September 15, 2008

Tuesday, 9/16

NYS 4:12
NYT 2:59
Jonesin' 3:27
LAT 3:27
CS 3:22
Onion, Tausig— see 9/17 post

Michael Langwald's New York Times crossword serves up four dishes consisting of a cooking word that doubles as an adjective or verb and a food/organism that doubles as a descriptive term for a person:

  • STEAMED CRAB is a [Grouch who's plenty mad?]. Meh, shellfish.
  • GRILLED SHRIMP is a [Pipsqueak under cross-examination?]. Meh, shellfish.
  • ROASTED PEANUT is a [Wee lad feted by the Friars?]. Yum, legumes.
  • FRIED TURKEY is a [Burned-out goofball?]. Wait, fried turkey? What? I don't get it.

I'm not wild about the theme, but I do like the fill overall. Sometimes a 1-Across is really dull, or too hard for an easy puzzle. Here, the first two entries are VALET and DROOL, which both are fresh. Yesterday's first two entries were ASAP and A TAD, which are fine but the VALET/DROOL combo has much more zip. Toss in EVITA PERON, "clear AS MUD" (which is not to say that partial-phrase entries are great, but when the full phrase is colorful I mind much less) a SAD SACK, and an ICEBREAKER at the party, and the solving experience perks up a bit.

I decided to plow through the whole week's Sun puzzles yesterday, so I'll be blogging about them one to four days post-solving. Let's refresh my memory... Lee Glickstein's Tuesday New York Sun crossword, "There Goes the Picnic," ruins the picnic by adding ANTs or RAIN to four phrases. The base phrases and the post-RAIN, post-ANT results are entertaining:
  • Cow pies + ant = COW PANTIES, or [Underwear for Elsie?]. The continued connection of the name Elsie with bovines is slightly troubling for me, as my cousin's toddler is named Elsie. She doesn't moo at all.
  • Ted Knight, who played Ted Baxter on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, + RAIN = TRAINED KNIGHT, or [Well-schooled jouster?].
  • Scrooge's "Bah, humbug" + RAIN = BAHRAIN HUMBUG, or [Nonsense from Manama?]. Manama is the capital of Bahrain. This was my favorite theme entry.
  • Con game + ANT = CANTON GAME or [Mah jongg, e.g.?].

Fill highlights include CRABGRASS, a SKOSH, Erma Bombeck's column title (AT WIT'S END), and ARBY's.


The title of Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Shrinkage," evokes the Seinfeld episode in which cold water shrinks George's equipment to be "like a frightened turtle." Here, FOOTLOOSE ties the theme entries together at 59-Across. Good gravy, we're losing 12 inches here? Really, it's nothing more than the word FOOT being excised from five phrases:
  • TOUCH BALL (touch football) is clued with [Engage in some really tame foreplay?].
  • BEST FORWARD (best foot forward) might be a [Top prize for a certain basketball player?].
  • BIG SIGHTING (Bigfoot sighting) is an [Important view?]. Who doesn't like to be reminded of Bigfoot?
  • GORDON LIGHT (singer Gordon Lightfoot) is clued as [The diet version of chef Ramsay?].
  • CARBON PRINT (carbon footprint) is [Artwork with a common element?].

Fill I liked: SPAZ, GROUPIE, FAT CAMP, EPONYM, VIS-A-VIS, and CROATIA. Fill I didn't: OPEN IN clued as [Golf's Sony ___ Hawaii]. That answer crosses three separate theme entries and the word GROUPIE, though, so I can forgive it. IGG, the [Co. behind Myth War Online and GodsWar Online], was a mystery to me. I could also do without the word WHORE, even with an Othello quote as its source.

Donna Levin's LA Times crossword includes six restaurants or bars where various sitcoms' characters hung out. Now, when I was watching All in the Family as a kid, I paid no mind to the name of the bar Archie liked, as Archie was mostly seen in his living room. The bar is KELCY'S BAR, and Kelcy just looks wrong, wrong, wrong. Like a misspelling of "Kelsey." It's not a common name, so if you didn't know the name and spelling up front, you were reliant on the crossings for this answer. The theme entries are:
  • ["Mad About You" restaurant] is RIFF'S. Lisa Kudrow played a ditzy waitress who turned into the twin sister of her Friends character.
  • ["Seinfeld" diner] is MONK'S CAFE. They used the exterior of the real Monk's Cafe, but a set for the interior. If you want to see the real inside of the cafe, watch Ellen Ripstein in Wordplay.
  • ["Friends" coffeehouse] is CENTRAL PERK.
  • ["Three's Company" bistro] is the REGAL BEAGLE. That was a bistro? I thought it was more of a singles bar.
  • ["All in the Family" watering hole] is KELCY'S BAR.
  • ["Murphy Brown" lunch spot] is PHIL'S, where all the journalists hung out. Phil was a character on the show, whereas the other theme entries' staff were more unnamed background people.

The fill's pretty good here, too—FLAB and BLAH, intersecting URKEL and PUNKY from bad family TV, CHEEKY and CRONY, SAYS "I DO" and SCENARIO.

Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle's called "Fowl Play" because the theme entries all include types of fowl.
  • ["I Think I Love You" singers, with "The"] are the PARTRIDGE FAMILY.
  • An [Easy target] is a SITTING DUCK.
  • [Giving up completely] means GOING COLD TURKEY.
  • [Not much, moneywise] is CHICKEN FEED.
  • [Unproductive pursuits] are WILD GOOSE CHASES. Ideally, this one would be in the singular, but then it wouldn't match up with the 15 opposite it.
I checked the database to see if this theme's been done before, because it felt a little familiar—or at least, it seemed like it wasn't so "out there" that someone else wouldn't have thought of it too. (That's no knock on a theme. Great minds think alike, etc.) SITTING DUCK has been in six other puzzles. A 2000 Newsday was similar, but with four shorter theme entries rather than five including three 15's. The two most recent ones in the database focused on the verb part of the phrase SITTING DUCK. Another included a variety of animal types. One used DUCK as a fabric. And another include two DUCK phrases (!) and one with another bird. So I vote this one's a winner. It's also got some good fill, like T-MOBILE, WAIT UP, ZANTAC, and COWER.