's playing with an extra player because the opponent's got a player sitting in the penalty box), but I think the finest lodging I've ever stayed in was a four-star hotel. No, wait, it was five stars. Dammit, I should've gotten 5 AGAINST 4, then. (For the record, I own only one home, and the mortgage isn't paid off yet.)

Favorite clues and entries:

  • [Leaves in the kitchen] are CILANTRO. Technically, my cilantro's in an herb garden out on the deck, and it's flowering so it doesn't look like tasty herbs right now.
  • SPOON-FED is [Given directly]. This theme was spoon-fed to no one.
  • POE is the [Author mentioned in the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus"]. Poe's in there? I confess I don't know the lyrics, but I do like Poe, especially "The Cask of Amontillado." A friend of a friend's sister named her baby girl Caesg, which they pronounce in such a way that I can't help thinking about the Poe story and that brick wall.
  • [A small one helps the indecisive] is a MENU. Yes, too many choices lead to decision paralysis. I'm one of those people who has enough foods I won't eat that I narrow down a restaurant menu by eliminating all the dishes I can't have, and then decide among, say, three great-sounding items. It's got to be so much harder to decide when you have 15 or 20 dishes to contemplate.
  • I might say [Oh, pooh!"] but never "TISH!" Who says that?
  • I like the URLs in 41- and 44-Down, CURL UP and UNFURLED.
  • A TROLL is an [Internet forum rabble-rouser]. Indeed!
  • GLORIA is a [Girl's name that's Latin for "fame"].
  • Who doesn't love a [Many-armed Hindu goddess]? Her name is KALI.
  • Architect I.M. Pei takes the day off, as PEI is clued as the [Eastern Canadian prov.] Prince Edward Island.

Hey, if you cut out the puzzle and make the paper airplane, let me know how it flies.


The mini-tournament called Lollapuzzoola debuted on Saturday. Ryan and Brian wrote up their event—congrats on the win, Howard! That link also includes downloadable Across Lite versions of the six tournament puzzles and a bonus puzzle. I haven't looked at any of them yet.

This weekend's second NYT Sunday puzzle is a cryptic crossword by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon. Seven of the 28 answers are straight-up anagrams of words in the clue. The most surprising anagram was INSTANT MESSAGE as a rearrangement of "seat assignment." I cost myself about two minutes by having a typo in that answer, spelling is MSESAGE and having 21-Across seriously mucked up as a result. I wanted it to end with -ED, but with another E before that? It can't be. And it wasn't, because that letter was an S, in AMASSED ([Put together a pole on a ship in the sound]).

The themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" is by Bob Klahn this week, but the clues are only modestly harder than usual. The entries I liked best were:
  • TEASER RATES, or [Lender's lures].
  • OLIVER STONE, the ["Midnight Express" Oscar winner].
  • ULULATED! It means [Hooted and howled]. My kid ululated this morning.
  • STERLING means [Thoroughly excellent].
  • NESCIENT means [Unenlightened]. I've never used the word, but it seems like a good one to use if you're trying to come off as superior in a pompous way. Michael Quinion of World Wide Words agrees.
  • PUMMELED is the answer for [Beat in the ring]. I started with PUNCH OUT. And yes, pummel and pommel are related.

Favorite clues: [Land lover] for PATRIOT and [Duty-free commodity?] for LEISURE TIME. Quibble: [Bud variety] can't be LITE because the beer is Bud Light. It's Miller Lite that uses the cheesy spelling.

Updated Sunday morning:

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Conventional Wisdom," offers a set of topical puns centering the imminent Democratic National Convention. (A friend of mine has blogger press credentials for the convention. How cool is that?) The puns are a mixed bag, which is par for the Merl course:
  • [What convention goers hope to achieve?] is A DELEGATE BALANCE (a delicate balance).
  • [What convention speakers stand on?] is THE GOOD OLD DAIS (the good old days).
  • [Breakfast cereal made especially for the convention?] might be KELLOGG'S CORN FLAGS (Kellogg's corn flakes).
  • [With 64-Across, a tired conventioneer's plaint?] is I GET NO KICK / FROM CAMPAIGNS (the song "I Get No Kick From Champagne").
  • [Inspirational reading for Democrats?] is DONKEYXOTE (a symbolic donkey merged into Don Quixote).
  • [Why Democratic symbols aren't seen at Republican conventions?] is because THEY'RE IRRELEPHANT (they're irrelevant).
  • [Wall-to-wall convention decor?] is A VAST BANNERAMA (a vast panorama).
  • [Convention breakfast topics?] are SPEECHES AND CREAM (peaches and cream).

As strange as DONKEYXOTE looks, 44-Down may beat it for weirdest entry. FIG FARMER is clued with [Amos was one, in the Bible], but it's not a phrase that's out there, really. (Less than 700 Google hits at this writing...and Google asks, "Did you mean: 'pig farmer'.") The other seven 9-letter Down answers that run parallel to FIG FARMER are perfectly ordinary, though—LOVE SONGS and SCINTILLA are particularly nice.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's Across Lite Boston Globe crossword, "Theme Songs," is an easy pop-culture confection—or at least, it's easy if you know your TV series theme songs. Sure, I had to piece together the Hannah Montana and Monty Python's Flying Circus songs, but M*A*S*H, Friends, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, and The Sopranos came pretty easily to me. In the fill, SHORT I was elusive despite the quotation marks in the clue, ["Hit" or "miss" trait]. 91-Across also demanded most of the crossings before I figured it out; [Signal by flapping] and WIGWAG aren't instantly associated in my head.

The syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword is called "The Three B's" because each theme entry contains the letter B three times. The name in the byline is Sabrina Walden, which anagrams to "brand new alias" (thanks, reader Ted!), a new pseudonym for editor Rich Norris. Three of the 10 theme entries are people's names—BILL BIXBY was a ["My Favorite Martian" costar], but he was more famous as the lead in the TV series The Courtship of Eddie's Father and The Incredible Hulk. BARBARA BOXER is the [Senate's Democratic Chief Deputy Whip]. '80s pop star DEBBIE GIBSON is the ["Foolish Beat" singer]. There are two place names—PEBBLE BEACH, the [Scheduled site of the 2010 U.S. Open] in golf, and the BIBLE BELT, [Fundamentalist section]. The other half of the theme entries are uncapitalized nouns—the BOOB TUBE, a BLUE RIBBON, a PLUMB BOB, a ROBBER BARON, and a BABY BOOMER.