August 27, 2008

Thursday, 8/28

NYS 5:05
NYT 4:53
LAT 4:13
CS 2:54

(updated at 10:20 Thursday morning)

Dang. I lost 56 seconds to a typo in the New York Times puzzle by Sheldon Benardo. (The Z in the [Hot strip?] called GAZA and the noun sense of DOZE, or [Siesta], got entered as a neighboring S. D'oh!) The theme plays on "an eye for an eye," changing it to AN EYE FOR AN "I" and altering three phrases that contain the first person singular pronoun so that they have EYEs instead. The theme entries are clued without allusion to the switch:

  • [Historical 1976 miniseries] is EYE CLAUDIUS. The miniseries was I, Claudius, and I think my high-school English teacher had the poster on the classroom wall. He had a man-crush on actor Derek Jacobi.
  • [Classic 1947 detective novel] is EYE THE JURY, or Mickey Spillane's I, the Jury.
  • [Bygone political slogan] doesn't get a year in the clue. EYE LIKE IKE plays on the Eisenhower slogan, "I like Ike."
The EYE/I swap didn't feel particularly satisfying or clever to me, and there were a few things that made me cranky. I have seen [___ light: Var.] for KLEIG before, and it grates. A Klieg light, from the German name Kliegl, would be pronounced "cleeg." Following German pronunciation, the misspelled KLEIG would be "clige" with a long I. ANIGH sounds like "an eye," but its inclusion as [Close, old-style] didn't seem cute at all. Furthermore, both OLEO ([Stick on a dish]) and OLEIN ([Liquid fat]) in the same puzzle? Too close for comfort, etymologically. Two more O*EO answers are here—OREO and OSTEO.

I did enjoy SPONGEBOB, the [Title TV character in Bikini Bottom], opposite DESI ARNAZ, the [1940s-'50s film/TV star with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame]. My favorite clue was [Washington has some big ones] for EGOS. Isn't it apt to have the clue [One of the "Brady Bunch" kids] immediately followed by [Cold-blooded killers]? (PETER and ASPS.) Clues that may stump folks:
  • [C7H5N3O6] is the chemical formula for TNT.
  • Would you believe I knew ["Mens sana in corpore ___"] is completed by the Latin SANO solely from The Preppy Handbook back in the early '80s?
  • OJAI is the site of [California's ___ Music Festival since 1947]. Did not know this.
  • [Poland's second-largest city] is LODZ. Wait! Not any more. Wikipedia says it's third now, with Krakow stealing #2 last year. Did you know the slashed L in Łódź is pronounced like our W?
  • [Lay person?] is POET in that a bard might write a lay (scroll down to lay #3).
  • [Part of a pound] is a CAGE if you're thinking of a dog pound and not the unit of weight or currency.
  • [Delivery notation: Abbr.] is GPO. Why? It's general post office. I don't know who makes this delivery notation.

I think Tony Orbach's first themeless was the NYT one with that ill-fated (for me, anyway) CUCHIFRITO/ORFE crossing, and that this New York Sun "Themeless Thursday" is his second. After this one, Tony? All is forgiven. There's much to appreciate:
  • There's a mini-theme with MINNESOTA FATS and VIRGINIA SLIMS. State + plural word pertaining to body weight? A perfect pairing!
  • Pop culture permeates the puzzle. Jaime Sommers was the BIONIC Woman. ALI BABA gets a Beastie Boys clue. DIRK Diggler was Mark Wahlberg's breakout role in Boogie Nights. ALF was a TV series. GET A LIFE is clued as a phrase here, but it was also the name of that short-lived Chris Elliott sitcom that was so goofy. Rock singer TED NUGENT is tied to [Mythological matchmaker] EROS because he, too, likes bowhunting. ARNIE was Corbin Bernsen's L.A. Law role. EWAN McGregor gets clued with a movie I never heard of, Scenes of a Sexual Nature.
  • Shakepeare hits the big time with title characters CRESSIDA and HAMLET, and MALTS clued as [Shakes' peers?]. Another playwright, [Tony-winning playwright Yasmina] REZA, joins old Will.
  • Slangy action abounds, with DA BOMB, or [All that]; AS IF, or ["Fer sher...not!"]; SLEAZES, or [Dirtbags]; TIX, or [Concert score?]; the BLUE FLU, or [Beat walkers' walkout]; and I'M SURE, or ["Yeah, right"].
  • I love the word KERFUFFLE, and STIFLE sounds good with it.
  • Plenty of question-marked clues bend the brain. A [Super duper?] is a good LIAR. Fluke is a kind of fish, so [Fluke roll-ups?] are sushi and not a fishy alternative to fruit roll-ups. [Worked at a bar?] in the gym is CHINNED. And the non-question-marked clues entertain, too: [BBQ waitress's rack] means barbecued RIBS. [10/15, e.g.] is the IDES of October and not a non-reduced fraction. An EXIT VISA is what [might need to come before you can go]. I also like [Balder parent] for ODIN; no, not "Dad is balder than Mom."
The [Cyrillic alphabet letter] isn't such a fun clue. The answer is TSE. Wha...? Let us Google. The tse looks like a squared-off U and represents the ts sound. The Wikipedia article says, "Russian words starting with ц, such as tsar, are rare, and almost none of them are of Slavic origin." Did you know that SISTINE means [Pertaining to any of five popes] named Sixtus? I started out guessing LEONINE, which is wrong, wrong, wrong.


Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Course Objective," sounds like it's got a back-to-school theme, but golf is the star. Four places a golfer might hit the ball begin the theme entries: the GREEN BAY PACKERS, HOLE IN THE WALL, ROUGH AND READY, and BUNKER MENTALITY. The central Down entry is related; TROON, as in the Royal Troon Golf Club, is the [Site of eight British Opens]. The week after that Rosenbaum piece in Slate mocking puzzlers facing down a [Mauna ___] clue, Hartman serves up the complete MAUNA KEA, a [Dormant volcano of Hawaii]. Mauna Loa is active, but quite shallow in slope. Mauna Kea gets its name from the Hawaiian for "white mountain," which I knew (from crosswords!). What I didn't know is that the white is its snowcap in the winter.

Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's LA Times crossword would've gone over better if I'd been at all familiar with the base phrase lurking behind one of the theme entries. The theme has four phrases that include a metallic element as a word or part of a word, and that element has been replaced by its chemical symbol:
  • [Elementary Michigan arena?] is the Pontiac Silverdome, or PONTIAC AG DOME.
  • [Elementary tender beef cut?] is flatiron steak, or FLAT FE STEAK. I don't eat steak, but I thought I'd at least heard of all the menu options. Not this one!
  • [Elementary Oscar-winning producer?] is Samuel Goldwyn, or SAMUEL AU WYN.
  • [Elementary Silicon Valley daily?] is the San Jose Mercury News, or SAN JOSE HG NEWS.

There were some non-theme clues that also kept me wondering until the crossings revealed the answers: [GM's old electronics subsidiary] is DELCO, and JIBE is not just an insult, it's also a [Sailing maneuver]. I figured out the [Decorative alloy] PEWTER easily enough—its elemental makeup is mostly tin with a little copper and antimony (which sounds like it has to do with antipathy and matrimony, or an opposition to alimony).