September 07, 2008

Monday, 9/8

NYS untimed (whoops)
CS 3:58
Jonesin' 3:28
LAT 2:56
NYT 2:48 (here's the Across Lite version, courtesy of Jim H)

(updated at 1:15 Monday afternoon)

The daily puzzles in this week's New York Times were all constructed by teenagers, the first time the paper has featured such a long run of young constructors. They're all male, which spurs me to ask: Where are the girls? If you're a young woman in high school or college and you're at all interested in making puzzles, I'd love to hear from you.

I hope next week will bring all 40-something constructors who share my cultural references. I wonder if there's ever been a six-day run of 40-somethings, just by chance?

The Monday entrant in the New York Times crossword's youth week is Oliver Hill. His theme is sandwiches—in particular, regional names for submarine sandwiches:

  • An ORGAN GRINDER, or [Cranky street performer?], features a grinder. Wikipedia tells me "grinder" is used in several regions including the Midwest, but I've never heard it used 'round these parts.
  • A [U-boat] is a GERMAN SUB. "Sub" is my preferred term, though I can't say I'm big on the submarine sandwich concept.
  • The [Heaviest iron in a golfer's bag] is a SAND WEDGE. Wikipedia suggests "wedge" is short for "sandwich" pronounced like "sandwedge." I've never encountered this sandwich term.
  • [Don Juan, e.g.] is a ROMANTIC HERO, and I learned that "hero" meant sandwich from the title of this book.
Favorite fill: WINNOW means to [Sift]; KOWTOW means to [Act obsequiously]; BOZO is a [Classic clown]; a GEWGAW is a [Trinket]; and an ELIXIR is a [Panacea]. Is that [Olive oil component], OLEATE, gettable for Monday solvers?

Peter Gordon (a.k.a. Ogden Porter) constructed the day's New York Sun crossword. "Space Balls" reveals its theme in the fourth theme entry, [One can be found in 17-Across and 11- and 28-Down] or DWARF PLANET. [Witches] are SORCERESSES. PLUTOCRACY is [Government by the wealthy]. And [Loose Brie, for example] is a SPOONERISM (spoonerizing Bruce Lee by swapping the initial sounds). I'm thinking for a Monday puzzle, those hidden dwarf planets (recently demoted Pluto, along with Ceres and Eris) might do well to be revealed by circled squares, but then, a Monday Sun is generally more challenging than the NYT or LAT. This one in particular felt tougher—I neglected to start the Across Lite timer, but the clues were definitely slowing me down rather than dishing out gimme after gimme.


Gail Grabowski's LA Times crossword takes as its theme things that begin with synonymous words, cultured, refined, and polished:
  • A [Bead in a necklace] is a CULTURED PEARL.
  • [Purified petroleum] is REFINED CRUDE OIL. Is that an oxymoron? Is it still crude oil once it's been refined? (Yes, there really is a substance called "refined crude oil.")
  • POLISHED SHOES are [Footwear that makes an impression]. Are "polished shoes" a stand-alone concept, or is this just a combination of adjective + noun, like "scuffed shoes" or "black shoes"? This theme entry seems a little less an entity unto itself than the other two theme entries.

Patrick Blindauer calls his initials into play in his CrosSynergy puzzle, "PB Sandwich." Each of the five theme entries has a P at the end of the first word beside the B that begins the second word: there's a JUMP BALL and TOP BILLING, a STAMP BOOK and a SOUP BOWL, and the ephemeral [Iridescent sphere] that is a SOAP BUBBLE. Favorite clues:
  • MERLOT is a [Wine whose name means "young blackbird"].
  • [Padre's place] refers to a baseball player, not a priest, and the Padres play in SAN DIEGO.
  • [Emphatic letters] are ITALICS.
  • [Affixed with metal, in a way] is STAPLED.
  • [Half-pint] is a CUP, the 8-ounce measure and not a "small or insignificant person or animal."
  • A CHIMERA is an [Idle fancy].
  • A [Habit-forming position?] is that of a NUN.

Updated again:

Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle, "Wear Some Protection," isn't about prophylactics. No, it's about metallic armor:
  • MY PLATE IS FULL is clued with [Excuse from someone with a busy schedule].
  • RUNS THE GAUNTLET means [Goes through a tough trial]. A gauntlet is an armored glove. A purist would say the "runs the" phrase should include "gantlet" with no U, but gantlet and gauntlet are both variant spellings for one another.
  • The WINDSHIELD VISOR is [adjustable to block out sun glare]. I think an armored visor is what Matt had in mind here, but a shield could also apply.
  • The British spelling makes inroads in ARMOUR HOT DOGS, the [Picnic food with a classic jingle asking "what kind of kids eat" them].

Plenty of highlights in the fill: ELI MANNING is a quarterback a lot of people don't like, but a great crossword entry. GLUTEN-FREE, [Like some bread for those with dietary restrictions], is a phrase we see more and more these days. COUNT BASIE and a union CLOSED SHOP are the other 10-letter answers in the fill. Lots of pop culture in the clues for JOEL (["The Soup" host McHale]), Corey HAIM, NONA Gaye, fictional teen SLEUTHS, SHAFT, Hugh LAURIE, Hello Kitty's penguin friend Badtz-MARU, child actor Alex ETEL, Rob ESTES, Chili Peppers bassist FLEA, and a "Shoop Shoop Song" lyric.