September 08, 2008

Tuesday, 9/9

NYT 3:30
NYS 3:01
LAT 3:00
CS 2:45
Onion tba
Tausig tba

Patrick John Duggan's New York Times crossword doesn't have a particularly teenaged vibe. The theme is pointed to by the first theme entry, TOM, DICK, AND HARRY, or [Anybody...and the missing clues for 30-, 48- and 63-Across]. 30-Across is a tom, or a MALE TURKEY. 48-Across is a dick, or PRIVATE EYE. Harry, my favorite, means to ANNOY CONSTANTLY. I should use the word harry more often. Favorite answers in the fill: ALCHEMY, a [Middle Ages pseudoscience]; STAR TREK, the [1960s TV series with numerous spinoffs]; VA VA VOOM; JAY Z, the [Rap star who co-owns the New Jersey Nets]; and the vowel-free RSVPS. ZEBU is one of those words that have been largely banned from crosswords in recent years; it's a [Domesticated ox in India]. With its second use this decade, the zebu ties the anoa at two appearances apiece in the 21st century. I've seen the variant TEENTSY in crosswords before, but not outside the crossword setting. I know that sun is a verb, but is SUNNER ([Person in a solarium]) a noun that anyone uses?

In his New York Sun crossword, 15-year-old Caleb Madison presents a theme that smacks more of the teenage mindset than the typical senior citizen–friendly crossword. The title, "Radiohead," gives two hints: First, that the theme involves rock bands (this is a hint only if you've heard of Radiohead, of course); second, that parts of the head are featured.

  • THE FLAMING LIPS had their big hit, "She Don't Use Jelly," in 1993, but their songs have been featured in movies and commercials in the last year or two. Here's the video for "She Don't Use Jelly." I suppose I don't get hipness points for knowing a 15-year-old song?
  • Nobody gets hipness points for knowing that SMASHMOUTH sang "All Star." If you took your grandkids to see Shrek 2, you know this song.
  • ["Lua" band] is BRIGHT EYES with Conor Oberst. I don't know this song and, in fact, don't know any Bright Eyes songs. But I know they exist! Entertainment Weekly's music section tells me so.
  • FACING THE MUSIC ties them all together, clued with [Confronting unpleasant consequences of one's actions (and a hint to this puzzle's theme)]. Granted, it's not much of a face—eyes, a mouth, and the lips that are part of the mouth? Blame the record labels for not signing a band named, say, Runny Nose, and blame speed skater Joey Cheek for not launching a music career.

Plenty of goodies in the fill, too. BARACK and OBAMA are cross-referenced with a [figure on a controversial New Yorker cover of July 2008] clue. My kid recalled that the ["Smokey and the Bandit" ride] was a black Pontiac, but the name TRANS AM eluded him. (The boy does love him some cars.) VAN GOGH, the [Painter of "The Starry Night"], looks good in the grid too.


Sarah Keller is a seasoned constructor on the CrosSynergy team. (Everyone at CrosSynergy is a seasoned constructor, even the youngest members of the syndicate, Stella Daily and Patrick Blindauer.) Sarah's "Short-distance Travelers" theme goes a hop, skip, and jump with DENNIS HOPPER, a SAILBOAT SKIPPER, and a SCHOOL JUMPER. The theme entries are anchored to one another by crossing pairs of 8-letter answers. I wonder how difficult it was to find 8's that followed the ***S***O, ***E***I, B***C***, and K***J*** patterns. BOOK CLUB could have been replaced by BRANCHES or BLANCHED, and KNEEJERK by KING JOHN and probably not a whole lot else. Without doing a search, I can't easily think of anything that could replace FALSETTO and WATERSKI.

In his LA Times crossword, Timothy Meaker squeezes in a 6-letter unifying answer as the last Across entry, MASTER. The four starred entries (the longest ones) end with words that can precede MASTER:
  • [Tool kit item] is a POWER DRILL, and a drillmaster is a drill instructor, among other things.
  • SAFE HARBOR is a [Refuge], and a harbormaster's in charge of harbor operations.
  • [One in a deep-fried side] is an ONION RING, and the ringmaster leads the circus.
  • [Air Force remuneration] is FLIGHT PAY, and my grandma used to talk about the paymaster who dispensed one's wages.

I had to look up SHARP-SET ([Keen]) to see how it's used. One dictionary says it's a dated adjective for "hungry." This 1913 definition likens the term to the way lions and eagles are ravenous. Oh, so sharp-set might describe how some people feel about the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I wonder how many solvers younger than me knew that PET PIG was the answer to [Arnold on "Green Acres" is one]—and did they learn it from avid viewing of TV reruns or from crosswords? Favorite entry: T.S. ELIOT, [J. Alfred Prufrock's creator].